Guest Post: Raelea Hiller on Blogging

I started out with Heather Fitzgerald talking about blogging as a way to build a platform for an upcoming novel, then I featured Deanna Brown who talked about blogging as a way to share a personal story or journey. Today, I’m featuring a young writer, Raelea Hiller, who is going to share her blogging story with you. For Raelea, blogging is all about sharing who she is. Her story combines elements of both Heather’s and Deanna’s. She is a beautiful writer and I look forward to many years of reading her doddles, poems, and hopefully a full length novel. Check out her blog here. Read some of her poetry, check out some pits and pieces of her upcoming story, and even get a few peaks at some of her art work. This is one talented young lady! But, more than that, she’s a good friend.

Next Tuesday, I’ll feature Josh Magill who blogs more like a paper editor.

And now, Raelea Hiller:


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First, I’d like to thank Abby for inviting me to guest post on her blog. A new adventurer in the world of blogging, I was excited but also rather daunted by the task. Abby can testify to the fact that I tried to pick her brain concerning what to write about specifically, but, like a good blog host, she only smiled and refused to give me any particulars, other than “just write about why you blog.” Why do I blog? Such a simple, unassuming, and straightforward question… but not really. I could give you the short answer. Actually, let’s start there—it’s as good a place as any to begin. I blog because Abby told me to.

Abby heads up a writing group, whose members meet up on a monthly basis for goodies, coffee, writer accountability, a good old-fashioned gab, and sage writer-wisdom from Abby herself. The first time I attended, she spoke about blogging as way to gain exposure, connect with other bloggers, and receive feedback. I took her words to heart, and jumped in headfirst. And by headfirst, I mean that I dove off the edge of the cliff without so much as a pair of arm-floaties, straight into the torrential cascade pouring over the edge, praying fervently that there would be a nice deep pool at the bottom and no jagged rocks. The Starlit Forest is the first blog I’ve created. Why a starlit forest? Because I am a wood elf (or maybe a dryad) at heart. Because I spent my childhood pouring over old tales about Robin Hood and his band of merry men. Because the beauty of a starry night sky fills me with wonder and awe. And because there is something tranquil, peaceful, and a trifle melancholy about branching silhouettes stretched out against a dazzling masterpiece of light.

Made You ThinkBut back to the main question: why do I blog? I began blogging initially as a way to share my poetry—to get my work out into the open. It was hard at first. Because, let’s be honest, it’s difficult to take a little piece of your soul and dish it up on a platter for everyone to see and peck at. There was a horrible, deep-seated fear in my heart that no one would like my writing and that no one would want to read it. But do you know what? One of the most beautiful and encouraging things about blogging is that you discover you are not alone. Pause for a moment, and just think about how utterly glorious that thought is. You are not alone. You are not the only wacky, quirky, odd, creative soul in the universe. There are others as well—others who are ready and willing to process, contemplate, and reflect upon the barrage of creative matter you spew forth into the wide vastness of the universe. I began blogging as a way to gain exposure and to share my work, but that is no longer the only reason I blog. I also blog to keep myself accountable, to energize myself, and to keep my creative spark alight.

