From a Word Processor to Paint Brushes

“And the winner of the 2013 American Christian Fiction Writer’s YA Category is… Loraine Kemp!”

I was dumbfounded! But over-the-top-excited!

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My writing goals seemed to be forging ahead with two contest wins and acquiring an amazing agent in the same year. There was little doubt in my mind about where God was leading me and what my future had in store.

How completely wrong I was. At least for the next few years.

After a year of working with the agent and sending my novel in various directions, lukewarm responses were the result. I felt deflated and confused. “But, but God, I thought…”

That’s when a completely new direction was literally dropped in my lap.

I’ve always been an artist (I’ve provided illustrations for 3 novels to date) but when my buddy Karen Autio asked her publisher to offer the job of illustrating her historical picture book Growing Up In Wild Horse Canyon to me, I couldn’t say no, and signed a contract soon after. With my writing goals not being realized, I had some time on my hands.

To say I was overwhelmed by this illustration project would have been a gigantic understatement. I hadn’t painted for years and the book is an advanced picture book with 28 full-colour pictures that needed to be designed and painted. Not only was there research involved with making this historical fiction come to life (Karen had already done a mammoth amount already), but I also had to take many pictures in Wild Horse Canyon, which was a two-hour hike from our city.

In 2003, a wildfire devoured most of the trees in the canyon, so I had to rely heavily on my imagination to construct the illustrations that took place in the canyon.

I was also deeply worried that I wouldn’t physically be able to illustrate that huge a project under a deadline. Just thinking of it, my back cringed, as sitting for hours on end sent my back into spasms.

I felt strongly that this was a test of faith and that I had to trust God was with me on this one. As grace would have it, I now own the ideal set-up for illustrating: a stand-up chair with many positions available and an adjustable-height table. So far so good.

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To start the process, a year and a half ago, Karen and I talked about each illustration. Normally illustrators and authors don’t work together, but Karen’s historical knowledge was invaluable. Tiny rough drawings of each scene (thumbnails) were finished first, and approved by the publisher. Then came the full-size drawings, again approved by the publisher. Then last fall I began the process of scouring through my thousands of photos (scenery, horses, other animals, and local students posing as historical characters) and painting the illustrations.

To show you all the different stages, I will take one illustration and walk you visually through the steps.

Here is the small thumbnail sketch of the ‘First Contact’ illustration where the fur traders are meeting the native first nation’s band, the Syilx. It is about 3″ by 5″.

first contact thumbnail

Then came the full size drawing. After some research I added a fish drier in the background. The below illustration is about 8″ X 10″

 

first contact full size

 

Now you will have to forgive my bad photography of the painting steps, as my camera wasn’t good at the time. But you will see that I start in one corner and progress.

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I found out that the pinto, (brown and white horse) needed to be changed to an appaloosa, a much coveted horse by the band. The coat my fur trader wore wasn’t going to work. So out came the white paint and the changes were made.

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In addition, the western saddle was not used. A lower, more close-to-the-horse-but-very-uncomfortable saddle had been used. After I spoke to a consultant, I decided that the clothing should have been more what you see below, plus I needed to have an elder overseeing this meeting. (Penciled in below) I had to move the woman and her kids next to the fish dryer to accommodate the elder.

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Almost done. However the rolled blanket on the horse’s saddle is one from the Hudson’s Bay company, not the Pacific Fur Company. Out came more white paint. Plus I completed the rest. I’d had many more tries to get it right than you see here. In all, probably four more changes were involved.

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And just for fun, here are a few more pictures from our book. You will see even more on my website, http://www.lorainekemp.com and look under my portfolio. Or go to my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/lorainekempartist. Our book will be out this fall and you will see much more on this site about it. It is for kids and adults alike.

The below is a young Syilx man on a vision quest, sort of a ‘coming of age’ occurrence for every young man. Here he is painting the rock faces.

finished vision quest

The below is all about the beginnings of the young in Wild Horse Canyon, a ponderosa pine,  and the wild foal jumping over it.

foal and seedling

Now don’t think for an instant that I am going to get rid of my word processor. I have some ideas for novels that I want to expand on that will need some illustrations as well. I feel that I have learned a great deal about myself and the strengths that I have through this complicated process that I would never have found out if God hadn’t pressed me in this direction. My plans were derailed for something else God had in mind for me, and I’m happy now with that, though admittedly I was not in the beginning. I’m still also a writer, and will always be. I just needed to be open for God’s new gifts for me.

One thing I’ll be eternally grateful for, is that during the contest mentioned above, I was taken on as a Scriblerian. They rock!

