What does becoming a champion entail? It’s a methodical, ongoing trek toward a goal. It’s a pushing forward, regardless. It’s upward and outward, every day, showing up, and breaking boundaries.
To be honest, it was his turquoise shoes I noticed first. Then, it was his superhuman pull-ups.
One day about a year ago, maybe longer, one guy at the gym did these massive pull-ups I’d never seen with my own eyes in person. He was using the regular squat/pull-up rack in the gym, minding his own business, but with a forty-five pound weight chained to his waist. After a couple reps of those, he went and added to the pull-ups, where he extended his arms down, above the top of the metal rack, shoving his body closer to the sky. That move is known as a muscle-up.
I blinked several times after I saw this the first time, wondering if anyone else at the gym noticed it, but around me the treadmills continued to buzz and the lifters by the weight racks studied the ground by their sneakers. (They were not turquoise.)
Another day, I took to the treadmills in my warm-up and, across the room, this bar lined with multiple forty-five-pound discs begins raising off the ground, the black steel bar itself beginning to bend in the middle. I counted I think eight of those discs plus some smaller ones. I don’t math, but then saw who was owning that bar. And nobody else in the gym even glanced up. He continued deadlifting that grimacing bar, but those hands stayed steady.
I just had to find out what motivated this guy to get up, show up, and lift up. What do you tell yourself when you’re lifting hundreds of pounds? How do you continue to shove against the grain of the earth when all it’s doing is trying to knock you down?
I think I asked him, “How much weight was that?” and he simply shrugged, non-committal, with a, “That was only four-fifty” or something to that effect. What. And then I have no idea what came out of my mouth because math… and I’m intimidated by most humans, especially ones who can lift four times my weight with a shrug. But then he said, essentially, “How you handle the gym demonstrates how you handle life.”
And I knew that my friends and readers needed to hear his story and perspective.
Need some motivation? Go find Travis Cadenhead on Facebook and Instagram at CadenheadKinetix. He’s a personal coach who offers online nutrition and fitness programming. Travis has worked with the elderly, special needs kids, the average gym goer, and pro athletes.
If you’re intimidated about those first few hesitant steps to bettering your life and wellness, then take a moment to rush forward. Success and victory aren’t as far away as they seem.
Here are just a *few* of his recent resume triumphs:
2014—Texas Raw bench press record of 402lbs at 198lb bodyweight. (U.S. Powerlifting Association)
2015—Pig Iron Classic Powerlifting meet. 1st place in weight class and best overall lifter.
2015—Bend the Bar (USPA) Powerlifting meet.
1st place in weight class and best overall lifter.
Qualified to compete at IPL world powerlifting meet.
2015—Unleash the Beast (MSA) Powerlifting meet.
1st place in weight class and best overall lifter.
Qualified to compete at IPL world powerlifting meet.
2016—Clash of the Barbarians (USPA) powerlifting meet.
1st place in weight class, best overall lifter, and a top 30 total pounds in the Nation and Top 4 in Texas.
Includes raw lifts of a 705 lb squat, 440 lb bench press, and 672 lb deadlift. 1819 lb total.
Qualified to compete at IPL world powerlifting meet.
Has your jaw hit the floor yet? I know! How does someone become a champion like this, and stay hungry yet humble? I think it has to do with the shoes. And probably also the commitment to persevere.
1) How did you get into Powerlifting/lifting heavy?
I started lifting during Junior High School for athletics although I didn't take it seriously until I was a senior in high school. It was an outlet for me; I could let out all the energy and aggression I had in the weight room versus somewhere else. I’m confident I would not be where I am today if I had not found weightlifting. I am an adrenaline junkie (fast cars/bikes or whatever to get a thrill) and quickly got addicted to the adrenaline factor of heavy lifting. It may seem crazy to a lot of people, but I love the mentality of "100% effort, give it all you got, get it or die trying." I believe the attitude I, and many others, have developed in the weight room transfers to other aspects in life also.
2) What motivates you to keep lifting heavy? When you’re at the bar, and the weights feel like they are too much, what do you do mentally or physically to continue working?
I always strive to be the best athlete I can be. I hype myself up by trying to do more reps or weight than before. I don't want to be normal and never wanted to be. If a thought comes into my head that I cannot do something, I remember the last time I had that thought, kept trying and accomplished the goal. Fear is not something God created us to have, so I bring that to the table when I am training.
3) What approach do you take to fitness and nutrition and mindset?
Fitness is very important not just physically for me but mentally. It’s been a part of my life for over a decade and I would be lost without it. I do set schedules for specific exercises/training depending on my goal at that time. I train to be a well-rounded athlete. I am always thinking about what I need to do to get better; that includes weightlifting, calisthenics, gymnastic movements, running, jumping, agility, conditioning, and martial arts.
What we put in our bodies is everything. I believe a lot of the diseases nowadays is from the Western type diet most Americans eat. Instead of eating foods with anti-inflammatories and plenty of micronutrients, the American diet is loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats which cause inflammation in the arteries, have insufficient micronutrients, vitamins/minerals, and cause diseases like diabetes and heart disease, etc. I believe eating foods loaded with anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, micronutrients, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, along with exercise, will help prevent and reverse a lot of these diseases.
4) What is your strategy for setting goals? Do you set specific numbers and work toward them or how do you decide what your results will be?
I like to set extreme goals. I am either all in or not at all; I have no in between. When I have a goal that is very extreme and hard to achieve, that is what drives and motivates me to keep moving forward.
5) For the regular person who’s afraid of stepping inside the gym, what’s one piece of advice you’d offer?
Don't be intimidated. Not everyone wants to be extreme in the gym or a competitive athlete. Everyone has different goals and levels of fitness. Starting a consistent fitness regimen is, in my opinion, one of the best decisions you can make in your life. It is never too late to start. As you get older fitness training will help you keep your muscular structure, it will make everyday functional activities more manageable, and you will be able to do more desirable activities (hiking, biking, playing with kids, etc..).
6) What is one piece of advice you’d give your teen self?
I would tell myself to learn more about functional training rather than just getting bigger. Bodybuilding like most young men want, without functional training in their routine is not practical. You will look the part but will probably lose athleticism.
7) What is one thing you’d like to leave as your legacy?
I want people to remember me as a Godly man. I want to help people live a more positive life physically, mentally and spiritually.
8) What kind of personal training do you offer, and to whom?
I offer online nutrition and fitness programming. I have worked with the elderly, special needs kids, the average gym goer, and pro athletes. I desire to work with anyone who wants to live a healthier more functional lifestyle, to athletes who wish to increase their athletic performance.
How you act in the gym demonstrates how you act outside the gym. I wasn’t raised in the gym and didn’t start loving the place until I was a mother of two littles and lost my connection to the outside world, and gained a lot of baggage in the process. What about you? Are you ready to feel better inside and out?
