Allume is Better When We Work Together (Volunteer Sign-Ups)

If you’re like me, the idea of 400+ women in one place can be a little nerve-wracking.  I know I always feel better when my hands are busy and when I’m given a task to accomplish.  Some of my most memorable conversations at Allume happened while I was working alongside other bloggers to help set-up for the conference.  The next day there were faces that I had never previously met that I now counted among friends.  It was a blessing to serve in many ways.

allume needs you

This year is shaping up to be the best Allume yet, and in the spirit of service, we’re giving attendees a chance to plug-in and serve each other.  So that’s what this post is about…it’s a call to sign-up to serve your fellow sisters and we have a place for you even if you can’t attend.

Below is a list of all the needs we have followed by a short survey.  Please read the descriptions and then fill out the survey.  You will be hearing back from your team leader (the person you report to) shortly.  Please know we are so thankful for each and every one of you!  It’s YOU who helps make Allume possible.  We ask that you do sign up that way we can better utilize your gifts and callings to make Allume the best ever and allow our management teams not to go crazy.

Super Awesome Service Opportunites

Prayer Team — We need your prayers.  Period.  Even if you can’t attend, this is the perfect way to get involved.  The prayer team will be taking a three-prong approach.  First of all, we need prayer warriors storming the gates of heaven leading up to the conference.  We trust that God is going to work mightily through Allume this year, which means the devil will be working overtime to throw a wrench wherever he can.  Please be praying as the days tick down.  Secondly, we would like prayer warriors praying at home during the conference covering our attendees and speakers with prayers.  Lastly, we are in need of prayer warriors to help staff the prayer room.  If you would like to serve your sisters in this way, we would love to have you.  And like I said, if you can’t attend the conference, this is the perfect way for you to stay involved.  Allume doesn’t happen without the women of God interceding on its behalf.

Time Keepers — Know how to tell time?  We need you!  These individuals are vital to keeping the conference on schedule by keeping time for the main sessions and letting our speakers know when they need to wrap it up.

Session/Room Needs — Ensuring speakers and sponsors have what they need in their rooms in regards to AV needs.  These individuals will work in tandem with the hotel and will also be helping to distribute books at the Thursday’s keynote.

Allume Breakdown — These individuals will help clean up on Sunday morning following the end of the conference.

Musician Sales Table Help — These individuals will help run the musicians’ sales tables after both concerts.

Registration — Love to meet and greet?  We would love to have your smiling face at our registration table to help welcome conference attendees and hand out name tags and hook attendees up with some awesome swag bags.

Sales Table Help — One of the most exciting parts of Allume is not only meeting and greeting our speakers, but purchasing their books and getting a signed copy as well as possibly taking that treasured picture with them.  These individuals will help us at the sales table during the meet and greet/book purchasing/book signing session on Saturday afternoon.

Help Staff — I love all the volunteers, but these are some of my favorites because they help man the help desk, give directions, move crowds, and are all around helpers.  And most importantly, these ladies will be able to tell you where the closest restroom is.  Like I said, these volunteers are important.

Miscellaneous — Are you the kind of gal that can go with the flow?  You’d be perfect for the miscellaneous category because these lovely ladies float wherever we need them to…would you consider it?

**Gift Bag Stuffers** — If you would like to help stuff the swag bags we will be stuffing them on Wednesday afternoon beginning at 3pm.  This is always a super fun time!!!!

Now it’s time for the survey.

Click here to take survey

Thank you so much for your time and your willingness to serve!

on getting right again

Lanternphoto credit

I like to look good.  Not in a fashionable sense, per se, but in an “I’m a good person sort of way.”  My children have taught me that no matter how hard I try I will never have it all together, but that doesn’t keep me from trying.  I’ve struggled with this for years and more recently found myself lying to cover up bad decisions I was making.  Even though it was the furthest thing from my conscious mind I had allowed myself to become like the Pharisees in Matthew 23.  I looked great on the outside, but inside, I was dying.

The choice to follow Jesus is not just the initial choice to admit, believe, and confess–it is also the daily, momentary choice to choose rightly.  Not choose easy.  Not choose convenience.  Choose right.  Choose truth.  Choose life.  No matter how many bad/wrong choices you’ve made you can always choose in this very moment to do what’s right.

From one girl who desperately needs Jesus to help her choose right in THIS moment to another here are a few things that help me forgo the easy and choose Jesus.

1) Wise Counsel – It is so important to have wise and Godly counsel on your side.  These are the people with whom you can be completely honest and who you know will be completely honest back with you.  In my life, I had gotten to a point where I was avoiding these people/didn’t want to tell them all the nitty gritty details because I knew they would call me out on it.  If you find yourself isolating from the wise counsel in your life, I urge you to instead run to them.  Share with them.

