You Oughta Know: Don’t Shake the Spoon Literary Journal

On November 17th, I got to attend the Miami Book Fair for the first time. I didn’t get toDon't Shake the Spoon spend nearly as much time exploring and attending talks as I would have liked, but I’m profiling a couple of the sessions I attended and books I came across during my brief day experiencing the fair. As I’ve been processing everything I was exposed to and thinking of how I wanted to share it, the first thing I knew I had to share, the thing I wanted everyone who didn’t experience it to know about, was Exchange for Change and their literary journal, Don’t Shake the Spoon.

Before hearing about them at the Miami Book Fair, I didn’t know Exchange for Change existed. If you’re similarly unaware, here’s the description of the program from their website:

The nonprofit Exchange for Change teaches writing in prisons and runs letter exchanges between incarcerated students and writers studying on the outside.

Through this program, many inmates are learning to express themselves and wield the power of the written word. I’m absolutely here for a program that brings the power and dignity of being able to express yourself and share your story to those who might have never known that power.

Don’t Shake the Spoon is a literary journal filled with poems, essays and stories produced in the courses taught by Exchange for Change. They are currently selling their first volume, which I immediately purchased after hearing several pieces performed by guest speakers and volunteers. Listening to the pieces read at the fair and reading through the pieces in the journal, I’m struck all over again at the immense amount of talent existing within people that many have gone their whole lives not realizing they have. I walked away wanting to do something to facilitate this exchange of words and world views, to cultivate a conversation about our justice system, and to just be a part of something that can change someone’s perception of their freedom even in imprisonment.

I’m not attempting to argue about the how’s and why’s of people ending up in prison. I realize the conversations around rehabilitation and prison reform are much broader and nuanced than a simple post can address, and the answers much more complicated than the questions make them seem. What I am attempting to do is to shed a little light on what I think is an amazing literary journal, and an amazing endeavor undertaken by Exchange for Change.

If you’re interested in own voices, then I suggest you give this journal a try. If you’re in the Miami Area and are interested in seeing the students perform their original works at one of the upcoming graduations, or you want to get involved with Exchange for Change, please visit their website.

Stay tuned to find out how one session with National Book Award Non-Fiction Finalists piqued my interest in a topic that usually leaves me with extreme fatigue.

Your Turn: What wonderful book have you recently stumbled upon? Share it in the comments!

Get in My Kindle: The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman

Good morning, shelfies! How was Thanksgiving for you? Did you get any reading done? My TBR pile is growing much faster than it is shrinking, but I plan to cram in a couple books this weekend to stay on track with my reading challenge for this year and make room for more of the books I’ll be featuring on Get in My Kindle. It’s just so hard to decide what to read next! If you’re struggling with your next move in life–whether it’s what to read next, where to relocate to, what to do with your life, or any decision in between–today’s pick, The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions, might be just the book you need to read.

Title: The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions The Next Right Thing
Author: Emily P. Freeman
Release Date: April 2, 2019
Description: Nothing gets our attention like an unmade decision: Should I accept the new position? Which schooling choice is best for my kids? How can I support my aging parents? When we have a decision to make and the answer isn’t clear, what we want more than anything is peace, clarity, and a nudge in the right direction.

If you have trouble making decisions, because of either chronic hesitation you’ve always lived with or a more recent onset of decision fatigue, Emily P. Freeman offers a fresh way of practicing familiar but often forgotten advice: simply do the next right thing. With this simple, soulful practice, it is possible to clear the decision-making chaos, quiet the fear of choosing wrong, and find the courage to finally decide without regret or second-guessing.

Whether you’re in the midst of a major life transition or are weary of the low-grade anxiety that daily life can bring, Emily helps create space for your soul to breathe so you can live life with God at a gentle pace and discern your next right thing in love.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: I found Emily P. Freeman years ago on a podcast (I believe it was The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey). Since my introduction to her and her work, I’ve listened to Emily on many other podcasts and followed her to Hope*Writers, the writing group she co-founded to help provide writers with the tools they need to succeed at writing, whatever that looks like for them. I’ve read her books, blogs, and newsletters, and I follow her Instagram (and her popular hashtag #itssimplytuesday), but the project of hers that really inspired me is The Next Right Thing podcast.

