Tag Archives: writing

Writing Prompt #1

15 Jul

share

It’s summer time and you have spare time, so let’s do some writing, how ’bout it!?

– + – + –

Caffeine. Inspiration. Prompt. Let’s go. Here is today’s writing prompt challenge:

What you’ll need–

– 1 genuine sharpie marker (or equally awesome permanent marker)

– set of wheels

– a lil’ bit o’ cashola (I’d say about five bucks will suffice)

– the goods of writin’ (y’know, the pens, the paper, the laptop)

– one willing soul to assist you on your journey

How to Do the Thing–

1. Get in your car. Or on your bike. Or just walk. Walking is good too.

2. Drive to the nearest curb store, stylishly jamming out to whatever you like. If you are not in a car, use whatever portable music device you have and enjoy some good tunes. If you have no such device, sing at the top of your lungs. It’s all part of the process.

3. Purchase 2 bottles of sweet, Dixie campaign (that’s coca-cola, for you non-Southerners) at random. Note: these bottles must have names on them (e.g. John, Sally, Marsha, etc.) in order for the prompt to work. Keep this in mind during selection and purchasing procedures.

4. Using your sharpie, write the number 1 on top of one of the bottles and number 2 on top of the other bottle.

5. Return home in the same fashion as you left, stylishly jamming.

6. Allow your friend to, without seeing the names, choose which of the bottles is to be the antagonist and which of the bottles is to be the protagonist.

For example,

You: *expertly spins cokes around so that friend can only see the bottle caps* Pick 1 or 2. 

le Friend: *ponders choices while stroking an imaginary (or real) chinbeard* 2.

You: *malicious cackling* JONATHAN, YE SHALL BE OUR VILLAIN! *brandishes coke bottle gently as to not upset the carbon dioxide* 

le Friend: *eyebrow arch of Spock* And that makes number 1?

You: *brandishes second coke bottle (gently) like a sword* MAXWELL, YE SHALL BE OUR HERO!

le Friend: *nervous laughter* You are insane.

You: *indignant Sicilian accent* Inconceivable!

le Friend: *exhausted yet amused Spanish accent* You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

7. Enjoy a coke with your friend.

8. While you are a-buzz with caffeine, use the two names and their predetermined destinies to write a 100 word flash fiction that begins with…

“I don’t share things.”

“Well, that explains a lot.”

Post your completed prompts in the comments as well as which song you jammed out to on the way to purchase the cokes!

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Writing Buddies Are For Life

12 Aug

So this is pretty much co-authoring in a few pictures. In case you were wondering, along with writing, we also do weird, stupid things in public, but what were the librarians going to say?

The One About Co-Writing (Part Two)

7 Aug

And then they… no, they didn’t dance. They finished the one about co-writing.

 

6. Discuss the Book and All Future Plans for the Book Frequently. This may seem like a weird thing to do at first, but I promise it’s worthwhile. No one will be more supportive of you and your future (obviously awesome) fandom than your co-author. So talk about it. Where do you want this book to go? What are your dreams? If your dreams are as bad as Flynn Riders, then come up with some better ones. While it may seem like you’ll never get anywhere, laughing about who you think your readers will ship in the future and drooling over certain publishing companies will help not only to set your standards of achievement high, but it will also make you and your co-author closer. Along those same lines, you’ll establish similar aspirations for the book. This is very important. If you’re envisioning yourself as the next New York Times Best Seller and your buddy is really just wanting to write a story to share with the family, then he or she might not be so inclined to slave over the manuscript like you are. Talking about where you want to go with the book will also help you tackle the big discussions in chunks instead of all at once. Do you want to have more than one main character? How long of a book are we talking? Do we want to make this into a trilogy? A saga? A series? Multiple series? When should we draw the line and maybe move on to other things? Brooke and I went through this a lot with our “cycle” WilderQuest. A lot of times, we let all of our gushing ideas accumulate for months before we addressed them, and because of that, our ideas would often clash and clash hard. Again, communication is the key.

 

7. Keep the Book Consistent. What tense? What point of view? Formatting. It is a big deal. Let no one tell you otherwise. Ever. Because it is a big deal. Especially if one of the people involved is OCD. That was me, Sarah, if you were wondering. This is probably one of the most important things to keep in mind while you are co-writing. A lot of times, you and whoever you choose to write with will have very different ideas of how things should look. In fact, your styles will likely be very different as well. And although it can become a really big road-block if you let it, there are a lot of ways to avoid locking up over inconsistencies. This may end up requiring you teach a few Microsoft Word short cuts to your authoring compatriot or sacrifice your own ideal title headings for ones that your buddy likes more. Again, be ready to compromise and work through the problem with God’s grace and serenity. Agree on and then set up a chapter template, make character description sheets up, and share what you think about each others’ writing. Brooke and I often talked through inconsistencies that arose, making notes of some character’s preference for certain things and also how to properly indent paragraphs. And more often than not, all that was needed was brief clarification. Here’s what happens when you don’t do this:

