Tuesday, March 25, 2008

April Friend's Day

One week from today I'm going to be speaking at the Spring Event for Club 31, a ministry of The Living Center in a nearby town. Club 31 is calling the evening April Friend's Day since the date happens to be April 1. There will be a catered banquet followed by entertainment and a speaker. The speaker is me! Holy smokes, I'm a writer--not a speaker. But I have to admit, nerves aside, I am really looking forward to this fun opportunity. Especially because I consider myself a bit of a expert on the topic of friendship. Not because I am such a great friend, but because I have such great friends.

I've titled the talk, "The Proverbs 31 Woman: Behind the Curtain." Guess who is behind the curtain? You. Her friends, sisters, aunties, mom, and grandmas. Got a great story about how a woman you love stood behind the curtain for you and helped you succeed in some small (or big) way on the stage of life? I'd love to hear about it. Post a comment or drop me an email! And when you're done, track this lovely behind-the-scenes lady down and give her a hug.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Revamped Website

In preparation for the release of Summer Snow, the incredible father-son duo at Maverick Media (my web designers) freshened up my website. If you read my blog but haven't checked out the rest of the site lately, I encourage you to do so. You can read the first chapters of After the Leaves Fall and Summer Snow on the Books tab, view a video interview on the Bio page, and keep up-to-date on what's new on the News tab. Don't forget to pre-order Summer Snow! I received an email from my editor at Tyndale today telling me that the books are in house... That means they'll be on shelves soon!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thoughts from a starved mind...

For the last few years I have tried to give up something for Lent. You know, the concept of setting aside the weeks leading to Easter as a time to realign your priorities. The idea is that you use an act of discipline to sharpen your focus. In the past, I've given up chocolate and wine, sweets (in general) and red meat. Two years ago, Aaron and I fasted the entire day of Maundy Thursday so that our first taste of food would be the communion we shared with our church that evening. But this year, I just plain forgot. Seriously. Somehow the whole Lent thing slipped my mind. Not sure how that happened...

Anyway, since it is Holy Week, I decided to participate in a mind-body-spirit cleanse. For the first few days of this week I am unofficially a vegan. Then, starting on Friday I can slowly add other foods such as whole grains, dairy products, and even meat. I'm not allowed to drink anything other than water or tea, and these have to be consumed in copious amounts. As the week goes on, my body will (hopefully) cleanse itself of all the junk I usually put in it: caffeine, free radicals, and who knows what else. And as I discipline myself to follow this strict regimen, I hope to spend lots of time in prayer and devotion.

It's been a nice week so far. I have done my devotions with fervor and prayed earnestly. But it's mostly because... I'm hungry!!! Oh, I am so hungry! How in the world do vegans do it?!? Or even vegetarians? Though I'd gladly be a vegetarian right now--I would just about club someone for a nice hunk of sharp cheese... Or a glass of cold skim milk... Argh. I have to stop torturing myself.

At least a dozen times a day I think: I'm quitting. This is ridiculous. Why am I doing this? But then I think about how easy my life normally is. I hardly know the meaning of the word discipline. I don't know what it feels like to have to give up something that I dearly love. I don't have to sacrifice much of anything. Hmmm. Makes me think of another sacrifice. I suppose that's the very point.

Well, it's only Tuesday night, but I think I've just renewed my energy for this whole thing. A few minutes ago my husband left the room carrying a bag of Doritos and I almost followed him like a puppy dog, begging for just a few. But I won't. At least, not tonight. I hope and pray I have the willpower to do this... In the meantime, I'm hungry and there's a bunch of carrots calling my name.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Interview on Writer... Interrupted

With Summer Snow set to release in just over a month, I will be popping in a few different places for interviews and reviews. Gina Conroy at Portrait of a Writer... Interrupted has graciously offered to host me today. Since Gina's blog focuses on being a mom and a writer, you'll learn a lot about how I balance (or try to balance) being a mother, a wife, and an author. Read my tips for getting back on track after being interrupted, and learn how I attempt to juggle writing, staying in shape, and mothering. I'm no pro, but I love to dialogue about this kind of stuff. Anyway, you can also win a FREE BOOK simply by leaving a comment. Gina will pick one person who leaves a comment to receive a signed copy of Summer Snow from me. Head on over and check it out! Don't forget to leave a comment!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Book Club Selection

After the Leaves Fall is the March Faith Point Book Club selection for Books-A-Million! There is a great discussion guide as well as other suggestions for reading Leaves with your book club. Check it out! And if you do have a book club that would like to discuss Leaves, I'd love to participate in some way. Drop me an email and I'll answer some of your questions or even set up a time for a phone chat with your group.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It's warm!

In case you haven't already clued in, the weather has a huge impact on my mood and productivity. The last few days have been in the fifties! Woo-hoo! Can I get an amen?! I cannot believe how much more motivated and happy I am when I can be outside--I'm convinced I was born to be outdoors. Anyway, not only have I splashed through countless puddles with my boys, taken long, slushy walks down melting sidewalks, and organized my entire house, I've also been writing like a wild woman. Nearly twenty pages yesterday alone! That's almost 4,000 words. If I can keep this up, I'll be finished with novel number three in a week. Although, I suppose I shouldn't count on keeping this up. But it would be nice...

