#amwriting

At the end of March, on a day I met a friend at the airport and had coffee and looked her in the eye as she said "just write the book, Elora. I know you have it in you," I started the next piece of Stephanie's story.

I couldn't tell you how it happened. At first I just processed verbally and worked the kinks of plot out with friends who know and love and understand these characters. I held it all loosely in my hands because who needs a deadline?

And then I realized—oh yeah. Right. Me.  

I built a playlist and rallied the women in Story Sessions to make me write—no really—make me write. And I sat down in my seat and shut my closet door and wrote the first line. 

I've heard it said once that every human is a story with skin.

I'm 30,000 words into the manuscript now, and I have beta readers and people who call me out in public to make sure I'm writing those words. I have a title (that I'm kinda sorta in love with) and a cover release date and an editor in waiting and new characters that make me giggle while writing (totally healthy). 

On September 18, a little over a year since Every Shattered Thing went live, the next chapter of the Shattered Things series will be released.

I'm learning this time around that writing doesn't have to be done in isolation. Often, the words themselves won't come to you without quiet and contemplation. It's nearly impossible for me to write fiction with music in my ears unless I know explicitly what will happen in the scene and I need it for the mood. I wrote much of the first draft of Every Shattered Thing in complete silence on the couch in my living room. No one even read it until I was almost finished and I thought why not? It's not like I'm going to publish it or anything...

But this book? It's being written in the midst of community and that's perfect, really. Because the community forming within the pages is breathtaking and redemptive. Despite the broken pieces still offering jagged edges that can break through skin and bone, these characters are learning the power of second chances and new beginnings and how the past will always come back to haunt you—it's what you do with that haunting that counts.

And sometimes, you know, that includes new friendships that remind us of the beauty of life.

Posted on April 17, 2014 and filed under writing.

blog tour: my writing process.

There's nothing that gets me going more than talking about writing. So when Alisha asked me to take part in this blog tour, I immediately said yes. You can read her post here. At the bottom of this post you'll see some artists I chose to continue the tour. 

1. What are you working on?

Currently, I'm working on book two in my Shattered Things series. I have a tentative title, but that's under wraps for a few more months. This book has completely captured me—there are a few new characters that I absolutely love. I can't wait for you to meet Jessa and Ren. 

In between writing down words and coming up with dates for cover reveal and release day (!!) I'm coaching women in the Story 201 and Finding Your Arc eCourses as well as creating new content for Story Sessions. 

2. How does your work differ from others in your genre?

Typically, my work is darker than most. And while redemption will always be available for my characters, it may work itself out in messier ways than readers are used to with other books. 

3. Why do you write what you do?

Here's what i believe :: without the darkness you will not see the light. Without messiness you will not know true beauty.

Throughout history, literature has been the one consistent reading of society. Writers are natural truth-tellers, even if they write fiction, and there's something inherently wise about listening for the themes of a story. In order for a story to be truly effective, there has to be a moment of darkness. Will the character escape? Will the character grow because of it or collapse under the pressure?

Stories are meant to be hard. This is why I write — to discover what I believe about certain situations and to remind myself how hope can weave its way through any moment.

4. What is your writing process? 

I'm just now beginning to understand what my process will be for this manuscript. I try to drop words as much as possible and whenever I can—and I'm finding that I'm editing less as I go along. Typically, I'll write about 2000 words and then send it off to my beta readers. Hearing their feedback pushes me to write more and helps me understand characters through the eyes of readers. 


The writers I chose for next week's tour are Rachel Lee Haas, Sarah Drinka and Brandy Walker. All three of these women are in the midst of projects that remind me what it's like to be inspired. You'll love them. I know it. 

Rachel Haas is a Story-writing, caffeine-consuming, paint-flinging, wild-at-heart sojourner. She is married to Jonathon, as she has been for the past four years, momma to Marian, and wrangler of an oversized Great Dane and two cats who are relatively bonkers. She dwells in between Midwestern cornfields where she pours her heart out in lowercase abandon.

Rachel Haas is a Story-writing, caffeine-consuming, paint-flinging, wild-at-heart sojourner. She is married to Jonathon, as she has been for the past four years, momma to Marian, and wrangler of an oversized Great Dane and two cats who are relatively bonkers. She dwells in between Midwestern cornfields where she pours her heart out in lowercase abandon.

