Every Opportunity 

What opportunities are before you today, this week, this month, this summer? Which will you take advantage of and which will you miss? 

I’ve been thinking a lot about opportunities lately. And here’s what I’ve decided. Opportunities abound. They’re often around every corner. The problem is, we are often lacking the motivation to walk around the corner to meet them. 


This weekend I took action and positioned myself in a place to hear about opportunities to do what I like to do, write. I heard tips, made connections and took notes. Now, what will I do with what I gathered at the Southern Christian Writers Conference? That’s the question. 

One of the themes of this conference which focuses on Christians who are writing or dreaming of doing so, is to consider the impact of our printed words on the people who read them. We were reminded that even if we aren’t writing about Jesus, our words should reflect Him. 


Here are some scriptures that I think reinforce that truth. 

“But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.”‭‭ Luke‬ ‭21:13‬ ‭NLT‬
“Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”  ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.”  Colossians‬ ‭4:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” Galatians‬ ‭6:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The word opportunity may be defined by some as a ‘lucky chance’. I don’t agree. Of course as a Christian, I don’t believe in luck or coincidence. I believe in God-incidences. I believe He is ordering my steps. I believe he orchestrates the details of my life. 

With that in mind, I see clearly what I must do with the writing opportunities that were placed before me at the conference and the opportunities next week that will give me a chance to love, to forgive, to encourage, to grow spiritually. I will seize them, I will embrace them. I will make them my own. 

What about you? When opportunity comes knocking will you answer the door? Will you stand up and walk around that corner? Will you take the chance? Will you accept the challenge? Will you roll up your sleeves and do the work required?

Ten Reasons Why You Should Attend a Writing Conference

Less than four years ago, I attended my first writing conference.  I had no inkling as to what to expect. I was nervous, excited, anxious, and delighted all at the same time. I’ve mentioned before that I felt much like Harry Potter as he first walked into Diagon Alley after discovering he was a wizard.

I was both amazed and overwhelmed. I was surrounded by hundreds of people who had similar dreams and aspirations. I had to choose which workshops to attend and that was difficult because I honestly did not know. In retrospect, I think I thought, at that first conference, I’d meet some fabulous person who would discover me and declare that they recognized my outstanding talents and offer me a contract. That didn’t happen, as a matter of fact, I doubt that it ever has.

Don’t be discouraged however, because although what I expected did not happen, things I didn’t expect DID happen. These unexpected things led to a very different life, a life I’d dreamed of for a long time. I like to call it #writerslife after a popular Twitter hashtag. So, why should you attend a writing conference.?

  1. Whether you have yet to write a single word of the story in your head or have a finished manuscript, there will be workshops that direct you to the next step, whatever that may be in your particular case. Among the very first things I learned was the importance of having a blog as a writer, for instance.
  2. You will network with people.  You will meet writers still learning what it is all about like myself, editors, literary agents, publishers, traditionally published authors, independently published authors, industry legends and probably make a few new friends. They may not “discover you” but you will discover them. They will encourage you, challenge you and inspire you. After all, they’ve been down this same path before.
  3. By taking the time and spending the money to attend, you are declaring, “I am taking my writing and myself seriously.” I once heard that if you want to know what is important to a person, look at their calendar and their bank statement. Find a conference you can afford and start there. I’ve even attended a workshop for free when scholarships were offered.
  4. You will learn so much. Already have a book published? Well, great, but don’t let that stop you from growing, learning, fine tuning, and developing your skill. I have just published my second novel, written a dozen freelance articles, blogged for several years now and I still have so much to learn.
  5. You will discover new venues for your writing. I had never contemplated writing magazine articles, but through a connection made at a conference, it has become one of my most lucrative and consistent writing assignments.
  6. You will discover that there is no one magical way to success. As a matter of fact, you may hear conflicting information and it will be up to you to chew up the meat and toss out the bones. In other words, take in what you can digest and leave the rest to gnaw on later.
  7. You will come to understand that there is no substitute for hard work and determination. You’re going to have to pay your dues, face disappointments, perhaps experience unfair criticism and rejection. Then you get to decide whether you will use those experiences as stepping stones to the next level, or allow them to be stumbling blocks.
  8. You may discover that your journey is worth enjoying on the way to where you’re going. It may become apparent that some of the best things in life can not be rushed. After all, timing IS everything and your day is coming.
  9. How you measure success may be adjusted. This was a huge one for me. I didn’t think I could call myself a real writer until I had been published and paid for my work. I didn’t think I could call myself a successful author until my books were traditionally published and sold in high numbers. I now have a different measure of success. I simply want to know that I’ve made a difference in the lives of those who have read my written words.
  10. Finally, you will find that your focus has changed. Your dream of writing no longer lives in your peripheral vision. Instead, this thing known as word-weaving has taken a prominent place in your life and will resist being boxed up and put away for another day.

