Audra Krell

On Purpose

Archive for the category “Writing”

Italy or Surgery

Photo courtesy @iStockphoto

Back in May, I had a dream come true when I won a scholarship to a writer’s retreat. In Italy. They gave one prize and I was to leave this Wednesday. For 12 days I would see Paris, consume decadent food and wine, and live, laugh, write and love in Liguria, Italy. I had reserved a gorgeous room on the edge of a cliff in an Italian Villa. Heaven.

But, and there’s always a huge but isn’t there? If you remember back to this post,I had some interesting medical problems the day before I left for Mexico. While I was on the mission trip, I received an email from my doctor explaining my benign condition and told to make an appointment to talk about the options. I filed that email and put it in the “someday I’ll call them maybe” category.

Suffice it to say that although the condition is benign, it’s had it’s way with me. I’ve had a couple weeks where I felt kind of okay and the rest have been a battle to function. I wondered how I would trip around Europe; eating, praying and loving, when I couldn’t get out of bed. So I made the dreaded call and subsequently even showed up for the appointment.

Italy is now a thing of the past and incredibly, a chance trip in the future. And now I have surgery in December, one week before Christmas, which really, is what every woman wants. Am I right ladies? Sorry guys, I can’t prepare a turkey or even a honey baked ham. Decorations? Don’t think so. But opening presents? Sure, I wouldn’t want to get rusty on my love language.

What astounds me though is that God equips me for all things. This includes and is not limited to the ability to find joy in serving in difficult circumstances and in times where I’m not doing what I had planned. I always thought being joyful was up to me, and it’s a choice to be sure, but it is God who fuels me to experience joy.

Instead of the Italian coast, we venture as a family to a nearby pacific beach. The same beach house where we took our son Mason to the hospital when his appendix was going awry. We know the way to the two nearest hospitals and more importantly we know the only way to joy.

I’m trusting and choosing to find joy in all things. Italy will be there when I’m healthy again, so I’ll do my part to make sure I am!

What about you? How do you find joy when your dreams are put on hold?

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Shifty Grades of Prey

 This is perfect for one of the covers of the 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy. So symbolic of the masks we manipulate to project our false selves.

My 16-year-old son and I sat in a small California airport last Friday night, waiting to catch a plane. He told me to look across from us, to my right and then behind me. Three women were reading 50 Shades of Grey. When we boarded, another woman was engrossed in her copy. That’s four women out of 60, plus those reading it on their e-reader. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen; that kind of math never happened with Potter, Hunger or Twilight.

As a writer and avid life-long learner, I read a lot of different things. This book was highly recommended by someone dear to me, I had no idea what it was, so I read it. The writing is repetitive, amateurish and won’t be up for literary awards. The content is mature, often erotic and mindless. In this case, none of those words are synonyms for entertaining.

Notice I did not put “shocking” on my descriptive list. Not because I’m experienced in the BDSM lifestyle, but because there is nothing new under the sun. A lifetime ago, while studying English Literature, I took a course called Principles of Obscenity. We read all the big ones, Story of O, Story of the Eye and shorter works by D.H. Lawrence. They were shocking to my 21 -year -old mind and unguarded heart. I learned, that really there are no principles to obscenity. Rather it’s the absence of principle that makes these fictional accounts a literary genre.

I find Fifty Shades simply the latest culture crusher to stand firm against. Next week a new magazine, book, essay, speech, movie, song, album, picture or other entertainment medium will prey on us and take it’s place in the number one spot.

Tomorrow we will still have to stand tall against the message that our marriage isn’t enough, your spouse isn’t everything you deserve, you’re not thin enough, we’re not pretty enough, you don’t think right, do things right, believe right, you’re too far right and you’re weak. All in all, the sun will probably rise tomorrow and with it the message that you aren’t enough and never will be.

The most troubling issue regarding 50 Shades, is the term “Mommy Porn.” Why is this okay? If one in six of our men were sitting in the airport reading a little “Daddy Porn” women would go crazy. It’s believed that pornography damages the image of women in the name of a cheap thrill.

