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.

Ouch.

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.

Onward.

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.

 

 

Let Me Hide| A Prayer

rockwtextRock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide the shame of what was done to me and the shame of what’s become of me. Hide the tears and the wounds I’ve suffered, and those I have inflicted. Let the water and the blood cover me. Hide my anguish at the sin perpetrated upon me and the sins that I have embraced.

Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide.

Let not the labor of my hands deceive me, no restitution is found there. Only hiding in You will save me. I have nothing to give you, only my barren soul. To Your promise I will cling until at last I see You, my heart still singing, Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide.

 

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday link-up. Bloggers from all over respond to the week’s prompt by writing for five minutes.  The prompt of Hide for this week’s Five Minute Friday made me sing, cry, and pray.

Want to add your voice? Pop on over to Kate’s site. There’s room.

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Did this post encourage or touch you? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Life With Asperger’s|Why We Don’t Go To Church

Asperger's Why We Don't Got to Church donnastone.me

 

 

 

 

 

When I first started asking around in the Asperger’s and Autism community about the whole church issue, the stories I heard made me mad. By the time I’d gotten a few more responses, I was sad. Overwhelmingly sad. The stories did not stop coming.

It breaks my heart when people say they regret staying at their church and wished they had left sooner.

The responses I gathered were from Christian people desiring fellowship. Many of these believers are actively seeking a church or Bible study in spite of bad experiences.

Why is church so hard for people on the autism spectrum? 

Getting to the Church on Time, Late, or At All

Every mom knows this is a battle, but with Autism Spectrum Disorder it is multiplied. Most people on the spectrum have terrible issues with insomnia, getting restorative sleep, and waking. When I say trouble waking, I am not kidding. A regular topic is how to wake up. I read somewhere in an autism advocate’s writings about the need for an alarm clock that shakes and shrieks.

Trouble organizing, estimating and managing time, the other hundred hurdles every day brings with sensory, eating difficulties, motor skills issues, and so on make getting out challenging on any day. Sunday is no exception.

Sensory Overloads and Processing Problems

Sensory overload is another big issue. Loud music, flashing lights, over powering perfume add up to an sensory cocktail that can quickly overload. While these things may be a minor irritation to some, for others the input is akin to a sensory onslaught.

The format and language of today’s church can be difficult for a literal-minded person to understand. An emphasis on emotion rather than thought and logic make it hard to grasp the message.

It is a social setting. This is a minefield for someone who can’t read body language, has difficulty recognizing faces, or any of the myriad of other cognitive or social skills typically lacking in a person with ASD. Often, children and young adults are expected to be “friends” at church to the same people who bullied the child at school. People who greet with a hug then ignore the minute they step out of the church door, or even before, will probably be interpreted as hypocritical.

Rejection at Church

Rejection and bullying is something I heard about over and over when I brought up the issue of church. Family members of all ages were bullied. Adults bullied children. Being rejected by people at church is an issue I heard about over and over. You can read about an instance that happened to my kids at church here.

And, no, this one situation did not cause us to leave that church. Often we have to weigh the cruelty of ignorant people against the benefit for our children of continuing to attend.

One of my kids visited a local church a while back. An adult in the youth group began making derogatory statements about persons with disabilities. The fact that this man felt comfortable saying these things in front of leadership and the students made it clear this was not a place we cared to be. Talk about how to keep visitors from coming back!

While the majority of people are kind and caring, I’m sad to say I wasn’t particularly surprised by this encounter.

Exclusion

People assume that since this person is not connecting socially they are not aware of these slights, but sometimes appearances are deceiving. Some autistics are exceptionally intuitive. The inability to express oneself does not necessarily mean a person has no thoughts or feelings on a matter.

Leadership that avoids their students with more needs, or even become hostile to students who ask too many questions is a frequent problem parents cited.  Aspies tend to have no qualms responding to the challenge to “prove me wrong”. A lack of social skills coupled with honest answers from a young person who may have an above average IQ can be misinterpreted by youth workers and lead to exclusion.

Do You Want to Be the Church?

I was heartened to find some excellent resources for churches and ministries interested in reaching the “one out of the ninety-nine” as Dr. Stephen Grcevich from Key Ministry put it.

This YouTube video is a good condensation explaining a complicated topic. I think it is an excellent start.

