Writing is a Marathon

Airmail Envelopes - Penpals - kimberlymitchell.usMy aunt recently mailed me a clipping from a daily devotional. She does this periodically and I’ve come to appreciate her thoughtfulness. There’s nothing like receiving mail (real mail!) from someone you love letting you know you’re in their thoughts.

The text of the clipping happened to be Hebrews 12:1-3. I don’t write much about faith on this blog, but it’s a deep part of my life, and that just happens to be one of my favorite verses, particularly this part:  “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Running Shoes - Writing is a Marathon - kimberlymitchell.us

As a runner and an athlete, the idea that life is a race I’m running has always appealed to me. I’m on a course but I can choose how I run this race. Do I sprint the whole way and burn out? Do I choose the way of the turtle, slowly but surely getting to the finish line? Do I fix my eyes on the runner just ahead of me and let her pace me, or do I blaze past her and hope I have the endurance to keep the pace?

And what does this have to do with writing?

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably noticed, writing is more like a marathon than a sprint. It’s a long, grueling process and the end of the race – publication, success, best-selling NYT author (hey, why not dream big?) can seem miles away – 26.2 to be exact.

Along the way, you’re going to encounter setbacks. Injuries that most often come in the form of rejection of your work. It’s not just disappointing, it’s soul-draining. You start to lose your way and wonder why the heck you’re even in this race because it sure looks like those non-runners are having way more fun and not throwing their precious time away on something that may never be successful.

No Thanks - Writing is a Marathon - kimberlymitchell.us

So you consider giving up. You bargain with yourself. Maybe writing isn’t as important to you as you thought. Sitting down to write is hard anyway, finding (and protecting) the time to write is too difficult, nobody wants to read these stories, so maybe your time is better spent elsewhere. Maybe you should get a “real” job or pick up a hobby that doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out? Netflix, anyone?

businessman- Writing is a Marathon - kimberlymitchell.us

Plenty of people entertain the idea of writing, dream about it, start a story, even finish that story, but somewhere along the way, running the race becomes too much. The injuries (rejection), weather (unexpected delays), even the crowd cheering you on (distractions), it’s too much to deal with. You’re already way too busy with life to keep pursuing something that isn’t working out.

A writing mentor once said to me, “I know plenty of writers who are way more talented than me who never published. They gave up. I didn’t.”

I’ve been writing consistently since 2004 when I moved to Yemen and suddenly needed something to fill the long evenings I used to spend with friends and family back home. So I started pursuing something I’d always dreamed about, thankfully ignorant of how difficult a road the writing life is. Over the past thirteen years, I’ve gotten better as a writer, more disciplined, though I have my moments, but I haven’t seen much success and I’ve certainly endured long periods of disappointment where I questioned everything.

But.

Let us run with perseverance.

I couldn’t quit the race. The thing about a race is you never know what’s around the next corner.

track-Writing is a Marathon - kimberlymitchell.us

In June I submitted three pitches to a Twitter event called #PitMad, where authors pitch their stories in 140 characters and editors and agents browse the feed and favorite anything that appeals to them. When you’re pursuing publishing, anything that gets your work in front of industry pros is invaluable. Writers pay big money at conferences and workshops to do just that.

Originally I was going to pitch two stories, but I added a third when I realized the rules for the event allowed it. I was surprised when this third story, a young adult dystopian novel, merited the interest of a small press in San Diego. They favorited my tweet. I sent a query letter with a more in-depth pitch and a few pages. Then I had a request for fifty pages. Then the entire novel.

And then I had an offer for the series. It happened so quickly I could scarcely believe it. Yet it didn’t happen that quickly because I already had part of that marathon behind me. All that hard work, the training, the persevering. I rounded the corner on the course I’ve been running a long time.

I signed on with Glass House Press at the end of June to publish my young adult dystopian series. The first novel, Dreamers, is expected to publish in 2018. (Whoo hoo!)

Is that the end of the race?

Start/Finish - Writing is a Marathon - kimberlymitchell.us

I have a feeling it’s just the beginning, actually, and that I’m going to need all of that endurance I’ve built up, and all of that perseverance to continue.

