Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Journeying Together

I've recently joined a small group of fellow authors that is interested in better understanding who we are and who we write for. If you've been reading my blog for a while you know that I've touched on this topic before--most notably when I signed a new book contract with Simon & Schuster and had to give some serious thought to the concept of branding. I'm no expert, but I'm slowly learning... And I'm starting to realize that the better I grasp this, the more meaningful my work will be.

Believe it or not, it's not just about selling books (at least, for me it's not). Of course, that would be a nice side effect, but I am convinced, heart and soul, that we all want to be a part of something that matters. According to Seth Godin in his book Tribes: "People want connection and growth and something new. They want change... We [all] want to belong." Yes! I do! I want my life to make a difference and I want that passion to translate into every area of my being, not just my spirituality or my understanding of good and bad or right and wrong.

This desire for positive change impacts so many areas of my life that sometimes it's hard to pinpoint what I am most passionate about. Some of my most engaging interests are:

  • Writing. My books are much more than a paycheck for me. They're a way to engage the world around me, to point to beauty in brokenness, and to explore things that I don't fully understand. When I write, I long to engage people in a conversation.
  • Philanthropy. Our non-profit (One Body One Hope) consumes me. I can totally see the Baart family ending up in Liberia someday, for a much more extended stay than a two week mission trip. I would love to do life with our friends in West Africa.
  • Motherhood. Before I had kids, I never considered myself the motherly type. But now that I'm a mom to a six-year-old, a three-year-old, and a soon-to-be newborn, I take bringing up children very seriously. My job as a mom takes first place above any of my other pursuits.
  • Adoption. I've always been drawn to adoption, but now that I'm a bona-fide adoptive mother I'm downright rabid about it. I take seriously the biblical mandate to care for widows and orphans, and I love advocating for the least of these.
  • Simplicity. With the current recession forcing the entire country to reassess our finances and the extravagant way we live, this doesn't seem like such a unique passion. But living a simple, un-busy life is something I've always longed for. From re-examining the concept of frugality, to getting rid of processed foods in my home and buying local, I believe that contentment can be found in refusing to give in to the lies of our materialistic culture. I hope to continue to explore this idea in the coming months and years.
Okay, these are just a few of my interests and passions. But right now I'm trying to condense all of this information and apply it to my career as an author. I'm trying to answer the following questions: Who reads my books (or would love to read my books if they only knew about them)? And, even more importantly, what can I offer these people? What do we have in common, and what has the potential to draw us closer so that we want to continue journeying together?

I have a couple of questions for you today and I would be so grateful if you would take a moment to answer them!

Question #1: Who are you? Tell me a bit about yourself... Include as much or as little as you want!

Question #2: What are you passionate about? I mentioned five of my pursuits, now what captures your imagination?

*As an added bonus, I'll tie a giveaway into this little exercise. I have a lovely, signed book up for grabs. All you have to do is leave a comment and I'll pick one winner from the bunch. Thanks for reading!


  1. Hi. I'm a stay-at-home mom of a 4 1/2 year old and a mom to 4 nearly grown kids as well.
    I'm passionate about ministry to women(especially those who've been abused or are in pain) as well as animal protection, social justice, holistic health and nutrition.

  2. My name is Melissa, I am 33( 34 on Aug 4th) I have been married to Jim for 14 years we have 4 children Madison(14) Dale (12) Carlee(9) and Miles(2) I am a christian, I love the Lord and Im a homeschooling mom. I love to read,cook and craft. I love hangin out with my kids and hubby.I love teaching my kids the ways of the Lord. I love being frugal. I have to say I have never read one of your books and I really would love to, I read tons of christian fiction Kathy Herman,Francine Rivers and bible studies sometimes I get stuck on just reading books by people I am comfortble with Id love to add you to that list. I thought this would be the perfect time being you were giving away a book :) Anyhow I love following you on facebook a friend recommended you and I am so happy she did Thanks for inspiring words

  3. So nice to "meet" you, Valerie and Melissa!

    Valerie, I'm also passionate about ministry to women... in fact, I consider my books a form of women's ministry. Someone once told me that you can have many passions, but only a few callings. That seems to make sense to me. There are so many things that I get fired up about, but I can't give myself 100% to them all. Anyway, I'm glad that there are other people who rise to the occasion! I guess that's God equipping his body, eh? Keep cultivating that important passion!

