Construction ahead!

As a journalism teacher and a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several Christian and general market publications, I have a passion for encouraging young Christian journalists to boldly accept their leadership roles as Guardians of the Truth. Thank you for visiting my blog. Please take this opportunity to interact with other Christian journalists, advisers and readers by telling us more about yourself. 

I am in the process of revamping this blog. Your ideas and PRAYERS are welcome!

Starting in August, every week at SERENDIPITEEBLOG.COM readers can look forward to valuable resources to help them both in the classroom and in their personal Christian journeys. While the Internet offers a vast variety of journalism resources, my goal is to include specific resources that target the needs of young Christian writers who desire to share the truth without compromise. Possible topics include the following:

  • Personal testimonies of student journalists and advisers
  • Spotlights on student journalists, journalism staffs and advisers
  • Writing and design tips
  • Story ideas
  • Discussions pertaining to current events and ethics
  • Pointers for getting published in Christian and general markets
  • Links to blogs of writing experts
  • Links to blogs of student journalists and student fiction writers
  • Team-building techniques for student editors and advisers
  • Author interviews
  • Songwriter interviews
  • Plus, contests and FREEBIES!

In addition to my work as a high school teacher and a freelance writer, I have recently completed my first YA novel, The Edge, which will hopefully launch a series.

 Brief synopsis

High school journalist TJ Westbrook, a Memphis transplant and parkour (PK) enthusiast, is obsessed with finding the story that will change his life. He enlists the help of fellow journalist Megan Crosslin. Megan knows a lot about PK too, just not parkour. She’s a preacher’s kid with an obsession of her own, TJ Westbrook. On his journey to journalistic fame, TJ stalks a blues legend and befriends a real-life superhero. But when he and Megan crash an underage drinking party, TJ realizes being a guardian of the truth requires more than a sense of adventure. He secretly records incriminating evidence of the quarterback’s father handing out beer to underage teens, including three seniors who die later that night in an alcohol-related automobile accident. TJ and Megan find themselves standing on the edge of truth. What will they do with the story that can change the lives of everyone at Edgewood?

 It is my hope that SERENDIPITEEBLOG.COM will serve as a launch pad for young Christians and their mentors to meet and to share ideas. I welcome your comments and the links to your blogs. Together we can make a positive impact on our culture.

 Thanks again for visiting,

Teresa “Tee” Lockhart


  • Certified Journalism Instructor by the Journalism Education Association
  • Middle Tennessee Scholastic Journalism Teacher of the Year
  • Tennessee High School Press Association Journalism Teacher of the Year
  • Outstanding Teacher of the Humanities
  • Tennessee Regional Teacher of the Year


  • American Christian Fiction Writers
  • Middle Tennessee Christian Writers
  • Romance Writers of America
  • Tennessee Writers Alliance
  • Christian Educators International
  • Journalism Education Association
  • Tennessee High School Press Association
  • Quill and Scroll

Tips for teen writers

Many of you have offered me great help and encouragement. Maybe I can point you in the right direction too. There was never a better time for teen writers to let loose their creativity. Many of you are already blogging, and some of you are ready to take to your writing to the next level. Here are a few tips to think about as you navigate away from this site.

  • Use social networking to your writing advantage. Rather than just ranting on Twitter, consider following other teens who post links to their blogs. Also, promote your blog. You can learn from one another and maybe share readers.
  • You should also consider following the tweets of literary agents and other writers.
  • Never think you’ve learned all there is know about writing. You’ll find out SOON that you don’t. If you have the time, devote an hour or an evening to exploring online websites about writing.
  • Teen writers can easily form a Facebook critique groups.  Share your ideas. Again learn from each other.

I’ve also listed a few sites that may serve your individual interests.

My High School Journalism

The site is a great help to all student journalists. Its resources include story ideas, games, ethics tips and more than I could possibly list here.

High School Journalism Institute

Check out this link when you are having a tough time coming up with a story idea. Our staff can also collaborate to post ideas online. These are the first topics I spotted in 30 seconds:

  • Follow a freshman through his/her first week of school
  • Required sports physicals and the lack of insurance
  • Places in town where students can find free WiFi
  • Uncover investigation of proper hand washing
  • Spotlight on the Humane Society

Novel Teen

The best way to learn how to improve your craft is to study the craft. Read, read, read. This website includes interviews with authors of Christian fiction.  