But I’m excited about the race again, and that’s where a runner, and a writer, needs to be.

 Me Running - Writing is a Marathon - kimberlymitchell.us

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.

Hebrews 12: 1-2

 

 

 

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Summer Fun at the Jones Center for Families

**FDC Disclosure: This year I’m an ambassador for the Jones Center for Families, which means I get to do cool stuff there and tell you all about it! I’ve been compensated for writing this post, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think the Center is awesome. You should check it out if you live in Northwest Arkansas or are visiting for the day.

Summer Fun at the Jones Center for Families

Beach Ball - Summer Fun at JCF - kimberlymitchell.us

As a teacher, I can’t tell you how happy I am summer is finally here. Don’t get me wrong. I loved teaching (most) of my pre-K students this year, but those last few months felt pretty long.

But now it’s SUMMER! And it’s time for summer fun, with or without the kiddos, and the Jones Center for Families has a great slate of activities for everyone to enjoy.

Let’s cut to the chase. Summer is all about swimming and the Jones Center has you covered.

Swimming at the Jones Center

The Jones Center has a junior Olympic pool and a leisure pool with a pretty kickin’ slide the kids (or you) will love. They also have extended swim hours. Family hours are:

Monday:
4:30pm – 8:00pm
Tuesday – Saturday:
12:00pm – 3:45pm & 4:30pm – 8:00pm
Sunday:
1:30pm – 4:45pm

The best thing about the Jones Center pool? No need for sunscreen since it’s completely indoors. Score.

For the adults: I love swimming, but I especially love it when I can swim laps without having kids jumping in and out of the pool or splashing me. The Jones Center offers plenty of adult swimming options.

Monday – Friday: Lap Swimming
8:00am- 1:00pm
4:30pm – 7:45pm (Limited Lanes)
*No lanes available Wednesdays [6:30-7:30]
Saturday:
12:00pm – 7:45pm
Sunday: 
1:30pm – 4:45pm

The Center also has swimming lessons through the Razorback Aquatic Club for kids ages 3-17. For adults, they’re holding an evening Learn To Swim Class for beginners and a Masters Swim Class for adult swimmers who want to improve their skills. (Heads up, this is an early one!)

Ice Skating at the Jones Center

Jones Center Ice - Summer Fun - kimberlymitchell.us

So swimming isn’t really your thing, but you’re still looking for a way to stay cool this summer? Why not hit the ice. The Jones Center has the only indoor, year-round ice rink in the area and it is cool, in every sense of the word.

Don’t know how to skate? The Jones Center has you covered with its Learn to Skate Classes for both kids and adults. This summer they’re also hosting two levels of Skating Camps. The beginner level starts June 13th and the advanced June 27th. If you’re looking for a more casual experience, the rink offers a variety of hours for recreational skating. Check the schedule for available skate times.

Swimming and ice Skating are what the Jones Center are known for, but there are many other fun opportunities to get yourself and the kids out of the house and moving this summer. Here’s just a few of them!

Unique Fun at the Jones Center

Kid Fit – You want to work out, but you have the kids with you. Kid Fit is for you. It allows kids to work out with their parents. You get to model how important exercise is and they get to burn off some energy. Win-win. Kid Fit is for kids ages 4-9 and their parents and classes are held on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. (Bonus: It’s only $3/session or free for members!)

First Friday Kids Night – Put this one on your calendar. Beginning July 1st, each first Friday of the month, the Jones Center will hold an energy-pumping kids only event that includes obstacle courses, games, pizza and a movie. From 6-10 p.m. your kids are entertained and burning off some energy while you’re out (or in) enjoying some well deserved time off.

obstacle-course-Summer Fun - kimberlymitchell.us

Summer Fun for FREE at the Jones Center

Who doesn’t love free activities? These free events are happening all summer long!

Yoga in the Park – Every Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. bring your mat and enjoy free yoga classes outside of the Jones Center next to the Farmers Market.