Sarah Drinka is obsessed with beauty. She is a homeschooling, fairy princess kind of mom who got swept off her feet 15 years ago by a computer nerd. She teaches her kids lots of things, but most of all, that it's okay to believe in magic and that words have the power to heal, if only we'll let them. She writes to find beauty in the mess at www.sarahdrinka.com.

Sarah Drinka is obsessed with beauty. She is a homeschooling, fairy princess kind of mom who got swept off her feet 15 years ago by a computer nerd. She teaches her kids lots of things, but most of all, that it's okay to believe in magic and that words have the power to heal, if only we'll let them. She writes to find beauty in the mess at www.sarahdrinka.com.

Brandy a preacher, a poet, and a prophet. It’s the only thing she  know how to do. Most of the time she does a shoddy job of the whole thing, but she suspects that’s why God trusts her. She's honest.

Brandy a preacher, a poet, and a prophet. It’s the only thing she  know how to do. Most of the time she does a shoddy job of the whole thing, but she suspects that’s why God trusts her. She's honest.

Posted on April 14, 2014 and filed under writing.

what women want: to shed their masks

On Fridays, I have opened my space to feature short essays by women about what they want from the Church. The guidelines are wide, purposefully, inviting either an answer to the question itself or to argue for a better question altogether. These essays have been curated for quality, not for content, and not all views expressed are necessarily my own. It is my hope that these posts are beginning places, that you will be sent on to spend time with the words of these women in their own spaces and houses of expression, and they have been asked to interact with you in the comments. (I'll be less active there, accordingly.) Many thanks to my good friend Preston Yancey for beginning this series.


Women want to shed their masks. 

You know what I’m talking about, right? 

When you nod and smile but actually you disagree and want to scream. 

When you apologize for your kids acting up in church when you really want to say, “We had a rough morning and the fact that we even made it to church is a huge success.” 

When you agree to serve on a committee even though you really feel like your life is too full and too exhausting as it is. 

When you continue to sing every hymn, pray ever prayer, and show up at church every time the door is open even when your faith is parched, uncertain, or borderline non-existent. 

When you wear a smile and pretend like you have it together while privately you struggle day after day with depression. 

I could go on. My point is that I think women often feel the pressure to be perfect. We are expected to put forth a perfect image. I realize that we usually talk about boys being told to be strong, but girls are expected to be strong, too. We have to be good at nurturing and organizing and cooking and sex. We have to be able to handle difficult situations without upsetting the balance of the family. We have to be constant multi-taskers, remembering every folder that has to be signed, bill that has to be paid, and errand that has to be run.  On top of all that, our culture tells us we have to be beautiful and cool to be accepted. It’s exhausting to wear all those masks. 

It’s also suffocating. For years I have been afraid to say what I really think. Instead, I have said whatever makes everyone happy and have done whatever was expected of me. I used to long to find my authentic self, because I’d almost lost track of who that was. My spirit was shriveling. 

I am sure I’m not alone when I say that the song “Let it Go” from the kids’ movie Frozen is my new theme song. 

Couldn't keep it in, Heaven knows I tried.
Don't let them in, don't let them see.
Be the good girl you always have to be.
Conceal don't feel, don't let them know.
Well, now they know!

Let it go, let it go.
And I'll rise like the break of dawn.
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand, in the light of day.

It’s sad that Disney gets me more than the church does. 

I listen to women a lot. They tell me their stories. But they rarely say them out loud in the church. Instead, they tell me their stories late at night on the phone or over margaritas at Chuy’s. They tell me how hard it is to make it to church because of an illness that nobody really knows they have. They tell me how stressful their jobs are. They tell me how hard it is to balance everything they are trying to be. They tell me how lonely they feel.

What do we want? We want to be able to tell these stories out loud. We want to let go of the need to hide. We want the freedom to peel off those masks and show you our real, scarred, beautiful skin.  

Let us be authentic. Let us be real. Let us cry if we are hurting and for goodness’ sake, don’t call us emotional! (Newsflash: Every human on this planet is emotional. Some people show their emotions more readily than others. But everyone feels.) Let us scream if we are frustrated. Let us disagree if our opinion is different. Let us say no to the extras because we feel the need to protect our family time. Let us admit that we don’t have the answers and we don’t have it together and we don’t like to fake happiness. 

