buttons on my clothing so everyone around me is prepared for what may come.
say may and can be used in my next book.”
Much of my poetry is inspired by what I experience in life whether
it’s watching a man dancing with wild abandon or the words said by a friend as
she hugs me. I take those moments that stay with me, haunting my deeper
awareness, and turn them around in my head by writing them down. If the poems
are good enough, I then share them in a book or magazine. Though most readers
will never recognize where the words come from, some who know my heart well
will recognize themselves and the words I’ve shared with them in the lines. The
experiences of my life are what I draw on to share larger truths and I often
include those I love in my words as it’s another way to treasure their presence
in my life.
to see in you the face of God.”
Sometimes when I’m looking at people, I see God in their
faces. It’s such a beautiful sight and once in a while, what I see inspires
what I write. One night I watched a woman at a concert clapping and dancing in
her seat. I imagined it was God singing along and taking joy in the ones
onstage. Another night I watched my art teacher work her way around the room
encouraging and praising every student for their work. I take these moments of
visibly seeing the qualities of God and include them in whatever I’m writing
whether it’s an article or poem to illustrate my point or to give readers an
image of God they not have thought of yet. It’s a joy to be always looking
deeper into those around me to find God.
book, you can bet I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for experiences I can use
whether or not the people around me know about the invisible warnings. You
never know what I’m going to come up with next.
weeks, my editors have been across the board concerning how much of the book
they’ve worked on. One editor has been through two out of three poetry batches
and my other editors have only gone through the first. In between trips and
holidays, I’ve been working on catching everyone up to the same point. Last
week, I stayed with one of my editors so we could go over the third batch. In a
few days, I’ll meet with my other two editors after they’ve arrived at the same
point. I’m looking forward to hearing what they think of the new material and
discussing some changes to writing they’ve already seen. I also want to start
discussing the order of the book with them.
somewhat stressful having people at different places and keeping track of who
has seen what but I would rather have this be a fun experience for my editors
with no pressure to be done by a certain time. This is not always a grace I can
confer but with no strict timeline to follow, I’m giving us all space. Two of
my editors, especially, have enjoyed spacing the poems out, reflecting on one each
want to get to is having a clean manuscript to set aside for a while. Once I’ve
talked with everybody and made corrections to the master files, then backed
them up, of course, I’ll print out all the poems, place them in the order I
want them, and then store the manuscript away for a time so I can focus on writing
the rest of the book.
at this point in the process before with the other books, I‘ve juggled two hats:
one as a writer and one as a publisher. It’s a dichotomy I’m well used to as
this is my fifth book but a benefit of taking my time with Finding Love’s Way is I can concentrate on one hat at a time
whereas I usually have to juggle both in nearly equal measure. I deeply believe
this book will be better for it. A beautiful place to be, I anticipate marking
off the majority of the book as having been completely approved for publication
and then having everyone on the same page once again.
made a decision to not pin down a book publishing date for Finding Love’s Way. With all my other books I’ve had firm deadlines
but with this one, I’m giving myself the grace to let the book take its own
course for however long it needs. As authors, we have a tendency to rush things
along, to curtail the process because we’re tired of slogging through the
manuscript and want to be done or we’re so excited to see it published, we
don’t take the time to refine the sharp edges. Only later do we find the
errors, the improvements we could have made if we’d simply taken the time. Such
a book is often badly written and hard to read. No time was taken to refine the
work and remove the excess verbiage. I don’t want to let that happen with this
book and the difference I’ve experienced in choosing to not have a definitive
timeline has been, for me, refreshing. There’s no pressure; I can let the book
become whatever it desires and give myself the time to make any corrections
before it goes to print.
so personal, so much about growing into the deeper meaning of love, by giving
it space, I’ve also given myself space to develop and learn. At different
times, I’ve let the manuscript collect dust so I can come back to it with new eyes
when I’m not so attached to what I’ve already written. By tweaking the words after
a time of rest, I better understand what each section needs, where I want to go
with each poem, and I can change phrases to form a more cohesive whole making one
poem blend into the next. Truths I learn in the latter half of the writing
stage can be worked into the first.
tendency authors have is to let a manuscript sit so long that it’s never
published. Or we might have a hard time letting the manuscript go—we keep going
over it with a fine-tooth comb. Though I am all for the editing process and
making sure a book is ready to be published, there has to come a time when we
come to the end and release it. There has to be a point when we call it good
and put down the red pen.
the difference between when a book is done and when it needs more work? How do
we know when to keep going and when to stop? For myself, I listen to that voice
deep inside that just knows. My
intuition has served me well. My editors, too, help a great deal. They’re good
at letting me know when something still isn’t working or when it’s ready to go.
