Category Archives: Blogging

Lately I’m . . .

I don’t even remember the last time I posted one of these. This year has taken me away from Editionally quite a bit, so it’s only fair that I tell you what I’ve been up to.

Lately I’m . . . 

Missing Orlando and Lake Superior
We had a few really amazing vacations this summer, and I sincerely believe they upped my quality of life and enjoyment of the season.

I went to Orlando at the end of June for a database conference (way more fun than it sounds!), and Jonathan tagged along. We stayed at the Rosen Centre (AMAZING hotel!) for nine days and visited Cocoa Beach, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios, Universal Islands of Adventure, and Typhoon Lagoon. I feel guilty for some reason, but I enjoyed Universal more than Disney. Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade were AMAZING! (Can someone in Minnesota please start selling frozen Butterbeer?)cocoabeachhogsmeade At the end of July, we met up with some of my family in Marquette, Michigan, and spent a week touring the Upper Peninsula. I wish I could convey how unbelievably beautiful it is up there. And besides that, I got to PET A BEAR! Bucket list: check!

littlepresqueisle marquette sprayfallsbabybear Loving my job
I’ve been in my new role for almost a year now, and I have never been so happy at work. l enjoyed my work as an administrative assistant, but I LOVE my coworkers and the database and communications work I’m doing now. And our church is healthier than I’ve ever seen it before. I’m definitely in my sweet spot.

Earlier this week, I came across an opening for my dream job. And you know what? I didn’t even click on the link. I just thought, “I don’t really want that anymore. I love where I am now, and that job isn’t me anymore.” If you know anything about the journey I’ve been on, you know that’s a BIG deal.

Planning a trip to the United Kingdom
Jonathan and I are going international! We’ve wanted to do some traveling for quite a while and next year is the year. I asked him if we could ease into it (I’ve never been anywhere but Canada) by going somewhere they speak English. And we both want to visit England, so we’re going to.

If we can make it happen, the plan is to visit England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. The trip will be a little about writers (Austen, Lewis, and Tolkein just to name a few), a little about heritage (I’m distantly related to the MacLeans who own Duart Castle in Scotland and we both have some Irish blood), and a little about curiousity (does anyone ever go to Wales?). Throw in a few super touristy things and it’ll be an amazing trip. I can’t wait.

Budgeting like it’s my job
Not only do we need to be saving like maniacs to make the UK trip happen, we’re paying off about $3,500 in unexpected car repairs and I need a new phone. So we’re keeping it super tight until . . . well, indefinitely.

I’ve been brainstorming ways to make a little extra to get there faster, and I’ve come up with everything from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to selling crocheted hats to friends on Facebook (are you interested?). And of course, I’m ALWAYS open to new editing projects, but I haven’t gotten many bites lately.

Trying to stick to Weight Watchers
This summer has been a huge struggle, but I’m hanging in there. I’ve lost about 31 pounds so far, and I’m almost half way to my goal of losing 70 pounds. I’m in a wedding next year, and I’d really love to hit my goal by then. If nothing else, definitely by the time we go on our trip.

It gets really tough to stick with it when you’ve already seen a ton of progress and you’re tired of having to put so much thought into something as “easy” as eating. I slip into old habits so quickly, despite knowing I’ll feel like garbage later.

Working up the courage to actually write that book
Apparently telling people I was going to write a book wasn’t actually enough motivation to do it. I’ve discovered that my anxiety extends to my writing, and I’m actually quite terrified of failure. Because, if I write my story and it doesn’t work, what do I have left to write? But between the Global Leadership Summit and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, I’m feeling inspired to find ways to do it anyway.

So, um… there you have it. I’ve noticed I feel like everything is “normal” and nothing too exciting is going on until I sit back and look at where I was a year ago. I’ve changed a lot, and I’m excited to see what happens next.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

FIVE STARS

I got out of my Christian book bubble for this one. I’ve been laughing at Jenny Lawson’s stuff on theblogess.com for about a year, so when I found out she wrote a memoir focused around her mental illness, I knew I had to get it. I didn’t exactly read it—I used my free Audible trial to get the audiobook, and I’ve been listening to it in the car over the last week or so. I highly recommend experiencing Furiously Happy this way—Jenny is the narrator, which makes it even better because no one “gets” how a book is supposed to be read quite like the author, plus the audio version comes with a bonus chapter.

