Giving, Publication, and The Last Class

If I could sit in a classroom with Anne Lamott at the board it may take a bit of bribery to coerce me into ever leaving that room. As I finished reading Bird by Bird today I was overwhelmed with sadness. I’m sad to have reached the end of her lessons. I’m sad to be through with her instruction. Instead of sitting here writing about what I’ve learned I feel like unwrapping my old cap and gown and playing a little pomp and circumstance.

Having finished this book hasn’t quite earned me the distinction of a master’s degree, but the amount of information I’ve unpacked from this short book is beyond equivalency to most graduate writing courses.

Anne Lamott is a professional in every sense of the word. Her work is profoundly honest and insightful. So much of what I read in this book will continue to resonate with me for as long as I continue to write. If she wasn’t so attached to her privacy I would send her a letter to inform her of how much this book helped to shape me as a writer on my journey to finding my unique writing voice.

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Giving

The first lesson from today’s reading was about what it really means to be a writer. Writing isn’t about gaining for yourself. To write under the notion that it will solve all of your problems is naive. We write to give. We write to bring peace. We write to put into language what so many people feel, but struggle to express. Writing is about giving to others. Our work is a gift to the broader community around us. It is a gift given first to us. But our gift is also one to be shared with others.

Publication

As an unpublished author I oftentimes fall into the trap of believing that publication is the end goal. If one day I could hold a paper stack bound with a cute cover bearing my name as the author then surely all of my dreams will be realized and I will feel complete. Wrong.

Publication comes with its own sets of trials. To be published is to jump through the endless hoops thrown from agents, editors and publishers. The road to publishing is paved with self doubt and rejection. It’s a daunting road that climaxes on a release date that tends to come and go like any other day (or so I hear.)

In this chapter I was forced to refocus myself. To publish my work would be cool, but if that is my true dream I will be left unsatisfied.

The Last Class

Lamott closed this book with the many lessons she hopes her readers take away from her experiences. For me, I really connected with this quote, “devotion and commitment will be [our] own reward, that in dedication to [our] craft [we] will find solace and direction and wisdom and truth and pride.” (Lamott 232)

Above anything else I will take away that writing is about the process. It’s about sitting down and putting words on a page. Day by day and bird by bird.

**If you are interested in receiving a free ARC copy of Bird by Bird directly from The Ameri Brit Mom please fill out this survey. One person who submits to the poll by Saturday January 7, 2017 will receive Bird by Bird in the mail. 

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Fear Fighting Review

Title: Fear Fighting

Author: Kelly Balarie

Publisher: Baker Publishing Group

Copyright Date: 2017

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When my copy of this cute book arrived a few weeks ago I was excited to dive into it. I signed up to be a part of the launch team after perusing the topic and realizing that this book was written for someone like me. Someone living in fear. Someone suffering with anxiety. Someone with a past. Someone in need of a fresh reminder of God’s heart and the fear less life that it promises.

Within the first couple of pages I was already facing my giants. I was called to outline my greatest hopes and dreams and then to trace the reasons I’m afraid to make progress in those areas. I realized that it isn’t God or someone else keeping me from the things I want most in life. I’ve become my own obstacle standing between where I am and where I want to be. Throughout the rest of this book I would learn how to get out of my own way. I had confined myself to a little safety box where my comfort level was high and the risk assessment low.

Before long Kelly began to reveal biblical examples of women taking charge of their fear. One that stood out to me was Deborah. Through the story of Deborah, the judge, I was inspired to be a fiery, confident woman who speaks victory with confidence over fear.

I learned the difference between good fear and bad fear. According to scripture, (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 8:13; Proverbs 14:27; Luke 1:50; Deuteronomy 10:12) fear of the Lord is a calling for all that follow Him. Fearing God is obedience, but fearing things of this world is an act of disobedience. It is placing whatever causes fear above God and tells Him that you do not trust His will for you. Fearing God keeps our focus on Him and not on ourselves.

I could go on and on about the way this book helped me to rethink my fears. Many of the chapters spoke to specific fears that many women deal with such as the past, rejection, opposition, waiting, comparison, competition, and worry. One statement that helped me to let go of fear was that, “our past victories lead us into future ministries.” It’s no surprise to anyone who truly knows me that I have had some knock out battles with fear. I’ve gone through periods in my life when fear took God’s spot on the throne of my life and was the filter for many of the decisions I made during that time.

It wasn’t until I started writing that I began to see God regain control of my heart.

Writing has been an obedience to Him and has been my way of showing Him that I’m not afraid of what other people think or say about me any more. Being a writer can be scary. Submitting words into the universe for others to read and critique can leave you feeling naked and judged. But through my writing God has been faithful to me and reminded me that He is in control. Writing has required obedience and faith. Once I was a closet writer filling notebooks that I was afraid others may one day read, and today because of models like Kelly Balarie I am part of a couple of critique groups and am working toward a book deal myself.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to join Kelly’s launch team.