 

Release Day! Take 2!

My second book is published and ready to be ordered and read as of December 1, 2016. I had hoped to have it done months ago, but I’ve done the very best I could as a #momofmany. It has NOT been easy. But it has also been a beautiful experience and if I do say so myself, it is a story with merit. 


Tessie and Hank’s story continues in Unplanned Twists and as they face new challenges they once again rely on faith and family to make it through. It is my hope that this book will give you hope. During uncertain times, we need a place where we can withstand the storms of life. That place is hope. 

Hope proclaims that tomorrow is another day and our future is not written in stone and that when we are afraid, we are never alone. Hope says we don’t have to be afraid of the deep things of God. We can dive in because hope floats. 


One of the most terrifying moments of the book is when the family faces a tornado, hence ‘Unplanned Twists’. But, that isn’t the only twist. Tessie also has to confront her fear of answering a calling into a new area of ministry. She is reminded that there are many hurting souls and much opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those we encounter. 


My daughter and I were talking one day about the new book and the cover design. She’s only 15 but also an aspiring writer and a budding talent with her sketches. She drew this for me of what she thought Tessie looked like. I used it as is on the cover of Unplanned Twists. 

She is so proud of her beautiful drawing and I am so proud of my beautiful daughter. The first six years of her life were filled with darkness. She has chosen to embrace the light of love and hope through her own faith. The little sassy Emily in the story is inspired by her. 

This book was dedicated to my beautiful mother and grandmother whom I credit for loving me so extravagantly that it could not help but to flow over into the lives around me. I must also give my editor, Audrey Braxton Pitt; she went far above what would be expected with her insights and skills. She was such an encouragement and particularly enjoys working with #indieauthors .


If by any chance you are local, please consider yourself invited to an Author Expo that I’m helping to organize on December 10, 2016. Not only will this be my official book signing for the new book, I’ll be joined by more than a dozen other Alabama authors who will also be signing and selling their books. 

Chelsea General Store is hosting us in combination with their Christmas Open-house. It’s going to be a great day of music, fun, food and shopping. 


If you aren’t able to join us, you can still get your copy of either of my books at http://www.Amazon.com by typing my name in the search window. 


And please, pretty please, after you’ve read the books, task a moment and post a review on Amazon. That truly makes a difference. It not only encourages me, it influences others who may be considering trying this new author. As I said earlier, I know I’m just a small minnow in the vast ocean of published books, but hey, at least I’m in the pond. 

When is Thanksgiving Day?

Did you know that today is Thanksgiving? No, not here in America. But our northern neighbors are celebrating their national day of thankfulness today.  We will celebrate ours in six weeks with just as much abandon as they do today. 


When I mentioned to my children (whom I homeschool) that Canada was celebrating Thanksgiving today they were astounded. ‘We thought that was just for Americans.’ Never say something like that to a homeschooling momma. There will be consequences. 

That response led to a day of studying how other cultures (yes there are more than Canada and the U.S.A.) celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s really quite interesting. Did you know that during World War II the Americans and Filipinos celebrated Thanksgiving in secret while the Japanese occupied the Philippines?

The common theme for all Thanksgiving days is of course thankfulness. All forms of the celebration began as a way to express thankfulness for the bounty of the harvest. There are some feasts that even pre-date Christianity such as the Saxons who celebrated by giving the first sheath of corn to their fertility gods. When Christianity arrived in Britain, the thankfulness continued. 

As for me and my Christian household, we celebrate with a heart of thankfulness for far more than a good harvest. Our family has a lot to be thankful for and I bet yours does as well. At the top of our list would be that we are a family. You see our family was not formed like most. Our family was formed by determination, extraordinary circumstances, answered prayer, hurting hearts in the process of being healed and then finally forged together in the fiery trials of  battles fought and won. And who are we thankful to for this miracle of family? We are thankful to God, Jehovah, Yahweh, our Heavenly Father, the creator of this universe, the one who sent Jesus to redeem us.


The truth is, every day and every season is a good day to be thankful. Thankfulness is good for the heart and soul of every human being no matter where they live or what they believe. 

Today and every day I will be thankful. Let me tell you a few reasons, just a few, for there are many. 

1. I am thankful that after a dozen years of infertility God answered my prayer and began to fill my heart and empty arms with an amazing number of lives. We fostered for fifteen years, adopted seven of those and continue to have living relationships with many others. Because of this astounding opportunity for love I am thankful. 


