My life is an open door

Lent is a busy time for a Catholic newspaper, all sorts of events to cover. So I’ve been to my share of retreats, conferences and talks over the last six weeks covering them for The Compass newspaper. It’s always a trick to record what is going on, get interviews done, take photos and yet still try to capture the essence of the event for myself. Many times it requires going home, writing the story, sending the story and pictures to my editor, and then sitting down to think about whatever gold nugget caught my attention during the event and pondering how I can implement that bit of wisdom into my life.

On March 14 I covered the Feminine Genius Conference held at St. Pius X Parish in Appleton. The speakers, including Rose Sullivan — executive director of the National Conference for Diocesan Vocation Directors and a USCCB consultant to the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, Father Mark Toups — pastor of Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and who also works with the Institute for Priestly Formation,Teresa Tomeo — author, syndicated Catholic talk show host, and motivational speaker, and Sister Maris Stella of the Sisters of Life who works in the Hope and Healing Mission, a work providing retreats and accompaniment to women who are suffering after abortion, were all outstanding.

Here’s the interesting thing, the one thing that I heard that has stuck with me since that day wasn’t some profound line from one of the keynote speeches. In fact, it wasn’t from any speech at all. It was actually from a conversation I had with Fr. Mark Toups after he finished his presentation. I was able to catch him in the lobby as people were milling around, looking at the various vendor booths set up for the day. Father and I were having a conversation about our busy lives between working, traveling and doing presentations (the bulk of my traveling and presenting is for my mission of sharing Kangen water) and balancing everything we both have going on.

As we were concluding our conversation, Fr. Mark asked if he could pray for me. I never turn down the opportunity to be prayed over, so of course I said, “Absolutely!” He started out the prayer saying, “I pray that the Lord opens the doors that need to be opened in your life.”I was really touched by that because that is really something I’ve been praying for as well, he certainly could read what was on my heart. If the prayer would have concluded right there, I would have been at peace with that. However, it didn’t end there and his finishing request was actually something I really need (even though I won’t always admit it).

“And may the Lord close the doors that need to be closed in your life.”

Wow! I was speechless. Boy oh boy, did I need to hear that.

There are so many opportunities that I could take advantage of in my life, with more coming my way every day, and each one could be so wonderful in its own right to pursue but I cannot continue to spread myself so thin or I won’t be doing any opportunity justice. This is something I really need to ponder in my life so I can discern between all the doors open before me. It’s somewhat mind blowing, that’s for sure.

I can’t thank Fr. Mark enough for his prayer over me. I have thought about that every day since and really consider it as things continue to come my way. It’s causing me to narrow my focus so I can be better at the things that are my absolute priorities right now. I will continue to write newspaper articles (but keep that number down to one article per week), I will work harder and smarter sharing the message of living water, and I will complete the manuscript for the book I’m writing. Now I just have to work on saying no to some people and opportunities so I can say yes to the things that matter to me the most right now in my life. Easier said than done, but I’m determined to stay the course!

Happy Easter everyone!

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Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Usually I’m the one doing the interview, today the shoe’s on the other foot thanks to Erin McCole Cupp, author and blogger extraordinaire at Will Write For Tomato Pie. If you’ve been wanting to know a bit more about me and my novel, A World Such as Heaven Intended, here’s your chance…

7QT: INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR AMANDA LAUER

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Welcome to Seven Quick Takes Friday, hosted by the lovely and talented Jennifer over at Conversion Diary  Jess at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Remember when I reviewed this book?

The author of A World Such as Heaven Intended has stopped by the tomato pie shop to have a little chat with us.  Let’s welcome Amanda Lauer!

