Guest Post on Praying the Rosary

Woo hoo! I got to write a guest post for Carly Gelsinger‘s series From Grape Juice to Red Wine, stories of people shifting from mainstream, conservative, or fundamentalist evangelical to “high church” liturgical traditions.

I had the chance to meet Carly in person at the Faith & Culture Writers Conference a couple of weeks ago.  She’s really cool, the sort of person who makes you feel like you’ve known her forever even though it’s only been a single weekend.  She has a way of putting people at ease with her warmth. The coolest thing was finding someone else who shared my own experience–that of choosing (rather than having it forced on us) a conservative evangelical path before finding our way out again.

I’m excited to add my voice to the conversation, especially because it echoes my own journey so well.  Go check out my post, and while you’re at it, give Carly some bloggy love on her other writing.  Happy Friday!

On being “gifted”

Last night, I read Glennon Melton’s post about calling kids “gifted” and this response to her.  Today, I read Glennon’s response on Facebook.  Because I believe she truly does want to understand, here is my answer.

Dear Glennon,

You will probably never read this, but I’m going to write it anyway because I sense that you honestly do want to know why some of us felt a little (oh, fine, a lot) defensive about your post on giftedness.

I’m going to be honest–I didn’t actually read your blog before unless someone linked to it.  I admit that I always kind of felt a little judged by you.  That might have been because the specific posts I read were often passed along by people who actually were judging me, so please forgive me for that.  That said, I didn’t have an open mind when reading your post on the word “gifted.”

It made me angry at first.  I’m the mom of a gifted child (in the label sense).  My immediate reaction was, “Dang.  How did we become a culture of people getting all tied up in knots over a word?  Let go of your need to have your child be a special snowflake, people!”

So I did what comes naturally–I grouched about it on Facebook.  In the comments, a friend suggested I watch your TED Talk.  I rolled my eyes and replied that I would.  (Yeah, I’m not very nice sometimes; I’m not proud of that.)  And then I watched it.

Oh, my.

I cried.  I cried because I know intimately that feeling of wearing a cape and pretending.  I’ve done it my whole life too.  My cape is being angry and self-righteous.  I’ve mostly shed it, but it sometimes begs to be taken out and worn.  Kind of like how I reacted to your post about gifted children.

So I thought about it, and I decided I want to help you understand.  You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I wonder if you’re seeing the label of “gifted” as being a kind of cape–something to hide a child’s real self.  If that’s so, then I want to tell you that you have it backwards.  My son’s gifted label is not his cape; it’s his freedom.

For us–for my son and for me–being told that he is gifted and has ADHD gave him wings.  Suddenly, he didn’t have to try to be just like every other child.  He could have his needs met, just like the child who has a learning disability or autism or physical limitations.  He could be fully, completely himself.  No pretending.  No cape.

Sometimes, I envy my son.  He loves who he is: highly intelligent, creative, musical, energetic, sassy, cheerful, sensitive, friendly, confident.  Unlike me, he is entirely comfortable in his own skin.  Knowing there’s a name for some of the ways in which his brain works differently is an important part of understanding and feeling good about himself.

I know you believe the word “gifted” is a frustrating term.  Right now, it’s the best one we have.  It isn’t a descriptor of gifts, it’s about the overall way in which children like my son are unique, just like other labels for brain function.  It’s not a reference to specific talents, such as playing the piano or being particularly good at math or art or soccer.  One can be a gifted musician or a talented writer without being given the overall distinction of gifted.  They’re not synonymous.

Maybe someday, we will have a better word that explains the difference between a gift and being gifted.  Until then, children who are gifted should not be ashamed to be given that title, and parents should not be ashamed to use it to describe their children.  Nor should children be ashamed for not being labeled gifted, in the same way no one should be ashamed of not having ADHD.

I hope that helps bring understanding, and I hope I’ve said it in a way that is kind and not shaming or hurtful.  We’re all on this planet together, and we parents have the responsibility to our kids not to make it harder for them by arguing amongst ourselves, particularly over such small things as words.

Much love on this parenting journey,

Amy

WIPpet Wednesday: Party Time

Happy Wednesday! It’s been quite a week, in a good way.  I have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks, but for now, I’m going to enjoy popping around to read all the great WIP snippets.

As for mine, I’m very sad to say goodbye to Phin and Company, but it’s time to move on.  If I don’t, I’ll just keep finding things to fix.  In the interest of not obsessing, I’m going to pick up my next story starting in April.  Which means I’d better get a move on writing it!

