Friday, June 12, 2009

My Writing Dream and God's Plan

This is a hard post to write. Almost two years ago God started connecting some incredible dots to pull together The Pilgrim's Basket. I loved telling this story, inspired by Shannon Puljak's real-life Cypress Springs Elementary classroom in Ruston Louisiana! I felt so blessed to actually get to see and use the scrapbooks she kept from their garden service learning project. I knew God would use every bit he connected to encourage others to serve in their communities.

None of that has changed. The road to publication however, has taught me some new things. As of today, it has been 18 months since I signed a contract to publish The Pilgrim's Basket. The contract states that if the publisher does not follow through with publication by that date, the rights to the story revert back to the author. Today I am contacting the publisher with an official termination of contract notice.

It reminds me of the image of tree climbing in which you are half-way up the tree and you reach, reach, reach out onto that limb to catch the precious kitten before the branch breaks or it falls. I feel myself reach, reach, reaching out to make the publication of The Pilgrim's Basket work before it falls and is lost. What if I have the image backward? Maybe it is not lost but instead has already has done the work for which it was intended.

Perhaps this story was written for another purpose altogether. Whether it was written to show God's ability to connect amazing dots or perhaps to teach the pitfalls of the publication process, I trust that God has a purpose for this story. Today I admit that His intended final direction for the story may not have been the one I assumed. I do not however doubt that he will use it.

Today I yield my writing dream to God's hands, his molding and his plan. I have at least four other significant works in progress. I wonder what He will teach me through them? I hope I will be able to put myself to the side and learn what He is teaching me. Still, the courage to end this contract, return the scrapbooks to the sweet teacher who loaned them to me and begin the publication process again is an incredibly hard feat. Fortunately, at the feet of the Father, I know I will be able to move forward.

Ideas for the future of The Pilgrim's Basket:

Maybe I should post the story online for people to download?

I could set it up in "illustrate your own garden" story format...

I could post chapters here with photos beside each...

I could self-publish...

I could re-submit to another publisher...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Happy Dancing in the Hurricane

Hurricane Gustav has hit. We've felt the loss of electricity in a huge way, but a no point did we believe we were without power.

In the aftermath, I took the kids westward to visit family and enjoy the blessing of washed clothes, lights and air-conditioning. Little did I know, my e-mail box contained a blessing of another sort!

The Pilgrim's Basket is progressing through the illustration phase. The illustrator contacted me and is currently set to paint the illustrations.

As soon as the proofs are sent to me, I will "reveal" the illustrator's name and link you to her site.

Amidst strewn tree branches and downed powerlines it will be necessary here for some to replant. I'm glad we still have the seeds of hope and faith.

Looking forward to seeing illustrations grow out of this story...

Mary Ellen
Happy Dancing in the Hurricane

Friday, July 4, 2008

Freedom on the Fourth

Today is the Fourth of July. I am up early, planning to go to the grocery store and buy barbequed burger supplies. I'm giving thanks that not only is our country free, but our family has the ability to buy food freely. We do not have to wonder whether we have enough money to feed our family through the end of the month.

There are so many people near us who do not have that freedom. They work hard, but ends just don't meet. Today I have e-mailed the final edits of "The Pilgrim's Basket" to the publisher. I am proud to have a role in telling Angela's story and encouraging each of us to appreciate our freedom. In this case, this may mean the freedom to enjoy eating our vegetables or freedom to plant a garden.

Today I am also thankful for the freedom from editing decisions. (Should Angela's name be spelled with one "l" or two? Does the title really portray the message of the book?)...

Thank God today for the freedom we have through Christ and find a way to share that with someone.

Happy Fourth of July~

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Tonight I sit, staring at the editor's suggestions on my manuscript, again trying to decide which comment to accept or reject. It's called a line-by-line edit. The problem is that many of the comments are subject to opinion. Do I include the word "carefully" as the editor suggests, or do I stick to what I've learned about keeping the "ly" out of the story whenever possible?