By pushing the limits, by digging in harder every time, the reps get easier, the reps simultaneously get harder, and also get more enjoyable. The reps equal results. You want to be the champion? Want to move freely, to do the good work you need to do? Hang in there. Don’t give up. Put in the reps to do your work, and continue pressing on regardless of outcomes, regardless of conflict, regardless of the weather or how you feel about them. If you’re hitting a wall, try aiming for a new one. Reps equal progress. The progress may be slow but all progress counts every single time.
How much do you want it?
Go get it.
And go check out Travis' Insta for inspiration and making new strides toward your tomorrow.
Connect with Travis online:
Facebook: Travis Cadenhead-CadenheadKinetix
The lovely Rae Eckman, manager of the blog A New Look On Books invited me to share a guest post the other day. I wanted to make sure you saw it! I randomly do guest posts but this one in particular came straight from my passionate little heart. Here's a little introduction, and a link to the blog. I hope you'll read it, especially if you're feeling down, frustrated, or stuck.
Happy reading, friends!
Fiction shows us how to handle our non-fiction. We enjoy these characters’ stories, see their pain, feel their journey, and tremble as their spirits quake. We get invited into their space and see the world with its conflicts, heartache, and power. Fiction’s miraculous. Fiction offers a gift of escape, of courage, of grit, of shuddering through temptation with the hero. Are you facing some serious shadows? Are you hearing the grinding of bones in the distance? Just like the heroes in our favorite stories, every person meets a point of deciding who to be and what to do.
Where are the heroes? A friend of mine recently said she wondered where the heroes were. The current trend for stories is that they often feature a strong heroine—and while I am all about a strong heroine, and inspiring girls to believe in themselves—I also believe we need to encourage everyone to protect, to serve, to lead humbly, to explore, to create, and to forget stereotypes. The time has arrived for all of us to rise up as heroes to wrestle the shadows.
Read the rest here, with a fabulous acronym to remind you how to get the job done: https://anewlookonbooks.com/2018/06/18/guest-post-kadee-carder-talks-fiction/
Feel free to share it if it lifted your spirits. Now go be a hero! <3
Did you know that sprints are the number one exercise to fight belly fat? About two years ago I began sprinting. I began with a ten-minute timer and have worked my way up to twenty minutes. I set the timer for twenty minutes and run as fast as I can from thirty seconds down to zero, walk for thirty seconds, and hit it again on the following thirty. Most of the days I've shot across the pavement with my jogging stroller, baby in tow, throughout sun, slushy puddles, and wintry clouds overhead. Last weekend was a first -- I went out on my own, the four-year old preferring to stay inside and watch cartoons. So my soles rammed against the concrete, amid potholes, leaves, and burning sun. While salty drips dribbled down my temples, my brain got to whirling.
Why do we commit? Why do we give up? How do we keep going? What do we do when we want to cave, want to decline, want to bow out? Do you call in sick, or do you buck up and slam the toes against the cold ground?
Here are my thoughts from my run last weekend. Hope the encourage you and inspire you to persevere, even when the winter clouds tumble down.
5 Tips for Committing (Life Lessons I Learned From Sprinting)
ONE: Do it for you and no one else. Make it your business to fully follow through your commitments.
You agreed to do the thing. Own your choice and dive into enjoying the work, offering your best capabilities, and hanging in until you no longer need to do the work. You control your action and attitude. Build your own excitement and fulfillment in the work. If you look at a job or task and tell yourself you are doing it because someone asked it of you, or you are “out” of something if you don’t do it, then that takes you out of your business and out of your power. Take hold of your capability to do the work you chose to do. You could be doing something else; you will eventually be doing something else. While you do this job, do it because you know you can do it and better the lives of others in the process. Look at your task as an act of service, for others and yourself.
Find something to be grateful for in the work and look for the opportunity to learn and engage your inner warrior. Consider this a time to build your tool box.
TWO: Employ grace for your season.
When I first began running, I pushed my forty-pound daughter in the jogging stroller. I’ve grown accustomed to shoving the burden ahead of me, with a slot for my water bottle and my phone to blast the tunes. But you know what? You can run so much faster without a stroller.
What baggage do you have? What season are you in? Have grace with yourself for whatever season you’re in. Do your best right now and keep working toward the coming season while celebrating the current one. Avoid comparing your story to someone else’s. One day you may be sprinting clear and free, no stroller, no handbag, no accompanying soundtrack. That may be relieving or intimidating. Regardless, employ grace for your season.
Whatever season you are in, whatever baggage you are dealing with in your commitments, allow some wiggle room. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. As Jess Glynne sings, don’t be so hard on yourself. Run your race. Dig in to your sprints. And allow time and space for the extra weight you’re pushing along the track. If you insist on running full force and physically cannot do it, then don’t commit to doing more than you can handle. Be honest to the people with whom you’ve committed and allow space for the stroller. In the long run (especially the long run!) everyone will thank you for the honesty and grace you employed. That’s wisdom.
THREE: Set time limits.
Committing to something for an endless amount of time overwhelms most people. Deep in the trenches of life and stress and sinks full of dishes, even the heartiest soul considers giving up. So prepare to invest in your activities by committing for a certain time. Maybe it is a twenty-minute workout, three times a week, for six months. Can you do that? Maybe it’s to do something for thirty days. Can you do that? Maybe it’s to say, “I will do this every Monday for one year.” Can you do that? Specify your time limits and purpose your expectations.
Now, let’s level up. Extend the time. Extend what you think you can do. Add five seconds. Add a day. Add a couple inches. Many runners slow down at the end of the race. Expect the race to last longer. Place your mental finish line farther than you think you can go.
In my research into training and military exercises, I came across some videos instructing how to punch. Set your feet, own your placement on the mat, and punch through the punching bag. The strongest punch doesn’t aim for the front of the bag; the strongest punch aims for the back of the bag. Use this same strategy for your commitments. If you know that you can commit for six months, allow for seven, mentally. If you need to run a race, train by running farther. Don’t just end where everybody else is ending. Punch through to the other side of the punching bag.
Set yourself up to win by setting your expectations and accountability limits. Own your limits, and then blast through them. Intentionally focus on specific boundaries, and then go one step further. The only limits you have are the one you set for yourself. Detail them and raise the bar for yourself, for you are stronger than you know.
FOUR: The smoother the ground underfoot, the easier it is to stay upright.
How much do you believe in yourself? Do you have a solid foundation, confidence in your competence to do the task?
My neighborhood is apparently packed with crumbly streets, leaves, potholes, and rocks. And I’ve trekked over them for years. One street recently got the nice treatment and it’s smooth, black, and freshly tarred. The difference between running over the potholes and on this one fresh slab of smoothness suddenly illuminated a truth: you can run faster when the road’s clear, when there are no rocks in your shoes or on your path. While you can’t take the obstacles out of your path, you can believe in your abilities, your path, and your journey. What kind of foundation are you treading upon? Doubt in yourself serves as a pothole. Doubt in your capabilities, letting the fear creep in? That’s like running with a spike in your shoe.