Jenny did talk about her struggles with depression, anxiety, and a few other things, but mostly the book was just super entertaining, at least for me. Her writing style is fast and may give you whiplash, but I promise it’s worth it. I can’t wait to get ahold of her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened because I’m sure it’s as good as this one.

I highly recommend Furiously Happy, unless you find language and references to the author’s “lady garden” offensive.

I chose to review this book just because I loved it. I’m not getting compensated and my opinions were not influenced by the publisher or author.

Not Writing

So does being a writer mean you do everything you can think of instead of writing because it’s just too hard? Like checking your email, looking at Facebook, going over your notes a tenth time, refilling your water bottle even though you’ve only had two swallows, or looking at Facebook again? Or perhaps even writing a blog post about not writing because you’d rather write that than write the thing you’re supposed to write?

Uggh. Welcome to my morning.

Taming the To-Do List by Glynnis Whitwer

tamingtodolistThis book is going to change my life. 

That’s what I was thinking just a few chapters into Glynnis Whitwer’s Taming the To-Do List. It was like she was in my head. It went way beyond quick tips for checking more items off your list. It’s actually a book about procrastination—what it is, why we do it, and how to stop. Whitwer didn’t just attribute it to busyness and leave it at that. She dove right into the heart issues, covering things like fear, perfectionism, and willpower.

Each  chapter ended with a practical application section that asks tough questions and provides a framework for tackling some of those tasks you just never seem to cross off your list. By the time I finished reading, I had identified action steps to accomplish two things that have been on my list forever—maintaining a regular blogging schedule and making a dentist appointment.

I chose to review this book because, well, what woman doesn’t think she’s too busy and unorganized at some point in her life? It was so much more than I was expecting. I didn’t even know I had a procrastination issue, but I’ve already made dozens of changes that have improved my day-to-day life. It hasn’t even been two weeks since I finished the book!

I can easily say this is one of the most important books I’ve read this year—and maybe even in my life so far. If you struggle with people-pleasing, perfectionism, self-confidence, or laziness, or even if you KNOW you’re a procrastinator, please read this book. It’s written for women, but I know men who can get past that will benefit from it as well. My husband suggested he’d be interested in reading it after hearing me rave about it.

FIVE STARS
(Learn about my star system here.)

Buy it on Amazon.

I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

Reviewing Books is Hard

So You Want to Review Books-Can I be really honest with you for a minute?

Writing book reviews is hard.

Especially when you make a personal connection with the author. That happens more than I would’ve thought.

I write reviews primarily to help other readers figure out what to spend “reading hours” on. There are a lot of amazing books out there, and if you spend your time reading the okay ones, you might miss the life-changing ones. (I also love getting free books, but that’s another post.)

But I’m also a writer. Not a book writer (at least not at this point), but a writer just the same. And I have lots of friends who are writers. Writers, like many other creatives, can be sensitive about their work. Sometimes criticism is really hard to take because their art is an extension of them. It’s all personal.

Striking a Balance
So here at Editionally, I’m caught between helping readers find great books and encouraging writers without crushing them. It’s a really, really tough place to be. I’ve been on launch teams, reviewed books written by people I love, and reviewed books upon authors’ requests. In each of those situations, I have a relational investment with the writer. And it’s really hard to be honest when I don’t like something. But I also don’t want readers to waste time reading just-okay books.

So if you’re a reader . . .
Please know that I’m trying to help you out. I’m giving you my opinion as a reader, an editor, and a friend of authors. I have reviewer friends who won’t say negative things about the books they read. I can’t do that in good conscience. But I also know that writers are real people, too. They work hard to write the books I review, and I’d much rather help them make their stories better than tear them to bits. I try to offer helpful feedback in a positive way.

