When I’m Not Writing: Serving

I’ve really enjoyed sharing some of my favorite activities when I’m not writing, like jewelry-making and watching muscials. And while crafting is probably my favorite of my other activities, serving is the most important.

Engage City Church is amazing. My husband and I fell in love with this church when it launched in fall of 2016. We couldn’t believe how loving this church was and we were blown away by the difference it was making in our community. We feel so blessed that God brought this amazing church to our community, and we’ve loved all of the opportunities we’ve had to get involved.


Over the year and a half that we’ve been attending Engage, I’ve been trying to do more for my church and my community. I’ve been trying to make my faith a big part of my life because God is the most important part of my life. And the best way to show my love for him is to serve him and to serve the people he’s placed in my life. I try to do this with my writing by creating books for people to enjoy and with my babysitting by caring for little ones. And now I try to do this with my serving at church.

As we like to say at Engage, we get to do this. We get to love on people. We get to help people. We get to create an amazing church-going experience for the people in our community.

At my church I watch babies in the nursery. I hold open doors and greet people. I help clean up after the service. My husband serves on the church board and helps run the lights for worship. Our small group spent our last couple meetings stuffing thousands of eggs for our 100,000 egg hunt in this Easter. (Yes, 100,000 eggs.) I try to do whatever I can to help out church and I want to keep growing and keep doing more.

ecc egg hunt

Serving others is the best way to show people God’s love, and “We love each other because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19, NLT). I want to live out my faith with what I do every day, so I try to serve others whenever I can.

Favorite Book Feature Leftovers, Part 2

On the last Friday of each month of 2017 I featured one of my favorite books. Because I have way more than only twelve favorites though, I thought I’d do a couple posts on the leftovers with short features about each of the books left on my favorite’s shelf. Click here to check out part 1. Here’s the rest of my favorite books:

The Giver and its companion books by Lois Lowry

I was first introduced to this series in the fifth grade when my teacher read Gathering Blue to my class. We were all amazed by the book, so she also read Messenger to us. But I didn’t end up reading the first book of this series, The Giver, until I was in college, and it is hands-down my favorite dystopian story.

Twelve by Nick McDonell

Twelve is definitely not a book most people would like, and most people have never heard of it. But I found this book in my library when I was sixteen years old and it blew me away with its power. And when I saw that the author of the book had only been seventeen when he wrote it, this book became a major source of inspiration to young-writer me.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

This book is on my favorites shelf mainly because of how innovative it is and how impressed I am by it as a writer. Spanning centuries, this book tells six different but connected stories. My favorite of these are of course the ones that take place in the future, but each of them are beautifully told.

1984 by George Orwell

This is the only classic on my shelf besides Fahrenheit 451, and I love it for many of the same reasons. Plus I had a pretty eccentric high school English teacher who covered the room from floor to ceiling with “Big Brother is Watching You” posters, so it was quite a memorable experience when I read the book for the first time.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

This book is as beautiful as it is haunting. The Lovely Bones is narrated by Suzie Salmon, a girl who was brutally murdered but who watches the aftermath of her death from her new home in heaven. This book has been a huge source of inspiration for my writing.

Unwind and the rest of the Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman

Like with [Everlost, Neal Shusterman blows my mind with everything he writes. This series takes place in the future after the second civil war was fought over abortion. Now children cannot be aborted, but from ages 13-18 they can be “unwound,” a process which results in 100% of their body being donated, so they’re not technically dead. These books are eerie and exciting and wonderful.

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

This is one of the books that made it’s way straight to my favorites shelf after reading it for the first time. This book is about a girl who was raped, and it’s a beautiful story about healing. Check out my What I’m Reading post about it here.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I found Olive Kitteridge used and free, and I never would’ve picked it up otherwise, but my little beaten-up copy is one of my favorite books. A novel in stories, Strout tells the story of Olive and her Maine town. This book is beautiful and sad and just perfect.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ve said before that I’m not a huge fan of big books. I have trouble focusing for a long time, and so it took me a long time to read The Book Thief, but this is one of those books that stays with you. Told from the perspective of Death, this novel takes you through Nazi Germany and the story of a young girl who fell in love with words. This story will also always hold a special place in my heart because I watched the movie version while waiting to meet my boyfriend on the night he ended up proposing to me.

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Unlike The Book Thief, Zusak’s other novel is fast-paced, funny, and still deeply meaningful. I Am the Messenger is the story of Ed and his friends who live in Australia and are just trying to get by. But then Ed receives a playing card in the mail with addresses listed on it, and he realizes he’s been chosen to deliver something important.


I hope you’ve enjoyed all of my favorite book features! I’ve loved looking back at all the amazing books on my favorites shelf and telling you all about them. Check out the My Favorite Books page on my website to find links to all of my reviews, and let me know if we share any favorite books!

