"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

In the Belly of the Whale (or Big Fish-depending on how literal you are)

Mug

When 2016 was just around the corner, I made a list of things I wanted to do in the new year. Not resolutions really, more like goals.  Like every year in recent years, I wanted to bring in more organization to our home and purge clutter, be healthier and train for another half marathon.  Oh yeah, and get a solid direction for this little blog.

Over a quarter of the way through the year, I’ve been organizing my office, training for the GO! Half Marathon, which I ran this past Sunday with my daughter, Erin, and trying to make healthier choices for meals (well, sorta).  What I’ve been avoiding like the plague is the direction of my blog.  You may have noticed this little hiatus as I noodled for a bit what it was I was going for in my posts.

Who was I writing for? How much family/personal info is too much? How often should I post? What’s my goal in this? Do I really have the talent/energy to actually work on it?

If you’ve ever blogged, I’m sure you can relate.  When I’ve read articles and books on blogging (probably my first mistake), generally they are geared towards people who want to earn money from a blog or have some area of expertise they’d like to share. Not really my audience.

I started looking at what type of person would be interested in my blog—this goofy, Midwest Mom’s take on people and events in my life—and got stuck.  And then self-doubt crept in.  As the weeks passed and I did nothing with the blog, I told myself I was only trying to gain perspective on where to go next, and these things take time. I continued reading other blogs that I feel are similar to mine and tried to define what it was about those posts that I enjoyed so much.  Like a flowery romance novel with unrequited longing that I devour, it’s the relatable -people thing that pulls me in.  I love reading other people’s life experiences and thinking, “Hey, that’s me!” Or “That was a brave thought to put out there.” Funny, because if you read about why I started my blog it’s one of my main points.

Still, I felt I needed to be more purposeful about what I was blogging about.  I posted nothing—I wrote them, but I never put them, or myself, out there.  I trashed them and I couldn’t finish them.  The Lighthearted Dragonfly seemed like a pointless, silly endeavor.

Shelving something that was at one time something that brought me tremendous joy and fueling of hope wasn’t easy.  I prayed about it, asked God what it was He wanted me to do. It went a little like this:

“Inspire others,” He whispered.  “In doing so, even if you don’t mention my name directly, you will glorify me.”

“I’m not good at that,” I told Him.  “People will think I’m pious and stereotype me as a squeaky clean Christian.”

At this point I picture God just shaking his head.  “So what?”

“Well, I won’t get followers and I won’t get to write posts about hilarious and dirty misunderstood lyrics.”  (I think God would roll his eyes here, because He knows how I much I love to laugh over mistaken lyrics.)

“Uh huh.”  I thought about it some more and why it would never work.  I hid away from the computer, and writing in general.  I applied for full time positions where I work part time now and didn’t get any offers.  I busied myself with marathon binging on “Criminal Minds” and ghost/paranormal shows.  I played lots of games on my phone during the time I used to work on the blog.  The couch became my ship sailing away from the very thing I felt I was led to do.

And despite the fact I thought I was getting away without doing the blog or any writing, I got a touch depressed.  It wasn’t a real fish belly I was in, but it was similar.  It was a prison of unproductive, wasted time, feeling purposeless and just standing by waiting for life to roll on by.  When someone would ask me about my blog, or writing in general, I felt embarrassed for having failed at it.  I would see pictures of dragonflies in odd places.  And this verse came up in my life, all over the place, again and again.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I started thinking about Jonah (ironically, that story came up a few times, too.)  In no uncertain terms God had told him exactly what He wanted him to do.  If you remember the story, Jonah didn’t really feel up to the task, and tried to get away on a boat to hide from God.  It took ending up in the belly of a whale to get him to wake up and follow directions.  Was that what I was doing? Running from God’s plan for me?  I didn’t want to end up that way!

I started writing posts, again only half finishing them and never posting them, but with the idea that I needed to do this.  I’m not saying I’m in the same league as Jonah by any stretch, but in the smaller manuscript, God’s Plan for Amy—you may have heard of it—I think there may be a chapter about a little dragonfly blog.

So I’m getting off the couch and back up on that horse (yes, I really do like clichés in my imagery!)  I won’t pretend to know the big picture, but I hope that you will follow me and check out the blog now and then.  If you were a follower before, thank you for your patience; I’m still here!

I couldn’t end this post without giving a shout out to some of my fellow bloggers that have inspired me to do this thing again.   Almost all of them I’ve never met, I’ve just read their blogs and enjoy what they have to say.  A big thank you to them for showing me that writing about things you love—from life from the perspective of a young person finding her way, wonderful stories of families and genealogy, to the single dad going to seminary after serving as a Captain in the Air Force sharing his opinions and struggles.  Each one of them have made me want to continue doing something that can, at times, seem like a fruitless pursuit.  Please keep on writing!

Bloomin’ Flower           Moore Genealogy

The Baby Perks               Tali Norfalli

Captain’s Log               Rookie Notes

StoryShucker

(You may need to hold the CTRL key to get the links to open!)

