A Blessing for Writers

I spent my weekend at the Breathe Christian Writers Conferenceone of my favorite things EVER. I had the immense privilege of writing a blessing and prayer for this community that has given me so much and I just wanted to share it with you in lieu of a blog post today. I think this is something that can bless all creatives out there.

Last year we closed the conference with a statement by James Scott Bell:
“We are the storytellers. We bring the light.”

This year has proven time and time again that we are still called to this. These are dark and divisive times where the light is more desperately needed than ever before.

Each of us was called to this noble task ahead. How do we know we are called? We have been saved. And we are also called to share what we have been graciously given.

To adapt the words of Alvin Plantinga for the sake of us writers:
“We who are Christians and propose to be writers must not rest content with being writers who happen, incidentally to be Christians; we must strive to be Christian writers. We must therefore pursue our projects with integrity, independence, and Christian boldness.”

This is the charge I give to you, writers!

May we continue to encourage one another onward:

To create with integrity—knowing that to create costs, but that we have been called to create nonetheless.

To create with independence—knowing God has given us work that only we can do with the experiences and burdens he has bestowed to each of us.

But most of all to create with Christian boldness—to know that whether we write for an audience of believers or not, or even an audience of one, we have not been given a spirit of timidity, but one of courage.

We go out from this place to tell the truth in our stories, poems, songs, essays, scripts, letters, emails, even our ephemeral social media musings. We go out to invite the world to sit at the feet of our God and listen.

All great liturgies end with a sending, so may I pray with you to send you out?



I thank you for this gathering where we may join together and affirm the gifts and words you have given to us. You have placed each and every person in these seats with great purpose and I thank you for the call you have placed on these lives.

May these souls leave here encouraged, connected to one another and even more deeply connected with you.

As we journey from here, do not let us shy away from the words you have given us to write, but instead let us push past resistance and sit down to our desks, our notepads, our computers and let us write. Let us write with the boldness you have granted each of us. Let us remember that courage follows obedience and not the other way around.

May the fruit of our worship and our writing be that which gathers, unites, and blesses.

Let us be a body that encourages one another when the truth seems too heavy, when the audience seems non-existent, when the deadline looms too quickly, when the enemy shouts too loudly, and when the words seem too few. Let us build one another up, pushing one another toward you—the giver of words, author of our lives and creator of the ultimate story.

We write because you write. We create because you create. We tell because you have saved.

Protect us as we leave this place. Give our words a place to land. Give our hearts a glimpse of home.

We thank you again, Father.

In your name,


Three Unfinished Poems


Part of my purpose in keeping this blog is to document some writing samples. I want to approach some prompts and preset some works-in-progress just to get comfortable putting my work out there…and hopefully one day in journals.

My goal is to have a different sample up every month. This month, I have three poems I’ve been wrestling with over the past month.

This is where we start practicing vulnerability. I’m not a poet, but these vignettes weren’t manifesting themselves as short stories…one of them isn’t really manifesting itself as a poem well either and is probably actually an essay, but I’m a firm believer in the rule of three.


Walking, the autumn sun was uncharacteristically warm in the contrast
of your lanky shadow draped across me like a dad-borrowed blazer on
my shoulders, eagerly placed on the walk home from a jr. high dance.
We, in the moment, too pleased with our luck of being away from your
meathead friends and chaperone eyes, to notice the inelegance of us.

My rib cage filled with cotton balls, the lightness rotating inside me with
each step, as I hopscotched your long leg lines across the graveled path.
You seemed to glide, tall and erect, as I wallowed in the thirteen year-old
feeling wondering if I wanted to hold your hands. They had carried a lot
since your gym dance days and mine had been too open to carry anything.

Judging whether it’s still appropriate to arrange for my best friend to give
Your best friend a note: Check yes or no—because maybe we had something
right at thirteen. Maybe we were supposed to risk, to ask and fail rather than
rehearse the fall once the leaves cleared. The walk feels cold without your
shadow-jacket on my shoulders, the note in the pocket check-marked “or.”

Screen door poem II

The screen door slap was the exclamation point to our fragment.
My wineglass rattled, straddling the uneven slats of the rough table
And my eyes blinked as the slam-noise silenced my rolling brain.