Last week when I took a poll, most people wanted to see Phin squirm, so here it is.  In this scene, Alex and the others have brought Phin to a weekend arts festival. They’re at a private party for one of Eunice’s friends. Despite his people-reading skills, I’ve always seen Phin as an introvert; this party is his (and my!) idea of hell.  Also, several people have been giving Phin alcoholic punch but telling him it’s “not strong,” and misfortune ensues.  I may or may not have been present for the real-life situation on which this is based.  My advice: Do not drink the punch unless you know exactly what’s in it.

My WIP math: 3/26/14 = 3+2+6+1+4 = 16 paragraphs, a nice long section in honor of my last post from this novel.

Phin relaxed and finished the second drink then tried again to find any of the people he’d come with. It shouldn’t have been hard, as it wasn’t crowded. For some reason, he seemed to be getting further away from the center of the house where he assumed the others had ended up. Before he could accomplish his mission, another guest handed him a cup of something similar to his previous two. Phin protested, “I really don’t drink.”

The man, who looked like he might have been trying to relive his parents’ hippie adolescence, dismissed him. “Nah, there’s nothing in this one. It’s the one with the blackberries you want to watch out for.”

Just as he was about to move on, the man grabbed his arm. “Where’re you going, babe?” He leered and leaned in a little too close for Phin’s comfort.

Phin had had enough and deemed the man an ass. “Oh, fuck off, will you? I’m here with someone else.” He shook himself free and tried to disappear, not checking to see if The Ass was following him.

On his way through the crowd—which seemed to have grown exponentially since Phin’s last attempt—at least three more people offered him a drink. Someone finally just shoved something at him, and Phin had to take it in order not to slop liquid all over himself. He frowned and looked for a place to get rid of it. What was wrong with people at this party? He couldn’t find a table, so he sipped some off the top to keep it from sloshing over the side while he weaved among people. At one point, he thought he spotted The Ass and quickly ducked behind someone to hide. Unfortunately, his legs didn’t seem to be working properly, and he bashed his shoulder into the wall.

“Ow,” he said loudly enough that a couple of people turned to look at him, puzzled frowns on their faces.

By the time Phin reached Alex, he knew he needed to get out of there. Whatever he’d been drinking was already causing him to feel fuzzy. He hadn’t had nearly enough to eat, and he wasn’t much of a drinker—intoxication tended to mess with his ability to manipulate situations in his favor. This was definitely not pleasant.

“I’m really not feeling great,” he managed. “And a pretend hippie who apparently finds me hot might or might not be looking for me.” The hand holding his cup shook, and Alex took it from him. “What the hell is in that punch?” Phin rubbed his face.

Alex’s eyebrows shot up. “I don’t know.”

The Ass, who obviously had been looking for Phin, appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Phin groaned, and Alex shot him a look of confusion before addressing the other man. “Oh, hey, Dave.” He leaned in, and they exchanged a quick, chaste peck on the cheek.

Phin felt slightly nauseated at the sight. “Wait, you know The Ass?” He hadn’t meant to say that; his private nickname for the man just slipped out. “Shit. Sorry.”

Dave laughed. “Nice. Alex, tell me this isn’t your date for the night.”

Alex glanced over at Phin. “Sort of, yes.”

“You might want to get him out of here before he does something stupid.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. Speaking of that, I think I’ve reached my limit for the night. Would you mind telling Renee thank you for us? We’ll see ourselves out.”

Later, Phin couldn’t recall how he’d gotten back to the townhouse. The details were blurry, in part because he spent the entire car ride trying not to throw up.

And there you have it.  You’ll just have to wait to read the whole thing now if you want to see these characters again.

Feel free to join us by connecting a bit of your WIP with the date and linking up here.  Thanks again to K. L. Schwengel for hosting us!

WIPpet Wednesday: His Is Quite Fine

So, this is my temporary bloggy home.  I combined my fiction blog with my regular blog into one place.  In a matter of months, I will have a brand-new page that I built (well, okay, that my husband built for me), complete with beautiful graphics that I’m actually paying someone else to create.  There will be some other good stuff on there as well, and I’m really excited.  For now, all my online writing is in this space so I can keep it nice and tidy until Moving Day.

In other news, I’m sort of dragging my feet over my new story.  It takes me a long time to feel like I really know the characters and settings.  The one I’ve been posting, tentatively titled Lower Education, took me 6 months before I had some good flow.  It started as a vastly different kind of story and evolved.  I have no doubt the new one will be the same.