TypewriterI don’t have to tell you that writing is hard work. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. In many ways, the idea of writing is simple (like the unassuming subject of this blog post). As Ernest Hemingway so aptly put it, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” But the truth is, the simplest and most uncomplicated things are often the most challenging. It takes dedication and commitment to write and to keep writing. And that is exactly why I blog—because it keeps me accountable. A commitment to blog a certain number of times a week is also a commitment to brainstorm a certain number of times a week, and commitment to write almost every single day. Do you want to excel in writing? Then write. Write every single day, if you can. It doesn’t have to be genius level; just write about the little things. Describe the patchwork of blue sky behind the latticed branches of the tree on your front lawn. Write about the insufferable eternity of waiting in the 10 items or less lane at the grocery store, when the woman in front of you clearly has 32 items. Record the conversation you had with your best friend—the one that left you both wheezing and with cramped sides from laughing so hard. Explore the endless sea of faces as you walk from one class to the next. Notice the laugh lines crinkling at the corners of your father’s eyes. Recount what it felt like to lay under the vast and glorious night sky, the Milky Way a stripe of brilliant light framed by sharp mountain peaks. Listen to the chattering and merry voices of the stream, as it leaps from rock to rock, dashing away, speeding ever onward to the turquoise lake below. There are stories everywhere, if you will only pause a moment and take the time to notice them. Write. Write every single day. Pour out your soul in words and lines—even if you’re afraid that you’re not much good at writing. Even if you think your work is rubbish, and are afraid that no one else will ever want to read it. Write your bit of rubbish—explore a thousand ideas, and then explore a thousand more. You’re afraid your work is rubbish? All creatives are possessed by the same innate fear, so don’t let that stop you. Write.

Louis L'AmourAfter all, if you want a nice cool glass of water, you can’t get it by just staring at the faucet. You have to turn the faucet on. Go ahead. Twist both handles all the way, till you’re afraid you might fracture the chrome plating and tear the very handles themselves out of their sockets. Let the torrent of water gush out. It might be downright tepid at first but, sooner or later, if you let it run long enough, that water will grow cool and refreshing. If you want to be a writer, you must write. Let the ideas spew out, and write them down as they do. Why do I blog? I blog because I claim the title of writer—because blogging forces me to write, even on the days when I don’t feel like writing. I blog because it keeps the tap turned on, keeps the ideas flowing, and stretches me to assemble those ideas in ways I never imagined possible. Blogging reminds me how much I love writing, it reminds me that I am not alone, it keeps my creative spark lit, and it provides a way to share that little corner of my soul with others. And that, my friend, is why I blog.


Again, the main thrust of the advice from bloggers is Write!  And if this article doesn’t set your britches on fire, I don’t know what will. One thing Raelea keeps me constantly encouraged in is to write beautifully. We’re both Tolkien geeks and I think Tolkien must have believed in writing with beauty. I hope you enjoyed Raelea’s thoughts and found a bit of inspiration for your own blogging.

Quote of the Weekend

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

 

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,—
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

– First and last stanzas of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Happy Independence Day!

the-birth-of-the-us-national-anthem-american-school“Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

-The Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key

Texas Cousins Adventure: Here there be Dragons (Part 3)

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

(Part 1)

(Part 2)

Sitting around the large dining room table, seven cousins and one aunt passed around chips, raisins, marshmallows, animal crackers, jelly beans, and even a few healthy carrot sticks and strawberries.

“Aunt Abby,” Bruce said. “Tell us the story.”

“Yes!” the other six cousins chorused.

“Now!?” gasped Aunt Abby with a twinkle in her eye.

“Now!” all seven screamed with their outside voices.

Aunt Abby laughed. “Okay, where were we . . .?

“In the Cave,” Jules whispered.

“Oh, right, in the cave.”

 


The seven cousins, hand in hand, and brave Ellie crept into the dark, dark cave.

“It’s very dark,” said Constance.

“Is it scary?” said Jules.

“I’m not scared,” said Bruce

“Me either,” said Joshua

“It’s not scary,” said Aunt Abby. “Just dark.

They stood just inside the very small door. How could they find the egg if they couldn’t see?

“Well now, well now, what have we ‘er?” a high-pitched voice rang out of the darkness.

“You sound funny, Aunt Abby,” Jules said.

“You sound like Kipper,” Constance said.

“Yes, it’s called a British accent,” Aunt Abby said.

The seven cousins huddled together.

“It’s just us,” Bruce said.

“Us. Who’s us?” said the voice.

“Us. Julie, Ellie, Constance, Joshua, Imogene, Jude and me,” said Bruce.

“My names not Jules,” Jules said. “Or Julie-bear, or Julie, or even Party Girl. My name’s Queen Party Girl.”

