Why The Lion King [in which some of the greatness of this story is explained]

The Lion King is one of my all-time favorite stories.

People tend to look at me funny when they discover this. Apparently, it’s sort of weird that it’s not only one of my favorite animated movies but one of my favorite movies period.

I don’t have very many hills I’d die on. But, the greatness of The Lion King is a hill I’d die on. As it turns out, it’s one of those rare things I’ll drive a stake into the ground and yell “FIGHT ME!” over.  Which is an unusual show of rabid hostility from me. But, alas, I am unashamed.

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hint: i am rafiki

So here we are with this post.

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First, let’s dispel some common misconceptions.

Before we get into what The Lion King is all about (aka: why it is so amazing), we need to talk about what it isn’t about. These are just some things that I’ve noticed distract people.

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me to people every time they get confused about what this story is about

It is not about “hakuna matata.” It is not about having no worries or shirking responsibility or having stupid fun with the bros. If this story was about Timon and Pumba, then it might be about hakuna matata. But it’s not about Timon and Pumba.

It is not about how amazing James Earl Jones is as Mufasa. (Though, I mean, come on. He is the best and only Mufasa. #mufasaforever)

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It is also not about how sad Mufasa’s death was…

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but I mean, dang, it was pretty crushing

It is not about all the funny memes that can be created from the “where the light touches” scene (you know of what I speak).

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It is not about the circle of life or the spirits of dead kings being stars. While “The Circle of Life” is majestic song and a brilliant opening scene, this is not a story about the circle of life. The circle of life is a reoccurring symbol.

Now, onto the good stuff.

If the circle of life is a symbol, what does Mufasa mean when he tells Simba to take his place in the circle of life?

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It means, my friends, be who you were born to be. Do what you were designed to do.

It means take the responsibility. Grow up. The time for games is over. The time for childishness is over. (Instead of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King,” it is “King of Pride Rock.)

It means that your potential isn’t about you, and it means that wasted potential harms not only you but also those you are meant to help.

It means get over yourself and your fear because this is so much bigger than just you.

It means that true greatness is not self-seeking. True greatness is taking on great burdens for the sake of others. It means step up. It means embrace the difficulty and the stress and the responsibility because you are the person for the job.

And it means that when you begin to step into your potential, when you put childishness behind you, it will not be easy, but nothing else will be so right.

That is what The Lion King is mainly about.

But there is yet more.

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In the beginning, we watched Rafiki happily and hopefully paint a little lion in his tree. He was happy and hopeful not because baby Simba was already a great king; Rafiki was happy and hopeful because of the great king he believed Simba would one day become—a great king who would lead the Pride Lands into another generation of abounding life.

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In the middle, we watched Rafiki smear his little lion painting in despair for he thought the bright future of the Pride Lands was dead with Mufasa and Simba.

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But. then.

Then, Rafiki learns Simba is still alive. And The Lion King is also about that moment: it is about Rafiki’s incredulous, raucous joy when he discovers that Simba is still alive.

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When hope had been gone for so long, and then suddenly finding that hope is alive and well. There is nothing like that wild rush of wild joy.

It is about how Mufasa looks down on Simba, a shape in the clouds, calling Simba to remember who he is.

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It is about how that rings in my bones as a call to remember who I am—whose child I am, whose slave I am, what gifts and callings have been written in my very cells.

It is about the strangely wonderful gooseflesh that flashes through when the rightful, true king at last takes his place.

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It is about the rain that washes away the death of the night and begins the healing process.

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I love Simba and The Lion King for the other, greater stories they reminds me of.

When I see Simba making that run from the jungle back to the Pride Lands, I also see Leo from the Tales of Goldstone Wood trekking to find Rose Red.

When I watch Simba climb Pride Rock in the rain, I also see Aragorn finally embracing his calling and responsibility as the true king of Gondor, and I see all the hope and healing his return brought to the White City.

But more than that, I see Moses returning to Egypt after all those long years of exile, becoming the great and humble prophet he was knit together to be.

Most of all, I see Jesus. I see Jesus drinking the cup given Him by the Father, drinking it to the dregs. I see Him dying, victorious. I see Him rising, victorious. I see Him returning, victorious. Forever victorious.