Tracing the knots of the table wood, I try to trace where we started,
where we turned to end up with your chair flat on its back and my
napkin wet with mascara. Out of breath, I blot and blink on the cotton.

Blink in surprise that you’d leave when the results returned negative,
blink in prayer the door spring-echoing open would bring you back in,
blinked in relief that I wouldn’t have to follow through at your side.

But I sit here still—now in the royal blue dark, the wine glass gulped dry.
And I can’t bring myself to admit I’m wrong when hurt sits across in the
upturned chair, our statement unresolved—like an em dash waiting for—

Wisdom Lost

I have never been more aware of the gaping holes in my head, like
the clam whose pearls were stolen, drawn to aching openness—
air split across the hole making ache rather than lilt of fife-tweets.
High tide and the world flattened to echoing sonar in the dark.

Necessary entrance, but hesitant and unwanted attention chancing
the hopeful irritant, the salt of sand makes naught of pearl-value.
The puss of a gape-hole left to fester with the constant tongue push.
Fog does clear, world tilting open to find blood, gauze, and nothing.

Having Exhaled

This past weekend I had the great privilege of volunteering at the Breathe Conference.

It was a beautiful time to connect with both old and new writing friends and to encourage one another forward in our art.

Part of what I have come to be so thankful for at this conference is the lack of self-importance of everyone. I started coming to this conference as a punk seventeen year old who only knew she wanted to write stories. If the organizers of the conference had just stuck up their noses at the little girl with no clue, I am not kidding, my world would look a lot different right now.

Instead, I was welcomed with opened arms, mentored, and loved by so many awesome writers and publishing folks. They have encouraged me in my writing as well as my career and I am forever for grateful for them and the conference that introduced me to them.

So going to this thing is like meeting up with family. Only great family!…Not drunk/creepy Uncle Phil. It’s like the thanksgiving you wish was real. And it is… it’s just not thanksgiving, it’s a writer’s conference!

I have been writing fiction for ten years. It’s a good chunk of time considering my age, So much has changed and, then again, so much hasn’t. There is somehow a big difference in being a twelve year old writing in her parent’s basement every night after school than being a twenty-two year old writing in her parents basement when she makes the time. There’s more struggle now. More risk.

I am working toward finishing a novel and I’m having to think about what I’m going to do when that happens. It’s a little daunting. There may actually be some action there.

Despite the caution surrounding this area of the future, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude for having the opportunity to learn from so many industry professionals, both this year and years past; the chance to connect with some wonderfully encouraging writers; and the context to think through what art is in my life and how I engage that as a Christian. I feel so blessed that I have been given the calling that I have and so honored that God reveals himself to me through the written word.

This weekend was full of lovely reminders and great gratitude.

Thank you to everyone who put this lovely time together and for letting me join your motley crew. Thank you for those willing to share what they’ve learned on the journey with grace and encouragement.

I No Longer Believe in Writer’s Block: Part II

So last week I discussed why writer’s block is no longer an excuse for me. So now a question has emerged that I’d like to address.

So what happens when you’re stuck?

Well, I’d like to say I don’t get stuck, but that would be a bold-faced fiction. I get stuck a lot. And usually it’s not something time will just solve like I’d like to think.

When I’ve written myself into a corner, there are usually two things causing the issue.

The first issue I have to solve when stuck is usually connected to plotting. Usually I’ve taken an easy fix to a problem or have not been true to the story. Either way, I haven’t done my job. I usually have to go back and rework a scene that was written to quickly or change a plot-line that I didn’t want to think about when I wrote it initially.

The second and more common issue is characterization. If I’m trying to make one of my characters do something the weren’t meant to do or not meant to do in that way, things seem unnatural and stilted, and harder to write. I get stuck because I’m missing something. Either a character isn’t fully fleshed out, or not being true to themselves. Sometimes I don’t have a relationship between characters fully nailed down. This takes some thought and sometimes some experimentation. Sometimes it’s even helpful to interview a character. (And no, I don’t think my characters are real people, but sometimes it’s just easier to operate under the assumption that they are when I’m working.)

Writing isn’t cheap. Making any art isn’t cheap. It takes work and sweat. It takes a bit of yourself to make anything. Usually the end benefits outweigh this cost, but while in the trenches it’s hard to see this. This is where I get tempted to give up.

