My writing career launched in 2014 through the connections I made at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. So last week, when I was double nominated as a Selah Award finalist for First Novel and a fiction finalist for the Director’s Choice Award, I felt like I’d come full circle.
Four years ago I sat in that crowd and wondered if I’d ever cross that stage to accept a plaque with with mine and my book’s name on it.
Last week I accepted three.
Still Waters won the Selah Award for First Novel and to my everlasting surprise, I also won Selah Fiction Book of the Year.
Eva Marie Everson is the contest director, but she wears many hats, and one of those is as my editor. She’s a great secret keeper.
Then, conference directors, Edie Melson and DiAnn Mills, talented and accomplished women who trusted me enough to name me a member of their prestigious faculty in 2017, announced the Director’s Choice Award for Fiction.
And I received another decoration for a wall I didn’t know I needed.
I’m deeply honored and humbled to have my story recognized for its merit in the very place where I first believed I could write and sell a novel.
As Cora Anne learns, there’s nothing like coming home.
Photo credits: Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and friends.
My first morning on Edisto I poured my coffee and wandered down to the beach that’s almost unrecognizable behind the tower of manmade sand piles standing in for washed away dunes.
And I walked right into the sunrise.
I sat in that damp sand in my yoga pants with the bleach stain, closed my eyes, and hoped this was a blessing and a confirmation and a warmth I could cling to on all the cold nights when I wake up slightly riddled with anxiety over Amazon sales rankings and bookstore dealings.
I think it was.
Standing in the sun, driving under the oaks, breathing deep the air that stirs my soul reminds me over and over that I am really nothing but a witness. My story is your story is our story–a retelling of a story that’s older and stronger and wiser than any words we could ever find.
In my small group right now, my leader friend talked about the four components of every story–not plot and character and setting and theme as writers believe.
Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration.
The parts that really matter. We all have them in our story. Repeating over and over in small moments and seasons and journeys. Manifesting bigger and bigger and ever-changing.
So I ask you today–what’s creating you? What’s shaping your story? What’s fallen or redeemed or restored within your own life?
And in the end, who’s writing your story?
With my fellow Word Weavers and conference writers, this week we mourn the loss of a great man who knew exactly who wrote his story. Who took time in his last days to tell me he was praying for mine. Who I called soon after my near fatal car accident in February to say, I know he said we should all live like we’re dying but that was a close one. I know beyond doubt Bruce’s health is full restored today and he’s standing in the sun.
I’ll be sharing all about my Lowcountry book tour–and my current favorite podcasts, reads, and recipes–in the Newsletter tomorrow. Sign up for free or follow my author page on Facebook, Lindsey P. Brackett.
I don’t know why I continue to put myself through this.
Truthfully, I think I wanted to hide from cell phone service for a couple of days. There’s a gap up in our mountains with a swimming lake and a jumping dock and a two mile radius before phones register any outside world. We went there even though two days is hardly worth the trouble and the forecast featured lightning bolts.
I went for the quiet. No texts. No emails. No notifications.
But the woods are not quiet. Birds trill their morning songs and streams rush and tree canopies plop raindrops even when the monsoon has passed. Drippy tent rainflies and wet towels and long legged spiders who crawl across the breakfast dishes uninvited do not make my escape peaceful.
But the woods are simple and I was seeking that. There are no choices beyond what’s in the cooler or the kitchen box or the pack of clean clothes. There are fewer decisions and fewer distractions.
Yet, the rain still came down hard and the shelter didn’t always hold.
There’s a lot of prep work that goes into camping or a vacation or publishing a book. There’s a lot of thinking through the “what ifs” and the “how tos” and the “maybe this.” There’s a lot of rigging that ties off a tarp that might keep the rain from drowning the picnic basket but sacrifices all the dry towels.
Fact is, sometimes the rain comes down and shakes the shelter and you get wet despite all the preparations. Sometimes, there’s not even enough time to seek the shelter before you’re soaked to the bone and forming a puddle of your own.
I’m puddling a lot lately. Soaked to the bone.
I keep waiting to be told what to do next. Which agent to submit to. Which marketing trend to follow. Which interview to give.
I’m tying up my shelter, expecting the high and dry when truth is, the rain comes no matter how secure the knots. And the question is–when I get wet, do I rush for the place that’s dry and safe?
Or do I look for the lesson in the rain?
As long as you’re reading, I’ll keep looking. Maybe we’ll find the answer together.
Life here isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but it isn’t all thunderstorms and clouds either. It’s a healthy mix of hard and easy, simple and complex, praise and criticism. I hope. My little space here is evolving with my career, and I’d love you to join me in the journey by subscribing to my monthly-ish newsletter, following my author Facebook page, or please consider purchasing my debut novel, Still Waters. The book just received a 4-star review from the Romantic Times. For that moment, I came out and danced in the rain.
I’m on my back porch and the air is hovering between heavy humidity and storm-blowing breezes. Either way, rain’s been skirting all around our southern summer all week long.
The book has a cover now and if you’re in the know you’ve seen it. If you’re not, what are you waiting for? Sign up for my newsletter or let me know you want to join the launch team. Or just wait because we’ll be revealing it officially soon. It’s swirly and lovely and very southern romance–Gone With the Wind keeps popping up as a comparable, which makes me laugh because (don’t hate me), I don’t love GWTW.
I think I might have read it too young and need to re-read it now as an adult who can appreciate the history and the sweeping grandeur while hoping none of my daughters turn out like Scarlett.
You don’t get much more southern than Gone With the Wind, but I was recently asked if I’d write about what I saw as five symbols of the South. I settled on these and left off the hot-button topics, because at the end of the day, we’d all rather sit on the porch with a glass of sweet tea and the cicada chorus than sit at a table and talk anymore about that late unpleasantness.