I trust their advice even as I make the final decisions.
in the process, I know I’m far from being finished with the writing. There are
still holes throughout the book: three larger holes and thirteen small ones. The
poems are like seeds in a garden that haven’t sprouted yet. They need time to
grow, time to send down roots and mature. I don’t want to give in to the temptation
to hurry them along just to have a “completed” manuscript. The point I want to
get across would be scraggly, weak, and unfulfilling. After putting so much
effort into all the other poems, I want to give these poetry holes the same
treatment. There are things I’m learning and thinking about every day, pieces
I’m being given I know I want to include, new understandings to build in. When
they are ready, the poems will be there tumbling out of my mouth onto the
paper. They will be what they were meant to be because I waited, because I let them
grow until there were ready. Only by choosing to not have a publish-by-date has
this been possible.
have to have a due date. There is no way to get around it, an article or book
has to be ready by a certain time. In this case, don’t put things off until the
last moment. Use the entire time you’re given. Give it thought and listen to
your editors. I am sure there will be books down the road with a tighter
deadline but since I have a choice with this one, I’m taking all the time it
needs. When I have at last finished writing and editing the material, I know it
will have been done right and done well.
see what a book looks like that’s had time to really come together in the way
it should. I’m excited to see what truths come out that wouldn’t have been
otherwise thought of. What will I learn through this process of not rushing
myself or anyone else helping me with the book? We move forward, certainly, but
the pace is steady with time to enjoy the journey.
Last week, I opened the manuscript and took a second look at how one poem
flowed into another. Laid out on my living room floor, I went through the whole
manuscript, line by line, and on a pad of paper, wrote out what part each poem
plays in the larger storyline. Going through the book like this gave me a
chance to appreciate and refine the curves and turns along the way.
amazed at how the placement of a poem influenced its meaning and gave it
greater depth. At others, I found holes where the storyline left off and where
the book needs new material to fill the gaps. This is actually a relief to me
for I know I’m not done writing what I have percolating inside quite yet. I
know there’s more.
process, I have a far better grasp of where I am on the timeline of having the
manuscript completed. I can see the larger picture and can thus focus my
writing efforts on what the book really needs instead of a more scattered
approach just to get to a total number of poems in the table of contents. Each
piece now comes under closer scrutiny. Does it work? Is something not here that
should be? Is this message repeated elsewhere? It will be a fun challenge to
answer these questions as I work on writing poems for the open spaces using
whatever inspiration comes my way.
I often write
when I’m grieving, upset, or have a strong emotion. It’s a way for me to
process the emotions and get them out. This wouldn’t be a problem for me except
for the fact I then publish such feelings in a very public forum. Whenever I
get close to releasing a new book, I can be found, head buried in my hands,
wailing aloud, “What was I thinking?”
I’ll even go back to my editors and ask if we should take a poem out as it’s
just too personal but they inevitably respond, “You can’t take that out. It’s so powerful!” This is partly why I have
editors – to keep me away from the trash can. I also know the most vulnerable
poems, the ones where I don’t hold anything back, are usually the ones people
tell me mean the most to them. And so I publish and let my heart’s lament live
out there for all to see.
easy place to be on a continual basis – it brings new meaning to the phrase
“wearing your heart on your sleeve” but, in general, I don’t think we’re open
enough with each other about our inner thoughts and feelings. Aside from the seeming
intimacy of the internet, when in life do we really express those deepest
places within us face-to-face? It’s good to have a handful of people in our
lives we know we can go to for a good talk but what about when we write? It can
be hard to express such things on paper and have no control over who reads
share such personal thoughts so publicly?” is a question I’ve been asked and
that I still struggle with. Now that I have an idea of what this book will be,
I’m right there asking once again, “What was I thinking?” I then have to remind myself of a couple things. Perhaps
what I tell myself will help you the next time you go to write such words.
are not what you write.