I see the dead coming back to life, and the great, final healing He will bring about. I see all the prophets rejoicing—wildly, raucously—for the One, at last, fulfilling all their visions. I see every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth bowing before our long-awaited true King. I see the saints and angels crying out, “All hail King Jesus.

This is the strange and wonderful power of stories.

Through characters that have never really drawn breath, echoes of truth resound. Those echoes ricochet deep in us, moving, encouraging, calling out, galvanizing.

Set in the breath-taking African plains, The Lion King is one of my favorite stories. And now you know why.

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What is one of your favorite stories? What is one of your favorite animated movies? Tell me why!

With love,

Rafiki Rosalie

p.s. – so, yes, feel free to send me The Lion King related gifts. (But if it’s hakuna matata related, I might burn it.)

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My Dear Future, [an open letter]

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My Dear Future,

I do not know what you hold. You are the great unknown. You strike fear into my heart. I lose sleep. I bite my fingernails to nothing.

People ask me questions about you. I hate it when they do because then I must admit that I simply do not know you, my own dearest, daunting Future.

You are the next three days.

You are the next three months.

You are the next three years.

You are the next three decades.

Oh, my dear Future. I see so many painful inevitabilities. I see in you unexpected death, broken relationships, rejections, heartache, tears, confusion, new failings, and goodbyes that will break me.

And what is still more frightening is the knowledge that you, my dear Future, quickly become my Present. In what seems like a single pulse of my heart, tomorrow will become today, and next year will become this year.

I will make goals that I will not meet. I will let relationships dissolve. I will watch people I once knew grow and change from a distance. I will make promises only to break them. I will start days with joy and singing and end them with silence.

But I try to put on a smile when it comes to you, my dear Future. I make my plans, answer the questions that just won’t stop, and pretend I know what this whole thing is about.

I don’t know how to talk about you, my fear-drenched Future. I don’t know how to ask for help, am terrified to show weakness, for it seems that once people realize just how much I don’t know, there will be blood in the water. I fear rumors and raised-eyebrows and being seen for what I really am.

But now I see how I’ve gotten this all so wrong. I see that I’ve been following the wrong stars in my thinking. It is, as it turns out, ridiculously simple (but then I am often ridiculously slow).

Here it is: you, my dear Future, are not about me.

My Savior King is the centerpiece, the end of you, the sum of you, my dear Future.

And the fear I have for you, my dear Future, is treason. The fear I have for you—the kind that changes the way I think and make decisions all on an axis of self—should not belong to you. My Savior King is the only One with a rightful claim to my fear, my attention, my decision-making—all on an axis of Jesus.

In so many ways, you are unknown, my dear Future. Unknown to me. But not to my Savior King. And when I am afraid, I can trust in him, can remember who he is. Because my Savior King is the Most High God, the Lord of hosts, King Jesus.

And you, oh Future, hold only my good and his glory.

One day, someday in you, my dear Future, he will return in his glory, and on that day, he will be known as God and King in all the earth.

That day seems so far off, but it is the most real thing I know of you, my dear Future. And it is that one known, promised day that must define every breath drawn into my lungs.

The goals for my near future—the days leading up to my Savior King’s return—are all at once fuzzy and in sharp focus: love God; love people; worship; make disciples; magnify my Maker.

These are my next three days.

These are my next three months.

These are my next three decades.

These are the rest of my life.

And, no, my dear Future, I don’t know what that will always look like—where or with whom. And, yes, I know I will make many mistakes. But I am by no means significant enough or powerful enough to derail the plans of my Savior King.

And when the goodbyes break me, he will lift my head. And when I fail in new ways and all the old ways too, he will pick me up and remind me that his grace covers me. And when relationships fall apart, he will tell me that love covers all offenses.

And, yes, dear Future, I am still afraid of you, but my Savior King does not condemn me for even this treason.

Instead, every day, bit by bit, he calls me to grow more and more confident in him. Every day he gives me what I need to walk on water until one day I will look at you, my dear Future, with no fear or dread. I will be treasonous no more for I will remember always that the greatness of my Savior King knows no equal.

My dear Future, my hopes and dreams live in you.

So I will build my life—this short existence on this pale blue dot—upon the Cornerstone. And he—not I—will bring to pass things more splendid than I can imagine, treasures of silver and gold that will echo into the eternity I spend with him.

My dear Future, I do not know most of what you hold, but that is okay.