2. I am thankful for this season of life where I am being given opportunities to write. It wouldn’t be happening without the support of my family and friends who encourage me and help me in countless ways. I am so happy to see my fiction books in print and especially happy to have the opportunity to write articles about adoption with the hope of informing and inspiring others about this beautiful way to form a family. 


3. I am thankful for my faith. Believing that God is who He is and that I am not on my own in this life, is a great source of strength. Believing that this life is not all there is and the end of this life is only the beginning of eternity, is a great source of comfort. Believing that I am a small part of something much bigger than me, is a great source of inspiration. 

My Magical World

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a local author’s event. There were 27 authors present to display, discuss, sell and sign their books. It was great fun and very encouraging. I met so many lovely people. I bought some books, I traded some books, I gave away some books. I didn’t sell a single book. 

So, what’s the point? Why attend these events when often, not many books are sold? Well, let me tell you why I think it is worth every box packed, table set up, and mile traveled. 

There is great advantage to coming together with like-minded folks that goes way beyond book sales. As the old saying goes ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and that’s true. 

When you step into a writer’s conference or an author event it is much like Harry Potter walking into Diagon Alley for the first time. At first you are in a bit of shock. Then you are filled with delight as you realize there are people just like you! 


You hear them discussing their magic wands, I mean blogs and Twitter. You see them exchanging spells, I mean contacts and business cards. You share your experiences and learn from those who have gone before you. 

I can’t guarantee you will become rich or famous at author events, conferences and book-signings but I can assure you, you’ll leave inspired and encouraged if you’ll just open your eyes and ears. There will be amazing people, common interests, practical help and opportunities to grow. 


I think many writers tend to be just like me, introverted. We’d rather stay at home where we can read and write and create our worlds, weave our words and do what we love. If that’s you, let me urge you to take yourself, your writing and your smile to the next writer’s event you hear about. You won’t regret it. 

This weekend I made new friends and left a better writer than when I arrived. I was also very pleased to take my middle son with me and expose him to this ‘magical world’ that I now claim as my own. He and my girls (15,16,16) will be writing their first books this year as their 11th grade homeschool project. I’m thrilled to take them by the hand and say, “Let me show you the way.”

Magical Words 

Do you recall that magical moment when Harry Potter has just been told he was a wizard and not only that, he was a ‘thumping good one’ and not only that, he wasn’t the only one? There was this whole magical world with its own language and ways of doing things that he belonged to without realizing it. 

There were owls instead of postmen and wands to be chosen or should I say to choose you? There was a different system of money and special forms of transportation. Remember Harry’s (and ours) first trip down Diagon Alley? It was fantastic; it was this unique culture that existed out of view of ‘normal’ folks. 

This was exactly the imagery I used to compare my first encounters with a writer’s conference as I spoke briefly this weekend to the attendees of Mid-Winter Writers Conference. There may not have been any owls delivering the post or wands being waved, I explained, but it was indeed like magic. 

Suddenly, like Harry, I had found myself immersed into an intoxicatingly fantastical world where I struggled to understand the terms they used, found myself feeling overwhelmed a great deal of the time and often questioned whether or not  I really belonged at all. 

There was so much I did not know. I did not know the difference between traditional publishing and vanity publishing and self-publishing and independent publishing. I did not know what my options were. I did not know what choices I had. I did not know so much. But here’s what I did know. 

The time had come to take myself, my dreams, my writing seriously and if I didn’t do it, no one could do out for me. Even so, that first year, those first conferences, those were just first steps. No one discovered me, offered me a contract or asked me to write an article, not at first. But, I kept taking next steps and attending more conferences and connecting with supportive people who had walked this path before me and were willing to extend a helping hand. Soon, the day did come that I was published and now, I have my very first book in print, on Amazon and being read. It is a dream come true. 

The people I have encountered at these conferences have been the true treasures that I discovered there. The very first keynote was delivered by Angela Hunt, a prolific writer, who inspired me. Then I met Melanie Dickerson, author and now a dear friend who assured me I could do it too. I met and chatted with Hallee Bridgeman at length who poured information into my eagerly listening ears about independent publishing. I met Jennifer Rash, editor of the Alabama Baptist, who encouraged me to recognize my voice, my passion and use it. There have been so many more including Harry and Rita Moritz who organize the Mid Winter Writers Conference and David and Joanne Sloan who organize the Southern Chistian Writers Conference held in Tuscaloosa, AL. 

Even this weekend I sat moved to tears by the keynote speaker, Liz Huntley, who is a new successful author and an expert at overcoming obstacles that life throws at you. I was able to meet Jim Reed of Reed Books: The Museum of Fond Memories in Birmingham and be reminded that a writer should hold herself to deadlines and how moments not used writing feel as if they are wasted. 

