The Adventure of Publishing an Essay

This realm is full of unspoken rules.
Things you should just know.

My first attempt at getting an article published was an experience I needed. This is how it happened:

The pitch. Also known as, selling yourself and your work in a way that makes someone who doesn’t care about you read something you wrote. Truth be told I find this the hardest part. It would  be so much easier if they would just read it.

I pitched an article I wrote about my brother’s custom boot business to an online magazine, and they loved it…the pitch that is.

Somehow I was lucky enough that because they loved my pitch so much, they gave me the chance to edit my essay. The original wasn’t quite what they wanted.

I edited. I sent it back.

Cue the month long wait to hear back. As a student, I was never explained this process. Did I wait in silence? Did I email them to remind them I exist? I emailed the editor twice in that time and I felt like it was obvious that I’d never done this before.

Cue the “can you edit this again.” Here, another confusion. Was I lucky to have another chance to edit this? Did they really like my pitch that much? Is this normal? Still don’t know.

I edited. I sent it back.

They loved it. Could I send them a headshot / bio? Of course.

And, silence. No one told me about this silence. Again, is it normal? The editor said they loved it. Did that mean it was accepted for publishing?

Two months.

Randomly I checked the website. Searched my name just to see  and there it was.

My first, official, publication. Published six days before.

Quite a simple process, full of frustration for the young writer.

The experience I acquired: be patient, extremely so. It may take months for someone to get back to you because they are getting back to other people who have been waiting months. The pitch is more important than I ever thought–I believe it’s what kept them wanting a revision. Don’t be afraid to email the editors back, just not too much. And…this is a waiting game, which is kind of scary in the scheme of it all. How much waiting will I do in the future?

Read it here:


If You’re a Writer You’ve heard…

“I wish I could write! I hate writing my research papers. You must love that stuff.”
No, it’s not really the same thing.

“It’s cool that you’re taking that chance, I never could do that! That’s why I’m in business.”
Thanks for the confidence.

“You’re parents are okay with you being a writing major?”
It wasn’t their first choice for me.

“Are you going to write the next Harry Potter / Be the Next J.K. Rowling?”
Now I feel pressured to succeed in a way that’s rare. Thanks.

“You have it so easy!”
Cue the literal laughing out loud.

The Truth About Writing:

It’s rarely done with ease. It involves so much editing that I begin to forget how to spell words because suddenly that word just doesn’t look right. It involves constant rejection from not just the publishing world, but from yourself. Nothing is prefect, so when is something ready for submission?

Only other writers take writers seriously. I can already hear people stopping at that comment and thinking “that’s not true.” Let’s be honest- a majority of people visualize writer’s sipping coffee and crafting a prefect story that will be easily published.

In reality we stare at our computer and wonder about our life choices because nothing creative is happening. Or we stare at a piece we’ve written, originally believing it was a such a clever story, only to go back and scrap the whole thing because it made no sense. We search inside ourselves when we craft a story  and we leave a little bit of ourself with the story. It’s a bit soul-crushing.

The truth about writing is that it’s not the easiest craft to learn; to use, but all the same it’s worth it to put words on a page that touch another’s life.

Behind the Hymn – It Is Well With My Soul

I prefer hymns over contemporary Christian music.
I prefer traditional anything over (most of) modernity. (Save A/C, because in Texas I couldn’t live without it.)

I’m going to start looking into different hymns. Most of the time they have the most in-depth language describing Christianity / Christian thought. The lyrics often have the most beautiful poetry and the story behind them, inspiring.


It Is Well With My Soul, written by Horatio Spafford

Horatio Spafford had beautiful family, Anna his wife and five children, and a successful career. In 1871, his uphill climb became a downhill slide as his son died of pneumonia and most of his business burned to the ground in Chicago. His business was able to rebuild and become successful once more, but that wasn’t the end to his troubles. In 1873 the French ocean liner, Ville du Havre, was crossing the Atlantic toward Europe. Among the passengers were Spafford’s wife and his four daughters. Initially he had planned to take the trip with his family, but business kept him back in Chicago. His plan was to take a ship following them a few days later.

Ville du Harve collided with a iron-hulled Scottish ship four days into the journey and soon the French ship slipped beneath the dark ocean. 226 passengers were lost, including all four of Horatio’s daughters.