I was already following Emily when she started talking about pursuing a project that didn’t feel like it wanted to be a book. Eventually that project became The Next Right Thing, and Emily began releasing episodes helping people make decisions by doing–you guessed it!–the next right thing. The reason this struck me wasn’t just because I was interested in podcasting or tend to avoid decision making because I get overwhelmed; it was Emily’s assertion of letting a project tell you what it wants to be, and then just doing the next right thing until the project is fully realized.

I love that this thing that didn’t feel like a book and became a podcast is now going to be the basis for a book. It feels like a full circle moment. I don’t think Emily thought the journey into The Next Right Thing podcast would include writing this book, but I’m happy it did. I’m excited to read this book and learn about decision-making, yes, and there’s no one I can think of who frames simplicity in as flattering and, well, simple a light as Emily, but the thing I am most looking forward to is seeing how the message is translated into the medium of a book.

Affiliate Links
Hardcover:

Kindle: (Link not yet available. Will update ASAP)

Your Turn: How do you make life decisions? Have any podcasts you’d recommend to readers? Any podcasts you’d like to see turned into books?

One Small Step, and One Giant Leap

Hello, Shelfies! I realize this blog has been dead silent for weeks, and I apologize. It’s not because I haven’t been reading. In fact, I read 2 books more than I needed to for October to stay in step with my Goodreads Reading Challenge. I have quite a few reviews to post and Get in My Kindle recommendations to share, but today I wanted to share a couple pieces of exciting news. 

It is officially fall in Florida right now. I’m sitting in a screened in patio area luxuriating in the perfect weather after a truly exhausting day yesterday. Yesterday, something I’ve been thinking about and planning for months finally took a small step forward, and I’m still basking in the glow of its awesomeness.

In June, I began working through an idea I had for a project I wanted to start working on. I know I have a tendency to bail on things, so I gave myself a few benchmarks of things to accomplish before I would tell anyone about it. Later, an author I was working with specifically ask me if I’d ever thought about pursuing the thing I was mulling over. I reached out to my co-contributors on this site with my idea and they both thought it was a great idea and wanted to know how they could support it. Yesterday, after months of mulling and planning, I took the small step of buying something I need to do the thing: a microphone.

Now it’s time to take the big leap and share with you what I’m working on and how you can help or be involved. *deep breath* OK, here it goes…

I’m working on a By Her Shelf podcast!

The By Her Shelf podcast will feature everyday readers as well as authors, entrepreneurs and influencers who will invite me to peruse their bookshelves to find out the kind of people they are, and add an alarming amount of books to all of our TBR piles. There will also be episodes focused on Upcoming releases and book-related events, publishing news, literary discussions, and more.

Friends, I’m beyond excited to let this cat out of the bag. It’s been killing me to keep this idea between myself, my co-contributors and my mom. However, it’s a scary leap to announce this now because the show isn’t ready to launch yet. I’m at least a couple months away from releasing episodes. So why am I sharing this now? Because I want your help.

I’m looking for guests who aren’t afraid to share the books they love or hate, the works that changed their perspective and shaped their lives. I want to host guests who don’t mind judging and being judged by the books people choose to read, all in the name of getting to know each other. I’m dying to hear about the time you gave in to FOMO and regretted it so hard you might have broken your brain, or the weird way you stumbled upon your favorite author, or your goal to read a specific group of books in a year. I want to know what book people would be surprised to find on your shelves and the book you can’t stop pressing into every pair of open hands you find. Tell me all about what subjects or tropes you can’t help but buy, and which ones you wish would go away for good. And we simply must talk about your TBR pile before your family has an intervention.

If a conversation like this sounds right up your alley, let me know! If you’d like to be a guest, or have suggestions for the content of the show, leave a message in the comments, fill out the contact form, or email me at mz.zeyzey2@gmail.com. Want to keep up with my podcast journey and find out when the show will be ready to debut? Subscribe to the By Her Shelf Newsletter via the pop up, or send me your email address and I’ll add you to the list.

Be on the lookout for a new Get in My Kindle post on Monday.

XOXO,

Erica

 

Currently Reading: Goodreads vs. Reality

If you look on my Goodreads account, it will give you a list of seven books I’m currently reading. (o_O) While I’ve been making more of a concerted effort to keep up with my reading on Goodreads, I have to admit my current reading life bears little resemblance to the list you’ll find there. I wanted to give you a real glimpse into my currently reading list, TBR pile, and recent reads. It’s time to take a look at my real reading life vs. my Goodreads account.