Since I'm laughing so much these days, I thought I'd share a few of my funnies with you. As always, my four-year-old spews wisdom daily and for some reason (hmmm, could it be the sunshine?) I find him particularly hilarious right now. Enjoy!

-Every night my son prays this version of the classic bedtime prayer, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: Mommy lay me down to sleep, I praise the Lord my soul to keep... Thank you for the cow jumping over the moon.

-He's famous for his made-up knock-knock jokes: Knock-knock. Who's there? Me. Me who? Me gonna tickle you!

-After above silly knock-knock joke: Mommy, open up your armpit! I promise I won't tickle it--I just want to look at it.

-Coming up the stairs at Papa and Nana's house wearing reindeer antlers from Christmas: I'm an ibex. Really? What's an ibex? An ibex is an animal that hits other boys with his horns so he can get the girl.

-On growing up: When I grow up I'm going to be a policeman, a fireman, a dirt bike racer, a skateboard guy, a race car driver, a garbage man, a hockey player, a football player, and a penguin. What about a pastor? Do you want to be a pastor like your daddy? No way! That's too boring for me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mommy Moment

Tonight the Baart family loaded up two hockey bags full of stinky equipment and headed down to the local ice rink for our end of the year banquet and game. Aaron is a coach and my oldest son is a Termite. Yup, you read that right: you’ve got your Mites (they’re the little guys), the Mini-Mites (self-explanatory), and then there’s the Termites (squirts so tiny you marvel that they can manage to stay upright beneath all that equipment). Dressing my son for practice is a fifteen-minute affair replete with shin guards, elbow pads, knee socks, garter, hockey shorts, shoulder pads, jersey, and helmet. Did I mention ice skates? Lacing those things up is a five-minute job in and of itself. Oh, but I love it. What could be more fun than watching him scoot around the ice?

I have to admit though, in prepping for tonight it never once crossed my mind that I would have one of those intense “mommy moments.” You know the ones--those brief yet poignant realizations that my baby is not my baby anymore…

After the banquet the hockey association had a brief meeting for parents during which the kids had a free skate with the guys from the college hockey team. My Big Boy is only four. I never imagined that he’d jump on the ice with all those older kids and let mom and dad disappear. But that’s exactly what he did! He got all geared up, stepped one foot out onto the ice, and never looked back. I missed him so much during the meeting! And you better believe I beat a fast track back to the rink the second the buzzers went off for the Zamboni. In the midst of dozens and dozens of kids, there was my sweet baby, calmly taking off all his equipment and chatting with the boys next to him. Sigh. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when his daddy geared up for the coaches’ game against the Bantam’s and Big Boy trotted off happily to find his new friends. I looked at my real Baby and said, “It’s just you and me, honey.” Except for that he’s a total chick magnet and had his own group of little admirers around him in no time. Sigh again. My boys are four and one. How can they be growing up so fast?

As I tucked my boys in tonight, I kissed their soft cheeks and whispered, “Mommy loves you to the moon and back,” just like I’ve done every single night since they became my sons. But tonight I couldn’t help whispering a prayer as I left their rooms: Lord, help me savor these precious years.

And then I spent a little time with Kahlil Gibran. From The Prophet:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you, but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
And He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So He loves also the bow that is stable.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Festival Reading

I have to admit that while I once fully believed in the concept of global warming, I'm starting to wonder if the whole thing isn't just one big conspiracy after all. Of course, I'm kidding. I do think global warming is undeniable, but it's a tough pill to swallow when this winter seems ENDLESS! It snowed again on Tuesday (nearly four more inches!) and we have yet to crack the freezing barrier this week. Argh. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was commonplace when we lived on the West Coast, but usually the sunny winters of the Midwest aren't quite so depressing. Not so this year. I'm definitely SAD. Though, I am starting to look forward to April. I bought my tickets for Grand Rapids today and decided that travel plans are a balm for the soul--I can't wait to attend the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing!

In anticipation of hearing all the wonderful speakers, I went through the list and picked out the "not-to-be-missed" presenters. Then I made a reading list for myself, a collection of all of the books I hope to have read in time for the festival. Looks like I need to get cracking (though, thankfully, I've already read some). Anyway, all of these books are supposedly marvelous and I can't wait to get reading. Good thing the weather is miserable and there's not much else to do... Hopefully some of these will spark your interest, too.

Elizabeth Strout - Amy and Isabelle

Haven Kimmel - A Girl Named Zippy (memoir)

Edward P. Jones - The Known World

Michael Chabon - The Yiddish Policeman's Union

Yann Martel -The Life of Pi

Luci Shaw - Breath for Bones

Rob Bell - Velvet Elvis, Sex God

Francine Rivers - take your pick

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Banner Ads

Tyndale House Publishing is launching a campaign about discovering new voices. I'm so excited to be considered one of them! Check out the great ads. And they look even better in print! Yesterday, Aaron and I took the boys out for a cookie and a game of tag in the mall and the owner of our local Christian book store called me over to show me the back cover of a magazine she had just received. The entire page was filled with the ad below. How cool is that?