“Yes,” Aunt Abby said seriously, “but in this story it’s just Jules, or things get confusing.”

“Who are you?” the voice asked.

“I’m Bruce.”

“Who are you?” Imogene asked.

“Yeah?” said Ellie.

“Me? Why I’m Max, the glow worm.”

A soft blue light infused the cave. The cousins blinked and stepped back from the glowing little worm clinging to the wall. Far overhead, the roof was still lost in shadow.

“You’re very pretty, Mr. Max,” Jules said.

“He’s not pretty,” Constance said. “He’s cute!”

“Boys aren’t cute,” Bruce said.

“Or pretty,” Joshua added.

Jude threw in a growl for good measure.

“Now, now,” said Max. “I’m not offended. But I am curious. What are seven tikes like you doing in this dragon cave?”

“We’re helping Alchemist and Oceana find their egg,” said Jules.

“They lost it,” Constance said.

“It’s very sad,” said Ellie.

“Very,” said Imogene.

“Do you boys think it’s sad?” Max asked.

“It was a curse,” said Bruce.

“That’s something evil,” said Joshua.

“And bad,” added Jude with another growl.

“I see,” said Max. He glanced up at the ceiling for several seconds. “Right-o. I know what I’m gonna do. I’m going with you.”

“You are!” they all said together.

“Yes, but you’re going to have to be a lot quieter than that,” he said.

“Why?” Bruce said.

“Cause there are two dragons in the other room?”

“Are they bad dragons? Do they breathe fire?” Bruce said.

“Well, honestly, I’m not quite sure.”

“We should go look,” Joshua said.

“Yes!” Imogene said taking Jude’s hand. “Which way?”

“Well, one of you pick me up and I’ll guide you.”

Jules backed away, but Bruce hurried over to the glowing worm and held out his hands.

“Now, don’t squish me, lad. Just leave your hands open and I’ll tell you where to go.”

“I won’t squish you,” Bruce said.

“Good boy,” said Max. “Look over to your left. No, your other left. Do you see that tunnel?”

“Yes,” said Bruce.

“Go that way,” Max said.

With Bruce leading the way, the seven cousins hurried across the cave to towards the tunnel mouth.

“Stop!” yelled Max.

Bruce stopped. Jules stopped. Constance and Joshua tried to stop. Ellie, Imogene, and Jude didn’t stop. They ran right into Constance and Joshua. Constance and Joshua fell forward bumping into Jules. Jules screamed and accidently pushed Bruce right through the tunnel mouth. Suddenly! There was no floor. The fell down down down. Every one screamed and tumbled. Arms and legs flew this way and that. A shoe almost hit Bruce in the head. Several pink barrettes flew out of Jules hair. Ellie laughed shrilly and Imogene screamed with joy, her red hair streaming out behind her.

Woosh! Seven children and one glow worm landed in a pile of feathers. The feathers drifted up around them, floating in the air.

“Achoo!” Jude sneezed.

“Bless you,” said Imogene.

“Now where are we?” Jules asked.

“We’re in the hall of feathers—”

Max cut off with a little high-pitched shriek as Bruce fell through the feathers and into a small dark hole. The six other cousins found themselves too heavy for the bed of feathers. They fell through them giggling and laughing as the feathers tickled them and then down into the hole following Bruce and Max’s light.

Slipping and sliding, the cousins shot down the dark hole that had turned into a giant slide. It twisted around and around, went up up, down down, and around again. Flying out the end, they skid to a stop in a shallow but wide puddle of water.

“Let’s do that again!” Ellie said.

“No,” Jules said with a shudder. “Let’s not.”

“Puddle!” said Imogene and Jude together. They leapt to their feet and started splashing.

Constance, Joshua, and Jules joined in. Bruce held Max up high so he wouldn’t get wet, but then jumped so hard with both feet that he showered them in water.

“Goodness, goodness, I never,” Max sputtered.