A sailor rowing toward the wreck noticed a woman atop a piece of wreckage. It was Anna, alive. Nine days later she reached Wales and wired her husband, “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Another surviver of the ship wreck, Paster Weiss, heard Anna say later, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.”

Spafford booked passage on the next ship to join his grieving wife. When the boat was four days out the captain came to Spafford and told him they were over the place where his daughters sank below the sea.

Burdened with the loss of all his children, he penned the lyrics to It Is Well With My Soul while on the journey to his wife:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

The Importance of Leaving Your House To Write

I’m a homebody.
And the older I get the more I hate crowds.

But writing is like working out- you’re more likely to do it at a gym than at home, or in this case a cafe, library, park. I feel seasoned writers have a routine at home. Wake up at 5 AM, grab a cup of coffee, sit down in a worn out desk chair, and get to work.

I wish I had this routine. I’ve tried this routine. But alas, I was unable to change my natural inclination to be a night owl to be a morning person. Plus I’m only half aware when I wake up that early. I tried for weeks, but to no avail.

I tried writing at home, at different parts of the day, in different areas- all to see if anything felt right for me. It didn’t work out. I live with seven other people (all family members) and so chances are one of my nieces or nephews would distract me, asking me to play. Or maybe I’d hear the T.V. on and get distracted.

Writing everyday is important and I’d say it’s even more so for a young writer.

I find it hard to write at home. I have all my other distractions right there, calling out to me to do something else. To watch T.V., to spend time with family, to go outside and play with my dog, to read a book.

So I’ve been leaving my house to write. Again, not a huge fan of it. Yet, because of my more timid nature when I’m at a coffee shop I can focus on my computer and the sentences I’m writing.

As I write this I’m in downtown Dallas, or I could also call this place “completely out of my element,” but I found a coffee shop (luckily right next to my hotel) and picked a seat and started writing. I concentrate more on my writing alone and away from home.

So to all the other young writers who have been told they need a routine, but can’t seem to do it- leave your house.

Or maybe even the city.


Eavesdrop on Many Conversations

“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more.
Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop.
Die knowing something. You are not here long.”
Walker Evans

The first time I read this quote in the opening pages of Bret Lott’s Before We Get Started I never forgot it.

The quote reminds me to be aware always and that writing is pulled from the observation of reality. It’s also a bit of a free pass to eavesdrop in the name of art, but I think it’a necessary.

As a young writer some of the most important advice I’ve been given is to observe the world around me. Listen to the dialogue between a mother and daughter, between a husband and wife. Write it down and practice your own dialogue in your short stories straight from the source. Watch how people interact with one another in real life because chances are when you go to write it down you begin to forget how people actually talk to each other.

I once eavesdropped on multiple people while walking through the Mark Rothko exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. I admit, I did it because I really wanted understand why people were so taken with his work. I wanted to be apart of the community of people in awe of his paintings. Through multiple overheard conversations I learned something–that appreciating art didn’t come naturally for me, but what these people had to say intrigued me enough to try.

I didn’t go home to write a story about it, but it gave me a peek at the inside of normal everyday person’s mind and how they think about something like the paintings of Mark Rothko.

Then there’s the time I was at a cafe reading they poetry of Adam Zagajewski when a couple sat down at a table next to me with a baby’s carseat. When they first started arguing it was back ground noise, but little by little I got more distracted by their speech, (“if you wouldn’t have done it!” / “I’m always the bad guy!”) Soon I couldn’t concentrate on what I was reading and was kind of incredulous at how loud the couple was being. That’s when I remembered the quote. I grabbed the only thing I had, a pencil and a napkin, and wrote down as much of their conversation that I could before they left.

As of right now, I have no clue where that napkin is, but I remember everything that was on it. I did’t eavesdrop and listen to their fight to be a jerk, I did it so I would know how to write a couple fighting in a story. So I could make my fictional world and characters believable.

That’s the job of the writer.

Poetry – A Drop of Rain

I froze a drop of rain, peered
within in its frame and watched the story
of our home reveal above me.

