A Polar Bear Hug

For some time now, I envisioned myself in Denali National Park in Alaska. Last year I surfed for information on the web, ordered a vacation planner, and researched where to go, what to see, and how much money I would need for the summer trip in 2014. I was intoxicated with Alaska name on my lips.

But this year isn’t the year. I counted on extra money that never came. And of course, we get surprises. And NOT that kind of surprise that makes you jump up and down, hug someone, or hum a tune of your favorite song. Instead you want to shut the door and hide in your cave. Bills pile like layers of vanilla ice cream with strawberry, whip cream, nuts, and a cherry on top. That cherry might be your high tax bill upon other bills you don’t need.

Do you eat ice cream to melt conflicts like me? I don’t want to waver like a flower that has been sitting in a vase for too long. There is hope.

Next year might be the year.

Unexpected expenses can retreat all of us more than a few steps back. For some things we wait for too long: fixing our cars or getting new crowns at the dentist office. And don’t we plan to remodel our homes? Instead we stare at the same walls, eyes drawing to only a new picture frame on the night table. That’s not much improvement to a home you hoped for…

This year might not be your big year. But you never know what might come your way. It’s okay to hope for wonderful things to happen and live that dream until it comes true.

What if you dream it?

Last night, I visited a polar region and was greeted by an Eskimo woman with a tamed polar bear by her side. Yes, the bear was real. It is worth more than 1,000 words to describe what I felt. Asked if I wanted to be hugged by the bear, I shivered inside weighing fear against excitement. Would the bear rip me into pieces and eat me? But like a child who wants to hold a star in a small palm, I outstretched my arms. Fuzzy and warm inside, I bet I had a smile on my lips, my eyes twitching while I dreamed. I was hugged by a furry polar bear! Even if it comes to me only for a moment and only in my sleep, I will not stop dreaming.

Don’t give up on your dreams.

P.S. God for sure knew what I longed for because He keeps the candle burning. Click on the link below if you want to see me in the Museum of Science and Industry with my furry friends in the background.

polar-bear1.docx

Was God laughing at me?

You don’t know how much I look forward to Thursdays. It’s when my weekend starts. I plan ahead of time what I’m going to do. The list grows long. Not going into details, I clean, do laundry, get my groceries, pay bills, and prepare something warm to eat. I try to hit the gym as well.

What about the books to read and write? I have about six hours to get most of these tasks done before my boys are back. I’m racing against time, always running but getting behind. At this time in my home phone calls or interruptions aren’t allowed.

If you’re wondering, I never reach the end. I get impatient like my six year old during our car rides when he asks a million times, “Are we there yet?”

This morning was no different. After I made beds, packed lunches, prepared breakfast, and made sure my kids looked decent enough, it was time for me to eat something. On other days, I don’t get a chance.

When I picked up a bowl of hot milk from the microwave, my older son without any warning laughed too loud from something he was watching on TV. As the eerie sound reached my ears (I was still sleepy), I dropped the bowl. The bowl landed on the stove. It didn’t break, and I breathed a sigh.

But you guessed it right. The milk spilled everywhere, wetting my yoga pants, the stove, countertops, cabinet doors, and the kitchen floor. Did it have to happen just before I had to get the kids for school? After I yelled, there wasn’t any time to feel sorry for myself.

As I removed my sticky slippers and was careful not to make more footprints, God made sure I woke up this morning. He stopped me in my tracks. Was God laughing at me? I can’t be sure, but my son’s laugh stayed with me through the ride to school.

Later in the day when I finally cleaned the whole mess, the sun beckoned me to lighten up.

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

I remember a Polish saying. It’s about a turkey thinking about the upcoming Sunday, but on Sunday the poor turkey was beheaded.

Yes, do plan but don’t lose your head in the process.

Why do I write stories and read?

Please watch the above video.

Great stories feed me. I wish the same for you. Mary Curry wrote a wonderful post on it. I’m including the link below. But first, please subscribe to my blog.

Thank you and enjoy!

Here is the link. Click on it.

If you would like to find out more, click here.

Silence…

How well are you handling it? What do you do when you don’t hear from your children? What do you do when your employer doesn’t tell you how he/she feels about your work? And how about your friends who disappear from your life?

When you call to God and say your prayers for something to happen, nothing happens. Your prayers seem to lift with the wind unanswered.

Patience, my friend. And faith…

We all want things to happen now. We all take it personally. We have a tendency to speculate and think we know what is going on. Something much bigger is at work even when we don’t seem to know it right now.

