It feels kind of weird to be at the end of a year. I didn’t really realize that it was New Year’s Eve until this morning, when my mom walked into my room with two pieces of paper. She handed them to me and said that she’d printed them off some website and wanted me to fill them out. Then we were going to go over them after family devotional tonight.
I looked over the papers and, sure enough, it was pretty much what I had expected. All of the usual suspects were present. A list of questions about 2011 that I was being required to fill out. What was my favorite color this year? My favorite song? My favorite animal? I struggled through the questions and tried to put down answers that I hoped wouldn’t embarrass me ten years from now when I look over it. Because I can just see my totally cool twenty-six year old self gawking at the fact that my favorite animal at sixteen was an ostrich. Really? I was that lame?
Then I got to the crème de le crème. The climax of the interview. The single most important question on the list. What was your favorite memory of 2011?
Oh, easy. I thought. It was such and such. But just as I started to write that memory down, another great memory came to mind. And then another. And another. And then, as all these events and moments came flooding back into my memory, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that 2011 was a really great year.
I’m one of those people that everyone envies because I have a great photographic memory. It makes studying a breeze, and it even freaks my mom out sometimes. And the longer I sat and thought about 2011, the more pictures came to my mind. Moments frozen in time, tinged with that golden haze that time worn photographs have.
I thought about sitting by the water in Bermuda listening to my favorite song in the world while the sun set and everyone was dancing. And singing at the top of my lungs at that Taylor Swift concert that I should have felt so lame at but actually really enjoyed. I remembered the night of my sixteenth birthday party when I looked around at all of my friends surrounding me, the yard up by dozens of little candles and hanging lanterns, and thought I was the luckiest girl in the world. All those nights I spent dancing the night away with my friends, my skirt spinning around me, and all those lazy afternoons by the pool, coming up with the craziest names for all the jumps we made up off the diving board. Every laugh, every smile, every hug.
Sometimes, we get so caught up with life that we forget to enjoy what it feels like to live. We’re always worrying about what’s coming next and what we missed, that we forget to focus on what’s happening right now. We forget about those amazing moments that make our lives wonderful. I’m sure that if you think about it, a lot of great things happened in the last year to you, too. I bet you met someone new, and went somewhere amazing, and did something unbelievable. And you may have already forgotten about it, getting caught up in the next important thing.
Take the next few days to slow down and remember all the beautiful things in your life. Thank someone for something they did for you in 2011. Pull out a photo album and think back on some of the great days you had. Listen to a cd you bought several months ago and let it take you back to that time, that day, that moment. And then look forward to 2012, and all the wonderful things that are going to happen next year.
And I’ll tell you what: I think 2012 is going to be pretty fantastic. 🙂
Oh, I’m finally done with photos for the year. I’m hoping to take a break for the month of January, and give myself some time to recharge and breathe. It’s been such a fun last few months, though. Getting to know each of these families a little better, and getting to capture snaps of their personalities and love for each other… It’s an amazing thing. 🙂
The last family I photographed this year was the Loomis family. We had planned to go to Colonial Williamsburg, but the morning before the shoot, I remembered it was the weekend of Colonial Williamsburg’s big Christmas celebration! So we did some last minute scrambling and decided to take pictures at a spot near my house.
Looking at these photos makes me think of spring, for some reason, despite it being late December. The Loomis children are so lovely, with their light blonde hair and gorgeous blue eyes. I told their mother that Julia, the little girl with the bow in her hair, reminded me of Cindy Lou Who from “The Grinch”. Isn’t she adorable?
Well, Christmas is over. All the presents have been unwrapped and the fudge has been eaten and the relatives are all home. And, in our family at least, many unpleasant memories have been made. We sort of had a heck of a weekend. To keep things short, my aunt chopped off half her finger, my dad got food poisoning, and my mom backed the van into a tree. But, yeah, it was a great Christmas! 😉
We were sitting around with our cousins after we crashed into the tree in their driveway yesterday and mused over everything that went wrong this Christmas. No one was expecting my aunt to show up Christmas afternoon with a fully wrapped finger after having spent Christmas morning in the ER. Or that my dad would be awake all night throwing up oysters in the downstairs bathroom. Or that we would make the ungraceful exit of slamming into the big tree at the end of our cousins’ driveway. But, you know what, sometimes that kind of stuff just happens. When everything that can go wrong does, it just reminds you how blessed you are all 364 other, non-holy days of the year.