Why I Love Writing, Sometimes

Today I had planned out in my blog calendar that I was going to write a post called “Why I Love Writing.” I tried writing a draft of this post, but, like everything I’ve tried to write lately, it just wasn’t working. And I had to stop myself because I wasn’t being honest.

I do love writing. When I know where a story is going, the words seem to flow out of my fingers and I can write stories quickly and easily. I’ve been a bookworm for as long as I can remember. Growing up, stories were where I found comfort and friends. Books helped me to see and understand the world. And since I am a creative person, writing stories of my own was the next step to reading them. I’ve also always found it easier to communicate in writing than in person, so writing is the best way for me to say what I have to say to the world.

But writing is really hard sometimes. And when I don’t know what’s next in a story or what story to write in the first place I just feel stuck. And I hate everything I try to write. And then I forget why I even like writing in the first place.

Winter is hard for me. I don’t like the cold and dark days. I’ve been dealing with health issues. And I’ve been stuck for months with my writing—wanting to write desperately, but not knowing how to get started on any of my ideas.

But it’s March now and today the sun is shining (even though it’s still cold outside). And so I’m taking a step back and reminding myself why I love writing. If you don’t remind yourself how amazing writing can be, then you could give up and let yourself stay stuck until you stop writing at all.

Why I Love Writing Quote

I have the best job in the world. Every day I feel grateful and blessed that I get to stay home and write. I get to hang out with my puppy, surround myself with books, and create stories. So even when I feel stuck and am having trouble getting going on a new book, I just have to remind myself how awesome writing is and how wonderful my job can be.

How to Get Ideas: What If?

One of the most common questions a writer gets asked is how do you come up with your ideas? And one of the most common answers writers give is I don’t know.

For writers, ideas seem to come from anywhere and everywhere, and you might not always be conscious of where exactly an idea comes from. And sometimes ideas come to you when you’re not even trying. However, for those who are newer to writing or for those who don’t know what to write next, ideas can be hard to find and you sometimes have to force yourself to come up with them. So I wanted to start a new series on my blog about how to get ideas and about how to develop stories from those ideas.

The first method of getting ideas I want to write about are what if questions.

What if

What if questions are my favorite way to come up with ideas for stories. Writers are naturally curious, and they ask and attempt to answer questions about the world with their writing. Fictional words and stories allow writers to explore different questions and situations. What if is what writing fiction is all about.

My current work-in-progress came from a what if question—what if written language was taken away? This question popped into my head one day, probably prompted from a love of linguistics and written language, and I couldn’t forget it. I pondered the question for a while, and eventually a girl came into my mind. She wasn’t a writer, but an artist, and the story idea exploded from there to become a dystopian trilogy.

What are some what if questions you have about the world? What sorts of situations or possibilities could you explore by asking what if? For me, my question came from something I was interested in—linguistics. There could be a million what if questions about linguistics, just as there could be any number of questions you could ask of all topics.

When trying to come up with a story idea, look towards things and topics you’re interested in and ask your own what if questions. Interested in music? What if there was a magical world where the music you played were spells? Interested in art? What if a teenage girl’s drawings came to life?

What if questions don’t only work for science fiction and fantasy. Those are just the examples I came up with because those are my favorite kind of stories and you can be so imaginative with them. You can just as easily ask what if questions about the real world, whether contemporary or in the past.

Once you have your what if question, try to come up a character who would be involved with the question. I usually have to come up with stories this way—I take a general concept and then find a character to base the story around. After you have your character, let your creativity take over. Ask more what if questions to find out about your story, its world, and what could happen to your character.

Asking what if could unlock any number of story ideas. See for yourself what’s possible.

When I’m Not Writing: Crafting

I’ve told you about some of my favorite things to do when I’m not writing, like watching musicals. Today I wanted to tell you about what’s probably my favorite of all my hobbies—crafting.

I’m a pretty creative person. You need to be in order to write. I love to make up stories and create new characters and places. But I also feel the need to work with my hands and use my creativity in tangible and visual ways. That’s where crafting comes in.

My love of crafting started at a young age. My mom was my Girl Scout troop leader, taught children’s classes at the park district, and taught my church classes. All of these activities involved a lot of crafts. I loved making anything and everything. As an adult, I still love to create art and other projects.


I’ve been making jewelry for over half of my life now. I still love buying beads in all different colors and creating beautiful patterns. Jewelry-making is so relaxing and lets me clear my head when I’m stuck on whatever I’m writing.

jewelry 1


Another activity I do to relax and clear my head is to color. I only got into coloring in the last year or so, but it’s quickly become one of my favorite activities. And not only is coloring really relaxing, it’s also one of my favorite ways to dig into God’s word. I do this through scripture coloring books which allow me to draw closer to God while I’m relaxing.


