Pitching at A Writers’ Conference

I was ready. My book was finished, revised, and edited. My book coach encouraged me to go to this year’s writers’ conference and make an agent appointment, so I did.

I bought shoes, got a bad haircut, and actually ironed clothes. This was serious.

Months in advance, I did the research and prepared myself to meet a literary agent or publisher. I wrote a one sheet, printed my first four chapters in correct format, and had lists of questions to ask for the ‘extra’ time left over after my pitch. After reading about the available choices, I listed three, understanding I would get one of them. Since I registered early, I would probably get the first one I listed. In case I didn’t, I continued to read online a bit about each person so I could easily bring up topics to chit chat about. Pleased, I realized I had plenty of conversation fodder. I had this.

Then I got there.

Things were going well at first. Arriving early, I had plenty of time to spare. I felt fine, if tired. Sleep had eluded me, but no worries. Instead of sleeping, I listened to relaxing music and did deep breathing to Paul Cardall’s Be Calm. Who needs sleep? I’d faced bigger challenges on less sleep and succeeded. I could probably even get a blog post out of this experience like other writers do, sharing wisdom I garnered from the meeting.

Finding out I had three appointments threw me for a sec, but no problem. I had planned to meet with anyone, remember? I was prepared.

Another poor soul who was waiting to pitch her book looked as if she were about to come unglued. I felt bad for her. I traded business cards with the other writers in the waiting area. We reassured each other that we would be fine. This wasn’t so tough.

My name was called. Even though I had done my homework, I did not recognize the agent I was directed to. After a few seconds, it became apparent this was the one person in the room who I did not have an appointment with that day. No problem. We exchanged pleasantries and exited the room. It turns out I had been confused with another Donna. No big, I didn’t miss anything because I was early.

My actual turn came. I floundered at the beginning, but I was sure to find my footing soon, right?

Uhhhhh. No.

My brain emptied itself, thoughts completely scattered. My hands flopped around on the table as if I could gather those thoughts back somehow, but every coherent speck of intelligence was gone. Poof. I was tongue-tied, stammering. This from the lady who talks to people in the checkout line and has long conversations with telemarketers.

The agent was exceedingly gracious and kind.

I did not throw up or cry. I did not dump hot coffee on her. So that was good. As a friend told me, the encounter probably wasn’t as bad as a sharp stick to the eye.

I don’t know why I was so anxious, unless it was because my little subconscious was screaming, “This may be a pivotal moment and the next ten minutes is likely to have an impact on your ability to deliver the message God has given you to share with the world of suffering children and the timer is running right over there, numbers flying by.”

No pressure.

Now, I realize this was overly dramatic, but it was my subconscious whispering. It’s hard to reason with such a thing. Realistic Donna understands that my ability, or lack of, in any given situation is not capable of derailing God’s plan. I am simply not big enough to have that kind of impact. To place such importance on self displays an arrogant lack of trust and faith.


I made it through this rite of passage. No one was injured. And she asked to see my work. Maybe she will like it. All I can do now is wait and see.

In the meantime, I plan to trust in the process knowing it will all work out while I happily dig into my next project.


Here’s a few pitching tips from Writer’s Digest and The Write Practice. All I can add is: Tell your subconscious self to chill.



Finding Strength: Cipro Story

Strength is what I do not have.

Three years ago I had a reaction to a common antibiotic, Cipro. I was unable to walk or care for myself without assistance. I have improved, but recovery often seems like an unattainable dream.

I get discouraged. My strength has been stolen.

I miss things. Shopping with my daughter for prom dresses via text message is not the same.  I miss my family. I miss their moments and celebrations. You can’t hug when you are in different locations.

It is rare for my good days to coincide with days out. Struggling sucks the joy out. Thank goodness for online shopping. The UPS man probably thinks, “Lady, why don’t you make one big order a month already.”