Several phone calls to relatives and insurance agents later, we made it home pretty safely. A little sleep deprived, a little cranky, but still alive and well. And then we ate a meal of four different types of vegetables (you have to know how much our extended family loves meat to appreciate how good this tasted) and mused about the true meaning of Christmas. How had such a peaceful Christmas mor/ning, complete with singing, and giving, and worshiping, ended in such a fiasco? We took a few minutes to pray, and thank God for getting us out alive, and to remind ourselves of the true spirit of Christmas. The peace and the joy we find in Christ.
So what did I learn this year? Well besides being permanently freaked out by oysters, knives, and trees, I learned that this is a season for slowing down, not speeding up. And what I missed out on last week by getting caught up in all the busyness and chaos, I hope to take time to appreciate this week. Because, with the car in the shop and everyone recovering from the crazy weekend, I doubt we’re going anywhere. 😉
How did everyone’s Christmases go?
P.S. Everyone please pray for my little sister Hannah this week. She got her wisdom teeth taken out this morning, and she’s going to be in a lot of pain for the next few days…
It seemed like too important of a holiday to go unnoticed so… Merry Christmas everyone!
This is my favorite Christmas song to get everyone in the mood…..
Hope you all have a great Christmas Sunday! I’m off to watch “Elf” for the millionth time now… 😉
[I first shared this post at my lovely friend’s blog, but I figured those of you who don’t follow that blog would enjoy reading it here as well!]
So, it’s that time of year. Wherever you go all you can hear playing are bad remakes of classic Christmas songs. Like Justin Bieber or Jessica Simpson singing “Silent Night”. This kind of annoys me, but I manage to tolerate it for 25 out of 365 days, for the sake of “Christmas joy”.
At the risk of sounding like some kind of unsentimental freak, I have to admit that my favorite Christmas album is Mariah Carey’s. Yes, more than Perry Como and Bing Crosby. There’s just something about her music that makes me want to jump around and throw stuff onto the tree because I’m just so full of yuletide joy. Yeah, it’s weird.
Anyway, the other day I was listening to her song “All I Want for Christmas Is You” on my computer. I was singing along quietly (so that my family can’t hear my off-key attempts at the high notes), when suddenly it dawned on me: I only want one person for Christmas too. And that is Jesus Christ. (Albeit, I could probably also add a small handful of good looking actors, but I’ll keep them out of this for now…)
The more I mulled over this thought, the clearer it became to me that all I want for Christmas is HIM. I don’t need presents to make me happy this Christmas. Or snow, or stockings, or mistletoe. I definitely don’t need some prince charming to come in and sweep me off my feet, filling me with holiday joy and warm fuzzy feelings. All I really desire is to be filled with the love and joy of Christ.
Even though Christmas is a Christian holiday, I think it is the hands-down easiest holiday to forget about Christ on. There’s so much going on that can distract us from what this season is really about. We run around and waste time on silly things that we wrongly think are important. We get hung up, like Mariah Carey, on thinking selfishly about what and who we want this year. But all we should really want is Christ.
Christmas isn’t a time for greed and business. It’s a time for slowing down and getting back to the basic truth of Christianity: desiring God. Wanting to know Him and be near to Him, and being thankful for what He did for us. Because, if you think about it, His salvation is the only gift we can know for sure we can get this year, no matter how naughty we’ve been! 😉
So I got my first letter in the mail yesterday from a “fan”. It was a really cool experience. I’d received so many emails and questions, but this was the first time someone took the time to write to me through Zondervan. I take it as a sign that God is going to do big things through this book, and I’m so happy to have the opportunity to interact with so many young writers and offer support and encouragement. 🙂
Anyway, back onto important things…. Like answering questions!