“Evangeline huffed in irritation, glaring at Liz with her cold, dark brown eyes.” — Chapter 2, written by Sarah

“Evangeline’s bright blue eyes flashed; fear was evident in her face despite the chaos of battle.” — Chapter 11, written by Brooke

See the dilemma? While these sentences didn’t actually come straight from WilderQuest, this very thing actually did happen. You’ll find that you and your friend will likely have characters that the both of you created almost entirely by yourself, or you’ll come up on a part in your book where one of you planned out the battle scene to the gory details. These aren’t bad things, but always keep in mind that the other person working with you is probably not telepathic. If you have things planned out to the very last dotted i on the page, be sure to share this and be willing to compromise if your better (writing) half has an idea. Plot bunnies multiply exponentially where inconsistencies are, and no one wants to have to chase all those fluffy mongrels off.

 

8. Make Achievable Goals. The word “achievable” here is very important. Goals will be the things that help propel you through the tough times of novel writing and also push you to the breaking point, and goals will also often be a test of your teamwork finesse levels. Whether it’s a goal to reach a certain word count, write a certain number of chapters in a week, or a setting and meeting a certain dead line, you will find that it is very important one, that these goals that you set can actually be achieved, and two– without butting too much into the next point, that you encourage your friend to meet the goals that you do set. Seriously, just knowing that someone else who you know is human (because who can be sure about these big time author people) tacking a crack at reaching that really hard goal will help you to do better, even if you don’t achieve that goal in the end. Granted that nothing is quite as satisfying as knowing that you and your writing compadre have reached a goal on time. So strive to meet those goals. Or make a point to laugh about them later. Both are pretty enjoyable, although one of them is decidedly more productive.

 

9. Encourage One Another in Writing and in Life. This is definitely the biggest benefit of writing with another person. Although, undoubtedly, you will have your ups and downs, good days and days that main characters end up in dark pits being tortured to death, you will also have days that you finally pull out of your writer’s block and the first person to throw you a party and send you cake is your co-author. Days that you’ll disparagingly decide that your novel will never go anywhere and you might as well stop now and take up some profitable career now like your mom has been telling you to for the past sixteen years and the one to dispel all that is your wonderful, high-spirited writing buddy. In fact, you’ll find that the friends who write together, often stay together. Like, seriously, Brooke and I have been life-buddies since the tender age of two. There is something about spinning a tale with another uniquely amazing individual that is really pretty awesome in-and-of itself, and you will likely discover that the people who “get you” the best are the people that you write with. So, with this pretty awesome relationship in mind, don’t overlook the importance of daily making an effort to build each other up and encouraging one another to strive for each of your “bests” — whatever that best looks like. And if you’re pen pal is just having a rough go of it in general, be there for them– pray for them. Trust me, riding through the storms of life with someone is one sure way to ensure that when you write together– it’s just that: together.

 

10. Co-Writing Can Be Lots of Fun. So Enjoy It. One of the best feelings you’ll have while co-writing is the moment when you and your friend finish a book, and you read back through it and realize that you’ve shared a very unique part of yourself with another person who feels the same way. I have learned so much from co-writing and continue to learn about not only my own style and abilities, but also about other people and how to best interact with others. Truly, nothing will improve your writing as quickly as working together with other talented individuals because you will find yourself wanting to put forth your best so that they will do the same. Instead of standing on the precipice of a new novel alone, you will be standing with a friend and fellow warrior. Some of the best memories I have are from late-night role-playing sessions, really, freakishly long book planning discussions, and the intermittent moments of shared insider jokes and character impersonations. So have fun with it. Co-writing is probably one of the most fun things you’ll do. And while it does take a lot of work on the outset, the rewards that you reap in the long run will far exceed the little troubles that you go through at the start.

 

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Well, there’s our take on co-writing. Did you think of something that we missed now that we’ve reached the end? Think that you could explain one of the points better? Have a story to tell that fits one of our ten points? Tell us about it in the comments below!

New Contact Form

7 Aug

Hi, guys!

We just want to let you know that we have a new feature of EEB! You can now find our contact form in a drop-down menu from the “About” page at the top of the webpage. We are super excited about this, because, although we had a contact form before, we really would like to encourage y’all to submit questions about writing, faith, and life in general! You now can have a significant impact on what kind of posts we put up there.

You're going to have to sharpen your pencil for this one, guys.

You’re going to have to sharpen your pencil for this one, guys.

