Tag Archives: book

Araina

“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”
– Albert Camus
Meet little Araina.

araina

Araina is the daughter of our friends James and Angel and today is her third birthday!  In honor of this sweet little lady’s birthday, I’d like to ask a favor of you.

Please click here to read Araina’s story.

As you can see, precious little Araina needs our help. Let’s wish her a happy birthday by contributing to her future, shall we?

Please click on the link in the story (or just click here) to donate to her treatments. And after you do that, here’s how I’d like to thank you:

lessonsaboundFor every tax-deductible donation of $10 or more, I’d like to send you an autographed copy of my new book, Lessons Abound. This offer lasts until the end of this extra special birthday week, so you have until midnight on Sunday, February 1 to donate!  (And by the way, every dollar of donation goes straight to the family. Sara’s Garden retains no fees or percentage.)

Pretty simple, huh?  $10 tax-deductible donation…you get a book…and Araina starts on her way towards a bright and beautiful future.

After you’ve made a donation, send me your info at caudillmelissa78@yahoo.com and I’ll get a book headed your way. Or, you can find me on Facebook and send a message there as well.

Let’s do something beautiful today, shall we?

Happy Birthday, Araina.

***

“Obviously, you would give your life for your children, or give them the last biscuit on the plate. But to me, the trick in life is to take that sense of generosity between kin, make it apply to the extended family and to your neighbor, your village and beyond.”
– Tom Stoppard

Random Sparks

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
– Albert Schweitzer

So, if you’re a regular reader of mine, you know that I start each blog out with a quote. And I’m willing to bet that a lot of you just skim right over it and get right to the meat of the blog post. Am I right? Do you do that? Ha! Busted! (You didn’t know I knew that, did you? Surprise! I know ALL…muhahaha).

rekindleWell, that’s all well and good…you just skip all the quotes you want to there, buddy.  But this time – well, this time, you’re not allowed to do that. I’m putting my foot down, by golly. This time I’m going to make you read the quote. Go on now. Go back up there and read it and then come back. I’ll wait.

Are you back?

Did you read it?

Okay, good. Now, I wanted you to read that because this whole blog post is going to center around the concept that it presents. I’ve seen the quote many times before and it never occurred to me (until today, that is) that those encounters with human beings didn’t have to necessarily be “deep” or earth-shattering, per se.  They didn’t even have to be personal. In fact, sometimes you don’t even need to have known the person at all.

Case in point.

I had to go to court this morning. Now, hold your horses. Don’t go spreading rumors that I’m a criminal or anything. It was just an old humdrum run-of-the-mill court appearance for a traffic offense. Ya know, my usual. (If you don’t know me personally, or you missed this blog, let’s just suffice it to say that I’m not the luckiest gal in the world when it comes to vehicles.)  So there I sat, reading a novel that I brought along and waiting for my name to be called, when the person beside me struck up a conversation.

Her – “Is that a good book?”
Me – “Yeah, actually, it’s great.”
Her – “I’ve heard a lot about it, but I haven’t read it yet.”

This polite conversation eventually lead to my asking her about the book she was reading. (We were the only two people in the building holding actual books, by the way, instead of playing on our phones.) She told me she was reading a book about writing.

Me – “Oh, are you a writer?”
Her – “Well, yes, I guess you could say that.”
Me – “That’s great. Me too. Sort of.”

(You’ll always find that in writers…that hesitation to call ourselves a “writer.”  What is it about that title that seems so distant? So unattainable? Why do we feel so undeserving? Sheesh.)

So, this polite chitchat ended up launching us into what was to become what I am now calling an hour-long best-friendship. Together, we discussed all things writing…from the way writers see the world differently (we made up so many stories about people in that courtroom that it would make your head spin) to the pros and cons of certain kinds of publishing. As it turns out, my new random friend who was afraid to call herself a writer actually makes her living being a writer. She quit her job and started publishing romance novels on Amazon six months ago. The income she has generated from doing so has actually been enough for her to live on. Wow!  (And incidentally…she hates romance novels. That’s just where the market is heaviest right now and she wanted to get a good, firm foundation before diving into the stuff she really likes – young adult and fantasy novels).

By the time my name was called, I felt so “recharged,” it was crazy.  I wanted to run out of that courtroom and plop down in front of my computer and write and write and write. (Of course, I didn’t. I had to go to work. Sigh. But you get the idea…)  My inner spark had just been “burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.” How about that!?

