Guest Post: Are You The Next Emily Dickinson?

Today I am excited to share this guest post by award-winning author Tessa Emily Hall. Please give her a warm welcome in the comments below!


Tessa Emily Hall Guest Post - Emily Dickinson

 

I first learned about the poet, Emily Dickinson, in my eighth grade English class. My classmates had laughed about her life story and made jokes about her hard-to-interpret poetry; me, on the other hand? I became enthralled. This poet had not only written unique poetry, but she had also lived quite a mysterious and unique life.

Fast forward several years, when I first began to brainstorm my novel, UNWRITTEN MELODY. The main character was a mysterious and shy songwriter who, like Dickinson, led a sheltered life. I had somehow allowed Dickinson’s life story to influence Cassie’s story without it even realizing it! Even the theme of hope in the book is perfectly reflected in one of Dickinson’s poems titled Hope is the Theme With Feathers.
 
Of course, after realizing that, I began to examine my own life to see how I compared to the poet as well. I wasn’t surprised to discover the many ways in which I could relate with Dickinson. (No wonder I found this poet to be so fascinating in eighth grade!)

No, you don’t have to write hard-to-interpret poetry in order to become the next Emily Dickinson. This poet is known for far more than just her thousands of poems that are in print. So how can you know if you are following in this sheltered writer’s footsteps?

You might want to check for these five signs…

  1.  You don’t abide by popular styles and trends.

When it came to poetry, Dickinson was the first to throw out the popular writing rules of her day. This is why it was difficult for her to find publication during her lifetime; in fact, she didn’t rise to fame until after her death.

  1. You don’t leave the house very often.

Dickinson stayed in her bedroom and wrote poetry for days on end. When someone visited the house, she would speak to them from the other side of the door. Although she was rarely seen in the public, she communicated frequently to friends via snail mail (AKA today’s version of social media and email). Sound familiar?

  1. You keep your art hidden in a private space.

After Dickinson passed, her sister discovered thousands of her unpublished poetry. Only twelve of her poems were published during her lifetime.

  1. The purpose of your creative outlet is for the sake of your own sanity rather than in effort to please others. 

It’s obvious that Dickinson wasn’t motivated to write by the idea of publication or applause; rather, she wrote for herself. It wasn’t worth it for her to alter the style of her writing just for the sake of receiving favor from publishers.

Writing was Dickinson’s way of expressing her thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I don’t doubt that she used it as a form of therapy. (Which she could’ve probably benefitted greatly from, based on how many hours she spent in her bedroom by herself!)

  1. Your art tends to reflect the darker side of life. 

Many people believe Dickinson struggled with bipolar disorder. Traces of her depression are exposed in much of her poetry. Does your art reflect optimism or pessimism?

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As I brainstormed UNWRITTEN MELODY and discovered that Cassie’s life mirrored Dickinson’s, of course I had to give Cassie an obsession with this poet as well. She even discovers, in the book, that she has many of the “symptoms” that are on this list. When Cassie realizes this, she becomes determined to live life to the fullest and strives to avoid following in Dickinson’s footsteps.

If you, too, possess many of the above signs, then it might be time to evaluate your creative life and keep yourself from becoming the next Dickinson. How?

Here are a few quick tips that might help you lead a more balanced (and productive) creative lifestyle:

  1. Get some fresh air. Take a walk. Change locations and, if possible, work from a coffee shop, library, or bookstore.
  2. Socialize. (Yes, with actual people.)
  3. Leave it to your siblings to publish your writing. (Kidding, of course.)
  4. Stay passionate about your art, but don’t allow it to become an obsession.
  5. Keep your family first.
  6. Don’t be afraid to release your work to the public.
  7. Make sure that your health is a priority and in balance. If you find that your physical or mental state of being is headed off track, seek help.

QUESTIONS FOR YOU:

How many of these signs did you possess? Have you ever been intrigued by the life of Emily Dickinson as well? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


Unwritten Melody

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2017 Moonbeam Bronze Medalist Winner
2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist in Young Author

Does breaking free require breaking the rules?

Cassie Gilbert lives every day in the shadows of her deceased mom’s rebellion. But now that she’s seventeen, she finds herself longing to break away from her grandmother’s suffocating rules, experience what it’s like to be a regular teenager, and fulfill her songwriting dreams.