Current Reads: 

The Promise of Home

I recently visited a used book tent at a Flea Market and they were having a 2 for $1 sale on Harlequin’s Love Inspired books, which I love. I bought and devoured Love Finds a Home by Kathryn Springer. I loved it. According to the Dear Reader note, the next book in the series was about one of the secondary characters I really liked, and it had a good hook. Three books later (hello, reading rabbit hole!), I’m reading my fourth book set in Mirror Lake (in less than five days).

 

Born a Crime

This is one I have out from the library. I started reading the first chapter the other day and so far it’s really interesting. I also made a print that says “Just waiting for Trevor Noah to realize he’s my husband,” so there’s that.

 

 

 

Come Matter Here

This one is a bit of a cheat. I’m actually slowing reading through a sample of this book and deciding if I want to borrow it or buy it. I haven’t read much, but it’s pretty good so far, and I’ve heard great things.

 

 

 

Currently Checked Out of the Library:

Born A Crime, referenced in Current Reads. Divided Kingdom is a book a listener suggested on a special episode of What Should I Read Next that has an interesting premise. Close Enough to Touch has been in my Goodreads Want to Read for years, so I requested it. Educated and Vox were my FOMO and Buzz Book picks, respectively.

Recent Purchases:

Along with the second book of the Mirror Lake series referenced above, I also picked up Firestarter and Thinner by Stephen King and Finally a Bride by Renee Andrews at the flea market. There are more Love Inspired Titles, but I can’t remember them right now. I saw a kindle deal for  I’ll Take You There and snapped it up because the Staple Singers’ music makes up a large part of the soundtrack of my childhood, yet I had no clue it “shaped the Civil Rights Era.” I’m looking forward to it.

Speaking of Kindle Deals:

I purchased these as kindle deals and have yet to dive into them. I started the first essay in All the Lives I Want but got sidetracked by other books.

Recent Reads:

Series:

I went back and closed the loop in my reading of Julie Miller’s The Precinct series, reading books 4-6, which I’d somehow skipped. As I mentioned in current reads, I bought the second book in the Mirror Lake Series, Love Finds a Home, at a flea market and found books 2, 3, 4, and now 5 on kindle. I read and loved three of the six so far and am currently reading the fourth.

Individual reads:

I read more than category romance this month. Since September 14, I’ve also managed to read I’d Rather be Reading (a Get in My Kindle Pick that turned out to be amazing), I Am I Am I Am (a FOMO book that was well worth the buzz), and Vinegar Girl (a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew that kept me turning the pages and proved to be an enjoyable read).

TBR:

Remember God

In addition to the library books and recent purchases (and books that will inevitably jump the line and demand to be read before what I planned to read), there’s this book, Remember God by Annie F. Downs. I actually listened to the audio book I received as a pre-order bonus, but I don’t think of audio books as reading (I know, this is a hot button issue in the reading world. I’m not saying YOU can’t count them however you want on your Goodreads or in your bullet journal, just that I, personally, don’t count them). I loved hearing Annie tell me her story, but it’s a different experience for me to read the words on the page, and I can’t wait to read it.

Your Turn: Does the reality of your reading life match your Goodreads profile? What are you currently reading? What’s at the top of your TBR pile?

Get in My Kindle: The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Happy Tuesday, fellow shelf-addicts! This week’s Get in My Kindle comes with a bit of a **SPOILER ALERT. THIS IS NOT A TEST OF THE SPOILER ALERT SYSTEM! IT’S A LEGIT SPOILER ALERT WARNING.** If you haven’t read Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven and you want to (trust me, you want you if you haven’t already), then you might want to skip this post and come back to it after you do. If you just can’t wait to know why I’m so excited about The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, I suggest skipping over the Amazon description and going straight to why I’m excited to read. You’ve been warned. **THIS CONCLUDES A LEGIT WARNING FROM THE SPOILER ALERT SYSTEM**

Title: The Next Person You Meet in Heaven The Next Person You Meet in Heaven

Author: Mitch Albom

Release Date: October 9, 2018

*SPOILER ALERT* Description: In this enchanting sequel to the number one bestseller The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom tells the story of Eddie’s heavenly reunion with Annie—the little girl he saved on earth—in an unforgettable novel of how our lives and losses intersect.
Fifteen years ago, in Mitch Albom’s beloved novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, the world fell in love with Eddie, a grizzled war veteran- turned-amusement park mechanic who died saving the life of a young girl named Annie. Eddie’s journey to heaven taught him that every life matters. Now, in this magical sequel, Mitch Albom reveals Annie’s story.