Literary Holidays

Okay, so this site doesn’t quite fit in with the other ones, but it’s a great place to go if you have time to wander. You may stumble unto the perfect idea. We just missed the Hemingway Days, but Hobbit Day is September 22, the birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo. What’s the best way to celebrate? By feasting!

Teen Ink

Many of you have already discovered this online publication. (There’s also a print publication.) The site includes teen photography, fiction, poetry, nonfiction and more. If you have ever contributed to Teen Ink, please add a comment and let the readers know about your own experiences. Don’t forget to include a link to your blog and a link to your Teen Ink contribution if possible.

 Publishing Companies for Teen Writers

The site also includes info for teen photographers. Ever heard of Cicada, What If?, Claremont Review or Teen Hydro S. Magazine?  No? Maybe you should check out this link.

This site covers almost every question a beginning writer might have about writing.

If you know of a website that’s not listed here, please add a comment with the link. One of the BEST things I’ve discovered about going to writing workshops is the camaraderie among fellow writers. If you know what you’re doing, step up and be a mentor in the classroom and online.  I’m a newbie in the YA writing world. Often I have felt bewildered, but the more experienced writers have encouraged me to ask questions—and they have been so kind to answer them.

You can also post questions here. If I don’t know the answers, I will find someone who can help us.

Bonnaroo, naked people and writing

Analogies. English teachers love ‘em. High school students butcher ‘em. There’s a lot you can learn from analogies, the good, the bad and the ugly. Maybe you can’t recall the definition of an analogy. Maybe it was just too long ago since you had your last English class, 30 years for some of you, 30 days for others. An analogy is a comparison. Here are a few of the WORST possible analogies as collected by the Washington Post.

  • Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.
  • Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
  • John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
  • The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.
  • The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

(For more check out

I think I shall add to this list of the worst:  Writing is a whole lot like Bonnaroo.

Well, it is for me anyway. You see, with writing—as with Bonnaroo—one MUST be prepared for the adventure before one embarks. I have learned the hard way with both. One MUST be prepared.

Over the last few years I have helped here and there with the Bonnaroo ministry. I spent hours and hours and hours preparing a free publication that might be of service to our visitors, and occasionally I have worked in a service area, handing out items such as cold drinks, toiletries, and food to weary festival attendees. I really like talking to people, and everyone has always been very nice, so my Bonnaroo experiences have always been pleasant. But last year was a different story. Last year I wanted to slip in the festival itself and catch the last few minutes of a band playing on the main stage. Should not have been a problem. I’ve been inside before. But there was one problem. I was not prepared for last year’s inside experience.

For starters we were driving our truck on a road swimming with pedestrians. The traffic flow had to keep moving, had to keep moving. Keep moving. Those are the key words. My husband stressed those words. “When I stop, get out fast. I’ve got to keep moving. ” When we reached the designated area, I did not want to make him mad. I leapt out of the truck and kept moving. It wasn’t until he was out of my sight that I realized I had left my cell phone in the car. I had no means of contacting him. But I ventured forth to find the music.

I made it there with no problem. I saw the last five or ten minutes of the show. But as I left, I realized I had no idea how to get out, so I proceeded to follow the masses and ended up in a place I did not recognize. My sense of direction isn’t what it should be.  The sun had set by now, and I was officially in panic mode. I was stepping over people, dodging people, fearful that I would never see my family again. Then from out of no where I felt something hit me right on the derrière. My first thought was that my husband had brought my child into the den of sin and our son had popped his mom, just being silly. I was mistaken. When I turned around, I stared into the face of a rather scary looking red-headed stranger who simply said, “Hey, lady. Looked like you needed that.”

In the words of my students, I officially freaked out at that point. I ran. Through the people. By the people. Over the people. Behind the people. I covered all the prepositions. It didn’t matter. I kept moving. I was praying like crazy that God would get me back to safety because I was totally lost and turned around. Within seconds of my prayer one of my former newspaper students saw me and recognized my panic look. After I promised him I had not sampled the balloons, brownies or bongs, he lent me his phone and showed me the way out.

Moral of the story: I was not prepared for the adventure. 