Now, we are, of course, going to continue with our usual posts and writing updates (and probably come up with some fun, random posts too — *spoilers* Sarah’s been thinking about starting a serial on idioms in the English language), but we are also super excited about building a community of writers who are for the kingdom of God! This is why your input is super important. You are all what makes this blog so much fun to write, and as a team we want to keep building up our relationships with you guys!

So don’t be afraid to drop us a line– even if it’s just to say hi. You guys are awesome, and we are excited about this new opportunity for us to all grow closer together.

 

-the EEB Writing Team

 

The One About Co-Writing (Part One)

4 Aug

A couple weeks ago, we received a request from Victoria W. :

“I have a question. I’ve been considering finding co-writing with someone on this story idea I had. There’s just one problem: I’ve never co-written anything and I don’t know how! I was wondering if you lovely ladies had any tips and/or guides that can show me how to get this up and off the ground. 🙂 “

And because we are the prosaic writers we are who can, of course, never do anything with brevity, we have elected to endow you with the knowledge which has come from many years of struggle and strife via a two-part blog post. Kidding. Co-writing is the best.

That being said, there are a great many things that one should be prepared to do in order to reap the most benefits from your collaborative project.

 

1. Everyone Has a “Chapter 10.” This is probably the most negative thing that we have to share, but it is a necessary thing. Your co-writing relationship will be tested. And tested a lot. One of the ways that this relationship will be tested is when you have a disagreement about plot. Or grammar. Or feels. Or characters. Or you find out that your plot has been breeding cute, little fluffy bunnies for months. It just happens and cannot be avoided. So when that time comes, ride through it with as much grace and serenity as God is willing to provide and hope the both of you are alive to tell the tale later on. Kidding. It’s only almost that bad. Brenna and I had a “Chapter 10,” Brooke and I had a “Chapter 10.” And look, we’re not too much worse for the wear. When you do hit your “Chapter 10,” get outside advice and make sure to set aside time to clearly articulate your feelings and opinions. Not in rant form. Because rants get no one anywhere ever. (Passive aggression is also not advised.) Be sure you are ready to compromise or even allow the other person to have what they want. With this attitude, you will conquer many a novel-esque conflicts with the maturity of a professional.

 

2. Establish a System. What is your POA (or Plan of Action for you non-military acronym learned people)? How are you going to write the book?  How are you going to edit the book once its done? These are important questions which you should assuredly have at least tentative answers to going in. Brooke and I, for all of eternity (we’re not that old; I’m kidding), have been using an outline method with alternating POVs (points of view). Meaning that, when we started a new book or series, we sat down at our laptops and talked on the phone for six hours writing an albeit, tentative, semi-comprehensive outline that featured an alternating pattern between two main characters. Now, as we have matured, we have brought in more main characters and story-telling devices, but the basis remains the same. Find something that works for both you and your co-writing compadre and stick to it. We would not suggest flying by the seat of your pants (by the way, if you want a history of this phrase, which Brooke and I discovered while writing this post, click here.) By assigning chapters and working through the plot at the beginning, you will be better prepared to edit and change the ideas you have because of the basis already established. Whatever it is that you choose, be sure that it is consistent and that everyone is on the same page to ensure that the beginning of your partnership is as smooth and well-organized as possible. This will prevent a lot of hick-ups in the long run, while also serving as a point of reference for the rest of writing project.

 

3. Communication Is the Key That Opens the Door to Success. While this is, in fact, an FFA metaphor from Success Conference, it is also true of most endeavors which require the cooperation of more than one individual. We are people. We have different ideas. Different imaginations. Different schedules. Different stress levels. Seriously, we’re different, yeah, we’re different. And admit you just sang that in your head. So communicate about all the things. Even if its just the fact that you’ve gotten a new hair cut (Skype is a great way to show that off, by the way). Keeping your writing buddy aware of the goings on in you life while also letting them inform you about theirs will ensure that you aren’t surprised when they drop off the face of the planet for a week or two because school started, they went on vacation, etc. This will also ensure that when problems arise, your first reaction is to talk it out and make the situation clear. Because you are a writer, you will assume the worst, and things bound out of proportions in your brain all the time. So be swift and poignant when you communicate. Have fun with it. If you characters are making snide comments, share the snide comments. If you had an idea for a plot twist, by all means share the plot twist (and don’t hide it from your co-author either, because that makes for bad ju-ju). Have an idea for feels? Share! You’re in the adventure together, so share stories like you’re around a campfire and plan out the next steps of your quest carefully. When things pop up or a brilliant idea hits you, talk about it. Also, don’t be afraid to laugh about your mistakes, remind your co-author of past insiders, and do some good ol’ fashioned catching up every once and again. You will likely get tired of the plot at some point during the writing process, and that’s perfectly okay. Don’t deviate so far from the book that you’ll never feel motivated to write about it again, but take breaks to just talk. Communication is very important. Do not forget this. Ever.

