Tuesday Morning #RandomActsofKindness #ShortStory

I thought I’d do something a little different today and share a short story!  I hope you find it entertaining, as well as inspirational. 

♥♥♥

21 cents. That’s exactly how much money…um change, I have in my bank account. The relief I feel at the fact that I’m not in the negative is short lived as I push the button on the side of my phone that makes the screen go black. Thank God for free wi-fi hot spots, or I wouldn’t even have been able to get online. My phone’s been cut off for over a week. I stuff it in my pocket as the bus pulls to a stop in front of me, sending a whoosh of hot air and exhaust fumes my way. I force a smile at Jerry, the kind, always joking bus driver as I climb the steps and slide my pass through the card reader at the top of the stairs.

“G’morning, Jen. Did you hear the one about the donuts?” he booms, with a grin as I clear the final step.

I pause next to his seat. “No, but I guess I’m about to.”

“A pile of donuts went out to the club last night. A fight broke out and when the dust settled, one of them was detained by the police . The cops asked him what happened to his buddies and the donut says, ‘ I do-nut remember a thing!'”

I shake my head and walk away as Jerry bellows with laughter. He’s so corny, I can’t help but chuckle despite how juvenile his jokes are. He did succeed in making me forget about my problems, if only for a second, and I think that was his goal.

I find a window seat and sink down into it as I stare out at the storefronts whizzing by. Most of them are still closed, as night slowly gives way to dawn. It’s gray and dreary, due to the fog rolling in off of the Pacific, which perfectly matches my mood. I try not to nod off, but after being on my feet for the last eight hours stocking shelves at Wal-Mart, I can’t help myself. I never fall asleep on anybody’s bus but Jerry’s. I know he’ll look out for me, so I let my eyes drift shut, succumbing to the bone weary tiredness that only working two full-time jobs can bring.

♥♥♥

I feel something hit my shoulder and jerk awake, my breath catching as my eyelids stick together each time I blink. The woman who shook me retracts her arm and gestures with her head towards the front of the bus. I catch Jerry’s eye in his rear view mirror, offering a smile. He winks and nods, acknowledging my thanks. I gather my purse, an unnecessary accouterment if there ever was one, and hustle down the steps of the exit doors at the rear of the bus. Wind and salt air hit me in the face. The sun is rising over the ocean and I would love the luxury of having enough time to lean over the guard rails lining the cliff, to just take in all that beauty. But I can’t, I have responsibilities that trump admiring the divinity of an ocean sunrise on a foggy morning.

I speed walk the five blocks home, grateful that one perk of getting off work from my second job at 5 AM is that there are no men loitering around waiting to harass me. I guess they’re all somewhere sleeping it off at this hour. I stop in front of a Spanish style adobe house, two stories, with plants and flowers overflowing from the windows and hedges. Two benches flank the front door, and I sit down on one of them. I do this every day. Take a moment to breathe before I step into another role in the full roster of people I have to be in order to survive.

The minute’s up, so I drag to my feet, head up the long driveway, through the huge patio area, around the pool to the converted garage apartment I’ve rented for the last three years. The owner, Mrs. Posada, is a widow who was forced to turn her guest house into a source of income after she learned that her husband left her swimming in debt. It was the only way she could save her home, and I’ve never been so happy for someone else’s misfortune. She’s the reason I’m able to work the hours I do without going insane. She looks in on my girls, and it gives me, if not peace of mind, asylum from constant worry.

I close the door softly behind me. I don’t know why I bother, I’ll have to wake them up in a minute anyway. But those few seconds when I see the three of them all tangled up together on the pull-out sofa bed are what keep me going. Jasmine, my middle girl, sleeps with reckless abandon, arms akimbo, mouth wide open, drooling and snoring softly. Teresa, my oldest, sleeps on her side, her arm draped protectively over her sisters. And my baby, Sienna, sleeps on her stomach, butt in the air, exactly the way she has since she was born.

My heart aches with the love I have for them, but also the shame I feel for what I cannot give them. They deserve so much more than what I have to offer. I shake my head and squeeze my eyes shut to stop the tears from starting. I don’t have the luxury of crying.  I skirt the bed where my sleeping angels rest (they’re only angels when they’re asleep, any mother will tell you that), and step into the kitchen to see what I can make them for breakfast. The pantry holds a few canned goods, some hot dog buns and a box of rice. My shoulders sink. I thought we had a canister of oatmeal to tide us over until I get paid in a couple of days. I check the fridge, knowing that I won’t find much there, either. A chunk of moldy cheese, and a jar of salsa.

