Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Happy Thanksgiving! Merry Christmas!

Sorry, but I'm not a "happy holidays" kind of person, and not because I'm insensitve or offensive. This time of year is so fantastic, celebrating all we have to be thankful for, then capping it off with celebrating the birth of Christ (for which I'm most thankful), that I'm unwilling to dilute my excitement with any more bland greeting.

I wish each of us felt we had cultural permission to be excited about what we LOVE. But really, do we need permission to shout love from the rooftops? I'm talking about the holidays for sake of example, but of course, my meaning is larger. If I say to you, "Merry Christmas!" and you don't celebrate Christmas, please don't hear, "Bah humbug on your person!" Instead I hope you'll hear, "I'm so happy that I want to share my happiness with you!"

When my Jewish neighbor says, "Happy Hanukkah!" while she's shoveling snow off her driveway, that fills me with delight, even though I'm not Jewish and don't celebrate Hanukkah. Joy is contagious, isn't it? How can I be offended by someone who wants to share joy?

Of course, there is an even greater gift in knowing a person well enough honor their ways and traditions. When my Jewish neighbor says to me, "Merry Christmas," I'm completely humbled by her kindness. If we could do this with every person we encounter, none of us would have to give any other presents!

There is no cause for offense against the person who wishes me a Joyous Kwanzaa or shows me a photo of her kids on Santa's lap or announces they're leaving the country for the month of December to find peace away from all the commercialism. Because here's what I'm getting at: when we give away our joy, and when it is accepted without offense, an electric connection happens between people. When we celebrate someone else's joy even if it isn't our own, we create new opportunities to share not only happiness but also pain and sorrow, which don't disappear in this season. We give other people the chance to be more fully human.

That's what I want for Christmas this year: the chance to be more fully human in the world, the chance to connect with others, free of offense on both sides, whether it be through holidays or stories or chance encounters.

HAPPY Thanksgiving. MERRY Christmas.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Writing with Ted

I get this question a lot: What's it like to write with Ted Dekker, no less than a New York Times best-selling author?

A little bit like following Tyra Banks down a runway in a bikini. Very intimidating! (Make what connections you will between Tyra and Ted.) But Ted, as you know, is as gracious as he is talented, and he’s been patient with my sometimes-bumbling early attempts at novel writing.

Each of our stories has come about in its own way. For KISS, I sent him several story concepts, and he pulled from one of those a device he liked: the idea that a woman could steal memories from other people. Then he built a story out of it that was quite different from the one I envisioned, but of course it was spectacular. BURN (releasing January 2010) emerged from two ideas we had independently of each other that had similar themes of regret and second chances. We married those concepts and got a pretty baby out of the union. So the process has reinvented itself each time.

Ted and I spend a lot of time on the phone hashing out ideas. We talk and talk and talk. I’ve lost at least three phone batteries to Ted alone. Then I write and he reads and we talk some more. Then I write and rewrite, and he writes and rewrites, and we go back and forth like this until the story is born. It’s a real synergistic endeavor, and each time I learn something new—like what not to eat if you want to look good on the runway in a bikini.