James Russo, former American Spotlight contestant, escapes to small town Willow Creek, SC hoping to flee from his tarnished past. When a school project pairs him with the shy principal’s granddaughter, he’s determined to get to know this Emily-Dickinson-obsessed and typewriter-using girl. His plan? Convince Cassie to co-write songs for his demo album.

As Cassie gets to know James over “project meetings” (more like opportunities to match her lyrics with his melodies), she becomes intrigued by his sense of adventure and contagious passion for music. But soon, his past becomes exposed. Cassie’s left to wonder–did she make the same mistake Mom did by falling for the bad boy?

Then, Grandma’s control pushes her over the edge. Cassie must choose between remaining in the chains of yesterday, or delving into her own freedom by completing the melody her mom left behind.

Buy Now: AmazonB&N

Mark “to read” on Goodreads


About the Author

Tessa Headshot2

Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic books to remind teens they’re not alone. Her first teen devotional, COFFEE SHOP DEVOS, released with Bethany House September 2018. Tessa’s passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as an Associate Agent for Cyle Young at Hartline Literary Agency, Literary Agent at Cyle Young Literary Elite, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PursueMagazine.net. She’s guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 128 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating art journals, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is through connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website: http://www.tessaemilyhall.com.

Tessa is represented by Cyle Young at Hartline Literary Agency.

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Ways to connect with Tessa:

 

Merry Monday – Christmas Crafting

Merry Monday - Christmas Crafting

Hi everyone! I hope you are all enjoying this time leading up to Christmas. I know my family has been in full holiday swing. In fact, we spent several hours this weekend creating new Christmas ornaments — several for our own home and a few to give as gifts. I thought it would be fun to share our creations with you today. I hope you enjoy seeing what we made and maybe even feel inspired to do a little crafting of your own.

Each of the ornaments below was created using clear plastic ornaments, acrylic paints, and various other additions as noted.

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This first trio was painted by me.  Every year we create or purchase one new ornament per family member. We write the date somewhere discrete and add it to our tree. The two landscape scenes will be the ornaments added for myself and my husband this year. The snowman will be hung from white paper chains which we drape around our great room. 
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These snowmen were all created by my children.  They also stuffed the “snowballs” in the back. Stuffing materials vary from clear tinsel to “tiny fake snowballs” to that clear plastic confetti they sell as “fake snow.” The tiny fake snowballs were found at our local Dollar Tree and were the easiest to stuff into the ornaments, but the other two stuffing items were my personal favorites (despite their staticky resistance to being crammed into a small hole) due to their reflective qualities which gave them an ice-like appearance.  All of these ornaments will be hung from the white paper chains in our great room this year and will be brought out for similar purposes year after year from now on. I’ve added their names and the year to the bottom of each. 
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My children chose the faces from a photo I found on Pinterest and they chose the sock hats from an assortment I picked up at our local Dollar Tree. The rest I did myself. These four will be their contributions to our tree for this year. 
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These three snowmen (shown before and after candy stuffing)  were painted by me and will be given away at a children’s gift exchange. 
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Lest the previous pictures have you thinking I some sort of crafting genius, let me assure you, I am not! Exhibit A:  My complete failure to create what so many have touted as the world’s easiest DIY ornament – inside-out espsom salt ornaments. I used Mod Podge and epsom salts inside these 8 ornaments hoping for beautiful snowball-like results and wound up with snowballs that looked like we’d made them from that snow parents warn their kids not to eat. (They look even more yellow in person.) I made myself feel better about this by sticking digital stickers all over them to express my feelings on the matter. LOL Eventually I am thinking to salvage them with a combination of white paint and clear glitter on the exterior, but I have yet to work up the nerve energy. We’ll see. 

If you’re looking for snowman face inspiration, you can try this photo and this photo.

If you want more details on how to make the sock-hatted snowmen (& other fun ornaments), this is a good video to watch.

Pro tip:  Make sure to use paints specially designed for plastic and consider adding a clear coat on top to protect your artwork.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into our holiday preparations. Being creative always reminds me of our Creator and how He has blessed us with the fruits of His creation. Spending the time listening to Christmas music and crafting with my children is a blessing I cherish.

To see more of my holiday craftivities, follow me on Instagram @KathleenDenly!

If you’re not already subscribed to this blog and want to be, CLICK HERE.