Ever.

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4. Assign Separate Duties. So you’ve got a plan. Great. What now? Perhaps one of the hardest things to do when collaborating with someone else is assigning duties early on. At this point, you’re probably still trying to preserve whatever delicate sliver of sanity you have left because writing, and actually calling things as they are and giving tasks is a lot like acknowledging the crazy. This is perfectly normal. However, forgoing assignments is a lot like forgoing studying before a big test. There’s a chance you might still pass through the valley unscathed, but you’ll be much more prepared to take on the world and ace that thing if you study. Similarly, you’re a lot more likely to succeed with your novel-writing endeavors if you take the time and say, “Okay, I’ll do [x, y, and z]. How about you do [a, b, and c]?” Brooke and I did this and still do this (on the aforementioned six-hour long phone calls). After brainstorming and building up a plan, we would then assign chapters. Sometimes we alternated. You take even, I’ll take odd. Sometimes we bartered. And sometimes, I was a stupid-head and took all of the battle chapters and left Brooke with all the infamous “journey” chapters in which pretty much nothing ever happened ever. But, the duties go beyond just who is going to write which part of what chapter. Duties can also include who is going to keep up with all of the documents, combine the book as we go, process ideas and jot them down, keep a character journal, buy snacks or appropriate instrumental writing music. Anything that is a high priority for you and your writing friend should be listed out and assigned. This cultivates security and eliminates some of the awkwardness of first starting a project. Something else to note here is that everyone is not meant to be the quarterback of the team. Meaning that you and your writing buddy need to figure out what your combined strengths and weaknesses are before you assign responsibilities. For example, I might not give Brooke the task of keeping up with all the documents because her computer has been known to get viruses and crash. Likewise, Brooke would not give me the more romantic chapters of the book because she knows I don’t write romance very well. By making sure that everyone has a manageable task to conquer at all times, you will ensure that there is always something that each of you can be working on independently from one another without piggy-backing on one or the other author too much.

 

5. Balance Out Those Assignments. You remember the thing I said about the battle chapters? Yeah, so you’re going to want to write all of the really exciting chapters. But so does your co-writing compadre. What? What do we do now? Balance. If one of you gets a journey chapter, the other gets a journey chapter. If one of you is keeping a character journal, the other should be keeping a plot journal. Be just and fair in your dealings. Believe me, you friend will know if you’ve given him or her the short end of the deal and now they’re having to write about the seven-hundred mile trek all by themselves while you’re off frolicking with your climax chapters and battle scenes. You will also both then establish skills in multiple areas. A lot of times, the reason we don’t want to write a certain type of chapter is because we are unfamiliar with it and aren’t sure how to handle it. Here is a benefit of having a partner in crime. Sometimes, you’ll find that what you are good at writing, the other person is not. And what you struggle with, they do not. Use each others’ skills to cultivate new and improved abilities that will stick with you through the rest of your writing career. While it may seem like a lot of prep work before you get started, you will find that the more you do it, the easier the balancing becomes and the more fun you’ll have writing with a friend. Besides, no one wants to be writing buddies with a  battle chapter grubber. They’re just no fun at all.

 

Hope these little tid-bits of the trade helped answer your question– or at least get you started in the right direction, Victoria! We’ll be posting part two of this article very soon, so keep an eye out. And if you have a question, comment, or something to add to what we’ve said above, put it in the down-below! We’d love to hear about your own experiences in co-writing and maybe some pointers that you have picked up along the way.

undefeated: My SLC Essay

16 Jun

This is the essay I wrote in response to the SLC prompt this year, which stemmed from this year’s theme: hero within. If you are planning on going to camp later this summer, please don’t read any further as there are spoilers, and I don’t want you to be tempted to share my ideas with the judges again. It would be a shame if they had to read the same essay over again. The prompt asked the campers, if they were super heroes, what their “kryptonite” would be. Here is my response:

2683436a52e6241f232fdebc0ce153d2Darkness– Ever since we were children, it has always been there. Sometimes it wasn’t even what was in the dark that scared us. Rather, it was the very idea that something so menacing, so abundantly present even after our parents’ reassuring kisses goodnight that struck fear into our hearts. The darkness became fodder for our already overactive imagination, ushering in our worst nightmares with a sinister smile and a swaggering bow. As we grew older, many, whose parents had become their knights in shining armor, never failing to appear at just the right moment and save us, would quietly tuck away their nightlights and move onto bigger things like boyfriends and shotguns. But some of us never grow out of our fear of the dark. That “us” being me. My “kryptonite” is the dark.

