Cooking and Writing

(I wrote this several years ago, but find the truth still applies…at least for me.)

Recently, a friend of mine warned me not to sit on my gift.  Just prior to that, she had asked me if I had written anything lately.  I hadn’t.  I haven’t felt inspired to write.  It was like I had nothing to say.

Last week I was going through emails and I came across one that was advertising next year’s Writers’ Market.  I remembered back to January of this year.  I had begged Nelson for an updated copy.  I told him that if he would buy it for me I would send out at least ten pieces to publishers.  He did and I didn’t.

In the past few months, I have begun to enjoy cooking.  Not long ago, Nelson posited that I was cooking to avoid writing.  Seemed ridiculous to me.  He had cooked most of our married life—mostly because he was very good at it, but also because I worked non-stop.  Now, Nelson is working long days and it just makes sense for me to pick up that responsibility.  I dove into the task by hunting for potential recipes and then began experimenting with combinations that I knew we liked.  I went quickly from having three recipes that my family enjoyed to a couple dozen.  It felt good.

This morning as I was washing the pot that I had made a really good soup in yesterday, I had an epiphany.  It was about cooking and writing. When Nelson and I got married I was afraid to cook.  I was such a novice that my mother-in-law bought me an illustrated cookbook.  My repertoire included macaroni made in a hot pot and peanut butter sandwiches.  To avoid embarrassment, I acquiesced to Nelson’s expertise and over the years discovered three recipes that I did well and stuck with those.  I was afraid to do any more than that because if I couldn’t do it perfectly I wouldn’t do it all.

What I realized as I stood at my sink scrubbing dishes was that Nelson was right in part.  I needed to cook so that I could write.  I hadn’t contacted any publishers with my writing because, though I knew I could write, I didn’t consider myself a writer.  Throwing myself into my cooking showed me that.  For years I had avoided cooking because I didn’t see myself as a cook and therefore I couldn’t.  It wasn’t enough to say that I could cook, I had to be the best cook.  I knew I was far from that so I didn’t, and wouldn’t cook.  This was reinforced by the ridicule I took when I tried to cook.  I was the brunt of many a family joke.  Why should I continue to prove them right and give them something new to laugh at?

My recent successes at cooking have forced me to rethink this.  I may not be a “James Beard Chef”, but I can cook.  Nelson has really enjoyed my newly found and developing love for being creative in the kitchen.  He raves about the meals and shows them off at work.  I’m not going to be Top Chef anywhere, not even in my kitchen.  That honor will always be Nelson’s.  But it’s not going to keep me from cooking and experimenting.

I still have a few months left in this year.  I will probably never win an award for my writing, but why should that keep me from developing my craft and sharing my thoughts?  The obvious answer is that it shouldn’t—and based on what I learned from cooking recently: it won’t!

Oh, and while I’m at it, I realized something else about my writing that makes it more imperative that I push past my reluctance to face rejection.  Recently while I was preparing for a retreat I led on spirituality and personality, I read that most devotionals are written by “N” types (think MBTI).  I mulled that over for a while and realized that is one of the reasons I feel so compelled to create a devotional series, one that is more appealing and appropriate for “S” types.  Not everyone relates to the intuitive style and needs to engage their senses more completely to engage them spiritually.  Maybe I’ve found my niche!

Meet the Author: Ginger Solomon

Today I am excited to share my post with an author who has done more to open my mind—and heart—to reading romance.

Ginger Solomon is the author of the Belikarian Weddings series. And the third book in her series is coming out 9/22/16. When I heard there was another story I jumped at the opportunity to read it and share it with you.

One of the things I love is knowing more about the authors whose books I enjoy reading. So I want you to know somethings about Ginger.

Ginger, tell us a little about where you live and write—and about your amazing family.

I live in northern Alabama where the temps have yet to realize it’s fall. I write wherever I can find a quiet space at any given moment. 

I have a wonderful, supportive husband and seven great kids—five boys and two girls. My two oldest (boys) are engaged to be married, and my oldest girl left a few weeks ago to go to a nearby school supported by our church. My third son is in his sophomore year of college. My youngest daughter is a senior in high school. And then I have a 9th grader and a 7th grader. I’ve home schooled them all and have been blessed by the experience.