2) Make scripture easily accessible – this can be done by not only reading the Bible regularly, but also putting scripture where you will see it.  For some of us that may mean sticking post-it notes throughout our houses.  For others it may mean writing in a journal.  I typed some pertinent scriptures out in the “notes” section of my iPhone, took a screenshot, and set it as my lock screen on my iPhone so every time I turn on the phone I see scripture.

3) Come clean – be honest.  There was some nitty gritty truth I had to face.  I had to tell close friends that yes, I had lied.  I was a hypocrite.  I put looking good above being honest and in doing so I brought shame, but you know what?  The minute I said I was sorry, the moment I turned the other direction…forgiveness was there.

That’s the same for you, friend.  This Allume community, we’re about real light living.  That means that we forgive, we embrace, and most of all, we stay.  We are here.  However public or private your issues we are here and we are cheering you on in your deliverance.

Here is one of my all time favorite quotes via the wonderfully insightful, C. S. Lewis:

“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists of being put back on the right road.  A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.  Evil can be undone, but it can not ‘develop’ into good.  Time does not heal it.” –p. VIII, The Great Divorce

When you’ve had to say you’re sorry and turn around from a bad decision, what helped you?  What steps did you take to get right again?

I Don’t Do Change Well


seasons pictureThe mud sticks to my shoes and I’m at a loss whether to wear my dress shoes or my Toms.  Frankly, the shockingly high temperature of 37 degrees Fahrenheit (please oh please read my sarcasm there) made me question whether or not to replace my winter boots with rain boots.  The weather’s constant state of flux testifies that the seasons are indeed changing.  With every pregnant wax and minimizing wane of the moon I’m reminded of the seasons and how they are all managed by the One who created them.  The same One who created me.

I don’t do change well.  Routine is like a large, fluffy, heirloom quilt and I snuggle in with relish and enjoy life from my perch.  I like to know the big picture instead of the next illumined step–the subsequent days and months and years planned in advance.  To know that last year looked like this year and that next year will look the same is so very comforting to me–except that life does not follow my desires nor my pre-planned design.

Life is a conglomeration of seasons marked by the passing of diapers to undies, five-point-harnesses to booster seats, and sippy cups to spilling milk all over the table because everyone is using “big kid cups” and someone just got excited and in reaching to steal a chip/dessert/cookie from a sibling’s plate upturned their cup.  Paper towels, toilet paper, and cleaning solution are purchased in bulk.  Children are undressed, bathed, and re-dressed in an assembly line.  The only predictable aspect of our days is that they will be full of crazy and full of love with a large dose of mischief to keep things interesting.

I struggle with the seasonal-ness of life.  Struggle to the point that I fought it for a long time…okay, honestly I still fight it.  The first few weeks of a new season are the roughest for me.  I complain (mostly to God and sometimes out loud) about the ills of the new routine.  Really, it’s just the groaning of growing pains.  My will molding to His will.  My desires changing to fit His.  My children protest when we go to the park instead of the bounce house or when pb&j is our lunchtime delicacy instead of pizza.  I wonder, do I sometimes resemble them with my lip forced downward and my eyes narrowed, stomping my foot in protest?

Seasons are meant to change.  That’s the whole point.  They are a time through which to walk, to grow, to learn, and to finally put behind us.  So many of us say “this too shall pass” and yes, this season shall too pass.  I’m trying to not become so disillusioned with the difficult parts that I miss the blessing, because all too soon, the moon will appear to grow again, waxing gibbous and beyond to a new season…a different season.  And this different season will have challenges and blessings all its own.  So snuggle down, wrap the quilt around and know that this season is special in and of itself and it won’t last forever.

What season of life do you find yourself in presently?  Do you find yourself eagerly awaiting the conclusion or hoping life could stay this way forever?




moments in the seasons

photo (46)

It’s unseasonably cold here in New York…or maybe it’s just that last year was unseasonably warm and I prefer it’s temperatures to the ones I’m facing now.  Morning breaks just like every other morning–too early.  About a month ago I would have chided myself over not waking earlier, not taking time to be in the Word before my children woke up, but i’m learning that life is only the sum of its seasons and each season calls for something different.  Just as He brings the change from winter to spring He is the one who melts away the cold in our hearts to make way for new fruit to grow.  Seasons.