With love,

Rosalie

The Stories We Will Tell [musings from my recurring existential crisis about Christian art]

This post is five years and six tries in the making.

It is not my usual trying-to-be-helpful/5-tips-for-xyz/oh-and-here’s-a-book-and-a-playlist-I-recommend-on-the-subject sort of post. I already tried to write this post in those formats and a few styles as well. It didn’t work.

So this is more journal entry/stream-of-consciousness.

I am a Christian, and I am a storyteller. Welcome to my angsty thought life regarding the marriage of my Christianity and my storytelling.

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This is me, for the last five years, about every story I’ve written:

I’m a Christian. Do I write Christian stories? Or am I a Christian who tells stories?

Is this too preachy? Or is this subject matter too dark?

I’m twenty years old. Am I old enough to write this sort of stuff? Will I ever be “old enough” to write this stuff?

My mom will read this. Will she squirm?

People at my church may read this. Will they judge me?

People I’ve never met may read this. Will this help them?

Should I paint the world and humanity as it is, how it should be, or how it could be?

On one hand this story has blatant themes of true greatness, healing, and hope. But it is steeped in kidnapping, stonings, family dysfunction, betrayal, murder, torture, idolatry, and self-obsession. (False Gods)

Will the Christian community condemn me for this? Or are they willing to see into the dark to see why it’s written like this? Can they see that every layer of darkness and depravity has a role to play in contrasting every layer of light and goodness?

Will the non-Christian community scorn me for this attempt at art? Or will this break down barriers and show Jesus to those who have never known him?

Am I writing to entertain, challenge the comfortable, befriend the lonely, raise questions, answer questions, tell it how it is, tell it how it can be, glorify God, or all the above?

On one hand this story showcases one small step to healing. But it is filled with anger, bitterness, grief, and violent death. (Start With Their Names)

Is my Christianity coming through too obnoxiously in this story? Or does this look no different from what the world has to give?

If I include a God-figure, am I capable of writing it well? If I cannot write it well, how do I portray a world without God? Is it wrong for me to portray a world without God? Is that some sort of betrayal of the truest, most real Person in the universe?

Why does it feel like I’m overthinking this? Why does it feel like I’m not thinking about it enough?

These people who I love and respect think that Christian art in general is not done well. And they think I shouldn’t write Christian stories. These other people who I love and respect think that I shouldn’t go too dark, are concerned when my stories aren’t moral or light enough. Which is right? Are either of them wrong? Is it possible for me to execute overtly Christian art well?

On one hand this is a story of new life, light, love, grace, and family. And in its backdrop sit shame, extramarital sex, abandonment, and disownment. But without the latter, can the former shine so brightly? (Unexpected)

Am I reaching too far with this story? Can even a fraction of this vision in my head be achieved on the page?

Do I have what it takes to tackle all of this? Do I have what it takes to bridge this gap between excellent art and the Christian community? Does it matter at all if I have “what it takes” or not as long as I pursue God’s glory through excellent storytelling?

Should there even be such a thing as specifically Christian art? Should I write stories for other Christians, or should I write stories for non-Christians? Is it possible to do both?

At what point should I just quit caring what people think and just work to tell a good story?

What even defines a good story? Can there be an excellent story that isn’t “good”? Or does excellence denote goodness? And what sort of goodness are we talking about here? Moral goodness, craft excellence, or something else?

Will it really kill me to just write fluffy stories since those don’t tend to step on any toes? Oh, wait, those do step on the toes of the people who don’t appreciate the unique value of a fluffy story. What now?

On one hand, this story is all about perseverance, responsibility, and self-sacrifice. And yet it also includes mild gore and torture while touching on genocide. (That Last Breath)

Will people think differently of me if I write dark stories? Is that a bad thing? Does it really matter what they think of me?

If they will condemn me because of truth of human nature (aka: depravity) in my stories, do I really care what they think?

If they will insult me because of the flaming arrows pointing to Jesus in my stories, do I really care what they think?

Speaking of Jesus, what does he think about all this? What does he call me to do in this?

Can I live with people misunderstanding my intentions, insulting me, or condemning me as far as my storytelling goes if I know I’m writing what I’ve been called to write? Basically, do I really believe Jesus’ opinion is enough to render all the others moot?

