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I read some fantastic books in 2015. Really, really good. So grateful for the brave, faithful writers out there who sit down and put in the work for our benefit.

My goal was to read a book a month, and I rounded out the year with a grand total of 16 books. Not many compared to some, but I’m satisfied.

Here are the books I read in 2015:

 

Three nonfiction covers 2

 

Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves by Trillia Newbell {Review & Video Author Interview}

Such a helpful, biblical resource for all who battle with various fears, anxieties, and insecurities.

Until We All Come Home by Kim de Blecourt {Review}

A page-turning, suspenseful account of one family’s harrowing journey to adopt from Ukraine.

Dragons and Dirt: The Truth About Changing the World – and the Courage it Requires by Dalene Rayburn {Review}

One of my favorite books I read this year. So much wisdom and food for thought on a wide range of topics and issues. A short read, but full of gems.

 

Three more nonfiction titles

 

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker

This is the first Jen Hatmaker book I’ve read. There are a few chapters I wish I could mass produce and distribute all over the country. I didn’t write a review, but my friend Bronwyn wrote a good one here.

Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are by Deidra Riggs {Review & Video Author Interview}

Inspiring and motivating. That’s how I would describe this debut book by Deidra Riggs.

Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong {Review}

Encouraging words for all who have experienced change.

 

Nonfiction Titles 3

 

Nobody’s Cuter Than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship by Melanie Shankle {Review}

A funny and heartfelt tribute to friendship among women.

Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have by Annie Downs

I underlined copious amounts of this book. So many challenging words; highly recommended.

Dance with Jesus: From Grief to Grace by Susan B. Mead

Susan Mead kindly sent me a copy of this book, and I read the whole thing in one evening. It’s a quick read, but a moving testimony of a mother who has found grace in the midst of grieving the loss of her son.

Fiction: 

Three fiction titles

 

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner {Review}

Beautifully written historical fiction about two sisters during the London Blitz of World War II.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

I adored this debut novel by Katherine Reay. A series of letters written by a Jane Austen-loving journalism student to her anonymous benefactor. Captivating and cleverly written.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

This latest novel by Susan Meissner releases on January 5th, 2016! I was privileged to read an advance copy of this story set in the Hollywood period when Gone With the Wind was filmed. Review coming soon. Pre-order now by clicking here!

 

On Writing:

Writing book covers

 

On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig

A wonderful resource for writers. I was challenged and guided in my personal writing life, and had such fun leading a six-week online discussion on this book with several other writers. Catch up on the discussion here. I’ll be referring back to this book many times in the years to come.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

This book is pure gold. Natalie cuts right to the chase in this no-nonsense, down-to-earth book that will make you want to pick up your pen and write like crazy. She covers all the bases and then some.

 

Christmas: 

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The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp

Another gorgeous book from Ann Voskamp. This one offers daily Advent readings which carry the reader through biblical history, starting with Adam and Eve. So much spiritual food here; definitely worth reading at any time of the year, not just Christmas.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional by Asheritah Ciuciu

My friend Asheritah wrote this wonderful resource focusing on the names of Jesus. I read it aloud to my kids to start each of our homeschool days in December. Again, this book could be read and benefited from at any time of the year, not only during Advent.

 

 

Still busy reading:

Still reading covers

 

Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough by Kristen Welch

Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity, and Purpose by Emily Wierenga

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

 

Related Post: My Top 14 Books of 2014

What are you reading now? What do you hope to read in 2016?

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

 

It’s your turn! I’d love to see what you read this past year. Either share a direct link to a blog post using the InLinkz button, or type your list of titles into the comments below!

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Yay! We made it! We’ve reached the final chapter in our online discussion of this delightful and practical resource, On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts.

Click here for a summary of our discussion, including links to the first eleven chapters.

 

Chapter(9)

 

HUGE thanks to all of YOU for your involvement in this group! It’s been such a delight to interact with you at this level, to wrestle through the questions together, and to strive toward better habits in our writing lives.

And huge thanks to co-authors Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig, for writing this wonderful resource, for compiling these helpful videos for each chapter, and for joining us in the comments and on social media!

Here is our final video from Ann and Charity:

 

 

“Sometimes the writing life itself puts limits on us; sometimes we have to limit the rest of our lives in order to be able to write.” ~ Charity Singleton Craig

As Charity explains in the video, “We have to determine what we have to back away from in order to continue to live the writing life.”

What does this look like for you?

I suppose half the battle is actually acknowledging and admitting that we have limits. I tend to err toward the “I can do it all” mentality — but inevitably, at least one area suffers. If I’m homeschooling and writing, the house is not clean. If the house is clean and we finished homeschooling for the day, I didn’t get time to write. You get the picture.

By default, there are limited hours in the day. This is God’s design. He does this, in part, to help us recognize our frailty and our complete dependence upon Him.