Avoid comparing your road to anyone else’s. Your journey has a twisty, windy path with obstacles built just for you. The obstacles will help you get faster and stronger – are you moving ahead, one step at a time?
Get the rocks out of the way. Take the grime out of your shoes. The road will have obstacles and twists and hills, but you’ve got to trust your feet and find your own smooth track.
FIVE: Decide what story to tell.
What’s the story? When the plot has a great story, readers stick around to the end. This step consists of basically finding your “why” but maybe you haven’t personalized it enough or been intentional with it. What’s depending on this seven years from now? Twenty-seven years from now? What brought you here from seven years ago?
How do you know when to end a commitment you’ve made? Think about the ending of the story. Many times I’ve thought about giving up on my sprints before the time expires, shutting down my writing career, or just not going to the gym because I’m not “feeling it” that day. But then I think about the story I want to tell about it. How do I want the story to end, and what will make a satisfying ending for this task I’ve committed to doing? When I’m happy with the ending, that’s when the task has been completed. Not all stories have happy endings, but I’m determined to serve the character I will be in seven years. She needs me to follow through right now. I’m not sure why; but in seven years I’ll get back to you and we can chat about it. What story will you be telling in seven years about your commitments? And how will that story end?
Take a step back and consider the lives at stake, the risks involved, and what kind of story you want to tell about following through with the commitments. Maybe you just need a change in perspective to see how important this ability to persevere and commit will forge you into the hero you are. Go, hero, go!
Sprinting along the streets in my neighborhood, wobbling along with my jogging stroller, gasping in the sizzling Texas air, has offered me a wealth of knowledge. I’ve released some stress, some sweat, and gained some inspiration. Now it’s time to level up.
Run as fast as your dirty silver sneakers will carry you.
The timer’s running.
How will you commit to your promises? What story will you design? Are you running for yourself or in the name of something greater? Are you excited about the pavement? The gritty pathway awaits. I’m right here too.
Do you remember the moment you met someone who changed your life? The first time I was invited to go hear Krista Johnson speak about nutrition and health, I didn’t want to go. All of my friends were talking about her fat loss program, how they were suddenly losing all this weight, and how I *just had to* hear her story. At the time, I was a new mom, had just recently lost my job, and possessed little motivation for trying new things.
But I sure am glad that my friends didn’t give up. There in that white-walled church meeting room, as Krista introduced her story of releasing one hundred pounds from her body, going from being a tired mother of four, into a business owner who taught Tae Bo classes and had trained in person with Billy Blanks, I could almost feel the sands shifting under my feet. A fresh, soft breeze began to blow within my spirit. It started out with a plate. Now I’ve changed from that weary new mom who lived on coffee and bagels and struggled to get out of bed without crying, to someone who races to the gym every day to see if I can beat yesterday’s weight bracket. Now I understand that every day I get this great gift, this new opportunity, to speak life into others, and I think my friends understood that. I’m so glad they insisted I go to that meeting seven years ago.
If you’ve never met someone who helped you understand freedom, let me introduce you to my friend Krista.
1. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to own and operate Fit By Faith. When did you establish it?
When I was in the middle of my weight loss journey, down 20 pounds from 242 pounds, I was going for a run. Well, if you want to call it a run. I was tip toeing up a hill, crying in pain, feeling humiliation trying to get my body to move. I made a choice to keep pushing on and I literally heard in my head, FIT BY FAITH. I prayed and God showed me a vision for Fit By Faith and I laughed. How could someone as out of shape as me ever be able to help others get fit? As I began to lose and become fitter, God gave me guidance and equipped me mind, body, and spirit, to start preparing Fit By Faith. About two years later, I taught my first Tae Bo class out of another gym. One month later we opened up Fit By Faith, on September 30, 2006.
2. What does your typical day look like now?
Each day is a bit different. It involves keeping my household running, being available for my family and my famous dogs :) It is a mix of personal training, teaching fitness classes, running nutrition groups online, organizing all the other services we offer that are taught by my Husband, running two Network Marketing businesses and volunteering at my church running the media and working on the protection detail team. It sounds like a lot, but God truly equips me to handle it all. When I become overwhelmed and feel like it is too much, I stop trying to do it myself and get back on track letting God lead me!
3. What kept you going through your fitness/wellness journey when you felt like you were at a plateau? What did you do?
I like how you call it a journey, because it is. I am still on it and will be on it forever. There were times I had no changes, but I think the reason people quit when results stop or give up is because their motivation was a weak one. If it is to be a certain weight by a certain date, to look good in a swim suit, etc, then those are weak motivations that will not last a lifetime. For me it was realizing I had the responsibility to break this cycle and keep it from trickling down into my children. It was realizing I did not want to be this overweight, sick burden to my family. I want to be an example and a blessing to my children and family. So whether I am having results or not, they see me walking in faith, making good choices, being joyful in all situations and then they learn to do the same.
4. Do you have a favorite quote or Bible verse which encourages you?
Yes. There are about 354 to be exact! Ha! But the one that stays with me through all situations is Acts 1:8. I believe we are equipped to do whatever God leads us to do. I may have had no clue about fitness, but when I allowed him to use me 100%, he has equipped me. If he told me tomorrow he wanted me to be a hair dresser, I may have no idea today about how to be one in that moment, but you can bet I would become the best one in the nation because He would equip me to do it :) You shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be His witness to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8
5. Do you have a favorite and a least favorite fitness move? What are they?
I have an equal amount of both, but if I had to pick one, I like burpees. It is funny because when I first did one, I thought they were straight from the pit of hell and hated them with all my being. Now I love them. I love that I can do them and do them well. I love to get creative with them too. Least favorite would be pull-ups. Enough said. Ha!
6. What is one change anybody can make today in order to begin a fitness journey? What about a faith journey?
I believe the absolute first change has to be what comes out of your mouth for both your fitness journey and your faith journey. Our words are life and death. What you speak is what you will become. Change your words, change your life. When I finally fixed the inside, the outside was no longer a battle. It just fixed itself. Until you can speak truth to your body, to your mind and spirit, and only work on the outside, it will be like a dog chasing its tail in circles.
7. Do/did you have a particular struggle in regard to changing your lifestyle? What do you do when you find that weakness creeping back in? Do you have a particular strength or preference that keeps you in the fat loss lifestyle?
I did and still do face struggles all the time, but through them I grow and learn. I see struggles as great teachable moments. You have to be a teachable person and be willing to have not so good days and learn from them. I think what has kept me on this journey is just loving myself through the process. Understanding that my best will be different each day and embracing every victory no matter how small. I think love is the answer to everything, honestly. It is the strength that everyone possesses, you just have to do it :) Honestly the power is always in our hands. You just have to flip the switch on!
8. What’s one thing you would tell your teenage self?
When your flesh wants to handle something, stop before you speak or act and remember this: Be in love, walk in faith, be led by the spirit.
9. What do you hope to leave as your legacy?
John and I have four of the absolutely most amazing children. Each one of them truly is if you know anything about them. They are my legacy and as far as I am concerned, that job is already done!