During the past three years I have been occupied fighting my every day battles. On the counter right now I have several lidless containers because when I finally do get one open, the lid tends to slip away and land on the floor. You know what? Jars do fine with a bit of plastic wrap to cover the opening, and I planned on taking another vitamin tomorrow so it’s all right. However, someone really needs to pick up under the kitchen table.

The tendons and joints in my body often swell now, so any given day may be ice pack worthy. The amount of ace bandages make me look like a mummy at times. My downhill slide has been a bumpy one, with one thing following another. Challenges pop up as if falling were not already hard enough. I suppose if you’re going to go down, make it spectacular.

When I think about the physical grind it can seem like all I’ve done is shuffle along. Remember that Tim Conway old man skit? But during these three years I have had my Rocky Moments as well. Imagine that old man doing the fist pump to Gonna Fly Now. Yeah! That’s what I did the first time I managed handicap steps instead of a ramp. Go me!

I have my own speed now.

I fought a huge battle for my son, too much to get into here, but moms and dads know. Someone decided to get in the way of my child’s progress. Mistake. I fought for a year and it was one of the hardest battles I’ve ever been in. There were many prayers and tears. In the end we finally got his chance, what was rightfully his. Nothing was wrong with my voice. I made phone calls until I found a way.

He is running with that chance. Does it matter if his steps are a little slow at times? Nope. Cue Gonna Fly Now. We will fist pump together. Go son!

After I regained enough health, I completed writing two novels and started a third. Wow. I impressed myself. Sometimes I had to use speech to text. I thought I would never get Dragon trained. What a formatting mess. But words got onto the page.

I am sure the most eloquent prose ever spoken has been forever lost, mangled by my computer’s inability to master the southern accent.

The trick is to get words on paper by any means possible. Spiral notebooks were always in my bed so I could reach them. I learned to put them on their own pillow. Temperamental, they are.

I joined an accountability group and committed to a minimum of words written on my novel per day. Once you give yourself permission to take small steps and plod away you will be amazed at what you can do.

These accomplishments only came about through prayer and persistence.

Other good things of note happened these last three years. My middle son became a proud homeowner. The oldest is building a house, the youngest boy started college, and Baby Girl has found her calling.

It’s enough to make one dizzy, this fast crawl.

None of my strength comes from myself. It’s plain to see I have none. What I have is a destiny. And I have my own pace, even if it is a slow shuffle.

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Good Morning Mondays, Monday’s Musings, Titus 2 Tuesday, UNITE, #RaRa, #TellHisStory, Word Filled Wednesday, A Little R & R, Coffee For Your Heart, Grace at Home, Thankful Thursdays, Grace & Truth, Equipping Godly Women, Waiting on Wednesday, Motivate and Rejuvenate, Wednesday’s Prayer Girls

None of my strength comes from myself . . .donnastone.me on pink boxing gloves

Dwelling in the Valley

Autumn Valley


Is this it? I look back and see the path. It all makes sense now. But still, the destination, where I stand now, is not what I expected.

I mourn.

The gains seem so small to have traveled such a long and treacherous journey. My eyes were on the mountains and here we are at the end—another valley.

I feel cheated. More than that. Defeated. How can this be it?

My ways are not your ways.

I know. Fleshy logic and spiritual faith have worn a rock strewn battlefield across my deep places. There is a way which seems right to man, but that’s not the right way. As confusing as the path has been, His directions always worked better than mine. After all, He designed this path.

When I quiet the wailing of my soul I hear it. Static I can only discern in the midst of purposeful stillness. A hiss. The Lie. The lie that tells me I cannot trust Him. That ancient deception started so long ago when the world was a young garden.

I make the obvious choice, to choose belief in the Faithful.

The scales shift.

No sudden, new eyes. No great moving of mountains. The valley is still a valley, and I still mourn. Yet the breeze carries sweetness. I close my eyes to inhale.

This valley is not the mountain top, but it is a green valley, and my Father has brought me here. (Tweet This)

This is it.

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The Gift of Inadequacy

I’m supposed to know what to do. People depend on me.