There is no absolute right or wrong in this case. I simply want to end up with the strongest, most captivating and clear version of "The Pilgrim's Basket" possible. I want readers to enjoy, sympathize and become energized to take on a service project of their own. To do this, I will have to accept that some questions will only have my word as the final answer.

Since when do I get the last word? I'm battling waves of pride that crash into vast shores of insecurity. My decision when I press send will have to be good enough. I feel so blessed to have been given this wonderful story to tell. I hope I honor those involved in the process in the final telling of it.

I feel sure that even when I decide to press forward, some questions will remain.

Questions that may remain unresolved:

How many "was" (passive) verbs are allowed in a strong story?
How much telling is permitted?
How much does a bag of recycled cans truly earn in Louisiana?
What is the difference between turning and shaking your head?
What makes dirt a dirty word and soil a proper one?
How many times would the story change if I had no deadlines?
Would I ever press send if given the option to continue changing it?

Where do I find discernment?- At least for this one I have an answer- I pray.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tilling the soil

This page from the real-life scrapbook of Mrs. Puljak's class looked like an appropriate choice to accompany today's writing update. The words beneath the first photo read: "These are our rows before the gardener." Beneath the second photo the line reads: "This is the tiller composte that we use in our garden." The writing journey of "The Pilgrim's Basket" feels a bit like these photos right now.
I've been informed that June is the month for preliminary edits to take place. I am looking forward to communicating with the editor in order to make "The Pilgrim's Basket" as heart-filled and action motivating a story as it can be. As of today the story is somewhere between the gardener and the tiller. I'm praying that God in his gardening wisdom will nurture the idea he planted clearly through this phase.
I am reminded that this preparation of the soil will later yield growth and a bountiful harvest. I look forward to seeing what the final illustrated, published book will become. I am anxious to see growth sprout from the seed the gardener is nourishing right now.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

It's a Small World in Which He Gardens

Pages taken from Shannon Puljak's scrapbook:

From the germ of an idea, to the sprout of a story, the growth is incredible. Here is the latest connection. Yesterday we brought a lemon-meringue pie to a dear friend, Mrs. Louise (who will celebrate her 90th birthday next month). Over coffee and pie I shared my excitement about seeing "The Pilgrim's Basket" come to life.

We discussed the book's inspiration as we flipped through the three scrapbooks of wonderful photos Shannon Puljak sent me. Looking at the pictures of the courtyard garden in this Ruston school, Mrs. Louise said, "That's the school where Dawn taught!" My jaw dropped. I knew that there was a Ruston connection somewhere, but for her daughter to have taught at the very same school in my story would be unreal. Mrs. Louise grabbed her phone. "Call her and see!"

Within a few moments I was busily chatting with Dawn Pinkston, Mrs. Louise's daughter. She recollected the garden learning project. Dawn said, "Oh sure, I know Shannon well." Dawn was the librarian of this school for many years. She told about the wonderful way in which students used their garden to give back to the needy in thier community. I told her that I looked forward to seeing her in the fall, book in hand, as this story comes full circle.

When I hung up the phone, I told Mrs. Louise that only God could connect all of these disparate pieces. Shannon Puljak heard of an opportunity to involve classroom learning with community service. I had heard a story and felt inspired to write it down. What God can grow from the seed of a willing heart is incredible.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sharing the Love of Giving

Mrs. Puljak's class garden's
rutabegas and collard greens, ready for donation!

"The Pilgrim's Basket," through the story of a classroom of giving children, will motivate readers of all ages to find ways to reach out to others. Let's share that love of giving this February. Jump in with your ideas, links and favorite ways to share what we are given.

1. Giving idea of the day: Donate free rice with every word you define!
2. Jump over to Christina Berry's blog see how her daughter's birthday party became a giving event.

I can't wait to see how you are sharing love~

Mary Ellen