10. What do you offer at Fit By Faith? Do you offer personal training? Do you have a particular program to help me on my wellness journey? How do I find you online?
We offer personal training, fitness classes, nutrition classes, CPR & Lifeguard Certification, Reflexology, Nutritional products and a lot of love. You can find out about all of it at www.fitbyfaith.net .
It doesn't matter if you're burned out, broken down, or just plain tired. You've got this one moment to make a change and act. Can a mom of four lose one hundred pounds and keep it off? Yes. Can an ordinary chica break a board with a swift kick? Yes. Can even the clumsiest of fumblers learn how to deadlift her weight? Oh, my, yes. Can one decision change a life? You know it.
Flip on that switch, readers! Welcome to this beautiful new day of life, creation, and wild adventure. If you struggle with your weight or nutrition choices, need mental clarity, lack motivation, or just want to feel better overall, I encourage you to check out fitbyfaith.net and see all that Krista has to offer. She’ll get you the tools you need and equip you with courage, hope, and love, to not just be fit, but fit by faith.
What's your perseverance level? I want to know how well you consider yourself someone who perseveres and what it would take to get you up a level.
Clickety click HERE to answer this three question quiz. And please share! It's anonymous and I think we can all take a few minutes to inventory our skillset. Hope you'll join in the fun! I'll post tips and tricks so we can all work together on this crucial tool of the hero toolbox.
The black and silver sequins on her shirt reflected the stage lights. A sparkly bracelet on her ankle flashed a jaunty twinkle, a hint of what was to come. The recorded piano thrummed alive in the background and Christian Faith began to sing the Martina McBride country hit song Anyway. Christian balanced in the wheelchair, buckled in snugly, never once flinching or holding back a breath. Her confident smile allowed only one message to be relayed that evening at the Texans Got Talent contest:
You can pour your soul out singing
A song you believe in
That tomorrow they'll forget you ever sang.
Sing it anyway.
Yeah, sing it anyway
(Martina McBride, Anyway)
You know what’s pretty amazing about miracles? They often happen right in front of your eyes and you might not even realize they’re happening. You know what’s important about recognizing miracles? They remind of all the good, all the light, in this life.
A small water bubble welled up in the corner of my eye. Her words continued to echo around the auditorium. Christian’s heart and talent brought down the house.
She has an amazing story to tell and allowed me to send her a few questions to share with you.
Read along and meet one amazing spirit who reminds us that no matter the outcome, no matter the challenge, no matter what if… do it anyway.
Do you have a particular name for what makes you physically so unique? Have you been able to find a community of others who offer support?
The medical term for my condition is called Amelia. Basically I was born without all of my limbs not including my small leg. I do have a friend who happens to be quite similar to me but with little difference. Her name is Niki Browder. She’s 36, and we have a lot in common.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day I guess you could say is just like anyone else’s except for the simple fact that I might need to work a little harder to achieve daily activities like primping and others like feeding myself. I do everything with my foot. Just like others I’ve adapted to life in my way. I’ve created a unique lifestyle.
What has been one of the biggest challenges you've faced?
You would think that I’ve come against some huge challenges in my life, but honestly I don’t think that I could ever tell you of a time where I’ve absolutely dealt with something huge that I couldn’t handle it. Everything I’ve ever desired to do in life I’ve accomplished with Faith and a strong mindset. My family has always been so supportive as well, and they’ve helped me accomplish so much in my 22 years.
How long have you been training vocally?
I’ve been singing since I was 2 years old. When I was younger I used to watch my grandfather sing. My whole family is musically proficient, so it wasn’t that hard to pick up on. I did however take vocal lessons from the ages 6 to 11, so I guess you could say I’ve had some experience.
Are you doing anything currently to pursue singing or another career?
I am pursuing a career in the music industry. I’ve taken some online courses with Berklee College of Music, but unfortunately I wasn’t financially capable to finish my studies with the school due to my grandfather becoming ill. My family has to pay for occasional medical bills, and other sorts of needs he has. I do however look forward to furthering my career in any way that I can.
Have you written any of your own songs or are you more of a cover artist?
I’m a Singer/Songwriter, so I have written some of my own songs. A few of my originals are called Forever Reign, Oh Holy King, Stop Sign, Can’t Change Me, Falling in Love, Daddy Owns a 12 Gauge, The Middle, Mama’s Little Girl, Daddy Hold Me, Mama Said, Done Deal, and so many more.
Have you participated in many talent competitions? What type of musical gigs are you currently finding?
I hope this doesn’t appear too boastful, but I have won so many talent competitions in my life that I have lost count. The biggest competition I have ever won was at 17 years old in Stamford, Connecticut. It was called Talent America, and I was competing with people from all over the U.S. and parts of Africa. I brought home the 1st place win, and it was one of the greatest thrills in my life. I was scouted by all kinds of agencies at that time, but felt as if I was still a little young to start my career officially. I had offers to move to Nashville and New York, but felt that I wasn’t fully matured enough at that specific time to take on a huge task in my life such as the one I’m pursuing although now I feel that I’m highly capable of doing so. I do get paying gigs at weddings, restaurants, charity events, etc.
Do you have a favorite song or artist?
I love music so much that I would have to say I don’t have a favorite song or artist, because I’m open to each song I’m exposed to as an artist. I like all kinds of music, but my favorite genres would have to be Christian, Country, Bluegrass, Pop, and R&B.
Why is singing so important to you?
Singing is so important to me, because from the time I was a little girl it has been the easiest way to express myself, and I think it has become an essential part of who I am as a person. I’ve been singing all of my life.
What is the hardest thing about singing/performing?
The hardest part about performing is knowing at first that everyone is not always gonna be open to me, because I’m different, but once I open my mouth and sing then everyone becomes enlightened to me as a person.
Do you have a verse or quote serving as a reminder for what you hope to accomplish?
I look to all of God’s word to find hope, but Luke 1:45 is one of my personal favorites. It says “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” I know that God has a purpose for my life, and I’m trusting in Him to continue molding me into who I’m supposed to be.
If you could say that you have one thing in particular you'd like to leave as a legacy, what would it be?
I want my known legacy to be the woman who served as proof that with Faith you can do absolutely anything you set your mind to, and I hope everyone will know me as the woman who set the perfect example of how EVERYONE is special in their own way. We are all masterpieces of The Most High God!
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
If I could go back in time and give one piece of advice to the younger me it would be, “Never doubt yourself, because you are so strong!”
Listen to some of Christian's performance at Texans Got Talent 2018:
“I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter said to them.
“We’re coming with you,” they told him. They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
When daybreak came, Jesus stood on the shore. However, the disciples did not know it was Jesus. “Men,” Jesus called to them, “you don’t have any fish, do you?”
“No,” they answered.
“Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” He told them, “and you’ll find some.”
So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish.