P.S. The new star system I’m rolling out at the end of this post is just for you!

And if you’re a writer . . .
Writing is hard stuff and I’m pulling for you! My reviews aren’t meant to be personal attacks, and I don’t intend to call your ability as a writer into question. I may, however, point out how I would have done things differently. Whenever I write something critical about a book, I try to do it in a way that offers some type of a solution. I don’t say I didn’t like something without giving a reason. And if I do, call me on it! I also always try to find the positives in the books I read, but keep in mind that it’s so much easier to put my finger on the things I don’t like. They stick out. Good writing, however, tends to be “invisible.”

The Star System
Starting immediately, I’m going to assign a star rating to each book I read. It’s about as objective as I can get. You’ll be able to find the rating at the bottom of each book review post. Here’s the breakdown:

5 stars—I loved it and will recommend it to everyone.
4 stars—I liked it and will suggest it to those who might be interested.
3 stars—It was okay and I might recommend it to those who might be interested.
2 stars—It was okay and I probably won’t recommend it.
1 star—I didn’t like it and probably won’t recommend it.

Want to learn more about reviewing books? Check out So You Want to Review Books? and How to Write a Book Review

So You Want to Review Books . . .

So You Want to Review Books-

Maybe you’ve read one of my reviews (or someone else’s) and thought, “Hey, I could do that!” Well, if you can read and you know what makes a book good (or awful), you probably can. Here’s how . . .

  1. Start a blog. You need a place to post your reviews. And you need a few followers, too. Don’t worry about the numbers too much, but make sure you ask friends and family members to follow you—especially if they love to read. You can help them discover new books!
  2. Get a GoodReads account. It’s social media for people who love books. You can create “shelves” for your TBR pile, your favorite books, the books you own, etc. Not only is it fun for book lovers, it’s another place you can post reviews.
  3. Join NetGalley. It’s a place to discover new books and request review copies from multiple publishers.
  4. Find out if the publishers of your favorite books have blogger review programs. As you may have noticed, Bethany House Publishers has a special place in my heart (I interned there, after all!), and most of my reviews are of BHP books. Learn more about their blogger review program and check out BookLook, Revell Reads, and Tyndale Blog Network while you’re at it. See what other publishers have to offer, too. And if you find a program I didn’t mention here, let me know so I can check it out!
  5. Contact self-published authors and offer to review their books. Marketing is hard, especially for writers who don’t feel comfortable “selling” themselves and their work. So do it for them! If you find a self-published book you’re interested in, offer to review it on your blog and Amazon in return for a free copy of the book.

Bonus: Follow authors on social media and join their launch teams. A launch team is a group of people partnering with an author and publisher to help promote a book. Usually launch teams ask you to review the book on your blog and other platforms and promote the book in any other way you can, including word of mouth and social media. These are really fun, but make sure you like the author’s work first. There’s nothing worse than having to promote a book you don’t like!

Check back soon—my next post will tell you how I actually write my book reviews!

2015

kids playing in the snow

One of my grandparents took this picture. I found it when I was sorting through some of their old slides.

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions in 2014 because God was teaching me about grace, and that meant not getting caught up in my own brand of legalism. But that grace got twisted and turned into laziness.

I’ve been convicted over and over again about how undisciplined my lifestyle has become. So 2015 is going to be a year of goals rather than rules:

  1. Run an entire 5k. I’m considering a race that takes place Memorial Day weekend.
  2. Write and publish 52 blog posts. One a week feels pretty doable. (One post down!)
  3. Read through the Bible in a year. I’m going to try this plan from YouVersion.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions or set goals each year?

The Giver Gets to Pick the Gift

girl_staring_at_mountains

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Oh praise the One who paid my debt
and raised this life up from the dead

As I sang those words on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I thought about my almost-four-years of work at the church and the possibility of leaving them behind to take my dream job, the job I had just interviewed for and really wanted. The job I just knew I was going to get.

