Searching for that elusive bigger room

The dream resurfaces, time and again. And it’s never quite the same, but it goes something like this. I’m in my house (which never looks like my real house). And there’s a door that I’ve forgotten to open, or maybe I just hadn’t noticed it. So I open it and am absolutely amazed because there’s ...

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The dream resurfaces, time and again. And it’s never quite the same, but it goes something like this.

I’m in my house (which never looks like my real house). And there’s a door that I’ve forgotten to open, or maybe I just hadn’t noticed it. So I open it and am absolutely amazed because there’s a whole wing to the house that I didn’t know about.

Sometimes there are bedrooms with lots and lots of closets and I start brainstorming the possible uses of all those rooms. Once in a while I discover a wing that looks almost exactly like the second floor of my grandparents’ house, but with additional bathrooms with giant showers. One time it was a beautiful writing room—sort of a screened in, second-floor porch with white trellises and wicker furniture and art on the walls and a peaceful wooded view. But most of the time—on its own or in addition to the other rooms—there is a ballroom. A great big, beautiful room. So large that I am shocked by the sheer volume of space. Shiny hardwood floors. So very much potential.

Imagine my surprise when I set foot in that ballroom—fully awake, although completely exhausted—last week. This ballroom exists on the 2nd level of the Ball State University Student Center, which is where we held the Midwest Writers Workshop this year.

I’d seen the room before, as an undergrad at Ball State 25 years ago. I think I was looking for a different room on that floor, where I was interviewing to be an arts and crafts counselor at a summer camp in northwest Pennsylvania. (Even then I wasn’t much of a kid person, but I really wanted to spend a summer not at home.) But for some reason, that room has stayed with me. In my dreams it’s dark and shadowy, unused. Last week, it was full of light and voices and smiling faces.

A quick, highly professional and scientific Google search tells me that in dream interpretation, discovering a new room has to do with expanding your territory, trying something new, branching out in a new direction.

Fitting, since that was what the Midwest Writers Workshop was about this year, on multiple levels. After more than 40 years, MWW is becoming a stand-alone, nonprofit entity. We’re expanding our tent stakes, now offering a membership organization, webinars, and various events throughout the year. I credit MWW with all of my so-called writing success because it feels like I’ve taken advanced courses in publishing, in all aspects of the book proposal and querying process, and in honing my craft. I knew how to navigate through these past few years because of what I learned at MWW. And I found my people there. A wonderful, inspiring group of writers who are exceptionally talented, but even so, are somehow even better at being friends than at writing.

A couple years ago I joined the MWW board and have loved being on the inside of the planning process. But this year was something new because for the first time I was officially part of the faculty. I got to stand in front of people—once, I was even in the ballroom—and pretend to be a real writer. (You don’t have to argue with me. I do know that I’m a real writer. I’ve published two books, so this writing thing is definitely real.)

Even so, there are times that I feel like an imposter. I love to write and I think I’m good at it (some of the awkward sentence constructions in this blog post notwithstanding). And yes, I’ve had the privilege of writing two books that a publisher believed in enough to publish them. But I’ll confess that I’m still a bit starry-eyed when confronted with people who have had more success than I have—they’ve been doing it longer, or written more books, or sold more copies, or simply are better writers. I feel good about what I do, but like any artist I harbor insecurities about my craft because it’s so personal. When I write, I feel as though I am most fully me, so when someone doesn’t like my writing, or when I don’t meet sales goals or have a monumentally huge blog following, it feels like I have failed. Like I’m somehow not enough.

Which is why last week at MWW was so good for me. As faculty, I taught some sessions. I got to talk about inspirational writing, creative book structures, and creative marketing and branding ideas. I realized that the content came naturally to me. That I have learned some things along the way.

And I saw a few people listening to me the way I’ve listened to so many others over the years. Taking notes. Eyes wide, intensely watching. Hesitant to ask questions, but hanging around in case there’s more to talk about. Treating me as though I have “made it” simply because I have two books to my name.

I felt legitimate. Accomplished. Like I had finally expanded into that shadowy, unknown space and become somehow fuller, more present, more real. The truth is, yes, I’ve accomplished my goal of being published, and not everyone can say that. In reality, whatever we achieve, most of us will probably never quite feel we’ve done all we were meant to do. Through MWW, I’ve learned that we aren’t competing with each other, but we’re better together simply because we share this love for writing and we’re pursuing it together. If we’ve been published, it’s because the stars were aligned or the timing was right and we happened to actually get a contract. We’re not better than those who don’t yet—or maybe will not ever—have one. At every stage, there’s more to strive for and tons of work required. And yet, as hard as it can be to reach the place where we finally feel accepted, the bottom line is that it’s the process that’s more important than the destination. We don’t write for money or fame, clearly, but because of the people we get to know and the chances we have to discover who we are and what we were designed to do.

Today, on the official release day for Designed to Pray, my overwhelming emotion is gratitude. I am humbled by the support so freely offered to me. And, although I’m happy with the rooms I’ve inhabited so far, I’m excited to see what will come next. Because there are endless possibilities, numerous other places to go. So many new rooms to explore—whole wings to discover.