Like I said, morning dawned early.  Before you jump to a picturesque idea of morning at my house let me fill you in on the reality.  Approximately at five AM my youngest will roll over in her crib and become conscious enough to notice that her pacifier is no longer in her mouth, yet she won’t be conscious enough to figure where exactly in the three foot by four foot space known as her crib the pacifier has gone.  I’ll blunder out of bed as fast as I can to re-plug her before she wakes up the sleeping monster known as the three year old because if she wakes up, we all wake up.  I’ll spend the next hour failing miserably at going back to sleep/keeping my mind from wandering to all the things in life that I can’t control/trying to figure out a way to control all the things I can’t control.  I’ll fall back asleep about thirteen minutes before I should wake up.

Fast forward.

All four of the children are awake and in various states of chaos.  One’s getting out of the shower, the other is wandering around telling anyone who’ll listen that she’ll “help” them.  The other one is fully dressed, but forgot to change his underwear and the crew is rounded out by the token nudist streaking through the house decrying any kind of clothing.  It’s just the normal, everyday Thursday morning and somehow the normalcy of the insanity is pushing me to my limits.  I can feel the tension rising in my shoulders as the clock ticks every second closer to the deadline for school and there’s still so much on the list to finish and for heaven’s sake their is a naked child running around screeching.

“Mom, look at the beautiful sunrise!” she exclaims.  I look up quickly.  Acknowledge the glow peeking through the frosted glass.  We’re late.  The clock is ticking.

“Okay, let’s everyone…”

“…go downstairs.”

“…eat breakfast.”

“…keep moving.”

That sentence could end any and many ways.

“…go into Zahara’s room.  We’ll see it better in there.”  In we tromp–the naked one, the half dressed one, the soaking wet one wrapped in a towel and the other one and we gaze.

All in all, it took probably three minutes.  A whole 180 seconds of our day, but it made me pause and appreciate–appreciate these four little people in their various states and stages and this house that keeps us all.  We have our moments.  This 180 seconds was one of those moments and just as quickly it deteriorated into the morning rush, but all day long I’ve held onto that moment–four littles, all crowded around a window awed by a coral sun slowly rising through the dim morning skies.

Think through the past few days…what moments are you holding onto?  What moments help you make it through the long seasons?

about the practice


photo credit 

I haven’t had much time for writing in the past few weeks.  Let me rephrase that–I haven’t made time for writing in the past few weeks.  This fact caused me to experience a range of emotions.  At first I was annoyed, then I moved to frustration, and finally to acceptance.  My “no” to writing paved the way for “yes” to others.  I baked Christmas cookies which I hadn’t done in years.  I finished reading a book that had been riding with me, its pages calling to be read for a few months at least.  At this point, I look at my blog and am completely overwhelmed.  I know, the writing chick at Allume and she hasn’t written anything lately.  I know.  Last week I wrote a post here at Allume and it somehow disappeared into thin air and you know what?  I didn’t rewrite it.  Obviously it was one of those posts that I only needed to write for me.  No one else needed to see it.

Sometimes our writing is exactly that–for us.  Writing ultimately starts with us; at the crossroads of our experience, at the peak of our pain, at the diverging road in the wood–our writing begins with us.  Most often it helps another person and the penned words foster community, camaraderie, and solidarity, but it begins with the writer.  

Yesterday I was chatting with Trina and I confessed that I have no clue what to write about.  It’s not a case of writer’s block, per se.  It’s more like I have no idea where to start.  This is testament that we all get stuck at times.  Every.Single.One.of.Us.  

She suggested writing about one of my passions.  Plopping my bottom in a chair and going for it; writing until the words run dry.  It doesn’t matter if the finished product leads to a blog post.  It’s about the words and the thought and the process from brain to cellulose (or computer screen).  It’s about the practice.  Practice.  Practice.

 What’s one passion of yours and could you, would you write about it until the words run dry?

What tips and tricks help you when you feel stuck with your writing?

a tree with a story

christmas tree


The branches can almost fool me as I gaze at them from across the room.  Yet another Christmas with a fake Christmas tree and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  As a child I’d anticipate opening the attic door and smelling the mix of must, dust, and a myriad of other unidentifiable scents that mingled in the space over our porch.  The tree was older, larger, and well loved.  We’d carry it down the stairs bit by bit and eventually deck it out with all the normal trimmings.  

I don’t remember much about the stringing of the lights, but the ornaments are burned into my memory.  Ours was a tree that would never be featured in any decorating catalog.  Replete with handmade school crafts and mementos from my parents’ travels abroad the tree told a story in which every ornament was a chapter.  