If you’re waiting for that call, don’t give up. If you’re battling your faith because for so long your prayers have been unanswered, keep believing and praying. Allow God’s strength to make you stronger. See what’s important at the moment. The day will come…

Blessings!

P.S. This blog went silent for awhile.  I didn’t disappear. I’m at work, but you knew that, right?

A phone call away…

Have you wondered when that phone call or email will come letting you know that you’re going to be published?  To writers, who still wait for that call, how do you think you would respond?  To writers already published, what’s your story?  I created a small scene below as an inspiration. Then I thought I wouldn’t sit but walk from the excitement. More likely, I would be hysterical.

            ******************

As I lowered the last plate into the dishwasher, the sun warmed my skin through the lace curtain. Peaceful, if only for a moment, I sighed, shortly to be troubled by the curtain blown into my face sending goose bumps down my arms. I looked at the uneasy apple tree branches bringing me back to real life. When am I going to be in better spirits? Nothing seemed to go right. Greg lost his job. My little one got sick. I wished to stay home and be with him, but bills…lots of them. I didn’t feel like seeing people at work. Tired, I was so tired of running everywhere and not finding time for myself—

“Mom, the phone is ringing!”

“I don’t have time, let it ring! I’m already late.”

But then eying the phone, I reached for it, curiosity getting better of me. Someone has left a message. Hmm, I don’t know the number. Dialing….

“Did you just call me?”

“Anna, it’s Maggie Stuart. We’ve met at the conference. I got your manuscript in front of me.”

“Who?…Oh. Excuse me for a second.” No peace in this house.

Covering the speaker of my phone, I said. “Guys, be quiet for a moment. Mommy got a very important call. Do you understand?”

“But Mom?”

“Not now, Adam. You will tell me later.”

“Mrs. Stuart, I’m so sorry–“

“Are you sitting down?”

“No.”

“Then you better sit. I have wonderful news. Sundale is going to publish your story.”

“What?”

“I love my job. You’re going to be published. Whatever you do, please be free in an hour.”

“When did it happen? I don’t know what to say.”

“I’ll call back in one hour. I have a meeting in a few minutes. Congratulations.”

The click of the phone ended the most anticipated phone call in the last few years. I stared into nothingness, frozen in place. I’m getting dizzy.

“Mommy, are you okay? Why are you sitting on the floor?”

“What? Oh, I’m okay, Adam. Let me kiss you. I have great news to tell your dad…. We’re going to eat out today.”

I wanted to sing my lungs out. Somehow I knew I had it all along. I won’t call myself a hypocrite anymore thinking I can write. Maybe, I shouldn’t be too happy until I sign the contract… Should I let my friends and coworkers know? No, don’t be too eager. Wait. When you are too happy, something bad usually happens. Be humble. Keep it to yourself for now. Thank you, Jesus. It was all Your doing.

Mom, why are you crying?”

“Oh, from happiness, honey. It’s nothing. Do you remember about blessings sent from heaven?”

“Yes—“

“Mommy just got her dream. How wonderful is that?”

ACFW Conference

Hi all,

So what are my thoughts about the conference? You wonder….

I didn’t know if I should attend when it was nearing because my project wasn’t ready. The project that I wanted to take with me was left at home because something didn’t ring true in there. So I had doubts if I should go. But instead I brought the project that I didn’t plan on bringing with me as a rescue plan. It was collecting dust for a while. I have done only minor editing to it. And in the end, everything worked out pretty well for me. I’m glad I attended; I got what I needed; I learned what to do next.

So my words of wisdom are:

If you are a new writer, put trust in the Lord because He knows the reasons for you to be there. For me, the highlight of the conference was talking to an agent who gave me words of wisdom. I learned a lot. I found the agent that I want to work with in the future. God willing, that’s what will happen one day. We just clicked!  I love when that happens.

I have spoken to several agents and interviewed them for a change. Don’t be afraid to talk to them. They are just people. If this is the one reason that you want to go to the conference, then go. You might have only one or two appointments, but the opportunities to mingle with most of the agents or editors are everywhere. And not every agent would be suitable for you and the other way around. So it is important to meet many of them and see which one would be a fit for you.

Networking with other professionals is another reason for you to be there. If you meet people with whom you just can’t seem to click with, that’s fine. We all have different personalities. So, if you run into situations which make you uncomfortable then know that it happens all the time. All of us will not click. That is why it’s so great to go and have the opportunity to talk to a variety of people who are behind the scenes and right on the spot. You will find people who will help you grow as a writer. You will find the ones who will help you take one step or more toward getting published. You will not be taking back steps. You will know what path to walk on.