Don’t give yourself that option. Know that making your art is going to cost you now, but it will be worth it to see your work completed.

I No Longer Believe in Writer’s Block: Part I

If you were to ask me a month ago what my biggest challenge with my novel was, I would have told you writer’s block.

Fast forward to now, I’d tell you that it’s me.

I’m lazy. And writing is hard!

For the past three months, I have balked from writing some hard chapters. It was easier to write a pithy blog post that didn’t mean much to me than to do the hard work of cultivating my fiction. That’s not writer’s block. That’s being a wuss.

So do I think you can get blocked while writing? Of course! but I think it’s more a creativity block that needs to be worked. In my experience, a novel is like a rubik’s cube. It needs to be worked at and arranged. It may not fit all together the first time through–that’s what revising is for. But there comes those moments where you get stuck and you need to strategize.

In fiction, you’re not only juggling words, but a plot–with multiple scenes and plot lines–and characters–lot’s of them with relationships and points-of-view and faults and conflicts–and symbolism and research. There’s a lot going on!

It’s easy to reach a creativity bump and just give up for a little bit. I am pushing myself to no longer put down the rubik’s cube, but to work with it, to think through the knots in a plot line or the issues with a character. It’s hard, but so worth the trouble.


Carbonated Holiness Among Other Things

I had the privileged of attending the Festival of Faith and Writing hosted by Calvin College two weeks ago. What a wonderful opportunity to be refreshed and taught by so many amazing writers. It was also great to connect with old writing friends and make some new ones. Plus there were some networking opportunities… ew. Networking.

Coming away from such a very full weekend, I discovered I had a lot of things to process, notes to sift through, and books to read. I am now excited to share with you some of the pieces of wisdom I took from the weekend. The following quotes are either from speakers or where used by speakers throughout the weekend.Some of them may not make sense, I’ve tried my best to take them down in context… it also becomes the Anne Lamott show in the middle there…with closed captions provided by Bret Lott (serious gold coming from those two!). I hope you’re able to get a small piece of how wonderful the weekend was.  Enjoy!

Art gives us a map of who we are and where we fit. The next generation will need that map.
–Gene Luen Yang

Make good friends with really accomplished dead people.
–Scott Cairns on reading well 

We are people of the word. Words matter because they carry ideas and ideas rule the world.
–Richard Foster

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightening and a lightening bug.
–Mark Twain

And What I believed in I wished to behold
–Charlotte Bronte 

It was the stuff I needed to write to get what I was after
–Anne Lamott

I all have to offer as a writer–as a Christian–is my version of things.
–Anne Lamott

You don’t take God to the lovely living room. You welcome him into the bedroom and say ‘I think there’s a couple drawers you need to see.’

Laughter is carbonated holiness.
–Anne Lamott 

To be a writer you have to be a good liar. So how do you lie for Christ? You must write with the integrity of Christ. You must write the truth–in love and compassion, but with dark reality.
–Bret Lott

I thought what you did was a tool–a utility. I had the idea that art was a utility; it wasn’t a manifestation of God. Our creativity is a manifestation of God’s image.
–Bret Lott 

The self-importance of being ‘a writer’ leads to the arrogance of metaphor and similie and overly adjectived sentences. The author’s gotta be the last person you hear from.
–Bret Lott

You strip out everything you think the story should be about and write the story. We must be humble before the story–humble before the words.
–Bret Lott. 

There something about writing fiction that is like wearing your underwear in front of the world
–Suzanne Woods Fisher (This was the second time I had heard this sentiment, the first was from a friend and fellow fiction writer–One of those moments of ‘what have I gotten myself into.’)

The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven; and as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shape and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.
–William Shakespeare 

Plotting the Course–How Do I Run This Thing?

Of all my favorite books, the ones that have really struck me are ones with complex, meaningful plots. You know the ones; everything that is described, everything that happens has a wonderful and intentional purpose. Not a moment is wasted and all the complicated knots of story smooth out to become a wonderful tale with an ending you did not see coming.

This is what I aspire to.