Of course there were the “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments (years 1985 and 1987) which always caused a small disagreement as I had two ornaments and my brother only had one.  I always told him it was because I was the firstborn.  And a girl.  Don’t worry, he got me back when he became a Marine and he gets an 11×14 picture of himself on my dad’s mantel whilst my family and I get a mere 4×6. (no resentment here…no, really, it’s all in jest, but I digress).  The few antique ornaments hang high above where little hands can reach them.  They refract the lights creating beams of red, yellow, and blue.  My obsessive self makes sure they hang in  the order of the Christmas story–the shepherds first, the nativity second, and the wise men third.  We can’t have things out of order now, can we?  

A golden Rudolph hangs, his bright red nose sparkling.  He was a gift from my sitter when I was younger reminding me of days spent playing and the many excuses I used to think up to try to negotiate naptime.  There are macaroni picture frames and handprints traced.  

I stood in the aisle this Christmas at Wal-Mart and survey the many many different ornament sets…brights, chocolates, all white–part of me wants the pretty tree, the picturesque one with the matching ornaments, but where’s the story in that?  Instead I’m going to have my tree with its handmade clashing colors and mismatched ornaments that each tell a chapter, a story.

What story does your tree tell?

Personal Testimony – Private Family

PRIVATEphoto credit

the words “authentic” and “real” are fun little buzzwords in the blogging community. as writers and community leaders it’s safe to say that we strive for authenticity and truth in our writing and our interactions with our readers. where’s the line, though?

at what point do we draw the line and say “i will not write about this”?

earlier this year, at Allume the following question was posed during the writer’s lab in which Mary DeMuth, Denise Eide, Sarah Markleyand I all spoke. i can’t speak for the other ladies or share their opinions on the matter, but i wanted to address this question here.

what advice would you give to someone that wants to share their personal testimony, but comes from a “private” family?

first of all, your life is your life. i do, however understand being mindful of others involved in the story. i’m divorced. i have to be quite sensitive about what i write pertaining to the divorce online for the following two reasons: one, my ex-husband is still their dad and i don’t want them reading details online. secondly, i have no right to speak badly about another person which leads into my next point.

Mary DeMuth talked briefly about the fact that when she wrote her memoir, she told it from a child’s point of view instead of pointing fingers. she relayed her experience as she experienced it. (Mary, correct me if i’m wrong on how i explained that.)

honestly, there’s a lot that i don’t write about on my blog. i can be authentic, meaning i’m truthful and honest and i tell it like it is without telling you bluntly about every little detail of my life. i did not write about my divorce or separation while i was going through it. i mentioned being a single mom in my posts and some of my friends and loyal readers picked up on it and cared enough to email me to inquire about it, but other than that, people skimmed right over it. now that the divorce is finalized, i can finally feel free to blog a bit more about it. that happens to me quite frequently.

rarely do i blog about something that i’m experiencing WHILE i’m in the midst of it. more often i process it after the fact by writing about it.

most of all, i want to give you permission. permission to write, to process, and to eventually publish if that’s what you think you should do. just because you write something doesn’t mean you need to publish it. i’d begin by writing your testimony. you might want to have your husband and another trusted mentor read it. then pray about it. if you are getting the go-ahead on all fronts, then by all means publish it. it is your story. be sure you publish it mindfully and check your motives. the point of a testimony is glory to God for what He did, not an opportunity to publicly vilify or shame a third party.

so that’s my answer.

what do you think? how do you handle sharing your personal testimony or experiences when you come from a private family or your story involves others? i’d love to hear your thoughts.

happy weekend,

KJ Tanner

Here’s to…



It doesn’t take much to look at life and pick out the negative; the grotesque.  Pain, suffering, death and despair don’t lurk in the shadows, no, they hover near our faces, sit down at our dinner table and pad through our hallways as if they belong.  With negativity at such an all time high it doesn’t take a keen eye to focus on the dreary, the despondent wallowing of our lives.  It is the lazy soul who wallows and rolls in the mire of our condition.

 It takes a much more controlled and aware, might I say mindful one to find the streak of hope, the burst of sunshine, the one, minute inkling of something better.  It’s not that the good isn’t present, it’s only whether or not we have trained our sight to focus like a laser onto the good.

 Mindfulness is a new topic to me–a new practice.  Before you run for the hills, let me rephrase that to read living in the moment.  Recently at a conference I mentioned mindfulness by encouraging my audience to close their eyes and consciously become aware of their surroundings–of the chair beneath them, of their feet on the semi-plush carpet. 

 The same practice can enable us to appreciate our lives even more.  Does this examination of the good drown out the bad?  Does it negate the injustice? By no means, but it does supply hope in an ever-wanting world. 