- What kind of research did you do for historical fiction?
Believe it or not, research was not hard for me at all. I am one of those weird, old-fashioned at heart people who loves history and learning about bygone eras. Since Interrupted is set in the 1940’s, though, I did sort of immerse myself in that time period for a while when I was writing. I bought some swing music cds and listened to them all the time when I was writing. (To this day, it’s embarrassing when a Frank Sinatra song comes on at ballroom dancing and I know every word) I also watched every single Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, and any films I could find made in the 40’s. My great aunt bought me a subscription to a magazine called “Reminisce” that had so many great stories and tidbits about the 30’s and 40’s. I’d really encourage anyone who’s writing in that time era to buy a subscription.
One of the hard things about writing historical fiction as a teenager today is that I definitely did not live in the 1940’s and I make a lot of mistakes in my drafts. That’s why it’s good to have other people (like my mom and agents) reading my work and letting me know when I make a mistake. I remember in one scene I had Allie answering a phone and then carrying it into the kitchen, and my agent laughed and told me: “Um, Rachel… I don’t think they had cordless phones during World War Two.” So I still make mistakes. 😉
- What is your number one piece of advice for young writers?
Be yourself. Write about what you love and be open to hearing other people’s opinions. Know that you never have to change anything you’ve written for the benefit of others, but be willing to think about it anyway. You are young, and talented, and have so much time to figure out what you want to do in life. So writing should never feel like a chore. If it’s something you love doing, and something others enjoy reading as well, then you will go very far. 🙂
Let me know if there are any more questions I’ve yet to answer for you all! I’ve also been thinking about adding my email address so anyone who wants to can contact me personally, but I’ve yet to decide…
Butch and Janet Gay are like grandparents to us. With that in mind, I suppose their grandchildren Victoria and Mason are like cousins. Whatever the case, this family was one of the funnest I’ve ever had the opportunity of photographing. Why? Because I love them all so much! Very rarely do you meet the kind of family where everyone is so smiley and warm and loving. I got more hugs from Victoria alone just in the few hours of taking these pictures than I’ve probably given in a week!
Oh, and by the way, freckles make me smile… 🙂
Hello, all! I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. There’s so much going on this time of year it absolutely makes me dizzy! 🙂
I just wanted those of you who are eagerly awaiting (!) the release of my book (only two more months now!) to know that I have been featured on another blog for teen writers. You can find the interview here but I also suggest looking around the website. There are so many helpful tips and ideas for teen writers. It’s a great way to connect with other writers and find some support. Also, while all the details haven’t been worked out, there is a strong chance that I will be guest blogging on Go Teen Writers about once a month or so. Just another reason you should check it out!
I have a like/hate relationship with Hallmark movies. I mean, on the one hand, I want to utterly despise them. They are so incredibly cheesy. And the actors are really bad. And I can always guess what the next sentimental lines are going to be before they are spoken. But, on the other hand, once you start watching one it’s really hard to turn it off. Especially the Christmas ones. I always hate myself for sitting down when one is on TV, because I know that after ten minutes I won’t be able to turn it off. Will the little boy get that puppy that he wanted? (I don’t get why I even care about this since I don’t even like dogs) Will that girl’s boyfriend propose in time for her to have a Christmas Eve wedding? (Christmas Eve weddings are way overrated anyway) And where will the adorable orphan children spend the holidays this year? (Oh, my gosh, this plot always makes me cry! ARGH!)
Anyway, I decided to compile a list of things I have learned about Christmas by watching Hallmark movies. It may be the longest blog title ever, but this will be epic. Prepare yourself. Get a box of tissues or something….
Things I’ve Learned About Christmas By Watching Hallmark Movies
- Being able to sit at the piano and spontaneously play and sing Christmas carols is a really attractive and totally normal trait for a guy. I mean, if your boyfriend/potential fiance turns out to be total jerk, just go back to the Christmas-carol-playing guy and make beautiful music together. You will never be lonely again…
- Old people that are grouchy are undoubtedly really, really nice people. Do not fear them or their scary pruning shears at all!