50 Shades portrays the female character being degraded and emotionally damaged. Our culture embraces it by giving it a name and touting it on a national talk show. Why aren’t our men asking if they can have their porn featured on a talk show? It would never happen and the uprising would be like none other if  it did.

Even some feminists have praised the book. What? Women dedicate their lives to fighting for equal rights and then embrace a series of books that are in direct opposition to what they stand for.

People however, don’t need our judgement for reading this book or even for liking it. We need to see it for what it is, a gale wind in the storm of life. It’s an opportunity to stand right next to God’s people, shore them up and pray against cultural norm.

It’s not the first time the wind has howled and it won’t be the last.

Take the high road, ride your high horse if you must, but I won’t stop praying for you.

I hope you’ll do the same.

What has been your personal reaction to 50 Shades of Grey ideology and hype? Do the themes and content seem new?

Eating the Stick in the Salad

It takes many things to be a writer. Many, many things. It’s not easy sitting behind the computer trying to get the stories down. We do desperate things, even when it’s too hot to do them. Getting the words to sing requires wearing a turtleneck and drinking too much coffee, even when it 101 in April.

Being a writer also takes confidence. And the ability to let people see you, the real you. We proudly put the mask of our false selves on display for everyone to peruse, critique, and hopefully love. But our real selves? Only the very lucky get to see it in person and sometimes in the voice of our stories.

An unwillingness to be seen, is dangerous. Several years ago I was singing back ground vocals on a Tommy Walker album, with a large choir. At least one hundred people, and I didn’t know a soul. During dinner, I was first in the buffet line and heaped a chicken salad with piles of crispy chow mein noodles onto my plate, as well as a half sandwich held together with a toothpick.

There were no tables to eat at, so I sat in a folding chair facing the buffet line of over 100 people. Feeling self conscious, I absentmindedly put the toothpick on my plate. I had no idea it rolled into my salad.

About three large bites of salad in, I crunched on a very hard noodle. It wouldn’t break. I felt like spitting out the clearly stale invader, but didn’t dare in front of the people. Feeling the blush of no confidence, I crunched down as hard as I could, determined to swallow all of it, even if it meant breaking a tooth. Finally it snapped and I tried hard again, to swallow.

The shards raked the inside of my cheek and I realized it wasn’t a chow mein noodle. Now contorted in the chair, I was dangerously close to swallowing a toothpick and dying of humiliation, never mind the imminent choking danger. I curled my body forward and with one fell swoop of my finger, I cleared my own airway. That’s right, I did Resusci Annie, the CPR mannequin proud.

But the lesson is not that you should always be prepared to save yourself. The lesson is to let yourself be seen, your life might depend on it. In my humiliation I tried to hide in plain site.

Today, I know how to make acquaintances and through a painful journey back from rock bottom, I have confidence. Not in who I think I am, but in who God says I am.

He has given friends and family who love me and would help if I ate two toothpicks. And He’s given me the confidence to be a writer and to trust my voice.

Every writer needs confidence so they can share knowledge.

If you’re not confident enough to write what’s inside, who will?

 

Breakfast Club on Jazz

We attended closing night of the Phoenix Film Festival and saw Blue Like Jazz. The film opens nationwide on April 13.

Let me first say that I loved the book. God used it to change my life. Donald Miller gets abandonment. It was one of the first times I felt understood in my struggle with parental abandonment. Miller helped me to see that even though I didn’t feel worthy of people sticking around, I have a Father who has never left me.

In my ongoing heartbreak with subsequent familial abandonment, I return time and again to the truths I finally understood through Miller’s writing. God’s love lasts much longer than the stabs of current rejection. His love is the only thing that is eternal.

Now on to the movie. It’s not advertised for, nor is it appropriate for children or young teens. We took our 13 and 16 year old sons. I was embarrassed, and as mom to three teen boys, it takes some doing to make me blush. I also was uncomfortable with the mocking of Christianity. I get that for free every day out in the world, through all social media and especially on TV. My son lives it everyday at the University he attends, the other boys at their middle and high schools.