This is the second to last post about Phin and Company.  I’m running out of things I want to share (I have to save some of my best lines for actual publication!), and I can’t give away too much of the plot.  My WIPpet math: 19 (today) + 3 + 1 + 4 = 27 sentences.  The context is that outside of his work at the school, Alex is a dance instructor.  He’s organized a charity event, and he and the kids have all performed.  This takes place immediately afterward.

They accompanied Dani when she went to round up the kids from backstage.  When they arrived, Dani discovered that Phin had beaten them there and was talking to Alex.

Gia’s expression dissolved into a pout. “Why are all the good ones always taken?” She sighed. “He’s a little old for me anyway. He’s still cute, though.”

“And has a nice ass,” Dani and Eunice chorused.

“You’ve only mentioned that fifty times or so,” Eunice said.

Gia discovered her inner five-year-old and stuck out her tongue at them just as Alex and Phin joined them.

“Great job,” Eunice told Alex. “Very nice. I haven’t seen you do that one before.”

He nodded. “Just a little something I’ve been working on especially for tonight.” He exchanged a glance with Phin, and Dani was sure Phin’s cheeks grew faintly pink.

Phin changed the subject by turning to Gia and saying, “I heard what you said just now, and I’m flattered that you have such high regard for my ass. But you’re selling yourself short. What about that one guy at school who brought you your phone? I think he likes you.”

“Who? Oscar?” Gia frowned. “I don’t think so. He hardly says a word to me.”

Phin shrugged. “Then maybe you need to do the talking.”

All right.  So for my last (*sniff*) post about these people (I am really struggling to let them go!), what do you all want to see?  Here are the options I’m considering:

  1. A humorous incident with Phin really out of his element
  2. A nice (and somewhat amusing) moment between Dani and her teenage son
  3. A steamy interaction (well, part of one, anyway–I don’t want to spoil it)

Leave a comment, and whichever has the most interest, that’s what I’ll post.

As always, thanks go to K. L. Schwengel for hosting.  Come out and play with us by adding your link here.  Happy reading and writing!

Random Tuesday Confessions

Sometimes, I just have collections of thoughts swirling in my brain.  I need to expel them so I can have a clear head.

1. My faith has changed a lot, and I don’t hold the same exclusivist view of salvation I once did.  But sometimes, I’m still scared of hell.

2. Sometimes, I’m even scared I might be heading there myself.

3. I don’t laugh at all my kids’ jokes.  They’re old enough now that I tell them when they aren’t making sense.  I do try not to be mean about it, though.

4. I write a lot of crap that never sees the light of day.  I don’t even show my family.

5. I get nervous about sending my work to people just for guest posts.

6. Writing fiction scares me much more than writing blog posts.  I’m a lot more worried about “getting it wrong” when it comes to how I’ve portrayed people.

7. My favorite genre is contemporary romance, but I prefer stories that have a lot more plot than smut.

8. Editing erotica is not sexy.  Like, at all.  It’s super clinical.  If you think it’s one big hot love fest, you’ve obviously never had to pick at it for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  Also, you’d be surprised at how many people think they are writing great sex when they’re really just…not.

9. I get embarrassed at writing sex scenes–not because I’m embarrassed about sex but because of what I just wrote in #8.  I’d rather “fade to black” than write something awful.

10. I occasionally write fanfic.  No, you can’t read it.  I use it to play around with concepts before using the same structures in “real” novelling.

11. I prefer writing from a man’s POV.  All that crap about how women are “complex” and men are “simple”?  Nonsense.  The complexity and the challenge is exactly why I like writing men.

12. I’m worried that people won’t like my work, but I’m even more scared that they will.

What’s on your mind today?

Housekeeping, Honesty, and Changes

I promised I would post more about the Faith and Culture Writers Conference, so I’m back with another post.  I could tell you about the almost magical experience of having my eyes opened to new ways of thinking about my writing and the practice of writing.  I could go on forever about how good it was not to feel alone in some of my feelings about writing.  But there is one big thing I learned about myself that pretty well overshadows the rest, if only because the rest falls into place after understanding it.

Here it is: I discovered that I have a lot of trouble being honest with myself as a writer.  I’m pretty good at knowing what I’m feeling, even if I don’t always handle myself well.  But when it comes to writing, I still doubt, second-guess, and let shame and fear hold me prisoner.