    Melissa, wow! You have your hands full! I admire homeschooling moms so much. I tossed around the idea of homeschooling myself until I realized that no one in the Baart home would survive if we had to be in each other's space 24/7. However, many of my friends homeschool and I am continually astounded by the maturity, wisdom, and grace their children possess. Blessings to you.

  4. Well, as you know, my name is Lauren. I'm a lover of the bucolic atmosphere, old things, things with history, things with story. I love nature and how it connects us with God. But most importantly, I'm a lover of words. I find joy in learning new words and tucking them away into a crevice of my brain to use later; I love stringing them together to make a beautiful, thought-provoking sentence, paragraph, story - which is what it all comes back to for me.

    Now as for my five:
    1. Thoughts: I love having thoughts, musings, wonderments. I love talking about them. Speaking of talking...

    2. Conversation: I love conversing with my best friend, with God, with someone to who I can relate.

    3. Peace: At times I feel like it is one of my life's goals to find peace within myself. Not just with myself, but within, relating to peace with others, with ideas, with occurrences.

    4. Water: This may seem odd, but I am infatuated with water at times. I'll take showers when I don't need them. I dream of living on a lake, beach, river, etc. Even if I just had a pond out back. I find stories interesting that talk of the symbolics of water and what it means to them and their characters. It has a lot of meaning to me, especially spiritually and Biblically.

    5. Flaws: It's what makes us human. It's interesting to me what our flaws say about us as humans, and how we handle ourselves when we take notice of our flaws. Are we quick to apologize? Are we proud? Are we stubbornly loyal? Are we perfectionists? Do we acknowledge our flaws, or disregard them?

    6. Writing: And then of course there's this. I don't know how else to express myself. I can think of several occasions where I found it easier to write what I was trying to say rather than speaking it. I've written a letter to my best friend about something personal because I didn't know how to say it, yet writing the words made it easier.

  5. My name is Brittany and I am a 22 years old. I was originally born in Lubbock, TX but moved to a teeny-tiny town in The Land of Enchantment (New Mexico) called Nogal when I was 8 years old. I recently graduated from Abilene Christian University (in Texas) with a degree in Family Studies and a Minor in Bible. In 6 days I am moving to Olathe, Kansas to pursue my Masters in Marriage & Family Counseling. Am I completely crazy for only having a three week break between college and grad school?!? I hope not : ). I am a daughter, a sister, an introvert, a dreamer, a lover, a photographer, a reader, a food-blog stalking fiend, a hiker, a baker, a curly-haired embracer, a lover of God's grace, and a lover of mountains.

    One of my passions is camp ministry. I have worked at the same Nazarene church camp for the past 6 summers and I am constantly amazed by the faith in children and their passion to learn and soak in God's love. I have seen God's grace and love move through so many people's lives. God is good.

    Another passion of mine is helping people in their relationships. I believe God has given us the ultimate example of relationships with His Trinity and God has created us for relationships- relationships with Him, with others, and within ourselves. I want to shed light on the sanctity of marriage and help the world view it as the covenant relationship God created it to be rather than the contractual relationships so many people view it as today.

    Nicole, I've loved your books. I remember walking through Books-a-Million a couple years ago and spotting the cover of After the Leaves Fall and stopping because I love leaves. I read the back cover and was instantly hooked. I have complete faith that God guided me to your book that day for it has given me hope when I was broken, encouragement when I was at the pit, and a glimpse at God's grace when I felt I didn't deserve it. You have such an incredible gift!

  6. I'm a 28 year-old Christian, wife, mother of one (so far),full-time 5th grade teacher, and writer pursuing publication (still waiting, by the way) and I live in Iowa (you knew that). As a reader, I read mostly women's fiction, romance, and literary fiction.

    That's pretty much me, in a nutshell.

    What am I passionate about?


    Pursuing Christ.

    My family and finding fun things to do together.

    Summer. I'm definitely passionate about summer. Oh, and my Kindle.

    Not necessarily in that order.

    I wish I was passionate about gardening or feeding my family organic foods or exercising, but life's just too busy right now and sometimes, Hamburger Helper and a ten minute walk with my dog is as good as it's gonna get. :)

  7. I'm 34, a wife and mother to a sweet but medically complicated and needy five year old. A good book sucks me in and I can do nothing but read, I''m starting to listen to books on tape instead as I can multi-task that way!

    I'm passionate about being a godly wife and mother. At becoming more involved in my church and just joined a new committee called the "congregational life committee." Our job is to develop and encourage the enfolding of current and new members in a variety of ways.