Writers can be artists and as artists, we equate ourselves closely with
what we create. However, what we create is not us. My words do not define me any more than what I wear. Whenever
I write or sell a book, I remember that I am not what I put down on paper.
My soul is always my own. Once a creation is produced or a book published,
it takes on a life of its own and it’s out of my hands. If you want to get
to know me, I would love to meet up with you and talk over coffee. But
don’t think because you’ve read one of my books or friended me on Facebook
that you know who I am. That takes time and friendship.
be ashamed of those thoughts and feelings you’ve expressed. The thoughts and feelings you’ve
expressed are beautiful and genuine. So much of yourself has gone into your
writing that it is valuable no matter what you’ve said. Do no harm, but be
honest and vulnerable. If we as writers aren’t willing to be open with
such thoughts and to then share them, who is going to be?
you write will help other people.
Everyone has these deeper thoughts and feelings but many times we need
someone else to express them first before we’re willing to hear our own. Our
words travel far more widely and to more unexpected places than we could
possibly go ourselves. You have no idea who you’re reaching and in what
ways all because you were willing to be open with yourself. Anything
written in love never goes to waste but is planted and grown in the lives
of those who turn the pages. This always happens. You may not always see
people read your words, they don’t see the full story behind them, they
see their own.
Much of my poetry and writing in general lies at the intersection of my
life and deeper truth. However, what I’ve discovered over the years is
when people read my words, they don’t see my story, they see their own. I
may have written my heart out about a relationship or an experience but
they read it and see their own relationships, their own experiences. You
can, metaphorically speaking, stand center-stage under the spotlights and
tell of those things you would never otherwise say aloud but what they
hear is their own life. I would
bet, even when I’m writing about my relationship with a specific person,
that person can read it and not even recognize themselves. (I never use
names.) It works that well. This
is why I balk at how poetry is taught in schools. We don’t really know
what the author was thinking but we teach that kind of analysis to
students. Just yesterday, someone read a poem going into Finding Love’s Way and told me what
I had done within it. I didn’t say anything but in my mind, I was
thinking, “Wow! I did all that? I didn’t even mean to!” But he read
himself into the words. People do it every time. Write whatever you want.
our strongest emotions, the darker ones we don’t easily express that can be
filled with the most light. Sometimes it’s in the depths where we find the
treasure and remember, as you write, this treasure is not just for you. We are
all so connected, it is a gift for us all. So please, write. Write honestly and
openly, share your thoughts and feelings. I want to learn from them. I want to
be able to say, “Me too!” and “I never saw it that way.” I want to be
challenged, to hear what I haven’t had the courage to say myself and maybe what I’ve written will do the same for you. Keep writing.
As a woman without children, I have come to see that
mothering is more than genetics and adoption. Mothering is helping each other
grow and develop, to invest in someone become, in a deeper way, who they
already are, while founded in deep affection. Mothering can take place in any
relationship between women whether through family, friendship, or even between
strangers. We are more us because of
these women, because we have learned from them and perhaps we have taught them
something in return.
great deal to me and I am deeply grateful for her. She was there to clean out all
the rocks and bugs from my pockets, taught me how to tie my shoes and shave my
legs, understood when I needed to climb a tree, danced with me at my senior baccalaureate,
and came down for Mom’s Weekend when I was in college. As adults, we went out for a game of pool.
addition to my mother whom I wish to honor. As the holiday has approached these
last few weeks, all the women in my life who, amid our wider bonds of friendship,
have played this kind of mothering role in some way, have been gathering together
in my mind – a vast array of love across my thirty-five years of life. These women have
each in their unique way been a model of womanhood, of love, of wisdom, and never-ending
grace. And they have invested in me, oh, so deeply. Huge swaths of who I am are
there, colored wide on the canvas of my life, because they walked across it and
left their mark, helping birth something more me than there was before.
or slipped my mind, I would like to take this opportunity to honor these women
who have given me this grace, whether they’ve known it or not, and who I am so
deeply grateful for (in no particular order):
- The teacher who wanted me in her class then
stayed to teach that subject another year so she could keep me as a student. I always
felt her genuine affection and thrived in it.