I’ve been surrounded by wonderful writers and bloggers who have built a community of encouragement. Conquering fear isn’t something that we ever do once and for all. I am faced with fear every morning when I wake up, but it is because of the truth of God’s promises that I am able to stand up, push fear aside, and pick up my cross.

If you are interested in joining an army of Fear fighters pick up a copy of Fear Fighting, a few ladies to hold you accountable, and dive in. You will never see fear through the same lens again.

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

My Christmas Recap

This Christmas was such a blessing. I spent several days in celebrations with friends and family whose company I cherish. Watching my daughter as she grasped the true meaning of Christmas this year was priceless. She sang songs about Jesus’ birth and relayed the story of the wise men bringing gifts to Jesus over and over again. Over the past week our family received so many gifts and items that we were so excited about, but above all we were thankful for the gift of Jesus and what that gift has meant for our family.

Later this week we will be heading on a short vacation to Indianapolis where we will be watching the Pacers vs. Bulls NBA game. (A gift from me to my husband.) It’s been a while since we have gone on a trip so even though it isn’t a long one it is much anticipated to get away and make some memories in a new setting.

My daughter received an abundance of gifts. With clothes, multiple pairs of pajamas, Barbies, a bike, art supplies, and quite a few games she is well set for another year.

I am beyond grateful for the gifts I received. My husband purchased some jewelry and a new outfit for me. My big gift from him, however, was two-fold. He sent the first ten pages of my manuscript to author, Mindy McGinnis, who provided critiques and comments. He also heeded her advice and purchased me a year’s membership into SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). This is a national organization which also has a local chapter in Columbus which I will now be able to attend once a month. I’m nervous, but so thankful for the opportunity to network with real authors and illustrators.

I was also blessed with an abundance of other gifts:

It’s easy to focus on the material on Christmas, but this year I really tried to set my eyes on the true meaning of this Holiday. Jesus is the purpose and the reason that we are able to love and appreciate others. With His life he showed us how to treat others and how to accept love. I am so glad to have people to share my love with and to give to them is an expression of Jesus’ love in me.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas.

 

The Ameri Brit Mom

Dressing and Educating: Days 84-86

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Day 84: December 19, 2016

I hit the home stretch toward Christmas break today. In English, we reviewed for our big test with a friendly game of Review Basketball. We recently finished the seventh chapter of Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis and so their test prior to Christmas Vacation is over the first seven chapters of the novel.

In Honors World History, my students performed their Epic Rap Battles between Karl Marx and Adam Smith. This was my first time conducting this project and my students really exceeded my expectations. I was so pleased with their finished products and enjoyed getting to see them rap live, listen to their pre-recorded videos, or present their slideshows about each philosopher.

I wore my brand new Perfect T and leggings from Lula Roe with a black cardigan, a scarf, and boots.

 

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Day 85: December 20, 2016

A few years ago we used to hold semester exams the last three days before Christmas break. Because of state testing and other requirements my district decided not to add to the already weighty test schedule with semester exams. I go back and forth on how I feel about taking exams off of the table, but one thing I know I miss is the order it created for the last three days. With an exam-adjusted schedule school was all-business those last days before break. I miss that.

Today my students were buzzing with talk about Christmas and many of them handed out gifts to friends in the hall way. It was a loud day and particularly challenging in my English classes as my students took their test over the first seven chapters of Not a Drop to Drink. I was not pleased with their scores on the test which has me worried that many of them have turned off their “school brain” a little early.

Today I wore red jeggings, a white tshirt, and a blue flannel from Primark in England.

 

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Day 86: December 21, 2016

Finally, the last day before break.

Students in Honors World History took their unit test today over the Industrial Revolution. It was a tidy end to the semester as we can begin a brand new unit after Christmas break. We will be moving on to the Age of Imperialism and barreling toward the first world war.

In English, since students took their test yesterday I decided to make today a reading day. Students were given a set of terms and ideas relating to irony. They defined the words and then we read “The Gift of the Magi” together. It’s a classic story that always leads into some interesting discussion.

Today I wore jeans and a pink sweater from Delias.

I’m so glad to be entering my Christmas break. By the time you read this I will already be in the midst of the most wonderful time of the year cherishing memories with those I love along the way. I hope you are all enjoying this same time during the Holidays season.

 

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing a Present and Finding Your Voice

It sure was nice to take a few days off this week for Christmas. During that time I was able to unplug and enjoy my time with the people I care about so deeply. I received several gifts which I’m sure I’ll be sharing in the upcoming week and many of those thoughtful gifts were ones that encouraged me to hop back on my train of writing.

Usually, I read two chapters from Bird by Bird on Saturdays and post summaries immediately after reading. With the holidays, I’m a little off schedule so although it may be Tuesday it feels an awful lot like a Saturday to me.