My life is being influenced; my writing is being impacted; my future is being formed with each encounter. It’s like magic. 

What about you? Are you ready to hear those magical words, ‘You’re a writer and with a little training I bet you’d make a thumping good one.” As Hagrid told Harry. Are you willing to invest in yourself? Are you ready to take yourself seriously and take the next step toward your dream? Are you willing to find your vouce, celebrate your passion, embrace your calling and find your courage? 

Today is leap day. A bonus day by all counts. Why not let this be the day you let your wand choose you and then you in turn choose to wield it to create magical words, words that can impact and change and form and encourage? 

This weekend I invited the attendees to take a leap of faith and dive in to the deep waters of pursuing a dream. Today I’d like to invite you to do the same. Go ahead, the deep waters are refreshing and challenging. It will change your life. and who knows , it may change someone else’s. 

  

The Book Table

I had a book table at the local author’s expo I attended this weekend, the first of many I imagine. I was instructed to bring my own set up. I was a little apprehensive as to what exactly that meant. I carefully collected the things I thought I would need – a tablecloth, stands for displaying my books, bookmarks, business cards that I had picked up the day before, hard candies in a cute dish and a smile. Even so, I was not as prepared as I should have been.

Dozens of times I was asked this question. “So, what is your book about?” And even though I smiled warmly and gave it my best effort, I felt like each time was awkward and each answer lacking. I was poorly representing my creative work that represents me so well. 

I learned a lot of things at this expo and realizing I needed to develop a better answer when a total stranger will ask ‘So, what is your book about?’ was one of them. 

Those of you who know me and might think I always know what to say would have been as surprised as I was when I didn’t. They didn’t know me. I didn’t know them. They certainly had never heard of Tessie (my main character). They hadn’t heard me teach a Bible Study. They weren’t my FB friend or a Twitter Follower. They hadn’t read my blog nor my magazine articles. I had never prayed for them in a moment of distress. They didn’t even know I loved to crochet. 😉 I was fully seated upon the throne of obscurity. 

There were authors everywhere, about a hundred at this expo. Just to my left was a very nice man I enjoyed meeting so much and he was the author of a book that has recently been made into a very successful movie. Not only that, the story happened in the Birmingham area, where the expo was being held. He was not unknown. Well, maybe he was, but his book, the movie, the setting of the story was WELL KNOWN and let me tell you, folks were eager to interact with him, buy his books and have their pictures made with him. I never once heard anyone ask him what his book was about. They already knew. 

I couldn’t help but think of my book-signing last month which was, in my opinion, very successful. The people who came knew me or knew of me. They never asked me what the book was about. Many of them had already read it and were excited to taste ‘Tessie’s cornflake candy’ or ask when the sequel would be out. They were there to celebrate with me because they cared about me. 

But this day, was a different scenario. This day was a day where I needed to introduce my book and myself to total strangers in about a minute. I wish I could tell you that I have had a revelation of what that answer should be. I’m still pondering it as I prepare to attend a writer’s conference this weekend where I will once again have a book table. I hope to do better. 

  

I’d love to hear from other authors if they have any suggestions. Perhaps readers can tell me what you hope to hear about a book when you ask that approach a book table. How can I step down from that throne of obscurity?

Do you want to know that the book is about a family with a heart for foster children and adoption? Do you want to know that the main character relies heavily on her faith when her family is faced with a crisis? Is it important to know that this family is very similar in structure and character to my own real life family? Are you more interested in the fact that it has a preparedness  influence? Does it intrigue you that the family begins to be more self-reliant and Tessie learns to can food and train her goats to pull a wagon? Do you care that I wrote this book to organize my own thoughts when I wondered how we would react if life as we knew it was disrupted? How about the matching chapter devotionals in the back? Or maybe, at the book table, you’d like to hear about me, the author? 

These are the questions that are rattling around in my brain today. And here’s one thing I know. I’m so glad I wrote this book. I’m so glad I’m growing and stretching and learning. I’m so glad that I can have a business card that says ‘Stephanie Rodda, Author’. I am enjoying every moment of this challenging adventure. I am thrilled to have my own, folding book-table (with a carrying handle, mind you). I am thankful to have the opportunity to inspire another woman, another parent, another person who may be saying, “What will will do if life as we know it, crumbles?” Because we all know this, life isn’t neat and tidy, things don’t always turn out like we expect them to. And when our expectations and what we were sure we could count on lies at our feet in crumbles, we have to decide if we are going to find our courage and rely on our faith. That’s exactly what I’m going to try to do, even at the book table.