I try and try to find the answers, searching for the key to open locked doors. My time is eaten up, spent in this frantic quest, but solutions are not forthcoming. And the giants are very real.

Caught in a puzzling maze, I make too many wrong turns that finish in only dead ends. I chase hope until I come to the end of myself, and there I find it. Not a resolution and not a miracle. Instead I find the gift. The gift of inadequacy.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. Psalm 20:7 NIV

It’s not all on me. I will study and learn, equipping and educating myself in preparation for the task ahead, but the outcome is not dependent on me. My single duty is to be obedient to the calling of my Lord.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. John 14: 23 NIV

The outcome is in the hands of my God. It’s not all on me.

It’s a funny thing. Once I admit the obvious, that I am woefully and completely inadequate, I no longer feel I am.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12 NIV

Heart Matters

Her answering machine picked up and I rattled off a message. The minute I hung up the phone I realized my words had probably not exactly conveyed what I meant. In the space of a heartbeat, embarrassed mortification filled me. My hand hovered over the receiver but it was too late. The words could not be snatched back. Calling again would only make it worse.

The next time I saw her I rushed up to her, ready to explain, but she was already laughing. Fortunately, she knew me well enough that my intention managed to shine through those ill chosen words left recorded on her machine.

I have a unique talent for saying the wrong thing. My friend forgave me my awkwardness because she could discern my heart. It doesn’t always turn out so well. Communication can be hard.

The knowledge that God always understands me is a great comfort. People may judge by outward appearances, but God looks deeper. By following Him, continually seeking His will and purpose, I am assured that in spite of all my missteps and fumbles, my desire to do His will pleases Him. He sees my heart.

1 John 3

Traveling Woes

I. can’t. do. it.

I knew it would be hard, but I attacked the task. Arming myself, I took it one step at a time. Now here I am in the middle of this path, exhausted.

I cast a glance over my shoulder and stop moving. I say to Jesus, “Hey, wait a minute! Look at all that other stuff I’ve been through.”

I don’t look at Him when I say this. My attention is too focused on making a list of my sorrows. During the tally I think, “And now this.”

Other people walk along, out for a stroll. They travel with ease. This is so not fair. They aren’t struggling with this. A few of my weapons slip out of my grasp and fall to the ground.

I say, “It’s not . . .” I sit down in the dirt. “I don’t understand.” It comes out a little panicky sounding.

My feet hurt. They are full of cuts and blisters. A tender, purple swelling makes me feel sure something is broken.

“Look at me,” He says.

I know this voice. So I look.

I see His suffering. His mercy. His grace. I see and almost know, a little, what it means. I don’t understand everything. His suffering. His mercy. His grace. His patience.

I get up and gather my things, never taking my eyes off Him.

There are times when we are bottom-of-the-barrel empty. Even when we know we are not alone, we know Jesus is there, we feel alone. It’s too much. It’s too hard. We can’t go on.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

Going forward is hard, but abandoning the path for another way is out of the question. That road leads only to certain failure. Death.

Take a breath.

Take His hand.

We are assured and know that [[a]God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. Romans 8:28 AMP

Travel well, Beloved Child of God.

The Season of “I Meant To”

This time of year can often become the season of “I meant to” for me.

I meant to handcraft gifts for all my friends and family, but ran out of time. And glue sticks.

I meant to take the kids ice skating, but one of them got the flu. Then the rest did.

I meant to send Christmas cards, but couldn’t find my address book, so I did ecards instead.

One year I completely forgot to make Christmas cookies with the kids, even though we own approximately seventy cookie cutters, if you count all the alphabet ones.

It’s a predictable cycle. I’ve repeatedly tried to establish some holiday family traditions. My schedule says we decorate the tree on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but schedules have a way of unplanning themselves. I’ve learned to be happy with the job getting done before December 25th.

Sometimes a feeling of guilt tries to creep up on me, but then I refocus on why and Who it is we are celebrating.

