My Heart In the Marketplace

“What comes up, way down at the bottom, is that my heart is still broken from bringing out Writing Down the Bones.”  I gasp. I clutch at my heart. What is this you say, Natalie Goldberg? Broken hearted from producing Writing Down the Bones?

This is the book I have bought so many times over, and I’ve given these copies to many of my friends who could be writing or should be writing or I just want them to think about writing for my own selfish motive of getting to read their words.

And here, in her book Thunder and Lightning, she begins with a warning: she has never gotten over the heartbreak of writing that beloved book that sits tattered on my cover and sewn into my writing life.

“All I feel is aching. I was so innocent – I didn’t know what it meant to put my heart in the marketplace,” she says.

Well, if ever some words will stop me in my tracks, it is these from my favorite writing mentor as my book will be released in something just over 20 days.

Is my heart about to break? Do I have no idea how innocent I am, and will I only learn of my naivete when I’ve put my heart in the marketplace?

And Life Comes Back is generous in all it gives away. Some of my first critics have said, “Oh, Tricia, your vulnerability. I read with a lump in my throat, so aware of all that you were so generously giving away.” And, “I read thinking, ‘sweet girl, you’ve said so much.'” Indeed, I have said so much.

Metaphorically speaking, my heart is about to be available everywhere books are sold.

My friend Natalie Goldberg (you know how I call my favorite authors by their first name once we’ve become so deeply acquainted? I somehow always call her by her first and last. Natalie Goldberg. Always Natalie Goldberg.) continues on that same page, “And now this? Art leads to suffering? But it was true. I’d seen it again and again. I don’t know any writer who’s happy. But what else is there to do?”

I ask the same question: But what else is there to do? Live silently, quietly, and let nothing come of the truth that I know?

Not write? Ha. As if.

Many people have asked me in the last week or so, “Are you ready, Trish?” “Are you ready for your books to hit the shelves?” “Are you prepared?” “Have you done all the things you can do to get ready for the big release?”

Well, I have no idea, you scary people who think out loud.

I feel like I’m standing at the edge of the water, watching the tide roll in. “A wave is coming,” everyone says. “Are you ready? Get ready! Brace yourself!”

How do you prepare yourself for such a tidal sloshing?

Well, in my summers at the beach and my honeymoons at the ocean, I’ve learned just a little about the waves. The greatest lesson is this: if I resolve to stand still and keep my toes firmly planted in the sand, then first of all, the sand is going to erode beneath the soles of my feet in a creepy-crawly way that feels like something is eating at my foundations. And then, even as I stand where I am and fight the current, I’ll get knocked to the ground, the sand will burn its signature into my knees elbows and left shoulder, and I’ll come up sputtering and coughing salt water.

But. If I go a little deeper and let the water wash over me, if I pick up my feet and roll with the waves, if I keep in mind that this is bigger than me, then I’m in for a great and wild ride for however long the wave will roll. That’s the rush that keeps me coming back for more, wave after wave, day after day, summer after summer.

My first book is released in a matter of days. So, my heart could get broken, sure. Natalie Goldberg’s certainly did.

But here’s what I know: when the clock strikes midnight and the calendar turns to February 18, the day of the grand release, I’ll be the same girl. I’ll pack lunches and take my kids to school, if I’m lucky we will arrive just after the second bell, and I will come back home, pour a hearty amount of cream into my morning coffee, and start writing again.

God will do what he will do, and there’s no controlling the waves around me.

So I might as well kick up my feet and feel the rush.

Somehow I Didn’t Punch Him In the Neck

So, remember when I was all lit about about the book When We Were on Fire?

And I invited all of you to read it and join me for a giant book club discussion over lattes and scones at the world’s biggest Starbucks which might just be in my imagination and an ethereal dream?

I’m still pretty fired up about this memoir.

(No pun intended.)  (Okay, yes it was.)  (It always is.)

Addie Zierman has become one of my favorite authors and contemporary theologians, and (…wait for it…) she invited me to write a guest post on her blog, to her audience, for the people who call her well-written and wise.

Today is the debut: Somehow I Didn’t Punch Him In the Neck.

Please go to Addie’s blog, and give yourself the pleasure of a virtual stroll.  Give her some love.

And order her book.

 

Pillow Talk

I love a cold house. Like, ridiculously so. My bedroom at night is downright cold. (You can blame a certain Robb Williford for this. I had no choice but to adapt my body temperature to his arctic preferences.)

But the furnace stopped working yesterday, and the temp in the house was dropping dangerously close to my age. I’m a tough girl, but this I can’t handle. So we loaded up and came to my parents’ house, which meant three things: 1) Tuck could watch Broncos with his favorite comrade, Grandma, 2) Favorite cereals for everyone, 3) Waking up to my dad’s coffee.