Your job at the church is a gift, I heard. And this new job, if you get it, that will be a gift, too. You don’t deserve either of them. You haven’t earned them. You’re not entitled to them like you think you are. They are gifts from Me. And as the Giver, I get to pick the gift. I know what you want. I know what you like. I’ll pick the right gift. And even if it’s not what you asked for, you’ll understand why I picked it. Maybe not right away, but you will.

Those words echoed in my head as I went home, as I went on with life, as I waited for the call I had been waiting for for nearly two months—the call that would mean I would finally be getting paid to sit around and read books all day. I’d finally be an editor. A real editor. Not the fake kind that just re-words awkward class descriptions for the church website and has to make sure the date is right on the bulletin. (Okay, so that’s a little dramatic. I know book editors are not the only real editors. And I know what I do at the church is important. I’ve just always wanted to edit books.)

Two months is a really long time to wait for something you’re sure is inevitable. I knew I might not get the job, but everything seemed just right. I interned there. I knew people there. I was encouraged to apply by someone who worked there. I know what they publish because I’ve read little else in the last three years. And the opportunity just dropped in my lap. I didn’t go looking for it. God was going to give me this new job. But in case He didn’t, I told Him, secretly afraid he was using this opportunity as some kind of sinister test, it must be because I’m not supposed to have it. It just made too much sense.

They’d assured me that I’d have an answer by Friday. After weeks and weeks of checking my email every five seconds and jumping every time my phone made some kind of noise and bugging my references to find out if they’d been contacted, the day had arrived. The same Friday our apartment lease expired and we’d have to sign another twelve month lease THAT DAY or pay an extra $80 in rent to go month-to-month so we could move as soon as possible. Since the new job would be a bit of a hike.

The hours crept by with no word. By this point, I’d convinced myself they’d picked someone else. Surely I would have heard by now if I was their choice. Around noon, I called and talked to an assistant. “No, they haven’t made a decision yet,” she told me, “They’ve had a sales conference all week. They’ll probably decide next week.”

So many emotions. I was so done with the waiting. I wanted to move on with my life. So many things were up in the air because of this job. We might have to move. I might have to stop reviewing books on my blog. I might have to give up the extra week of vacation I’ll have earned by the end of this year. I might have to start paying exorbitant rates for my health insurance. I might have to leave the coworkers I love.

Then finally, last Wednesday, my answer came.

No.

Seriously, God? If You knew You were going to tell me no, why couldn’t You do it after the first interview? The sample edit? Or even the Friday when I was supposed to have an answer? Why did You do this to me?

I still don’t know.

They told me I had the skills, but another candidate had more experience, and they encouraged me to try for an entry-level position next time one opens up. If those types of jobs still pay what they paid when I was in college, there’s no way we can afford that kind of pay cut. Not if I want to pay off my student loans and start a family some day.

It feels a little like the time my parents went to Disney World without me. When they asked what I wanted them to bring back for me, I asked for a dress just like Snow White—blue and yellow and red with puffy sleeves. But that’s not what I got. Instead, I got a white dress with neon paint splatters all over it. And flip flops with a rainbow of curly ribbons tied to the top. I’m sure my mom was so excited to give them to me. But I was disappointed. They didn’t match the picture in my head.

Now I know that the Snow White dress was too expensive. And the dress I did get was darling. But back then, I was too little to understand why that mattered, to understand that my parents had more information than I did. All I knew was they didn’t give me what I wanted.

So the dream I had for so long and then gave up and then thought might happen anyway has been taken from me again. This time I wasn’t quite so willing to give it up. This time it hurts like heck. This time it feels a little hopeless. And I feel a little angry.

But the Giver gets to pick the gift.

Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt

Packing Light

Packing Light is the account of writer Allison Vesterfelt’s decision to quit her job, sell her stuff, and drive through all 50 states in a beat-up Subaru with her friend Sharaya. But it’s not just a we-did-this, we-saw-that kind of book.

