Growing Roots


I have three trees growing in my house.

And a handful of acorns in the back of my fridge, ready for the spring.

So, of course, yesterday I found pine seeds scattered all over my porch from the wind and couldn’t help myself. Now they’re in my fridge, sealed in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel until they germinate.

I’m going to need a lot of pots when spring comes.

Like, a lot of pots.

Since my house is very small and there is a limit to how many trees I can plant inside it before my sister goes crazy and kicks me and my trees out, I am looking at building a greenhouse. With counter space. And a lot of pots. So I can experiment with some different species and try to grow some that I haven’t had the guts to try until now. Like maple trees. And spruce.

I’m excited.

Okay, I definitely understand that growing trees inside my house is a little weird. I mean, who has an oak tree growing on top of their bookshelves? But I love things that last. That grow slowly. That take time to get anywhere, because when they do start growing finally, it means more because of how much time and energy was put into waiting for them.

It helps me remember that all the work and effort and time I put into my books and my career as a writer isn’t wasted. That growth comes in cycles, and all the growth that happens on the surface has to be balanced out by long, long periods of seeming stasis to let the roots catch up.

And, most of all, that the things that take a long, long time to grow will be the ones that last.

So when I’m frustrated with myself and my writing and can’t seem to get my stories right, I can go back to my trees and remember that I have to let the roots catch up. I have had so much rapid growth in the last five months, and now it’s time to pause. And settle. To embrace the hard things, and not worry that the growth I would love to see isn’t there. The roots are catching up, and the cycle is starting again. When the roots are ready, the growth will come.

So, writers, if you haven’t seen the growth you’re looking for, remember to check under the surface too. Today, you may be growing the roots you need.

What is growing in your life lately? Tell me about it in the comments!

Eight Characteristics Of Serious Writers: Enthusiasm


I still get excited about my writing.

After seven years on the same set of books, that sounds crazy doesn’t it? Don’t the characters get stale? Doesn’t the world get boring?

Actually . . . they do.


I have days when I’m not excited about what I’m writing. We all do. In fact, I have weeks when I’m not excited about what I’m writing, especially when it comes to the last rounds of revisions and editing. Once I’ve written a chapter eight different times and it still isn’t right, I start to get a little irritated with it.

But for the most part, I love my stories. I think they’re worth all the frustration I’ve spent on them, all the years I’ve devoted to their creation. And . . . I honestly just like the story. I like the characters. I am endlessly enthusiastic about writing them because I want to read what happens. And that fuels my writing more than any dream of getting published I can come up with.

But I learned a long time ago that enthusiasm wouldn’t write the pages for me unless I paired it with discipline.

“In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm . . . in the real world all rests on perseverance.”

~ Johann Wolfgang Goethe

It’s great to be enthusiastic about your stories. I highly recommend it, in fact. That love is going to shine through in your writing and eventually in your pitching. Your readers will be able to tell if you love a character, story, or even a setting. Or if you don’t care about them.

But sometimes I think we as writers—and as humans—don’t realize that enthusiasm doesn’t last without a little help. It’s easy to be enthusiastic about a new idea—for about two weeks. Maybe even a month, if you’re determined. But to be enthusiastic about a story for seven years—that’s a little harder. But if you continue to foster that attitude of enthusiasm for a project long after everyone else would have given up on it, you may just find yourself far ahead of those authors who refuse to stick to one idea for more than a year or two.

Tips to Cultivate Enthusiasm.

1. Think of enthusiasm less as something you feel—and more as something you choose. Feelings fade. They are fickle, flighty things that pop up at the most inopportune times and vanish just when you need them most. If you are a writer who writes only when you feel like it, you will probably never finish a book. So choose to be enthusiastic. Choose to love your characters when you don’t like them, and appreciate your story when you would much rather hate it. Give it love when you don’t feel like it, and the feelings will follow.

2. Prioritize. Give your writing time precedence. Value it. Make it special with tea, a writing companion, or a well-worn ritual. Know when your best writing time is and take advantage of it. Start with a hundred words, or two hundred. Once you’ve started, it’s much easier to keep going—and to remember why you loved this story in the first place.

3. Spiral journal. I got this idea from one of the loveliest author/speakers in the industry. (Hi, Nancy!) Sit down with your journal, ask your character a question, and give them two minutes to answer while you scribble frantically to get down what they say. Then choose a sentence you’ve written that you want to dig deeper into, write it down, and set your timer again. Have your character talk a bit more about that. And so on and so forth. Believe me. It’s brilliant. Nancy taught us this technique at the last writing conference I went to, and it built my sixth book from the ground up. I was so very grateful.

