Tag: Personal

Finished Books!

It was a wonderful weekend at the Baart house! Look what arrived in the mail:

Oh, how I love, love, love seeing the finished product! We skipped ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) for Far From Here, and went straight to finished books. So the two copies I received this weekend are the real deal. Wow. There’s nothing quite like the rush of holding your book in your hands.

Here I am doing a little reading. Oh no! I found a typo!

Just kidding. It’s perfect. Or, at least it’s perfect to me.

The best part? Besides, of course, the knowledge that this lovely little story will hit stores in just over three months…? The amazing endorsements that grace the cover and back cover copy of Far From Here: “Lush, beautiful, finely wrought, moving, gorgeous…” I am humbled. And SO EXCITED.

I can’t wait to share more with you. Stay tuned! I have much, much more to come.

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Astonished

I forgot to post on Friday. Oops. Sorry about that. I was a little (read: a lot) nervous about my first 5k on Saturday morning and everything in my life seemed to revolve around that for one 24-hour period. Stupid, right? I mean, seriously, a 3.1 mile fun run. My nerves would have been a bit more understandable if I was prepping for a marathon or a triathalon or something equally daunting. But no, this was pretty basic stuff, a far-from-competitive jog through the park to raise money for our local 4H club. Why was I so wound up?

The night before the run, I was so jittery I couldn’t sleep. Aaron didn’t know what to do with me… “Come on, Nik, relax. Why are you so nervous about this?”

“I don’t know. But I think I’m going to throw up.”

“I sense some deep, psychological issues here. Want some counseling? Tell me about your childhood…”

“I’ve never been an athlete.”

“I know.”

“I don’t have an athletic bone in my body.”

“Oh, I know.”

“I tried out for every sports team in junior high and high school and was cut from every one.”

“There was good reason for that.”

“I’m clumsy, I have two left feet, I’m not competitive… What if I can’t do this?”

“You already know that you can. You’ve been training. You’ve done it.”

“But…”

But what? Did I think people would laugh? Was I afraid I’d trip over my own two feet and break an ankle? Maybe I feared I’d wimp out at the two mile mark and have to walk to finish… Who knows? I don’t even know. Maybe a counselor (a real counselor, sorry, honey) would have more insight into my troubled mind, but I do think that with this whole thing behind me, I have a bit of a better understanding of the deep-seated fears that gripped me for an entire day before I ran.

Recently, a woman I admire posted the following verse and invited her friends to share something that has astonished them about what God is doing in their lives.

Habakkuk 1:5 (NASB) says:

Look among the nations! Observe!
Be Astonished! Wonder!
Because I am doing something in your days
you would not believe if you were told.

Be astonished! Wonder! … I am doing something in your days you would not believe if you were told.

Wow. Doesn’t that give you chills? I have goosebumps just reading it. And I am a risk-taker. I wholeheartedly embrace things that sometimes seem pretty audacious. But that doesn’t mean that when I’m leaping off a cliff (literally or metaphorically) that I’m not afraid. Sometimes, that fine edge of fear is what makes the adventure so fun.

I think I let fear get the best of me this weekend. I was astonished by where I found myself, and instead of embracing the excitement of encountering an unexpected place in my personal journey, I almost caved. You know, I shook for the entire first half mile of the race. Like, visibly trembled. Crazy, huh? But praise the Lord, there came a point where peace descended on me. I felt like I stepped outside of myself and was able to watch as I did something that I would have never believed if I’d been told. What a gift that was.

The race is over, and I’m left to wonder: What’s next? The excitement, the adventure, even the fear… It’s all part and parcel of this wonderful, hope-filled, surprising life. What a gift we have been given. Be astonished, my friends.

Your turn: What is astonishing you about what God is doing in your life? And are you afraid or excited about where you find yourself?

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Coming Clean

So I’ve been blogging about labels, and though I love the topic and the conversations it has sparked, I have to come clean: I had an ulterior motive in bringing it up.

I’m comfortable with my labels (for the most part), and I love the freedom that I have been able to embrace simply by shifting my perspective. I really do think of my “corners” as convex — outward facing and full of potential instead of stifling and repressive. Thank goodness I can claim that (and mean it!) because it just so happens that I’m experiencing a little label confusion these days.