 So here’s to the one day reprieve in between the apocalypse of the stomach bug in a house of four kids.  Here’s to short runs and hot showers and three pages read while the children aren’t waging the next world war between themselves.  Here’s to the silver lining, the plush carpet, the heated car, and the warm blanket at night….

Have you ever practiced mindfulness? How has it helped you? 

 Today be mindful of your surroundings.  Take note of the floor under your feet, the cold wind biting at your cheeks, the sloppy toddler’s kiss.  The memory will only add to the reservoir of experience from which to draw when you are writing.


                             Hoping you have a lovely weekend,

                      k. j. tanner


grace before…

chesterton quote for allume

i’ve been thinking about this quote ever since i found it hiding on the interwebs. saying that i’m thankful for my creativity almost sounds narcissistic. let’s rephrase that, though, ‘thank you for giving me the ability to create…’ thank you for giving them whoever them might be the ability to create in the way they do.

one of my professors once said that true enjoyment of a concerto is when one can sit back, listen to it and at the end not wish that they were in turn able to do the same.

to read a blog post and not wish to recreate it. instead to give props. mad props when due. not that we can’t learn from our peers. not that we can’t aspire to improve, to be better, but to recognize that we are on a journey and that talent displayed that we so envy did not appear overnight–it was honed.

to read a post and appreciate the hours spent pondering and crafting, editing and the bravery to finally press publish to listen to the music and understand the hours of practice, the many, many wrong notes hammered upon until the sum of which debuts as a masterpiece. to look at a person meeting their fitness goals and know that in this moment we can’t and don’t know where they started.

appreciating the end result intertwines itself with a respect of the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice it took to get to the place they’re at today. to admire and recognize that each of us, whether it be with words, our hands, a brush, a pencil, our voices, our bodies, whatever way we create, a facet of the Creator shows through.perhaps He is brought into better focus through our creations.

we create first and foremost for Him. then we create for us. i inscribe on pages what speaks to my heart, what mends me, what casts me into despair–but it’s amazing how when i thought i was writing for me, it turns out to help someone else.

we break bread when we create. we spend time stirring together an amalgamation of emotion and thought; opinion and experience. then we break it out of its box and feed it to the world even if that world is just one person who reads it or watches it.

creating always evokes emotion of some sort. hate, anger, fear, angst, happiness, uneasiness, and impetus of such to move to action whether it be outward or inward. i’m starting to practice Chesterton’s quote because it makes me take heed.

take heed of the sacrifice, take heed of the finished product. to say, you are not where you started and sometimes the person that needs to hear that the most is me.

what’s your favorite way to create?

with love, kjtanner

redefining awesome

Memories of Writing

Writing on the Pont de l'Alma next to the scene of Princess Diana's death

photo credit

Memories that don’t include the desire to write down a story elude me.  The earliest that I can pinpoint exactly what I wrote is when I nine.  There are two choices between desks; an olive green or a drab yellow.  Neither inspire creativity or ingenuity.  Even so when we trade desks every other month I still race to sit at the green.  I’ve never been a fan of yellow.


A prairie story went to the competition that year.  The title is forgotten, the characters a mass of muddy water, but the pig–I remember the pig.  Her name was Maurecia.  In sixth grade I wrote a six page poem based off the computer game “Heroes of Might and Magic” which my dad, brother, and I played with abandon.  That was a poem of which I was extremely proud and my teacher actually lauded me with a much coveted, “Well done.”


That same year I wrote about washing dishes.  It’s also the first time I found my ‘voice’.  This voice would elude me for years as I tried to mold my writing to please others, say what they wanted me to say, get the good grade.  That day, though when instead if documenting a point by point how-to essay on washing dishes I crafted a sarcastic satirical jab back at the inanity of sticking one’s hands in dirty water swirling with bits of food, I found my voice.  I found a piece of me that no one could take away.


As time progressed my writing hid itself in journals and pads of paper impressed with ink of multiple colors and textures.  As my writing became more conversational, revolving around my schoolwork, my aspirations, my crushes, I wrote out all that “stuff” and unknowingly improved my ability to write for longer periods of time as well as word counts.  If you were to read those journals you would probably see teenage angst and nothing worth publishing, but I look at the and see practice. Practice. Practice.


His name was Nick Jones and he asked us to call him Nick.  None of this professor jones nonsense with him.   The house of sand and fog was required reading.  I waded my rear end through it and dragged my feet as far behind me as humanly possible.  What better way to show my disdain for this book than to hit it with a dose of Kristina’s in appropriately sarcastic writing.  I know, right? How could I go wrong?  The paper written I finished it and turned it in resigned to the fact that I would indeed be happy just to pass. 