I am convinced that if you take off your mask and I take off mine, we will be better able to love each other and to love Jesus. You only have to read the gospels to realize that Jesus reached out to people who were imperfect and who didn’t have it all together. In fact, the people who were the strictest rule-followers often angered Jesus the most. Jesus loves and values our raw, scarred, authentic selves. We should love and value them, too.

//

Karissa Knox Sorrell is an educator, writer, and blogger from Nashville, Tennessee. She is almost finished writing a memoir about her childhood as an evangelical PK/MK and later converting to Eastern Orthodoxy. At 4 AM, you will find her writing. At 1 PM, she's training ESL teachers. At 6 PM she's wrangling her two adorable children. At 9 PM she's asleep. Follow Karissa on twitter @kksorrell or read her blog at http://karissaknoxsorrell.com 


Posted on April 11, 2014 and filed under what women want.

what women want: to know your box stifles me.

On Fridays, I have opened my space to feature short essays by women about what they want from the Church. The guidelines are wide, purposefully, inviting either an answer to the question itself or to argue for a better question altogether. These essays have been curated for quality, not for content, and not all views expressed are necessarily my own. It is my hope that these posts are beginning places, that you will be sent on to spend time with the words of these women in their own spaces and houses of expression, and they have been asked to interact with you in the comments. (I'll be less active there, accordingly.) Many thanks to my good friend Preston Yancey for beginning this series.

I want you to know that I fit into your traditional box.

I am a traditionally feminine woman, a fact of which I am proud. I like dresses and pearl necklaces and “girly” things. I love to bake and be in the kitchen. I love small children and many other things generally related to motherhood and traditional femininity. I want to be a wife and I want to be a mother more than I want a career and I have no problem letting men do most of the leading. Not much about my natural personality breaks the traditional gender roles.

So I want you to know that I fit into your traditional box, but I am so much more than that.

I love the kitchen, but that is not my only place. That is not the only place you will see me come alive with my gifts and talents. 

You will see me come alive at the screen of a computer or a desk with paper in hand, as I pour out words that share the heart of our Father with this broken world. You will see me come alive at the front of a congregation, as I lead them in worship through song or dance. You will see me come alive at the table of a coffee shop, as I dig deep into the nitty gritty of real life in real relationships. You will see me come alive on a sandy beach, as I dig my toes in the sand and behold the splendor of our majestic God. You will see me come alive in broken places with broken people, as I wrestle with the tension between the goodness of God and the pain of our present circumstance. You will see me come alive in places you think I should be and in places you don’t want me to go.

We like to compartmentalize things. It makes them easier to deal with -- less complicated, less unruly. 

You want to find the box I fit in and keep me there, because life with boxes isn’t as messy. You want to put me into a traditionally feminine box and tie me up with a bow, because much of my personality fits your idea of a “good Christian woman.” You want to put some of my sisters into another box, labeled “defiant” or “different” or “dangerous.” You want to put some of my brothers into a box like mine, one where you keep the men who fit your idea of “Biblical masculinity.” You want to put some of my other brothers into another box, pushed back on a shelf with my “different” sisters, hidden away because they don’t fit the mold you made for them and different is uncomfortable and intimidating.

I want you to know that part of me will fit into your box, but when you put me in that box, another part of me feels stifled. The part of me that is loud, boisterous, and opinionated, that is stubborn and sometimes defiant, that is passionate and exuberant, that refuses to only stand behind you, that wants to stand with you -- the part of me that isn’t a “gentle and quiet spirit” will not fit in the box you wanted to put me in.

You can put me in a box if you want, but know that I’ll be there by myself, because no one else fits into my box unless you stifle part of them.

I want you to let me breathe and let my sisters breathe, too.

Do not put us into a box, no matter how well you think we fit. Do not resign us to one place, because that’s where we’re “supposed” to be. Do not ignore our opinion or our contribution or our heart because it doesn’t fit your prescription for what women should do in the Church.

Let me be me as I let you be you. Let me be who I am outside of your box, for any box will stifle me, no matter how well you think it’s tailored to who I am. Let me love and serve and teach and preach and share and worship and be exactly who God has called me to be, whether it fits into a box or not.    