I’m a failure as a mother. What kind of person can’t plan ahead enough to make sure they have enough money to feed their kids? It doesn’t matter that I’ve been juggling bills so much that I lost track of an automated draft that came out of my checking account to keep the lights on. Or that the payroll department at the daycare where I work during the day miscalculated my hours, shorting my last paycheck an entire day’s wages; which caused me to incur overdraft fees that ate up my meager funds even though they issued me a check to make up the difference the next day. Or that Sienna caught a bug at pre-school which meant I had to take her to the doctor and pay out-of-pocket for expensive antibiotics.  A responsible person would have a savings account for times like these. How I’m supposed to save when I have to use every penny to survive, I’ll never know.

No time for pity or anger at the fact that I didn’t make these kids by myself, and therefore shouldn’t be taking care of them alone, either. I think fast and decide to toast the hot dog buns and cook some canned peaches on the stove with sugar to make a sort of jelly. Jasmine will complain and I’ll snap at her, even though I won’t mean to. Sienna will refuse to eat at all, and Teresa will not only eat it, but will compliment me on my cooking and clean up, too. No 10-year-old should be that accommodating, but I keep telling myself I’ll worry about that later.

I’ve just turned the flame on under the peaches when I hear Mrs. Posada’s lilting accent over the intercom. The girls stir, rubbing their eyes and yawning as I press my ear to the antiquated intercom. I press the talk button and yell, “What was that, Mrs. Posada?”

Her response comes back crackling through the speaker, “I said, my grandchildren spent the night and I made too much food for breakfast. I saw you just got home. You and the girls come on over.”

The tears I’ve been holding back all morning finally spill over. I’m weak with relief and gratitude. I wipe my eyes and take a deep breath. “We’ll be right up.”

People like Jerry and Mrs. Posada will never know how much their random acts of small kindnesses can make the biggest difference in the lives of those they touch.

♥♥♥

 

My goal with this little story is to cause everyone who reads it to think about the ways that they can make a difference through simple acts of kindness. You never know what the people you see in passing are going through, nor the impact you can make in their lives. 

Also, we may be seeing a little more of Jen and her girls in the future. Stay tuned!

 

 

© Faith Simone 2018

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Who Else Wants to Be a REAL Writer?

My blogger buddy and fellow writer M. Simone Boyd of My Family Fantastic is here today to dish on everything you ever wanted to know about attending a writer’s conference! She attended one for the first time this year, and she kindly agreed to share her experience. Get ready to take notes and/or bookmark this page because, I’m telling you, this information is GOLD. Enjoy!


Who Else Wants to Be a REAL Writer?

“You should go to a writer’s conference.” That’s what my writing mentor said to me about four years ago.  Until that point, I had implemented every piece of advice she’d given me with great fervor because she’s a REAL writer.

I, on the other hand, always felt like an impostor…kind of like I was faking this whole writing thing. Yes, I write a blog. Yes, I’ve had a few freelance pieces published.  Yes, my Twitter bio says writer.

But, secretly, I lived in fear that one day I would be found out as a fraud. And the thought of a writer’s conference gave me the heebie-jeebies.

My First Writer’s Conference…

That all changed at the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference a few weeks ago. There is just something powerful about being with a community of people who are reaching for the same goals, and it was a life-changing experience for me.

I found out about ACFW by internet stalking my dream literary agency, Books & Such. They mentioned in Writer’s Market that they accepted few debut authors. However, the best way to seek representation from their agents was to meet them at a conference.

So, I looked at their conference calendar and selected one. This was my first conference and initially I was a little overwhelmed by reading the bazillion things I needed to do to prepare.

Pre-Conference Preparation

A writer’s conference is VERY different from most other conferences. Because you are going with the intention of “selling” your manuscript. (Some people go just to learn, but most folks go to get something i.e. an agent, an editor, a publisher, etc.)

At ACFW there were editors from Harper Collins, Revell, Howard, Bethany House, Love Inspired, Guideposts, Tyndale House, and a host of others. As a registered attendee, you choose your top four picks for appointments. However, you are guaranteed only one 15-minute appointment with an agent, editor, or mentor.