Why romance? With all the different genres, what draws you to romance?

I don’t know. Maybe because my husband doesn’t have a romantic bone in his body—which I knew when I married him. I find my romance in my head. I’m very, very careful not to compare my heroes (or those of other writers that I read) to my hubby because he is great in so many other ways. I also like romance because I enjoy the correlation between the love between a man and a woman to that of our relationship with God. It’s not give and take. It’s give 100% always. God always provides His best for us, even when we don’t understand His ways. So should a man and a woman strive for the best thing for their partner.

What has been the biggest influence in your writing?

My relationship with Jesus. I know love because He first loved me. I grew up in a dysfunctional family that didn’t show love well. I know my mother loved me the best way she knew how, but… Anyway, when I met Jesus and truly turned my life over to Him, I knew what TRUE love felt like. I strive to show others that unconditional love through my writing.

Most writers face “writer’s block” at some time. How do you overcome it?

I have a side story—I call it my play story—that has no rules. I write without concern for whether it’s believable or whether anyone will like it or whatever. I still follow basic writing rules (like no head-hopping), but it’s a no-limits story. It frees up my mind to work out whatever is wrong with my main manuscript.

Do you have a portion of scripture that encourages you as a writer?

Every year, many people find a word they hope will encourage them through the year. I do that, but I also choose a verse. This year my verse is Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representation of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” My word for 2016 is consistent. I have tried to be consistent in my testimony about who Jesus is to me—through my books, my blog, and my life.

What advice would you give someone who is considering self-publishing?

Weigh the costs—cover, editing, formatting. How much can you do yourself? I am pretty computer literate, so I do the covers and formatting myself. I have qualified writing friends who edit for me and in exchange I edit for them. Read about others’ experiences. Learn from their mistakes and successes.

How can we pray for you?

I’m not sure when this will post, but on Friday September 23rd, I’m having a pretty invasive surgery to remove a mass that is on my pituitary gland—effectively brain surgery (but they’re going through my nose). There are tons of risks (as with all surgeries), but I appreciate prayer that my sight is not adversely affected (effected, I hate those two words) as the mass is pushing on my optic nerve. There are three scenarios…my sight will not change, which I can live with; my sight will get better, which is what I’m praying for; or I could lose my sight completely, which is a rare occurrence, but possible.

I will have at least a week of being down and out, so I’d also appreciate prayer for my family as they deal with Mom being unable to do everything she normally does. 😉

Here’s a teaser to get you interested:

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Aileen Najjar joins the royal household when her boss marries the princess. She loves working in the kitchen, but when the head cook allows her to prepare most of the meals, trouble finds her. The handsome head of security turns out to be her ally as she struggles to fit in.

 Matthias Firat wants to find the mole who leaked information leading to the attempts on the princess’s life. His attraction to the new kitchen helper prompts him to ask for her help.

 When she discovers the truth, it might very well break both their hearts.

Author’s Bio: Ginger Solomon is a Christian, a wife, a mother to seven, and a writer—in that order (mostly). She writes or reads inspirational romance of any genre, and if she’s busy homeschooling, doing laundry, or fixing dinner, it’s on her mind. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, president of her local writing group, and blogs regularly for InspyRomance.com and at gingersolomon.com.

 

 

Throwing My Hat

Steven James was a keynote speaker at the writers’ conference I recently attended. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard and thought so deeply during one speech. It’s the only CD of a keynote I purchased. It wasn’t that the others weren’t good, it’s just what he said somehow perfectly engaged both my brain and my heart.

The point that he made that was such an “aha” moment for me had to do with throwing your hat over the wall. I had never heard the phrase or the story to go with it before. I did some more reading about it when I got home. The phrase is used to describe commitment, especially commitment in the face of what seems impossible. The story goes that when a young man reached a wall that he didn’t think he could cross, he would throw his hat over the wall because that would ensure that he would get over the wall to get retrieve his hat.

I liked the image. I found a new commitment and courage while attending the conference. I determined that when I got home I was going to hang a hat by my desk to remind me that I was all in on this. I even knew the hat I was going to hang.