- Go out of your way to talk to cute random guys on the airplane when going home for the holidays. Most likely they just broke up with some crazy girlfriend and are looking for someone to spend time with this Christmas. Plus, they’re probably also worth like a million dollars or wrote some kind of best-selling novel or something. And if the novel becomes a movie, maybe they’ll let you star in it alongside Johnny Depp!
- Follow the examples of people who are kind to puppies because good things always happen to them this time of year.
- Plan a Christmas Eve wedding even if you don’t have a boyfriend because someone is bound to propose by Christmas! Go ahead and drop who-knows-how-much money on that Vera Wang wedding gown. It won’t be hanging in your closet for long…
Christmas is so much more meaningful to me now that I have learned to emulate my life after Hallmark movies. I only hope the same for you!
P.S. Oh, and in case you totally didn’t get it, this article is in no way serious. Do not talk to random guys on planes. If you’ve learned anything by watching horror movies they are undoubtedly serial killers searching for their next victim. Seriously!
Believe it or not, I love answering questions. Maybe it’s because I’m such a talkative person. I’m notorious for diffusing awkward situations by making impeccable small talk. But, in all seriousness, I really do love receiving and answering questions both about writing and my life in general. I guess I feel like I get so much encouragement from all of you, that I enjoy dishing some back!
So this is part three of my “Writing Q&A” series. I have one more prepared for next week, but I’d love to keep it up after that if the interest is still high. Here are this week’s questions:
- After you finish writing a rough draft, should you begin editing immediately, or wait?
This is definitely a personal preference, but I always wait. Why is that? Well, sit back think about it for a second. You’ve just poured weeks, months even, into writing this piece. You’ve gone through every scene. Over-analyzed every conversation. Maybe even over characters or plot lines. (I know I have!) You are the author of this piece. It belongs to you.
Now think about it from the perspective of your reader. They haven’t lost sleep over any of these characters. They really don’t care how much effort you put into this book, they just want to see if it’s any good. They are coming at it from a completely different angle than you.
Your job as an author is to see the book from that perspective, too. And the only way (I think) to do that, is to take a break and forget about it a little. Stop writing for a while, or at least work on something else. Give your mind some time to get a little disconnected from the book. Then, after several weeks, go back and re-read the whole thing. Chances are, you’ll notice some flaws you hadn’t seen before. Because you’ll be looking at it from the perspective of someone from the outside. You can be harder on yourself if you’ve had several months to unattach yourself to the book emotionally. It’ll be easier to tear apart in editing, if that makes sense. 😉
- Are you ever afraid if you act on a good idea, you’ll ruin it?
Yes, definitely! I’ve said it before, but my story ideas always come to me in fragments. I usually start by thinking up some amazing character, and build a story around her. But sometimes I’m afraid that even I can’t do justice in describing that character’s dreams and goals, even though I’m the author!
The important thing is to try and act upon it anyway. I’m totally serious when I say that the worst thing you can do is mess it up. I mean, if it’s your idea, then no one else will do it better justice anyway. Try it out, write a few chapters, and see how things go. If nothing else, set it aside and come back to it later. No one’s going to take it from you. And if Paramount Pictures does happen to come up with the same idea and make some multi-million dollar movie out of it, just pat yourself on the back for having thought of a Blockbuster idea before them! 😉
- Would you give endorsements if someone asked?
Hmmm… Tricky question. I guess I just don’t consider myself famous enough to give endorsements! I think the answer would be yes, but only if I thought the book was very good. I’m very thankful for the people who have supported and endorsed me, but I think it’s important to remember that not everyone is going to have that opportunity. And even if I or some other author didn’t feel God leading them to endorse a book, that doesn’t mean that person should give up! Every author should remember that his or her book will sell exactly as many copies as God wants it to, regardless of how much endorsement it’s been given.
Check back next week for part two, and if you have any more questions, I’m always happy to hear them! 🙂