And not only in my dreams.

And now? I’m tired.

After all the build-up, it’s here. Past here, if you want to be technical. Praying Upside Down is officially available everywhere (or nearly so). And has been since May 1. In fact, my girls went to Indianapolis this weekend and decided to swing by the Carmel, IN, Barnes and Noble store to see if they had it. ...

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After all the build-up, it’s here. Past here, if you want to be technical. Praying Upside Down is officially available everywhere (or nearly so). And has been since May 1. In fact, my girls went to Indianapolis this weekend and decided to swing by the Carmel, IN, Barnes and Noble store to see if they had it.

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Not to be outdone, after my son Bobby’s soccer game on Sunday, my husband took me by another store, this one in Plainfield, and guess what we found there?

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I didn’t even have to turn the covers facing out. Some kind employee had already done that for me. I don’t know who it was, but he or she is my favorite person today.

No, actually I have lots of favorites today. I’m just oozing gratitude. Which doesn’t sound pretty, I have to admit. I read comments people had made on a couple of my recent guest posts, and I was struck by how vulnerable they were. Being willing to share their hearts with a stranger. Taking time to send encouraging words to someone they don’t know. Being moved enough by something I wrote that they reach out, wanting to share their experience, their weaknesses, their longings. Sometimes they’re hurt or lonely, sometimes in a place of comfortable companionship with God, and occasionally desperate to find Him.

In all cases, though, they’re hungry for more. I’m overwhelmed by the simple beauty of that. Because that is where we connect. It’s what we share. And it’s what will enable us to find Him. Together. More and more of Him, going ever deeper and deeper. Oh, Lord, continue to draw us to You. Keep our eyes wide open so that we might see You. Amen.

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The book launch party was one of the most fun nights of my life. Before the party even started, my daughter Anna presented us with shirts she had made to celebrate.

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So many surprises—friends from college, from my first real grown-up job, from book club and my prayer group and friends of my parents. So many of my mom’s close friends were there, and every one of them whispered, “Your mom would be so proud of you!”

We had something like 170 people stop by. The only thing that could have made it better was actually having time to talk to those of you I don’t get to see regularly.

book signing collage

Many of you have asked, did my book-signing hand get cramped? The answer is no. I could sign a million more. And I hope I get to.

The big surprise of the night, though, was when the Cool Kids, my phenomenal group of writer friends, walked in. Three of them drove from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Two from Muncie. And one from Greenfield. I did not know they were coming. I know how busy everyone is, and I knew it was a long way to come, so I believed them when messages started trickling in with apologies for having to miss the party.

Big fat liars.

I’m so glad they fibbed. Because that moment when I saw Terri, and Irene, and Joe, and then Sarah walking around the corner?

I may have squealed like a teenage girl spotting Adam Levine. (Actually, this 47-year-old woman might squeal if she spotted Adam Levine, too.) Let’s just say there were tears.

Because these lovely people were the only thing that had been missing from that perfect night.

11143159_852773624809691_7140311110286137327_nHaving them in my life is more than just good fortune or lucky coincidence. God knew how important they would be to me, and every single one of them is a gift to me. They “get” me. Know me. And love me anyway, without reservation.

I definitely hit the jackpot when it comes to friends. So many different groups of people, and all are so open and generous and fun. Not to get all corny and sentimental, but I feel that way about those of you reading this right now, too. I’m so thankful to have found you. You’ve read my words and heard some of my stories. I hope I’ll get the chance to learn your stories, too.


This post is sort of a hodge-podge. Tomorrow you’ll see another guest-post, and over the next couple weeks I’ll be sharing some more of those with you. But before I go, I want to share a link to a contest on Facebook to win a $25 Amazon gift card. All you have to do to enter is post a short review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads. Having a large number of good reviews is critical, and it’s one of the best things you can do to help. Even if you don’t do this for me, please, do it for another writer. I’ll even wait while you hop on over there and do it.


 

See? That was pretty painless. Thanks. One last request? Say some prayers for me over the next couple weeks. I have several podcast and radio interviews scheduled and I want to be able to gather my thoughts, be succinct and clear, and actually say something worth listening to. In other words, I want God to shine instead of me. Because as He knows all too well, when I’m left to my own devices, well, it’s not pretty.

It’s official

Tyndale will be publishing The Art of Praying Upside Down in 2015! I’m feeling excited, nervous, overwhelmed and hopeful, all at once. I feel like God has thrown open the doors — and the windows — and said, GO! It’s time! You might need to remind me every once in a while what I wrote ...

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typewriter higher resTyndale will be publishing The Art of Praying Upside Down in 2015!

I’m feeling excited, nervous, overwhelmed and hopeful, all at once. I feel like God has thrown open the doors — and the windows — and said, GO! It’s time!

You might need to remind me every once in a while what I wrote last week about not letting a blank canvas intimidate me. Because A) The canvas isn’t blank. The book is well underway. And B) It’s not just my story I’m writing. It’s His. And that of my friends and my family and all that I have known and seen up to now. I’m giddy with excitement and feel like I’m overflowing with possibility.

I am so ready to see what will happen.

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