448 Days

It will surprise exactly two of you that my spotty blogging this summer was mostly–90%, let’s say–due to my own lack of discipline and anything resembling a steady routine. I thought a lot about blogging, and I read some other blogs, and I came up with funny blog post titles in my head, but when it came right down to it? I stayed quiet.

90% my own fault–but 10% something else.

The “10% something else” was split into two parts:

1) I spent the majority of spring and early summer finishing a MAJOR round of revisions for my editors and had very little time to work on anything else. This edit was so large that when Agent Emma read through the new version of the manuscript, she described what I’d done as “turning the story inside-out.” In the end, I added about 20,000 words and made the novel roughly 500% better. Ultimately, I was SO glad to have done that edit because it needed to happen and it was totally worth it in the end. But wow, was it hard.

And:

2) The editors I began with at Spencer Hill are not the ones I’ll end with. Long story short, there were some extenuating circumstances in June/July that required PULL to be transferred to a new editor, and for a while there, I was editor-less. And I wasn’t sure what to say or do because I still didn’t have a release date and I wasn’t really sure where we were in the process, so I just kind of sat.

And by “sat” I mean I played with my kids and edited other people’s manuscripts and did laundry.

BUT.

The GREAT news is that I have a new editor, the fabulous Britta Gigliotti…

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Hi, Britta!

And I’m listed on the Spencer Hill website as one of their authors (don’t have time to follow that link? That’s okay, I screenshot-ed it for you)…

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And, AND, I HAVE A REAL ACTUAL RELEASE DATE!

PULL by Anne Riley will release December 8, 2015!

Note: That is NOT this coming December. If you’re like me, you don’t quite know what year it is half the time, so take this as a gentle reminder that we are currently in the year 2014.

NEXT December.

448 days from now, if you’d like to go ahead and make a paper chain.

So from what I understand, there’s another edit letter coming my way from Editor Britta, and then after I finish those edits, I assume we’ll wash-rinse-repeat as needed until I eventually shine this baby up right, and then I’ll get a publicist and a cover and the book will go up on Goodreads and then we’ll start sending out advance copies and then PEOPLE WILL READ IT, and then I believe there is a good chance the book could actually be stocked in stores, in which case MORE PEOPLE WILL READ IT.

*breathes into paper bag*

Just kidding. Y’all know I don’t scare that easy.

Happy Tuesday, all, and thanks for sticking with me through this crazy publishing rodeo!

Beauty From Brokenness

If you follow me anywhere on the internet, you’ve probably noticed me posting about several organizations and causes that are near to my heart. Since social media can sometimes feel a little cluttered, I wanted to collect all these special things in one place–ye olde blog–so that you, my Grasshoppers, will be able to see them more clearly.

But first, a question: Have you ever been sold for sex?

That’s not rhetorical. Many of us will say no, but some will say yes.

Some will say, I was lured into a relationship by a man who turned out to be a pimp, a sex trafficker, whatever you want to call him.

Some will say, I sold myself because I thought it was the only way to pay the bills. 

Some will say, I allowed myself to be sold because, if I didn’t, they would have hurt my family. 

For some, it happened as young as twelve or thirteen. But at any age, it is devastating.

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I first heard about The Wellhouse when my church hosted a seminar on sex trafficking. In the midst of the brutally nightmarish tidbits of information about how sex trafficking works, who’s at risk, and how to spot a woman who’s trapped, The Wellhouse presented itself like a beacon of light to women who’ve been taken, sold, abused, and fed the lie that they cannot escape, or else.

Located in my hometown of Birmingham, AL, The Wellhouse does more than rescue girls who’ve been forced into prostitution. They nurture these girls and women physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They give them a safe place to live when they haven’t known safety in years, or maybe ever. And their founder, Tajuan McCarty? She knows how all of it feels firsthand because she was trafficked, too.

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For more information on The Wellhouse, visit their website here: The Wellhouse

But that’s not where the redemption ends…

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My dear friend Barry is a banker with a heart for the hopeless. In 2012, Barry and his friend–a commercial real estate developer–traveled to southern India to help aspiring entrepreneurs develop their business plans.

The trip changed their lives, and their hearts, forever.

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Since then, Barry and his friend have been working to develop Work of Worth International: an organization that utilizes the power of commerce to free the oppressed in the developing parts of the world.

In short, they work for justice, fair wages, and dignity in business.

Women who have escaped sex trafficking are given the skills and opportunities to form their own companies. Men who want to do right by their families are taught to develop a business plan and then put it into action.

It’s amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s redemption unfolding before our eyes. 