I’m nearing the end of the book today and I’m starting a section entitled, “Publication and Other Reasons to Write.”

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Writing a Present

Anne Lamott begins this chapter with, “Publication is not going to change your life or solve your problems.” (Lamott 185) The reason she makes this statement is to show that if you are only writing with the goal to be published then you will never be fulfilled. You have to find intrinsic reasons to write because having work published will leave you feeling empty if it is your only motivator.

Lamott has written several short stories for people in her life that were near death. Her father with a brain tumor was able to read a short story about Anne’s siblings and herself and how they were dealing with the diagnosis. Her best friend, Pammy, was given a short story before her death about memories that Lamott had made with her. In this chapter she gives several examples of times where she handed a story to someone she loved that made a difference in their demeanor and their lives.

For me, I could see myself giving the gift of stories to the people that mean the most to me. They may not be on their death beds, but to hear the words of their influence and effects on me through writing might be one way to show someone how much I treasure their relationship. This chapter was very inspiring and helped me to fix my gaze somewhere other than on the publishing world (which sucks by the way.)

Finding Your Voice

“We don’t have much to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to go into.” -Anne Lamott

We all have our favorite writers. For many reasons we resonate with their style and when they describe the world we feel like they are seeing it from our perspective. Because we are so touched by their writing we try to emulate their voice, but in the process of trying to mimic the writing of another we trade our originality and become a fake.

Throughout the process of my first book it is obvious when I was reading certain works. I would take cadence and rhythm from people like Markus Zusak or Ray Bradbury and transpose them into my own work. (Which is why it is a good idea to read a different genre than what you are currently writing.) I love the way both of those authors pace their writing and when I go through my earlier drafts it’s clear when I made a trade with the sea witch and handed over my voice.

It has taken me years to uncover my unique voice. It took a lot of soul searching and honesty on my part. From feedback and responses to my work I think that my trademarks are forming and I’m slipping out of the comfort of someone else’s brand and into my own. As a new writer, it is okay to take inspiration from another, but as I’m trying to make a name for myself in the writing world it is time to assume my own persona.

Finding your voice isn’t easy. We all have a monster, but the writer’s job is to open those doors that the world says to keep closed. A writer’s task is to face those demons and slay them with language. It is a scary world as a writer, but when you face those giants and put the fears to rest then you are left with an original voice that has never been heard before.

*This Saturday I will be finishing Bird by Bird and giving away an ARC copy of the book. Come back Saturday for details on how to receive a copy of this book.

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

Books of 2016

Happy Christmas Eve!

Another year is coming to a close and as another reflection on where I’ve been and what I have accomplished this year I wanted to capture my 2016 Reading List. I began 2016 with the goal of reading 24 books. I wanted to vary my reading exposure so I created a Reading Challenge for the year. I was able to nearly finish the challenge, but still have a few books to go before I complete it in 2017. I am happy to say that I expanded my exposure to different genres and authors this year and I diversified my reading from online periodicals, magazines, and eBooks (as well as the classic book.)

For each of the books listed below, you can find a review or information about the book under my books category in the right-hand margin. I hope you had a lovely year reading.

Devotional Books

-Fear Fighting by Kelly Balarie

Five Minute Friday by the Five Minute Friday Link Up (with a poem by me!)

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

-Live Loved by Margaret Feinberg

 

Writing Books-These are books I focused on this year on the blog to hone my writing skills.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

The Writer Magazine

The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke

 

Other Books (Book Challenge)

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Numbers by Rachel Ward

Whole 30/It Starts With Food by Melissa Hartwig

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Tru and Nelle by G. Neri

The Crown by Keira Cass

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The Heir by Keira Cass

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

The One by Keira Cass

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

The Elite by Keira Cass

The Selection by Keira Cass

Real Time by Pnina Moed Kass

Good Omens by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman

Schooled in Revenge by Jesse Lasky

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederick Backman

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland

 

I’m looking for reading plan suggestions for the new year. I’ve been really impressed by a new local library and have been spending a lot of time combing through their YA and adult fiction selections. I’m kind of on a YA kick right now as my next book I’m writing is from the perspective of a teenager.

Happy ready goals in 2017!

The Ameri Brit Mom

Support Please!

I have been working over the past month on a piece for the Winter Contest through my critique group. I put a lot of time and energy into this story which I feel is one of my best yet. It is about a foster child who has an encounter with an elderly neighbor that forever changes him.

Currently, my story is published on Short Fiction Break where the contest is being held. It is open for readers and at the bottom of the page there is a place for people to cast votes for my story as the Readers Choice.

I know each of you is very busy as Christmas is right around the corner, but it would mean a lot to me if you could take a few minutes to read through my finished piece and cast a vote in my direction if you feel so inclined.