There is no good way to finish this post, and so I’m going to drop the bookend here.

These questions (and more) come back again and again with every story that I write. The only thing I really know for sure is that I’m called to pursue excellence in storytelling for the glory of Jesus.

I must learn to tune out the conflicting, raging opinions around me and focus in on Jesus and what magnifies him. It’s not always going to be obvious. It’s not always going to be subtle. But it must always be the motivation and end of every story I write.


Thank you to Caleb Valentine, Janie Valentine, Katie Grace, Nadine Brandes, Tony Reinke, Stephen E. Burnett, Jackie Hill PerryMary Weber, Tosca LeeLindsay Franklin, Steve Laube, and Aimee Meester; though you may not have known it, your friendship, books, teaching, example, discussions, podcasts, and/or blog posts have been helping me think through this issue for quite some time.

Thank you to Daddy for not being freaked out by the wide variety of stories along the Christian storytelling spectrum that I’ve thrown at you.

And thank you, Jesus, for who you are. You are not tame. You are not dark. You are not clean. You are completely holy. You are endlessly creative. You are always good.

Hopefully this question-filled post will help you figure out the kind of stories you will tell.

With love,

Rosalie

P.S. – sorry for being AWOL last week, my friends. My brain hiccuped, and then it was too late to put together a good post for last week. So here we are.

P.P.S. – what about you? What’s the deal with the stories you tell?

7 Tips for Preparing for Church

A long while ago, I wrote a post musing about how I’m usually not ready to be in church.

It is high time that I share the follow-up post (aka: this post).

Disclaimer: Part of what’s taken so long to share this post is that I’m still not ready to be in church most of the time, even though I know “what it takes.” It’s hard to get ready, hard to work past the times when I’m just not feeling it or when my brain is scattered like seeds on the wind. So please know that I don’t often take my own advice.

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For me, preparing for corporate worship has broken down neatly into three primary sections: during the week, Saturday night, and lastly Sunday morning itself.

Let’s get started.

Part One: During the Week

  1. Have daily devotions during the week.

You know how in the spring, you go down to the lake (or the river or the pool or the ocean) for your first swim and the water is chilly at first? When you jump in, it takes you a few minutes to adjust—a few minutes of movement before you’re really enjoying yourself.

It’s not about getting out of the water to warm up before you jump in again. It’s about staying in the water until it’s natural and you get used to it and can even enjoy it. And the jumping in is easier the next time.

Devotions during the week are like staying in the water; they make the next Sunday—the next time you jump in—come more readily and naturally.

  1. When you pray for your pastor and his sermon prep during the week, pray also that you and your church would have ready hearts.

(This could be a no-brainer, but I tend to forget it. So I’m including it.)

We can do all the things we’re “supposed” to be ready for Sunday, but we actually have very little power to do anything. If the Holy Spirit isn’t there cutting and moving and blessing and exhorting no amount of ready or not will make any difference.

He’s the one who does all the heavy-lifting when it comes to being ready, and we have to humbly recognize that. We do the best we can to be ready, and we invite Him to do what we cannot.

Part Two: Saturday Night

  1. Unplug an hour or so before bed.

Unplug from social media. Unplug from the news. Unplug from the movies and TV. Unplug from novels and self-help books. Unplug from YouTube. Unplug from your current project—be it home improvements, a wood-working project, a piece of art, whatever.

We are an increasingly distracted people, yet we are to come undistracted before our holy God.

In his book 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, Tony Reinke says this: “God feels distant because we are distracted. Yet he seeks us; he seeks our undivided attention.”

Unplugging from all these diversions helps sweep away the mental clutter. Sleep should come more easily, and your mind will be clearer come morning.

Replace the distractors with things that help focus your mind and heart on God and cultivate an appetite for him.

  1. Read the text.

Read last week’s sermon text and maybe even review your notes so that you’re oriented to what’s happening, especially if your pastor is in the middle of a series.

If possible, read this week’s sermon text. I’m sure your pastor would be delighted to share it with you if you ask him for it. Just shoot a quick text or email over to him and get a jump-start on the message. This, too, will help shift your mind and heart and get your oriented.

  1. Go to bed a little earlier.

Little kids aren’t the only ones who are crabby when they’re tired. And I’m guessing everyone has fought the awful fight to stay awake in a church service.