Ever since I was young, the darkness has always been there, lurking over my shoulder. Whether it was dreading the fall of the thick, black squalor of night, out from which sprung night-terrors and horrifying waits in the dark, or the things I did while I was weak and alone in the solace of that same suffocating, ebony blanket, the dark has always been a source of fear and shame for me, often magnifying my own weaknesses and imperfections. I was always afraid of what the darkness would bring– and of the person I was in its midst. The darkness became a place where I thought that even my loving God could not reach me. I still sleep with a lamp and a bathroom light on because that light is what keeps both the physical shadows and my mind’s shadows at bay. For years, I was afraid to walk outside at night or even stay at home alone after dark. Shadows were everywhere.

But, just like Super Man learned to battle his weakness, I learned to master my own fear of the dark, and, over time, I even learned how to appreciate the little lights that shine in the dark. I explored ways to chase away darkness. Most of the time, it was something simple like playing piano or reading my Bible. It wasn’t easy and still isn’t, but I forced myself to work hard. Just like any super hero, I could have let my “kryptonite” win, but, instead, I fought darkness. Darkness is my “kryptonite,” but it hasn’t defeated me.

I actually ended up being the runner-up for the Week Three essay contest.

I Do an Udder-ly Awesome Mud Run, Played Piano and Say Some Stuff, and Slow Dance

15 Jun

**LONG POST ALERT**

You’re welcome.

Well, I’m home from FFA-FCCLA Summer Leadership Camp, and, wow, what a week it was! First off, let me say I, the-one-who-has-a-general-dislike-for-showers-and-effort-in-appearances, had never been so happy to take a shower, sleep with two pillows, and wake up after the sun had risen as I was when I got home from camp. Seriously, guys. Just putting it out here: I haven’t unpacked my bag yet, and I haven’t done anything productive since I got home on Friday. So, obviously there was a little bit of growing that was done over the week I was gone. And let me tell you, it was a learning experience for everyone. I don’t really know how to accurately describe it to you, but here goes:

 

Day 1: I Lack Arm Muscle, God Rewards People Who Help Unload Luggage, and Also I Am Bad at Ping-Pong

So we get there, pack up our bags that had (for the most part) been stuffed full the night before we left, and hit the road all before like 9:00 AM on a summer Monday morning. It was great. My buddy Katie Darwin and I seat-buddied **I am making “seat-buddied” a word** (Sorry, A-A-Ron, we couldn’t be our usual Baptist selves). We sat, for the record, very near to the front of the bus and watched Blimey Cow videos using Katie’s earphones even though she **Warning: intentionally bad grammar ahead**be afeared of ‘dem earwax germs. Much appreciated, my marginally germaphobic **Also making this a word** friend.

Corner, top bunk with a window = one happy Sarah

Corner, top bunk with a window = one happy Sarah

When we arrived, we squinted into the nearly noonday sun and took a group picture. Then some staffers got on our bus, we screamed, they screamed back, we screamed some more things, and then we headed on into camp. Woot-woot! So totally stoked for this– waiting game. That’s right. Sitting on the bus for half an hour while waiting for our advisers (who are awesome) to register everyone. It was very hot. But that was okay. Not long after, we rode to our nice little cabin on Pebble Hill which was literally down a hill of pebbles and found out our team name: Phoenix. Oh, and we got t-shirts! They are awesome and say “Hero Within” on them. Because the theme of the camp was superheroes. It was great.

Now, I helped unloading luggage and did okay at it. Granted, I realized (not for the first time) that I have terribly weak arm muscles, but that was okay because I was doing the leader things and helping out because helping! This also meant I was one of the last girls into the cabin. Which mean that I, all of my almost 5’11” self, had pretty much been guaranteed a bottom bunk. Nope. A little bit of bargaining and I landed myself a top, corner bunk with a window. My reaction was complete with a big smile up at the ceiling toward my heavenly Father above because from what I understand about top bunks (my knowledge is limited to Parent Trap and It Takes Two and this one time I went to a Christian leadership camp in Tennessee with people from Alabama) are hard to come by, much less a corner bunk with a really nice window. So, all this being said, I unpacked my bed sheets and Winnie the Pooh pillow and went to town.

Not long after, we went to a pretty dawg-gone delicious lunch and a few assemblies. I embarrassed myself playing ping-pong.

Team Phoenix at FFA-FCCLA Summer Leadership Camp 2014

Team Phoenix at FFA-FCCLA Summer Leadership Camp 2014

Literally, you guys would be rolling if I had taken a video. Rolling. Like the ping-pong ball I kept accidentally slamming into other people standing within an about 6 foot radius of the table. So, realizing I was mostly terrible at ping-pong, I kept myself occupied by picking up trash and, while doing so, also surveying the surroundings because having a good knowledge of things going on it like really handy and very important. I didn’t make the mistake of wasting money on candy (yay for saving money!). Which is good. Because I usually am not good at that… heh.