“Who is splashing in my puddle?” A loud voice boomed in the small room.

All the cousins screamed and hugged each other. Max’s light went out. Two blue eyes and two green eyes glowed in the darkness.


“Well,” said Aunt Abby with a yawn and a stretch. “I think I need a nap.”

“No!!!” Imogene said. “You can’t nap now. What about us?”

“We’re in the dark with glowing eyes,” said Jude.

“Will they eat us?” said Bruce.

“Down in their tummies,” Aunt Abby said tickling him.

“Hurry, Aunt Abby,” Constance said. “Finish the story.”

“Okay, but first I need some hugs.”

Seven cousins gathered around her in one big family hug.

…to be continued…

Constance and Joshua!

Constance and Joshua!

One of my favorite faces!

One of my favorite faces!

Jude, our littlest man!

Jude, our littlest man!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

This is Jules and her Jaguar. Behind her is the picture of a dragon that I drew for her sparking this story.

This is Jules and her Jaguar. Behind her is the picture of a dragon that I drew for her sparking this story.

A Hero Passes On

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Louis Zamperini

I was sad to find out that one of our greatest American Heroes passed away yesterday. I rejoice that I will someday get to meet this brother in Christ and share the story greater than his survival–the one of his salvation. His I will share over and over with my nieces, nephews, and any who will listen. I praise the Lord for the grace he showed this broken man.

Schedule Change

I’ve been doing some soul searching over the last few weeks about my blog and I feel like it’s gotten a little off focus and overwhelming. I feel like I have so many articles coming out that I’m spamming my Facebook news-feed just trying to get them all out to everyone. So I’m going to change the schedule up a little. Part of this will happen in July and by August should be in full swing. Here’s the new schedule:

  • Every Monday: Guest Posts, Slice of Life, Sunday Thoughts
  • 1st and 3rd Wednesday: Movie/Book Review and Writing Journal
  • Every Friday: Children’s Story
  • Every Saturday: Quote of the Weekend

What does this change? It puts the focus back on the the more personal Sunday Thoughts and Slice of Life meant to encourage my church family and less of a focus on books, movies, and writing lessons. Those will still be there, but not in such a quantity. So, if you notice a change in the scheduling of content…then you are right! There is a change! Thanks for reading, sharing, and supporting my blog!

Guest Post: Deanna Brown on Blogging

Continuing with my short series on blogging, I invited Deanna Brown, blogger on Strokeman’s Woman, to share why she blogs. Her story is very different from Heather’s, who I featured last week. Where Heather’s rose up from a need to build a platform for her YA series, Deanna’s rose up from a need to share her story about her husband’s stroke.  This is just a small example of how diverse blogging can be. I strongly recommend reading Deanna’s story from the beginning. While it is trying to the heart, it is encouraging to the soul.

Join me again next Tuesday for yet another perspective on blogging.

And now, Deanna Brown:


10246307_10152336478428190_944043745655855663_nMy husband had a fairly massive stroke about 3 years ago. In my efforts to help him in his quest for recovery, I began to read books that had been written by stroke survivors who had regained some semblance of their lives through hard work and determination. The problem was that my husband didn’t have determination, and he wasn’t willing to do the hard work. No amount of encouraging, nagging, cajoling, begging, bargaining or screaming (yes, sometimes I screamed) was going to make him do what he didn’t want to do.

As I read those books, I began to read between the lines at what was not being said. I began to wonder if their spouses had a different take on how things went. And I began to yearn for someone who had a similar experience to mine to write a book about how they managed to navigate through difficult decisions. I’m not saying that book isn’t out there, but I didn’t find it.

So I began to write a blog “under the radar.” If I was going to be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted anyone I knew to be reading it. And I sure didn’t want my identity easily found out. I told my sisters, and my very inner circle of friends. My goal was to speak the truth about all the many struggles I was having. I also wanted to give whatever wisdom I gained along the way that might help someone else in the same situation. I hoped to be able to do this with a fair smattering of humor. As I received encouragement and assurances from my inner circle, I began to share with more people, until I finally had the nerve to put my name on my “about me” page, and to begin sharing my posts on Facebook.