Why Church Should Be Accessible

I talked to many parents. Most have tried church after church. Many gave up on ever finding a church home. Some of the children, scarred and confused by their church experiences, have given up on God. Not all have not turned away. There are those who continue to search for a place to belong, a safe haven to worship and fellowship with other believers. People they can call “brother”.

Some church leaders think church is for the majority, and they can’t afford to spend time making church available to everyone.

I disagree.

1 Corinthians 12

God has designed every person with a purpose. There is room in the body for every believer.

quote from donnastone.me

God has designed every person with a purpose. There is room in the body for every believer. (Tweet This)

Dr. Grcevich stated in the video that he believes God has a reason for the influx of students and people with Asperger’s and similar conditions.

Qualities common to people with Asperger’s are the tendency to be truth and knowledge seekers, be persistent in faith, have a strong sense of morality, be deep thinking, justice minded, and analytical, to have zero tolerance for hypocrites, and pay no heed to church politics.

Is there room at your church for these kind of people?

 

I found this article, Asperger’s Disorder and Spiritual Development, to be informative for those who want more information on how to make their church or ministry more ASD accessible.

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I felt the need to add to this post for clarity after some feedback from readers.

People with Asperger’s don’t need a special program. Dr. Grcevich explains in the video above that being funneled into the typical special needs ministry would not serve well and be completely inappropriate. What do they need? Respect, understanding, and a helping hand every now and then.

If this post resonated with you, please share it. Have something to add? Join the conversation by commenting below. I want to hear from you!

 

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

Take the Road to Dreams

No one else can live our dreams for us. To place what is in one’s heart, superimposing it on an another’s destiny, is a cowardly ambition. To allow people to use us in such a way is almost as bad.

Our dreams are our own. People will tell us that we are not good enough. They will say, “you are not an artist,” or “not educated enough,” or “the right kind,” and that they know better. They lie.

birdcage2

 

 

 

 

 

You are beautifully and wonderfully made, complete with a destiny, a fire in the belly. It’s your job to stoke it, regardless of how many wet blankets come along oh-so-eager to smother.

Forget nurturing the tiny spark with gentleness, hiding from naysayers. Make the fire roar so they don’t have a chance to extinguish the flame.

Forget nurturing the tiny spark with gentleness, hiding from naysayers. Make the fire roar. (Tweet This)

Some people disrespect you because their eyes are too full of their own failures to see beyond the smallness of themselves. Don’t be them. Tend to your own vision. Do this and you will recognize the greatness in fellow travelers.

There is no need to push others aside, because the road prepared for you is your own. The obstacles there are your own as well. It is your job to take them on.

Do not go against what God has prepared for you. Figure out what you are here for and get to it. Dreams can be quiet and simple, but must be large to your own eyes. Dig around in your soul and find them. Understand the uniqueness of your calling. Understand the value of your deepest hopes and why they are imbedded in your being.

There are prizes you will never receive. Goals unreachable and impossible. They all look that way from where you are standing right now. No one can say with the slightest speck of certainty what dreams are within your reach.

No one can say with the slightest speck of certainty what dreams are within your reach. (Tweet This)

Passion and destiny collide. With all the tears and bloody bruising, it’s not always pretty. But it is always exquisite, your beautiful dream, big and gorgeously audacious in the middle of ambition and grit.

The joy is in the pursuit of destiny, not in trophies or glittery accolades.

This is how we live a dream.

What will you do with your dreams today?

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cat lion forget nuturing the tiny spark . . .make the fire roar donnastone.me quote

Growing Weary?

Do not grow weary.

I get weary. Who doesn’t? But lately I have been pondering growing weary. Not being weary, but growing it.

To grow something you have to feed it. Good or bad, growing things must have a source of light, water, and food. Conditions have to be right. Shelter from predators and inclement conditions must be provided.

I never considered the concept of growing weary like I grow other things like faith and patience. I can see how a person could feed weariness. Negative thoughts, listening to wrong people, forgetting Who is really in charge here, neglecting to recharge and encourage ourselves; all of these things help weariness thrive.

Our souls will always filled by something. Even when we say we are empty we are speaking of a feeling of darkness, despondency, or negativity. Our world is designed with no gaps, the spaces filling up as soon as there is an inch of available space. Something pushes in. Something grows.

To raise something we want, we cultivate, preparing the soil and digging as deep as future roots require. No shallow scraping out of a handful of dirt, the shovel digs deep. If the earth resists, we dampen with water, forcing softness out of stubbornness. We do this without taking affront. It is the nature of things.

