NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Why do I make Art?

I was skimming through old school assignments today and came across this question I had to answer. Here’s what I wrote five years ago:

Why do I make art? That’s a hard question. I’ve been doing it so long it seems like part of who I am. I was always told I was good at art when I was growing up so I kept doing it. I think the satisfaction of someone seeing my work and approving it was what I sought after. But I don’t think that’s the whole reason. I mean I like people’s good opinion, but I think I also like the shared experience of the artwork. When I make a painting of a sunset, or some landscape, it’s because I see it and I just want to capture it. I don’t ever want to forget what it looked like and felt like, and then when others see it too, it makes me feel like I got to share that experience. I also love art because, I feel like it’s worth the work, like at the end of the project there’s a deep satisfaction and enjoyment of the work. When I finish a big paper for class, I never want to see it again, but when I finish a painting, I want to show it off, to hang it up and let the world see it. I guess I also really admire O’Keeffe and how she took something that no one would notice and made it where you couldn’t ignore or miss it anymore, like the everyday flower. I feel like that’s what I want in my art, for people to be able to see and appreciate what I see. To not just see another sunset, but see the purples, pinks, yellows, the beams of light and vibrancy that make it unique, that might never happen again. I just love seeing the beauty in nature, and I want others to see it too, so I paint, draw, take a picture, or whatever. I don’t know if my art is meaningful, if there is some great question or problem I’m trying to address. I guess it could be as simple as stop and smell the flowers, enjoy life, it is so beautiful and amazing. And maybe this won’t always be the case, I’m sure the problems and changes in life will affect what I make and what I want others to notice, but I’d like to hope that I’ll always be positive and uplifting with my art, because that’s who I want to be and what I want others to get from my art.

I think many of these reasons still are true for me. But a conversation I had the other day reminded me of how much more significant artwork can be when it’s used for God. For the past two years my mother and I have worked on making small watercolors to give away to people at prayer rooms. These pictures could have a scene from nature with a verse, or some object or person represented. But the whole point of them was to remind people of truth, not just with words but with images. It’s been amazing to see how God has used these little pictures to encourage people, remind them of His love and provision and speak truth.

So I think the reason I make art has grown, to not just make people notice what they’ve been missing in nature, but to recognize the God who made nature, us, and everything. I hope my artwork continues to improve and glorify the God who enabled me to make it in the first place.

And since I’ve talked about it so much, I thought I’d share a few pieces of artwork.

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A Glimpse of Heaven

You may think this post is going to be about the solar eclipse. I really did enjoy getting to see the moon blocking part of the sun (I didn’t see a full eclipse). But this post is about something else.

The past few days have been a crazy whirlwind of activity. I am not going to school this year, but enough of my life revolves around the school system, that it can’t help but get a little crazy at this time of year. One of my favorite things about the new school year is that the church I attend moves up the students to their new grade on the Sunday before school starts. So I got to have fun meeting, laughing, and playing games with our new group of 6th graders.

But what was even better was the surprise appearance of so many old friends on the same Sunday. One of my former students who is now in high school, came back to visit from New York. I haven’t seen her in a year and it was so good to just see her face and hear her laugh. I also got to see a family that has moved to a different church and just adopted 3 kids. We got to celebrate with them and give them hugs. And then my brother and sister-in-law came with their friends too. It was just so cool to see all of these relationships, old and new converging on our time of worshiping Jesus. It felt like I was getting a small taste of what it will be like in heaven when we get to see the generations who’ve gone before us and celebrate together.

And then the next day I got to hang out with my family and watch the solar eclipse, with the right equipment, of course. My aunt from our of town, even came to stay with us.

With so much togetherness, it really made me thankful for all the people God has put in my life and that even though we may live miles apart, or don’t see each other in years, we are still connected through Christ. And one day we will all worship Him together. So anyway, I hope this little post reminds you to be thankful for the relationships God has given you.

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Author Visit

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Well I got to visit another lovely school this week. I drove down to San Marcos on Tuesday afternoon and walked into De Zavala Elementary to speak with the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders about writing. A couple of 2nd graders listened in during the first presentation too. It was so cool to see their enthusiasm about writing a book. Several of them asked me about how they can get involved with NaNoWriMo too. I hope that one day I get to hear about some young authors who got their start at De Zavala. One kid also asked me if my books were in Spanish. I had never thought about translating my books before. But that’s actually a really good idea, especially for where I live. So I may have to look into that too.