All of this lead me to remember something. I had a favorite uncle – Uncle Jeff – who passed away from heart complications when he was only 33 years old. Just prior to his death, he underwent a fairly new surgery that placed a machine inside of him that would pump his heart for him. Had he survived the operation, he would have lived a “normal” life except for one small detail…he’d have to actually “plug himself in” periodically. Yep, you read that right. Thanks to the marvels of medical technology, people are able to live normal, healthy lives all while being kept alive by a man-made machine pumping their hearts for them – and my sweet uncle was almost one of them. I remember having a conversation with him just prior to the surgery. He said something along the lines of, “All I have to do is make sure I’m near an outlet and I’ll be fine.”

Hmmm.

Maybe my random hour-long best-friend was just that. An outlet. A power source. Something to re-charge me just when I needed it most.

So, as we bid goodbye to 2014 and say “howdy do” to 2015, I challenge you all to do just this…keep an eye out for those power sources. Got it? Recharge as often as you can…don’t miss a single opportunity. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t let a spark just pass you by without allowing it to do its job. Recognize it! Engage it. Talk to that stranger…spend time with that aging wisdom-filled grandmother…surround yourself with artistic friends…dive into those novels.  Let’s spend 2015 reigniting those flames, shall we?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a novel to work on…

Happy New Year!

***

“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke

What A Novel Idea

“I like the challenge of trying different things and wondering whether it’s going to work or whether I’m going to fall flat on my face.”
– Johnny Depp

chapteroneSo, have I mentioned that I’m writing a novel?

Finally.  After all of these years of writing poetry and essays, I finally decided to bite the bullet and give a novel a try.  I never thought I could do this.  First of all, I have never been the greatest at that whole “follow through” thing.  Oh you know how it is – you get these great big grandiose ideas in your mind, and maybe you even actually start on them, but to follow through?  Ok, I’m out.  That follow through thing takes too much work.  On to the next great idea…

You feel me?  Been there yourself?  Oh yeah – when it comes to follow through, jumping ship has always been my superpower.

And another reason I’ve been hesitant to write a novel?  Well, I’m not exactly a ‘fiction’ writer.  Most everything I’ve written over the years has just been observations of the world around me, not something that I  made up in my mind.  Yes, yes, I know all books don’t have to be fiction.  There are plenty of great non-fiction books out there in the world.  But something I came across once in some “how to be a writer” article or another was this piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten.  It said that there is something important that you need to remember when you are ready to take on the challenge of writing a novel.

“Write something that you would like to read.”

Although at first glance that seems pretty obvious, there’s actually much more wisdom to that than you might think.  While I have always written poetry and essays, when I go to a bookstore, are the poetry and essay books the first ones I head to?  Nope.  I like novels.  Fiction.  I love them.  I eat them up.  I love the ones about family connections, the ones about mysteries, the ones with a strong, likeable heroine as the main character….all that stuff.

So, why am I not writing that?

Well, other than the reasons I’ve mentioned before, there’s also the big reason.  The reason that we all have whenever we’re afraid to rise to any challenge in our lives.  What’s that reason, you ask?  Well, I think you know.

I’m afraid I’ll fail.

What if I spend all this time writing a fiction novel…and it blows?  You know?  I mean, it’s highly likely for that to be the case.  I’m not a novelist.  I’m a beginner.  It may never get read by anyone except my boyfriend Richard.  (You know he’ll be forced to read it. I’m sure he already thinks I’m a little crazy for talking about these characters as if they were real people as it is…)  It may never get published and may just remain a pile of words sitting on a computer hard drive somewhere for the rest of my life.

Or.

Or…maybe someone will like it.  Maybe it will get published.  And read.  And (as is the most important thing to me…), identified with.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Eh.  Either way.  It’s time to try, right?

I compare it to when I first started running.  I remember the absolute glee I felt the first time I ran one mile without stopping.  (Quotes?)  And then the first time I ran an actual 5K.  (Poetry?)  And then the pride and accomplishment I felt when I ran my first half marathon.  (Essays?).  Well, now it’s time to rise to the challenge and take it a step further.  Just as I never thought I’d be able to get this far with my running, I also thought I’d never get this far with my writing.  I have an essay published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, for Heaven’s sakes!  That’s a big deal.  And I’ve ran not one, but two half marathons.  The lesson to be learned is that I can do things that I never thought possible.

Maybe it’s time to step up my game?

So here’s to the future.  Here’s to a finished novel (good or bad) and to a full marathon one of these days.  It doesn’t have to be the best – it just has to get done.  It just has to.