And the one thing He asks of me.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 NIV

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 NIV

A Year’s Worth of Goals

At the beginning of January, instead of making New Year’s Resolutions, I joined an online accountability group to help me stay focused. Every Monday we would post our goals for the week, and then on Friday we would see how much had been accomplished.

By February my participation had gotten spotty, but I kept up the best I could.

Near the end of April, my computer caught on fire. Then one of the kids had an opportunity and needed my help to prepare. The bathroom faucet sprung a leak. Friends visited. The roof needed fixing. Stuff kept happening. Big stuff, little stuff, good stuff, bad stuff.

Stuff can derail you. My calendar says it is mid October. There are eleven weeks left in 2011.

My planned objectives will not be completed before December 31st.

I considered making a revised list, a more manageable one, an easier one. But that wouldn’t stretch me. Besides, I have the gift of persistence.

Instead of giving up, I am celebrating the goals reached, those attempted, and those still slated to be conquered, sooner or later.

A Fabulous Quilt

“I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation,” DeeAnn said. “Why we do the things we do.”

God hears our conversations. I think maybe He even orchestrates them.

DeeAnn always has something meaningful and life-giving to discuss, but on this day I did not want to do any deep thinking. I told her I did not want to talk about it. That was a couple of weeks ago.

This week I began taking a quilting class. On the first day, I took notes. Not because I’m studious, but because I didn’t want to forget anything. Quilting can be complicated. And I wanted to make a fabulous quilt.

DeeAnn quilts too, and I pestered her daily with quilting questions via email. I looked at quilting books and asked opinions of friendly strangers in the fabric store. I made sure to buy all the correct supplies such as special rulers, mats, and a rotary cutter. Finally, I was ready.

Do you know what directional prints are? That’s when the design of a fabric is only one way, rather than an all over print that looks the same no matter which way you turn it.

At the very moment when there were only three pieces of my quilt top left to cut out, a thought struck me. One way patterns might not look so good all jumbled up. I put the rotary cutter down.

The internet informed me that beginners should not attempt to make a quilt using directional fabrics since it requires skill and careful planning. I had yet to sew a stitch and had already made a major mistake. I was annoyed. Very.

I have made quilts before. The kind great-grandmas made out of bits and scraps all cut into squares with scissors, then sewn together until it was big enough for a purpose. Directional prints, crooked pieces, using the wrong thread, and mismatched backing never disturbed me before. Why was I so bothered by a few misplaced pieces now?

Motivation. I remembered the topic DeeAnn had brought up, the one I did not want to talk about.

With my old quilts, my motivation was to use what I had to make something useful and attractive. Now I want to make “A Fabulous Quilt” and I’m getting frustrated.

Emotions can be a good indicator of the purity of motivation.

If I serve out of obedience the lack of thanks does not affect me. If I give without expecting something in return I am content. It’s hard to feel overlooked when recognition is not the goal. A skewed attitude about these things is easy to recognize. But what about the little things? The upsets when things don’t go exactly right?

We start out with the right attitude, but other things creep in. Perfectionism. Competitiveness. Fear of Failure. Pride.

It’s time to examine my motives, the reason for my actions.

But I do wish I’d had that talk about purity of motivation with DeeAnn before I cut out all this fabric.

Not Many Wise

It was proof positive. I had posted to facebook, but then later realized how some people might read my statement. It hadn’t come out quite the way I had intended. I had misworded my thought and then waved it like a banner in front of the whole world.

The post had been visible for at least an hour before my brain kicked into high gear, prompting me to remove the comment.

I was never leaving my house again. When the UPS man came to deliver the groceries I ordered online, I would hide under my quilt. He could leave the packages by the back door.

“See?” I told God, “I can’t even post to facebook without messing up!”

How on earth was I supposed to run a blog? I felt so stupid. Completely unable to complete the task He laid before me.

Then a passage of scripture came to mind.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. . 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NIV

It is my prayer that I learn to say, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord,” without too many more lessons fraught with mortification.