Earth engulfed by water, uncovered to feel
the sun’s hot glare. Rain became waves
that roared before me as I witnessed the devouring
of a mountain, as I listened to inhuman voices.
I began to understand the purification
of water, like pushing reset on creation.

A man with one knee planted on the bank
of Jordan broke his calloused hand through
the river. His eyes stared ahead, his palm
cupped the water, his other hand at the hilt
of a sword, acknowledging the unknown dangers.

I saw a queen wash her face a thousand
years before a young boy pulled up
water from a well, not knowing the
pail he’d bring his mother was once
blessed by royalty.
I saw my brother being washed in a basin
with water that five hundred years ago
belonged in the cup of a king.

And through the thunder of an errant storm,
as the veil began to close above me, I saw that
in another age, another would pick it up,
would drink it, would know it rose
and know it fell again.

By Zarah Parker


I’ve decided Friday’s would be my day for posting creative work. I won second place in a poetry contest with this poem (it has been tweaked since). Sometimes I work on a poem so long that I no longer know what to do with it. This is one of those times. Enjoy anyway!


By The Most Powerful Means: Words

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me. In other words, the biggest lie we ever tell.

By words we have the power to paint a universe of planets we only see a glimmer of. To invent a new world completely contrary to what we know of in nature.  We can show a blind man color by explaining the warmth of the sun. Our minds are extraordinary and it’s engine is words.

By words we inspire a multitude to unite in the face of tragedy. To reassure a mother, a father, a sister, a brother when the warmth of arms just isn’t enough. We teach young children the importance of words: why lying gives them no profit. Words touch the heart in a way that is easily missed by an action.

By words we can destroy a spirit that was thought of to be strong. To dismantle a heart that was once full of joy. We are vicious at our lowest, and magnificent at our highest. By words.

Why words matter is why books matter. Books that encapsulate human nature as it is. We seek the realm of fiction, non-fiction for escapism, but when we pick up Charles Dickens, when we pick up Jane Austen, when we pick up a novel about the human experience we learn about the nature of humanity by people themselves. We can begin to understand the cogwheels of the mind.

Once I was told that reading literature was a short cut to life, because we read text books to understand math, we don’t rediscover it. With literature we read to learn what has already been discovered by our ancestors.

Satire is my favorite example of this. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov and Candide by Voltaire are two of my best loved satires. And the biggest lesson taken from either? Don’t take everything so seriously.

This is why I build my library now, without a house of my own, without enough bookshelves. I believe in the knowledge that is carried through books the way Christ used parables. It’s up to us to listen and absorb those words so we can understand why something is right (was Voltaire right about optimism?) or why something is wrong (extreme optimism.)

So buy books, but build a library full of worthy intellect.

There’s a Beginning to All Madness

That madness is writing.
I shared a bedroom with two of my older brothers. We had a twin sized wooden bunkbed, and a dresser for each of us. Our closet was small and occasionally visited by a bird that lived in the attic. We were mostly terrified of the bird, but always loved telling people about it the older we got. Most of the time you couldn’t see the floor from the mountain of clothes and toys. I’d leave my suitcase full of Barbies in the middle of the floor and my brother’s would leave their Hot Wheels upside down near the walls where they crashed.

I came home one day to find my dresser in my parents room. My brothers kicked me out. And though my oldest brother had a room of his own, I slept on our foldout couch from then on. Unfortunately for everyone else I took that to mean I controlled the air conditioner that was stationed in the living room. It was below seventy most nights.

The first time I wrote a poem was on that foldout bed. I didn’t know what poetry was, I just knew what I heard someone citing on some T.V. show. Thus began my self fulfilling poetry stage of life that took many years to grow out of. But it was still my beginning.

Everyone starts somewhere and I just so happened to often be inspired by how mean my brothers could be. It’s all very cringe-worthy, but a part of my writing history. Through time and experience I’ve been able to learn what writing truly is–what poetry truly is: the best language in the best order. In a time where “writers” are abound on the internet, it’s easy to forget what real writing is. Real writing is not purely self-fulfilling. I may have started writing young, but wasn’t until I understood that it’s not for me to feel better about myself that I truly began to fall in love with language.

I had to grow beyond the sobbing-my-eyes-out-because-my-brothers-were-mean and into loving the use of language for what it can do for others and not just myself.

And so should everyone else.