I understand that not everything can be a Christopher Nolan movie, but I love the ending you don’t see coming, but were totally set-up for. I chalk it all up to plotting. As an aspiring novelist, I love plotting. Dreaming up where things are going, back-stories, foreshadowing, twists, pitfalls, redemption–I love it! I have a notebook that goes with me everywhere. It’s a well-loved Moleskine filled with all my ideas–the majority of which deal with plotting. So here’s the rub:

I’m afraid to plot. When I come upon a story I’m moved to write, I usually have a rough idea of how its gonna shake out in the end. I have an end-zone in mind through the entire process, but getting there, I like to leave my options wide open. I feel that if the plum-line is laid, character will fill in the rest of the structure. I don’t want to become attached to a certain chunk of plot and sacrifice my characters or their journey.

What I usually do to safeguard my character-driven novel is only plot details to a certain point. This usually means I’ll only jot down detailed ideas in my idea notebook for future chapters and then compile them as I prepare to write the chapter they were intended for. I’ll look at what works, what progresses the story as well as the characters and go with what I feel is best.

This is my process, but there is no one way to plot. I’d love for all the fiction writers out there to weigh-in! Let me know what your process is and why it works for you!

If for whatever reason your comment is not posting, please email your thoughts to me and I’ll make sure they are posted at my nearest convenience. preppybohemia@gmail.com

In other news, my instagram account has changed! It was becoming too difficult to keep up one for the blog and my own personal account so the two have been combined. Please follow to see what’s up in Bohemia!

Enjoy the journey!


Proof-Reading: A Public Apology

So Monday’s post was… alright.

I wrote it and felt pretty good about it. At least the content. And then Monday at noon rolled around and I realized I forgot to proof-read.

“It’ll be fine,” I thought.

Lies. It was not fine. Between redundancy, some jumbled thoughts, and, frankly, some crappy craft, I find myself embarrassed when I read it back later that night. That is not the kind of quality I want to bring to you.

So after thinking over it, I would first like to apologize, and then talk about the modern miracle that is proof-reading! So folks, I’m sorry I gave you some unclean reading. (Which will be fixed right after I complete AND proof-read this post.)

Now, proof-reading:

It’s not brain science, but it’s not something I get excited to do. Just once, I want what I write to be perfect. No questions, no qualms. Just perfect. But it doesn’t work that way.

But I’m lazy. I wrote the gosh-darn thing! Why do I want to read it? Well, I thought over it and this is what I came up with.

I firmly believe that art is a way to serve my neighbor. If my work makes you happy, thoughtful, or inspired, I feel it has served it’s purpose. I have been able to provide you with a small bit of art for your journey. It is a gift.

So why would I give you a crappy gift? Why would I offer you something for your pleasure that was broken or incomplete? Art is a gift from the artist to their neighbor. It is an act of love that is supposed to echo the artist’s Creator through their created. I want that echo to be worthy, not only of my creator, but also of you.

Proof-reading is an act of love for our readers. It’s not glamorous or flashy, but it makes a huge difference! (And are true, everyday acts of love really that glamorous or flashy?… perhaps this will be a topic for later!) It is an act of service to those who will take the time to sit down and read our work.

I want this blog to be a small piece of my art for you to enjoy. And I want that art to be crafted as an act of love. As such, I want to proof-read for you. I don’t want to lazily throw this together. This is a platform where I get to serve you on a weekly basis and I want to do so well.

So again, I am sorry for the quality of yesterday’s post.

Also, a lot of these thoughts are not my own, but are influenced by a few art philosophers. These thoughts in particular are inspired by Calvin Seerveld’s, Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves. (I want to do a series on this book in the future, so keep an eye out.)

Thank you for reading! I really appreciate the support I have received from all of you.

Keep enjoying the journey!

It Takes a Village…

Sorry for the delay in this post, folks! I was spending a wonderful weekend with my writer’s group. So I say I’m sorry, but really I’m not because instead of blog stuff, I got to write lots and lots of fiction that I’m feeling really good about. There is something energizing that comes from spending time with other creative-types and investing in one another’s work. So this is going up a few hours late, but it is here like I promised.

Writing is rough stuff. Seriously! It’s hard making up stuff. It’s emotionally draining, mentally strenuous, and sociallyWell, writing in and of itself is not very social… Except it is. No, I can’t carry on a conversation while I write–at least not in a way in which I can do both well–but there is definitely a social side to it.

I have had the privileged of being a part of two groups of writers who have blessed my work in more ways than imaginable. They are my sounding board and one of the biggest sources of encouragement I have for my work. They hold me accountable and provide the push that I need all too often.