4. In the end, worry less about being enthusiastic and more about being committed. I’m afraid this is what it comes down to, O writer. It’s lovely to be enthusiastic about your story. It helps a great deal and pours a lot of love onto the pages. But in the end, what really matters is that you are committed. That you are going to show up, even when you’d rather not, and write the next page when you’d rather trash the whole thing. A writer who can do that will conquer any story they touch.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

Eight Characteristics Of Serious Writers: Tenacity


One of the questions that I get way too often in my life is, “How are your books coming?”

It’s understandable, actually. People know I’m working on a book series. They know I’ve been working on it for a long time—seven years, in fact. And most people aren’t aware of how slow the publishing industry really is or how long it takes to write a book.

For those of you who don’t know—it takes years. And I do mean years.

Seven years is a long time. But, no, I am not published yet. I will probably not be published for a while yet. I am only just now starting to be paid for the craft that I have spent so long honing and learning, and guess what?

I’m still learning.

Really. I spent seven years working my butt off, practicing, studying, and correcting my mistakes, just to become an apprentice. And you know what?

It was worth every single second. Really. I love my job, I love that I get paid to hone my craft and practice my passion, and I love that I get to learn from people who are as close to mastering their craft as most people get.

But in all those seven years, I didn’t know it would end up like this. I didn’t know if I would ever get published, or ever make enough money to support myself, or ever have anyone care that I was a writer and had something to offer.

But I wrote anyway.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

~ Mary Ann Radmacher

Tenacity is one of the most important traits of any writer who intends to see their work sitting on a shelf. I cannot begin to count the many times that I wanted to give up in the last few years. How many times I worried that I should have come up with a backup plan when I first started this crazy venture. I worked as a nanny for seven years, and I was terrified that I would end up doing that for the rest of my life.

I didn’t. But I sure wondered a few times.

The point is, if you give up, drop your dream when it gets hard and move on to something else, you will never see how amazing your life could have been. And your books will never, no matter how much you love them, see the light of day.

Tips to Cultivate Tenacity.

1. Spend less time worrying about the end result and more time enjoying the process. The times I was the most afraid for myself and my future were always the times I spent way, way too much time obsessing about when things were going to happen. I wanted answers, I wanted a plan, I wanted a solid time of when my life was going to come together and I was going to be able to sustain my writing without a supplementary job. It never helped and always, always stole my joy. The best moments were when I let the future stay where it was—out of sight—and focused on the task in front of me. Those moments brought me where I am today.

2. Finish the projects you start. Commit to them. A book you never finish is a book that will never get published, and although you may learn a great deal from it, you’ll also set a habit by abandoning it and moving on to something else when you get bored, stuck, or simply have another idea. Giving up is a habit. So is typing ‘The End’. Choose your habits.

3. When you have a brilliant new idea, jot it down in a notebook and leave it there. Let it sit. Let it simmer in the back of your mind, turning over, getting the time it needs to develop. A brand new idea is not a book. It’s not even a story yet. It needs time, and your current WIP needs time too. So let it sit, just for now, and come back later.

4. Set goals and celebrate milestones. What do you want from your writing? Do you know? What do you, as a writer, want to accomplish this year, or this month, or simply just today? Write it down. Have a to-do list, and celebrate when you mark things off. And when you type ‘The End’? Open a bottle of something sparkly and make a night of it. If you don’t celebrate your milestones, it’s far, far too easy to let yourself think that there hasn’t been any.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

Creativity, Inc.


I listen to audiobooks on my commute to and from work every day. It’s how I keep reading when life is busy and crazy and I don’t have the time or the energy to stop and open a book.

Which, unfortunately, is all the time right now.

So, my commute is my saving grace. An hour and a half every day, five days a week, will plow you through a lot of audiobooks.

This week I’ve been listening to Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. It’s the origin story, you might say, of Pixar animation studios, written by one of the original creators.

It’s absolutely fascinating.

Pixar is and always has been one of my absolute favorite movie studios. Up, The Incredibles, Toy Story, and Finding Nemo are all established classics in my mind, and ones that I will watch again and again over the years.

The writer of Creativity, Inc. is an amazing blend of scientist and storyteller, and hearing him talk about the years they spent developing the animation necessary for these kinds of movies, the ups and downs they’ve had, and the disasters they’ve faced and walked through, was incredible. Creativity is one of those things that is very, very hard to push into a box and establish in a nine-to-five, and most big businesses manage it by grinding their workers to dust and replacing them every few months.