(Photo Credit)

For the past four years I have been labeled a Christian Fiction Author. I’m sure there are lots of different definitions for Christian fiction, but the one that sounds most accurate to me is: a book written by a Christian, for Christians, and about Christians. That doesn’t mean that non-religious people can’t read Christian fiction (and some do) or that all of the characters in a CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) book have to be devout. Christian fiction can run the gamut from “edgy” (think Ted Dekker) to evangelical, and varies in quality of prose and story just like general market books. There is some spectacular Christian fiction out there — books that could easily go head-to-head with the classics of our era and hold their own admirably. And, just like any other genre, there’s some Christian fiction that’s… well, meh, to put it gently.

In my career as an author, I have both embraced and chafed at the “Christian fiction” label. Apparently, so have my readers. I’ve been told that my books are “too preachy” and I have also been chastised for “watering down the gospel.” In truth, I have never approached a single one of my books with the intent to preach about or hide my beliefs. My goal in writing? To write beautiful, hope-filled stories that resound with truth and resonate deep in the hearts of my readers. If God is beauty and truth and love (and I believe that he is) then my books overflow with him — even if his name is never mentioned.

So. I have a new label.

As of February 2012, I will be a General Market, Women’s Fiction Author. My upcoming book, Far From Here, will be released by a division of Simon & Schuster, and you will not find it on the shelves of your local Christian bookstore.

*Deep breath.* Can I just tell you that I am both thrilled and terrified? Thrilled because after publishing four books, I have finally written the book of my heart — a story that is both the best thing I’ve ever written and the most honest. But I’m terrified, too, because what if I find myself in limbo-land, a place where readers who loved my CBA books will be disappointed in the subtleties of my new release, and new readers will never find me because I’ll get lost in the giant general market shuffle? Scary stuff…

But even more than that, this is exciting stuff. I love this book. Like, love, love, crazy-love this book. I’m not much into self-promotion, but I would carry copies of this book in a backpack and hand them out to random strangers on the street. I’m so proud of Far From Here, and I’m so humbled by the response it has gotten so far… From rave reviews by editors and freelancers to glowing endorsements from some of my heros in the industry. (I can’t wait to tell you more about those! I’m still pinching myself!)

Anyway, in the coming weeks and months you’ll watch me wear this new label a lot more. It doesn’t mean that I’m not still a Christian fiction author (the four books I have already written have hopefully earned me a place in the CBA), or that I’m not proud of the books that I’ve already written (they’re my babies!). It also doesn’t mean that I’ve abandoned my faith or anything silly like that. This is just another step on my own personal journey, and I’m standing on a new corner for a while now… Hoping that you’ll be willing to join me there.

Much, much more to come… For now, Far From Here is available for pre-order. I’d love it if you’d take a moment to check it out.

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On Every Corner

Tuesday I blogged about feeling cornered, that sick, trapped sensation you get when someone slaps you with a label that makes you feel small. Defined. I am mysterious, enigmatic, unknowable! How dare you tell me what I am… Who I am…

I resist labels, and I do my best to wriggle my way out of corners, but I’m starting to realize that maybe my stubborn opposition to anything that smacks of classification is unnecessarily reactionary.

You want to know something? For a long time I resisted the label “adoptive mom.” I just wanted to be a mom — no special distinction or qualification necessary. Isn’t motherhood complex enough without adding an extra addendum? But the longer I’ve been a mom, the more I’ve embraced the reality that there are a lot of things that make my particular situation unique. I am an adoptive mom. I’m also a mother of boys, a mom of four children I will never hold in this life, and a working mom. Admitting that I am these things (accepting my labels, so to speak) allows me to connect with other moms who find themselves in the same situation. Being an adoptive mom comes with its own special steam trunk of baggage — just like being a single mom, a mom of daughters, or a teenage mom all carry their own unique set of joys and pitfalls. I like finding myself in the company of moms who understand the bewildering mix of joy and frustration that accompanies life as an adoptive mother. And the only way I can single them out is by wearing my own badge proudly: Adoptive Mom.

(Photo Credit)

It struck me recently that whenever I think of a corner, I think of a concave corner — one that folds in and creates a tiny space that cramps my shoulders and makes me feel trapped. But corners can also be convex. And somehow, standing on a corner feels very different from cowering in a corner.