This year I opted to spend the night at Bonnaroo, working late in the service area, helping people in need. I was prepared, prayed up and ready to go. I did not get lost. However, my group did have an unforgettable encounter with naked people who approached us for help. I am generally the shyest person in the group. I blush at the mention of the word derrière. My husband is the talker, but oddly he didn’t say a word—he left the conversation all to me. And I made my way through it without giggling, snorting or passing out due to extreme embarrassment.

So how does this fit in with writing? 

Many of you are starting school. Though you may be in denial now, I can promise you one of those crazy teachers will ask you to write something. Prepare. Don’t wing it. Spare yourself the embarrassment. As for you Edge staff members, you will start your writing journey on Tuesday. If there is anything I want you to learn, it is that you must prepare before you write. We talked about researching the topic. I also want you to research the style. I don’t know how many students I have had in the past who have tried to write a sports story or a review or a news story without having studied the craft. Read, read, read. If you don’t know what good writing looks like, how do you to expect to produce it? Go find what you want to write and read it! 

I want to write YA fiction. So guess what I will do this year?  Read, read, read. I’m depending on all of my staff members to give me a heads up on their favorite reads. Don’t let me slack up. Hold me accountable.

As for those of you who have already graduated, you too have an assignment. Perhaps you have always wanted to get a poem or short story published. What are you waiting for? Chop, chop. Prepare. Check out the Writer’s Market. Google the next writer conference. Pursue your dream.

Some of you have the gift of encouragement. Maybe God will use your writing in a special way by prompting you to add an encouraging note in an e-mail, a Facebook message or a text. How will you know what to say? Prepare. Pray and look for God’s divine appointment. He even makes those possible in Cyberland.

Some people call it serendipity. We know what it really is.

It’s not about YOU!

It’s not about you.

Have you ever written something with a message for somebody else and then realized that the message was intended for YOU? That’s what happened when I was writing my story. My main character TJ is determined to find the story that will change his life, and he’s willing to do ANYTHING to get it. He risks everything in pursuit, but he fails. Then when he least expects it, he finds the person he wants to interview, but NOTHING goes as planned. As TJ recovers from his misadventure, he receives some advice from the man he’s been stalking. The guy tells him respectfully, “TJ, it’s not about you.”

So often when we write, we try to insert ourselves into the story, but let me echo these words:  It’s not about you. When I was freelancing for one of several Christian music magazines several years ago, the editor warned us that we, the writers, were not the focus of the story. We were NOT to include “I” in the story. His advice baffled me at times because whenever I would pick up some of the big name mainstream music magazines I would see writing like this:

During our midafternoon nosh, Justin [Bieber] and I were just sitting there on the patio at Genki in Buckhead, nibbling our Tiger Shrimp and Yokohama Lobster, when we spot Usher, who sees us and proceeds to waltz past Mychael Knight and Rapper T.I. to make his way to our table to join us. He didn’t even bother to ask permission before  he reached over to sample both of our appetizers. He just sat down and introduced himself to me.

By the way, I made up all that, so don’t think I’m dissing some other writer. I don’t do that. Yeah, I know adding all those details sets the stage and lets the reader know that Bieber likes seafood fare and hobnobs with the biggest names in the biz, including his record producer, Usher Raymond IV. BUT where does “I” play into all of this? The story has nothing to do with “I.” (And the results are inconclusive on whether Bieber does nor does not like seafood.)

In my story, The EDGE, TJ has no clue what the advice means. If you were to ask TJ what happened to him, this is what he would say: 

So the guy calls me back over after I think I’ve killed him, and he says, ‘Man, you got it all wrong. The story’s not about you.’ So I look at him like he’s crazy, and he finally spells it all out for me and says, ‘Dude, you can’t make the writing about you. You gotta make it about the story. You gotta use your gift for others, not yourself.’

See, TJ has a little problem. He lets his writing talent go to his head. He really gets off on the attention he gets as the result of what he’s written. He’s not focused on the story—he’s focused on himself.

Now here’s some advice to you. Sure it feels great to see your byline. It’s nice to get a paycheck in the mail. It’s cool to Google your name and to see your work in the vast Cyberland.  BUT….

When we believers take on guardianship of the Truth, we must not take our responsibilities lightly. Words hold great power. They can be either blessings or curses. When we are “high” on the adrenaline rush that comes from a big story, we can be dangerous. We can allow our actions to hurt others, to defame others, to discourage others. Sometimes we need to take a step back and make sure we are doing the right thing before we make the decision to go public. Once we step over the edge, we can’t go back.