Have you ever been sure of your directions and then had the rug pulled out from under you to reveal a new direction?

 

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GOD’s got this

We buried a close family friend today. One of my dad’s oldest friends, a fellow church member, neighbor-down-the-road when my brothers and I were growing up.

It was sad yet triumphant. Cancer and pneumonia are no longer ravaging his earthly body. He’s basking in the splendor029 and radiance of his LORD and SAVIOR, an assurance his family and friends will cling to in the days to come.

A week ago Sunday we buried my dad’s older brother. We gathered with family members we’d seen seldom in the last twenty years. I re-introduced myself to cousins I’d not shared breathing space with for thirty-five years. Elated exclamations of “It’s so good to see you!” mixed with regretful murmurs, “Why did we let so many years go by …”

It was especially tough as he was the first of three siblings to pass. Yet we rejoiced that his twenty year battle with Parkinson’s disease had ended. We remembered his bravery in submitting to experimental procedures that paved the way for promising treatments and applauded his decision to donate his brain to research. He too gained his eternal reward and no doubt welcomed my dad’s long-time friend to heaven.

Pill Box

Pill Box

My daughter’s most recent battle with medical bureaucracy has heaped frustration and concern upon an already heavy load. Two weeks of shrugs, finger-pointing and “we have no idea what happened…” to secure insurance coverage for a much needed drug. This skirmish comes on the heels of a sixteen-month-and-counting ordeal of wading through mountains of red tape to gain approval and figure out the endless details for another needed medication. And how could I forget the brand-spanking-new, state-of-the-art piece of medical equipment that suddenly, unexplainedly stopped working. It appears an act of Congress may be required to get it replaced.

Yet our excitement spiked late last week with the official announcement of FDA approval for a drug that will address the basic defect that causes her cystic fibrosis. The answer to twenty-six years of prayers! When the discovery of the gene responsible for the majority of CF cases wowed the medical world the very week she was diagnosed in 1989, we knew GOD was already at work. What we prayed would be available within ten years, alas, took just shy of twenty-six years to arrive. Yet we rejoice and praise GOD for his provision through those long years.   flag - liberty

As our beloved country rocks with dissension, as hatred threatens the Christian tenets many of us hold dear, fear and uncertainty creep in, clouding the peace and joy that should reign in our hearts. We lament the way things used to be. We dread what may be ahead. We succumb to doubts and worry.

Let us be convinced that nothing that’s happened has been a surprise to GOD. Nothing that will transpire in the days to come will catch him by surprise.

If you are a Christian, you serve a GOD who cannot be defeated or crushed or lessened in anyway by the plots of man. Now more than ever we must seek HIS WORD to get our marching orders because we are soldiers in the LORD’s ARMY.HE has not abandoned us. Let’s not abandon HIM.

We long for smooth sailing, for easy everything—for pain and disease and calamity to pass us by. For longer—much longer—with our loved ones. For assurance of plenty in the days to come. Even as GOD’s word plainly tell us to expect the opposite of smooth sailing, it promises us that HE’s got this. Whatever “this” may be.file000125780080 (2)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

Two songs have blanketed my mind in recent days.

Even So Come” by Kristian Stanfill

“Like a bride waiting for her groom
We’ll be a Church ready for You
Every heart longing for our King
We sing
Even so come
Lord Jesus, come…”

“We Won’t Be Shaken” by Building 429

“Whatever will come my way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we’ll rise and sing
That we won’t be shaken…”

Will you join me in clinging to the HOPE and PROMISE of Romans 8:31…

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” 

The Art of Self-Deception Part II

or…How to Drown in a Teacup

Greetings from the Great (wet) state of Texas. The Trinity River here in Henderson County has been approximately fifteen feet over flood stage—give or take a couple of feet—for several weeks. After nearly four months of rain, we are praying for more sunny days.

Vanessa Morton Trinity River Henderson County

Vanessa Morton
Trinity River Henderson County

The water table in Henderson County is typically high due to numerous lakes and springs, even without the recent heavy rains. Roher Springs, five miles away, is one of three sources of Ozarka bottled water in the southwest. Likewise, my family enjoys sweet well water from an underground spring in our vineyard, a mere 35 feet below the surface.

So . . . what does flooding have in common with Drowning in a Teacup? I’m glad you asked!

After my life-changing health challenges (read Part I), I’m gradually returning to my passion—writing—but this time it’s different. Previously, I agonized over passages, phrases, and dialog while drafting. Thus, my writing—overwhelmed by trivia—sometimes “drowned in a teacup” of my own making.

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Help!