Anyway, the rest of the night passed. We had a team meeting, and I signed up for a lot of stuff. Archery, horseshoes, essay, and the one mile relay. Later on, I practiced horseshoes (while dodging the dance because that’s what smart kids do instead of spending time before food to get ready and look nice) and realized I was a lot more terrible than I realized. So I played some games of checkers, won 2 out of 3 games against the brilliantly talented Katie Darwin (thanks for going easy on a beginner, my friend), and then switched with her. And good thing too. I would’ve killed someone with those horseshoes. For sure. We had another assembly, a reflection with a pretty explosive conclusion, and then we went back to go to bed. Well, have a team meeting, have a bedtime story, and then go to bed.

Needless to say, it was about 12:00 AM by the time we were all asleep.

And, let me tell you, o’ six-hundred hours came early the next morning.

 

Day 2: I Go To Devotions and Pray Out Loud, Stop for Directions Twice, Run Up a Really Big Hill, Compete in Things, and Make a Guy Cry

Devotions were at 7:00 AM. Which meant I had to be up and out of the bed by, like, 6:30 AM. Well, that was me on a normal day when it hadn’t been below zero while I was trying to sleep and I was the only one around. Everyone else, consequently, decided to be up by 5:00 to shower and get dressed by 7:45 AM. Granted, the cabin did have to be cleaned and for some reason girls strew their stuff everywhere. Literally. Fortunately, I was able to avoid that. I got dressed, cleaned up my area, put on my ball-cap, grabbed my backpack and high tailed it to morning devotion.

It was good. Nice and simple and the camp staff lead it. I said the closing prayer and then we went to flag raising and lunch. Then there were volleyball games and sun-screening times to be had. We screamed loudly and did cheering things and then, after finding out there was a piano available to be used, we went to lunch to we could go to auditions for the talent show so we could go to a training session for archery so we could compete on the following day. Yeah. Talk about a crammed schedule. Regardless, I was able to charge through lunch and then go and audition, playing my composition “For the King,” which for those of you who might not know about it was a song that I have been perfecting for a few months and performed at my church and before that at my annual piano recital.

I was late finishing, so I had to stop for directions to Walton Hall and then run up this really stupidly steep hill. I made it in just in time to hear the archery things and then leave once again to run up yet another hill to do this thing called the Udder Mun Run. For those of you who may have heard of the Tough Mudder, it’s like the Tough Mudder’s younger, slightly less daunting cousin. The Udder Mud Run was, in summary, 3.8 miles of hills, mud obstacles, and pretty-much-cut-right-out-of-a-medieval-adventure-movie territory. I’d like to say that I, even with my physically induced asthma, took it on like a boss, but that’s not completely accurate. I did feel like Leyrl from Kingsblade while I was going through it though. Seriously. It was awesome. If you guys are in the area on August 9th, you should totally come and participate in the run. I won’t be able to, but they’re raising money for really awesome people, so do the thing. And get muddy.

 

Showers came after. I threw away shoes. And two pairs of socks. And a t-shirt. Literally, folks, it was that intense. Gotta love that Georgia red clay. So, it was during this chaos that I found out I had been one of five girls chosen out of everyone that auditioned for the talent show to perform in front of some 600-odd people that night at assembly. Well, obviously I couldn’t really think about much outside of that because, well, performing literally scares the bejeebers out of me. But I did it anyway.

Really big storm, flickering lights, and this really terrifying-exhilarating dash to the dining hall, and dinner all happened. So did selfies. And texting. And a little glaring because girls and unnecessary drama. But that was okay. It distracted me. And then it was time to perform. We got special seats, waited through a few little skits and then it began. I was the second person to perform. The introduction for my piece was literally awesome. The two talent show gurus opened it like a skit. There were a few words exchanged, and let me tell you, when a bigger African American guy with awesome hair does crazy things you have everyone’s attention. But it essentially ended with, “I’m not weird, I’m original” and then this beautiful segue into the fact that I had written the piece I was about to play on piano. I had never done anything quite like this, but I was loving it. Well, loving it and hating it because performing! But, y’know, even though my heart was racing, the way they just invited me to stage and the way that piano say there, in all its grandeur, I wasn’t so afraid.