Consider this scenario. Someday you may be assigned to deliver Truth to people who depend on the message for life or death, possible eternal life or death. The message may not be popular. The message may anger the masses. The message could result in your physical death. What will you do? If you are motivated to write because of the positive attention you will receive, you may decline your greatest assignment of all. Remember the advice TJ receives:  The story is not about you.

I didn’t realize until after I finished writing the story, that the advice TJ received was advice meant for me. God has given me a gift. For some really weird reason, He has allowed me to write decently with relative ease. I received a scholarship as a senior in high school on an essay I scribbled in Spanish class. I won a party for the English department at my school by scribbling a song parody. I even got honorable mention in a song lyric contest sponsored by a Christian band, something I sent in on a whim.

God has been so good to me. I want to take the story—stories—He gives me, and I want to use them to serve others. Yes, it feels good to receive those pats on the back. But if anything good does come of my venture in writing for teens, I don’t want the good feelings to go to my head. I want to serve others.

Every time I read a comment posted by one of my newspaper staff members or former newspaper staff members, every time I get a text message from one of the kids in the youth praise band at my church (that I so awkwardly try to help), I am reminded of my purpose. It’s not about me. It’s about those crazy, quirky kids, the teens I serve. 

I do what I do because of love. What about you?

Mossy oak and parkour

I’m warning you. Don’t do it. Yeah, I know. Little kids do it. Middle schoolers do it. High school students definitely do it, and the majority of college students do it. What is “it” you ask? “It” refers to the Pavlovian response non-writers exhibit when their instructors give them a research assignment. There is no need for you to assume the fetal position. There is no need for you to resort to weeping, wailing, and the gnashing of teeth. 

I would expect such behavior out of graphophics. (Research the word if you don’t know what it means.) But not YOU. You are writers. Bite the bullet. Accept the challenge. Take it like a man, a burly man with hair on his chest. Better yet, take it like Stephenie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson or Alice Sebold. If you want to write, write. But first do your research.

Except for the few times when I was given an opportunity to interview a band on the spur of the moment, I’ve had to do my homework as I prepared for an interview. Note to potential journalists: Some celebrities get frustrated when they have to spout off the same information that is easily found on their websites. I always start there and then ask myself, “What did the publicist fail to mention?” I start there as I make my list of questions. OR if I do find an interesting fact on the website, I will intentionally ask the person to tell me about it so that I can get a fresh quote, one that I won’t have to credit to another publication. Plus, people generally appreciate the fact that you consider them worthy of your time investment.

I don’t consider spending ten minutes Googling the name or topic adequate research. And by all means, don’t stop with your Wikipedia responses. I always take my research as far as it will go. Remember when I told you I tracked down the mother of the drummer of a California ska band so that I could get an interview with him? Trust me. I didn’t find her name on the first try. (I am NOT advocating that you harass or stalk. Please see the previous blogs concerning stalking.)

Now that I’m learning more about fiction, I have realized that researching my story has been both challenging and fun. My main character TJ is a Memphis transplant, so my family and I traveled to Memphis and spent a lot of time on Beale and in the “scary areas” of Memphis to get into his head, to understand WHY he would make some of his decisions. Research has its benefits, you know. I can name a few we picked up in Memphis: ribs, ribs and more ribs.

Sometimes research can even have a positive impact on the writer. TJ is a runner.A five-mile run is nothing to him, but he’s not the organized sports type. He is more of a freerunner, which comes in handy being that he has ticked off the entire football team. TJ actually considers himself a traceur because he practices parkour (PK). As a result of my research, I am now fascinated by freerunners and traceurs, and I hope to include an interview with the freerunner Tcup very soon.

I would like to be a traceuse—that’s the fancy French name for a girl who practices parkour—but there are a few things holding me back.

  • One, parkour enthusiasts are young. (Strike one.)
  • Two, parkour involves endurance. (Strike two.)
  • Three, parkour involves speed. (Strike three.)

I am sorry to say I will never be a traceuse. However, I have made a strong effort to pursue better physical fitness. Perhaps with my pursuit of physical fitness I can also work toward those nonphysical atttributes parkour enthusiasts value: respect toward others, humility, sharing of knowledge and the love of having fun.