The disciple, the one Jesus loved, said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
We discussed this story in my LIFE group yesterday morning at church. One guy said, “These guys were professional fishermen. Jesus died, they didn’t know what to do, so they went back to what they knew: fishing. And they didn’t catch a single fish. Can you imagine how tired they were? Can you imagine how hard they had been working, and how frustrated? Or were they even working hard at all, since they hadn’t caught anything?”
At that point I busted in and added my two cents. We don’t know how hard they were working, but you can’t just a fisherman by how many fish he’s caught. Especially if Jesus wants to make an example out of him. Especially if Jesus needs him to learn a lesson. These friends of Jesus needed to see more of Jesus’ provision, his presence, and to realize their calling. They’d been following Jesus, but when he died, they didn’t know what to do. They knew he’d risen again…but did they know what to do with that? I guess not. They went back to fishing. They went to the work they knew. They got in the boat.
The twelve disciples of Jesus had different lives after he came and left. We know that Judas was out of the picture at this point. Seven of them worked in that boat.
Another guy asked a great question, “Where were the other four?”
I don’t know about you. But I’ve been working hard. I’ve been pushing and charging and lifting and doing and going and cleaning and scrubbing and continuing. I’m tired. I’ve been working all night, but it feels like I haven’t caught anything. I guess I’m in the boat, waiting on Jesus. At least I’m not on the sidelines, or just not in the picture. I’m ready to go. I just need to cast my net in a new direction.
Chill out. You’re waiting on Jesus.
Maybe you’ve been working, busting it, and are tired. Maybe you’re worn out and weary. Take heart. Jesus is there. Maybe you’re sitting on the sidelines, disappeared in the crowd, shivering under a blanket, terrified. Don’t be one of the four missing the meeting. Come on. Jesus awaits. He’s got this great job for you to do. He will bring the strength to accomplish it.
Being unsure of the next step doesn’t mean you stop in your tracks. Jesus is walking on the beach, waiting just for the right time, to cook you a fish breakfast. Yum-o! Maybe those disciples needed a night in the boat, busting it, to appreciate the light streaming across Jesus’ face. They needed the empty nets to appreciate how many fish he brought to them. They needed to wait on Jesus to understand HE was providing their fish, their fulfillment, their fruition. At just the right time.
FRIENDS, put on your lovely Aussie accents, and welcome my fabulous Clean Reads author friend Tamar Sloan! She's recently released a fantastic non-fiction book titled GRIT FOR WRITERS which encourages, well, grit for writers. She's incorporated solid advice, helpful tips, and insight from other authors on this twisty adventure. *Possibly you might recognize some of those other authors!*
I wanted to interview Ms. Sloan about her books and her latest release. So let's sit down for a great cuppa and chat for a few moments!
KADEE: What's your favorite quote from the book? (Or a favorite)?
TAMAR: My favourite quote in the book isn’t my own, but I love it because it sums up what grit is all about: Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it's a small price to pay for living a dream.
- Peter McWilliams
Although I do have quite a nice one from a fabulous fellow Clean Reads author who contributed to the book: Find your why, unleash your ardour for the art, and yank it along the journey with you.
(Yes peoples, a Kadee Carder gem of wisdom!)
KADEE: Aw! Love that, Tamar! <blushes> What made you decide to write Grit for Writers?
TAMAR: I would say the impetus for Grit for Writers was a two-step process. I have a close friend who I met early in my writing journey. She’d been writing (on and off) for almost 20 years. She had persevered through rejection after rejection, and continued to chase her dream of being traditionally published. I truly admired that level of dedication, because I’m not sure I would have been able to do the same. As time went on I discovered what a roller coaster the publishing ride is. Full of exhilarating highs, stomach-dropping lows, and twists and turns you never see coming. I realised writing is a grit demanding profession. It got me thinking—what are the qualities that a person needs to keep following their dream, despite all the hurdles? As I started reading, I could see how valuable this information would be to my fellow writers. After much research and even more writing, Grit for Writers was born! Oh, and Heidi Catherine--my amazing friend’s— book is set to be published early this year.
KADEE: How long have you been a psychologist/working with students? What made you want to be in that field?
TAMAR: I was born with a strong sense of social-justice and a powerful desire to make a difference. It’s culminated in a career dedicated to working with adolescents and their families. 20 years ago I started out as a youth-worker with at-risk youth, discovering that working with marginalised and disadvantaged young people was challenging, but deeply rewarding. Knowing I’d found my niche, I studied and became a secondary teacher and worked exclusively in educational setting for these young people. Often there were days where I learned more than I taught from these young but wise, broken but unbroken, keepers of our future. I soon discovered that connecting with these kids was where my talent lay as an educator. So I returned to university and became a psychologist. I’ve been a psychologist for five years now, and it’s truly a privilege to walk alongside young people and their families every day.
KADEE: What are your favorite and least favorite things about where you live? Would you want to live anywhere else?
TAMAR: I’m pretty lucky in that I live in a small slice of the Australian bush, which is 20 minutes away from a major city—meaning I get the best of both worlds. I love the flexibility that having acreage allows me (I’ve owned milking goats, cows, sheep, horses, bees and even had an aquaponics system with trout!) but all the advantages of city life just a short drive away. Our boys love the opportunities our lifestyle has afforded them. If I had to identify my least favourite aspect of where I live, it would have to be winter, and it’s not even cold enough to snow most years! But I think I may be partially cold-blooded—I have permanently cold feet and hands during those months. On those days, Hawaii sounds pretty good…
KADEE: What's your favorite book you've written OR character you've created AND why?
TAMAR: Saved the hardest question for last, huh? I suspect the answer to this question will continually change—probably to reflect the book I’m writing at the time! Purely because that’s the magical character I’m watching, discovering, and falling in love with currently. Right now I’m working on Make it Yours, book 2 in the Touched by Love series. The main character is Emellia, a tough, persistent, lover of science (yep, fancy term for nerd). She’s witty and smart and desperately trying to save her father. It’s such a privilege to bear witness to her her highs and her lows whilst she determinedly tries to avoid the unavoidable love coming her way. I’m looking forward to sharing this special story of love and acceptance with readers.
Late last year I would have said Casey, my protagonist from Make it Count, the girl who with a single touch, sees how many days a person has to live. Casey is fun and spontaneous and possesses an irrepressible spirit. I loved exploring the chemistry between her and PJ and writing her story of self-discovery.
Before that it was shy, wounded Eden, the heroine of the Prime Prophecy series. Hers is a story of an epic love and the power of believing in ourselves…I think you get the idea…
KADEE: Thank you so much for sharing these fabulous gems, Tamar! Now let's see what GRIT FOR WRITERS has in store for us!
Writing is challenging. It involves creating something deeply personal, then offering it up for public consumption. The rejection from agents and publishers, the slow sales, the negative reviews, and the most insidious under-miner, self-doubt, are all hurdles every writer will face. In a flooded, competitive market, how do you live your passion and keep reaching for your dream?
