September Moments

“Don’t you love New York in the Fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies.”  – Joe Fox, You’ve Got Mail

You’ve Got Mail has to be one of my all-time favorite movies. Yes, I am a sap. But I’m a woman who loves a compelling story, and Nora Ephron certainly knew her way around an enchanting story.

Now, I’ve never been to New York in the Fall, but I still love the season, and I love school supplies. “Bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils” and sticky notes and empty notebooks waiting to be filled with words. As a writer, these things are gold.

The other thing I love about the autumn season is the feeling of newness and fresh starts. While we’re nearing the end of the calendar year, September has marked the new year in my mind for most of my life, what with the start of another school year. My years begin in September.

Even though I have lost the tradition of the new school year (thank you, college degree!), I still see the season as a jumping-off point – a time for adventure and explorations. Last year, I had the opportunity to have my “September moment” in the magical woods of New Hampshire, attending the fall session of Squam Art Workshops. (If you want to read more about that trip you can visit my Squam posts: Part 1 and Part 2.)

September 2012: New Hampshire

September 2012: New Hampshire

My “September moment” this year also involved a solo trip across the country, and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the annual American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference in Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago (has it been that long already?). I somehow convinced my semi-introverted self to get on a plane (again) and go join hundreds of people I didn’t know at a conference for authors and publishing industry professionals. And what a wonderful decision it turned out to be!

Indianapolis in September

September 2013: Indianapolis

I met the most amazing people who love words as much as I do (including my lovely roommates who I would have gone insane without!), learned so much from multi-published authors and other industry professionals, had mentoring sessions with authors I truly admire (including Jenny B. Jones!), heard fantastic keynotes from and spent some quality time in conversation with Robin Jones Gunn (a woman who is near and dear to my heart!), and even got to talk to editors and agents that I hope to have the chance to work with one day in the not-too-far-off future.

I am honestly still processing the goodness of my time in Indy, and I wish I had better words for the experience, but if you have the opportunity to spend time in community with people who are passionate about the same things you are and are working hard to live our their calling through their passion, please: GO. Meet those people, learn everything you can from them, and stay connected in whatever way you can. If you are a writer, you know – it can get very lonely sitting at a desk in front of a screen with no one but your characters to talk to. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Take the opportunities when you get them. You won’t regret it.

From one reforming non-risktaker’s heart to yours: step outside of your comfort zone and into your own “September moment” – whatever form that takes for you.

xo, me

What “September moment” have you had recently? What kind would you like to have, but might be afraid to venture off to discover?

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Squam Musings: Part Deux

One of my favorite moments that came out of attending the Squam Art Workshops last week in New Hampshire actually occurred while I was on my way home. On the plane from Boston back to Portland, Oregon, I sat by to two young men who were on their way home after running a half-marathon in Boston. The one sitting next to me asked (while I was reading the article on Squam in Taproot, ironically) if I had been on vacation or visiting friends in Boston, and I told him that, no, I had actually been attending an art workshop in New Hampshire. He looked surprised (or maybe intrigued?) and asked, “Oh, so are you an artist then?” And for the first time in my own recollection, I replied with a smile, “Yes, I am an artist.” And it felt really great to say it out loud, to a total stranger, and feel validated in that realization.

I am an artist.

The following is a little poem I wrote on the last morning while sitting in our screened-in porch and watching the sunlight sparkle on the lake. Below are some more photos from my journey. Enjoy!

Squam is…

this quirky little kingdom that is nothing like the real world,

                                                     yet how we wish the real world were more often.

perfect in its imperfection

a place of rest and acceptance

the lost hoping to be found

the found wanting to get lost

a lake filled with hope and untapped potential

the discovery of self

the start of a journey

the end of wishing you could…

                                 …and finally doing.

16 September 2012

My hope is that you will all one day find a place like this, where you can settle in and feel free to be yourself – as you were created, in all the ways that make you unique.

xo, me

The Wonder of Discovery: Squam Part One

“We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you: Leave.

Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted it to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.” – Donald Miller

I’m perpetually good at categorizing myself with really crippling words. I tell myself that I’m not adventurous. That I’m not brave. That I’m not an artist. I like to hide behind the comfort of the safe little life I’ve been creating for myself, but I’m realizing that I’m tired of telling myself about the things I am not (which are false, by the way), and I’m terrified of the thought that I really might be creating a small life. So I’m doing something about it.

Last week, I took Don’s advice and I left. I packed my bags and I flew across the country to spend five days in the woods of New Hampshire at Squam Art Workshops

Not knowing a soul, I took a step of faith and ran from my comfort zone into a world completely unlike my boxed, neat little existence. And yet, in a way, it wasn’t so unlike me. I take more risks than I realize, though I tell myself and others that I’m not much of a risk-taker. Regardless of the stories I tell myself (true or otherwise), there I was on the other side of the country with a large group of strangers, and as I was trying not to panic, I recalled this advice: “Strangers are merely friends you haven’t met yet.”

And goodness, how true that was this week! In a manner typical to the strange things that tend to happen in my life, I found upon arrival that I had been switched to a different cabin. And although I’m sad that I didn’t get to interact with the ladies in my original cabin, I know that I ended up in Brae Cove for a reason. I have heard that Elizabeth has a gift for putting people together, and I can attest to the truth of this. The women who I am happy to now call friends were instrumental in making my time at Squam exactly what it needed to be. They brought such kindness, openness, and encouragement not only to me but to one another. And for being a group of returning friends, I was blessed that they welcomed me into their group without hesitation. Nicola, Stacee, Lily, Liz, Lisa, Karen, Kerry, Sharyn, Maureen, and Donna, I am so glad to have shared this experience with you!

Aside from meeting so many lovelies, I took fantastic classes as well – Cupcakes (baking and food styling/photography) with Helene Dujardin, and Pages and Paint (mixed media painting/collage and journaling) with Sarah Ahearn. Both women are brilliant and so lovely, as artists and as teachers. I made delicious cupcakes from scratch and received insight from Helene on how to improve my photography and play with a new photography genre.

Ready for cupcakes!

Helene and Calley

Testing my new skills

Having never really painted, I was stretched wonderfully in Sarah’s class and have a new desire to further explore this medium. 

Sarah and Kelley on the dock during Pages and Paint

My (almost) finished piece.

And on Saturday, I had the opportunity to take a No-Stress Storytelling workshop with Camille DeAngelis, who is a dear. She provided us with tools and inspiration and let us go explore. It was fantastic to take the time to be inspired and let things go with my writing, and I’m now preparing to participate in NaNoWriMo again in November.

My inspirations.

I have many more thoughts to process about Squam, so I will save those for another post, along with more pictures.

xo, me