//

Sarah is a storyteller and bookworm with a deep affection for classic literature, big sunglasses, and Coke slurpees. She is passionate about digging deep and living life in community. She smiles big, laughs loud, and loves having dance parties in the middle of the kitchen. She hails from the DC metro area and writes about faith, life, and relationships over at sarahannehayes.com. You can also find her on Twitter @sarahannehayes.

Posted on April 4, 2014 and filed under what women want.

synchronicity.

"Are you writing?" 

She asks me this with a squint, leaning toward her computer screen as if she's about to reach through and grab my hand. This is what she looks like when she means business. I imagine her students are frightened of this stare.

I look away. 

"Depends on what you mean..." 

"Fiction." 

Her reply is quick, her eyebrows raised.

"....then no." I can feel the tears coming and I have no idea why her question makes me so emotional. I blink them away. 

She falls against her chair and crosses her arms against her chest. "You have to start writing again, Elora." 

And I nod, knowing she's right but not knowing how to begin.

.::.

The next day, I'm sitting with my husband during happy hour. 

"Tell me more about this dream," he says.

I begin cautiously, not sure if I can untangle the webbing around details and scenes. 

"Well have you started writing it down yet?" 

I stare at him. 

"No." 

"Sounds like you need to start and see what happens." 

"Yeah, but..."

"Just start, love. Remember your craft." 

And there's nothing more I can say.

.::.

We're sitting in my living room and catching up on life. I ask her how writing is going, and she tells me a story of moving slow, finding creativity, fighting pushback.

"What about you? Are you writing? Or are you just helping other people and not yourself?" 

I study the hem of my shirt and feel the pressure build in my veins. I laugh to keep from crying.. 

"Um, no. I'm not writing. At least not writing outside of content for Story Sessions." I glance at her and she's shaking her head.

"That's not what you're supposed to be doing, Elora." 

She says it with authority, and I can feel the weight crash against my chest. She doesn't know this, but her words have unlocked something within me. Conviction, perhaps? Maybe inspiration. 

Or simply a kick in the ass. 

Whatever it is, when others join us and begin talking about multiple books and publishing deals, I make a quick exit in order to breathe and call a friend. When she answers, I jump into the conversation.

"Hi. I hope you can talk. I need you to talk me down." 

She listens, and then responds. I can tell she's thinking because she's pausing between words—making sure she gets them right. And then something snaps and her words come out in a rush.

"You know, Every Shattered Thing hasn't blown up—yet—but it can still happen. What would it do for you to go from thinking it hasn't happened to it will happen? It's like Danielle LaPorte, you know? When people tell her her dreams are possible, she always says possible? My dreams aren't possible. They're a done fucking deal—what would happen if you believed that line of thinking instead of freaking out about what you haven't done? What would happen if you believed you'll write other books instead of freaking out because you haven't started book two?" 

My end of the line went quiet. 

"I'd probably be writing right now instead of crying with you over the phone." 

.::.

Earlier this month, I wrote about the itching of wings and how when I was younger, I took to cheerleading and became the base. The spotter. Because if I couldn't fly, I wanted to help everyone else get there.

I'm doing it again.

I've taken the role of cheerleader—standing at the base of the mountain, hollering at those above that they can do it—just jump, I'll be here, your words matter, your story deserves breath, I can catch you. 

Even though I know they won't fall. They are fully capable of flying on their own.

.::.

I'm talking with one of the people who knows me best on the phone. Her words come fast and hot like they do when she's trying to chase after them. 

"What's in your core, Elora? What do you need to do in your core? Go there. Do that. Worry about nothing else." 

I sit in the chair out back, staring at the trees blooming with spring flowers. I think about Stephanie and the ending I know she has—and the limbo I've placed her in yet again as I wait for some magical fairy to give me permission to begin. 

"I don't know why I doubt. I don't know why I chalk it up to a season of no writing because I know what I'm built to do—I'm built for words. I think...I think I'm just scared. Unsure, even. Maybe even frustrated? I don't know." 

"But you know what's in your core." Her voice has gone soft now, and I can hear the belief behind her words. "You know what you're meant to do. So do it."

I smile and feel the weight of untold stories dig into my shoulders. I close my eyes and everything begins to fit together. 

"I know." I whisper. "I will." 

Posted on March 24, 2014 and filed under {soft}, writing.