I’m really liking that part about having fun. But guess what? Physical fitness is HARD. You have to WORK at it before it become FUN. Remember I am she who lacks endurance, coordination and youth, emphasis on youth. Running around my block once is about all the physical fitness I can endure. I’m exaggerating here. I said running around the block once. I have not made it one full round running once.  Walking, crawling, panting and heaving have also been involved. If I had to major in one of those values parkour enthusiasts value, it would be humility. I have already suffered, through my pursuit of physical fitness, more humiliation than a woman my age should.

I went to Walmart tonight with the intent of purchasing apparel that might encourage my physical fitness, and I found the perfect outfit. Pardon me if I don’t get the color exactly right, but I believe they call it mossy oak. I’ve included a similar picture below.  I like to keep my activities on the DL (yes, I know the phrase is outdated—so am I) so that I keep the humiliation to a minimum. Perhaps as I pursue my physical fitness I will not be noticed.

Let me know what you think, and feel free to share your own thoughts on the added benefits of researching what you write.

The donkey brays after midnight

I believe people are just generally happier when they make time to escape to their favorite worlds to read. For some people, their favorite worlds involve a comfy couch or bed. Other people retreat to different planets, underground cities, magical kingdoms or alternate realities. You fantasy aficionados know who you are.

I have never been a fantasy reader, but as my reading tastes transform, I’m open to any type of book that catches my fancy. But, basically, I like to believe the world I read about really exists. I suppose that’s why in the past I have enjoyed biographies and memoirs. I suppose that’s why I have an insatiable appetite for the works of Rick Bragg. His words drip off the page like molasses. Whether he’s avoiding alligators or setting readers down to meet his family members, he draws us into his world by satisfying our five senses through delectable imagery and emotion. It also helps that he’s a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist. My passion for journalism runs deep within my soul.

When I’m drawn into a story, I want to feel as though the setting, the characters, the conflicts, etc. really do exist. When I was a kid, I read Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, and then I became Teresa the Spy, jotting down my illicit entries in my own composition books. But my all time favorite novel is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. At the young age of 14 Hinton breathed life into her characters, and they became alive in my mind. I became so attached to the book that I refused to return it to the library. I slept with it under my pillow every night. I made the librarian mad. There was a little part of me that agonized over the fact that I would never be able to meet Sodapop or M&M or Ponyboy. I suppose I subconsciously rationalized that if I didn’t return the book then I wouldn’t have to give up my friendship with the Greasers. To tell you the truth, I think the war between the Greasers and the Socs sparked my decision to minor in sociology.

Journalism teacher Sean Kincaid (from my book The Edge) starts each class with a quote of the day. On one occasion he tells his students, “Words are things; and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions think.” The quote foreshadows events that change the lives of TJ and Megan.  Ah, the power of words. Even the utterance of one syllable can initiate a butterfly effect.

As I mentioned, I am morphing. I am transitioning from the nonfiction world into the fiction world, and in the words of one of my characters, I “kinda like it.” I am happy right now to stay in the realistic realm although I do not discount fantasy. I think I’ve read just about everything by Frank Peretti, and even though his works include nonhuman creatures, I believe the entities he writes about really do exist.

I have heard about other strange paranormal, legendary creatures straight from the pages of fantasy. Some people even claim a few of these creatures are real. Could it be that fantasy and reality do occasionally intertwine? I live near a bluff overlooking a river, and there have been documented rumors that Big Foot lives in the proximity of neighborhood. I can’t say that I’ve actually seen Big Foot, but I have heard donkeys braying outside my window after midnight. That is a fact. I have heard them with my own two ears. Could it be that these alleged donkey brays weren’t made by donkeys at all? Could it be…?

I have yet another challenge for you. Ever so often we encounter maniacal entities that try to bring about our demise. What monster do you face in your life right now? Give it a name. Describe it. How does it try to do you in?  Let us morph fantasy with reality and add an allegorical twist.

My fantasy creature is the idgit. It is very similar to a gnat or a midge. It sucks the life force out of its prey through zings, snarky remarks and backhanded compliments. The idgit possesses a brain the size of a gnat but is twice as annoying. Victims of the idgit may not realize at first they have been bitten, but soon their wounds swell and create pain. Idgits feed on the rotten, as do gnats, and they often carry hidden toxins. It’s best to seek help right away if you are attacked by an idgit.  Better yet, potential victims can avoid the idgit through strong repellant such as self confidence, strong prayer and daily Bible reading.