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When I started blogging, my husband was still cognitively impaired enough to have no interest in what I was doing with the time between his calls for help. But I knew there might come a day when he would want to know. Besides that, I knew that I had a responsibility as a Christian to do my best to speak God’s Truth in the midst of my frank accounting. I realized that anonymity, did not give me license to be disrespectful or a poor representative of the Kingdom. As with any other endeavor, blogging must be approached with a tremendous amount of self-government. If I was careful to keep these parameters in mind, I didn’t have to fear people “finding me out.” Having said that, I must also confess to sharing things that would be beyond the comfort of my very private husband. This has been the fine line on which I have balanced.

The experts in the blogging world talk about a process called, “finding your voice.” This process is accomplished primarily through consistent and regular writing, and a personal assessment of what it is you want to say to the world, and how it is you want to say it. In a way, I have developed two voices on my blog. On the one hand, my story as a caregiver has developed into a spiritual journey in which I find biblical application to the struggles I have experienced. Early on, when I was writing about the most difficult days, I found that it was too hard to stay there in the pain and grief for long. As a result I started taking a break from “The Story” to spend some time remembering better days under the category “Moments to Remember.” While both my “voices” would be considered memoir, one of them is of a more serious bent, while the other is an outlet for recalling times and places that make me smile, or laugh out loud.

I have sometimes approached blogging as a possible moneymaker. I have also approached it as a place to build an audience for a future book. I have detoured into writing competitions, and following bloggers who make a living teaching others how to have a successful blog. I have found that for me these things take the joy out of blogging. If I spend too much time worrying about what my audience wants to read, or what I can do to bring more people to my site, it starts to feel like homework and deadlines. Consequently, I have concluded that I do not want to make blogging a means to a writing career. My goal is twofold. First, writing about my experiences as a caregiver helps me to cope with the difficulties I face. It is a way for my brain to process the events, and to apply what I have been taught in terms of biblical application. In conjunction with that, it is my desire to help others as they struggle with the difficult providences of this life. I want to encourage other caregivers, but if what I write is biblically sound, then there should be elements of it that apply to people whose struggles are not the same as mine.

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If I were to give advice to someone wanting to start a blog, I would tell her to just start writing. Even a few minutes a day is better than trying to write all day once in a while (and here is where I should say, “Do as I say, not as I do”). The daily exercise of writing awakens that creative part of the brain that will help you to have a better product in the long run. I would tell him to write what he knows and loves, instead of trying to write about things that are not a part of his experience. In the blogosphere, a pretender is recognized a mile away. I would remind her that blogging is a public forum, and anything published in cyberspace, no matter how tight the security, is subject to be exposed to the world. I would encourage him to exercise biblical self-discipline to all aspects of the blog; the writing, the stats, the comments, etc. As with every other occupation we pursue, there is opportunity for much good, and opportunity for idolatry and abuse. Finally, I would encourage her not to sweat the haters. I feared that I would have commenters who would criticize me for making the choices I made, sharing things I shouldn’t, or believing the things I believe. Instead, I found that people appreciate my honesty, and sympathize with my difficult journey. That’s not to say you can’t find an argument if you go looking for one.

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This is my story. What is yours? I have found that there are as many reasons for starting a blog as there are bloggers. There is a world full of possibilities. It’s a simple thing, really. Just start.


 

Writers write. Deanna’s reasons for writing are very different than Heather’s reasons, yet they both blog. I appreciated her encouragement to just get started writing, to be honest, and to practice the same self-control online that we attempt in ‘real life’. There is no point in our Christian walk were we get to stop walking. I’ve been encouraged by Deanna’s blog for a long time now, and hope you will read, comment, and follow her.

You can also check out my Guest Post for Deanna where I talk about humility.