Get a bit more sleep by not staying up as late; the more rested you are, the more stable and engaged you will be. You’ll have more patience with your family and roommates, and you’ll also have more mental focus.

Part Three: Sunday Morning.

  1. Wake up 15 minutes earlier than you need to.

Yes, I just told you to get more sleep, and now I’m telling you to get up earlier. But bear with me because it’s just a few minutes, and if used well, they are well worth it.

Use this extra time to have a prayer time and read a Psalm or something. Let the first thing you do set the mood for the rest of the day. And then go shower, eat breakfast, and all that jazz.

  1. Stay unplugged.

Resist the urge to check your email or the news or your social medias. Keep the TV off.

In fact, turn your phone on silent.

Set apart your Sunday mornings and don’t get caught up on everything until after lunch.


Let’s drop a bookend on this post.

Sunday mornings are a battleground. Church is about worshiping the living God with other believers. It’s about getting refreshed and prepped for the week to go out and spread the gospel. We cannot waste our Sunday mornings. We cannot autopilot through church. We cannot passively drift.

Hopefully, this helps you as you try to go into Sunday morning ready for what God will do.

With love,

Rosalie

P.S. – Penprints posting days are officially moved from Mondays to Tuesdays, just so you know. Mondays have worked well for the past five years, but now I’m trying something different. Maybe I’ll tell you all about all the whys in a few months. :D

P.P.S. – my third publicationUnexpected—is out and about in the world!

Realm Makers 2018 Recap [highlights and takeaways]

Ever since I went to Realm Makers in 2015, I’ve wanted to go back, and this was finally the year.

For those of you who don’t know, Realm Makers is a unique conference for Christian writers who love speculative fiction. And speculative fiction is an umbrella term used to encompass science fiction, fantasy, and all their subgenres. Basically—weird and fantastical stories.

So today on Penprints, we’re going to do a quick recap on Realm Makers 2018. (Spoiler alert: I lied; this won’t be quick.)

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Overview

I drove down to St. Louis for the conference Wednesday, and Realm Makers itself ran Thursday through Saturday, and then I drove home. That’s the super quick overview. :)

Favorite Moments

When Katie Grace and Jaye L. Knight showed up at my house Tuesday night so we could all drive down to St. Louis together.

When Katie, Jaye, and I walked into the hotel, and Jeneca Zody pounced on us.

Laying in bed Friday night, listening to Katie’s song for her novel Where Shadows Lie.

Seeing Kara Swanson come up a flight of stairs and hugging her for the first time.

That time we all got cult tattoos (okay, so they were just temporary tattoos to help promote Morgan Busse’s forthcoming release, Mark of the Raven, but they were black raven silhouettes, and they looked like we had all just been initiated into a real intense cult/gang).

Seeing Nadine Brandes for the first time in forever, baby bump and all!

Eating strange St. Louis style pizza with Jeneca, Katie, and Jaye.

Every time Katie and Ashely Townsend would *boop* each other on the nose.

Spending an hour or more in the hotel’s clocktower with Jeneca and Katie, talking about life and stories and this past year and the future.

Grabbing a dirty chai from Starbucks and then running into Gillian Bronte Adams and then chatting with her (!!!!!!!!) for like twenty minutes about our stories.

Hanging out with the other Ninjas (Nadine’s street team) and Mad Hatters (Mary Weber’s street team) over tacos.

Every time Stephanie Warner swept by in all her elegance with a little mischievous wink and smile.

Seeing Savannah Grace for the first time in person (knowing her over the internet had not prepared me for how much she is in person).

Every little random detail that would crop up about Jeneca, each proving that she was one of the most interesting people there (writes dystopian, was Alice in an Alice in Wonderland play and still sometimes quotes it with a British accent, took a train and bus to get to Realm Makers all by her lonesome with all her stuff for the weekend in two little backpacks, makes stunning art in this little notebook in her pack, isn’t afraid of a lot of espresso, had an Etsy shop when she was fifteen—before Etsy was cool—plus she sews, and a whole bunch of other things that kept coming up every time I turned around).

Tosca Lee signing my copy of Havah.

Watching Katie try to wake up in the morning (it was always a process until we got some coffee in her).

When my story, That Last Breath, was read and critiqued live on Thursday night (I gasped so loud when they started reading it; nearly died; my mind was blown).