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2015 RT Convention: A Newbie’s Perspective

Two weeks ago I attended the 2015 RT Booklovers Convention in Dallas, Texas, with my fellow book-loving cousin and aspiring author, Kim.  Neither one of us had attended an event like this before, so part of the fun was not having any expectations of what it would be like.  In fact, the only thing we really knew was to bring along an extra suitcase for all the books we’d be bringing home.  I registered for the conference as a blogger, although I think the types of blogs they had in mind for that type of attendee were those that specialized in book reviews.  Rookie mistake.

The Blogger listing page in the RT Convention program

The Blogger listing page in the RT Convention program

The “RT” stands for Romantic Times, so primarily the authors and books featured were romance writers, but there were several Young Adult authors there as well.  In fact, many YA authors have romance books out there—sometimes they use a different pen name to distinguish their works between those marketed for adults.  Before attending this conference, I hadn’t realized how many subgenres fall within the romance novel umbrella, and they were all represented—from Inspirational to Erotica and everything you can imagine in between.

From the time we arrived in Dallas, it felt like events fell into place in our favor.  Our flight arrived earlier than what we’d planned, and we got to the convention in time to attend the RT Convention newbie workshop, where we learned some tips to best negotiate the conference.  Being the book nerd that I am, these authors are my rock stars; it was great to be told to be sure to seek out and talk to my favorite authors.

Kim and my obligatory selfie upon our arrival at the convention

Kim and my obligatory selfie upon our arrival at the convention

I grew up loving to read, and when I hit my teens, romance novels, especially anything that was historical romance geared towards teens, were my favorite.  There was a book series in the 80’s called Sunfire that I absolutely devoured as a teen.  All of the books featured a young heroine growing up in various historical times in American history like the Civil War, western pioneers, or the American Revolution.  Think the American Girl doll books of today with the girls growing from young teens to young women, trying to decide between suitors that represented opposite ways of life for the time period.  Only a few months ago I found a couple of my books from this series at my parents’ house and ordered a few more from Amazon.  I started re-reading them and I still think they are great reads.  When I got older, I enjoyed other types of romance books, but historical romance holds a special place in this reader’s heart.

Our goal was to attend the workshop sessions geared towards writing—and there were plenty to choose from.  Two of my favorite sessions about writing were “Oops, Your Research is Showing!” and “All Things Old Are New Again”.  The first one, which ended up having one of Emily’s favorite YA authors, Lydia Kang, on the panel, gave great information about ways to go about researching topics for your writing.  Everyone on the panel shared how their books’ storylines had aspects that required they find out specific information to ensure their novels felt authentic, without bogging down the reader with too much information.  In “All Things Old Are New Again”, the panel of authors discussed ways they continue to come up with new ideas book after book.  At this session I met Erin Knightley, who is one of my new favorite authors.  In part because she really is a gracious person who was generous with her time in talking to Kim and I, but also her books are historical romance.

In addition to the workshop sessions, there were several publisher sponsored events with opportunities to meet the authors and get free copies of their books.  These events were heavily attended, so there were a lot of lines to wait in and it could get a little overwhelming, but these events were a lot of fun.  Not that I enjoy waiting in lines, but for the most part I found interesting people to talk to in line with me.  Most of the time I would just wait in a line, not even knowing what book or author was on the end of it.  In doing so, I was introduced to various books and authors I would not have otherwise found, and I loved it.

One of the authors I met this way was I.G. Gregorio.  Her YA book, None of the Above, would have never been on my radar.  In reading the premise of the book, which is about a teenage girl who learns rather traumatically as a senior in high school that she is intersex (meaning she was born with both male and female parts), it seemed like an interesting premise that I had never really thought about before.  I didn’t want to pass it on to any of my favorite YA readers without screening it first, so I started reading it that night and I couldn’t put it down.  I finished it by the next morning.  Later, at the giant Book Fair held the last full day of the convention, I sought her out to let her know how much I enjoyed the book, which she seemed to honestly appreciate.

The Book Fair, included as part of the convention, is open to the public and draws an amazing number of book lovers.   The authors are arranged by genre in alphabetical order at huge tables.  Kim and I made it a point to meet up with authors we had met during the convention to get signed copies of their latest books.  I had a list of YA authors that Emily had asked me to look for, and I scored some big time Mom points getting her books that were signed personally to her.  After the Book Fair, we went up to our room to try to figure out how, even with the extra suitcases, we were going to get all these books home without going over the weight limit for our bags.  It wasn’t easy!

Lydia Kang, one of the authors Emily asked me to visit, was kind enough to sign Em's book and pose for a pic

Lydia Kang, one of the authors Emily asked me to visit, was kind enough to sign Em’s book and pose for a pic

This conference rekindled my love of reading as well as reminded me of how much I enjoy the writing process.  I learned so much in the various sessions about the writing and publishing world, met some great people, and was introduced to several new authors that I’m sure will become favorites.  Now if only I can find the time to get to all those books!

Here are the books I brought home with me, many of them signed by the author.

Here are the books I brought home with me, many of them signed by the author.

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