Okay, it’s your turn. What fantasy creatures lurk about your reality?

Leaving Manchester for the good

Well, I’ve decided to pack my bags and to leave Manchester.

I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all of you who have supported me during the three or so weeks that I have been in possession of a complete, revised novel. I especially want to thank the EDGE staff for advising me during the year-long writing process. Without your help I would not have had “straight from the horse’s mouth insider information” concerning what teens do and do not want to read. And thank you, EDGE staff, for helping me get a better handle on what teens would really do if they were faced with the same types of crises that TJ and Megan face. I could not have made it this far without you.

Even though you have been an incredible support system to me, I realize I need more—namely an agent, an editor and a publishing house. Hmmm. I have bribed you a couple of times in the past. Would a bribe work now? How about Aztec Chicken every Friday at El Manantial until for the first person who can bring me the three aforementioned items?  On second thought, let me rethink that offer. I am envisioning an illegal kidnapping plot involving one or more Edgers—all for the sake of Aztec Chicken. I can see said agent being duct-taped and taken away in a little orange VW bus full of crazed writers in dreadlocks and hippie shirts.

But as I was saying, I have decided to leave Manchester to attend the ACFW Conference at the end of summer if all goes well, but I’ll return within a few days. (And, yes, some family members will accompany me to make sure I stay out of trouble.) I hope that while I am there I will learn the process of acquiring the three treasures listed above. All kidding aside, please keep me in your prayers. The YA (young adult) market is very competitive right now, and prayer is a necessity.

I’m really shocked that the YA market is so tough. When I walk into the classroom, I see most of you lugging around a book or two, and I’m not talking about required reading. Of course, I teach writers, and good readers, as we know, make good writers. Maybe that’s why YOU have a book in your hands. Your reading and writing go hand in hand.

I want to know what it is about the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series that lures both young and older readers. What magic do these novels possess? Are teens reading anything else these days? If so, what? Speaking of reading, what are you reading right now? 

I’ll go first, and then it’s your turn.  As you know I just finished, The Heart’s Journey Home by Jen Stephens. Next, on my list is In Between by Jenny B. Jones. After that, I’ll looking forward to a novel by Kaye Dacus. I was also hoping for another Odd Thomas novel by Dean Koontz, but it appears Odd is only appearing in graphic novels these days. Sigh.

It’s your turn now.

Cooler than the flip side of my pillow

All right, class. School is back in session. I have to go to bed at reasonable hour tonight. No staying up until 4 a.m., no sleeping in until noon. So, I’m going to make you do a little work for a change. I’ve got a little assignment in creativity for you. I believe in catering to the individual, so I’ll let you choose from three opportunities to express yourself.

  1.  Imagine you are the star of your own show, sitcom, drama, romantic comedy, action-adventure. You get the picture. Now imagine you are in control of the soundtrack. What music would play in the background of your life?
  2. Not comfortable talking about you? All right then. Many of you are involved in your own writing projects. Tell us a little bit about your characters and the music that fits their lives.
  3. Maybe there is a song that takes you back to a certain time, just as Kenny Chesney sings in “I Go Back.” What song holds a special meaning for you? Tell us why.

While you’re at it, add a link to your blog if you like.  Share your talent!

There is nothing that motivates me more than music. In fact, much of my book was dreamed up on road trips with Kenny as I rode shotgun, listening to either country at the Big 98 WSIX or the Rock 105.9, depending on my mood. I like a song that communicates feeling as well as story. I think Taylor Swift does an amazing job of connecting with her audience. She adds that third dimension of imagery, in addition to visual and auditory. She really makes the listener FEEL the emotion.

Okay, I’ll admit it, there’s a minor character in one of her videos that inspired a minor character in my book. I won’t say which one. But her song “Fearless” could easily serve as a theme song for my female lead character, Megan, although I wouldn’t describe Megan as a country music fan. She’s more of an eclectic music fan, focusing primarily on music with a positive message that reflects her Christian beliefs. TJ, the male lead, is a hip hop fan.  Plus, he likes the blues, thanks to his Memphis roots. What do I know about hip hop? Nothing. If I had to choose a song for TJ, I’d choose “Smile” by Uncle Kracker even though TJ is definitely NOT a country music fan. TJ is just the type of guy who would tell the girl of his dreams that she’s “cooler than the flip side” of his pillow.  Yeah, that’s right. TJ possesses the same quirkiness that serves as the backbeat to this song.

