Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fifth Book Contract!

I got the exciting news this week that I've had a fifth book accepted for publication! The announcement really took me by surprise because I'd lost track of when I'd submitted this manuscript and upon following up with the publisher wasn't even sure that they'd received it. I was about to re-send it when I got the email that a contract for it would be forthcoming!

The title of this book is Jimmy Jolly and the Joy of Juggling. (Nothing like a little alliteration!) Like my first book, Lily and the City of Light, it was written during my senior year at Northwestern. When I wrote it, I never imagined it as a children's book. It was more me working out some of my own thoughts about my life and my priorities, and I often do this best through narratives. I think that's why I love C.S. Lewis' writing so much -- he uses metaphor and story to communicate and illustrate truth in a way that makes sense to me.

The story of Jimmy Jolly is one of finding joy in simplicity. In a world where children and adults alike are pulled into constant activity and the never-ending search for attention and accomplishments, Jimmy's story is one of finding joy in the little things. Jimmy starts out as a little boy who loves playing with his one, brightly-colored ball. But soon he learns that he can juggle two balls, later three, and so on and so on. After getting wrapped up in the need for attention that his juggling abilities have created, Jimmy is brought back to what is truly important by the wisdom of a child.

I hope that Jimmy's story will cause readers to think about what is truly important in their lives and that it will remind them, as it continues to remind me, that quite often, less is more.

I will definitely keep everyone posted on when this story will be available.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

True Strength

This has been a trying season of late. Not for me, but for so many of my friends and family members. Everywhere I turn I find people that are precious to me struggling financially, emotionally, with their own health and the health of their loved ones, with their careers and even in matters of faith. Some people reach out in desperation, with weeping and tears of grief. Others seem to be holding up under the pressure, maybe because they have too many other responsibilities to allow themselves to cave or maybe because they have such a strong support system that they don't have to. Others seem to approach their pain by closing themselves off, becoming bitter, sarcastic and pushing others away.

I have never walked a mile in any of my friends shoes, but I know I've been through pain before, and I know that I've approached it in a variety of ways. All I know is that we are not meant to carry our burdens alone. The Bible is clear that we are to cast our cares upon the Lord, and as if that weren't enough, we are also called to carry one another's burdens. Unfortunately, our culture is one that prides itself on self-sufficiency. Asking for help is considered a sign of weakness. I don't think anything could be further from the truth. To me, not asking for help when you need it is the greatest sign of weakness.

While I was running yesterday, I had my ipod on the shuffle setting. As I arrived at my front door, a gospel song came on and the lyrics said this:

I need you,
You need me,
We're all a part of God's body.
You are important to me,
I need you to survive.

When we learn to depend on others and allow them to depend on us, this is when true relationship, true community occurs. This is the body of Christ that is described in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. I wish more people, especially Americans, understood this truth and lived by it instead of stigmatizing those who reach out for help and admit their weaknesses.

Perhaps my favorite Bible verse is 2 Corinthians 12:9, in which the Lord says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Later Paul says, "When I am weak, then I am strong." When I come to the end of my own strength, (which is an illusion any way), when I come to the end of myself, then I can understand what true strength and power looks and feels like.

Illustrator Assigned to Latest Children Book!

I wanted to share the good news that my latest children's book, O Christmas Tree!, has been assigned an illustrator -- the talented, Jack Foster. He has a fun and colorful style, and I am really excited about working with him.

If you'd like to check out his work, you can visit his blog at

If I get any preliminary drawings from him, I'll be sure to share them here as well.

Also, here's a little teaser on the story itself.
O Christmas Tree! is the story of the Marshalls, a family completely wrapped up in their holiday traditions. Dad loves whipping up the perfect cup of eggnog; Mom knits Christmas sweaters for the whole family; and little Vicky can't get enough of singing Christmas carols. But what they all share is a special love for decorating the Christmas tree! But when their tree, Treena, throws them for a loop by unexpectedly coming to life, she teaches them a lesson about the true meaning of Christmas that they will never forget.

In addition to the book, which I hope will be released by the end of this year, I am also working on an interactive performance of this story in which yours truly will play Treena, complete with a full-body tree costume, and where members of the audience will be called upon to play the Marshalls. But as with all of my performances, the whole audience will be involved in one way or another! I'm hoping to have this performance ready for the holiday season and will keep you posted. If your church, school or other group is interested, please let me know!