Pixar, thankfully, has set a different standard, and their model revolutionized the storytelling industry.

As a person who also tells stories for a living, it has been an incredibly eye-opening book to read. (Or listen to.) The more I learn about the story industry—whether that be books, movies, TV, or radio—the more I want to learn and the more determined I am to continue working in my field. No, it’s not perfect, and yes, it has its issues, but there is nothing else I would rather be doing. Stories are a magic and a science all of their own, and I am slowly, with many fumbles, starting to understand and appreciate them for more than just the face value and box office reviews.

Creativity, Inc. gives a captivating inside glimpse into the life and business of some of the best storytellers on the market. Writers, I would highly, highly recommend it to you, whatever sort of writing you do. The very driven, pressurized atmosphere that he describes in his books may not appeal to you, but the principles that they’ve built their company on continue to be some of the best in the industry.

No wonder Up has the single best love story in animation in its first eight minutes.

(Okay, that last part is only my opinion.)

But still!

Have you ever read Creativity, Inc. or a similar book that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear about it!

Filling the Gap in My Shelves

A while back, I wrote a post about the gap in my shelves, the book I’d lost but never quite forgotten.

The book was a favorite of mine when I was in my young teens. I read it over and over again, very nearly memorized my favorite parts, and loved it with all the devotion of an obsessive young reader.

Unfortunately, I loved it to death.

It was already a very old book. My mother bought our books at library sales and thrift stores, and when they came to us they were dog-eared and faded. Covers got torn, end pages disappeared into the trash, and eventually, the books themselves did too. With multiple siblings and quite a few avid readers in the family, it happened fairly often. Books were used, loved dearly, and replaced. New copies appeared to replace the old, and we kept reading them.

Only this one didn’t get replaced.

It simply—disappeared.

I looked for it for months. Scoured the bookshelves from top to bottom. The book had lost its cover quite a long time before it disappeared for good, and—being thirteen—I had never paid a great amount of attention to the title or the author.

I regretted that later.

And so, it faded out of my life. I left a gap in my shelves for it, but never really expected to see it again.

Until a week ago.

On a whim, I typed in a few random keywords into Google and went on a search for my missing book. I had done this before, the only result being an overwhelming realization that there are millions of books in the world. The likelihood of finding one specific book without a title or author name was very impossible. I knew it was about a grizzly, of course, but it had been so long that I couldn’t even remember his name. Ten years is a long time, right?

Or, it was until I saw the name of the grizzly in one of the links.

Then ten years was nothing, and everything about it fit. It was like meeting an old friend. I don’t often cry over books (just kidding, I totally do), but this made me tear up. It was like getting a glimpse of little thirteen-year-old Abigail, with my funny round glasses and chubby cheeks and a library card that never left my side. Despite a total book-buying ban which I wasn’t following anyway, I knew I had to buy it.

Amazon yielded . . . nothing. The book—which I now know is called The Biography of a Grizzly, by Ernest Thompson Seton—was published in 1900, and was so out of print that there were actual self-published copies available, complete with shiny plastic covers and badly photocopied pages.

Not what I wanted.

So I went looking through eBay. Thankfully, eBay almost always yields results, and it did this time too. Most of the copies were wildly expensive, after all, it is out of print, but I managed to find a decent copy for a reasonable price.

I was ecstatic.

When it finally arrived at my house, I read it in one sitting. The illustrations, the story, even the wording was so familiar that it was like stepping back in time. The story of a grizzly named Wahb and his life as an orphaned cub in the Rimrock Mountains was exactly how I remembered it. His wanderings and struggles as he tangled with wildcats, coyotes, and other bears was beautifully interspersed with the pleasures of a bear’s life—whether that be digging roots in the lush meadows or searching for grubs in the shale mountains. Wahb had many enemies, and the story of his lonely, melancholy wanderings struck a chord with me when I was a young teen.

Reading it now felt like a journey back in time. Thank goodness I wasn’t thirteen again, but I am so grateful to have found this treasure from my childhood. At last, the gap in my shelves is filled, and that piece of my reading history isn’t missing anymore.


Boba Tea and The Last Sin Eater

I love boba tea.

Specifically, raspberry coconut boba tea, although I am not opposed to other flavors.