The Inklyrks are a group I meet with on a weekly basis during the school year, and then occasionally during the summer. (And yes, that is pronounced “ink lickers.” It is a long story that I’m not really even sure I can tell accurately. It was one of those names that just sort of happened.) We’re a mix high school/college age folk that span many genres from fiction to poetry to songwriting. We focus more on encouragement and group discussion than critique.

The original Inklykrs. Keep these faces in your mind.
You’ll see them again someday as they promote bestsellers!

There was this magical moment shortly after the inception of the group when we had at last read a sample of everyone’s writing and had begun to get to know each other that we began to notice something. This group was magic. It was a wonderful balance of artists and thinkers that had a passion for the written word as well as for one another. The group dynamic was as pretty well close to perfect as one could get.

You see, it takes a village to not only raise a child, but to also write a book. I don’t know what sort of state my novel would be in if it wasn’t for the encouragement of my wonderful writing community. They have held my hand during writer’s block and a hard-drive crash. They have pished at the discouraging advice an editor had given me. They have been cheering me and my characters on from day one and I am so grateful for everyone of them.

There have been so many hours spent sitting in front of the fire, discussing literature, and the challenges of writing. We get excited about books and music and tea. We laugh more than we ought and love every minute of it. These people have become my brothers and sisters through art and each of them is irreplaceable.

In every writing endeavor, there comes a moment when you can no longer cling to your own sanity–mainly because it is no longer there. It is in that moment when you need community the most. Being part of a writer’s group gives you those people to cry out to. They can provide a second pair of eyes, a pat on the back, or maybe a good kick int he pants. As artists, we all need those people that will hold us accountable to the creative task we have been charged with. Writing especially is something we need community for. We need to know as we write in our tortured silence that there are people supporting us on the outside. Sometimes, we just need a good hug when a character dies, or we’ve bled dry on a very personal poem.

If you are just starting out in the writing game or are in it but without community, I give you one resounding piece of advice: FIND YOUR PEOPLE!!!! Attend book groups at your local library, go to a writing conference, look for already existing groups in your area (I don’t advise that for critique groups, but I’ll delve into that at a later date). Get out there and meet some writers! Once you find those people that speak your language, it is incredible the positive effect that can have on your writing. Plus, sometimes it is just fun to have a group of people to geek-out in a bookstore with you.

If you are already in a group, I’d just like to encourage you to thank them. They are your village and they love you as much as you them. They are in your corner and they’re in yours and that is a gift to be treasured.

I was richly blessed this weekend by having time to write, but also people to write with. Twenty-eight hours, seven spent in writing, four spent in bookstores, sixteen pages produced, forty-five hundred words, and countless moments spent with people who play the same note I do. That is why I am grateful for my community. Y’all know who you are and you are very near and dear to my heart!

The Inklykrs over this weekend at bookstore #3

The Words that Killed the Critic

I’ve never been one for quotes in my writing space. Many writers live and die by the mantras surrounding their workspace, but I find it distracting for the most part. Except for one.

There are no good first drafts.

At first read, I guess this could be considered discouraging, but I find it really freeing. It takes out all the pressure.

No book is good the first time down. I can write whatever I must just to get it down on the page. I can deal with the mess later. Spelling and grammar? What are those? Plotting? Who needs it!

Perfectionism has been something I’ve struggled with for a while. It causes the little critic in the front of my brain to tell me all sorts of nasty things as I try to do what I’m called to.

“You aren’t making this interesting.”
“Who is going to read this?”
“What makes you think you have what it takes to write a story?”
“That’s a dumb idea. Why would you write that?”
“You suck.”
“Just stop.”

It’s enough to paralyze the best writer. And I’m just an amateur here!

When the self-talk gets to be too much, I find my mantra to be so reassuring. There are no good first drafts. Why should I try to write one when it’s not possible? What is possible is just a rough draft. Heavy on the rough. The critic has nothing on that.

When I am able to be freed from my self-critic, my creativity is able to roam free and my writing reaches places I never would have had I listened to the perfectionist in my brain. My characters can be who they are and the plot flows freely.

What encourages you in your writing? What keeps the critic at bay and the creativity in open pastures? I’d love to hear!

           – Lex