Being the Butt of My Own Dream Jokes

I’ve written about unpredictable dreams before, but they never cease to amuse me. Here’s one of the most recent:

I was with a large group of people visiting the zoo. Everyone with me was walking slowly, so I found myself a good way ahead of them on the path. That’s when I noticed the animal that was out of its cage.

1280px-Wolverine_on_rockIt was a wolverine, and it seemed angry.

Not wanting to face the beast alone, I decided to trek back to my group. Perhaps, I thought, if we all approach the wolverine together, our numbers will scare it back into its cage.

So I quickly warned everyone about the wild animal in the path ahead.

When we got a bit closer to where the wolverine was, I notice that I was mistaken about the beast’s identity. For what I though was a ravenous beast was a child’s remote control car that had been made to look like a wolverine.

Everyone made fun of me for being frightened of a remote control car. Then a mysterious old man looked at me and said something like, “I guess things look different depending on where you stand.”

That’s when I woke up.

It was a nice little dream, complete with a humorous twist and a moral. And what I love best is that I don’t think my waking mind could have come up with a story like that. Good stuff.

Now, I think I’ll lay down and see if I can get some more story ideas. Happy napping!

Jot Blogging Workshop Retrospective

josh_jot_2014As I mentioned yesterday, I was privileged to lead a blogging workshop at the recent Jot Writers’ Conference. I was blown away by the number of people who signed up! Here’s what went down.

After introducing myself, we went around the room and everyone had to share their name, their blog (if they had one), and what they hoped to get out of our time together.

The attendees came from a broad spectrum of writers, but from their stated goals, a few common questions emerged:

  • How do I get started?
  • How do I keep it going?
  • How do I write stuff that people will want to read?
  • How can I increase my visibility online?
  • How do I get better engagement from my readers?
  • Are there any etiquette rules for blogging?

These were all great questions, and I did what I could to answer them. I told the attendees, as I’ve told you all in the past, that I am no expert. I’m just someone who writes a near-daily blog. But still, I’ve learned a few things since I started.

Here’s some stuff that I told them:

  • Develop a mission statement for your blog. Know what it will cover, who you are trying to reach, and how often you will post.
  • Be consistent.
  • Use your blog to develop your voice.
  • Read other blogs, comment on other blogs, develop some blogging friends.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed by social media. Start small and do that thing well. Add other stuff in only when you feel comfortable doing so.
  • Develop a good backlog of posts to put up when you don’t have a chance to write due to life circumstances.
  • And check out the following blogs for good info / good examples of strong blogging voices: Chad Allen & Jessie Clemence

There was a lot more than this, and we all had a great time. If you want more, you’ll have to come hear me at the Breathe Writer’s Conference next month!

Thank you, everyone who attended the workshop. I hope it was beneficial!

I am thankful for Jot


jot_4_andrew_livestreamThis past weekend, my writers’ group put on the 4th Semi-Annual Jot Writers’ Conference. It was a great time of encouragement, interaction, and learning. If you didn’t get a chance to attend in person, you can still watch the Livestream video here.

Or I could just give you incredibly brief synopses of each presentation:

  • Alison Hodgson – Getting started is hard. It is easier to keep going than to start again. One day you’ll be able to shove your success in the faces of naysayers (but, you know, in a professional and nice way), but only if you keep going.
  • Andrew Rogers – Rejection can be as hard for the publisher as it is for the writer. Don’t be discouraged.
  • Ellen Stumbo – Write the truth, even (maybe especially) when it is hard. You will be more helpful to those people who are going through where you have been than if you pretend you’ve never been there yourself. The truth is worth it, even it some people dislike you for telling it.
  • Sam Carbaugh – Writers get residuals where illustrators do not. Keep your priorities straight. Your book may be a flash in the pan, but your family will be with you for the long run.

One thing we did differently for Jot 4 was the addition of concurrent workshops following the main presentations. I led one on blogging (I’ll post on this tomorrow). Matthew Landrum led one on poetry. Jeff Chapman led one on fiction. I would have loved to sit in on these, but I couldn’t (since I was leading one at the same time), but I’d love to hear some feedback from those of you who did attend them. We’ll probably do them again anyway, but feedback is always helpful.

Speaking of feedback, I’d love to hear any and all of your thoughts regarding Jot.

  • Did you attend?
  • What was your favorite part of Jot?
  • How could we improve the next event?
  • Would you buy a Jot t-shirt or button?

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Are you into vintage Japanese sci-fi comic books? Check this out!
  2. I am a Roald Dahl fan. Maybe you are too. But neither of us were getting the full story on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Until now.
  3. Halloween stores are popping up already. Get in the mood (way too early) with some 2-Sentence Horror Stories.
  4. What if things that were bad for us were harder to use? Check out this genius approach to cigarette boxes.
  5. Who else thinks that publishers should give away free books? They did just that during WWII and they got a whole nation of readers because of it.


Interview with a Jot Presenter | Ellen Stumbo


In case you did not know, the Jot Writers’ Conference happens tomorrow night. I thought we might take a moment and get to know one of the presenters, Ellen Stumbo.

The rest of the presenters are from the West Michigan area, but Ellen is visiting us from the wilds of Wisconsin. If you aren’t familiar with her writing, read on.

We did the following Q&A over email:

Can you give us a 2-3 sentence autobiography?

I write and speak about finding beauty in brokenness with gritty honesty and openness. I am passionate about sharing the real -sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly – aspects of faith, disability, parenting, and adoption.

Which authors have influenced your writing?

Jerry Spinelli! I love him, love his books, I laugh out loud, I fight back tears, and he writes the type of books I want to write someday.

Leif Enger and his book Peace Like a River. I can read that book just for the pleasure of good writing, I savor the words, close my eyes and repeat some of the sentences. His writing is beautiful.