Bucket list, make room.  A few more things are about to join the ranks…

***

“I want to challenge you today to get out of your comfort zone.  You have so much incredible potential on the inside.  God has put gifts and talents in you that you probably don’t know anything about.”
– Joel Osteen

Books

“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.”
– Vera Nazarian

booksOk, I’m bustin out the geek card for this blog.

I’m going to talk about how much I love books.  And, holy crap, do I love books!  I mean, I really really love books.

I saw the picture to the right on Facebook the other day, and I felt a little tingle in my stomach.  Seriously, I’m that big of a nerd!  I know that feeling of ‘magic’ that it’s referring to….the feeling of holding a book in your hand, smelling the pages, wondering what other life is waiting inside for you to slip into.  It’s addictive, man, I’m tellin’ ya.

And, admittedly, I do have a slight problem when it comes to that kind of addiction.  I’m obsessed with buying and owning these books, but I don’t exactly always get around to reading them.  You know what I mean?  It’s like the food thing – you know how when someone thinks they’re crazy hungry so they pile their plate with food and then they’re not quite able to finish it?  You call that your eyes being bigger than your stomach, right?  Or something like that.  Well, I have that problem with books.  My eyes are bigger than the amount of free hours I have in a day.  So, with that being the case, I own a huge bookshelf, overflowing with books, and I could honestly bet you that there are about 1/3 of them sitting there unread.

Eh.  Oh well.  I’m sure there are worse addictions to have.

librarySo, with this book addiction of mine comes another addiction.  The library.  Holy cow, the library is the greatest thing ever invented.  EVER.  I mean, hello?  There are thousands of books just sitting there waiting for you to borrow them and read them. For free!  What kind of person doesn’t take advantage of that?  Books.  For you to read.  For free.  Duuuuh!  Ok, am I the only person that gets this excited about books?  Please tell me I’m not.  Please?  Anybody?

I’m lucky enough to work right down the road from the local library.  And, apparently, I spend quite a bit of time there.  Just yesterday when I went by to check out a book, one of the librarians said, “I haven’t seen your name on the ‘hold’ list in a while.  Everything ok?”  Heh.  Um, wow.  Ok, first of all, I don’t even know this lady.  I’ve seen her quite a few times, of course, but there are many librarians that file in and out and I didn’t recall having seen her any more often than anyone else.  But apparently, she remembers me.  Strangely, that made me kind of proud.  See?  Nerd.

I have turned to that library so many times over the years.  Problems with the kids?  Head to the library.  There’s a parenting book for that.  Stressful day at work?  Head to the library at lunch.  Grab an easy read and sit in the stillness for an hour before you have to jump back into reality.  Relationship problems?  Head to the library.  Breathe in the quiet and calm and check out a book about relationship issues and find out where you’re going wrong.  [Funny tidbit on that topic: a friend of mine was going through a rough time in a relationship recently, so I went to the library and checked out my ‘go-to’ relationship book for her to read.  When I gave her my precious breakup bible, she realized there was a piece of paper stuck in it.  What was it, you ask?  A receipt.  My receipt.  The receipt from the last time I checked the book out was still in it.  Ha!  Apparently I’m the only one who reads that thing.  Isn’t it time for them to just give it to me??  By the way, the book is called “It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken” by the author of “He’s Just Not That Into You,” Greg Behrendt and his wife, Amiira.  It rocks.]

chickensoupAnd now that you know what a nerd I am about books, you’ll have a better understanding for why I’m so incredibly excited about what is getting ready to happen to me.  One of these days over the next few weeks, I’m going to get home from work and there is going to be a box waiting at my door.  And inside this box is going to be ten brand new books that haven’t even been released in the stores yet.  And you know why I’m getting that box of books?  Because my name is listed in them as an author.

My name is listed as an author.

Holy crap, just typing that sentence gave me goose bumps.  This silly blog that I started just nine short months ago, and that now is bordering on 13,000 views, has led me to this.  Because I took the chance that someone might like something that I had written, I am going to be a published author.  A published author!  The closer it gets, the more real it becomes.  My name is going to be listed among other writers in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game.  Me!  The lover of the written word, the nerd who can’t stay out of bookstores, the girl who is known on a first name basis by the librarian…I am now going to walk into these places knowing that somewhere within them lies a book that has my name in it.

Somebody pinch me!

Kind of strange how life works out sometimes, isn’t it?  I am so grateful to all of the authors that have come before me.  The ones who have written the many books that I have read and have shown me what pleasure can come from reading someone else’s story.  It blows my mind to think that I am going to be sitting on their side of the table now.  Somewhere someone will be in my place – they will be the nerd sitting at the bookstore or at the library or on their couch with their cat.  They will pick up this book and start reading a story that touches them in some way, and they’ll look to the name of the author, and it will be mine.  Mine.