    I'm also passionate about worship and creating worship that ministers to a variety of ages within a service. This isn't always an easy task; however, it is a blessing to see a child's face light up because we're singing "my song" or an elderly person cry tears as we sing a trusted hymn like "This World is Not My Home."

    Finally, I'm passionate about doing my best. I've learned in life that my perfectionistic attitude has it's place; however, in reality, life is more fun when we can enjoy our best and not what we perceive should be our best. Life is to short.

  8. Okay, I am having way too much fun learning all about you. :) A girls' night out is in order... Unless there are any quiet guys out there? I know you're lurking... ;) Keep the introductions coming! I'm going somewhere with this and I'm excited to see where we end up!

  9. I am a 34-year-old wife and stay-at-home mom raising two precious little girls aged three and six. I have a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in education. Before I became a mom, I was a book editor and a television writer. But, of course, those are just surface things. My passions?

    -Motherood: I still can't believe God has given me the unique and unmatched honor of ushering two incredible little girls into womanhood.

    -Foreign Missions: Before meeting my husband, I gave some serious thought to becoming a career missionary in South America. My husband and I are particularly passionate about serving the needs of orphanages. Also, we are currently praying about adopting!

    -Genealogy: I find that knowing where you come from gives you a deeper understanding of who you are. I often wonder if my way of life truly gives honor to the values, struggles and dreams of those who went before me.

    -Marriage: I think one of the most incredible ministries God has given me is my marriage. My husband and I like teaching Bible studies centered on the aspects of a God-centered marriage.

    -Poetry: I admire emotional expression in the form of prose, and love a poet with the skill to spin something lovely out of something murky. That was the first reason I was drawn to your writing, Nicole. I read the first chapter of your debut novel on your Web site and I was hooked. You write exquisite prose! Keep up the good work!

  10. I'm Nikolyn (Niki) and I live up the street. I am a wife and mom and public health nurse. I am a prayer warrior, an intercessor and a worshipper, but I am also a sinner, saved by grace who falls down every day and enjoys the feeling of Christ Jesus picking me back up.

    I am passionate about childaren, about wholistic health and about empathy. I am not passionate about politics or government or the book of church order.

    So you really got rid of processed foods? Can I be like you when I grow up? No processed foods, really? Can I still grow up at age 42? :)

  11. Sherry, I've said a prayer covering your adoption questions. God knows what he's doing. :) Keep me posted--I'd love to hear how he continues to work in your family!

    Niki, I'm not that noble! We haven't completely eliminated processed foods, but we're trying. I read somewhere that you should start with one all-natural meal a day. Supper seems to work for us... But, of course, we ruined it last night by having a piece of leftover birthday cake for dessert. Meh, you win some, you lose some. ;)

  12. I'm Lori.


    -am 33 years old.
    -live in Texas.
    -am a stay-at-home mom.
    -homeschool my two boys, aged 6 and 10.
    -love the beach.
    -like hot tea but can't stand coffee.
    -am growing my first garden.
    -love, love, love to read.
    -am fascinated and interested in adoption.

    My passions are....

    -becoming who God wants me to be.
    -guiding, educating, and loving my boys.
    -supporting my husband and being his #1 fan.
    -Homemaking and everything that goes with it. Yes, finding the joy in laundry, dishes, and messes.

  13. My name is Michelle. I live in Knoxville, TN. I have a 4 month old, Hudson and am married to a great guy named Josh. I'm getting ready to go back to work 2 days a week as a pediatric occupational therapist (eek-I can't believe it's that time!). We love the outdoors and our dog, Cash. I'm also proud that I tried and have remained committed to cloth diapering (sometimes I have issues with sticking to stuff that creates extra work, but it's not that much extra). I am passionate about showing Christ's love to others. I have always felt very strongly about everyone around me feeling loved and there are many who weren't as lucky as me to have parents raise them in a Christian home and have a loving, supportive group around them reminding them what God has put us here to do and what is waiting for us eternally. In my profession, I work with many children who, the only time they here "good job" or "I am happy to see you" is when they're with me. That's heartbreaking to me. This also leads me to the interest of adoption. My husband and I have been blessed with many resources to provide a loving home to someone in need, and I'm praying about how we can take the plunge and be servants in this area.
    Also, I love all of your books! I have read the Julia books x4 and can't wait for #3!!!