Also, don’t forget I’ll be releasing a free short story exclusively for my KRC Members this week! So if you’re not already a member, sign up today!

Promo - Runaway Wedding

Let’s Chat!

Do you enjoy holiday crafting? I’d love to know if there is a craft you do every year or if you’ve recently discovered a new craft that you’re excited about!

Cover Challenge

Cover Challenge

They say covers sell books and designing them takes a special skill. So I’m curious:  How much attention do we actually pay to those slaved-over images?

Below are pieces of book covers from Christian romance books which have been released within the last 12 months (May 2017-May 2018). Can you name each book from just a tiny peek at the cover? To make things easier, there is a list to choose from below the images.

AAn Unexpected Redemption - Puzzle Piece

BThe Captured Bride - Puzzle Piece

CThree Words and a Kiss - Puzzle Piece

DNo Other Will Do - Puzzle Piece

EThe Backcountry Brides Collection - Puzzle Piece

FThe Lady and the Lionheart - Puzzle Piece

GThis Wilderness Journey - Puzzle Piece

HLove Held Captive - Puzzle Piece

ICharming the Troublemaker - Puzzle Piece

JA Heart's Revolution - Puzzle Piece

Your possible answers in no particular order:

  1. Charming the Troublemaker by Pepper D. Basham
  2. Three Words and a Kiss by Sondra Kraak
  3. The Backcountry Brides Collection by Angela K. Couch, Debra E. Marvin, Shannon McNear, Gabrielle Meyer, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Jennifer Hudson Taylor, Pegg Thomas, Denise Weimer
  4. No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer
  5. An Unexpected Redemption by Davalynn Spencer
  6. The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep
  7. This Wilderness Journey by Misty M. Beller
  8. A Heart’s Revolution by Roseanna M. White
  9. The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof
  10. Love Held Captive by Shelley Shepard Gray

See the full covers HERE!

Let’s chat!

How did you do? Did you guess them all? Did any of them stump you?

Reading Challenges – Love ‘Em & Hate ‘Em

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I confess:  I am a perpetual reading challenge loser.

I have started no less than a dozen (probably way more) reading challenges and I can only think of one I’ve successfully completed. One. Yet I keep signing up for them. Why? Well, I love books. I love checklists. It makes sense that having a list of books I need to read should be something I enjoy and rock at. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.

So recently I’ve been wondering why I can’t seem to ever complete the reading challenges I sign up for.

Then it struck me:  I’m fickle.

I never thought I would say that about myself. In general, I am one of the most loyal people you’ll ever meet. Seriously, when people are asked to describe me, “loyal” is nearly always on the list.

It turns out there is an exception to my loyalty, and that exception is books.

What?! I know. But hear me out. My loyalty to books in general has never wavered. My loyalty to what I’ve said I’m going to read next … weeeellll.

Unless someone is counting on me to write a review in a specific amount of time, what I read is entirely dependent on the mood I’m in. That’s just the truth of it.

Right now, today, I might think reading that particular historical romantic suspense novel next week sounds like a fantastic plan and I am sincerely looking forward to next week so I can read that book. Then next week arrives and it turns out to be just a little more stressful than I expected, or I get my fill of suspense through the television series I watched Monday night and you know what? Now I’m not really in the mood for a historical romantic suspense novel. Now I’m in the mood for a contemporary romantic comedy. So I read that instead, telling myself I’ll read the historical romantic suspense novel next week. And so on and so on until next thing I know, months have gone by and that book I was supposed to read as part of that reading challenge is still sitting on my TBR list loooong past the deadline for the reading challenge.  *sigh*

I know this about myself. This always happens. So can somebody please tell me why I just spent the last twenty minutes picking out which books I want to read as part of the Author of the Month 2018 Challenge hosted by the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads?

Well, whatever the reason, here I am again, making a list of the books I want to read and giving myself rough deadlines for when I want to have finished reading them.

To further complicate matters (and make my chances of success that much less likely) I already have a very long list of books from my TBR pile that I plan to read this year. I’m hoping that by assigning each book a month, I’ll actually follow through on reading it and clear out some of these books from my backlog. (That makes it sound very negative, but let’s be clear:  these are books I’ve been dying to read and just haven’t found the time to get to them.)

Below is what I have so far on my list of books to read this year. Everything is listed by author name first, then title.