Some reviewers say the movie is a great conversation starter for Christian families and helps them transition their young adults to the next stage of life. I wonder where they think we live? Do they really believe all Christians live out in the country where the most violent act we witness is a calf being born? Where our biggest problem is what dress to wear to church on Sunday? No, Christians face the exact things the world does, on the same moment- by -moment basis. When I attend a film, I want to be taken away from the world, not forced to relive my college days in all their lewd glory.

Reviewers said the movie was going to have a hard time and comments like the one below tend to polarize viewers:

A challenging book to turn into a film due to its stream of consciousness narration, director Steve Taylor and crew have for the most part succeeded in turning out a generally entertaining film, but one that will probably be too centered on Christianity for those averse to religion and too “edgy” for those of the Christian faith who like their films Kirk Cameronesque. -Linc Leifeste, Smells Like Screen Spirit 

I agree, it was too difficult to turn Blue Like Jazz into a film. As a person of faith, an avid movie goer and someone who respects Kirk Cameron, I don’t prefer my films to be Kirk Cameronesque. I further don’t consider mocking Christianity for 95% of the film to be edgy in any way. It’s an effort to reach the masses with an attempt to entertain. Mocking anything is usually good for a sure laugh.

The central message of Blue Like Jazz the movie, is that every flawed creature is worthy of respect, which we know is the gospel truth. The film had the chance to go deep with that and ended up a glorified, modern day version of the Breakfast Club with a jazz soundtrack. Basically an “accept all sin now, just be certain to ask forgiveness later.”

I highly recommend the book, it’s a completely different experience.

Blue Like Jazz the Book

Where to Solve Your Health Problem

ImageWe’re a quarter of the way through 2012. How are those New Year’s resolutions working out? Are they the pillars of your life, set in stone? Or do you even remember what you decided to do this year?

For some, it’s impossible to forget, as lingering health problems haven’t gone away or are getting worse. In our quest to discover who we are and where we’re going, we’re held back by aches and pains, and even worse, emotional pain like guilt for not doing what we know we should.

But there is a place that holds many answers to your problems. It’s not a naturopath, shrink, counselor or church.

It’s your local library.

If you’ve resolved to support yourself better this year, consider your library as the building block to all you want to accomplish and as a symbol of a new way of living.

Because you need more exercise, walk to your library. But that’s over 3 miles you say. Walk one way and arrange for a family member or friend to pick you up.

At the library, check out a book on exercise and weight loss. You’ll feel great knowing you already got started on your new exercise regime because you walked there.

Because you want to eat healthier and save money by eating at home, check out a cookbook. Make a small goal of trying one or two new recipes.

If you wanted to be more charitable this year, volunteer at the library. You could read out loud, teach a class, help sort books or offer to do whatever the library staff needs. Maybe they need reviewers and people to write recommendations. Get creative. Science has proven that when you’re creative, you’re more positive. When you’re more positive, your general health improves.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition or suspect you have one, check out a book on the subject. Knowledge is power. Knowing treatment options and that you’re not alone, brings hope. Hope is another factor for better health.

If you are able to walk back home, don’t forget to bring your reusable bags for toting your books. Every other block, do a few bicep curls with your book bag.

The library is a beautiful place which holds much power for better living. Simply by walking to the library, you’ve improved your health, enjoyed fresh air, not taxed the environment, educated yourself and supported a local resource.

I don’t know too many places that hold as many benefits. Do you?

What free resource do you use that makes your life better?

Nothing Closer

Pen Quill and Parchment

“It seems that some creatives will only

know glory at a distance; yet they experience nothing closer

than the very presence of God.”

-Audra Krell

Will you WriMo?

Below is an excerpt from a great article by Brian Klems of Writer’s Digest. He explains what NaNoWriMo is and how to get more information. I’ve won NaNo twice, the first in 2008 and then again last year in 2010. I’m in an intense debate with myself about doing it this year. It has been the single most effective tool I’ve discovered for writing; setting a word count goal and meeting or exceeding it every day for 30 days. No excuses, just writing. I’m coming off a nasty bout with the stomach flu and so everything seems insurmountable today. On the other hand, what I have I got to lose by trying? Certainly not my cookies, those are long gone.