Grit is the ability to stick with things that are important to you, through thick and thin, through the thousands of words and hundreds of pages. The good news is this very key to your success can be cultivated and grown. With Grit for Writers you'll learn how to recalibrate your mindset and how to motivate your actions with proven psychological strategies. Before you realise it, you'll be the writer you're proud of, the one others look up to, the one that lives their passion.
Don't be the writer that never finishes their novel. Don't be the writer that defines themselves by the 'no thanks' replies to submissions. Be the writer that experiences criticism and rejection and overwhelming self-doubt...and succeeds! Packed with personal stories of inspiration and proven strategies, Grit for Writers will have you on your way to writing success.
Grab YOUR COPY of GRIT FOR WRITERS today!
Master a mindset of excellence. You've been put on this blue sphere within this time and space for a specific number of reasons. Create success in the strength of the Lord. He's given you the opportunity to achieve great tasks, so rise to the occasion.
Let's explore our first facet of an excellence mindset: Owning your power.
In the strength of the Lord, you can do all things. God has set you in your beautiful time and space for a reason. You can do remarkably more than you know. You’re created to do good works. So as you find yourself working toward this larger, greater goal (sometimes you don't even know what it is, but you're on your way!), you will have to kick it in gear. You will be distracted, discouraged, and lonesome. But you are here, you are mighty. As a believer in our almighty God, you have the strength to move mountains. Mountains of paperwork, it may feel like at times, but you can and must do it. God’s got endless resources of patience, endurance, moxie, and hope, so lean on him to power you through late nights, empty voids of space where you need to be studying, creating, and doing your good work. He funnels these resources into our souls and fuels us toward success. The hardest part? You must keep stepping onward, in humility and intent.
This journey belongs to you. It’s not your mom’s, it’s not your brother’s, it’s not your kid’s, it’s not your teacher’s, it’s not your peer’s. It’s yours. Claim it. Own it. Rock it.
Recently I had the honor of assistant adjudicating for a manuscript pitch contest. A fellow Clean Reads author Eli Celata asked if I would help and I jumped at the opportunity. She had the brilliant idea to call the contest PitProm, and each of us would have a court -- I worked with Court Sci Fi and she managed Court Fantasy. The winning pitches would be crowned the Queen or King of PitProm and hopefully be offered contracts to get those amazing manuscripts published.
After 200 entries, with the top twenty hopefuls taking a week to work with our author mentors to edit and refresh their pitches, we ended up with a three-way tie, and Queens bowed gracefully upon the PitProm stage. Here we explore their worlds a bit more in-depth, and check out the pitches which won these ladies their crowns!
Fascinated by storytelling from a young age, author J.S. Dewes cut her teeth writing screenplays for award-winning short and feature films. A creative at heart, she loves immersing herself in the exciting realms portrayed in science-fiction and fantasy, where her aptitude for crafting imaginative tales can have free reign.
Manuscript Title: THE DIVIDE
140-Character Pitch: A castoff commander and her rebellious crew are all that stand between mankind and the universe’s collapse. #PitProm #A #SF
Who's your favorite character in your manuscript?
If I had to pick just one, I would say Cavalon, one of my two POV characters. Though I love all my characters, I had more fun writing him than anyone else. He’s the smartest guy in the room, but you would have no idea. He’s also the funniest guy in the room, and he’ll go to great lengths to make sure you’re aware of it. He’s a weird mix of humble and proud, genuine and sarcastic, defiant and cooperative. He’s also extremely willing to learn and change, and to push his boundaries, though he does get a little help from the other POV character in that regard. Their personalities play off each other in a really constructive way, and though the plot and stakes of the story are rather intense, the core of the book is really about that friendship and how the two balance each other.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about writing?
My favorite thing about writing is the discovery process. I love letting my characters take the reigns and lead the story in unanticipated directions. Though I really do enjoy the whole process, if I had to pick a least favorite aspect of writing, I’d say the general editing process after draft one. I’m a pantser, so for me, that initial unearthing process of finding the story is what I enjoy the most. After that point, it can be difficult to “see the forest for the trees,” though I have a group of trusted critique partners that have helped ease that process tremendously!
Jamie Rusovick-Smith is a California-born girl transplanted to the not-so-sunny state of Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband, four children, and pet rabbit. When she’s not writing, reading, or plotting, you can find her shaking her groove thing at a Zumba class, baking cupcakes, or taking her brood to do anything and everything fun within a fifty mile radius of her home.
Manuscript title: THE BURN KINGDOM
140-Character Pitch: FROSTBLOOD+LABRYINTHLOST Mother Nature made fire-wielding Azara to end the world. Instead she falls for a Brujo on her hit list #YA #Pitprom
Where did you get the idea for your manuscript?
The idea behind this MS was sort of a mishmash of things: It started after a major natural disaster a while back, and everyone was asking, “Why, if there’s a God, does He let these things happen?” And my author brain went into overdrive. I thought, what if that’s exactly what was going on — He was letting things happen, but it was Mother Nature doing this to mankind. What did she have against us? What was the ultimate goal? When I overlaid those questions onto the Biblical accounts of a flooding of the earth, and the prophecy of its eventual destruction by fire, I had the bones of my story. But it really came together after I remembered the Mexican Myth of the weather-controlling Acalica. (My great grandmother was born and raised in Guadalajara Mexico, so, per tradition, monster stories were a big part of my upbringing.) I really wanted to incorporate something from my heritage, this myth especially, into the story, but I didn’t want my main character to be a wizened old man! So my amazing CP and best friend (Hi Vanessa!) suggested I gender flip it. “Make them all young women,” she said. And it was like, Ah heck yes, that’s it! The Burn Kingdom was born.
Who’s your favorite character in your manuscript?
Grimmer, my MC’s mentor that, in my brain, looks exactly like Danny Trejo. While I was writing this, he surprised me the most and I tend to have a soft spot for the characters that drop twists I never saw coming.
Katherine Toran has had short fiction published in Abyss & Apex Magazine, the Whortleberry Press anthology Strange Changes, Every Day Fiction and Short Fiction Break. She also received an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future Contest. She’s currently working on her economics PhD at the University of Kentucky and writes fiction as a relief from the endless math jargon.
Manuscript Title: THE WITCH AND THE DEMON
140-Character Pitch: Fleeing a witchhunter, autistic Ebba sells her heart to a demon—trapping her in a deathmatch and an equally violent courtship. #PitProm #YA
Where did you get the idea for your manuscript?
I write the stories I wish someone else had written so I could read them. THE WITCH AND THE DEMON was inspired by my adoration for bad boy heroes but frustration with the genre’s clichés. I wanted to see if I could write my villainous love interest while avoiding unfortunate stalkerish implications or love triangles. My heroine, Ebba, accidentally ends up in a courtship with a demon after she throws a severed head at him. The difference between their moral values is both played for laughs and a major source of conflict throughout the book.
Who's your favorite character in your manuscript?
Kryptos, the demon, is my favorite character. As the God of Cowardice, he has a puffed-up ego and doesn’t understand humans, which makes him great fun to write.