After my dad died in 1989, I “inherited” his black driving cap. It looks like this: black cap My husband has worn it occasionally when he plays golf, but for the most part it has just hung by the door and gathered dust. This was the hat I was going to hang by my desk.

When I got home from the conference I started writing, even sent a few things off to be considered for publication. But as the days went by, questions arose in my mind and my resolve began to weaken. I began to replay old tapes. The worst one came from my dad.

The summer between fourth and fifth grades a few friends and I spent our allowance on steno pads and Bic pens and determined we were going to write the next great American novel—only we just called them stories. I wrote like my pen was on fire. I was proud of my story, so I took it to my dad for his approval. His lack of support was devastating. I can still hear his words to this day: “What were you thinking? This is terrible. You will never write anything that anyone is ever going to want to read.”

As much as it hurt, I kept trying. I received positive encouragement from my creative writing teacher in high school. Imagine my delight when we were able to briefly reconnect on Facebook and she reaffirmed her support. In college I continued to write creatively and my pieces were graded favorably and held up as examples. Friends and family, especially my husband, gave me all kinds of positive feedback. I wanted to send things in. Talked about it. Dreamt about it. But never seemed to be able to push past my father’s voice.

While I was at the writers’ conference, one of the things that I took full advantage of was the opportunity to meet with writers, editors, and publishers. I made some pitches, and used a couple appointments to pick some very talented brains. One of the people I sat across the table from was the director of the conference, Alton Gansky. I had nothing to pitch. I went in with a specific question, but when I sat down in the chair it just didn’t seem like the thing to ask. I asked him how to push through, to move from wishing to really writing. He looked at me, seemed somewhat surprised by the question. His answer, while not incredibly original, was exactly what I needed to hear: “Just do it.”

The other night I was awake late. The house was quiet. I felt like I was in a the middle of a weird game of tug of war. I was pulling for all I was worth, but I had this incredible team behind me, writer friends, family, friends, writing teachers and profs, Alton, my husband. Quite an impressive group. I smiled and felt a surge of strength. Then I looked across from me. There was only one person on the other team. It was my dad. And it dawned on me—this isn’t even a fight.

I walked into the office and I picked up his hat. Steven James was right. I do need to throw the hat over the wall. But I’m not going over the wall to retrieve it. I’m throwing it over the wall, and I’m walking away. I don’t know why my dad wasn’t able to be more supportive, but that’s about him, not about me. It’s time. It’s time to believe the whole host of people cheering me on. It’s time to just do this.

I know it won’t be the next great American novel. But I have stories to tell…and tell I will! And maybe I’ll go buy a new hat. One that fits me. One that is worth chasing.

Sitting on the Floor at the Library

I think I had a revelation today. I was sitting on the floor in the stacks of the library, scanning the titles in the section on writing and publishing. And with a sigh of resignation I decided I just don’t fit.

During the summer when I was ten, my friends and I set out writing our own great novels. Proudly, I showed my work to my extremely critical father, who quickly pronounced that nothing I ever wrote would ever get published. Parental pronouncements can be very powerful…and defeating.

Sitting there on the floor, though, I began to consider that perhaps he was giving me a gift. I have never been able to see myself writing a novel. My brain just doesn’t seem to work that way. I love to stories, the stories of my life. I believe they have purpose and I love to share them. So I felt released from having to come up with the next best novel. There are more than enough people working at that.

So where did that leave me? Other than frustrated? People keep telling me I need to write more. I have always thought that meant writing a book. But Dad said I couldn’t do that. But you’re an adult and you don’t have to listen to that anymore. He’s been dead for over twenty years, don’t you think it’s time to stand up for yourself? But what if he was right? Ack!

I have enjoyed blogging. I like writing short pieces that inspire and encourage. That’s who I am. But I want to do it better. So I went to the library computerized card catalogue (does anyone else miss flipping through the old fashion drawers?) and looked for a “Blogging for Dummies” book. And there was one! And it was actually available! I have it in my possession and I may even break down and buy one for myself.

I’m going to change my twitter profile from “wannabe writer” to blogger. I’m going to learn to excel at this medium and then see where it takes me.

This feels good and right.