  14. Hi, Lori! Another homeschooler... You, too, have my admiration. :) And good luck on your first garden! I'm an avid gardener in the spring and early summer, but by the time it gets hot as hades I tend to let my flowers go to seed. Oops.

    Michelle, my heart breaks for the kids that you work with! What a blessing you must be to them. May you always feel enriched and uplifted in your amazing job. As for adoption... It's awesome. I recommend it heart and soul. :)


  15. Hi, Nicole! I'm catching up on blogs this morning and thought I'd enter the conversation.

    I'm Kris. You might remember, I went to Dordt a couple of years before you. (I wrote your alumni profile for the Voice some time ago.) I have a bachelor's in English and an MFA in Creative Writing (fiction emphasis). I teach writing and literature classes for a community college and a university in southern California. I'm a wife of a firefighter and mom to a 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.

    My passions are reading, writing, teaching, and attempting to balance it all with being a mom and wife. I love the outdoors, fitness, and pursuing a simple, green, clean, healthy lifestyle for my family. It's all incredibly wonderful and imperfect and exhausting.

    I have a copy of The Moment Between waiting to be read after I finish up the current book I'm reading. Am looking forward to starting it soon!

  16. Me:~

    Wife of one, mum of 3 girls (12,9 & 6) and live in Melbourne, Australia ~ best place on earth ;-) I work part time as a lawyer and love icecream and fresh fruit! I love photography and wish I had time to spend more time on it.

    My passions:~

    My husband and my girls ~ being a more giving wife and mother is important to me but sometimes so very hard! Raising our girls to be women of faith, integrity and joy is both a fabulous and fearful experience

    Reading ~ since I could read my first words I have captured by story and read any chance I can. Under the covers, in the shower (I kid you not!)on the beach, etc

    Blogging ~ I started my blog, Relz Reviewz, in 2006 as a place to keep the book reviews I was doing for my local Christian store's fiction enewsletter. I am passionate about introducing readers to quality writing by believers and helping those authors promote their stories

    Book Club ~ I have been leading a book club for almost 10 years. We have such a great time sharing with each other and meet every 6 weeks.

    Women's Ministry ~ along with my team, we are passionate about providing opportunities for women to connect and build friendships to encourage and sustain. Love it!

  17. Hi Kristin, I'm really glad to stopped to say hi! Any chance you'll be heading to Iowa for an alumni weekend? I'd love to have coffee with you... What's new in your writing world???

    Rel, thanks for reposting (and for telling me that I had the comments disabled on this post!). You still have one of the coolest blogs I know--love your reviews.

    Blessings to you both!

  18. Hi! I don't know if it's too late to include a post, but I thought I'd try anyways. My name is Stacey and I'm a 31 year old going on 60. I was wandering through the local library and spotted your book--cliche or not, it was the cover that got me. I've become a fan of your writing--the brutal honesty and simplicity.

    Here are my passions, not in any particular order--
    1.cooking-I'm an "everything-from-scratch", experiment-and-see-what-happens, grateful-my-husband-wil-try-anything sort of person
    2. family-I'm #6 out of a quirky family of 7 with a single mom who didn't have a lot to give but offered humor with each hard circumstance
    3. creating-I get this bubbling sort of feeling that just has to overflow into some medium--playing my guitar, sewing a quilt, writing a poem, painting a watercolor...
    4. rediscovering---I thought I knew exactly who I was in God's eyes--I was single and content for 27 years, convinced I would never marry, and then I met my husband. The past three years have been a journey of finding myself again and balancing.
    5.truth--I am level headed and honest, and I tell the truth. Friends call me when they want advice, even if it might hurt. God is simple, truthful, and real--I want to be more like that.

    So--that's me. I've enjoyed hearing about you and your life. It inspires me to write--knowing that a normal person can do it, have a family, and still pursue a ministry. Thank you!

  19. Hi Stacey,

    Not too late to comment! I'll be plugging the numbers into a random generator as soon as I finish saying "hi" to you. :)

    I LOVE hearing that you picked my book for the cover! The artist, Jessi, is absolutely amazing and I love the covers she's done for me. I can't wait to see what she does with my third Julia book!

    Your passions make me smile because they mirror my own. I think we may be quite similar--I got all excited as I read down your list. Especially when I came to your last passion. I'm a truth-teller, too, and though I longed for much of my life to be more sweet and soft spoken I've come to realize that maybe my honesty is a gift and not a liability. At least, as long as I use it carefully.

    So great to "meet" you!