It is also the nature within us that prompts us to prepare for a large thing, a deep thing. This is faith.

We loosen the earth, raking, grabbing handfuls of dirt and squeezing, breaking, understanding that the goodness will not give itself up to those who refuse to work. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty. You have to be willing to have faith.

Your faith must be large enough that you feed and water the plants and protect them constantly. Unguarded and neglected, they rarely produce. Even the strong, well established plants are no match for a sudden frost, or hungry caterpillars.

Except of course, for the never ending weeds. This is the battle. Plants that give us life, and plants that choke out those that give us sustenance.

We choose what we will grow.

Death and life. Build or destroy.

It is very easy to grow weariness if we succumb. It is a natural thing, like weeds. Something is going to flourish in every gap we leave open. There is no empty space.

No one intends to propagate weeds. They creep in when attention is elsewhere, taking advantage of every opportunity. Before you know it, they are tall and strong, arrogantly taking over the place if we let them.

A garden needs regular tending. A calling needs feeding.

Do not grow weary.

 

Watering Can A garden ... Do not grow weary quote donnastone,me

 

Today I will feed my soul with Truth and not grow weary. If I keep my focus on the tending of my destiny, refusing negative thoughts, weariness will have a much harder time taking hold.

Time to get my hands grit-under-the-nails dirty.

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My Quilt

For the last two days I have been attempting to machine quilt. As I was wrestling this monster, trying to shove the fabric under the needle, I thought, “If I had died no one would have finished this thing.” I have a strong suspicion it would have ended up in a box at a yard sale, one of those ghastly unfinished projects tucked away among more useful items like rusty scissors and empty thread spools.

I started this project in February 2007. I needed something distracting and mindless to do, so I delved into my scrap fabric and started cutting quilt squares. I noticed I tend to buy lots of floral patterned material. I almost never buy solids. After a time all the little squares were neatly tucked away into a ziploc bag and buried in one of my big plastic tubs awaiting crafterly inspiration.

You know, once you have spent hour upon hour working on something you have to keep going even if you have no clue what it is. I think it was last summer when I pulled out the squares and started laying them out. From past experience with busy floral scraps I surmised that a few solids may help out and had accordingly cut some dark blue and beige squares. They were almost solid. You could barely see the pattern on them. It was very muted.

The kids helped me lay out a pattern that didn’t clash too badly, keeping in mind that most of the time a quilt is in use you have your eyes closed anyway. It got bigger and bigger. We had to go to buy more of that sort-of-solid muted fabric. I decided that once it covered the space available on the living room floor it was big enough. There were challenges. I think this is much easier if you start with directions. Of course I did not have directions. This was a scrap quilt.

In constructing the quilt top, some of the pieces didn’t quite match up. They were all mostly square and about the same size. I worked with it. Once the quilt top was made we all admired it, and then I folded it up and put it back into the craft tub until I could get batting.

It wasn’t long before I went to the store and got the required batting and dug around in one of my boxes for sheeting for the back of the quilt. I was pumped from getting the top part done. But by the time I got out the folding table, cut the backing, unrolled the batting and coaxed the three independent layers together so I could pin the whole thing together I was tired. I would have stuffed it back into the craft tub, but it was too big now. So there it sat neatly folded in a corner of my bedroom until last week.

It’s another summer and I decided to work on the quilt. I think I’ve gotten the hang of machine quilting it. The first third will need to be unpicked and restitched. All those squares are leaning against each other, this way and that. Kind of reminds me of an old rickety wooden fence about to fall down. I’ll straighten them up. I’m getting there.

Projects like these give you time to philosophize. Quilting won’t be rushed. It’s good to think deep thoughts to keep yourself from muttering words you don’t want your kids to hear you say.

A quilt is kind of like life. Bits from here and there, some scraps on hand, some you have to purpose to aquire. A little planning and a lot of improvisation. All the squares don’t match up exactly right, but as a whole, with a little adjusting it all makes one big piece. Often parts have to be undone and redone. It never quite comes out exactly the way you originally envisioned.

When all is done it will serve its purpose, keeping someone I love warm and snug underneath a messy riot of mismatched memories. Some people will think this is one awful ugly quilt. Some will think it is ok. Some will think it is beautiful.

Yesterday I was getting frustrated. I thought,”God did not keep me alive to finish this quilt.”

Now I’m thinking . . .

Maybe He did.