- The teacher who let me stay with her every day
after school to the point where her
mother nicknamed me her shadow. She taught me to line dance, throw a
basketball, make sure things are straight, how to be organized, and most of
all, she was my rock when my life was topsy-turvy and she enjoyed my company
when I didn’t enjoy it myself.
- The woman at church who encouraged my writing
when I was a teenager, invited me to eat lunch with her sometimes when she
taught at my school, and as adults, has been my loudest cheerleader in all
things: writing, spiritual direction, and valuing my get-up-and-go.
- The mother of a friend I’ve known for well over
twenty years who has been there that whole time with motherly advice, hugs,
dinner (both there and to-go), wisdom, and compassion.
- The friend who took me on as an intern in
college, taught me to laugh at myself, treated me to dinner week after week,
got me to consider a nose piercing, and who still calls me “Missy.”
- The friend I met through a job who then held me
as I cried when I lost it, assuring me that one day I would be grateful for it
all and who has since, been there with wisdom, an example of genuine integrity
in her own messes and successes, and who has challenged me to think farther and
beyond my own self.
- The woman who gives me the grace of space to be
utterly myself, broken and whole all at once, whose gentle hands have given me
comfort and shared my delight.
- The woman who has taken me in as a part of her
family, who has opened her table and her heart to me.
- The step-mother who listened to me as a child,
who heard what I had to say, a huge gift to someone needing to be heard.
- My grandmother who has always been hugely
supportive of me and my writing, who genuinely loves my work, and who loves me.
- My three aunts who each in their own way have
been my friends, women to lean on, who help me understand and know my family,
who tell me stories, and who have given me grace and love.
- My older sister who was there with her
protective love to clean up my skinned knees and tears and who is still the one
I can call when I need someone who understands where I’ve come from.
- My teacher who taught me to dare, to take
chances, to find a part of myself I had only longed for before, and who expresses
motherly concern whenever she feels it’s warranted.
- A friend of my family when I was growing up who
still honors that history and her affection by showing up, unasked, at my
seminary graduation, theatre shows, aerial shows – whenever I have something to
perform, she’s often there in the crowd.
- The friend who held hope for me when I couldn’t
hold it for myself, who talked with me about sexuality in a beautiful way, who
taught me so much in my core, and who has been there just beyond my sight, ever
supportive and encouraging with her whole heart.
- The friend who has taught by example how to be
light and love and to see farther and more deeply than I imagined, who shares
worlds with me whenever we get a chance to talk about them.
- The teacher who taught me boundaries, saw in me
my leadership gift, and who still sees inside things I’m still learning to give
space to in myself.
- The friend who opened a world of spirituality I
had never known existed, saw the same traditions in me, and who is there with
wisdom and knowledge whenever I have ideas to discuss.
- The woman who taught me the value of every
single day of life and who knows I still need to be held sometimes.
- The friend who taught me so much about seeing
into people and then knew enough to let me be angry at her and others when I
was learning it was okay to express such emotions.
- The friend, who, when I got really sick at a
women’s conference, made sure I had medication, a blanket, and water, and who
then let me lay my head in her lap and stroked my hair after I threw up.
still today nearly all dearly loved friends first and foremost. In fact, I
expect many of the women I’ve mentioned have never thought of themselves in
this way. But I also know these women have given me something precious that has
shaped who I am as a person even as I suspect they would each say I’ve given
something to them as well.
being there for them, perhaps as an advisor, a friend, or a mentor. I dearly
love them all and it’s hard to imagine what I could be giving them in light of
all they’ve given me but I look at the friends who have played such a giving role
in my own life and am stunned at the love they hold out to me day after day. I
feel overwhelmed at the gift and can utter little more than a deeply humbled
thank you and to tell you each that I dearly love you too.
than familial relationship. Helping each other grow and learn, being supportive
in a variety of ways, is something we can all do for each other. Who has given
you love and grace? Who has been there with encouragement and support? Do you
do this for others? Whether you have your own children or not, some of these
women do, some of them don’t, please remember this wider view of what mothering
can be and thank someone who has done this for you.
starts a few years back at a women’s conference out on the coast. I had been
looking over the contents of the book table when I saw a book called Soul Custody by Stephen W. Smith. The
title intrigued me but when I picked it up, I had a hard time putting the book
down. The book itself was great and I later bought it, but it was the feel of
the cover that enthralled me. It was soft and velvety, a pleasure to just hold.