What about you? Leave a comment and let me know if you’re up for the challenge this year. We could have a lot of fun together!

November is known by most literati as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. How it works: Start writing a 50,000-word novel on November 1 and finish by midnight on November 30th. (For in-depth details go to the NaNoWriMo.org.) I’ve participated in the event twice. First, let me share these three important takeaways from my experience.

1. It was unbelievably fun.
2. Being that productive gave me the shot of adrenaline I needed to write more.
3. I was terribly unprepared both times and ended up with 50,000 words of useless material.

OK, so “useless” may be a bit harsh, but when looking back at my past attempts I realized that if I had just done some planning and preparation, not only would I have been able to complete more words, they would have been the making of a publishable story. I bring this up because I believe that 1) You should TOTALLY try NaNoWriMo if you haven’t before—you won’t regret it and it will be one of the best writing decisions you make this year, and 2) spend the next few days preparing yourself to write a story that’s not only good, but has the structure to be great.

The key to preparing yourself for the challenge is to ask yourself these questions (which were once suggested to me by @JaneFriedman):

What’s going to happen in the story?
What does the character want?
What will the turning points be?

If you can nail these down, you will set yourself up in a much better position to write something meaningful and (potentially) publishable.

Book Review: 40 Days to Better Living

Another great book from the 40 Days to Better Living folks, this time on Hypertension. Such a great series and an active, helpful way to help people manage hypertension.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

 

Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

 

and the book:

 

40 Days to Better Living: Hypertension

Barbour Books (September 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

From the time Scott Morris was just a teenager, he knew he would do two things with his future—serve God and work with people. Growing up in Atlanta, he felt drawn to the Church and at the same time drawn to help others, even from a very young age. It was naturally intrinsic, then, that after completing his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia he went on to receive his M.Div. from Yale University and finally his M.D. at Emory University in 1983.

After completing his residency in family practice, Morris arrived in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1986 without knowing a soul, but determined to begin a health care ministry for the working poor. He promptly knocked on the doors of St. John’s Methodist Church and Methodist Hospital in Memphis inviting them to help, and then found an old house to refurbish and renovate. By the next year, the Church Health Center opened with one doctor—Dr. Scott Morris—and one nurse. They saw twelve patients the first day and Morris began living his mission to reclaim the Church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and spirits.

From the beginning, Morris saw each and every patient as a whole person, knowing that without giving careful attention to both the body and soul the person would not be truly well. So nine years after opening the Church Health Center, he opened its Hope & Healing Wellness Center. Today the Church Health Center has grown to become the largest faith-based clinic in the country of its type having cared for 60,000 patients of record without relying on government funding. The clinic handles more than 36,000 patient visits a year while the wellness center, which moved to its current 80,000-square-foot location on Union Avenue in 2000, serves more than 120,000 member visits each year. Fees are charged on a sliding scale based on income.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Millions experience high blood pressure—and 40 Days to Better Living: Hypertension provides clear, manageable steps for you to manage it, through life-changing attitudes and actions. If you’re ready to really live better, select one or more elements of the 7-step Model for Healthy Living—Faith, Medical, Movement, Work, Emotional, Family and Friends, and Nutrition—and follow the 40-day plan to improve your life, just a bit, day by day. With plenty of practical advice, biblical encouragement, and stories of real people who’ve taken the same journey, this book—from the Church Health Center in Memphis, the largest faith-based clinic of its type in the U.S.—may be the most important book you read this year!