I am also excited to try a new way of selling my books. At every other school I’ve gone to, I’ve offered my books at a discount if someone preorders. Then I bring the books to the school with me and pass them out after the presentation. But just like any adult, kids usually don’t want a book until after they’ve heard all about it and meeting the author helps a lot too. So the librarian at De Zavala  suggested taking orders after the presentation and then letting me know how many books she needs in a week or two. I’m hopeful that this will be a great way to promote my book and make it available for even more kids.

However, in some cases I may have to stick with the preorders only, especially for schools that are hours away from where I live. But for the schools closer, it might be a great way to make it easier for kids to get the books.

So anyway, I had a lot of fun with this school visit and I hope the next one is just as fun.

If you happen to want copies of the Finding Home Series, check them out by clicking the pictures of the book on the right. The links will take you to Amazon where you can read some sections of the book and have it shipped directly to your home. It could make a good Christmas present for a young reader.

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Word Wrangler 2016

Sorry I didn’t post last week, I just got too busy with life to even think about a blog post. So now that I have some time, I thought I’d write about how my 2nd Word Wrangler Festival went. This year I went to a different school: Immanuel Lutheran School. The school has kids from Kinder through High School I believe. So instead of speaking to the whole school, I was with smaller groups of kids. I had a series of 3 talks. The first was with some delightful 4th graders who had great questions and a lot of energy. We ended up eating lunch with them in the cafeteria after the presentation, and I got to answer more fun questions, such as what’s your favorite color. I discovered that I not only shared the last name of their teacher, but also her favorite color. It’s yellow by the way. So that was fun!

Then after lunch, I met with 2 more groups. The first was 5th and 6th graders. These kids would probably enjoy my book the most and a lot of them were engaged, had questions, and were excited about reading and writing. And finally I got to talk with the 7th and 8th graders. You can really tell a difference with the ages as kids get closer to high school. They tend to be quieter and not as enthusiastic, which is fine. I tried to adjust my talk to engage each group, and I think they all had fun and learned something.

I also had the great pleasure of sharing the time with the kids with another author, or as he liked to refer to himself, a poet. Wayne Edwards has been writing comedic poetry for several years and he reads it to kids often. It was cool to see how someone else engages with kids and gets them to laugh. I enjoyed hearing the humorous poems as much as the kids and I think it was cool for the children to learn about the different types of writing. Because Mr. Edwards read a lot of his poetry to the kids, and the principal asked if I would read some of my work, I ended up adding to my presentation and reading the first page of my first book. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so a lot of the kids were interested after I read it.

Here’s what I read:

The tension in the room was thick. Ben looked steadily at his father. “I have to ask you a question” he said determinedly.
“Alright” his father replied.
“Who am I?” Ben asked with emphasis.
“What? You know who you are. You’re Ben, my son,” Thomas said with a small chuckle.
“No I’m not,” Ben insisted. “I don’t look like anyone else in this family. If I’m your son, then why am I the only kid with blond hair?”
“Is that what this is about? Ben just because you look different doesn’t mean you’re not my son. Things like this happen sometimes; it’s one of life’s mysteries.”
Ben wasn’t convinced. “Well how come me and Joshua are the same age but have different birthdays? That isn’t a mystery of life, it’s impossible!” Ben crossed his arms and waited for an explanation.

I’m so glad there were people giving me suggestions and advice as I’ve visited more schools and book fairs. So, my day at the school was fun, but a little different than I expected. Last year I had tried to get the kids to preorder the book, so I could give it to them at the school. This made for some cool conversations as some of the kids had started reading the book when they came to visit the Public Library the next day and could tell me what they liked so far. But this year a missing email meant that the kids didn’t know they could preorder the book. So instead I printed the flyer at the school when I got there and my mom handed it out to the kids after my talk. I wasn’t sure if any of the kids would actually buy the book, but I thought it was better than nothing and I told them they could still get the discounted price if they brought the sheet to the library the next day.