Last night, I attended Work of Worth’s official launch event. Handmade goods were sold–things made by women in India and Bangladesh who had been freed from sexual slavery. This, now, would be their method of income. As one volunteer told me–and I’ll never forget this phrase as long as I live–

These women now have the opportunity to make a product instead of be the product.

Just typing those words gives me chills all over again.

My husband and I dropped more cash than we planned to, but that was okay, because–as Rob said to me– “If we’re going to blow money, I’d like to blow it on these things.”

I bought this beautiful beaded necklace (modeling assistance provided by Baby J):

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And this gorgeous scarf with the beaded part that hangs down like a necklace (except mine is coral and white):

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And if you go on Work of Worth’s website, you can shop for other things, like:

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You get the idea. Beautiful goods made by beautiful women for a beautiful cause. And, BONUS: My husband, the one and only Rob Riley, will be joining the annual trip to India this January! After the event last night, he’s pretty geeked up about it.

And then thirdly, but hardly last in my heart…

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Meet Hayley and Jonathan.

Hayley is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known. One time, she was on Deal or No Deal. Another time, in a tiny office in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, she actually died–and came back.

(Hayley once told me that she tries not to talk too much about her life when she first meets someone, because she’s afraid they’ll think she’s a compulsive liar.)

(She’s not:)

JUMP

For the past two years, Hayley has been horrifically sick with a disease no one seems able to treat, much less cure. One of the most frustrating parts is that she looks perfectly healthy on the outside, but her insides are waging war on her. Jonathan, her husband, has become the most amazing servant to his wife. Their experience will bring you to tears of hope and a desire to help.

After two years, Hayley finally wrote about her condition beautifully and honestly here.

Please read it.

We’re collecting money for their medical expenses here. More than $4,000 has been raised in the first 24 hours.

If you feel so led, please consider contributing to help them pay for Hayley’s frequent hospital stays and treatments. This is a tangible way to love them, and a very real way to lessen their burden.

Thanks for reading. Please share this blog post anywhere and everywhere.

Now: let’s go change the world.

I Can Explain, Except That I Can’t

Listen, I had such high hopes for this summer in terms of my website. I planned to blog each week, keep you guys in the loop on everything bookish, and basically be the blogger I always wanted to be.

And then I didn’t.

SO.

Given that every time I think about trying to describe ALL THE THINGS I’ve done since June, I start to get a little wobbly, and my vision starts to cross, and I get the unstoppable urge to hug my knees to my chest and rock in the corner while shoving handfuls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch into my mouth.

Which means my update will be in the form of photos with captions, and then we’re going to try again with this whole blogging thing, and hopefully I can do a better job this month.

Here are some things that happened in late June and early July. They are not chronological, nor are they particularly detailed, but here they are anyway.

(Boy, I am SO GOOD AT THIS.)

1) My very first magazine article came out! I write for Fresh Style, and I’m super proud of the piece on Chatham Hellmers. The magazine is available basically everywhere, so if you see it while you’re out and about, please pick up a copy!

I was out of town when the magazine came out, but my husband sent me this picture!

I was out of town when the magazine came out, but my husband sent me this picture!

2) I started working at a brand new school. This is huge for many reasons, mostly because I worked at my old school for eight and a half years. It’s been a bittersweet transition, but as the first day of class draws closer, I find myself feeling more and more excited!

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PRETEND THERE IS A PICTURE OF THE SCHOOL HERE

EVEN THOUGH THERE IS NOT FOR SECURITY PURPOSES

PURPOSES, NOT PORPOISES

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3) I got a tattoo. To answer the FAQs I’ve been getting about it: a) No, it didn’t really hurt, although it was quite irritating. However, anytime I say something “didn’t hurt,” it’s wise to remember I also completed an entire unmedicated labor without knowing it, so for all I know, getting a tattoo might be really painful. b) No, I don’t have to cover it up for work. c) It represents the four members of my family. Everybody is flying in their own way, but we’re all tethered together by Christ (represented by the vine with stars each bird carries). d) No, it has nothing to do with Divergent. I loved birds WAY before Tris was even a character on a page.

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This was taken about two hours after I got it done. Now, it looks even sharper and cleaner. I LOVE IT.

4) We went to my husband’s ten year reunion. It was basically a BLAST.

YAY.

YAY.

And, okay, that’s really all I can do at this point. Lame, huh? I do vow to be better as the school year progresses and I get settled in. Until then, please keep checking back–I’ve still got a book coming out sometime next year, and I can’t wait for all of you to read it!

Stay classy… That’s the way the cookie crumbles… Witty taglines…

See y’all next time.