ALauer-headshotAn avid reader and history buff since childhood, Amanda Lauer fulfilled a lifelong goal with the publication of her debut novel, A World Such as Heaven Intended. Lauer learned the technical aspects of writing as a proofreader in the insurance, newspaper and collegiate arenas. Over the last ten years she has had more than twelve-hundred articles published in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States. Lauer is the co-author of Celebrate Appleton, A 150th Birthday Photo Album, and contributed to the books Expressions of ITP…Inside Stories, and Living Virtuously — Keeping Your Heart and Home. In addition to her writing career, Lauer is involved in the health and wellness industry, striving to spread the message of true health — physical, mental and financial. Residents of northeast Wisconsin, Lauer and her husband John have been married thirty-three years. They are involved in their church and community and in their spare time travel for business and pleasure, play golf, run, bike, read, and further their education in the area of personal development. They are the proud parents of four young adult children, have a son-in-law and daughter-in-law, and are grandparents to one grandson.

And now, without further ado, here’s all you ever wanted to know about Amanda Lauer and A World Such as Heaven Intended!

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Tell us about your most recent work.  How did the idea come to you?  How long did it take you from start to publication? 
My debut novel, A World Such as Heaven Intended, was released October, 2014. I’m a freelance writer by trade and one of my jobs is writing for local newspapers. I had written an article about a family’s Civil War memorabilia and the gentleman told me the story of his great-great-great uncle’s experiences in the Civil War and I thought it could be the basis for an excellent book someday. An acquaintance of mine was working on a book herself and she challenged me to write one chapter of a book each month and we’d get together and copyedit each other’s manuscripts over coffee. So it took two years to write the book, then two years to find a publisher. In that time frame, I only queried twelve publishers because our daughter was a Make-A-Wish Child, so most of my energy was spent caring for her. About a year ago I queried Full Quiver Publishing and was offered a contract earlier this year. In total it was about a six-year process.
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Idea, research, editing, design…What was your favorite part of working on this project? What was your least favorite? 
My favorite part of working on this project was writing the dialogue between the main two characters, Amara and Nathan. I was literally laughing out loud as I wrote some of the lines and at times crying when the conversations got deeper. I also really enjoyed researching and learning more about the Civil War. I’m a history buff and it was fascinating delving further into this subject. My least favorite part was all the revisions. I realize now that every bit of feedback that I got made helped turned this book from a good story to a fantastic novel but it was a little disheartening at times. One particularly harsh criticism about the book literally had me walk away from the project for nine months; it was daunting considering what had to be reworked. But again, it made it the book it is today.
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Tell us about how this work came to reach us:  did you go the self-publishing route or did you contract with a publisher?  What was that like? 
From day one I was determined to go the traditional route and find a publisher who believed in this work as much as I did. While I could have done self-publishing since I am also a copy editor and proofreader, I never pursued that seriously. I had thought about getting an agent at one point, but did not want to put the time and energy into that endeavor either. By the grace of God, my book made its way into the hands of Ellen Gable Hrkach of Full Quiver Publishing. She is a fantastic publisher and editor, and her insight really brought this book to life.  Plus her husband James did an outstanding job creating the book cover. If this book turns out to be a million seller someday, I will have that team to thank!
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What other things in your life do you juggle in order to keep at your writing?  How’s that working out for you?
In addition to working on novels, I write for the Green Bay Diocese newspaper The Compass, I write for The Business News, I proofread for Saint Norbert College, I do product testing for a local personal product manufacturing corporation, I write product reviews online, I do commercial acting and modeling, and I own my own business that promotes true health — financial, mental and physical (www.KangenWisconsin.com). There’s never a dull moment around here, but I wouldn’t trade my life with anyone, I thank God every day because I’m so blessed with all these opportunities.
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Setting, characters, plot, mood, tone… What would you describe as your greatest strength as a writer?
My greatest strength as a writer is the technical aspects of writing. Years of proofreading other people’s works helped me to figure out the mechanics of writing so I feel that I see the big picture and attend very closely to details. I do love writing dialogue, especially lines that reflect my sense of humor!
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Conversely, if you could change one thing about your writing style, what would it be and why? 
Having worked in the newspaper arena for many years, my writing is very concise. We are generally limited to 800 words per story. I would love to be able to enhance my work more with descriptive wording but that just isn’t my style at this point.
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Lastly, where can we find your work, a. k. a. give you our hard earned cash? 
My book is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Thanks for your support!
Thank you, Amanda, for chatting with us!  Now, readers, go pick up your copy of A World Such as Heaven Intended!