I met some wonderful people who gave me good advice. (God is working in mysterious ways to make those pieces fit into the puzzle if I don’t know what to do with them.)  I had the opportunity to chat with wonderful writers who I love. Writers just beamed with happiness!  I was surprised how humble and good-natured they were.

When I was registering for the conference, I heard a lot of advice that it’s okay to miss the class or classes if you need to talk to people you meet. I didn’t know why people would post advice like that. Aren’t you paying for the classes? Aren’t we supposed to learn and drink all the knowledge we can? I learned a lot by spending time with individuals after the classes, or when I have waited for my appointments, or during lunch or dinner, or during breaks. Around seven hundred individuals attended. You can imagine the floor being busy with people everywhere who share the same passion for reading and writing. Not that the classes weren’t valuable–they were. I have learned plenty. But, you can order the recordings of the conference to listen to at your convenience after you go back home.  I highly recommend it. But you won’t see the cluster of people for another year, so use it to your advantage.

Remember to take time for yourself at the conference. I could have talked more but I had to digest things that I’ve learned. I played conversations back to myself. I smiled about positive remarks. I put a few things critiqued under the rug.

Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Be true to yourself and learn as much as you can. Compare critiques so you can pick up on things you can improve. Determination is key. Sometimes you will need to cut your work or revive it to make it more alive in order to connect with the audience. But don’t seek critiques if you’re just starting out. Look for inspiration.

Accommodations could have been a little bit better. I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t so lucky. I couldn’t see the St. Louis Gateway Arch or the river. What I had outside my window was the black roof adjoining two wings blocking the view of the city. Also, I could hear the water coming up in the bathroom. I had the seepage that left black residue in a sink every time someone was taking a shower next door. The noise of the water coming up wasn’t letting me fall asleep at night and made me nervous. I’m so thankful that there was no overflow.

The program was packed. The classes were good even though the most valuable information I learned came from things happening outside of the sessions. You just have to see for yourself. You can’t get any closer than that. Books cannot serve as a substitute.

The truth is that more likely than not you will be overworked after the conference. It may have a negative impact on you for a short time…. You are likely to feel drained like me. I have poured all of my energy into getting ready for the conference, i.e. working on my project that I wanted to submit, getting my business cards ready (had to reorder twice), creating my website, etc. After I came back, I just felt restless. I just couldn’t write or read books about the craft. I took the time to do other things, like watching movies. I didn’t plan on going back to writing at that time. This was a phase that passed! It lasted only two weeks. I got my strength back as well as my passion. I felt ready to plunge in again. I was excited to go back to my work. I don’t know where it all came from, but I wasn’t expecting it. So don’t kill yourself and take a break if you feel that way. Your body and mind will tell you when it’s enough and time to loosen up a bit. Recharge your energy. Be gentle to yourself. After taking a hard long walk, take a break and sit on a rock and stretch your feet.

Blessings,

Anna Labno

I’m so glad to see you here. :)

I will let you know about my relationship with ACFW.  One month ago, I joined. You will be there to watch me take my first steps as I climb the mountain to success. God willing!

So far, I have found many people trying to please and offer advice as needed. Their website was a bit overwhelming at first, but now I feel right at home. It was to my surprise to see so many people contributing.
I will concentrate on the road that brought me to writing and started a small flame within me. I hope that it never burns out, and ACFW will help me accomplish my goals.
First, I have started this wonderful journey through getting to know an awesome writer, Nancy Jo Jenkins.  Her novel and her words inspired me to write. Coldwater Revival is a book to cherish. I’m so glad that I came to love this author so much and found a great friend! Thank you for giving me a dream!
I came across ACFW through Shawna Williams, a wonderful author. We’ve corresponded in one of the forums that led me to her website. Visiting, I have found one of the links pointing to ACFW.
So, after I visited the website and read about the conference coming up, I was not going to miss it. But I was pulled in two opposite directions. One of the voices was telling me that I’m not ready yet. Don’t be a hypocrite. The other one was assuring me that it’s my call. You have it.  When my employer agreed that I go, I signed up for it thinking that God knew before I did. Two critiques of my work have been booked, as well as two appointments with agents to see if I’m on the right track. Any advice from them will be much appreciated.
I wish to thank Susan Wingate for opening her heart to lead me through the creation of my website.
Also, I wish to thank Lisa Hanson and Iola Goulton for providing constructive feedbacks. Lisa is a wonderful gal who acts like a bug killer in my writing. And Iola possesses a sixth sense by helping me complete my vision of a story. And I wish to thank the rest of the girls in the Amazon forum who have been good friends and offered words of encouragement.