With greater self-clarity, I now realize my perfectionism was only another form of self-deception. For example, while I tweaked, polished, and re-tied plot threads, I avoided the big issue: What if no one liked my books? Unpublished, my stories were still my babies with infinite potential. Once they left the nest, however, I’d have to face the reality that not everyone would find them superbly brilliant or vastly entertaining.

Now I write for myself instead of an audience, and I resist editorial backtracking until after the end of the rough draft.

Having a health crisis is strangely freeing, yet somehow poignant. I mourn the fact I wasted time, not only on my writing habits, but also on the mundane. Being unable to do some tasks—such as housework—released my inner perfectionist. Despite my initial misgivings, I found the world did not stop spinning when I failed to dust the house for a month.

The creator made each of us unique, and I believe your stories are different than mine and we can learn from each other. Would you share the techniques that help you meet your goals while maintaining balance?

 

Hinds’ Feet on High Places

My good old 1980 edition of the New World Dictionary of the American Language defines (in my own paraphrase), “classic:” 1) being a model of its kind, 2) having a balanced, formal, and objective style, 3) well-known, 4) able to last because of its simple style.

classic little black dress courtesy of www.elleink.wordpress.com

classic little black dress courtesy of http://www.elleink.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I choose to review class books, and a few others that have not yet stood the test of time, because I don’t want these marvelous stories to fade into oblivion. We are a culture that constantly anticipates the next hot item, another shiny, new bauble. Some of the bright and attractive novels of today will become classics; most will not.

credit to privatelibrary.typepad.com

credit to privatelibrary.typepad.com

 

To start 2015, I’ve chosen to review (or introduce you to) Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. Like John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Hinds’ Feet is an allegory.

“Allegory:” a story where people, things, and events have symbolic meaning; used to teach moral principles.

Do kids even read allegory anymore? Think about it. Every novel that teaches Biblical truth in an author-created fantasy setting is a subtle form of allegory.

Hurnard and Bunyan are more direct. People’s names describe their personalities. Place names inform the reader of the problem to be solved, the obstacle to be overcome, or the conflict to be resolved.

Would I have read Hinds’ Feet as a child? I’m not sure. I wasn’t brought up with a Biblical worldview, but I’ll assure you of one thing. During the rare crises in my family, I would have read Hinds’ Feet from cover to cover.

The main character is named Much Afraid. How many teens do you know who are afraid? Of peers, of the future, of their own inadequacies. Much Afraid goes on a journey with the Shepherd.

credit to pastorwcdq.blogspot.com

credit to pastorwcdq.blogspot.com

For nineteen chapters, the Shepherd leads her on a circuitous route to the High Places. He assigns to her two companions, Sorrow and Suffering. As they travel together,  Much Afraid gains strength until she —

I don’t want to give the end away! For now, be content to know Hurnard uses wonderful parallels to portray the Christian walk and dying to self. (And for more on dying to self, check out this month’s post at www.my2ndnature.wordpress.com on taking tests over and over again.)

If you know a kid going through rough times, if you are going through a tough, terrifying season in your own life, I can’t recommend Hinds’ Feet on High Places highly enough. In fact, I believe if your walk with Christ is going smoothly right now, you can read it, enjoy it, put it down, and say “nice story.”

KEEP IT. Jesus leads all of us on a circuitous route of rugged mountains to climb, desert wastelands to cross, and raging rivers to ford. When those times come, read Hinds’ Feet again. Hannah Hurnard’s words will soothe your soul.

 

When I am afraid

Love is Contagious (More From Mitali)

Last Saturday I posted the first half of an interview with Mitali Perkins. Mitali has written several books for children and teens, two of which I’ve read –Bamboo People and First Daughter – and several more are on my to-read list. Her writing spans many cultures. Not surprising, since Mitali has lived in several countries.

 

As a person who was born in an Asian country yet America is her home, have you experienced the prejudice that Sparrow experienced in First Daughter?

 

Mitali PerkinsMitali: To some extent, yes, especially when we first arrived and I was the foreigner/new kid in school. But everything gets intensified in the celebrity limelight, so Sparrow’s situation was unique.

I had introduced myself to you by sharing that I had also moved more than a dozen times while growing up with an Air Force dad, so I knew what it was like to always be the new kid. If it’s not too intrusive, may I ask what position(s) your parents held that caused you to move all over the world?

Mitali: My father is a civil engineer so he worked to help build ports and harbors.

