4 Fabulous Books for Non-Fiction Readers and Writers

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Recently, I’ve been spreading myself pretty thin between various writing projects and extensive. Unfortunately, my blog has not received the attention it deserves. However, I wanted to share some great titles I’ve finished while I’ve been away. I’m quickly learning that it’s no easy feat to write 1,500 words towards my memoir in addition to my blog.

My nose has recently been in these memoirs listed below.

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro absolutely rocked my writing world. I’m absolutely devastated that I don’t own a copy yet, but when Tina Bustamante, my author and blogger friend  recommended it to me I immediately sought it out at the library. Thus far, this book has undoubtedly been the most influential regarding the specific craft of writing.

Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness  by Marlena Graves proved to be a wonderful memoir. As I begin my own journey learning memoir style, I’m exploring different memoir styles while I’m early on in my first draft. There isn’t a better way to learn than to read books published by authors who interest me.

On Words: Insight Into How Our Words Work-And Don’t by Paula LaRocque. Although not necessarily considered memoir, On Words is similar to Still Writing. I am learning that I enjoy short blurbs of wisdom, with chapters or sections only being 2-4 pages in length. Although this may not match up to my actual style of writing, as far as reading goes, I appreciate brevity in non-fiction. It’s so easy in memoir to want to give away all of what you have to say all at once.

Help. Thanks. Wow. by Anne Lamott. This book has been on my To-Read shelf for far too long. I was delighted when I discovered a copy of the on my grandparents’ bookshelf. Her books need not be geared towards writing in specific to positively influence my writing voice.

Also waiting on my shelf:

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I ordered this book nearly a year ago now. However, I have no recollection of reading it whatsoever. This makes absolutely no sense to me because everything I’ve read by Anne has made an impression on me. It’s likely that I ordered the book along with four others and couldn’t keep up with all the material I had started reading.

In Search of Light: The Broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow by Alfred A. Knopf. The Chinook Public Library might not have any works by literary genius Anne Lamott on their shelves, but I found a couple books about the life and career of Edward R. Murrow. Murrow is the namesake of the College of Communication at Washington State University. Go Cougs!

Follow me on good reads or Instagram to keep up with all that I’m reading!

Status: Active

I’m baaaaaaackkk!

I would like to sincerely apologize for posting less frequently on the blog. I never intended to suddenly stop. I’ve been doing an insane amount of reading and writing. Ironically, I’ve even been working through a blogging course with Jeff Goins’ Art of Work Course and Intentional Blogging. Heck, I’ve even started listening to pod casts about writing.  In the past month I’ve read about four different memoirs, as well as various entrepreneurial books that discuss the subject of  writing throughout. I’m gleaning anything and everything about writing and doing my best to apply what I learn.

Thank-you for your lovely comments regarding my last blog post I published in April. I hope you’ll be able to use it as a resource Before Opening Your Mouth. It was a joy to write and as always a joy to see that others resonated with the words I had to say regarding the difficulties that come with having a chronic medical condition.

I’ve neglected the largest audience I have thus far obtained since starting this blog and that’s you! As much as I wish I were simply sitting around writing and reading all day, I finally gathered up the strength to join the working world and started working again a month or so ago as a substitute teacher here at the elementary and highschool. It has been an incredible experience working predominantly with special needs kids at both schools. Occasionally, on weeks I’m not caught up with the schools I’ve been picking up stories to write for the Blaine County Journal News Opinion here in Chinook.

I’m still uncertain about what the summer holds for me. Thankfully, this uncertainty is less frightening than it once was say six months ago when it seemed my entire life was in complete shambles. Montana has been so good to me, there is no doubt about that. Washington and Montana may have to battle for me this summer. I’m currently torn between both states, waiting to hear back from potential employers in Washington. For now though, I’m enjoying today, living in the present.

That dreaded sociology paper  you’ve likely heard me ranting about at one point or the other is finally finished. Praise Jesus. Aside from four classes I need to attend this coming school year, fall semester is behind me, unless there are surprises lurking behind the corner waiting to jump out at me.

When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about how I should be writing. I know that sounds obsessive but any writer can attest to the love-hate relationship with the blank page.  And my “to-read” list. I’ve not idea how I’ll ever finish the eighty books that I want to read eventually. Follow me on Instagram @kaylanbonar for a look at what I’ve been reading  in the past few months. I’ve been more active on there than my blog.

I’m writing a memoir and I couldn’t be happier than when I’m brainstorming how to use words to share this story that God has called me to live. I took a huge leap of faith and shyly asked an author I deeply admire to help guide me and check in with me weekly.She said yes!  Writing is an isolating task at times and I finally gathered the courage to ask someone with more expertise than myself to shepherd me along as I navigate these new waters.