This was back when term papers literally meant “paper”; tangible, fibrous cellulose marked up with ink.  I received my paper back and there were the words I will take with me to my grave because they changed my life.  “You have talent.  You need to hone this.  Take some writing classes.”


It was the first time someone believed in my writing and valued my words enough to encourage me to spend time improving them.  I didn’t take his advice until later, but he is still the person who first encouraged me to unearth the buried artist inside of me and unleash her arsenal of words.


Thanks, Nick.

Who has influenced your writing or encouraged you to write more??

And the countdown….



…has been going for months, right?!?  At least I’ve been counting down to Allume for that long.  Ladies, it’s almost here.  Ready your ears, prepare your hearts, and get your business cards printed, Allume is just around the corner, but first we have to finish out September and the way we do that around here is with a link-up.

All you have to do is link-up your favorite post from the past month and afterwards go encourage another writer to keep on writing by reading (and commenting if it’s not too much to ask) on their posts.

One month-ish, friends.  One month.


Cartography of the Heart

Map of Martin Behaim 1492
photo credit

You’d think that the map of one’s own heart would be well-traveled and as familiar as a favorite book, pages curled over, browned in some spots.  The mottling of the ink from dark coffee mixed with tears of both joy and despair spreading rampant across the parchment masking the events that caused their welling, their pouring, their eventual drying.  To look at one’s own heart is to see where one has been.  It cannot tell you where you are going.  

Obsidian obelisks remind of pain and waterfalls of tears cascade about them, but then there are the hills, the place where they said I’d find you.  They were right.  I found you on the hills, where foliage gives way to craggy rock and the air goes thin making my chest heave with the exertion and gasp for life-giving oxygen.  ‘Twas on the hills that we first met and my hand clasped to yours and I said I’d follow.  It wasn’t until the valleys though, that I began to know you.  

No, it wasn’t on the hills where my soul soared and I ran to dive off the side and wait for you to catch me.  No, it was in the valleys…in those dark places where the muck stank of dirt and rot, of the dead and hopeless that I began to know you.  It wasn’t until my chest cavity was carved out and with only a dull ache to remind me of what used to be that I finally understood just a little bit of what it means to be emptied.  So there, dizzied, wandering, not sure in which direction I should plant my next step, there did I turn to you.  Palms outstretched, plans marred, feet blistered with the desperation of my plans gone awry I offered to you all the bad I could see, all the good I didn’t know and asked you to point me, to lead me, to tell me where to go.

And so the compass rose leads.  This cartographer with His tools sketching out lines and landmarks; routes that I have yet to know their names with individuals I have yet to meet.  All I must do is follow.  One foot in front of the other. 

-Kristina @kjtanner

Redefining Awesome


heavy winter clouds
photo credit


I wait for something epic.  

Something worthwhile to share.  When it doesn’t I’m stuck wondering what it is I’m supposed to write on the is screen.  

Honestly, there is always something about which to write and more often than not, it’s not epic.  Instead, it’s mundane.  It’s the everyday that we remember–that draw’s us into one another’s lives with a call of “you too” and “It’s not just me.”  

My only advice when this occurs is to pick up your head.  

Spin around 360 degrees and make note of everything within ten feet of you.  There will be something to write about.  

I spin now and I see my work area, cluttered and full, replete with paperwork, projects unfinished and schedules.  The white and wood island stands stately in the middle of the kitchen.  I’m so proud of it because my neighbor set it out for free and I totally carried it across the road with the help of my babysitter.  It’s  a monument to the free gift of an island when I had prayed for one.  

“You have to surrender to the act of writing, give up to it, trust that if you have anything, it will discover it for you.”  – E. L. Doctorow

I scrawled that quote onto my wall smearing paint with “wipe-off” markers that are now indelibly engraved on my wall.  To offer up, to surrender to write, to trust in our words–it can be so scary, but then again, any action that involves trust requires an action of bravery.

So today, ladies.  Be brave.


Can’t think of what to write?  Turn in a circle.  Then tell me what’s inside your circle.



August Link-Up

Monkeys in "De Apenheul"
photo credit

Whether you’ve been folding the endless mountains of laundry or traveling the world, we want to know about it!  Link it up here at the monthly Allume link up.  Can you believe that we only have just under two months until we get to hug, chatter, and learn at Allume?  I’m amazed at how this summer has flown and I can’t wait to meet you all!  Until then, link it up, ladies!




windows 2 of 4
photo credit

She glanced down at her paper and scribbled a note.  My hands faltered and I had to quickly refocus my thoughts so I could keep up with what the speaker was saying.  Against my better judgement, I flicked my eyes again in her direction and found to my dismay her pencil moving silently across her paper.  This can’t be good.   I steel myself for what’s to come afterwards and press through the remaining minutes of my time.  Not soon enough my time comes to an end and I relinquish my post to another scared, trembling student.  Now I just need to sweat it out for the next forty-five minutes and through three more students before she’ll give me her critique.  As much as I try to sit still, my foot is bouncing with anticipation and my heart is beating out of my chest.