K-5th was scheduled to come to the Library, so the next day I looked forward to seeing some of the kids again. The first several hours of the book fair were a little discouraging. Most of the kids visiting walked through but didn’t buy anything, and some sounded interested but didn’t have money or wanted a different book that someone else had written. I took an early lunch and while I was eating, my friend Mrs. Morris came and asked me to sign 2 books for a kid and told me another kid had also bought both books. I was so excited!

And when I got back to my table, one girl who had bought the first book last year came to my table and got the sequel! I’m so glad at least one kid wanted to read the next one. Then as kids from Immanuel started coming through I was overwhelmed with how many wanted to buy the books. It was so encouraging and I decided it might have been a better idea to have the flyer than the preorder, because then kids had met me, were excited, and immediately had a chance to buy the book. I got to see several 4th, 5th and even a few 6th graders who had to come with parents. Then at the very end of the day while I was packing up, one last lady stopped by to get the books for her granddaughter who was in 8th grade. I sold even more books than last year, probably because several kids wanted both books. It was such a great experience and I’m so thankful to the people who organize this book festival every year and for Mr. Shaefer for having me come to his school.

Here’s what he had to say about the experience:

“Lydia Hill can help inspire young authors to follow their dreams. She shares her story of assembling thoughts for adventures in an understanding, easy to follow presentation. Her pleasant demeanor and Christian conscience makes her a delight to invite for any age student to be filled with incentive to write.” – Dan Schaefer, principal, Immanuel Lutheran School, Giddings, TX

And here’s the awesome Thank you Card I got from the students:

I’m hoping to go to even more book fairs and visit more schools in the future.

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A Poem for Graduates

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Recently I’ve been made aware that I have now been out of college for as long as I was in it. It’s made me a bit sentimental. I really miss those days of classes, papers, and being busy but never bored. I had so many friends in college and many of them I haven’t seen in years. So now that graduation season is coming around again, I thought I’d share a poem I wrote from my senior year. Enjoy!

Graduation

When the time comes to leave and fly,
will I be happy when I finally say goodbye?
I won’t have tests, stress, or papers to write,
and my schedule will finally have a free night.

I know this is supposed to be a happy time,
but when I finally hear the bell chime,
and I walk the stage and get my recognition,
will I really be done with my education?

The diploma will claim that I’ve done my share,
I’ve gained skills and knowledge, my mind is aware.
But what comes after college is a big mystery,
and whether I like it or not, school will be history.

It’s already May, and soon will come the day
when I’ll leave to discover my own way.

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A Busy Author

So, I’m looking back over the past couple weeks and wondering where has the time gone? I think with Mother’s Day, and two birthdays in my family all rolled into one week, I just never got to post. So I apologize for the wait. I toyed with doing a few posts with poems in honor of my family. But I’ve decided to do something else. I still might do the poems some time soon, just not today.

Today I had my second Visiting Author presentation at an Elementary School. The kids were great and asked a lot of good questions and listened very well. At this school I was given about 45 minutes to speak to the kids, so I ended each session with reading a section from my book.

So I’ve decided that in honor of the kids I talked to today, I would like to share that same section with you. I hope you enjoy it, and check out “Finding Home: The Orphan’s Journey.”

Here’s a link to it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Home-The-Orphans-Journey/dp/1490556427/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400540643&sr=8-1&keywords=finding+home+the+orphans+journey

Enjoy!

Cover

“This one’s still alive” an unfamiliar voice said.

Ben opened his eyes only to squeeze them shut again to keep from being blinded by the sun’s piercing rays. “Ow” he moaned as he turned his head to the side and it began throbbing.

Ben tried to relax and the headache died down. He opened his eyes again, and blinked hard, trying to focus. All he could see were pebbles and grass blades with a few little ants crawling around. Ben turned his head back to facing forward and tried to sit up but a hand pushed him back down.

“Take it easy now” the voice said.

Ben blinked and tried to focus on the man in front of him. He saw the bright metal of the man’s helmet reflecting the sun and the scratched and faded paint of a guard emblem on the breastplate.

The man gingerly touched Ben’s head where the throbbing was coming from.

Ben winced.

“You’ve got a nasty bump there, but there’s no blood. I think you’ll be alright.”