These ladies rocked it, knocking those pitches out of the park. Each PitProm participant submitted a 140-character pitch, a query letter, and the first ten pages of their manuscript. You can see their final works at http://www.pitprom.ml/finals and see just how amazing these books are going to be.
Congratulations to all the PitProm participants -- and especially to our Queens. May you rule the 2017 PitProm Kingdom as fabulously as you can. Happy pitching everyone!
“It is awfully hard to be brave, when you're only a Very Small Animal.”
- A. A. Milne (from Winnie-The-Pooh)
In these shifting sands, I often feel like a Very Small Animal, just one pinpoint among the many, many stars. The reality is that dreams shift and shatter, and yellow-brick roads sometimes lead to dead ends. Sometimes life is a quick drop, a sudden stop. And what do we do? We can look up into the blue sky and wonder who is watching. We can glance over our shoulders to see if anybody saw when we fell down and skinned our knees. We can wipe away that glimmer of a tear because there just isn’t time right now. We can yell at the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s.
There are different types of fear. We fear letting people down, failing, falling, and basically appearing foolish or incompetent. Basically, we fear the unknown. It’s a survival instinct. Here’s one important lesson to realize: humans, inherently, are not psychic. Humans are limited in that way.
The good news is that the unknown is not a monster. The unknown simply doesn’t exist. The unknown is your projection of a possibility. It’s not fact, it’s not verifiable, and it’s probably not even what may occur.
Projection avoids the present. Appreciating the present eliminates fear. Let’s walk through it step by step.
I have always liked the movie Elizabethtown. It is the story of a man, Drew Baylor, whose great invention at a shoe company craters and he is fired; while he rigs a contraption to commit suicide, his sister calls to inform him that his father had a heart attack and died. Yeah, yeah, it sounds sad, whatever. This is the platform from which he falls, however, and the audience takes the journey with him, through facing failure and its wretched aftermath, new love, and fresh beginnings.
“You have five minutes to wallow in the delicious misery,” Claire Colburn says in a note to Drew. “Enjoy it, embrace it, discard ... and proceed. Sadness is easier because it's surrender. I say, make time to dance alone with one hand waving free.”
We see Drew dancing under some shade trees after scattering some of his dad’s ashes along the road. He cries.
You can dance and cry at the same time.
It’s about glorying in the moment rather than expecting a projected triumph.
At one point, Claire says to Drew, “We are intrepid. We carry on.”
Regardless of what we hope for, project, or dare, what IS exists. And it’s stunning.
Call it a web, a journey, a path, or a plotline, humans navigate this earth and their time on it. The more difficult the landscape, the more you see of your true self. Amid the bouquet of options, I can see yesterday’s selfish flippancy, the materialistic cravings, the immature belief. I can see yesterday’s shaking flesh, the whimpering muscles. But I can also see how these challenges, these opportunities, they work like a sieve. Through the emptying out, an instigation of firmness builds within; as the complaining sifts out like powdery flour, a more solid hand steadies a tangible faith.
Not so long ago, God breathed out life upon the universe. He pieced together billions of people with billions of opportunities to thrive in a life greater.
The God who made us has us here to learn more about his security. He is secure, he is able. He is intrepid. As a believer in him, he resides within me, therefore I am secure, I am able, I am intrepid. There’s no better place for me than where I am right now. There’s no better place for you, either. You’re in this time and space with me, and we can reflect on the delightful present of our reality.
You breathe air.
You blink with bright eyes.
Your senses ignite, your hope flares, and you are now more awake to the possibilities of freedom — the possibilities of life, beautiful, perfect, as it is, right here, right now. How do you feel without expectations for what should be, and is not? How do you feel knowing that the story you’ve been beating yourself up for does not exist, nor should it? ‘Should’ does not exist. How does it feel to accept that the slow car in front of you is supposed to be slow? How does it feel to accept that you have the opportunity to wipe gum off your shoe in front of your child? How does it feel to receive the incorrect order at the drive-thru, and know that this is the moment for which you’ve been preparing? You get right now to be your best self. You get this one moment to drop your pride, speak with humility, and act in kindness.
You get right now to choose how to act.
Three kinds of business exist: Your business, My business, and God’s business. Your gift is this one reality to mind your business. You don’t have to mind mine or God’s. You can’t mind God’s business. (Seriously, would you want to? No thanks.) That’s why it’s his. He gets to deal with the stars, the natural disasters, and the mass of humanity as a whole.
“David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you’” (1 Chronicles 28:20).
See, God IS minding his business, which includes us. He won’t stop. He will never leave or fail us — he’s with us, he’s within us, he’s around us. So we’re secure on that end. Be strong, be courageous, do the work. I manage my business. You manage your business. And we rockin’ it. We magnificent.
Intrepid means ‘fearless and bold.’ Plucky. Dauntless. Resolute. We are intrepid. We carry on. It’s our business. And remember, you got yours, I got mine! We manage the events as they piece together before us. We have nothing to fear. We have nothing to complain about. Don’t assume some other scenario than what you currently have could be better. This one moment is the best option. (Spiders and all!)
Small animals? Maybe our bodies are small creatures compared to the stars. On any ordinary day, are our souls woven into the Spirit of the King of Kings, the Creator, the manager of the stars? Yes. Able to do the work? Yes. Dancing with one hand flying free? Oh, my dear, yes.
More on this coming soon. <3
I received some pretty harsh reviews of my books the other day. And by harsh, I mean crushing. These people did NOT like my books. Being a perfectionist, and one who has spent years investing in these stories, my heart flung itself outside of my chest and into a hole in the backyard and I came thiiiiiis close to hanging up my apron. The typewriter was in the garbage.
But as they say, the truth will set you free.
I went seeking. My inner voice said all those nasty deviled egg phrases about how I lacked any talent and I should give up and everything is pointless and what the heck have I been doing if I can’t get people to like me or my books…..or… me.
Byron Katie came up with some questions to use in situations where The Things don’t seem to be going your way and your thoughts are running away. 1) Is this thought true? 2) How do I feel when I have this thought? 3) Who would I be without this thought?
Still after working through these questions, I felt doubtful. What if the critics were right? What if my books were unbelievable, boring, “dragging on and on,” and confusing? Ah! The answers came in various forms, and one big answer came from the show Arrow. Because a lot of great answers come from superhero shows (They do!): WHY are you doing what you’re doing?
A lot of problems can be solved with that question.
I’ve sorted through why I write for years and haven’t always known my answer. I write because I can’t stop. It makes me so much more than happy. And my books are not really, "me." They aren't all I have to give. A person does not have children in order to receive praise. So then the same applies to books.
Friends, I came to these conclusions about critics and books. I think they’ll apply to you, regardless of your goals or projects:
1) If you ask for criticism, you’ll receive it.
As I started out with my publishing process, I was told to get reviews, get reviews, get reviews. Send it out, pay for reviews, enter contests; the more people who read it, the more people will see it. If it doesn’t say ‘best-seller’ or ‘award-winning’ then no one will read it. This is in part true. However, any person who reads any string of words can criticize them and how they are put together. There is no perfect book.