I went to school for American Sign Language interpreting prior to my writing career.  The whole foundation of interpreting is built upon standing up in front of a group of people and throwing your best attempt out there.  When you’re in training, that attempt gets critiqued and in my case, those doing the critiquing were pretty darn ruthless.  For every five negative comments, they might throw out one or two positive comments.  It wasn’t fun.  Truthfully, it was extremely discouraging, however it taught me one thing–I can always improve.  There is always an opportunity to excel in some way, shape or form.  The same is applicable for writing.

The best way to improve your writing (besides practicing and actually writing) is to have a group of people with whom you can share your writing and know that they will give you honest, truthful feedback.  I’m not saying to send your writing to just anyone so here’s a few guidelines you can use when trying to set up a critique group for your writing.

  • You must trust the members.  When I’m in a critique group I want to be able to trust the members.  Knowing that they won’t steal my idea is huge as well as that their motives are to improve their writing, not to cut another person’s writing down.
  • Critique on the same topic.  If I’m asking you to critique my fiction novel and you are asking me to critique your non-fiction dissertation on the life cycle of frogs, I think there could be a problem.  Try to swap critiques in the same genre, that way you have a familiar knowledge base.  I don’t want to put my fiction “baby” on the table of an “I read only non-fiction” kind of person.  It’s the same way that a lover of historical fiction probably won’t have nice things to say about my new young adult fantasy novel about dragons.
  • Focus on the positive.  What is the writer doing well?  For every one negative thing, you need to have at least three positive things happening.  I’m not telling you to lie, but I am saying that you need to focus on the positive.


Last month I took part in a Writing Circle with Bigger Picture Blogs.  The prompt for this month’s circle was “Embrace” and we were writing a fictional excerpt of less than 1000 words.  We met via a group skype chat for about 1.5 hours.  It.Was.Amazing.  After speaking with the ladies at Bigger Picture Blogs, I’d like to re-create this for our Better-Writer community and of course add some of our own unique flair to the idea.  First, however, I need to know who is interested?

Leave a comment below telling me if you’re interested in something like this and what you’d like to write for critique.  Have you ever been in a critique group before?  What was your experience like?  Would you do it again?

Day 24 – For Whom

photo courtesy of mikeymckay

As writers we examine our audience and try to figure out how to best please them.  We say we write for ourselves, but we love the recognition that receiving comments and feedback from our audience brings.  There’s nothing wrong with that; however when pleasing our audience begins to encroach on our writing, I think it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate.

First and foremost, I write for me.  I put fingers to keys and more preferably, pen to paper because if I don’t I would be one more step towards crazy.  I must write.  Even if it is just a list of what I did during the day, my brain needs to have the outlet of recording something.

The desire to write, and write well is lodged deep within my heart.  I remember the day I decided I wanted to be a writer and I also can look back and see how that dream was crushed, buried, and pushed aside.  So now, I write because I know it is my calling and to deny that would be tragic.

A few weeks ago I was speaking with an extremely talented friend of mine.  At one point she took up a hobby, let’s say it was painting.  She ate, slept and breathed painting and even started looking at schools to attend to improve her skill.  Then one day, someone very important to her said these words, “You’ll never be able to make it in art school.”  My friend packed up her oils and pastels, her easels and smocks and has yet to pick up another brush.  Her talent is gone because one very important person didn’t think before she spoke.

I tell that story not to just drive home the point of thinking before you speak, but to also remind myself that one human’s opinion of me or my work cannot define my art or my craft.  The only person that can define it is Jesus.

Now, while I knew I wanted to be a writer from early on, I didn’t star a blog three years ago with the idea that I was fulfilling my calling. Instead I started a blog as a way to not go crazy while I was pregnant with my third child in less than four years.  To look back on that, I might have already been crazy.  No, I just started writing because I didn’t know what else to do.  Everything else fell into place after that.

Today’s Challenge:  I’d love to hear how you started blogging and what your dream for your writing is.  No dream is too big or small.  None of this, “I started blogging because I was bored.  The end.”  No, craft a story.  Make it interesting.  Make me understand why you worry yourself silly about things like SEO, grammar, and why we all just don’t give up?