It’s too bad that dreams rarely come true over night. If a movie were made of my book, I serendipitously discovered a song that coincidentally complements the theme of my story. If you get a chance, take a moment to listen to the song, not for the sake of my thoughts, but rather for the chance to hear a truly inspiring song with a great message. (Be sure to click on “The Edge.”)

So, what are you waiting on? Get to work. Chop, chop.

PS—EDGERS, check your Facebook messages.

I was thinking Bob Marley

Okay, so it’s 2 a.m., and I’m still awake. Not tomorrow but the next day, I am expected to show up at my job at a “respectable” hour and resume my “normal” activities, and I suppose the powers that be will expect me to wear clothes. Not that I’m not wearing clothes right now. I do make a habit of wearing clothes. However, I suppose I will have to wear something somewhat professional. I’m not sure wearing shorts, flip flops and a Memphis tee is considered acceptable.

One of the reasons why I have been unable to sleep is because I HAD to finish the book The Heart’s Journey Home by Jen Stephens. If you’re looking for a great read with characters that you will welcome into your heart, then this is the book for you. The plot is well crafted with twists and turns that made me feel both angsty and satisfied.  I won’t give away too many details because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but let me whet your appetite.

Have you ever felt as though your faith has dwindled to almost nothing? Have you ever felt as though you are ABSOLUTELY SURE what God’s plan is for your life, only to discover that the plan you’ve been banking on isn’t God’s plan at all? Jen’s characters suffer these moments of doubt—and trust me, the book is built on a foundation of reality. If you aren’t already going through exactly what these characters are going through, you can probably relate to similar circumstances. What I really like about this book is the way the author gently weaves in Truth that speaks directly to the reader’s spirit. This book spoke to my spirit!

Being a rogue English teacher, I adore playing with words and literary elements. I like themes. I like quotes, and I like Biblical allusions. I have found that certain periods of my life rest on particular themes. The past few weeks I’ve been dealing with courage and stepping out in faith. Someone told me that if you don’t like your life, change it. So that’s what I’ve been doing, trying to overcome some fears and to improve my quality of living. In fact, I have done some pretty bold things in the past three weeks, things I would have never done during any other period of my life. (Trust me, all of these activities have a G rating. G as in God approved.) However, this week I have felt as though the plug has been pulled on all my enthusiasm. I’m not sure why.

I used to be a major American Idol fan. One of my all-time favorite “Idols” is Jason Castro. What can I say? His spirit and personality are so adorable. His dreadlocks are so adorable. And I personally really, really like his singing. During one performance, Jason apparently felt a surge of boldness and chose to sing an unconventional song, “I Shot the Sheriff” by Bob Marley. An indignant Simon Cowell blasted Jason on his choice of song. Speaking in his most pretentious voice, Simon asked Jason, “What were you thinking?”  Jason replied with his signature smile, “I was thinking Bob Marley.”

Good answer. Jason exercised his freedom to sing what he felt moved to sing. That’s how I’ve felt during the past few weeks. I’ve experienced the freedom to be myself. But looking back now at all the so-out-of character G-approved things I’ve done, I can only ask myself, “What were YOU thinking?” Honestly, I really was thinking Bob Marley.  The funny thing is I even have the tee shirt to prove it. On Saturday one of my newspaper students gave me a tie-dyed tee with the words “One Love” on the back.

One of the crazy, out of character things I’ve done recently is to write a book and start a blog and write about the book in the blog, not knowing what—if anything—will ever come about as the result of my efforts. I feel like Peter, who tried walking on the water. We know what happened to him. I can relate. Here’s the conversation I had with myself: “Dude, I think I want to write a book. I can write a book. I have faith. I’m just going to walk right on out there and write that book.” And I did! I went to Starbucks with my trusty laptop and settled into a corner, and with Bob Marley serenading me in the background, I wrote a book. Then I finished a book. And then I realized, “What am I going to do with this book?” I have no publishing house, no editor, no agent. And then, like Peter, I found myself standing out there on the water with no life jacket. Here’s a revelation. I can’t swim!