One of my classmates in high school once told me that I was multifaceted. He meant it as an insult, but to this day I take it as a compliment. I am multifaceted. There are a lot of different sides to me, a myriad of aspects to my personality that are varied and sundry, and that may even seem contradictory at times. I stand on a lot of corners, crossroads where the layered facets of my personality overlap, one leading into the next. You might say I’m multi-cornered.

Sometimes I find myself on a corner that leads nowhere. I hope I have the grace to keep walking when that happens. And sometimes the people that keep me company in my little neighborhood make me want to put on a Groucho Marx mask and pretend I don’t belong. I’m sure they feel the same way about me from time to time. But I’m learning to let it go. To embrace the fact that my many corners are vast and ever-changing. And just because I built my soapbox on one particular corner ten years ago (or even ten days ago), doesn’t mean I have to climb that platform again. I’m a different person.

So go ahead and label me. I know where I stand.

(Photo Credit)

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Cornered

Wife. Mother. Author. Friend. Teacher. Optimist. Artist.

To a lesser extent… Chef. Organizer. Gardener. Runner. Risk taker. Philanthropist.

And just a little less… Activist. Adventure-seeker. Traveler.

Have you caught on yet? These are just a few of my labels, the hats that I wear. (Or that I think I wear. Maybe I should have let my husband or my friends write these lists.) And, you know, as much as I resist being labeled, I actually like these distinctions. I like the woman that they strive to define. But I know there are other things that I am. (Or that people think I am.) Less appealing things…

Opportunist. Narcissist. Pacifist. Cynic. Worry-wart. Even (and I hate this one) dumb blonde.

Like the photo? This is my dumb blonde look. See how I’m twirling my hair? That’s what us dumb blondes do when we’re bored or confused. That happens to me a lot — I am, after all, a natural blonde.

All sarcasm aside, I have to admit that there is a sliver of truth in even the things that I passionately resist — I am a dumb blonde. Sometimes. Like this morning. I ran my entire 5k in a shirt that was on backwards and inside out. Everyone I met on the trail got a good look at my tags and the big, yellow logo of my Under Armour shirt. See? A little ditzy sometimes… Though, in my defense, I did get dressed in the dark.

But believe it or not, I’m not blogging today to discuss my hair color or even the many personal labels that apply (or don’t apply) to me — and to you, too. I want to talk about why we hate being labeled so much and start the dialogue about why labeling is sometimes necessary…

In addition to being all (most?) of the things I listed above, I am also claustrophobic. Nobody puts baby in the corner and escapes unscathed. One of the guys in my high school once wrapped both his arms around my shoulders, lifted me against his chest, and took off down the hallway with me. Well, he was big and I couldn’t move, and it didn’t take long for the panic to set in. I asked him nicely to put me down. Then I begged him to put me down. Finally, I did the only thing my frantic mind could thing to do — I wiggled my hands so that I could get a grip on his forearms with my fingers and clamped down with all my might. I made him bleed.

Horrible, isn’t it? He should have let me go, but I shouldn’t have reacted the way that I did. What can I say? We do some pretty crazy things when we feel cornered.

I think labels make us feel cornered. They make us feel like we’ve been backed into a place that we may or may not want to be — but the point isn’t that we’re there, it’s that someone put us there. I resist the label novelist, because I also consider myself a poet, a lyricist, a storyteller. And sometimes I don’t like being called an optimist because I have a pretty wicked cynical streak. Labels limit us. They dump us in categories with people that we may not like or want to be associated with. They come bursting at the seams with all sorts of connotations and baggage. Sometimes they even drive us to be reactionary — to do everything in our power to be the exact opposite of the label we’ve been given. (And sometimes we just do that naturally… Ever met a timid extrovert? You just did — I can be, in turns, wallflower shy and the life of the party.)

How about you? Do labels make you feel cornered? Or do you like knowing who you are and where you stand? I’d love it if you’d take a minute to comment… And then come back on Friday for the rest of the discussion. Labels make me feel cornered, but I’m starting to stake my claim in the landscape I’ve been given. Believe it or not, I’m actually hunkering down, getting to know my neighbors, and embracing the fact that I am indeed an activist author with worry-wart tendencies… And oh, so much besides.

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