Until Then

Someday when I get to heaven, I’m going to ask God about right decisions and wrong ones. . . . I’m really curious to hear what He says.  Until then, I’m not going to live my life based on fear of doing the wrong thing, making the wrong decision.  I’m not going to be reckless, but I am going to give myself freedom to make mistakes.  I’m going to give myself a free pass to mess up every now and then.

 

~ Ally Vesterfelt, Packing Light

Boobs and Schmucks

An early reader came to me with this question:

“Tricia, I’m a little concerned about two words in the book. Boobs… do you think you could use another word? And schmucks… it’s so derrogatory. Could you say ‘jerks’?”

See, here’s the thing. No.

A different word for boobs? Well, let me visit my thesaurus app on that one. Actually, every single option makes the sentence *more awkward.* Breasts? No. That’s simultaneously way too personal and way too medical. And I’m not going to substitute jugs or girls or milk bags. (I could continue with a litany of options.)

Schmucks. “It’s so derrogatory.” It is. I meant it that way.

I don’t mean to be a smart ass about it. Sorry – I don’t mean to be a smart alec. I’m a real girl, and I use real words.  I remain open to suggestions and critique, but this author may have met her limit on the conservative revisions.

The boobs and schmucks get to stay.

The Night Donald Miller Changed My Life

Pour yourself some coffee, my friend. Or a mimosa. Whatever you need to settle in for one of the best moments of my life.  I’m probably about to plow through every word-count suggestion for blogs. But, when your life changes in one night, you should use as many words as you need.

So, remember how I told you I love the Storyline Conference? If you need a refresher course, click here to read a favorited post from the archives: Donald Miller is a Freaking Genius. Or click here, to read about the time I marched in a protest because I thought it was a parade, all inspired by Storyline.

This weekend was my second rendezvous with Storyline, and I have long awaited this trip. I registered months ago, and I’ve had a paper chain countdown going on. Such has been my anticipation.

Our weekend launched on Friday night with a dinner at a trendy club in Nashville. Donald Miller, the Storyline team, and 500 of his closest friends – with 500 more to arrive the next day. This place was filled with Storyline Groupies, and we were all thankful to have found one another. Storyliners get starry-eyed when you mention words like Inciting Incidents and Climactic Scenes and Redeeming the Negative Turns. We are like a Star Trek Convention, except instead of being compulsive science fiction junkies, we can’t quite get enough of the high of telling better stories with our lives.

Don came by to dismiss our table to the buffet line, and I said, “Could I just walk with you for a few minutes? I know you’re dismissing tables, but… well, I have something I need to tell you.”

He smiled and motioned for me to join him. “Sure, you bet. Talk to me,” said Don Miller, who is every bit author and every bit real person.

I said what I had hoped to say, in the moment I had prayed for, should I have the chance to have an honest-to-goodness conversation with DM. I didn’t want to be lost in a sea of adoring fans waiting for him to sign their arms. I wanted to have a legitimate conversation. Authentic. Real. No authographs necessary.

“Don, in 2012, I attended Storyline in Portland. I was sitting in the third row, and you asked for an example of an inciting incident, something someone could do to propel change in her life. I raised my hand; you called on me. I was a young widow. My husband had just died 15 months before.”

“Yes, yes. I remember you,” he said. I had his full attention.

“I told you that I was a single mom with two small boys, and I needed to inject some happiness into our lives. And you said, ‘Have you thought about writing a book about this?'”

He smiled. “I remember that.”

“And you said, ‘Let’s stay in touch. I want to see where this goes.’ Well, it’s been almost two years, and since I last saw you, I’ve written a book, I have an agent and a publisher, and my book will be released in February.”

Don Miller gives great hugs, and he swept me into one. The thing about telling him your dream has come true? You’re making his dream come true also. He’s the story guy. His story is to help us tell better stories.

“Tricia, that is fantastic. Would you be willing to share that story with everyone here tonight?”

“Absolutely. I would love to.”

(Sidenote: when I shared thie story with my Tuesdays later that night, one of the girls said, “Wait – I need to know what you were wearing.” I gave her the head to toe rundown, right down to the patent leather heels. She approved. “Okay. Go on.”)

After dinner, I joined Don at the front of the room, and he introduced me to the Storyline groupies. He said, “Here at Storyline, we collect stories. We love to hear what people are doing, the stories they are living, and tonight I heard a really great one. Tricia, tell them.”

1393116_10201624009629417_228989609_nHe handed me the mic, and I told them the story: the five-paragraph version of my life in the last three years. I finished, “…so in February of 2014, my book is coming out.”

They applauded and cheered, because we are groupies. (See above.)

And then – brace yourself, because this is H-U-G-E.

Don said, “We think there will be about 1800 people at our San Diego conference in February, and you need to come and be one of our keynote speakers. Are you in? And we’ll launch your book. New York Times and above. Let’s do it.”

The room roared.

I said, “Are you kidding me right now, Donald Miller?”

“I am absolutely not kidding you. In front of 500 people, I’m inviting you to be a keynote speaker in San Diego. This is what they call ‘an Inciting Incident.’ You in?”

And that’s how it happened, where I was standing, and what I was wearing, in the moment that my life changed. Because I’m pretty sure, there is something forever changed. Essentially, I won the writer’s version of American Idol.