Christian Fiction Novels To Be Read in 2018

January

February

March 

April

May 

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Release date unknown:  Pepper D. Basham Next Door and Forevermore 

So as I was typing this and mentally mocking my undying optimism, I figured:

“Why fail quietly and alone in the privacy of my own home when I can fail publicly and, hopefully, drag some of you along to fail with me?”

What do you think? Anyone interested in joining me? You don’t have to read the same books or even aim for as many books. Just share your progress with me.

I’ve set up a special page here on my website just for this purpose.

By the way, that list up there? Yeah, that’ll change. I know I’m forgetting books I’ve been meaning to read and I’m always learning about new books I want to read so this list will probably grow. I’m going to try really hard to limit myself to only listing 5 per month, though, because these are only the Christian fiction books I am planning to read. (You can see I’ve already failed in March – just too many exciting new releases!) I also read general market and nonfiction books, but since that is not the intended audience for this blog, I won’t list those here (although I am listing some of those on my TBR page). I will keep my TBR page updated with changes so you can follow along with me to see which months I hit my goals and which I fail at miserably.

Please, leave me a comment!

Speaking of growing the list:  If there are any books you think I should add to my list, please let me know! Also, since there is just no way I can review all of these books and continue working on my own writing, I’d love to know which of these books you would be most interested in reading reviews about. 

Hello, Real World!

Blog Post Image - Hello Real World

So I had all these great ideas for my first blog post of 2018 and this great book I wanted to share for my first First Line Friday post of 2018, but then I started writing in my current novel in progress, and plotting, and editing, and researching, and then writing some more, and … next thing I new the entire first week of 2018 had disappeared and I hadn’t posted a single thing online.

One of the problems with being a writer is getting so wrapped up in my fictional world and my characters’ struggles that I forget about other things. Like First Line Friday posts, Facebook status updates, and interacting on Twitter. Woops. My bad.

Don’t worry, though. In between my crazy writing frenzies, I did manage to record my next Mama’s Storytime video book review. So look for that to go live Monday morning! Yay!

Also, now that I have remembered the real world, I will be sure to get my FLF post up on time this week – barring any more unscheduled trips to the emergency room (Everyone’s okay. Don’t ask.) So things should start getting back to normal around here. Sorry about going MIA on you. I hope you have all had a fantastic start to the new year. I know I’m super excited with the progress I’ve already made on my current work in progress and can’t wait to see what blessings God has in store this year.

I’m always talking about me. I’d love to hear about you! Tell me about your new year. What have you been up to this past week? Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? Have you kept them or did they already bite the dust? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Ways I Handle Burnout

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Burnout . . .

According to Google, burnout is

  1. the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion.
  2. physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.

For me, that looks like exhaustion, impatience, productive procrastination, and – when it gets really bad – my impression of an ostrich. (Yes, I know the head in the sand thing is a myth, but the analogy still works.)

waiting for problems to go away

Burnout has been triggered by different things throughout my life, but the common factor is always that somehow I have wound up with more on my to-do list than I believe is possible to accomplish in the amount of time I have to accomplish it, combined with a sense of one or more factors relating to that list being out of control – and this has continued for an extended period of time.

For example, in addition to being a mother and author, I am also a homeschool teacher. I can spend weeks planning my children’s education and hours teaching them, but at some point it is up to them to actually do the work. Like all children, there are phases in their life when they “just don’t want to” and nothing I say or do will make them budge. You know that saying:  “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”? I am intimately acquainted with the full meaning of that idea.

Human to Knowledge

Now, if their “just don’t want to” phase happens to occur at the same time I am trying to meet an ambitious number of writing related goals, have an unusually high frequency of medical appointments scheduled (for me or my kids), I am not getting enough sleep for one reason or another, and I am in the process of planning another child’s birthday celebration … well, this can sometimes lead me to burnout.

I have learned to recognize the signs of my impending burnout, but I am still working on nipping it in the bud. Some of the things I have tried which worked are:

1. Start saying, “No.”  I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to say, “No” to awesome opportunities or friends who need help. I want to do it all and I want to be there for all the people I care about. The trouble is, if I try to do it all, something always suffers – everything is done poorly or a few things are done well while something else gets forgotten or simply doesn’t get accomplished on time. Trying to do it all never works out well. If I try to be there for everyone all the time, it leaves me nothing left to give to those most important to me:  my family. As much as I fight it, my time and energy are not infinite. Learning to say no is a constant life struggle.