The accident that killed Eddie left an indelible mark on Annie. It took her left hand, which needed to be surgically reattached. Injured, scarred, and unable to remember why, Annie’s life is forever changed by a guilt-ravaged mother who whisks her away from the world she knew. Bullied by her peers and haunted by something she cannot recall, Annie struggles to find acceptance as she grows. When, as a young woman, she reconnects with Paulo, her childhood love, she believes she has finally found happiness.
As the novel opens, Annie is marrying Paulo. But when her wedding night day ends in an unimaginable accident, Annie finds herself on her own heavenly journey—and an inevitable reunion with Eddie, one of the five people who will show her how her life mattered in ways she could not have fathomed.

Poignant and beautiful, filled with unexpected twists, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven reminds us that not only does every life matter, but that every ending is also a beginning—we only need to open our eyes to see it.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: Over a decade ago, I sat in my aunt and uncle’s sun room and read The Five People You Meet in Heaven in one sitting. I was captivated by the story of Eddie, the “war vet turned amusement park mechanic,” who dies trying to save a little girl and goes to Heaven. During the course of the book, Eddie meets five people who explain his life to him, people who have, whether or not Eddie has known it, changed his life’s path. Eddie, and the reader, is left wondering if Eddie managed to save the little girl until the end. The book’s portrayal of Heaven and the afterlife serves not only the premise, but the story. I remember being spellbound.

As soon as I saw this book’s title while scrolling on Facebook, I knew two things: this was a sequel to a book I loved reading, and I had to read it. Reading the description and finding out who we’re following on this journey only made me want to read it more.

I have to be honest. I am, by nature, immediately suspicious of sequels to things I loved. I don’t mean series books that are all leading to the epic showdown or reveal, but an honest to goodness sequel. I’m plagued by worries that the author, director, or songwriter is going to release a work that will not only be subpar, but take away from my love of the original. I hope for more than a rehashing or remixing of the same ingredients or another lap around the same track, but I brace myself for a carbon copy that doesn’t quite live up to the original. So it’s a big deal that I’m buzzing about a sequel here.

Unlike millions of people, I never read Tuesdays with Morrie or any of Albom’s other books. He’s not on my auto-buy list. But the memories I have of reading and loving the one book of his I have read makes this a can’t miss book for me. I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed this sequel is worth the wait–and a read.

Affiliate Links:

Hardcover:

Kindle:

EVENT ALERT: If you are in the Orlando/Winter Park, FL area on Oct 11, independent bookstore The Writer’s Block will be hosting The Orlando Sentinel’s Unscripted event, a Celebratory Evening with Mitch Albom, at Rollin’s College.

Your Turn: Do you like reading sequels? What’s your favorite sequel or “return” to a specific world or character’s life after a long hiatus? 

Get in My Kindle: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Happy Thursday, Shelfies! It’s been a grueling week here after a fun but chaotic weekend of reading, editing, exploring with my dad to celebrate his birthday, and a series of flat tires. I finished I’d Rather be Reading this weekend before getting ensnared by Maggie O’Farrell’s beautifully written and well structured memoir I Am, I Am, I Am. I am 65% done and still turning the pages as fast as possible. In the spirit of sharing what promises to be a great memoir in its own right, I give you this week’s Get in My Kindle featured book (and a promise to start posting regularly again). 

Title: BecomingBecoming Michelle Obama

Author: Michelle Obama

Release Date: November 13, 2018

Description: In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: Michelle Obama has become many things to me since I first saw her standing beside her husband at different campaign events, but perhaps the most important has been as a role model, an example of what’s possible, for young black women. She’s been poised under scrutiny, exhibiting class and refusing to be cast as another angry black woman while speaking out on issues and speaking up for those who have been marginalized. An intelligent woman, a gifted orator, and a woman who seemed to balance career and family well in what’s perhaps the world’s strongest spotlight, I can’t help but be interested in her story as a whole.