Those are things I need to let go of.  I’m tired of the emotional drain of holding back because I think someone won’t like the real me through my writing.  Oddly, I don’t fear people disliking me the person–life has shown me I have nothing to worry about there.  People like me or they don’t; it doesn’t bother me either way.  Yet as a writer, I still want approval in some way.  I’ve seen it happen time and again that people become the devil incarnate for writing something that someone else doesn’t like or agree with.  It’s this tendency to put people on pedestals and then have our hopes dashed when they turn out not to be perfect.  I suppose I would rather have people see me as flawed first, rather than hating me later because I ruined their image of me.

While I was at the conference, I missed an opportunity to use my writing honestly.  I volunteered for an exercise, and our charge was to write an obituary for one of our fictional characters.  Instead of writing what I wanted to, I crossed it out and started over, using humor to cover my insecurity that what I had wasn’t good enough or might offend someone.

I’m done with that.

I realized that I’ve been hiding my fiction writing from my regular blog audience by keeping it compartmentalized.  Sure, I link to the occasional stories or snippets of my work-in-progress.  But it’s still in its own space, a gap between that and what I write here.  I told myself it was because they’re too dissimilar.  Fiction can’t possibly belong here because the first “rule” of blogging is to have narrow focus.  In reality, I just didn’t want to have to share it and be vulnerable that way.

As part of my move forward, I need to be able to share what’s inside me.  My fiction doesn’t stray far from my passion for a more loving, inclusive faith as expressed here.  Years ago, a friend said that when I was ready, I should “keep open house with my heart.”  That’s what I want to do.

Next week, you’ll see some changes.  First, I’m combining my other blog with this one, and I’m going to change the look of the page.  This is temporary; I’m in process of creating my own piece of Internet real estate in the form of purchased hosting.  I have a lot of reasons for this change, not the least of which is my own readiness to move forward with my writing.  That will take a while, and when it’s ready, I’ll let you know what’s coming.

Second, I’m going to begin using the name under which I plan to publish.  This is not dishonesty; the name still belongs to me, and I’m reclaiming it as part of my identity as a woman and as a writer.  I’ll be using my initials and my birth name.  I promise I’m still the same person.  My legal name is still important to me as it relates to my connectedness with my family, but my family is not who I am.  I need that separation from my label as WifeMommy.

For those of you who have subscribed, liked my posts, commented, and followed me, many thanks.  I hope you’ll stick with me on this road.  Further up and further in, my friends!

WIPpet Wednesday: A Tender Moment

Happy Wednesday!  Here in western NY, we’re having a raging snow storm.  Everyone is home from school, and I’m lounging on the couch with my laptop.  Sadly, this may mean the concert I was supposed to play in tonight will be canceled.  Ah, well.

A bit of housekeeping: I’ve decided to take the plunge and purchase Internet real estate.  That means in preparation for porting my blog to its new home, I’m going to combine this one with my other one (where I write about faith/church/social justice).  A lot of my fiction falls in that category too, so it’s all good.  I just don’t want anyone to be alarmed that the URL is different when I post stuff.  I should have that all done in the next couple of days, so my next WIPpet will be on the combined blog.  The switch to my own site won’t happen for a while yet.

For today’s WIPpet, I’m returning to Phin’s world.  I’ll have my new WIP well on its way by April, so I’ll post more of it then.  In the meantime, I thought you’d like to read a nice moment between Dani and Vic, since the last encounter with them was contentious.  No special math, just a bit from the 3rd scene of chapter 12.

He looked at her, his eyes suddenly full of tenderness. “You’re a fiery woman. How could I not love you?”

She laughed and turned toward him, drawing him in for another kiss. This time, they didn’t stop, letting heat and need build between them for several long, intense moments. Eventually, Vic pulled back slightly to look at Dani.

“Do you need to get back?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I’m not in a hurry. Phin and Alex are with the kids.”

He eyed her. “And they won’t wonder what happened to you?”

“No.” She made a face. “And I hope they’re not trying to guess, either.”

Vic laughed and stood up, causing Dani to lurch sideways. She glared at him until he extended his hand to her, which she accepted reluctantly. He pulled her to her feet.

“Then let’s take our time,” he suggested.

He drew her up the stairs and into the bedroom. The early evening sun streamed in the window, muted by the partially drawn curtains. Slowly, they undressed each other, pausing in between to kiss and touch. They lingered, enjoying the freedom to be unhurried by their responsibilities and the need to maintain secrecy.

Many thanks to K. L. Schwengel for hosting.  Don’t forget to link up and read the other entries!