Drinking in the prose from Kira Thomas’s short story that was read and critiqued live on Thursday night. It was easily the best story, and you’ll find it in the January 2019 issue of Havok.

Nearly every word that came out of Ashley Townsend’s mouth.

Ashley giving Katie a piggy back ride.

Hearing truth from Allen Arnold about God and creativity.

Hearing truth from Tosca Lee about God and creativity.

Four of us gathered around Ashley after the costume dinner, helping her out of all the tiny little braids and metal coils in her hair while she sat on the ground with her ultra-intense Viking eyeliner smudged under her eyes.

Katie, Jeneca, and me sitting down with the Serenity crew at the costume dinner… and then Katie and I simultaneously sniffing the brown liquid in our cups to figure out what it was… because neither of us wanted to taste it until we had a notion of what it was? (It was tea, apparently, and fairly odorless.)

Sitting with Lindsay A. Franklin during our mentor appointment and talking about stories.

Meeting Kayla St. Arbor on the last night, learning what a burnt cookie is (and that I am one), and finding out she’s an INFP Hufflepuff like me.

And there were hundreds of other moments and people that made it so good: Schuyler, Liz, Mary, Heidi, Jason, Josh, JJ, Brittany, Avily, Sierra, Tricia, Kensi, Kira, Carrie-Anne, Tracey, Audrey, Brianna, Lillian, Gretchen, Laura, Bethany, Emily, Tina, Ruthie, Rolena, April, and many more. <3

Takeaways

As with my recap of The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, these takeaways are paraphrased, with the speaker in parentheses at the end.

Novel writing is a thing you learn by writing novels. (Tosca Lee)

creativity audaciousCreativity is meant to be audacious. (Tosca Lee)

We are not made to write stories and then die; we are made to love God and others well (which sometimes includes writing stories and then dying). (Mary Weber)

To write a great book you cannot please everyone. (Tosca Lee)

You need to be aware that you are being judged. But you need not be concerned about the judgements being made. (Tosca Lee)

Perfectionism is where nothing happens. (Tosca Lee)

An artist’s best work comes not from comfort but from the limitations and chaos of life. (Allen Arnold)

God doesn’t create “Christian” things; he creates trueness. (Allen Arnold)

You can’t tell a better story than you’re living. (Allen Arnold)

wildly unbalancedLive a wildly unbalanced life for what matters most. (Allen Arnold)

Free yourself from the lie that there is not enough time. (Allen Arnold)

Self-doubt can be a good thing because it means you’re still growing and learning. (Steve Laube)

The Pitching Appointment Situation

On a slightly different note, my pitching appointments both went very well—better than I had hoped.  I pitched to two agents, and neither of them said my idea (aka: False Gods) was an awful idea! Which is what I was afraid/expecting they would say—either because my presentation was bad or because it isn’t right for the market or because I’ve been deluding myself about False Gods’ potential this whole time. I was bracing myself for “No thank you”, and it didn’t come!

One agent wants a proposal when False Gods is finished (we discussed how I would know when it’s “finished”) because he finds the idea really cool (*cue my mind exploding*). The other agent wants a full manuscript and a couple other things after I’m done with this draft (*mind explodes again*).

Obviously, neither of these are contract offers, but I was able to discuss a few of my confusions about genre and such with both agents. Overall, the pitch appointments were super encouraging and helpful, and I’m so excited to see where Jesus takes this. Maybe he’s planning on getting False Gods out into people’s hands sooner than I had anticipated, or perhaps he’s going to help me work through rejection again. We’ll see. :)

So there’s a snapshot of my Realm Makers 2018 experience.

This was largely people-centric for me, which is highly unusual for me since I’m a little introverted snail, but it was good. So good.

Jesus blessed me in so many ways, but he worked most profoundly in the relationships forged for the first time and the friendships strengthened and deepened.

My heart is so full.

Have you been to a writing conference before? Have you heard of Realm Makers? Will I see you there next year?

With love,

Rosalie <3

p.s. – today happens to be the day when I celebrate twenty years of being out and about on earth. O.o

p.p.s. – the main thing Jesus drove home for me this weekend is probably this: You are not meant to create in isolation. You need your tribe of people, which is in this case, a very niche part of the Church as a whole.