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of origin stories. Whether it’s the idea for a novel, a career defining decision, or the minute choices and steps taken to evolve into a world leader, I’m fascinated by stories that take me back to the beginning and show me how people and things came to be. To hear the tale in the person’s own words is even better. I want to know how Michelle became Michelle Obama, the first African-American woman to become FLOTUS, and what she’s evolving into in her post-White House life.

Affiliate Links:

Hardcover

Large Print:

Kindle:

Are you looking forward to Becoming? Any other memoirs coming soon you can’t wait to read? Let me know in the comments below. 

Get in My Kindle: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Title: Nine Perfect StrangersNine Perfect Strangers

Author: Liane Moriarty

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Description:

Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: I have a confession to make. I haven’t read or watched Big Little Lies. This oversight is probably worth a FOMO book post where I invite you to tell me whether or not it’s worth it, but at the moment I’m simply establishing the fact I am not a Liane Moriarty fan. I’ve heard the name, but to be honest, I think of the arch nemesis of Sherlock Holmes before the #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

What intrigues me about this book isn’t name recognition or a particularly well thought out title (Although the title is reminiscent of the original title of an Agatha Christie mystery that was renamed, and the prospect of reading a book like that is exciting. Perhaps the title is ironic and the characters are either not strangers or not as perfect as they seem. Operating on the book’s description, I can’t be sure. However, I reserve the right to a smug, knowing smile if either guess proves correct). The draw for me is the description.

I’m a big fan of character driven works. Having an attention grabbing premise is a good hook, but if you want to reel in a reader like me, you’re going to need to get me on the side of at least one character quickly. From the brief description of the main character, Frances, I think I’d love to follow her. She’s a former bestseller, which makes me wonder why she isn’t a bestseller now. She’s nursing a bad back (how old is she) and a broken heart (who broke her heart? Does that factor into the story). Then we’re given the curious detail of the “exquisitely painful paper cut,” when her back and broken heart aren’t given such descriptors. It’s not surprising that a writer would be intrigued by the other people at the health resort, but the teasing hint of danger at the end, should she run while she still can?, well, that is surprising.

If Ms. Moriarty is as skilled a writer as the internet says she is, this may be a page turner I can’t put down until I know what happened and who’s behind it. It’s times like this I wish I had enough of a following to be sent ARCs of books like this for review, or be granted interviews with well known authors, because I would love to be ahead of the curve on this one.

If a potentially witty page turner with an interesting protagonist and a good bit of mystery thrown in strikes your fancy, pre-order your copy from Amazon using my affiliate links below:

Hardback:

Kindle:

Have you read anything by Liane Moriarity? Are you looking forward to Nine Perfect Strangers? Let me know your thoughts on this week’s pick in the comments

Get in My Kindle: Remember God by Annie F. Downs

Title: Remember God Remember God

Author: Annie F. Downs

Release Date: October 2, 2018

Description: 

I know God is loving; I know He is good; I believe He is big and powerful. But sometimes I wonder if He is really kind— really deeply always kind.

Is He?

Christians love to talk about how God is in control, but that’s harder to grasp when things aren’t going like you thought they would, when your life looks quite different than you imagined.

For centuries, God’s people have been building altars to Him—to remind themselves and the people around them of His work. His goodness. His kindness. Stacks of stones. Altars. Temples. Cathedrals. Why? Because they believed God and wanted to remember Him.

In the back of my mind, God reminds me that He is the same trustworthy God—the One who always finishes the stories he starts. And this is my story—of wrestling with our God who gives a limp and a blessing. A God who is always kind even when my circumstances feel the opposite. God is who He says He is. He is kinder than you imagine. In a world where it is easy to forget who He is, we will not. We will remember God.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: I’ve been following Annie for years and have read Let’s All Be Brave and Looking for Lovely. What I love about Annie’s writing is its honesty. Annie shares a lot of her life in her stories. Annie doesn’t lecture; she simply shares what she has learned by telling her story.

If you’ve read any of my Get in My Kindle picks, you know that I love a memoir or story of someone’s life, and all of Annie’s books are deeply personal. I’ve followed her journey of writing and editing this book, and as with Dani Shapiro’s forthcoming Inheritance, I feel invested in this story because I’ve seen what it cost the author to write it.

Annie is my friend in my head. We are both single Christian women in our thirties trying to make sense of a life that hasn’t turned out like we expected. God is still refining and teaching, and sometimes it’s hard to remember there’s a God behind what’s happening, and He has a purpose for it all. From what I’ve heard, Annie shares the story of her struggle to remember God through a particularly trying season. I can’t wait to see what she learns.