Ben tried to sit up again and the man helped him slowly get to his feet. Ben looked around the gorge. He noticed several horses and other guards walking toward the bend in the road but he didn’t see the cart, or any of his family. He focused back at the guard “Where is everyone? Where’s my family?”

The man’s young face looked pained. “Now don’t work yourself up, there was nothing we could do….”

Ben’s heart started racing, he walked unsteadily toward the bend in the road where the barricade had been. Then he gasped, all his family was lying in a heap next to a hole that two guards were digging. Ben screamed and tried to run.

The guard caught him and held him tight. “Calm down, it’s alright.”

Ben struggled with the guard and started crying. “No, let me go! Father, father….” He pushed and twisted and screamed but the guard wouldn’t let go. The strong arms held him and turned him away from the scene. Tears stung in his eyes and he suddenly felt very weak. His head throbbed again and spots started to dance in front of his face. Ben fought for breath through the sobs. This can’t be real, this can’t be happening. The darkness closed in again.

* * * * *

Ben felt something cool and wet on his forehead. He opened his eyes and saw the same guard leaning over him.

“Feel better?” he asked.

Ben nodded, sat up and pulled the wet cloth from his head. “So they’re all…?”

The man nodded. “I’m afraid so.”

Ben’s eyes fell to the ground.

“Do you want to say goodbye?”

Ben nodded. He walked to where the soldiers had dug the grave and piled rocks on top. He stared at the white stones and tears started to fill his eyes. You were the best family anyone could ask for. Thanks for everything….

The guard stepped up behind him. “You ready?”

Ben didn’t respond. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the grave.

“Here, I think this belongs to you.” The man pushed a sword into Ben’s hand.

Ben looked down at the beautifully ornamented sword that had belonged to his father. He nodded and tried to hold back the tears.

“Come on, it’s time.” The guard turned Ben away from the grave and led him to a heavyset dappled gray mare. He easily lifted Ben onto the horse and climbed up to sit behind him.

As the guard steered the horse to follow the other soldiers out of the valley, Ben looked back once more at the rocky piles that covered his family. One last tear streamed down his dirt strewn face. Slowly, he turned his head to face the line of soldiers leading the way through the gorge. Ben felt numb as he silently watched the horses move rhythmically and listened to the guard’s small talk. It was like he was living in a dream world; aware of what was happening but not able to interact with it.

As the day wore on, the tall cliffs melted into gently sloping hills. The fading sunlight danced over the landscape, lighting the bright green grass atop the hills’ crests and leaving deep shadows in the valleys.

* * * * *

The band of soldiers reached a small town by nightfall and decided to stay at an inn. They ate heartily as the innkeeper brought them tray after tray of sweet-smelling food.

Ben sat by the fire, refusing to eat. He stared into the flames, listening absently to pieces of the guards’ conversation. There were lots of comments praising the food, and a few questions about what was to be done with ‘the orphan’ but Ben found his thoughts kept drifting back to his family. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on the heat from the fire instead.

“You have to eat something,” a voice broke into his concentration. Ben looked up at the same guard that he had ridden with; the man was holding a small loaf of bread. Ben stared at him for a few seconds then turned back to the fire.

“I’ll just leave it here, in case you change your mind.” The guard set the loaf on the bench next to where Ben was sitting and turned to leave.

Ben studied the loaf’s browned crust. The tantalizing smell of fresh bread wafted into his nostrils. He wanted to eat it, but every time he thought of his family, his stomach formed a tight knot.

Finally Ben stood up and left the dining area, hoping that getting away from the enticingly sweet smells would make the tightness in his stomach less noticeable. He found the room the guards had paid for and curled up in the corner. He tried to sleep, but couldn’t. Even when the rest of the guards had come in and found places for themselves he couldn’t sleep. He just sat in the corner and waited for the dawn.

* * * * *

When morning did finally come, the soldiers all ate and prepared to continue their journey. Ben didn’t know where they were going, but it seemed obvious that he wasn’t going to be accompanying them.

The man that had been taking care of him came over to say goodbye. He pressed a gold coin into Ben’s hand. “Go on home now.” He smiled at Ben and walked back to his horse.

Ben frowned as he watched the man mount his horse and follow the other soldiers out of town. What home? He stood in the inn’s doorway and silently waited until the riders disappeared from view.