It also meant that Tuck and I would be bunkmates. I came to bed after he had fallen asleep, because I’m an adult like that. I nudged him to move over and make room for me. He looked at me with narrow, sleepy eyes and pillow creases across his cheek. “Um, no, Mommy. I’m going to sleep on this side. Sorry about that.”

I forgive you. And I’ll sleep on the far side.

“Mommy, can I have that fuzzy blanket you brought up?”

“No, because you get to sleep on that side.”

He rolled over to face me, now fully awake. He looked at the book in my hands, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, by Anna Quindlen. (Love. Her.)

“Mommy, what does that say across the top? Number One… New… York… Tim’s… Boat Stealer.”

“Close.  Actually, it says #1 New York Times Bestseller. The New York Times is a newspaper, and they keep track of the books people love most. That means this is a book that America loves.”

He traced the letters. I said, “That’s one of my dreams, Tuck. I would love for one of my books to say that on the cover.”

He held the book out to me, “Well, look! You already have a book that says that!”

“No, I mean I book that I write. I hope someday one of the books I have written will be a New York Times Bestseller.”

“Ohhhhh…” A look of recognition. Aha. So it’s not just about collecting NYTBS, although there is great merit in that.

He opened my book, naturally filled with doodles and notes, circles and scalloped underlines. He said, almost out of the side of his mouth like he was speaking a secret we keep together, “Mommy, I told my teacher about this. I told her that you write in books.”

“Oh, did you?”

“Yes. I told her I think you underline the very best sentences, and probably also any words you don’t know.” The second grade version of ‘interacting with the text.’

I smiled. “Yep. That’s pretty much how it goes, buddy. Do you ever write in books?”

My rule-follower looked at me wide-eyed. “No. I definitely do not.”

I situated my pillow under my head as he found my bookmark, a 3×5 card with one of my favorite quotes scripted in my handwriting. He asked me to read it to him.

“It says, ‘Life is a collection of a million, billion moments, tiny little moments and choices, like a handful of luminous, glowing pearls. It takes so much time and so much work, and those beads and moments are so small, and so much less fabulous and dramatic than the movies,’ and it’s written by Shauna Niequist, one of my favorite authors.”

He rolled onto his back and said, “A million moments.”

I think this is one of them.

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.

Blog Too Much?

“Do you think you blog too much?” An excellent question, posed by one of my mentors and greatest voices in my life.

I have to admit, my first response was monotone and choppy:  Blog Too Much. Does Not Compute.

There are some theories on blogging, on presence on the internet, building your platform, and creating your brand. Some of the gurus are suggesting we all back off a bit. Blog three or four times a week. Don’t flood the inboxes, or you’ll just smell like spam. There are business models of supply and demand, publishing once a week, letting your readers wait and crave and want.

I just don’t think that’s my gig.

I didn’t start blogging because it was a business model. I didn’t aim to build a platform.

I started blogging because I’m a writer and I needed to write. It’s like breathing, for me. It’s part of what I do. When I’m making dinner or stuck in traffic or dancing in my living room or hanging artwork, I don’t stop breathing just because I’m doing something else right now. It’s what I do – nearly involuntarily. Writing is breathing.

I started blogging because I’m a writer, and writers need readers, no matter what they tell you.

And then I met you.

Maybe someone forwarded a post to you with one line, asking you to read with them.
Maybe you found this clothesline of dirty laundry, and you binge-read every post from day one to the present.
Maybe you sign in on Saturday night after work, your date with me, your date with yourself, and you catch up on a week’s worth of stories.
Maybe you drink coffee with me every morning.
Maybe you stepped into a bookstore to step out of the rain, and you found yourself on these shelves.
Maybe you read a sentence and said, maybe for the first time, “Yes. That’s it. What she said. That’s what I wanted to say, what I’m trying to say, what I want my world to know.”
Maybe you joined the trenches when the bottom fell out of my world, and you were one of the invisible community who joined hands to form an unbreakable safety net, that I may never truly hit the ground.

There are people who give less as a strategy to sell more.
There are people who say “Authors write books, not blogs.”
There are people who create their brand and never vary from it.
These people are successful. And I applaud them for their strategy… since mostly, I don’t have a strategy. I’ve just got to do this.

For me, less isn’t more. More is more.
Authors write books and blogs.
My brand is Life Everyday,
Tell It How It Happened,
Say What You Mean,
and Think Out Loud.
Be There and Be Honest.
Read Every Comment and Email;
This is a Dialogue, not a Monologue.
Speak and Listen.
Write and Read.
Love and Be Loved.

You dropped into my life one day, and you didn’t leave. And here we are. Somehow, this ‘brand’ became a Relationship.

I’m in.

Do I blog too much? Probably.
But I’ll be back tomorrow. And the next day.
This is what we do, you and me.