There was applause. Photos. Cheering. And I couldn’t stop giggling. I said to Don, “You changed my life tonight. You know that, right?”

With classic, potent Donald Miller eye contact, he said, “Oh, we’re just getting started.”

As guests at the dinner, we were surprised with concert tickets to close out the evening, and the crowd of Storyliners streamed out of the ballroom and into the concert venue.

“Tricia! Are you coming?”

“Thank you so much, you guys, but I’m going to my hotel. I want to call my mom and dad.”

I came to my hotel room, set my purse on a chair, my room key on the desk, kicked off my heels, and I lay on the floor with my face to the carpet. And I was speechless before the God who has orchestrated this story. I have nothing, Jesus. I have nothing to give you. Oh, God. Thank you.

And please, could you tell Robb?

(My Tuesday said, “Wait. On the floor? The hotel floor? Tricia, that’s gross. Please go on, but promise me you won’t do that again. I get the whole falling-prostrate thing. But do it in your bed.”)

So, here’s some news: I belong to the Storyline Team. We’ll be in San Diego in February – with a book to launch.

February 27 – March 1, 2014.
Keynote speakers include Don Miller, Bob Goff, Anne Lamott,

and Tricia Lott Williford.

Strength and 3 Bookstores: Pink Hair and a Jinx

I have a longstanding relationship with bookstores, but this was my first visit to a bookstore from the other side of the publishing market. To introduce myself as a local author, to ask for a partnership in promoting books: this is the ultimate ‘friend request.’

I prayed in the car as I sat in the parking lot.

God, show me where to go, who to talk to. Go before me. Show me what to say and how to do this. You got me into this thing… show me what to do next.

I headed straight to the information desk at the Tattered Cover, as if I just had any old question at all. The woman behind the counter is soft and gray; she wears red glasses on a chain around her neck and she has a streak of pink through her silver hair. Her name is Jinx. And she adds, “But I’m not one.”

Note to self: I might want to be her when I am in my seventies.

“Good morning, my name is Tricia and I’m a local author. I just wanted to stop by and share an advanced copy with you, to see if you might like to carry it on your shelves.”

Jinx was as friendly and interested as if I were a first grader on her front porch selling chocolate bars for my school fundraiser. “Well, look at you! Let’s see what you have here.”

I handed her a copy of And Life Comes Back. She lifted her red glasses to her face and tipped her head back to read through her bifocals. She read the title, and then she lowered her glasses just as quickly and looked straight at me. The look on her face was a blend of recognition, instant friendship, sadness.

“Oh, honey. You lost your husband? My husband just died six weeks ago.” She reached across the counter and placed her hand on mine. She leaned in close. “Tell me, honey… am I going to make it?”

Our eyes mirrored each other. I placed my other hand over top of hers. “You will. You’ll make it. Even when you don’t want to, you’ll make it.”

She told me how she has just returned to work, how that has been the best thing for her. She told me that her husband was 81, and she had taken him to the ER because he was dehydrated. In the sea of tests, they found a blockage in his intestines that turned out to be a rare and agressive cancer, and he never came home again. Jinx just bought new living room furniture, petite and feminine to replace his overstuffed recliner, so she can somehow enter the living room again.

“You’re doing a beautiful job, Jinx. Look at all that strength,” I said, still holding her hands.

I would have applauded her if she had told me a very different journey of progress, one of sleeping all day and missing meals. I would have said, “And look at all that strength.” Because that’s what it is: it is strength to grieve and feel and live and sleep and eat and be.

She began writing down phone numbers for me, people I could call to talk about book orders, signings, and readings. She called to the other woman behind the counter, “Margaret, who handles our orders from Waterbrook?”

“Well, I do!” Margaret joined us at the counter and shook my hand. She wiggled the mouse on the computer and said, “Let’s see what we have here. And Life Comes Back… Yep. I’ve got it. I’ve placed orders for all three bookstores, and we can’t wait to get them in.”

(All three locations of the Tattered Cover, my favorite chain of bookstores in Denver, are already expecting my book and waiting for the order to arrive. Pinch me.)

“Oh, and Tricia, let me ask you this: would you say your book is more along the lines of grief and recovery and self help, or is it more of a Christian book study? The reason I ask is because – I mean, it’s okay if you talk about God in it – but sometimes people buy a book about chemotherapy, and they get home and discover it has a dozen Bible verses for them to look up. And that’s just not the book they thought they were buying. So I need to be careful to put Bible studies in the Christian/Religion section. You know?”

“I do know – I’m so glad you asked. It’s a memoir of grief and hope. It tells a story. God’s all over it, but it’s not a Bible study.”

“Oh, that’s good to know. Okay. Let me just change that here in that computer…” (click, click, click, type, type, type) “and there we go. I’ve changed it in the computer, and we can market it more broadly for you.”

Jinx told me to who I should call to schedule a reading at any of the locations, and then she said, “When you call Charles, tell him you met me. He’ll know how important that is to me. And please, ask him to let me be your hostess on the night when you come here. I would just love that. I mean, anyone will do a wonderful job hosting you, but I just really want to be the one. Can I hug you before you go?”

You can, Jinx. And you’re definitely not one.

God had led me straight to the woman who will host a reading, the buyer who orders books from my publisher, and a widow who is finding the ground beneath her feet. He even clarified and broadened my market as a cherry on top.

He arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.