My sister introduced it to me originally. I don’t remember her exact words when she took me to the shop for the first time, but I’m sure it was along the lines of, “This is the best, most heavenly drink on the planet, and you haven’t really lived until you’ve tried it.”

That’s what I tell people now when they admit they haven’t tried it yet. I get enthusiastic.

I think it scares them.

Oh well.

Obviously, there isn’t much correlation between raspberry coconut boba tea and The Last Sin Eater, but just now, they are stuck in my mind together. Does that ever happen to you? You read a book somewhere, either on the beach in Portugal or in the corner of your library at home, and the book takes you straight back to that spot when you open it next. It also makes you hungry for that ice-cream—or raspberry coconut boba tea—that you had the last time.

Books carry memories. One of my favorite authors described it like flypaper . . . they catch your memories and keep them close between the covers until you can come back for them.

I have plenty of books that carry very vivid memories for me. Howl’s Moving Castle will forever remind me of a dimly lit, very empty dining hall in Scotland and the bread and cheese I lived on for a week there. Tarzan of the Apes reminds me of Portugal and hostel rooms. Jane Eyre reminds me of a hammock in the pines and the shocked look in an adult’s eyes when I assured her that yes, little twelve-year-old me was indeed reading this enormous book. And loving it.

And last Sunday, I devoured The Last Sin Eater while sipping (and chewing) on raspberry coconut boba tea on a sunny bench outside the movie theater.


This wasn’t my first time reading this deeply profound book. My favorite books are always read and reread many times, and I can safely say that The Last Sin Eater is and always will be one of my all-time favorites.

The story begins with Cadi Forbes, a child growing up in America in the mid-1800’s. Her clan, a close-knit group of immigrants from Wales, have settled in the mountains, forming an exclusive community that is wary of strangers and ruled absolutely by the cruelty and vicious leadership of Brogan Kai.

Cadi, barely ten years old herself, is haunted by the death of her younger sister. When her grandmother dies as well, she is once again faced with the reality of death and the overwhelming, crushing consequences of sin. In a society that understands the purity of God and the weight of sin, and yet has no concept of grace or forgiveness, Cadi is constantly surrounded by guilt and blame over sins that she is sure will haunt her forever. Only the Sin Eater, a man doomed to take the sins of the entire clan upon himself, can possibly help her, and she begins a frantic search to find the elusive man.

This deeply emotional and moving book brings to light the beautiful reality of what Jesus Christ did for mankind on the cross, and the sobering truth that no one but Jesus can take away our sins. Not even a Sin Eater.

It was no accident, no coincidence, that the seasons came round and round year after year. It was the Lord speaking to us all and showing us over and over again the birth, life, death, and resurrection of his only Begotten Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord.


Little House in Brookfield

Last week, I went shopping. Thrift store shopping, if we’re being specific. Thrift stores are lovely because you can find everything, anything—or nothing, depending on the day. I thoroughly enjoy browsing through several different stores in a single trip, perusing their bookshelves in search of something I don’t already own. It’s a treasure hunt, one that can end in nothing or everything.

Last week, it ended with Little House in Brookfield.

I grew up listening to my parents read The Little House on the Prairie books out loud to me and my siblings. The stories of Laura Ingalls and her family are intrinsic parts of my childhood, stories I’ve been listening to—and reading—for as long as I can remember.

Little House in Brookfield is almost as embedded in my mind. The story, instead of being written by and about Laura Ingalls Wilder, is instead about her mother, Carolina Quiner. This book, and the others in this series, are based on a collection of letters written to Laura by her aunt Martha, Ma’s sister. The research done by Maria Wilkes brilliantly recreates Ma’s childhood in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Although written with the same simple, charming style as The Little House in the Prairie, Carolina Quiner’s childhood was very different from her daughter’s. Her father, Henry Quiner, was lost at sea when she was four years old. For her mother, grandmother, and four siblings, life is a constant struggle to keep their farm running, their family together, and enough food on the table.

As frustrating and difficult as such an uphill climb is for this small family, they still manage to face every day with an amazing amount of cheerfulness and faith. Ma’s steadying presence and silent strength is a cornerstone of the Little House series, and it is easy to see where that strength and character was developed. Her own mother is a rock in their home, despite dealing with the grief of losing her husband and the struggle of providing for a family alone. The kindness of a stranger, the help of old friends, and the prudence of a woman able to make something out of nothing keeps their family afloat. Old dresses are made new, toes show through the scuffed leather of shoes that are old and worn, and flour becomes a luxury they are not sure they can afford, and yet, life continues. Christmas is celebrated, birthdays are somehow made special, and family grows strong through the hardships.