Someday, I wanted a book of mine to feel like that.
the next book I was publishing was the last of a trilogy and I needed to stay
with the mold I’d already created with the first two: 6×9, glossy covers,
illustrations, running headers, and white pages. But this book stands on its own. This book is complete in and of
itself. I can throw everything out the window and recreate a whole new look.
wanted to talk to the printer in person. I wanted to look at examples of
previous books printed, to see for myself what they meant by “matte” covers. So this last weekend on my drive up to
celebrate Christmas early with my family, I stopped by my favorite print shop,
Gorham Printing, in Centralia,
Washington. As I’ve already
shared, we have a great working relationship and I trust their quality. I really
wanted to use them for this next book if possible.
the staff what I wanted, I was shown some matte cover books they’ve recently
printed. It was exactly what I had been hoping for. That soft, velvety feel,
the kind of cover you want to keep running your hand across, that’s what I
wanted for my book. Writing about love, I wanted the physical book itself to be
as warm as the people who inspired me to write it. I couldn’t have been
look at books on their shelves printed with cream colored paper. This is a
decision I have been wrestling with: white or cream paper? I loved the idea of
the warmth of cream and that it was different and would match the softer feel
of the cover, but it could prove difficult for drawings. Looking at their
books, though, cream is going to win the day. If I stick to pencil
illustrations, I think it will look lovely. I want this book to be my best work
yet, both in aesthetics and in the writing. Cream paper is what I’ve envisioned
for so long, it just belongs to the
decided on the size of the book. When I was putting the poems into their rough
order, I noted many of them were shorter than I’ve usually written in the past
and that means I won’t need as much physical space. I joked to my friend that I
must be a better writer if I can write less. Making the book a 5 ½ by 8 ½ would
also have the added benefit of being a bit cheaper than a 6 by 9, thus offsetting
the cost of the more expensive paper.
will be no running headers, just a page number centered on the bottom of the
page with a simple swirl or some such symbol above. As I wrote in my last post,
the poems will also stand on their own – no drawings on the same page, just at
the start of the sections. Less is more is my new mantra.
Gorham sent me home with a printed matte cover from one of their current
projects. I keep running my fingers across its surface as I imagine what it
will be like to pick up my own book with such a cover for the very first time.
I’m loving being able to match the physical printing choices to what the book
is about. I also find it deeply inspiring as I continue writing, editing, and
putting the poems in order. It’s a book I
can now see in my mind as well as in my heart.
Flying back home from my retreat, I’m carrying a black shoulder bag with my laptop and book manuscript. Thinking of that bag sitting in the plane compartment above my head, I realize if something happens to it, much of the upcoming book would be lost. I have an old version of the poetry folder stored in Dropbox but only some of the poems are there. None of the edits have been backed up and certainly not the order of the book I spent an entire evening working out.
I feel like I’m carrying something precious with me. I’ve been entrusted with this book and it’s up to me to not only get it home safely, but to back it up when I get there. I need to make sure it can’t be completely lost if there is a fire or theft. I need to make sure this work is saved somewhere so no one but me can get to it.
Take a moment and ask yourself: are you backing up your writing? Are you saving it somewhere besides your computer? If something happened to your laptop, what else would you lose? After two years of working on this book, this is a sobering thought for me. When I get home, I will be saving my files to Dropbox so everything is saved in the cloud. You can also bet after my next meeting with my editors, that I’ll be reprinting all the poems and putting them in their order so I have two copies of it until I lay out the book in Indesign. Until then, I’ll be keeping close tabs on that printed manuscript above my head.
Back up and back up often!
When it came to the poetry trilogy, each book had an illustrator. One was a friend and two I found while searching for someone to hire. I loved working with such talented artists and they added so much to the books but since this book stands on its own, I called everything into question including the illustrations. As I saw it, there were a few ways I could go with benefits and drawbacks to each option:
- Hire an illustrator and have them draw pictures to go with my words. (What I did for the first three.) The benefit to this is the artistry that such illustrations add. The drawback is the cost and the additional time and effort communicating back and forth with an illustrator entails.