The innkeeper also stood silently on the inn’s porch, but he was staring at Ben, not the riders. A deep scowl crawled over his face as he approached Ben. He poked a fat finger into Ben’s stomach. “If you want to stay, you’ve got to pay! I’ll have no leeches in my inn.”

Ben felt a rush of anger overwhelm him. He threw the gold coin at the innkeeper’s feet and ran. He sprinted past people, past shops, past houses and animals. A few people yelled at him to slow down or watch where he was going, but he paid no attention to their words. The tears were streaming again. He ran and ran, barely seeing where he was going as his legs pumped and his lungs heaved. He tore out of the village and didn’t stop, couldn’t stop. The need to get away was overwhelming and forced him to keep going. Faster and faster he ran as his heart pounded and legs began to shake.

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Visiting Author

I feel like I’m growing up. Like Pinocchio saying “I’m a real boy now!” I’m an author who feels like shouting “I’m a real author now!”

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinocchio

I suppose being an author could be loosely defined as writing something and actually finishing it, or maybe it’s finally allowing other people to read your work. Some people may define it as getting a publishing house to distribute your written creations to the masses. But what makes me feel like an author? Or at least on this occasion?

It was going to a middle school and telling them about the novel I had self-published: Finding Home: The Orphan’s Journey. There’s nothing like stepping into an environment with all those young voices asking what it’s like to write, how you do it, and what your favorite parts are. Suddenly calling myself an author seems like what I should be saying. If that’s what these students see me as, then I somehow feel its more true. It’s not just something I’m saying about myself, now it’s a title that others give me as well.

I had a lot of fun telling my story to the 6th-8th graders, seeing their reactions, answering their questions and encouraging them to give their dreams a chance. One girl even came up to me and stated that she had written a book too, and thought maybe she could self-publish it like me.

It was a surreal experience that I thoroughly enjoyed, though my feet did hurt by the end, and my throat was a bit dry. But all in all I had a marvelous time, and I’m looking forward to the next school I get to visit.

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How do you get sucked into a book?

Sorry I haven’t blogged in awhile. It’s been a crazy week. But one reason I wasn’t writing, was because I was reading.

I’ve always thought that to be a good writer, I should learn from the other writers out there. Plus I’ve been trying to read this one book for months now. In case you were wondering it’s Jane Austen’s Emma. I’ve read some of her other books and enjoyed them. Then one day, some of my friends wanted to start a book club and read together. We decided on Emma and got several chapters in before life caught up with us. Now I’m not sure if I stopped reading because it felt more like an assignment than a pleasure… or maybe because I was trying to wait for the other book club members to catch up… but well I stopped. Normally, I’m not the kind of person to start a book and not finish it. I kept meaning to read and would get through a chapter or two every week, but that was it.

Then yesterday it happened… I was sucked in. Not every book does this to me, and I’m not sure if I can blame the author, sometimes it just depends on how much time I’m willing to give a book. But yesterday I was trying to take it easy after a busy week and screens weren’t very restful so I picked up Emma and started reading. Throughout the day I kept going back to the book, reading one more chapter, then one more until I realized I was sucked into the story. I had to know what would happen next. I meant to go to bed early but I found that the book was addicting and it was almost midnight before I could finally put it away for the night. Even now, as I’m writing this blog post, I’m itching to get back to the book and see how it all ends.

After thinking about this, I’m wondering if the way books are used in school could be improved. I guess I’m saying that books aren’t meant to be read one chapter at a time with deep meaningful discussion between each piece of the plot. I know people read at different paces, but ultimately, the books you love, are the ones you can’t put down, even if you’ve read them before. I would like to think every book has this capability, at least to someone out there who enjoys that type of book. I just wish there was some way to let books be enjoyable and also let kids learn from other people’s perspectives. Classroom settings just don’t seem to work…

I remember all the classics I had to read in high school, and… well I didn’t enjoy them. Maybe I just didn’t understand, maybe I was too young, maybe because it was an assignment, the book lost it’s appeal. But I don’t think I was the only one to feel this way. If there’s anyone out there that has an idea of how to change this, please let me know. I’d love to hear your opinion.

But for now, it’s back to reading…

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