The 31 Day Writing Challenge Begins in 2 days!

Getting ready for the 31 Day Writing Challenge!
Getting ready for the 31 Day Writing Challenge!

I’ve got the T-shirt, thoughts scribbled on brightly colored Post-it notes, and a healthy dose of “31 days? WHAT were you thinking?”

Yep, I’m ready!

In case you’ve missed the excitement, I’ve joined with a group of writers to write for 31 days, so the month of October will be an active one at erinulerich.com!

My topic is Truths That Make Life Beautiful. If you want a sneak peek, my introductory post is up. You can find it under the “Truths That Make Life Beautiful” tab.

Truths That Make Life Beautifulerinulerich.com

Looking forward to this journey with you!

Truth Is Not Always Beautiful

The 31 day writing challenge starts next Thursday!

During the challenge I am writing about truths that can change our lives for the better, if we choose to believe them. Truths that Make Life Beautiful.

Truths That Make Life Beautiful

But this week, I’ve been reminded that not truth is not always beautiful.

And I wish it wasn’t that way.

My daughter and I sat outside, enjoying the fall-ish Mississippi weather. (At 84 degrees, we just know fall has GOT to eventually make its way south) My girl leaned against me and began pouring out the events of her day. I listened as she let out the anger, hurt, and frustration from the day, hot tears streaming down her face.

And my heart hurt for her.

That day she was hit with a truth that is not beautiful at all. The truth that we live in a broken world and rub elbows with broken people all day, every day. Intentionally or unintentionally, we hurt people, and they hurt us.

I wish I could make this world unbroken for her.  I wish I could cover up the ugly and show her only the wonder and beauty this life holds.

In the middle of her fourth grade hurt, I told my daughter these truths,

A. Everyone has something they don’t like about themselves.

B. Some people will make other people feel bad in an attempt to feel better about themselves.

I can’t change these truths so that my children’s lives will be easier. But I can comfort them, and point them to the One who is Truth. The One who holds their heart in His Hands. I can trust that He will use these events over time to shape them into strong, godly men and women.

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I am thankful parenting has a lot of practice time built-in. The skinned knees and the spats with siblings were only the warm up. Now we are moving into real life, real hurt, and I want to give my children the tools they need to live well in this broken world.

Pearls of Wisdom: Surviving a Southern Family Gathering

Ingredients of Southern family gatherings

At any Southern family gathering there will be food. The best food you have ever tasted.

There are also likely to be a healthy supply of fireworks.

There will also be football, which means a game will actually be playing on a TV somewhere in the house or people will spend a good amount of time talking about football, or both.

And there will be talking. Lots of talking.

If you are new to the family, you may get trapped in a corner by a well meaning relative who wants to show you the scar from her recent surgery, or to tell you a random detail about a relative you’ve never met. Just smile, nod, and use your manners. (Yes Ma’m and No Ma’m)  

Where a family gathers, there will be storytelling.

Whether your family sits on chairs scattered around the porch, around a formal dining room table, or on 5 gallon buckets around a bonfire, story swapping is going to happen. It is important to know two important rules of storytelling in the South.

Rule Number 1: Embellishing is allowed, as long as you keep a few of the key details intact. For example: It really was  Bubba’s pond that you caught that fish on, but the size of the fish and the fury of the fight may differ each time you tell it, depending on your audience and beverage you are consuming. If you are drinking anything stronger than sweet tea, the sky’s the limit!

If anyone asks “Did it really happen like that?” it is perfectly acceptable to smile and say “Sure it did,” “Dang straight!”, or a similar variation.  Everyone knows a least one part of your story isn’t accurate; they just don’t know which part. And that is exactly the point.

Rule Number 2: The second rule, often learned through painful trial and error, is Do not interrupt the storyteller or suddenly become overly concerned with the accuracy of the facts. This will ruin the flow of the story and Uncle James will begin his story again from the beginning. Or worse, alter the ending so that it lasts longer. A lot longer.

Meeting the Grandmother Rules

If you are being introduced to a Southern family, this is important! Southern Grandmothers have the ability to size you up and decide if you are worth your weight in salt in one glance. You will know immediately if you have been placed on the scales and found wanting. And it is nearly impossible to reverse this decision unless you bless her with beautiful grandbabies down the road.