As a writer, as a creator, you are not perfect. And try as you might, your best work will not be good enough. The truth hurts, but that is what it is. You’re not perfect, your work is not perfect, and someone better climbs the rope ahead of you.
This does not mean you don’t do your best. If you read my books, you’re reading my best shot. I give my readers my 2000% best. I spend hours plotting, replotting, editing, sharpening, revising, and revisiting. What you see is my 100. Maybe they're not perfect, but my books got heart.
Look at the challenge as a chance for gratitude. What can you learn? Who can you be now? Once the rafters have fallen, what can you build? Use the fear, the criticism, and the hate to see how you can be better.
The trick is to know that criticism will come. Expect it. Take the facts and use them to make you stronger. Expect people to ignore you and walk away. Expect the worst, and prepare for the storm. Be someone who can get hit and stand up straighter. Getting hit hurts. You’ve got to lift heavy and scrape away the blood. Be someone who can get rejected and still has self-respect, self-love, and fortitude. Be the hero who takes the hits others cannot.
2) There will always be someone out there who won’t like you.
a. If you want a template romance, you’ll hate my books.
b. If you want light-hearted, easy fiction, you’ll hate my books.
c. If you want predictable plotlines and characters, you’ll hate my books.
d. If you love adventures, you’ll enjoy my books.
e. If you like twisty plots, relish unpredictable storylines, and totally dig characters who have to go through hard decisions and rough landings, you’ll love my books.
f. If you are willing to grow with my writing and my characters, you’ll love my books.
g. If you want characters who inspire you to be better, if you want characters who make some poor choices, if you want characters who are not perfect, you’ll love my books.
h. If you like a good moment of BEING, a moment where you feel and taste and see and hear and experience the essence of LIFE, and can accept that in the middle of any scene or location, then you’ll love my books.
3) It’s my freaking story!
My circus, my monkeys. If I decided to kill a character, I had a good reason. I won’t write the same story as you, and that’s the magic of stories. My characters needed me to tell it this way. I did right by them.
a. If you don’t like it, are confused by it, or wanted it to go a different way, let’s talk about it. But you didn’t write this story. I did. Did I make you think? Fabulous. That's the win.
b. I want to hear your opinion. And hopefully you’ll hear mine. This is the fun part of stories.
c. If my stories inspire you to write it a different way or to add to it, then I did my job.
4) The critics may not be your audience.
Find your tribe. Find your village. Your village will love you regardless.
The people who stick with you, those are the hearts and minds who really count. Because they see the truth of what you have to offer, and they love it. So appreciate it, love it, thrive in it. Tell them thank you. Name (hero) characters after them.
5) Your Why Is Your Why.
a. I am not writing for the critics or the naysayers.
b. I do not write for applause or for people to talk about my abilities, good or bad.
c. I do not write books because I want to be a bestseller and make a million dollars. (Although I like eating and wearing clothing.)
d. I write because I love playing with words. I use a lot of them. It’s my passion.
e. I write because I love stories. I love characters and their abilities to be more and to inspire us.
f. I write to make you think.
g. I write because I feel most alive when I can put my creative thoughts on paper. Something about the process of creating a situation in my head, the challenge of putting it down on paper, the ordering of words makes me feel like I’m solving a riddle only I can unlock.
h. I write because I’ve learned some hard lessons and I think others can benefit from them. Jesus used stories to help teach. So he’s my example.
The “why” can change over time, and the why can be hard to pinpoint. But it’s vital to your survival in this task you’ve got to do. Find it and keep it ahead of you. The why keeps you on track when the critics wave their torches.
6) Readers’ opinions show where they are as people.
Sometimes they aren’t ready for a certain book. Sometimes it’s just not their style. Sometimes it wasn’t what they thought they would be reading, and perspective changes everything. Don’t rely on someone else’s opinion.
7) Good and bad are subjective in terms of writing and storytelling.
There are levels to it, but ultimately, one critic will disagree with another. If multiple readers have similar issues, then take that and use it as a lesson in how to write better or improve. But you can’t get better if you just give up.
8) Awards Are Stupid. Art Is Not.
Amy Poehler attended numerous award ceremonies for her roles in “Parks and Recreation,” one of my favorite TV shows that I have been watching and re-watching lately. Her character Leslie Knope is one of the most inspirational to me. TO ME. To tiny ol’ me. Do I matter? YES. Does an award matter? NO. It’s a symbol of someone’s opinion. Stupid! Leonardo DiCaprio had my heart and always will for his roles in various movies. He’s forevermore my Romeo. When did he finally win an award? Once he was in some really gray, dramatic survival-bear-eats-him-or-something movie. Ugh. Stephanie Meyer and her ridiculous Twilight story. “I wrote down this dream I had and then it was a blockbuster and then yay it’s a whole franchise of movies. I wasn’t even trying all that hard.” Just crazy. Good for you, Mrs. Meyer. But I LOVED reading those books the first time around. She captured the feeling of a first love. There’s something huge to that gift. Fast and Furious movies, superhero movies, the Step Up dancing movies, those are movies I can watch any time and they inspire me. They don’t win awards, the writing and acting isn’t always top-notch, but WHO CARES. I prefer the movie I like, and I usually don’t prefer an Oscar winner. Those Oscar winners are depressing and you know you don’t like watching that either when you’ve had a stupid day. Art is for entertainment. If it entertains, then it is doing its job.
9) Critics Can Be Bought.
Anyone can pay for a review. Anyone can pay to buy copies of their books and become a best-seller (well, the rich people can. Now accepting sponsors.). Anyone can pay for this or that or bribe or buy.
Who. Freaking. Cares. About. The. Numbers.
Numbers can be bought or bribed. Again, the numbers go back to who has the resources or the scandal or the ability to straight-up lie.
10) Who Really Counts?
Does each reader count? Yes. Does one review and one opinion count more than another? Not really. If a person likes a book, then yay! My biggest excitement about books is talking about them with people. If my books get your attention enough so that you want to tell someone about it or ask me a question, then that is the most validation I want. I really just want to share these stories with friends so we can sit over coffee and chat about them. Why did she do that? Why didn’t she do this other thing? What if that other guy was better for her? What if this other thing happened instead of that other thing? THAT is why I write. For the up-late-at-nighters. For the lonely. For those needing a win. For the seekers. For the desperate. For the lost. For the coffee dates. For the questions. For the readers’ investment. For the thrill of the story. For the happy endings. For the entertainment.
You are valid. Your opinion is valid. If we differ, okay, but let’s appreciate that about each other. I’ll always offer you an extra serving of grace if you need one. Even if you don’t return the favor, okay. This whole ‘life’ thing we’re doing requires a sword and a shield. I got those. Hopefully we can share them today. Don’t listen to the critics. Don’t listen to the whispers of despair. You do you, and you rockin’ it.
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