Markus Zuzak and his book The Book Thief. Another book I read again and again for the craft of writing. His metaphors are flawless and effortless!

Cec Murphy. You want an author that is honest, open, vulnerable, and willing to show the depths of his heart? That’s Cec Murphy. I am challenged by his writing, and he encourages me to be brave.

What current projects are you working on?

An ebook for my website subscribers. Simple project, a compilation of posts.

A memoir. I was not qualified to parent a child with a disability, but God had other plans and my youngets daughter was born with Down syndrome. I wrestled with God, after all, my husband was a pastor and we had given our lived to Him, so why my baby? Thankfully I saw God’s good gift in my daughter, and my husband and I adopted another child with a disability, a little girl with cerebral palsy. Disability now is  apart of our life, our church, our future.

A young adult novel. Confession: I want to write fiction. I have several novels in my head and the story outlines written down. I finally started one of them last November (NaNoWriMo). I hope to finish it this year.

Some of my projects are monthly commitments  with different publishers. They pay the bills..or not, but I like writing for them anyway, I consider it an honor to write with the people I write.

Why do you write what you write?

I write because I want to offer hope, courage, and community to whomever is reading.

I write because I don’t want the hurting, struggling, or broken to think that they are alone in this journey of life.

And since you asked, I have a post about it on my blog, but I will be talking about this at the conference, so if you read it, spoiler alert!

Can you give us a brief summary of your Jot presentation?

“The Gift of Vulnerability”

Vulnerability is a gift you give to your readers, it really is. It is scary because most of us like to keep the most personal, the most vulnerable, hidden from others. Being vulnerable opens you up to criticism, but it is worth it. It is the reason I write.

Henri Nouwen says,  “The most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our being is not just for us but for all people. That is why our inner lives are lives for others.”

And do you have any advice for people interested in writing?

  •  Write!
  •  Have others read what you write, it’s part of being a writer, you need the feedback, so you might as well do it now. Maybe you have a blog, maybe you have close friends read your words and give you feedback, but either way get your words out there.
  • Write some more! It’s a craft, it only gets better if you keep practicing.

Excited for JOT!

The Other Inklings | Nevill Coghill

Last week, I started introducing you to the Inklings of Oxford. Why? Because the Inklings was a legendary writer’s group that gave birth to such masterpieces as The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

But there were more people in the Inklings than just C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Let’s take some time and meet a few of the lesser-known Inklings.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When I think of the Inklings, I think of stalwart men who express themselves through high fantasy or high academic interests. I do not think of someone who worked with stars of the stage and screen, and yet Nevill Coghill was just such an Inkling.

Coghill was born in 1899, saw action in World War I as a second lieutenant in the trench mortar division of the Royal Artillery, then went on to an education at Exeter College in Oxford, earning a first-class degree in English in 1923.

It was during his time at Exeter that Coghill befriended C. S. Lewis. Lewis, an atheist at the time, viewed Coghill’s Christian faith as an archaic value system.

Coghill became a fellow of Exeter in 1925, demonstrating his talents as a dramatic producer in his leadership of the Oxford University Dramatic Society. Among the actors whom Coghill directed in those years was the young Richard Jenkins, who later earned worldwide fame under the name of Richard Burton. In 1957, Coghill was elected the Merton Professor of English Literature.

Nevill Coghill is best known for modern translation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canturbury Tales, which was originally translated for BBC radio production, though now is a standard text for students of English Literature.His translation took on a second life by being transformed into a West-End and Broadway musical with Martin Starkie. This production earned one Tony Award for Best Costume Design in 1969, and was nominated in four other categories as well.

Coghill was married, fathered a daughter, and divorced. According to a memoir by Reynolds Price, Neville “lived a quietly homosexual life thereafter.”

He was Merton Professor of English Literature of the University of Oxford from 1957 to 1966. He died in November 1980.

On the Origin of Fall (Autumn)


As I ranted yesterday about the beauty of the post-summer season, I realized that I had to make a choice. Would I refer to it as Autumn or Fall?

I settled on Autumn for a few reasons:

  • It sounds classier.
  • Though it isn’t the preferred nomenclature for most of North America, most people still know what I mean.
  • I just like it better. Okay?

But why did I have to decide at all? How did the season come to be called Fall in North America and Autumn in every other English-speaking place?

As I dug into this question, I was really hoping to see that Fall had some mysterious origins linking it to cool connotations of death or changing colors or cooler weather. Anything other than the obvious connotation of something falling.

But I didn’t find that. The origin of Fall is of something falling. It goes back to the 1660’s and is a shortened form for “fall of the leaves” or “fall of the season”.

Whereas the beautiful word “Autumn” has Etruscan roots and is older than the Roman empire, “Fall” is ugly, quite literal, and could as easily be referring to the season as a drunk who has tippled to excess.

Ah well, not all of my wishes can come true. But I’ll do what I can to raise my children to be Autumn snobs like me. That’s okay, right?

I am ready for Autumn.


Autumn is my favorite season. And now that Labor Day is behind us, the unofficial start to the season has begun. Bring on the pumpkin spice everything!

Just the other night, my family and I reenacted an old autumn tradition; we walked to the convenience store on the corner and got warm cappuccino drinks. Sure, they aren’t as good as the expensive drinks you would get at somewhere that would charge three times more, but they were warm and good and they felt like good memories.

Seriously, is there a better season? Apple picking, pumpkin carving, bonfires, hooded sweatshirts, snuggling under blankets, the changing of the leaves, the lack of snow to be shoveled, and on and on.

Okay, now I’ve got myself all worked up and still got to deal with the rest of the summer weather. Let’s all just hope that the warmest days are behind us and that the near future will be good for hoodies.