The 40 Days to Better Living series offers clear, manageable steps to life-changing attitudes and actions in a context of understanding and grace for all people at all points on the journey to optimal health. With plenty of practical advice, spiritual encouragement, and real stories of those who have found a better life, this simple and skillfully crafted book inspires readers to customize their own path to wellness by using the 7-Step Model for Healthy Living as a guide:

    • Nutrition: pursuing smarter food choices and eating habits

 

  • Friends and family: giving and receiving support through relationships

 

 

  • Emotional life: understanding feelings and managing stress to better care for yourself

 

 

  • Work: appreciating your skills, talents, and gifts

 

 

  • Movement: discovering ways to enjoy physical activity

 

 

  • Medical care: partnering with health care providers to optimize medical care

 

 

  • Faith life: building a relationship with God, neighbors, and self

 

Along with tips from the Model for Healthy Living, the easy-to-read format features a Morning Reflection and an Evening Wrap-Up as well as a place for documenting plans, progress, and perspectives. Targeted scriptures and prayers that undergird the focus of each day’s message make this compact book an excellent choice for a daily devotional.

Subsequent titles in the Better Living series will be released bi-monthly and address key health topics including hypertension, diabetes, depression, weight management, stress management, aging, and addiction. All promise substantial support to those who are ready for a newer, better way of living—body and spirit.

Product Details:

List Price: $7.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (September 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616262656
ISBN-13: 978-1616262655

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Not Bulletproof…Yet

So I’m querying agents and publishers like crazy with my new novel, Abandoned Ship. How exciting, you might think. And it is.

Every house or agent wants something different. One wants the first 3 chapters pasted in the email and will delete if you attach. Other agencies say that pasting “ruins the formatting and there couldn’t be a worse first impression”. Others want a biography, some want a long synopsis and still others want a one page query which covers your life story. Some don’t accept snail mail, others won’t accept email.

Where’s the exciting part you ask? It’s in the work. It takes hours of due diligence to query just 2 or 3 agents. The satisfaction of hitting send or packaging up a proposal and dropping it in the mail is glorious. But with all the nets thrown, come the rejections.

And they sting.

Because you want to know, I’ll tell you. I’m on my 25th rejection between my first and second book. So it’s really an anniversary of sorts. Woo Hoo! That’s me celebrating with a mini fist pump.

After 25, it might get a little easier. I thought. Truth is, I didn’t think there’d be a number 25. Somebody was going to beg me for my exclusive work. Maybe even two somebody’s. Alas, they became number 24 and 25 respectively and within 15 minutes of each other.

So while my thick skin is growing, it certainly is far from bulletproof. And while we’re talking about being far from things, I’m far from giving up.

If you have a range of 0-100, 100 being I’ve done everything I can to make my baby fly, I’m at about an 8.

Loving the journey and the grace afforded me along the way. There are some very nice agents and publishers out there, even in the midst of delivering news I don’t want to hear.

I’m just grateful for the chance.

Question:

What about you? On a scale of 0-100, where do fall with your dream? What can you do to put yourself closer to 100?

Johnny Castle On Writing

This past Wednesday, marked  two years since Patrick Swayze passed away. I thought of him and back to my 17th summer, the year Dirty Dancing came out. I saw it with my boyfriend’s family and was embarrassed by the sensuality, so I loudly announced I didn’t like it afterwards. Those very people are now my in-laws and we laugh because Dirty Dancing is one of my favorite movies of all time.

If you don’t know, shame on you  Patrick Swayze plays a character named Johnny Castle. He is a dance instructor at an affluent resort in the Catskills in the 60’s. Dirty Dancing is a coming of age movie where a teen girl played by Jennifer Grey, rebels by falling in love with Johnny, a working class entertainer. DD was the first film to sell over one million copies on VHS.

Everything you need to know, can be learned from Dirty Dancing and not from Kindergarten. But that’s for another series.

Today I give you 3 things from Johnny Castle which writers will do well to remember.

  1. Nobody puts baby in a corner.  You can write in obscurity and wait for an agent or publisher to invite you on stage and ask you to dance. Or you can stand up, pursue the writing life and never look back.
  2. You’ll hurt me if you don’t trust me,all right? Once  you find an agent, trust them and let them lead. Agreeably make the changes they request. Drop scenes, characters and 4000 words like the bad habits they are.
  3. It’s not on the one, it’s not the mambo. It’s a feeling, a heartbeat. Be original. Dance your own dance. Look deep inside and feel it, breath it. Let writing beat your heart.

And it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t say:

Have the time of your life.

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