Vesterfelt dives beneath the surface of her trip and shares her heart and the lessons she learned on the road— lessons about packing more than you need, letting go of baggage, leaving rules behind, trusting God, and not being afraid to use the gifts He’s given you.

Since reading Packing Light, I’ve become a little obsessed with Allison Vesterfelt. I followed her on every form of social media I could, got really excited when I thought she lived in Minneapolis (I was totally going to ask her if I could take her out for coffee), and nearly cried out when I found out she moved to Nashville less than a year ago. Anyway . . .

Her book changed and challenged me in too many ways to sum up in a neat little blog post, so I’m going to share some of my favorite quotes and let you decide what to do with them.

 

On Rules

“Rules give us a false sense of control. They make us feel like if we just follow a list of instructions, we’re sure to get the outcome we want . . . Rules never buy us the safety we think they will” (pg. 122).

“I hope we never stop asking ourselves what the intent is behind the rules we’re following, and if they’re accomplishing the objective” (pg. 123).

“We need a generation of people who aren’t rule-followers—who aren’t rule-breakers, either, but rather live lives that aren’t dictated by the rules at all . . . How much more in tune would we be with the twists and turns of our journey and prepared to handle them with conviction and grace, if we didn’t think the ‘rules’ were protecting us?” (pgs. 123–124).

“The reason rules don’t protect us is that the rules presume that every circumstance, and every person, is identical” (pg. 151).

 

On Pride & Insecurity

“The more I think about it the more I think that my insecurity is really pride. My insecurity makes everything all about me” (pg. 210).

 

On Fear & Regret

“You don’t have to go. You can stay home. It’s up to you. But if you let fear stop you from doing what you really want to do, you’ll regret that forever” (pg. 246).

 

On God’s Direction

“God wasn’t telling me what to do. He was just helping me to see what I actually wanted. He was saying, ‘Here’s permission to want what you want, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Here’s permission to be the woman I created you to be. You think you don’t have the resources, but you do. I will provide them. You think you aren’t strong enough to face the obstacles, but you are. I’ll be with you the whole time. Here’s permission to live your life, not dictated by fear of what might happen. Go ahead . . .’” (pg. 247).

“When we stop seeing God as a controlling God who tells us what we have to do and what we can’t do, we stop feeling so much anger toward Him” (pg. 247).

“Our life is not ruined. We’re not being punished. We’re not doing it wrong. God isn’t mad at us; He’s just waiting for us to wake up, to take responsibility, and to start living life with Him. He’s waiting for us to do something beautiful, something courageous, something totally out of the ordinary” (pg. 247).

“There comes a point where we don’t need anyone to tell us who we are anymore, we just need to take the information we have and run with it” (pg. 210).

 

Unplugged (And Some Upcoming Book Reviews)

I’m not sure how we’re going to fit all our crap in my car, but once we figure it out, we’ll be off for a week of somewhat posh camping near Lake Superior. We’re borrowing a huge tent (Jonathan can stand up in it) and we bought a super comfy, memory foam-topped air mattress.

However, as ridiculous as it is that the campground has wifi, we’re unplugging for the whole trip—no computer, no phone (except GPS and trip-related research and maybe the long drive there and back), no work. That also means no blog posts because I’ve been so busy I didn’t plan ahead enough to have some extras scheduled while I’m gone. Sorry. I’ll repay you with beautiful pictures and some book reviews when I get back :)

One of my favorite parts of camping is reading by a campfire, and I fully intend to do that A LOT in the next week. To start with, I’m going to work on a few books I’m really excited about . . .

Camping Trip Reviews

I’ve already listened to an audio version of Packing Light, but I loved it so much I bought a copy to read. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.I haven’t read the others yet, but the first few pages seem pretty promising!

If you’re interested, you can get a 20% discount on Interrupted if you order through Tyndale by next Thursday, July 31. They’re currently out of stock online, but I spoke with a customer service representative who said they should be getting more in early next week. He also said you can call and reserve a copy over the phone to get the discount.