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2. Reprioritize my to-do list.  When I feel myself spiraling toward burnout I am normally moving at the speed of light, running from one task to the next, going to bed late, getting up early, and trying to solve every problem at the same time. So I try to take a step back and reevaluate where I’m putting my energy. Are the things I am trying to accomplish really that important or urgent? The best questions I have found to help me with deciding how to reorganize or even trim my to-do list are:  What will happen if this doesn’t get done? Can someone else do this?

3. Try to delegate. This is a tough one. Most of the items on my list are things only I can do or things only I can do well. That last part is where I usually fight with myself to let go. I grew up with a grandmother who asked me to handpick pieces of lint from the carpet and from whose bathroom floor I would have happily eaten from dinner. Perfectionism runs in my family. Letting someone else do something, *knowing* they can’t do it as well as I can (and that’s not ego, that’s just fact with certain tasks), but that they can accomplish the task “well enough”, is tough. Very tough. However, I have learned that the consequences of full-blown burnout are far greater than a mediocre job.

Sorry I'm late I had to stare at the ceiling and question all my life choices.

 

4. Take a break. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how important the to-do list tasks are. I need to step back, set my list down, and take a break. I need to switch gears and get my mind off the things that are bothering me. Since taking a week-long vacation from life isn’t typically practical, this is when I will go see a movie, or read a book just for fun (not to review), or even spend two hours listening to a friend’s problems. Nothing gets your mind off your own trouble like listening to someone else’s trouble – especially if they’re in a tougher spot than you are. And there is always someone in a tougher spot than you are.

I need a time out Image

5. Rejuvenate. I find a way to re-energize myself. This always involves worship and Bible study. Nothing puts things into perspective faster and calms my worries more thoroughly than reminding myself of Who is truly in control. When I find myself entering burnout, I almost always have let my Bible study slip. After all, there is no deadline by which I have to “finish studying the Bible.” No one ever “finishes” studying the Bible. And then there is the lie that “no one else is affected if I don’t read the Bible today.” It’s easy to see that if I don’t take my daughter to her medical appointment that she will suffer. It is more difficult to see that she will also suffer if I let my relationship with my Lord fall to the bottom of my to-do list. Yet it remains true that everything in my life suffers when I don’t prioritize spending time with God.

In addition to Bible study and worship, I will do what I can to catch up on sleep, spend some time alone with my thoughts, and find a creative outlet that is just for fun. I love being an author, but taking it seriously means it sometimes feels no different than any other job – there are days I can’t wait to start working and days I’d rather do anything but. So I make a point to find alternate ways to express my creativity without the pressure of public scrutiny or deadlines. These things re-energize me and fill that emotional cup so that I have something to give.

These are the 5 major things which I have found to help me avoid and recover from burnout.

What about you? What situations lead you to experience burnout? Have you found ways to get yourself out of it? Please share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

First Line Friday – 11.02.17

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Welcome to First Line Friday! Each Friday I pick a book and share the first line with you. In return, I hope you’ll share with me a first line from whatever book you have at hand!

This week I am sharing the first line from a book by an author I haven’t yet read, but am excited to try. It’s The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter, and apparently it has even been made into a Hallmark Channel movie.

The Convenient Groom

Here’s the first line:

The red light on Kate Lawrence’s cell phone blinked a staccato warning.

Here’s the description:

She wrote the book–literally–on finding the right mate. But does she really understand what love’s about?

Five hours before her Nantucket beach wedding–and on the eve of her big book launch–celebrity marriage counselor Kate Lawrence has everything in place.

Everything, that is, but the groom. She might not have a career, either, when her nationwide audience finds out their marriage guru has been left at the altar.

Enter Lucas Wright, who offers to stand in for the missing husband-to-be and marry her. Kate’s desperate enough to agree–although she’s sure this Mr. Wright is completely wrong for her. But can they pull it off? And why would Lucas marry her in the first place?

Could it be that “Dr. Kate” doesn’t know the first thing about love?

An inspiring tale of enduring love set in romantic Nantucket.

Each Romance For Good™ novel offers a story of hope and love that positively portrays the eternal impact of relationships.

Now it’s your turn! Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating: