God is Here

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“Time to Pray Indicates Prays Divinity and Spiritual” by StuartMiles: Credit: freerangestock.com

 

This will be personal. For those of you who follow this blog, you know that I am a Christian and believe in God. That my faith plays a role in my life. That I want to publish Christian Romance novels one day.

I have been a selfish, spiteful woman for a number of months now. I have felt entitled, prideful and bitter. I was angry and didn’t speak to God for months.

Earlier this week, I had a phone interview. A few times I’ve mentioned struggling with the job search ever since graduating from college in 2016.

Today, I heard back.

I share this because I did something different. I prayed and said to God no matter what happens, I will trust You. I woke up this morning in a grumpy mood and I wasn’t sure why. Sometimes, but not often, I have a feeling. Some call it women’s intuition, some a gut feeling and others whatever they will. I just had a feeling deep down that I did not get the job.

I was right.

Was I frustrated? Yes. Was I disappointed? Yeah, definitely. Was I sad?

No. Instead, I was relieved. I know it’s difficult to explain but when I found myself crying, it was because I had received confirmation that God was still here in my life. I calmed down reading, out loud, in my bedroom prayers from this book I found at Barnes and Noble a couple weeks ago. It’s called The Right Prayers for Every Need. I began flipping through the topics before bed the past couple of nights, reading one or two out loud. I started this past Sunday actually when I woke up looking like an absolute nightmare with dark circles under my eyes, my hair an absolute mess…and feeling depleted. Defeated. Worn out. Tired.

Just done.

That’s when I started going through the prayer book. I began to feel differently with each one I read: prayers when dealing with disappointment, feeling frustrated or overwhelmed and experiencing sorrow.

For those who read my post reflecting on 2016, you know I was not in a good place then either. Angrier than I am now. Stubborner. Entitled.

This week, those feelings began to disappear. I entrusted my will to God and let Him lead the way…and what happened today confirmed He has heard me.

I’m not going to lie to you. When things don’t go our way, whether it’d be with relationships, a book that doesn’t do well, not winning a writing contest, a change of plans, financial issues coming up when all goes well and not leaving fast enough and so on, it’s easy to blame others and ourselves. It’s easier, I think, to blame God whether it’d be the petty things to the very serious. I am guilty of that, doubts and all. Even reaching a point last year and earlier this year questioning my faith and wondering if God really cared…or existed at all.

I have no clue where my life will go and, frankly, since finishing college I’ve had no idea. Even with planning, hoping, and doing I still don’t know.

All I can do is take things a day at a time.

Keep writing and be you.

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“Burning candles on black background” by Jack Moreh: Credit: freerangestock.com

 

 

Learning from the Masters: The MasterClass Experience and the Next Writing Teacher

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“Illustration of vintage style red pencils over rough background” by Jack Moneh. Credit: freerangestock.com

This is a post I have been meaning to write for a while. I wanted to wait until I finished the course itself before reflecting on my experience. I love learning and one should never stop learning and trying new things.

in 2015, an online educational platform for people of all skill levels, whether interested, beginner or even expert came to be called MasterClass. For the affordable price of $90, you have lifetime access to courses you sign up for: the lessons, assignments, videos. You can even take your time with the course altogether. You learn from the great masters of professions you are passionate for or want to learn more about: learn singing from Christina Aguilera, filmmaking from Werner Herzog, cooking from Gordon Ramsey, film scoring from Hans Zimmer.

Or even writing, from James Patterson.

After seeing an article from Parade in my Sunday paper when the online courses were just coming to fruition, I decided to check it out. Since I haven’t written in a while, I thought Mr. Patterson’s course would be good inspiration for me.

It was that and so much more. With each lesson, I took notes; learning from the great James Patterson about writer’s block, the story of how he came to be a writer, how to create great first lines for your novel, writing dialogue, the power of outlines, how to get published and so, so much more. By the time I finished the last lesson a few weeks ago, I felt fulfilled. I gained even more understanding about the publishing process, finding myself relating to an author who struggled through the same issues with writing as me and made it. The assignments helped me tap in to my creativity  again and find it still there. Strong as it always seems to be when I finally sit down and write for a while. Going through the 22 lessons took much longer than I planned, but each time I watched a lesson and listened to Mr. Patterson speak, I felt good every single time. I had gained perspective. I saw what it was truly like to be a writer. I will definitely go through the lessons again.

I had learned so much, and I thank James Patterson for that.

I plan to, hopefully down the road, take the film scoring course taught by Hans Zimmer. Plus, MasterClass is always finding new professions and people. Just recently, Steve Martin was added to teach comedy. Other courses coming soon include Shonda Rhimes teaching how to write for television, Frank Gehry for architecture and design and Annie Leibovitz for photography. It’s worth checking out! You never know what you might learn!

The new writing teacher in my life is a book called Writing with Quiet Hands by Paula Munier. This is another writing book I got from the Writer’s Digest online shop.

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Credit: Amazon.com

I just started it this afternoon and so far…it’s the book I’ve been looking for. Not just talking about inspiration, but the craft for writing. I’ve begun to realize this is what’s missing for me and why I might have been struggling. I’ve also received a clearer picture of what I need to do with my own manuscript once it’s ready to be shopped around to agents, editors and publishers. It’s too early to go into full detail about the book since I just finished chapter one, but if this is any good indication: this book will change my life, with my writing and with myself. I will let you know once I finish how this book went. I’m also thinking about checking out writing plays further in reading The Art and Craft of Playwrighting by Jeffery Hatcher. I found that book in a used bookstore during college.

 

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Credit: Amazon.com

Either way, I need to stop learning and go do it for myself, or I can do both and see where it goes.

The learning continues.

 

The Writer’s Dreams: New Domain, So Far So Good and More

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Writing is important, written or typed

Every time I sit at my desk, I look up at the shelf above me, seeing the numerous books I have loved, read and collected over the years. Books that have influenced where I am today and ones that have yet to be opened…hoping one day I will see my own book in a bookstore.

Before I go on, you might have noticed I changed my domain name to kristinriverswriter.com. This is to give my blog a more professional, serious approach to my work. Everything from the prior domain is here and accounted for!

I was inspired to do this change from a podcast called Write Now, run by writer and Forbes Contributor Sarah Werner. I found a post in my inbox one morning about her latest episode and bookmarked it for later use. I finally listened to the episode last night, which was about personal branding. I found the podcast inspiring, humorous, encouraging and comforting. One of Sarah’s tips was about social media and blogging; when she talked about the domain name for her website, I decided my own blog needed a little tweak.Other recent podcast episodes include Introvert and Extrovert Writers (which I plan to listen to), How Important is Networking for Writers and Should I Use a Pen Name?, to name a few. She also has a podcast called Coffee Break where she interviews fellow writers. It’s worth checking out!

Here’s the link!

I also have an update on giving up Twitter for Lent that I wrote about last week. It is going GREAT. SUCH a great decision and it’s really refreshing to not check my Twitter feed on my phone so much. It’s also been nice to not care about what’s trending, reading the sometimes outrageous things people say and getting annoyed with things I don’t like. The break has also given me more time to sit down with more books! Now I just need to better incorporate some writing time…

Anyway, I have been thinking a lot. I decided to unsubscribe from a writing community, I checked out a local writers group and I’ve decided to go to a local book festival coming up in April. For those of you who live in Massachusetts, it’s called Easthampton BookFest and was launched back in 2015. Really nice to see more local book festivals popping up! Go to one if you can!

Heh, I’m all over the place tonight huh? I guess that’s what thinking does to you. Your mind goes off on so many tangents that you lose track of what you were thinking about.

…trying to find work really makes writing harder. You need an income and, of course, need to make the time. I have been losing myself, my faith and dreams for quite a while now. But slowly, I am waking up and thinking critically about my decisions, what I read, listen to and want to focus on. These ideas truly are all a part of growing up.

I do have an internship that I’ve started this week, and it has brought me joy. I really believe that’s the secret when things are so bad in life. You are looking for that joy, feeling it and making sure you’re doing what you love in any aspect that you can.

I am only 23, trying to find my heart in writing again, figuring out and fearing where my life may go next and been frustrated with the way things have been. I don’t deny that I could have made different choices: spent more time writing, not holding in my feelings, being honest with myself, distancing myself from things that only aggravate me and not motivate me. I can only do my best…

…and pray I will find my way.

My dreams, writing or otherwise, aren’t dead yet. They still have some life left…and I pray that your dreams, fellow writers, do too.

I Need a Break: Giving Up Twitter for Lent

I remembered this morning that tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. For those who may not be familiar with this season, Lent lasts for six weeks beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending Easter Sunday. During this period, people spend time reflecting on Jesus Christ and His sacrifices for our sins, including giving up something for 40 days as a form of self-denial and repentance. 2017’s Lent starts March 1st and ends on Thursday, April 13th, Holy Thursday.

I tried to think of something to give up for the next 40 days, wanting to try it again and stick to it opposed to failing in years past. In my heart, I found my answer immediately.

I am giving up Twitter.

Twitter was one of the first social media sites I really began to use more frequently. I think I had MySpace one time a long time ago but it wasn’t used a lot. I have struggled numerous times to get rid of it because of the writing connections I found, discovering new things and people and just being a little more aware, too aware actually, of the things around the world.

After the Golden Globes earlier this year, I decided to take Twitter off of my phone. It was gone for almost a week…and it felt rejuvenating. I did it because I knew it would be crazy after Meryl Streep’s speech garnered so much attention.

I have thought over my connection to social media, my platform as a writer and why I even stuck with the thing all this time. But today, I realize I need to walk away for a while.

The only posts that will appear on Twitter will be from here and Goodreads when I finish, start or update my page counts with a book. No retweets, likes or comments on stuff that I should’ve ignored a long time ago. I will still be on Instagram but may not do many posts there either. You can also catch me on Goodreads and LinkedIn.

There comes a time when you need to gain perspective, take away one of the main distractions from your craft and just not worry about everyone else, politics or not. It would be easy to just delete my account and then restore it after Lent is over, but I know my followers would want to know what’s going on. I don’t want to be irresponsible about this decision.

Until Easter, see ya Twitter!

 

A Time to Unplug and Think: Returning to What Was Left Undone

I’d like to start this post with a quote from my favorite musician, role model and all-around refreshing fella, David Archuleta:

“You may end at the same destination whether you fail or smooth sail the whole time, but something about pushing through and fighting the good fight makes the entire journey all worth it–perhaps even greater than the destination itself that you were moving towards.” (Social Media Break, 2/6/15)

I did some thinking last night. You see, after eating too fast during dinner, I had briefly gotten sick. For fifteen minutes, I put the tablet down. I put the phone down. Focusing on my breathing and the washcloth on my forehead.

It’s strange that in those moments, I feel grateful to not be looking at a screen. One other time I had commented about social media in trying to distance myself from it. Recently I took Twitter off my phone for a couple of days. I understand the need to be connected to your fellow writers, groups you follow and readers you will have one day.

But do we really need to be “on” 24/7? Do we really need to keep looking at these screens on our phones, laptops, iPads, whatever we have a couple hours a day so we don’t fall behind or feel “out of touch” with whatever news or trend is going on that very day?

Since this past year, my dad has been watching CNN. I too have watched a few hours a day.

But was I happy? Not really. In fact, time I should have spent writing was put towards these games on my tablet that aren’t the end of the world if I don’t reach a certain goal that very same day. Time was focused on the current political atmosphere with so many opinions, thoughts, beliefs and so on. Books on writing, books on my to read list whether physical or Ebook, untouched on my writing shelf or tablet.

I shared the quote that I did at the beginning of this post because David himself was discussing a social media break. He too was feeling overwhelmed by the opinions everyone seemed to have about his music career, his personal life, etc. Who could really blame the guy! If I were him, I would have felt the same.

Not every path we take will be smooth. A lot of the time they are messy, bumpy and even an absolute nightmare that you feel you will never get out of. But there are things left undone. Things that should be accomplished, needs that should be met.

Instead of saying “I know I shouldn’t be on this phone for so many hours”, if you can, just do it. Turn it off for half an hour if possible. Remember what is around you. For us writers, it’s remembering our books to read, our writing guide books and even our pens and papers.

Being a writer can be difficult no matter your experience. That doesn’t mean you should give up. Today, I had that wake-up call I was waiting for. I just had to take, and make, that first step.

Social media is great for our writing platforms, but it shouldn’t be everything. Don’t beat yourself up if old habits come back. You can try again.

In the end, it will be worth it.

 

Following Your Heart: Being Authentic and Learning to Breathe More

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Titled “Education” Credit: freerangestock.com

I know it has been at least a couple of weeks since I have written a blog post. I got sad for a while and…the many things that have happened in our world got to me.

I am sure some of you have felt the same too.

I think it’s pretty easy to feel helpless with your art as of late, especially if you are just starting out and building your publication credits like I am. You wonder if your work will truly ever make an impact on someone whether in real life or online. You criticize yourself for not doing enough. You ask yourself if this is truly your sense of purpose. You don’t want to get involved in very difficult, and sometimes complex, situations where people could be easily hurt even if you don’t mean to do anything hurtful.

I have seen that a lot lately, mostly online rather than real life. It was never aimed at me but people taking it out on each other. As someone who hates fighting, dislikes confrontation and tries to be peacemaker one time too many, it can drain you fast. You feel you have to protect your heart even more, and that includes your art. You feel you can’t be yourself, so you stay silent to keep peace.

But I have realized something.

You can’t hide your authentic self. Writing, for me, has been my outlet to be my best self without judgment from anyone. Lately, that has felt stagnant, but that’s because I wasn’t feeling or being honest.

When I wrote something earlier this week, job-search related, I felt liberated. The piece took five, maybe ten minutes at the most. I just did what all of us writers need to do more often but struggle to do.

Block the various comments from both sides: the positive and the negative. Tell the inner critic to shut up. Plus, a little instrumental never hurts!

I felt like myself again writing what I did. Because I was me.

I was real, I was honest about my heart and I felt those weights finally lift away. Maybe it’s been a growing trend ever since I felt a love for reading return with The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, my January Book of the Month Pick. Or perhaps because it is now 2017, a new year and 2016 is finally behind all of us.

Whatever it is, I’m finding my heart and light again.

I know the world is pretty scary for a lot of us. It is dark, at times divisive, uncertain, fearful and even hopeless. But I know there is still good amidst the chaos.

Remember your art. Read a book that you love that is not in your genre. I’m also going to take the advice of something I saw on Twitter this week too:

Turn it off (social media, the news, etc). Focus on your own life.

Because sometimes, you have to say I need to focus on me right now. You have to pull yourself away from the heartache and anger.

Follow your heart my fellow artists. Be real, and give yourself a break. You’re beautiful just the way you are, don’t hide that.

We need your light today.

I Need a New “Novel Romance”!: Hallmark Channel Movies and Craving Books for Pleasure Reading Again

On a lazy Saturday, I did something that I haven’t done in a while: watch an original movie on the Hallmark Channel. For many reasons in the past year, I haven’t given myself time to relax and enjoy one of their many inspirational films. Today, that changed with a sweet, heartfelt and funny Hallmark Channel Original Movie called “A Novel Romance”:

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Credit: Image from Amazon.com

Starring Amy Acker (Person of Interest) and Dylan Bruce (As the World Turns and Orphan Black), the film centers on bestselling romance author Liam Bradley who uses the pen name Gabriel August and whose true persona is mysterious to his fans and readers; and honest and wary of new love book reviewer Sophie Atkinson. The main protagonists meet on a flight to Portland, OR where Liam goes for inspiration for his next book and Sophie returning to her hometown. Throughout the film, Sophie wrestles with her prior hurt from an ex and budding feelings for Liam while he contends with the inevitable reality of having to reveal the man behind Gabriel August and completing his next book to please his publisher.

I write this post a few hours after watching the film, flipping through various crime shows and parents watching NFL playoffs (the Patriots v. Texans game just starting). The film stuck with me, one being because books were a part of the story and the other because I guess the originality made me feel good…it was something I’ve missed lately. When I entered my third year of college, I didn’t have a lot of time to read books or watch films because of the amount of schoolwork that I had. When I came home for break, it was a nice change to relax on the couch and watch a Hallmark movie, particularly the Christmas ones. Some of my favorite Hallmark Movies include “The Nanny Express”, “Catch a Christmas Star”, “A Country Wedding”, “I Married Who?”, to name a couple.

The debate over book verses film adaptations is a topic of discussion for another post, especially because some become films that are shown on Hallmark as well.

My love for books waned a lot during and after college and as I struggle to get more work out there and build my publication credits. I admit, there is nothing wrong with analyzing a book so you can learn and better understand how your favorite authors work. But, even writers need to have some fun and relax too!

“A Novel Romance” served as that reminder for me. As a writer, the work is critical and you should try to work as best you can. Yet at the same time, a writer needs to read for fun and pleasure! You should read, or reread, a book and fall in love with it!! Maybe I took the romance thing too literally (haha!), but hey even the best writers need to enjoy things and be merry!

It will take time, but I hope to find my love for books again. I hope you will too.

Happy reading for pleasure and content!