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Day 20 – The Well

photo courtesy of echiner1
licensed under creative commons

The red paint is peeling from the little makeshift well.  The small door hangs crookedly on its hinges and the latch doesn’t completely close.  The well is in danger of going dry, the only water still in the well is stagnant and still.  I open the door and the smell of old water wafts into my face.  The space is small and the ladder is rickety, but I climb to the bottom and there’s only a few inches of water covering the base of the well.  In just a few weeks, it will be dry and there will be no chance of re-filling the well.  The only way to have kept the well from becoming stagnant is for water to continually be flowing through it; there needs to be a constant stream of water.

When we write, we tend to get overly focused on output and forget the need for input.  We generate content, we write posts, we brainstorm ideas, and write, write, write.  The focal point of our craft is output, but if you keep up a constant stream of output for too long while forsaking the input.  Don’t underestimate the need to replenish your thoughts and renew your perspective.  A fresh point of view is invaluable.

If you are going to be writing with any regularity, you must be reading with even more regularity.  That doesn’t mean that you have to finish a book.  It also doesn’t mean that you have to read fiction, or conversely, non-fiction.  I am just politely, yet strongly suggesting that you read something.  You don’t have to finish a book, or even an article, just read it.  Read it for the sake of injecting information into your brain and coaxing your imaginative neurons to once again fire away!

I’m not sure what you fancy as far as reading is concerned, but you do.  You know which books draw you in and make you update your Facebook status to “Just one more chapter turned into seven more and THE END!”

Today’s Challenge:  Today’s challenge is two-fold.  First of all, I’d like you to pick a book to read this week.  You don’t have to finish it by the end of the week.  Heck, I don’t even care if you ever finish it.  You aren’t reading to finish it, you are reading to refresh your brain and excite your perspective.  This week, I want you to commit to read for ten minutes a day.  It can be out of the same book, it can be articles in different magazines, whatever you want.  Just read.

For the second part of the challenge, I’d like you to write about one of your favorite books.  Why was it your favorite?  Which character stole your heart?  Perhaps the character made you cringe or caused you to ponder their actions.  Tell me all about it over in the Facebook group.


It’s only Day 20, which means we have ten days left to become better writers.  Subscribe via RSS or e-mail and our posts will be delivered directly to your inbox.

Day 17 – Stream

I hiked Manoa Falls and all i got was this.
photo courtesy of thanker212

Every once and a while I will see a blogger post a stream of consciousness post.  Most of the time I will read them, however when a blogger starts putting up five or six posts like this in a week or two, well, then you just know that they don’t have the time or don’t want to take the time to write well.  Obviously the exception would be if there was a family member in crisis or something like that.  On those occasions, good writing is exchanged for the necessity of relaying information and I understand that, but for most of us, a stream of consciousness post serves a different purpose.

Yesterday I wrote about brainstorming–depositing the swirling vortex of ideas that is our mind onto paper for the sole purpose of hashing out what we should write about and how to group things into posts.  Today we’re talking about that time.  You know, the time you sat down at your computer screen and didn’t feel like you could form a coherent thought, but knew you had to put something down because the tornado of words is just dying to be imprinted onto paper.

Allowing yourself to solely write without hindrance or worry can be extremely cathartic.  It also can help you break down the barriers of perfectionism.  You know, that aching little feeling that tells you that you need to weave the entire story prior to sitting down and penning it?  That feeling is lying.  The only way your story will ever be read is if you sit your rear down and write the worst version you’ve ever written.  At that point there’s nowhere to go, but to improve.  That, however is a whole separate post.

Posts that follow our stream of consciousness also allow us to work out certain issues or perhaps allow us to find that we were mulling over something we didn’t even know was there.  This is especially true for women because all of our brain is intertwined….or so I’ve been told.  That’s why one minute I’m talking about my great-aunt Naomi and the next I am thinking about Croghan Bologna and cheese curd.

While many times these posts are “unedited”, I would at least encourage you to check for spelling and blatant errors.  I’m not saying you need to change words or tense or make it more colorful, I’m just saying if you wrote your, but meant you’re, please just fix it.  Here’s my stream of consciousness post, just for you.

Today’s Challenge:  Write a stream of consciousness post.  All of you are wonderful writers so I know there will be no shortage of words.  Remember, don’t pretty this up too much, just check for gross spelling errors and such–ie. don’t use ain’t unless you are speaking in a particular vernacular that would make it appropriate.  After you’re done, come chat about it in the Facebook Group.

We’re more than halfway through, but it’s never too late to subscribe to our feed and have our posts delivered directly to your inbox for free via e-mail or RSS.