“Because we have only a certain amount of time, resources, and energy, we limit ourselves to make room for mastery.” ~ Charity Singleton Craig

Another challenge for me personally goes back to placing enough value on the writing life to give it space in my schedule. Is it worthwhile enough that I would decline a lunch invitation with a friend? Would I skip an event to have more time to write?

These are personal questions that must be asked, and possibly answered differently depending on the circumstances. Either way, the writing life has to be viewed as important, otherwise we’ll never give it the space it requires.

Here’s one final encouragement from Ann, and I echo her sentiments. I hope this has been true for you as a result of this six-week discussion:

 

For our final link-up and discussion in the comments, consider some of these questions and topics:

What do you need to limit in order to have a fruitful writing life? 

How can you better balance your writing life with your other responsibilities? 

What are some activities you can cut from your daily routine in order to have more time to focus on your writing life? 

Do you feel like you’re wearing too many hats, or trying to juggle too many balls? What changes can you make in order to make sure you’re doing at least some things well, to the glory of God? 

Before we finish, I’d love to hear what your favorite chapter has been, or maybe one or two highlights you’ve taken away from this discussion? Share in the comments below!

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It’s Monday, and we’re in the final stretch of our discussion on this fabulous little book, On Being a Writer, by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig!

If you’re still here and coherent after five full weeks of reading and discussing, you’re probably more than ready for this chapter on REST!

 

Chapter(8)

 

Before we begin, catch this brief video message from the co-authors:

 

 

And don’t you love Ann’s suggestion with the prop she shows in the video?

What tactics have worked for you?

It doesn’t have to be week-long vacations, does it? I find that if I’m writing in a public place like the library or Panera, just getting up to go to the bathroom or even switching tables for a slightly different view and perspective goes a long way to serve as a brief respite.

If I’m writing at home, sometimes just changing the load of laundry or unloading the dishwasher is enough to reset my mind to be ready for more productive work.

I do think it’s worthwhile, even when I think I’m finished with a piece, to step away from it for a while. It might be for one night, or even a few days — but leaving the article or blog post and coming back to it always gives a fresh perspective. Often I’ll revisit the work and decide to tweak a few sentences here and there. Sometimes I re-read it and remain convinced that I’ve done my best. Either way, the break in proximity is helpful.

You might also try the Pomodoro technique that Ann and Charity mention in their book and earlier videos. It’s a method in which you set a timer for 25-minute increments, and take brief breaks between those designated periods. It’s supposed to optimize productivity. I’ve been using it while homeschooling my kids these past few weeks, and I think it has helped!

What works for you?

 

For today’s discussion and/or link-up:

Describe your perfect day of rest that will leave you refreshed and motivated to press on in the writing life. 

Do you struggle with the habit of rest? If so, why? How can you build rest into your routine? 

Do you feel guilty when you take time to rest? If so, why? 

How has rest helped you to be more productive? 

Describe a time when you took a break from writing. What was it like? Was it intentional, or forced (such as a period of illness)? 

Come back Wednesday for a discussion on the final chapter: LIMIT.

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Wow, we’re in the home stretch of our discussion on the book, On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts!

Thank you to all who have hung in there for the long haul — I love hearing how you’ve been encouraged and challenged by this book and discussion group!

For a summary of themes we’ve already covered and links to previous posts, click here.

Next week is our final week. For today, we’re looking at Chapter 10: Plan.

 

Chapter(7)

 

Here’s the video for this chapter from co-authors Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig:

 

 

As Ann explains in the video, this chapter is about “how to be intentional about the next steps in our writing lives.”

I’ll admit, before I took over as host of Five Minute Friday in August of 2014, planning as it related to my blog was virtually non-existent. I don’t think I even knew how to schedule a post. I just wrote by the seat of my pants and clicked publish whenever I thought the words came out right.

I was exactly like the tumbleweed Ann describes in this chapter:

Hosting Five Minute Friday forced me to plan ahead enough to have a prompt, a post, and a link-up ready to go live every week at the same scheduled time.

Having this set in stone, so to speak, made me more aware of my calendar, and the days that were “left over” after allowing the weekly FMF post to run over the weekend. It basically left me with Monday through Wednesday for posting other content. These limitations have served as a great help to me when it comes to planning ahead. For the first time in years, I’m using phrases like editorial calendar. Ha!

Being a book reviewer for various publishers and serving on launch teams for author friends are another way I’ve created self-imposed deadlines that have forced me to plan ahead. If I request a book to review, I’m usually expected to read and review it by a specific date. This pushes me to plan ahead not only in my blogging, but in my free time to be able to finish reading the book in time.

Hosting this online discussion is another way I’ve made myself plan ahead. (Are you catching on to a theme here? I think I am …) Apparently I need to just go ahead and announce things that will force me to meet deadlines and readers’ expectations, such as 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes. Talk about a crash course in planning ahead!