Here is the link to the story/poll. Be sure to use my title for your vote which is “The Smoke We Shared” by Lauren Sisley.

Thanks,

You are all the best!

Most Memorable Posts of 2016

2016 is coming to a close and I am joining my Five Minute Friday crew on a special link up today. This year has been a huge year of growth for my blog. I’ve increased my readership and had numerous opportunities arise as a result of my commitment to provide authentic content for my readers.

To start with here are some exciting numbers for the year:

-Number of views: 7,745

-Number of visitors: 4,396

-Number of posts: 262

I have doubled my statistics in every area since 2015 making 2016 my most successful year yet as far as readership and publication go. Thank you for all of your support as readers!

Here are my Most Memorable Posts of 2016:

1. Stitch Fix #7

This was my most popular post of the year in part because it was featured on the Stitch Fix website. As a result of this post, I became a Stitch Fix influencer this year which has allowed me to gain some compensation for my posts from their program.

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2. English Rain Jacket

While visiting loved ones in England this summer I highlighted some of the fashions sweeping the nation.

 

3. 24 Book Challenge

This was a challenge I published at the beginning of the year to get myself reading some different and unique book choices. It has been really successful and many others have joined me on the journey to read 24 books this year.

Book Challenge 2016

 

4. Two Announcements

This very special post is where I made the announcement that I was officially accepted as a Stitch Fix Influencer as well as my first ever poem would be published in the Five Minute Friday book.

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5. Lula Roe Review

I hosted a Lula Roe party at the end of the summer and have been in love with the company ever since!

 

 

Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for making 2016 a successful year for The Ameri Brit Mom. To think that two years ago I hadn’t ever published anything beyond a Facebook status to where I am today is such a humbling thought. I am so encouraged by those of you who make reading my blog a priority and I look forward to bigger adventures in 2017. To God be the Glory!

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

Dressing and Educating: Days 79-83

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Day 79: December 12, 2016

I would be lying if I said I was happy to wake up early and go to school this morning. For over a week the weather men had been predicting a winter storm for Sunday night. I pulled out all the old wives’ tales and superstitions hoping for that first snow day. I woke up to a few rain puddles and a damp yard. No snow in sight.

In History today my students presented their Industrial Revolution projects. This was a research based project where students selected their mode of communication. Some wrote novels, some made posters, and others created Google Slides presentations. Here is an artistic interpretation of life in the tenements and work in the factories.

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I wore a cowl neck sling dress, black Lula Roe leggings, and Sperry boots this Monday morning.

 

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Day 80: December 13, 2016

Today marked the beginning of snow season. It was the first snow storm this winter in Ohio. I arrived at school just before 7am to clear roads, but the snow started a few hours later and fell relentlessly through school hours and wasn’t expected to cease until 9pm.

As if the snow levels weren’t enough of a distraction the annual surprise lockdown took place today. Every year law enforcement officers from the county show up unannounced and conduct a thorough search of the campus. During this search they look for drugs and narcotics. Classrooms are held under a level 1 lockdown during this event which means students are not permitted out of the classroom and so I was held up with the same group of students for almost two hours.

I was wearing a top from Lula Roe, navy slacks from Old Navy and my Sperry boots which have become my best friend this winter.

 

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Day 81: December 14, 2016

As a result of the snowfall last night we had a 2 hour delay at my school today.

Most classes were shortened and the kids were all rambunctious as they were armed with some extra sleep. It was nice to get the day started under sunlight, but I was really pulling for a snow day.

In my short classes we worked on reading and finishing up homework.

Today I wore olive jeggings, a black tunic sweater from The Limited, a scarf from Charming Charlies, and my Sperry boots.

 

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Day 82: December 15, 2016

For the second day in a row we experienced a two hour delay at my school. Wind chills were below zero and so my district decided to give us all a little extra time to make it in to school. (Or to snuggle in the warmth of our beds as I did.)

On delay days, all but one of my classes is less than 25 minutes long. I had enough time to read one chapter of Not a Drop to Drink with my English classes and to go over a homework assignment with my Honors History class.

I wore my skinny black pants from the Limited, a polka dot blouse from The Limited, and a maroon sweater from Maurices.

 

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Day 83: December 16, 2016

We were back on a regular bell schedule despite the frigid, single-digit temperatures. In English, we finished up the seventh chapter of the book we are reading and I had each small group write six review questions for next week’s test. I will use the questions in a Review Basketball game Monday.

In History the students are working on rap battles between Karl Marx and Adam Smith. many of them recorded their raps today. I’m excited to hear the finished products on Monday!

Today I wore jeggings, a pinstriped top from Lula Roe and an oversized brown sweater from Kohls.

This week was wet and cold and I did my best to dress to keep myself warm in the classroom. Which of the looks was your favorite?

 

The Ameri Brit Mom