Full circle, people.  Life always finds a way to come back full circle.

This is the stuff dreams are made of.

***

“It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition.”
– Isaac Asimov

Chicken Soup

I have been kind of keeping something a secret.

Oh, I don’t know why really.  I guess at first I wasn’t sure whether I should say something when I wasn’t 100% positive that it was going to be true (I’m still not sure really, but I’ll explain that soon enough).  Then, I was a little embarrassed to say something about it.  Not sure why that is either really.  I guess I just didn’t want to put the cart before the horse or whatever.  And then, finally, I was afraid to say something in fear of…well, I don’t know…jinxing it maybe?

But, alas, as my ever-helpful boyfriend said to me about my fear of the jinx (while quoting the great philosopher, Andy Griffith):

There’s no such thing, Barney.”

(Full of wisdom, that one is.)

Ok.  So, jinx be darned, I’m ready to spill my guts.

See this?

chickensoup

This is the cover of a new Chicken Soup for the Soul book that is being released on December 24.  And guess what?

There’s a very strong chance that one of my stories will be in it.

EEEEEEK!

Ok, let me back up a little and explain.

About four months ago, after starting my blog and getting some pretty positive feedback from people, I decided to try on a little confidence and see how it fit.  I started submitting some of my works.  Mostly, I entered a few little contests here and there (one of which I won!), but then I started looking into submitting works for publishing.  I stumbled across a webpage that listed various publishers and Chicken Soup for the Soul was on the list.  When I saw it, it was like a light bulb went off in my mind.

That’s it!

I had always had trouble deciding how to describe my writing.  My grandmother, who is not techno savvy AT ALL and has thus, of course, never seen my blog (and probably has never even heard of the word ‘blog’), would ask me “Well, Melissa, what is it that you write?”  I was stumped.  I had no idea how to answer that. The things I write certainly don’t fall into the “novel” category (I can barely hold a thought long enough to make a complete sentence, much less maintain a thought for the entire process of writing a NOVEL!  Sheesh!);  they aren’t short stories really (they aren’t long enough for that, and they’re not fiction); they’re not “essays” exactly, but that was what came to closest to describing them I supposed.  But I still couldn’t quite explain to her (or to anyone) what they were exactly.

And then I saw the request for submissions to Chicken Soup and realized that those were exactly what I write.  Just like what the Chicken Soup books are filled to the brim with, I write short little nonfiction personal accounts from my own life that I hope will somehow make a difference to someone else.  As my friend Chris Hansen once said in a Facebook status, “We are more alike than it seems.”  He followed it up with the following quote :

“We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.”
– Thích Nhất Hạnh

That was my goal.  I wanted many people from many walks of life – no matter their age, religion, social status, whatever – to look at the stories coming from this one little person floating out here on the planet along with them and think, “Hey! That sounds like me!” 

So, I decided to take a chance.  I sent in a submission to Chicken Soup for the Soul. 

Now, I know a lot of my blog readers are “closet writers” –  I know this because you tell me so with your “I wish I had the courage to do what you do” emails – so I’m going to describe a little bit about the process. (And for those of you who are not writers, I’ll try to keep it short so I don’t bore you to tears.  Or, if you want, you can skip this part.  You’re not going to hurt my feelings, I promise.)

First, I perused the Chicken Soup for the Soul webpage and found the “submit your story” link in a column on the left (which I’ll post at the bottom of this blog for you closet writers I referred to earlier…you know you wanna!).  When you click here, it will give you a list of some possible upcoming book topics.  You then submit your story based on one of these topics.  The story has to be nonfiction – it has to be something that happened to you or someone you know – and can’t be made up.  You actually have to sign a release form later swearing to the truth of what is contained in the story.  The submission is entirely electronic – you just copy and paste the story on to their site and fill in some info about yourself – and Voilà!  You’re done.  It’s that simple.  (And it’s free!)  And then what happens next?

You wait.

If your story isn’t chosen, you just don’t hear anything at all.  I’ve read that they can get thousands of entries on each individual topic. (Holy cow!)  And I’ve also read that it can sometimes take up to FOUR YEARS to hear back from them even if your story is chosen, depending upon when the production date is scheduled for that particular book.  So, if your story is chosen among the entries, you get an email from them letting you know.  (And that email gives you a small little heart attack and makes you cry…or so I’ve heard…) Then, you go on to provide them a small bio about yourself and sign release and waiver forms with regard to your material being printed in the book.