Little House in Brookfield is a beautifully written story of love, hardship, and triumph. If you have loved the Little House books as much as I have, cherished them through your childhood and treasured them as long favorites, this is definitely a book for you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Each time they came to the mill, she wished she could climb up a pile of grain and touch the ceiling right before she slipped down the other side of the pile and skidded to the floor in a rush of barley, corn, oats, or wheat.

Schindler’s List

Some books are difficult to read.

I won’t deny that. There are some stories in history that people would rather forget. Evil is a definite part of our past, and I think it is easier for us to swallow in fantasy, TV, and fiction than it is in stories that ring true. We’d rather have magnificently evil villains safely trapped between the pages of a book than remember that there were—and are—men and women that were equally as vicious and terrifying. Men who really were set on destroying the world.

And yet, if we cover those stories up, if we forget them, then we will also forget the men and women who stepped up to oppose that evil. The true-to-life heroes who risked their homes, their lives, and their families, to stand in the gap and protect those who couldn’t protect themselves.

Those stories—those men—should never be forgotten.

Schindler’s List is one of those stories. A true-to-life account of a man living in the midst of Hitler’s reign of terror, the story of Oscar Schindler, an unremarkable—and somewhat unscrupulous—businessman who found himself trapped within the horrors of Nazi Germany. His industrial factories saved him from military service and made him a valuable member of the Nazi party—a man who could have survived in perfect comfort and profited from the hatred around him.

And yet, amid a sea of people choosing the easier road, Oscar Schindler saw worth in the men Der Füher had deemed worthless. He began to collect them in his factories, Jewish men and women who he insisted were vital to keeping his machines in order, his production moving.

Men and women who knew next to nothing about the work he swore could not be done without them.

They survived on his ingenuity. As the war progressed and hatred ran deeper, it became more and more difficult to convince the Nazi regime that his Jewish employees were vital to the war effort. Bribery triumphed where reason couldn’t, and by the end of the war, Schindler’s entire fortune had withered to almost nothing. In the last few months, his ‘factories’ ceased even pretending to work, instead hunkering down in an effort to survive a nightmare that was quickly coming to an end.

1,200 Jewish men and women were saved from concentration camps by Oscar Schindler, and his story lives on, not as the story of a virtuous hero, but as the tale of an unremarkable man who, when faced with the worst that humanity could produce, chose instead to demonstrate it at its best.

Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

The Hiding Place

I believe that history is important.

George Santayana, a Spanish-born American author, said, “Those who cannot remember the past condemned to repeat it.”

I fully believe that this is true, and yet, at the same time, I struggle to read the history books that were handed to me in school. Dates, times, statistics, and names always pass straight through my head, and I never remember them.

What I do remember are stories.


If you hand me a well-written biography (or better yet, an autobiography) I will almost certainly remember in great detail exactly what happened to them, what they did, when they lived, what they cared about, and what they believed. Books like the Diary of a Young Girl or The River of Doubt teach me much more about WWII or Theodore Roosevelt than I will ever pick up from any history book or lecture. The story sticks with me, and I remember the facts of the story because of how powerful it was.

One such book that has deeply impacted me is The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom.

Corrie was a Dutch woman living during the horrors of WWII. Her story, written in her own words, tells of her life before the invasion of Holland by the Germans, and her struggle through the war to hide and protect the Jewish people in and around her community. Her resistance against the regime that caused so much terror throughout the known world begins with very small things. Simple kindness, a ration card, a message delivered. Before too long, she, her sister, and her aging father are asked to shelter a Jewish man in their home, an offense that could get them shot.

They don’t hesitate, and Eusie is added to their household.


More and more Jews join them, until there are seven who live every day in the Beje, their tiny little home. Others come and go, on their way to safe houses, but those seven have become a part of their family. Seven people that no one else can ever know about. A secret room, built into the twisting, cramped little house, gives them a place to hide in case the Gestapo ever come.

And they do come.

The secret room saves the seven Jews, but Corrie, her sister, and her father are all arrested. A succession of prisons and concentration camps follows, leading them into the darkest corners of Germany. Corrie’s account of the horror of the concentration camps is softened by her faith in God and her love for her sister. Even in the midst of the tragedy around them, they are able to cling to the promise that no pit is so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.

This book is one that has influenced me over and over again through the years. The story of faith, perseverance, and forgiveness locked within its pages is truly life-changing.

“Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love!”