 

 

Many readers of Scriblerians are also writers. They’re interested in some of the minutiae of publishing. For instance, book covers. I’ve displayed several of your covers here. I think the art on both Bamboo People and First Daughter is excellent. It gives a sense of the flavor of each story. Bamboo People is full of shadows, and First Daughter shows a hip, South Asian teenager sporting a sweet and cheerful smile. Do you design the covers yourself, or do you get to approve what other artists create?

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Bamboo People

 

Mitali: I have little say in the covers. In the beginning of my career, I had none. Now I get some input. But I am in awe of artists since I neither paint nor draw so it is monsoon summer 2hard for me to be critical. I do scrutinize them for cultural accuracy, though.

Secret Keeper

Do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser? I would guess that Bamboo People needed a detailed outline, but perhaps First Daughter skipped through some unplanned adventures.

Mitali: People come first in my stories, with place a close second, and then I wrestle with plot. A growing edge for me is increasing tension in my stories. I want the reader to keep turning pages. Pacing is also a challenge. The passage of time is tough – “days passed,” “three hours later,” etc. seem stiff and heavy-handed so how do you move your characters through time naturally and easily?

What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

Mitali: Unforgettable characters, I hope. Mirrors to see themselves reflected and windows thrown open into lives that are different than theirs.

You have certainly accomplished those goals! I was amazed that I could sympathize with both sides of the conflict in Burma. Kind, decent characters could be found in the city, in the jungle, in the military. And in Sparrow’s world, even the most obnoxious people possessed something golden within them.

A just-for-fun question: if you could meet one of your characters in real life, which one would it be, and what would you do together?

Mitali: I would like to have coffee with Sparrow and take Chiko to see a good doctor here in the States. But all of them are dear to me.

Maybe that’s the key as to why I enjoy Mitali’s stories so much. She loves her characters. And I end up loving them, too. Because love is contagious.

Two questions for our followers and any readers exploring Scriblerians: What characters have you fallen in love with? Why do you think you were so passionate about them?”

 

 

 

Yearning for Smooth Sailing

An experience from many moons ago… that means as much or more today!

Every time I open the refrigerator door, I’m greeted by a pool of water surrounding the vegetable drawer. The little hole in the back that’s supposed to drain excess moisture is plugged. So far, our attempts to fix the issue have been unsuccessful. So I sop up the water and groan about an old refrigerator that needs replacing.

As I thrfile7631292337511ow the wet towels into the washer, I pause as  the sound of my three-year-old daughter’s cough echoes across the house. “It isn’t even officially fall yet,” I grumble, closing the washer lid a little harder than necessary. Reports of widespread illness in the community make this cold seem more serious than the last one.

Walking past the kitchen table I can’t help but notice the stack of paperwork waiting for my undivided attention. My husband was forced to change jobs earlier in the year leaving our health insurance in limbo. Because of our daughter’s cystic fibrosis, it appears our only option for covering her is to apply for the state’s comprehensive insurance plan for chronic illnesses with it’s high premium and exorbitant deductible.

“Mommy, he’s here!” yells my three-year-old Jenna. Glad for any reason that let’s me put the insurance crisis on hold for even a moment, I hurry to the front door.

Another groan. It’s the man from Roto-Rooter. “Mrs. Steury? I hear you have a problem with your sewer line.” I show him to the backyard all the while praying the solution will be quick, uncomplicated and inexpensive.

By the time Jenna is tucked in for her nap, I’m emotionally and mentally exhausted. Too tired to even think, I stretch out on the couch and close my eyes. Several minutes of quiet my_photography_199soothe my weary mind until once again my thoughts can focus.

Although I am powerless to change the present circumstances of my life, I know that GOD is not. With the slightest touch of His outstretched hand, every one of these frustrating situations could be quickly and painlessly resolved. While I believe without a shadow of a doubt that He could choose to instantly solve every issue, I have doubts that He will.

Why? Because some lessons can only be learned in trying times. Sometimes important truths only become evident in the darkness of adversity. Many rough edges resist through all but the toughest of life’s dilemmas. These daily studies in patience, faith and trust have the power—under GOD’s authority—to make us stronger and more Christ-like.

While my mind accepts these truths, my heart still yearns for the tranquility of smooth sailing. No annoying dilemmas, no difficult decisions, no worrisome waiting.

And so we press on, fully assured that He loves us and is deeply concerned with every aspect of our lives. It is comforting to remember that His footsteps will not lead us where His grace cannot sustain us. His promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” has proven true time and again and will continue to dsailboat_01o so.

Whether he chooses to miraculously resolve every situation in our lives or to use them to mold us into His likeness, the choice is His. It is enough that He promises peace in the midst of the storm. I would rather have that peace with all my current and as-yet-to-be-known issues than to be living a tranquil, problem-free life without His daily presence and provision. No contest whatsoever.