Five Symbols of the South (that don’t hang off pickup trucks)
Food. The rule of true southern cooks raised in my mother’s generation is this: if it stands still fry it. I adhere to this each summer with okra and sometimes squash and on Father’s Day, I fried chicken for the first time in years. (Although my own mother has admitted it’s just easier to go by the Bojangles.) But I think southern cuisine is changing a bit with the times. I love seeing the shift toward locally grown and farm to table restaurants that make greens so good, you’ll slap your mama. But if you do, she probably won’t make you anymore fried okra and you’ll have to take your own self to Bojangles.
Fashion. I know very little about this myself, but I do know this: pearls go with everything. Sunday dress? Check. Funeral dress? Tasteful. Wedding sundress? No doubt. T-shirt and jeans? Why not. My sisters are far more fashion savvy than I, which is how we all wound up dressed alike for my sister’s wedding, right down to our cowboy boots. I got mine at Rack Room but now my almost-thirteen year old is wearing them out. If my novel makes loads of money, maybe I’ll spring for a sweet pair like these, handmade at King Ranch in Texas, by people who know boots.
Football. I still can’t tell you the rules of football. I just know if our guy has the ball, you have to holler until he crosses the end zone. This helps him run faster. But I do know that Friday nights and Saturdays are sacred down here. That wedding with the boots was strategically planned on a day UGA was off because certain family members said they’d wear earbuds. Which didn’t match the boots, obviously. I believe in the football tradition enough that it’s the background for my next novel and I might have a slight obsession with Friday Night Lights. Or just Kyle Chandler. Or both.
Faith. I tell people I write southern fiction because that’s true (even though Terry Kay told me I’m too young for that title), but I don’t tell people I write Christian fiction because here’s the thing–I am a Christian, so of course anything I write carries that viewpoint. I believe in happy endings and redeeming love and saved by grace. It permeates who I am. Down south, our culture is permeated by the Bible Belt and Southern Baptist and Methodism and Vacation Bible School. Sending my characters to church on Sunday is as natural as having them say “y’all” and “ma’am”. Where I make a story, however, is when that faith gets shaken by its culture and has to learn to stand on its own.
Family. Every good southern book has one iconic scene at the family dinner table, and the more dysfunctional and offbeat the family, the better the tension and the narrative. I love my family, but our little idiosyncrasies are finding their way into everything I write. Makes for good storytelling but awkward family dinners. I close ranks, though, when somebody from outside wants to comment. This family is mine. We’re allowed to poke at one another, but nobody else is getting through. Find your own family to write about. Trust me, everybody’s tree has some crooked branches and those make the best stories.
What defines your home place? Your culture? Ever thought about it?
Because that would lead to being up to no good, after all. My inbox has filled up today with advice on how to handle potentially volatile family dinner conversations tomorrow, and I’m not sure about your fam, but mine has always tended toward the loud and dramatic, so we already had a “no discussing” rule.
We’ve also always had the saying “family event isn’t over until somebody cries and Calley falls asleep on the couch.”
Love you, Aunt Calley 🙂
Anyhow, it’s a bit futile to believe somebody won’t bring up the state of America since it’s apparently all anybody ever wants to talk about, but if you’re looking for some other topics of discussion, here’s what the preteen girls and I came up with on our drive over the mountain today.
The trend you’re finally embracing. My twelve-year-old is loving her boots and Simply Southern tees. Her cousin likes the black and white Nikes, and as for me? I’m finally going to break down and buy some skinny jeans.
The best show you’re watching (even if Netflix means you’re behind the rest of the world). All the girls voted When Calls the Heart, which I love because it’s family friendly and Brian Bird is one of my favorite people to hang out with at writers’ conferences, but confession: we also got sucked into Once Upon a Time. I was pretty questionable about this until after season 3. The villain becomes a hero? Redemption story? I’m all in.
What you’d like for Christmas–materialism only. No wishing for any of those abstract verbs. One of mine wants straps for her Eno, and one wants more American Girl (ahem, Target knockoff) playthings, and the littles want a swing set because we left ours at the the old house.
And I want a drama-free family event where no one cries. But I’m all good with naps on the couch, and apparently, breaking my own rules.
Today those literal hills I can cast my eyes and cares upon are shrouded in a bluish haze. We’d think a storm was coming, here, in drought-cracked North Georgia, but those aren’t thunderclouds on our horizon.
Smoke hangs lazy in the air, hovering over our pine tree tops and clinging to my big-baby-boy’s too short hair. They say it’s coming down the mountain, sweeping in from the wildfires burning not-quite out of control along the Appalachian Trail and in the Cohutta Wilderness. They say the land is so dry the fire catches quick and burns fast and when the cold finally realized it’s November and came to visit, that frost warning came with smoke.
My girls want to know why they aren’t fighting it–they’re looking for the helpers you know. Always believing in the safety of our servicemen and their daddy because they are children and all children deserve to believe they are in a safe place. I wish I could give that comfort to so many hurting and fearful right now.
I tell them as we bump over the subdivision’s private road that has a few ruts–a reminder that no place heeds perfection long–a fire can be allowed to burn and there’s nothing to worry. The underbrush must be cleared for new growth, and the fire will purify the soil and make everything come back brighter and greener and stronger.
I remind them green trees don’t burn, remember what Daddy always said about gathering wood for the bonfire? When the tree is alive, it takes an awfully big fire to bring it down.
I remind myself.
Green trees don’t burn. Life flows through roots and branches and scorch marks might be born for a lifetime, but in the spring, the buds will burst right open.
As long as we have life in us, as long as hope stamps out fear, we can endure a burning of the underbrush.