This may sound funny, but I think as writers, we can learn something from the ants described in Proverbs 6:6-8 and 30:25. Ants are hard workers, and they store up their food in summer. In other words, they plan ahead for the dry seasons so they have plenty of supply.

I heard a sermon on this theme recently, and realized the truth applies to the writing as well.

As writers, we wear many hats. Many of us are wives, moms, and grandmothers. Some of us have jobs outside the home. My guess is that as much as we may like to, most of us don’t sit in a log cabin alone with uninterrupted writing time for hours on end.

As a result, we would do well to make use of the moments we can snatch.

As mentioned in the video, this ties in to the chapter on Arrange. When you find a few minutes, grab them. And when you’re looking ahead at your week and your month, schedule the time you need to meet the goals you’ve set for your writing life.

Follow Ann’s example and resist the tumbleweed effect:

What about you? What has helped (or forced) you to plan ahead in your own writing life? Can you relate to the tumbleweed illustration?

 

Here are some more link-up suggestions:

Write your own blog post or journal entry on one or more of the following topics: 

Are you an organized, long-term planner when it comes to your writing, or are you a bit more like a tumbleweed, rolling along with the wind? 

Share some of your writing goals, and the steps you need to take to achieve them. 

How has planning ahead served you well? 

What dreams do you have for your writing life? 

 

Come back next Monday and Wednesday as we look at the final two chapters of this book, Rest and Limit. Click here for a preview of questions we’ll consider from those themes.

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Hello, and welcome to another edition of our On Being a Writer online discussion group!

We’re on Chapter 9 of this helpful resource by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig.

 

Chapter(6)

 

If you’re new here, it’s not too late to join in!

For links to the previous eight chapters, click here.

I’d highly encourage you to check out the comments on each of these posts, as well as the fantastic posts that have been written and linked up by other bloggers!

Today we’re discussing the theme, ENGAGE — specifically how we interact with other writers, artists and others who support our writing.

I’d like to start by thanking each of you for your involvement in this group! YOU have been a significant factor in my “engage” story when it comes to writing. I’ve been so encouraged by the way you’ve interacted with each other in the comments.

My only regret is that I haven’t had the time or capacity to reply to each comment or to comment on each of the posts you’ve linked up. Please know that I’ve been reading and enjoying all of your words, stories and perspectives!

Today in the comments and the link-up, here are some themes to consider:

What struggles have you faced when trying to engage with other writers? 

Share some joyful, fulfilling experiences you’ve had while engaging with other writers. 

What communities have you found that help you become a better writer? 

Describe a lonely period in your writing life. 

Have you been blessed to find “your people”? Write about it. 

 

Here’s the video for this chapter from co-authors Ann and Charity:

 

 

One thing I really appreciated from this chapter was the challenge in the “Exploration” section. If you don’t have the book, Ann and Charity write:

“Engaging with others in the writing life goes both ways. Identify three people: a person you could support, a person who supports you, and a community you can both contribute to and draw from. Then, think of three things you can do to support another artist or writer this week, like write a letter to an author or take a peer to lunch.”

Such a great idea, isn’t it?

 

***

In my post on the “Send” chapter, I provided a list of suggestions and links to publications that accept guest posts and submissions.

Since then, a writer friend of mine told me about a great resource called Beyond Your Blog. I started clicking around the other day, and there is a wealth of information regarding potential places to send and submit work. I see they also have a regular podcast, which I’m hoping to check out this week. Click here for more info!

Today I’d like to provide a similar list, but this time suggesting places you might visit to find online community among other writers.

Some of the following are “regular” websites, while others offer weekly link-up opportunities that you might like to get involved in. Link-ups are a great way to visit other bloggers and vice versa.

Either way, I encourage you to click around, get stuck in, read and comment on these great sites as you seek to engage with like-minded writers:

 

(in)courage

Tweetspeak Poetry

Write 31 Days

Literacy Musing Mondays with hosts Mary, Ashley, Tami & Leslie

Kelly Balarie :: Ra Ra link-up

Jennifer Dukes Lee :: Tell His Story link-up

Holly Barrett :: Testimony Tuesday link-up

Holley Gerth :: Coffee for Your Heart link-up

Lisha Epperson :: Give Me Grace link-up

 

And of course, my personal (totally unbiased) favorite is the Five Minute Friday community …

 

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What other resources have you found that you could add to this list?

 

As we look ahead to Wednesday this week, we’ll be discussing Chapter 10: Plan. Here are some link-up topic suggestions:

Write your own blog post or journal entry on one or more of the following topics: 

Are you an organized, long-term planner when it comes to your writing, or are you a bit more like a tumbleweed, rolling along with the wind? 

Share some of your writing goals, and the steps you need to take to achieve them. 

How has planning ahead served you well? 

What dreams do you have for your writing life? 

 

For today, the comments and link-up are all yours! How do you engage with other writers who support you in your work? How can you be a support and encouragement to others?

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