Now, I finished playing, and, despite a few hiccups and falters, I thought I had done well. And, I had played for Jesus. Not expecting

Sarah performing on stage at SLC for the girl's talent show

Sarah performing on stage at SLC for the girl’s talent show

much, I stood up after finishing and gave a little flourished bow, looking up to a standing ovation and screams of support and love from my chapter. The staff was standing, the judges were smiling, and I was grinning like a fool. This had actually happened at church the week before when I had played, but I figured that it was out of respect. Or kindness. But here it was again. I felt tears climb into my eyes, but I pushed them back and high-fived the African American guy who had helped introduce my act on the way down and sank into my seat, feeling my stomach swim with pure joy and pride. Not that cocky kind of pride, but the kind you get when you’re so humbled and happy and thankful that people actually liked that thing that you just did and it was overwhelming. So I thanked God, listened to the next few performances, and then another skit that was great. And then, it was time for announcements.

And, as I listened, I was imagining it would be one of the girls that had sang a song the rest of the crowd sang along too or my friend Kaylee, who had clogged! With blisters! Because she’s just that awesome. And then, as the hosts turned and smiled at our little row, I heard the last thing I expected:

“Sarah.”

Screams and a bolt of shock and joy. I was standing up, making my way to the stage. I attempted a jump up, but pretty much face-planted because, heck, I was in a state of I don’t even know how to describe it. Not discouraged, I just kind of did a little thumbs up thing and a small bow before they asked what team I was from and there was more cheering and smiles, they handed me a gift card to Walmart, but that wasn’t really what mattered.

Going back to my seat, I was still grinning like an idiot and it was great.

Checkers tournament at SLC

Checkers tournament at SLC

After assembly, I ducked down into the Cantina for a little quiet and to get ready for the checkers tournament. I played, had fun, and was showed with congratulations and praise. I couldn’t really think of much more to say other than “I’m so glad you enjoyed it” and “Thank you!” while we kept playing. I placed 4th in the tournament, met some awesome people(not to mention Mr. Malone who is awesome even if he is from Franklin County) I would end up seeing a lot for the rest of the week, and wandered over to a hug and congratulations from my friend Aaron– who had been playing ping-pong– and a fist bump with Mr. White. Later on, a pair of the staffers came and told me that the staff rarely showed preference in talent shows, asked how old I was, and one of them said that a very manly tear might have happened down his cheek while I was playing. More fuzzies. I hadn’t thought it was possible, but it was.

Reflections. Team Meeting. And then bed. This time, I had a blanket from the wonderfully amazing Jordan Collins and a fulfilling Jesus-joy in my heart. Needless to say, after our bedtime story from the incredible Ms. Bell, I slept very well. Even if it was 12:00 AM before were asleep, and I had to be up and out by 7:15 AM again. Honestly, though, in that moment I was falling asleep, I didn’t really mind at all.

 

Day 3: I Discover Running Is Not My Calling, Find Out I Am Not the Worst at Archery, Meet Some Cool People, and Shoot a Gun for the First Time

Running the relay was running the relay. We were around the middle of the pack when it got to me, and I ran the easiest of the legs– leg 2– and didn’t lose much of our standing. Which was good because I almost threw up when I finished. Asthma– I have it. And it is not fun having to concentrate on breathing. That being said, I was able to push myself to my limits and that was what I wanted to be able to do. Also, runners got to eat breakfast. It was a good thing. I might not have made it otherwise.

Sarah and Katie during some down time after dinner one night

Sarah and Katie during some down time after dinner one night

The rest of the day was filled with archery practice (and shoot a 22– pretty cool. I’m not terrible. Not great either, mind you),

bruises, archery competitions (I shot 53/100. I didn’t win, but, hey, I found some great people to put on my zombie apocalypse team, for real), essay writing (I’ll be typing up my essay and sharing it soon!), and more running. We literally got our essays in at 4:59. 500 word limits are nasty little buggers, just let me tell you. So then we flopped down on the stairs for dinner and waited for them to open the doors so we could eat food.

When they did, I was able to sharpen my wit and have some fun joking with the guys. Then, another assembly, another dance dodged, and a little more drama, but that was alright because exhaustion and camp.

So when we returned to the cabin, we had a short meeting, another story told by Ms. Bell, and drifted off into sleep only to wake up once again at 6:00 AM to prepare for another day.

 

Day 4: I Pray Again at Devotion, Do Some More Screaming, Make a Little Heart, Have a Come-to-Jesus Meeting about Relationships, and Get Suckered into a Slow Dance

Devotion was at 7:00 again. So I cleaned up, got ready, and then headed out to the amphitheater where it was held each morning. We sang, had an awesome devotion, and then I closed us out in prayer again. After that, we ate food, played volleyball and softball, and then moved out for lunch. Seriously, this day went by in a blur. We went to the mud course to scream-on our guys and girls during the course. The girls were awesome, and so were the guys, even if they had a rocky start. I hope to be able to do the thing next year.