- Use my own photography throughout the book. The benefit is I get to share one of my favorite hobbies along with my writing. Using my own work is also free and I have full rights to it. The drawback is trying to match photographs with poems. Having an illustrator draw whatever was needed was easier.
- Use the photography of one of my friends. I have several friends who are brilliant artists with a camera and I’m sure I could negotiate the cost and rights to use their pictures. This would involve someone else in the project, though, and would take quite a bit of time.
- Use my own drawings. This is the riskiest option as I’ve only taken a community drawing class and am planning to repeat it. While I love drawing, I’m nowhere near the level of a professional artist though the drawings could be fun to create and share. I also would have full rights to them at no cost.
- Let the words stand by themselves with no illustrations. Most poetry books use this option. It’s free, no hassle, and the words speak for themselves. However, it can lack that visual artistic touch.
In addition to the benefits and drawbacks of the various options, there are also other factors to take into account. I’ve been thinking of using cream colored paper for this book. If I do, that might not work for photographic light and colors. I also have a drawing from the class I took which I would love to use in the next book because it illustrates one of the poems.
With these considerations in mind, I talked it over with a friend I was visiting and she suggested I let the words stand on their own with no illustrations. She liked it when readers could take the words anywhere with no limitations whatsoever. However, being another budding artist herself, she also suggested I draw images just for the beginning of the sections. If I stuck with pencil as my medium, it would keep that softer look I’m going for. I really like this idea. It only involves five drawings if I keep to five sections, one of which is done, and it lets me share a new-found love.
If this choice goes well, drawing the five pictures myself will be a huge joke on me. When I started taking my drawing classes, people asked if I was going to start illustrating my own books and I insisted I was not. The class was just for fun. Just for me. Apparently there were other plans afoot. Even before making this decision, I was planning on retaking the class because I loved it so much. It’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to right now. I’m hoping my teacher (same one as I had before) will be willing to help me with the drawings and give me tips on improving them. I think it will be a fun process. It also speaks to the question I had last year: “How can I illustrate spiritual truths in a drawing?” Drawing the next four for this book will be my answer.
I’d been looking forward
to the project all afternoon. Once my work was finished for the day, I closed
my laptop and pulled out my manuscript. Splayed out on the living room floor, I
was delighted to finally have the time and mental space to take all the poems
and put them in order. In short, I wanted to see what this book looked like as
book has been a collection of individual poems. Though I knew the point I
wanted to drive home in the end, I had little sense of the story arc as a
whole. I didn’t know the beginning or the middle or how one section would
progress into another. The poems were not written with any kind of order in
mind and it would have to be created based upon what I’d already written. The
experience of putting a poetry book together is rather like being handed a box
of colored tiles and being told to make a coherent picture. I can still add and
subtract away from the book to strengthen the flow, but with 106 poems ready to
go in, it was time to put them all in the hopper and see what came out.
from my first editor when it comes to putting a book together, I took a sheet
of paper and drew out a story curve with notes describing what parts of the
story I was looking for along the way. I then split the diagram into five
sections: the beginning, going up the curve, the middle, going down the curve,
and the end.
in hand one by one, I then divided them into the five parts of the story based
on what the poems were about and the lessons I learned within them. Sometimes I
wasn’t sure where they fit so I set those aside to use later. If I had two
possibilities for different parts of the story, I made that note on the bottom
of the page.
a time and found the links between the poems to put them in order. Sometimes I
felt inspired as I found larger stories between the poems, themes and questions
that came up at the beginning fulfilled in the end. A great deal of the time, though,
I struggled through, trying to find how they fit together and coming up short.
It was gratifying and frustrating at the same time. The first section,
especially, came together easily but the later ones were much harder. One
section I reshuffled entirely and did over.
worked through the sections was the conversation between God and I that ran
throughout the book. I also discovered some of the poems were even better when
placed alongside another than they were by themselves. They brought out deeper
truths in each other. Seeing the words come together as a cohesive whole, I
feel like I now have the ultrasound for my baby. It’s no longer an abstract
concept, but an identifiable thing.
I’ve seen the picture and it’s beautiful. Even though the order of the poems is
very much a rough draft and I still have some more to write, I love seeing it
come together into a book.