  1. Besides your own worth, where you are from is also very important. Therefore, it is vital that you know as much as you can about your family history. It is best if you can trace your heritage back before the Mayflower. A true Southern grandmother will spend no less than 15 minutes trying to connect you with someone she knows. It’s an intense game of 6 degrees of separation, and your acceptance into the family is at stake.
  2. Say Yes Ma’m and No ma’m. If you fail at the first rule, this may save your hide.

Family Dynamics – You may be 6’2, but at family reunions you will still be referred to as knee high to a grasshopper. It’s just the way it is.  And if you’ve ever made a mistake in your life,  that will probably come up at some point.

It is difficult for families to realize that change is possible. We tend to lock people into the way we remember them. But the truth is, drug addicts can become clean, a willful child can grow into a focused, successful adult, and the baby of the family can become a successful entrepreneur.

We do move slower than molasses in the middle of December here in the South, but things don’t have to be frozen in time.

In our own family, for instance, I am known for my lack of direction because of an ill fated bus ride back in 1986.  I got on the bus in South Mississippi and instead of going north toward home I took a bus to New Orleans. That has been a quarter of a century ago, and my mama still makes comments about it.

See? Frozen in time. Even though she had no idea where I was and no way to get in touch with me and she was worried sick, Mama really should let it go. After all, I’ve got  Google Maps now. Which is helpful until they start using ridiculous directions like “East” or “West.”

I would love to hear your family stories, embellished or not. Leave a comment below and we can raise a glass of sweet tea (or whatever is in that container behind Granny’s kitchen door) together in honor of our families!

Y’all have a great day!

 

 

The Writing Life: Toggling Between Worlds

My husband walked in and gave me a strange look.

“Have you been sitting there this whole time?”

It’s not that he has anything against me sitting. Especially in my comfy reading chair surrounded by a stack of books, papers, and a cup of coffee. It’s just unusual for me to stay in one place for very long.

I raised my coffee cup to my lips to give me a few seconds to think of an answer. My coffee was hot when I sat down, but now it was ice-cold.

“It depends on your definition of ‘sitting there’.”  I replied with a smile.

My bottom had been firmly planted in that chair, but I had not just been “sitting there.”

During that time I rescued 3 of my characters who were trapped on the side of a mountain.

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I also researched how to write a sword fighting scene, since one of my characters was about to face off with an enemy, and I’ve never held a sword in my life.

“Sitting there” sounds so passive, so un-creative. I’d been toggling, and toggling is an action verb.

To “toggle” is to switch from one setting to another. For me, and probably any other fiction writer, it is the act of switching from one world to another.

I’ve been toggling for months now as I’ve worked on this story. Many days I feel like I have one foot in reality and the other foot in the world I’ve created. I try to limit my toggling to my writing time, but sometimes problems and solutions toggle between the worlds as well.

The world I’ve created is beautiful. Hopeland is a combination of my favorite places: Mississippi, the Smokey mountains, and Ukraine.  But this beautiful world has a problem. Hopeland is being destroyed and its characters must fight for hope in order to defeat the forces of evil. These characters aren’t strong or powerful, and victory feels impossible.

This started out as an adventure story for my children, but it has grown into so much more.

It is a letter to my younger self about what is really worth pursuing.

It is a guide for my children as they walk through this life.

It is a call for all who read it to fight for hope in spite of circumstances.

It is a fleshing out of my current favorite statement by Dan Allender: “Hope is by far one of the most dangerous commitments we make in life.” and shows that hope is essential to life, and worth every effort to fight for, especially when the outcome seems uncertain.

When I look around at this world, I see the need for hope. I see a generation of children who need to know how to fight for hope, how to have courage to do the right thing at the right time. They need to experience the strength hope gives us to fight the battles in our lives. Through this story, I want to show my children (and other readers) what the fight for hope looks like by describing how a character their age courageously fights. And possibly, when the battle begins for them, they will remember their friends in Hopeland and find the courage to fight for hope in this world.

This will definitely involve many more cold coffee moments as I toggle between worlds in my comfy chair.

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