If you’re interested in Annie’s book, pre-order it right away! Annie is giving the first five thousand people to pre-order a free copy of the audio book! Go to anniefdowns.com to redeem your pre-order. You can order using my affiliate link below or use the links for other retailers on Annie’s site. The offer will disappear once all the audiobooks have been claimed. 

Grab It. Affiliate Links: 

Paperback:

Kindle: This wasn’t available when I checked. I’ll post it as soon as I find it.

 

Writing Wednesday: Diary of a Submission

Previously on By Her Shelf…

…“How Pleasure and Pain Became Friends.” I started it as a teenager… Over the years, their backgrounds and relationship has changed but the idea has always been there. I even entered a version of it in So You Think You Can Write. My CPs have read a large chunk of it, and one in particular always asks me when I’m going to finish it, but I haven’t… If I can get out of my own head, I might be able to have a finished story worth submitting. -Erica D. Hearns

I wrote this last month about my white whale story, an inspirational romance at the same time Harlequin was running the Romance Includes You submission blitz to find diverse stories from underrepresented groups. Sunday night at 11:59PM EST. The first chapter and synopsis of the above story was submitted at 9:53PM. This is the story. *insert Law and Order chimes*

Two weeks ago, I told my critique partner and fellow By Her Shelf blogger Christina I was thinking of submitting Pleasure’s Paine to this blitz. She urged me to do it, even offering to beta read and critique my entry that weekend. I didn’t get to it. She told me she was ready to do it anytime I needed her to. Flash forward to Sunday morning. After staying in bed the day before with a headache, I woke up pain free and energized. I decided to take the plunge and submit. I printed off the first chapter to edit on paper, saved my document, and treated myself to a decaf caramel latté. I knew many of the things I wanted to address, and editing flew by. When I returned to my computer, I realized I’d somehow erased the first chapter from the document. *cue panic attack*

But after the panic came…freedom. All of a sudden, I was back in the driver’s seat. I didn’t have to try and rework what was on the page because nothing was on the page. I didn’t even have to stick with the changes I’d made earlier that morning. Staring at the a blank page that shouldn’t have been blank broke the chains that tied me to what I’d already written.

In less than 12 hours, I rewrote the first chapter and created the entire synopsis from scratch. I sent pages to Christina in between writing sessions, received her feedback, and made adjustments. Then I uploaded my document, crafted a cover letter on the spot, and hit submit for the first time in three years.

I believe I was able to turn this submission around so quickly because I’ve lived with these characters for well over a decade, know their voices/POVs, and wasn’t afraid to kill any darlings that didn’t fit the story I was crafting. The reality of the deadline kept me plowing forward and forced me to figure out fixes on the fly. All of that is true. But the one thing I would point to above all those factors is the fact I was tired of letting golden opportunities pass me by without making any effort to grab them.

This year, I’ve committed myself to the concept of sowing. My only goal has been to say yes, take the opportunity, make the attempt, and see what happened. This blog is one of the seeds I sowed. I enjoy seeing that people are reading, liking, and commenting, but my commitment is to showing up and sharing my views on books and all things pertaining to the reading life.

Even though  I’ve made significant progress on my goal, I’ve allowed myself to watch potentially life-changing opportunities pass me by. These opportunities would have cost me nothing but the time, effort and courage to try. Sowing those seeds could have led to a new career, meeting new people, and getting to see more of the world I live in. I didn’t want this to be another thing I wished I had the courage to reach for.

All I’m guaranteed is feedback by October 1st. Whether the feedback is good or bad, whether they request more of the manuscript or not, the feeling of accomplishment that came over me when I took the time to acknowledge I’d done the thing I set out to do is reward enough for me to keep working on this story. I hope this seed will grow into something, but I’ve done my part for now. I’ll continue doing it.

Good luck to everyone with a story on submission?

What leaps have you made to move closer to your dreams/goals? Which leap are you preparing to make? Any book recommendations on taking leaps?

If you’re thinking of taking a creative leap, you might want to check out the kindle version of bestselling author and creativity expert Jeff Goins’ #1 bestseller, Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age. It’s on sale right now for $1.99! I just snagged my copy. Click the affiliate link in the photo to snag yours.