Being a stay-at-home writer, I don’t have too much to schedule in my life, but I have fallen in love with the creative planners that have been trending lately. Every Friday, I spend an hour or so designing the next week’s pages. I fill in everything that needs to get done, and then I decorate the pages with stickers and lots of color. I include inspirational quotes, decorative flowers and washi tape, and a prayer list for each week. I love getting to look at my decorations and the inspirational quotes as I get ready for each day.



Lastly, I love to craft when it comes to gift-giving. I have tons of card-making supplies so that I can make everyone a card that’s individual to them. I also love giving homemade gifts like fleece blankets. For my husband, I usually will make him something with pictures, like this picture wall I made him for Valentine’s Day last year.

Crafting allows me to be creative with my hands, clear my head when I need to work out a writing problem, and even draw closer to God. There is nothing better than creating something, whether I’m writing stories or making a homemade gift.

Favorite Book Feature Leftovers, Part 1

On the last Friday of each month of 2017 I featured one of my favorite books. But because I have way more than only twelve favorites, I thought I’d do a couple posts on the leftovers with short features about each of the books left on my favorites shelf.

Lexicon by Max Barry

This thrilling novel combines science fiction and linguistics, which fascinates me. I’ve only read this book once, but it’s a smart novel that sticks with you. If you’re interested in linguistics you would love this book.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This eerie dystopian book is about books being banned in the future and being burned by firefighters. This book has had a huge influence on my writing, and it’s one of only a few of the classics that I enjoy. Fahrenheit 451 is also one of the stories that inspired my current work-in-progress.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This is one of those books that I keep coming back to because of how heartbreaking and honest it is. Charlie’s story about growing up resonates in so many ways and makes me laugh and cry every time I read it. I also absolutely love the film version.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One is an incredibly original story about people living in a virtual world to avoid how terrible the real world has become. The world-building in this book is so detailed and inspiring to me as a writer. I can’t wait to see the movie version when it comes out this year.

Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge

This book is the only work of nonfiction on my shelf, and it’s a beautiful book about becoming who God intends you to be. I read through this book with a women’s group at my church, and it was amazing to share our stories and work on becoming ourselves together.

It’s Not Going to Kill You, and Other Stories by Erin Flanagan

This story collection is by my favorite college professor. I got to interview her on this collection for my university’s literary journal, and it’s a great book. The best part of this collection is the common theme of looking at how big events affect the characters’ everyday lives, my favorite of which is “Feather the Nest,” a story about 9/11.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This was the only fantasy on my shelf until I recently added The Reader. I love fairy tales, and this is a fantastic adventure story. However, I do like the movie more than the book.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This popular book about cancer and love is as beautiful as it is sad. I just love how honest this book is. Green doesn’t shy away from the difficult topics, and the result is an incredible story. Another great read is This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl, which is a collection of work by and about the late Esther Earl, the girl to whom The Fault in Our Stars is dedicated.

Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Running Out of Time was my first favorite novel. This is the book that made me want to write. It’s a fascinating story about a girl who lives in a small town in the 1840s. But when the kids of the town start getting sick with diphtheria, she is sent outside only to find that it’s 1996 (the year the book was published). My favorite part about this book is the mix of past and present.

How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes

Holmes’ second novel solidified her as one of my absolute favorite authors. This is a book about a dancer with body image issues, but it’s not your typical ballerina with an eating disorder story. Instead, Holmes tells a incredible story about anxiety and overcoming insecurity.


I have ten more books on my favorites shelf to tell you about, so look for part 2 soon!

My Writing Goals for 2018

I last wrote about how to define success as a writer and the importance of goals. Without goals, I feel completely lost as a writer. Because I work alone most of the time, I need goals to guide me. I need smaller things to work towards that add up to the big things.

To help guide me, I make weekly and daily to do lists. Having my tasks broken up into smaller chunks helps me to focus (my word for the year) on what needs to get done and only that. If I try to take on more than what’s on my list for just that day, I feel overwhelmed and usually come to a stop.

However, even though I need to focus on the daily tasks to get things done, it is important to take a step back at the beginning of the year and think about what you want to accomplish in the bigger picture. Once you’ve decided what you want, then you can dive in and break things up into smaller, more achievable tasks.


So today I wanted to share my big picture goals for 2018. When I make these goals I make sure to push myself while still being realistic. If you make a goal too hard you might just end up frustrated by setting too high of a standard. But if you make a goal too easy then you never end up growing.

With that in mind, I have three main goals for 2018:

  • Write my secret work-in-progress. I am almost done with my outline for this series, and I want to write the first book this year.
  • Prepare a query letter for this work-in-progress. Query letters are very difficult to write and take a lot of time. So I want to have one finished by the end of this year so that in 2019 I can be looking for an agent.
  • Read at least 45 books. In 2017 I read 40 books—34 fiction and 6 nonfiction books—so I want to read a little bit more than that. I’d also like 10 of those books to be nonfiction because I’d like to read more nonfiction books.

What are your writing goals for this year? How do you go about setting goals?