This is the step that I’m at now.  I have just sent in all of my legal forms and wrote a short bio about who I am (50 words or less – that was hard!) to be printed in the book if my story makes the final cut.  According to the assistant publisher (who I’ve spoken with by phone and email a few times at this point), the “vast majority” (her words) of the stories that have made it this far will be printed in the book.  However, if you’re familiar with the Chicken Soup books, you know that each book is divided into different sub-topics.  She explained that sometimes one sub-topic will be “too full” so to speak, and they may have to leave some stories out to keep it balanced.

So…it’s not 100% for sure that I’m in just yet – but I sure am starting to get my hopes up!  Keep your fingers crossed for me!  (And toes and eyes and whatever else you got…)

When (if?) I’m chosen to appear in the book, the next step will be that I will receive a printed copy of my story to proofread and edit if necessary.  Once the editing process is complete, and the book is bound, I will receive ten copies to keep, which I will receive prior to its release date of December 24.  One month after publishing, I’ll receive $200 payment for my story.

Wow.

I mean, the money is cool and all, but at this point – who the heck cares!?  I’m soooo close to having my work published in a national best-selling book.  Oh. My. Gosh.  As my daughter said when she heard the news, “I don’t understand why they pay you.  Shouldn’t you be paying them?” 

Yeah.  Exactly.

So, for the next few months, I am probably going to be a nervous wreck.  This could be such a huge deal for me.  This is big, folks.

But you know what?  I think that even if I am one of the unlucky few that have made it this far and yet don’t quite make it into the book in the end – I think it’s still pretty big, regardless.  Out of hundreds, maybe thousands, of submissions, my story was chosen.  Wow.  I’m honored, humbled, and blown away that this is happening to me.  And I have each and every one of you who are reading this right now to thank.  Because of you taking the time to read this blog and giving me your positive feedback over the months that I’ve been baring my soul for all the world to see, I have gained confidence.  I have started to believe that I’m actually a writer.  And because of that belief – I have taken a chance.  And it may possibly have paid off.

Big time.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming along with me on this crazy ride.  I’ll keep you posted!

***

“If you wish to be a writer, write.”
– Epictetus

Links:

Link to submit to Chicken Soup: http://www.chickensoup.com/form.asp?cid=possible_books

Link to read more about the Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game book and/or to pre-order a copy on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1611599296/102-7001014-7473727?ie=UTF8&tag=chisouforthes-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=1611599296

Writing Pays Off

So, Friday, June 21, 2013, I received my first-ever award for writing.  I won first place in the essay division of the Chautauqua Creative Writing Festival in Wytheville, Virginia.  Here is a picture of me with the guest speakers at the event, authors Mary Lin Brewer and Rosa Lee Jude.  (They are co-authors for a new historical fiction book series entitled The Legends of Graham Mansion.)  My sweet boyfriend Richard who came along took this picture for us.  I’m shown with the certificate that was presented to me for my “meritorious writing abilities.”  It really says that right there on the certificate.

Meritorious writing abilities.

Awesome.

award

But you know what’s even more awesome?  Here’s the picture I really wanted to take while I was there, but was too chicken and decided to wait for a more tactful setting.  Safe at home.

checkpic

Cha-ching!

Oh yeah, baby.  That’s a check.  A real live check for my writing.  MY WRITING.  A check.  Holy cow!

It’s such an awesome feeling to get a check for doing something that you just love to do for fun.  I think back to the day I wrote the particular entry that won this contest, and I am blown away that that feeling of insecurity that overcame me at the time managed to lead to such an awesome thing.  Isn’t that crazy?

There I was, sitting in the middle of an uncomfortable “woe is me” situation, and then fast forward a few months and I’m holding a check in my hand because of it.  Interesting.

Kind of makes you think a little, doesn’t it?

Who’s to say that whatever crap you’re dealing with right now at this very moment isn’t going to lead to something as awesome as that?  It’s worth considering, wouldn’t you say?

Hang in there.  It all happens for a reason, my friends.

***

“Everything happens for a reason.  That reason causes change.  Sometimes the change hurts.  Sometimes the change is hard.  But in the end, it’s all for the best.”
– Rita Ghatourey

Links if you’re interested:

Entry that won the contest: https://missyspublicjunk.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/fully-dressed/

Info on the Legends of Graham Mansion as referenced above: http://www.legendsofgrahammansion.com/