Movie Nights – Watch family friendly films for free on the big screen! Check the schedule for dates and movie titles. There are several scheduled for June. strawberries-Summer Fun - kimberlymitchell.us

Farmers Market – The Springdale Farmers Market is in its 20th season this year. The market is held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. all summer long. You can combine a workout at the center with a quick shopping trip for healthy, locally grown food and goodies!

If I talked about all the fun opportunities at the Jones Center, this blog would be far too long. Check out thejonescenter.net and follow the Jones Center on social media to stay up to date on the latest fun events. Memberships start at the incredibly low price of $5/month, but most of these opportunities are open to non-members for a small fee and it’s well worth your time to check it out.

Have a great summer!

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Tales of Yemen: Politics over Tea and Cookies

Globe - Politics over Tea and Cookies - kimberlymitchell.usIf you want to make Americans uncomfortable, mention politics or religion and watch the room fidget. You only have to look at the current presidential race to feel the awkwardness of American politics and see the deep divides it creates. And religion? That’s a topic better left to another blog post.

When I moved to Yemen, I quickly learned that these two subjects, nearly taboo in polite American conversations, are the same topics most often broached in first conversations in the Middle East. In fact, not discussing religion or politics with a guest in your home might be considered rude.

I wasn’t prepared to offer deep thoughts on American intervention (or interference) in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, or support or defend then President Bush’s war on terror, but these questions were the ones most often posed after the chai ahmar (red tea) and cookies had been consumed during afternoon visits with neighbors and friends.

Tea and Cookies - Politics over Tea and Cookies - kimberlymitchell.us

I’d been in Aden for roughly four months when Saddam Hussein was captured, sentenced and hanged. I vividly remember the afternoon I learned of his capture.

My fellow teacher, Vlad, dashed into the teacher’s room and breathlessly told me, “They got him.” I looked up from a grammar book I was perusing. “Who?” I asked. It was a steamy, Aden afternoon and I was battling a desire to nap. “Saddam Hussein,” Vlad gasped. I dropped the book.

We ran to the computer lab to pull up any information we could find. (Pre-Twitter days, but the internet still had plenty to report). Needless to say, my students were full of questions and opinions that night. They wanted to know if I thought Hussein deserved death, and whether George Bush hadn’t committed the same sorts of crimes in waging war against Iraq. Ironically, I had a student in class named Saddam Hussein (I’m not making that up), who took a lot of teasing that night, too. Eventually, he changed his name.

These were tough questions, and I didn’t feel completely comfortable discussing them, but I tried to push through my American upbringing and join in the debate. It’s not that my students didn’t agree that Hussein had been a brutal dictator, but they were uncomfortable with the idea that the U.S. could roll into any country, conduct a war, and drag that leader out of a hole in the ground for public trial. To be sure, they had cause to worry. The U.S. was (and still is) carrying out drone strikes against suspected Al-Qaida militants in a region east of Aden. Saudi Arabia and Yemen - Politics over Tea and Cookies - kimberlymitchell.us

Occasionally we’d hear the military jets leaving Aden on flights to observe that desert area and, I suspect, feed information to their U.S. partners. Perhaps their uncertainty also stemmed from the fact that their behemoth neighbor to the north, Saudi Arabia, is also a U.S. ally. There is little love between Yemenis and their northern neighbors, for too many reasons to cover in this post. It came as no surprise to me when the Arab Spring in Yemen resulted in a civil war partially influenced by Saudi Arabia and other outsiders. My students’ fears we spoke of on that long ago day are, in many ways, coming true.

Though I found the political questions challenging, I had to admire the openness with which my hosts asked these questions. They honestly wanted to know my thoughts as an American. I should also say, I never felt condemned by them, even when we disagreed or debated. They agreed that leaders can be separated from those they lead. In fact, the phrase, “Bush no good, but you, we like,” was a pretty common utterance. Evidence to the fact that meeting someone face to face and having an open dialogue is a far cry from the politically slanted, hate or fear fueled news we ingest every night.

I often wished (and still do) that every American could have the same experience I did and sit down to discuss politics with my Yemeni neighbors over a steaming glass of tea and chocolate filled cookies.

Arab Tea - Politics over Tea and Cookies - kimberlymitchell.us

Wouldn’t the world be a different place if we could?

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