Editor and Agent Appointments

At that 15-minute appointment, you can pitch your story idea to an editor with the hopes they’ll express interest in seeing your full manuscript. The thing is, a tremendous amount of research goes into learning what interests each editor or agent.

For example, you wouldn’t pitch a suspense novel to a Love Inspired editor…because they generally look for historical romance. The same general rule applies to agents and each agent is looking for something different.

What Editors and Agents Want to See…

Additionally, each editor or agent wants to see different documents during the appointment. As far as I can tell, it boils down to a combination of one of four items:

  • One Sheet – includes an author bio, tagline, and back-cover copy.
  • Book Proposal –a business plan for your book and how you plan to ensure sales success
  • Three Sample Chapters –first three chapters of your finished manuscript
  • Verbal Elevator Pitch –three sentence explanation of book

These materials take a TON of time to write. The great thing about ACFW, is that when you register you can sign up as a first-time attendee and receive emails via the First Timer’s Loop.

Beginning in July, you’ll receive almost daily emails on how to prepare the suggested materials and helpful links. Best-selling author, Brandilyn Collins critiqued each of the first-timers elevator pitches and gave us great feedback on how to make them “punchy.”

Conference

The conference is basically three days. Workshops are organized based on where you are situated in your career:

  • Freshman Courses – some writing experience, little to no conference attendance
  • Sophomore Course – novelists with moderate writing experience, making progress on a novel
  • Junior Course – significant writing experience, benefits those previously published
  • Senior Course –established writers who are contracted

But, attendees can select any workshop they choose.

On Thursday night, there were agent and publishing house panels. Agents discussed what they look for in clients. Publishers discussed what types of manuscripts they are currently seeking. Attendees get to ask questions.

Saturday night there is an awards gala for titles in different genres. Francine Rivers won a lifetime achievement award, and she sat two tables over from me at lunch one day. (But, I was too scared to say howdy to Mrs. Redeeming Love.) The ACFW 2016 conference is August 25 – 28th in Nashville, TN.

The Definition of Success Differs…

I learned that the definition of successful book sales vary at different houses. For example, at Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster) 25 thousand copies sold in one year is successful, at Waterbrook/Multnomah 10 thousand sold is the benchmark, and for Lion Fiction its 5 thousand copies sold over a period of two years.

Indie Author Support

There also seemed to be lots of support for indie authors. Both of the authors I met, told me they’ve made more money on their indie published books than their traditional published books. Also, indie authors can submit their books for the Carol Awards if the author has earned $4000 from a single novel in a twelve-month period.

Post-Conference

Follow up. Follow up. Follow up.

I’m currently following up with contacts. One of the agents said she’s amazed at how many people she invites to submit full manuscripts that never do.

This doesn’t surprise me, because maybe they suffered from the same impostor syndrome as me and simply couldn’t risk being rejected.

My Main Takeaway…

In the workshop “The Wildness of Writing with God” the speaker explained that “our enemy loves to keep changing the definition of success…so that it never quite arrives.”

That was life-changing for me.

Because I realized, my identity as a writer comes from within and it is not based on some external measure of success that is forever elusive.


M Simone Boyd - Head ShotBio: Last year, M. Simone Boyd quit her job as an energy analyst to research what makes relationships thrive or die. She interviewed 10 Christian Black Men to get their advice on relationships and wrote a free guide. Simone is one of eight kids, and her awesome husband is an only child. She leads workshops, writes, and goes to the gym at least once a month. But only because she likes to eat gluten-free cupcakes.

Keep up with Simone via her website: MyFamilyFantastic.com


HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO A WRITER’S CONFERENCE? IF SO, WHAT WAS YOUR NUMBER ONE TAKEAWAY? IF NOT, DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT ACFW?

 

I’m In Love With A Church Girl

Im in love with a church girl

I went to see the movie ‘I’m In Love With A Church Girl‘ with my sister yesterday. It’s a faith-based movie starring Jeff  “Ja Rule” Atkins and Adrienne Bailon. I enjoyed it and thought that it was a refreshingly positive love story in more ways than one. I, for one, would like to send a message to Hollywood that there is a market for movies of substance. If you feel the same way, put your money where your mouth is and go support this movie! I think you’ll enjoy it. To see the trailer and/or sign a petition to have ‘I’m In Love With A Church Girl’ shown at your local theater click here. I hope you are all having a fabulous weekend!