Some twenty-two years have passed since I put this experience to paper. It will come as no surprise that we survived those issues and went on to bigger and more challenging situations! All of which we also survived.

I like to think we are wiser and more trusting now. Yes, more trusting for sure. Hopefully, a little wiser. Definitely a lot grayer! I do believe if anything, our belief in GOD’s provision and compassion, His caring and power are even firmer.

Rarely does a day go by that I don’t find myself thinking, if not uttering aloud, how grateful and thankful I am that what happens in this life is not up to me but up to Him. His ways are not my ways nor are His thoughts my thoughts. And that’s a very good thing!

How about you? Does trust come easily OR are you a worrier?

What if the Body of Christ Looked Like This?

Imagine for a few minutes with me, if you will.

Imagine if every Christian did what they were created to do.  If every disciple of Christ followed so completely the life path plotted specifically for him or her by the all-knowing God.  If each servant were so in tune with God’s heart that selfish motives, worthless pursuits, worldly amBIblebitions simply vanished.  Crowded out by the very character of God, invited and allowed to inhabit His people, until there would be no room for anything else.

No thought to what others would think.

No endless nights spent contemplating the why or the how.

No embarrassment or self-consciousness.

Nothing but straight forward obedience.

What would that even look like in today’s world?

The factory worker, the school nurse, the drug store cashier, the bank executive, the pastor, the surgeon—each living a life so in touch surgeonwith the Father that every moment was about ministry.  The salesman, the athlete, the police chief, the lawyer, the missionary, the author—each with a life and faith so molded together that no line distinguished between living and ministry.  Every disciple more concerned with being who God wanted him to be, with doing what God wanted her to do, that nothing else mattered.

Just imagine how this would change how we do church.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net By Sira Anamwong,

A pastor before his congregation, literally on his face at the feet of God seeking only to be His vessel. So empowered to speak the word of the Lord that he delivers with absolute freedom and humble confidence that very message no matter how unpopular… or controversial… or unpleasant it may be.

The worship leader, the praise team, the soloists all bowed in prayer, seeking the anointing of the Lord, calling on His name alone, in the moments before His service begins.  Again, no misaligned motives, no false ambitions, no faithless missions ….. nothing but Spirit-led pursuits.

Parishioners, one and all, expressing his sacrifice of praise or her act of worship in complete freedom, not concerned with man’s appraisal or blessing, criticism or review.  Lifting hands, hearts, voices in praise, worship, and adoration.  Reaching for and touching the very hem of His garment in true, life-changing worship.

Servants respondingguy praying to God’s voice, His intimate leading—no matter where they are seated, no matter who’s watching, no matter the depth of the call—with not one thought to how anyone but the everlasting God will judge them. Being obedient to the Spirit’s call regardless of what such obedience asks of them. Whatever it may be. Praying with or seeking forgiveness from a fellow congregant. Bowing before the Almighty at a point in the service not designated for such behavior. Embarking on a change in vocation that will rock their world. Whatever it may be—settling for nothing less than total and complete obedience.

Imagine if ideas large and small could be trusted because concern that self-gratification or hot-headed impulsiveness or incompetent notions provide the guiding force would be virtually nonexistent.  Just think if every God-inspired idea received the effort and attention it deserved. No missing the boat. No neglected opportunities. No need for do-overs. Just imagine the possibilities.

What about free will? It would still exist but seldom—rarely even—would it contradict the calling and the very purpose of the Almighty God. Why? Because His all-consuming Spirit would so indwell each servant, creating not only the perfect union of faith and trust, commitment and power, but the most fertile soil for obedience.

With abandon the saints would march on. Not reckless abandon—without a plan or purpose. But rather an abandon controlled by and filled to over flowing with Spirit-led confidence. An abandon free of nagging doubts, needless worry. An abandon empowered by God himself.

Oh, that our world—our hurting, confused, misguided world—could experience such a manifestation of God’s people being God’s people.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net by imagerymajestic

FreeDigitalPhotos.net
by imagerymajestic

 Oh, God, I want to be so in tune with you each moment of each day that every minute of my life is about being Jesus, about doing His will.

I implore your SPIRIT to so fill me that hour by hour there is less of me  and more, so much more of You.

As I seek to fully know and live your plan for my life, remind me of the necessity of being in touch moment by moment with You, the Author and Perfecter of my faith.

Make me, oh, God, into the servant-minded instrument you desire me to be.

May I live to worship YOU.

May YOU be the very air that I breathe.