So I asked myself, “What were you thinking?”  I feel pretty sure that’s what Peter asked himself, but I don’t think his answer was “I was thinking Bob Marley.” But Pete and I share a similar problem in that both of us took our eyes off the source of our faith and ability—Jesus. There was NOTHING Peter could do to make himself stay upright. There’s nothing I can do to make this publishing dream float. This is a God thing. So there.

Have you taken a step of faith lately and are now asking yourself, “What were you thinking?”

I have a couple of suggestions that might help. One, find a copy of The Heart’s Journey Home. Read it. You may find answers woven within the pages. I did. Two, share your thoughts here. You may help others who are going through similar situations and you might reap some much needed prayer.

Close enough for rock ‘n’ roll

 “If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.”  ~ Billy Joel

Many, many years ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a very shy and timid little thing who worked really, really hard at holding back an extremely adventurous spirit.  I was the princess of self discipline. I mastered the art of being nondescript, boring and bland.  It’s easy being unnoticed if you put a little effort into it. (If you’re unnoticed, you’ll never have to experience rejection.) I will admit there were times when my corpus collosum had difficulty mediating the arguments between my practical left brain Miss Logic and my creative right brain Miss Impetuous, but it wasn’t always like that.

There was a time when I was a little kid when I was free to be whatever I wanted to be, a writer, a musician, an artist, a photographer. If it had anything to do with creativity, I was into it. I had an unbelievable passion for music. The one thing I wanted most of all was a guitar, and when I discovered my first cheap acoustic under the tree one Christmas morn, I thought my life was complete. My parents found me a guitar teacher, and I learned the fundamentals of…bluegrass. Nope, it wasn’t the rock music I preferred, but it was music. And even today I enjoy bluegrass.

As I became a teenager, I knew very little about God, and I tried to do everything myself. It didn’t take me long to figure out I wasn’t perfect. That’s bad news for a perfectionist. I became very self conscious, and I avoided taking a risk. I wanted to take band and play drums in junior high, but an acquaintance talked me out of it. Miss Logic chimed in. “Why, do you want to do that? Girls can’t be drummers. Act like a lady.” Miss Logic also told me girls don’t play guitar.

By the time I entered high school, I was a closet guitar player and a great admirer of drummers. Miss Logic kept my passion hidden until my senior year until my friends talked me into trying out for the color guard. How the shyest girl in the senior class ever made the flag corps, I’ll never know. But it was serendipitous event because through band I re-discovered music. I also discovered a group of people in a real band (rock and roll….shh, don’t tell Miss Logic), and they let me tag along. One of these rock and rollers even taught me a little bit on guitar and another was so kind to lend me his sticks, and I was forever hooked even though Miss Logic has tried to hold me back ever since.

But the best thing that ever happened was the encouragement of our band director, who could see through my fear to my love of music. During this time we had perhaps the best drummers in all of the world—I still believe that. And every now and then, I would sneak their sticks and mallets and play some of the easier pieces while they were sneaking away into some sort of trouble, which they were prone to do. (Drummers, you gotta love ‘em.) Eventually, however, our director caught on and encouraged me to play. He must have hog-tied Miss Logic so that Miss Impetuous could experience the joy that music brings.

 What is the point of his left brain-right brain rambling, you might ask?

My point is simple. We all have left brain and right brain traits. Far too often, however, we allow our logic and practicality to lord over our creative instincts, and we miss out on of the most wonderful aspects of our human nature. Our Creator made us in His image. There is a creative part within us, and we shouldn’t let fear keep us from enjoying that gift. Fear is NOT from God.

I will forever be grateful to our band director and to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Drum Section for their encouragement. I have never forgotten that feeling, and it has been my mission as a teacher to encourage all my students to explore their talents, to conquer their fears. The best reward a teacher can experience is  to see a student realize his or her own potential.

Though many years have passed since high school, I still hang on to my love of music—and Miss Impetuous still battles with Miss Logic. But I have decided it’s time I walk boldly into the creative unknown and taste what the Lord has in store. In the last month God has placed wonderful people in my life, encouraging me in my love of music and my love of writing. I have tasted, and I can tell you, yes, the Lord is good. So good I can barely comprehend it.

But I also want to say that the key word here is encouragement. I could take this gift of encouragement and just hold on to it. But that’s not how it’s supposed to be. I have to share what has been given to me. My dreams may not come true, at least in the way I imagine, but I know I will always find joy in encouraging others as they purse their dreams.

How about you?