I painted a little heart for Merry, my little sister. There were sentimental feelings and indecisive feelings. Sentimental because my dad always got me a little stone heart when I was little and he went on business trips, and I found myself making a little heart for Merry just like he found me hearts. I have quite a few still in my special box. Maybe one day I’ll post pictures of them. Because my dad is awesome. And chivalrous. And totally gave me really unrealistic expectations of guys. Indecisive because I wanted it to be perfect and not bad. Merry is an artist with lines. I am an artist with notes and words. Not lines. Sorry if it was terrible, Merry! I really tried. I promise.

After cheering, we had an assembly, then I had the opportunity that I had been praying for several weeks. God moves, guys. And He moves in big ways. My Come-to-Jesus meeting was not scripted or planned. I was able to talk about the greatest love story I know– ours’ and Jesus’s– and was finally able to get out my entire speech about love and romance and platonic love. There might have been one or two tears involved, a hug-out session, and some divine intervention, because I’m pretty sure that God was giving me words as I spoke. Yes, I carried my Bible around the whole time we were at camp, and if you are curious, the passage that I started off reading was Isaiah 9:2-7. So my sweet friend, who will remained anonymous so she doesn’t get any ideas about being embarrassed or anything. But it was good, and I was overjoyed and thankful when we were finally able to get everything out on the playing field. And that she got it. Be a mentor, folks. Those of you called to lead, lead and lead while following God because that’s the only way you’ll ever get anywhere. Note that it was only when I began by opening my Bible and reading it out loud that the words came and God sat there right beside us. Seriously, I could feel Him– and that isn’t a feeling I would trade for anything in the world.

Then there was another dance, which I managed to avoid until it, of course, actually mattered. One of my archery friends dragged me into a line dance that required a well-established knowledge of left and right (which I, for the record, do not have because dyslexia). It was still fun even if I made a fool out of myself in the process. Then, my match-making friend, Bailey Seabolt, suckered Aaron and I into the last half of a slow dance. My extremely introverted don’t-do-the-dancing-things side nearly died, but we made the most of it while Bailey looked on, grinning like an idiot. As you have probably guessed, I don’t really know the first thing about dancing. Seriously. I’m that kid who curls up in her Loofa (a wonderful noun penned by the awesome Quincey Pinkston, which describes my arm-chair that is nearly the size of a love-seat and that is inherently awesome and good for reading) on Friday nights and avoids all formal school dances. That being said, it was fun (dismissing just a little awkward), and I am sure we will laugh about it eventually. Brenna, when I texted her afterward, nearly died of laughter. Thanks for your unending support, Brenna. [Insert bemused, sarcastic scowl here.]

The dance ended and we plopped down for awards. I didn’t win the essay, which was okay (I actually found out later that I had placed as the runner-up). But what we did win was Leadership Team of the Week– the thing that all of the Phoenixes had been aiming for all week. Leadership Team of the Week, for certain superior to Team of the Week, was voted on by all the other campers, and needless to say we were ecstatic, screaming and all that as one of our advisers, Ms. Bell, went to get the plaque.

Team Phoenix after winning Leadership Team of the Week

Team Phoenix after winning Leadership Team of the Week

 

Sleep was quick in coming, and I ended the night feeling exhausted, but ready and smiling.

 

Day 5: I Was Exhausted

Seriously, guys. There’s not a lot to say about this day. We packed, we cleaned, and I helped out in whatever ways I could. Then, we waited for a while, got on the bus, and shipped out for the last time. Nostalgic feelings for real, y’all. I was ready to be home, but I will never forget all the memories I made at my first SLC camp ever.

Also, country music all the way home. You know you live in the South when…

 

But what I really learned this week was that words matter. Guys, as writers, musicians, and people in general, we have authority over others. Now, not like staff and scepter power, but the authority to make those words powerful– and not only powerful, but powerful enough to build someone up or powerful enough to drag someone down. It made such a big difference having so many people come up to me and compliment me on my piano playing  and encourage me to continue doing so. And not only that, but the mere actions of others– giving me a standing ovation, telling me that they cried. That’s so powerful. And those actions spoke volumes. As a team, we encouraged and built others up, kept smiling and laughing. When others said discouraging things to me or other campers or were unsporting and unbelieving in us, it hurts and cut deeply. Your words and your actions matter so much, no matter if you are giving a lecture, simply going out of your way to say “thank you” or “good job,” or screaming encouragement to your teammates. Satan knows that he’s already lost, and he’s working day and night to ensure that none of the Lost of our world ever find their way to Christ. You’ve got a chance to save someone. You’ve got a chance to be a hero! So use your superpower wisely! That’s what we, here on the King’s Road, are all about! Use the hero within you as a leader and a spokesman of Christ to spread the Light of an Almighty, Everlasting and Ever-loving God to every corner of the earth because what you do makes a difference.

It’s up to you to choose if that difference is a positive one or a negative one.