Washington D.C. is officially in the books for this coming June. I’ve never been and am absolutely ecstatic about traveling someplace new.

Thank-you for following along my journey.

Much love,

Kayla

Before Opening Your Mouth

These past couple of days, I’ve had some really great conversations with people about the healing process and how difficult it is to be an individual struggling with a disability. Emotional healing, physical healing, the whole spectrum.

I’m not sure why it didn’t quite hit me before, but most people are unable to provide adequate comfort and and use discernment around people-such as myself- who have undergone serious emotional or physical trauma. This shouldn’t come as surprising.

Although we- me and you- talk openly about trials and tribulations of all kinds, but when it comes to be affirming and empathetic, the discussion ends. An excuse I’ve heard for not practicing affirmation and empathy is that some people cannot understand because they haven’t gone through the exact same experience. While it would be great if we could all relate in this way, that would only mean more people suffering. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

After I returned home from the ICU in November I was struggling with borderline PTSD and severe anxiety and depression. The plethora of questions and promptings from friends and family that encouraged me to rehash the serious and unfortunate events was not something I was ready for. In fact, it’s been about five months now and only recently have I been emotionally prepared. Nonetheless, I answered the questions, but didn’t realize later on that re-visiting this trauma was horrible for emotional healing.

I’m sharing this with the hope that you will read and hopefully think more seriously about how to approach a friend or family member whose physical and mental health is in a shaky place. I want my experiences to become a teachable lessons that I can share with others through my spoken and written words.

Do Not Say

1. God has a plan.

2. Jesus loves you, therefore, you have no reason to be depressed. Depression is sinful.

3. You’re such a fighter!

Explanation: When I was hospitalized, I felt like my life was falling apart. It DID fall apart. When my plans for school, work, and relationships fell apart in a matter of twenty-four hours, I did NOT feel comforted or encouraged by the phrase “God has a plan.” I didn’t disown God, by having these feelings. Depression is a mental disorder. The many stigmas Christians have attached to the word “depression”  and “anxiety”  are wrong and the result has been a lack of healthy discussion about the issue. In the hospital intubated, and in a wheelchair and at home when I found myself crying about my situation, I did not feel strong. I don’t feel worthy of praise for merely surviving a life-threatening event.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful for my friends and family who helped keep me standing these past few months and I’m not disqualifying anything they said to me. If you read this and thought “oops I said that to her” it’s OK. No long term damage was made. My goal with this blog post is to promote better conversations, not idle on ones that weren’t my favorite .

Do Say

1. Nothing. Zip. Zilch.

2. I’m sorry that you feel this way. What can I say or do (if anything) that would make this better?

3. I don’t know what you’re going through and I’m not going to pretend that I do. Forgive me for anything that comes off as insensitive and if you feel like talking, please help me understand your situation more fully so that I can better serve you and help you with this healing process.

Explanation: this may sound weird, but have been many times when I asked people like my sister or my mom to simply sit with me. I said “if I feel like talking, I’ll speak up, but for now your presence is enough.” Sometimes it is that simple. Instead of assuming you know the right words or actions, ask! What can I do or say? Another “do not say” would be, “I know how you feel.” No you don’t. Everyone is unique and so are there issues.

Lastly, nobody likes a heart breaker. Don’t pretend to care and then leave. Let’s try and be better supporters of our friends and family who are struggling!

Montana Meanderings

I’m typing this blog post from a lovely little loft bedroom in my grandma and grandpa’s house in Chinook, Montana. It’s the type of room I’d imagine Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, or Ernest Hemingway wrote their novels from. However, I suspect my room is much  more comfortable, cute and neatly organized than any habitat those drunkards wrote in.

I haven’t visited Montana in close to six years. Since then they’ve moved from the forests and mountains of Libby to the prairie land that is Chinook.

The only sounds that I’ve heard this evening from my work space have been nothing more than the sound of wheels and horns from nearby train tracks and a couple of dogs yipping  and yapping at each other from across the neighborhood. But for the most part, my stay has been beautifully quiet and still. Simple.

Today I proofread a newspaper article.I hadn’t edited another person’s work  in months. It was a beautiful thing to return to my element. My grandpa didn’t appreciate me marking up his completed article in red pen. Heck, at the last minute I almost packed my brand spanking new Associated Press Stylebook. But I didn’t. Only because I had too many other notebooks, binders and reading material to strategically pack in my one suitcase.

I’ve read more books these past six months than I have in two or three years. In one train ride I finished Franny and Zooey and over half of Catcher in the Rye, each by J.D. Salinger. I’m certainly not short on reading material. Nonetheless, I cannot figure out what to read next.

I shadowed my grandpa and followed him to his job at the Blaine County Journal ~News Opinon weekly newspaper, the grocery store, bank, library, and credit union. Did I mention we were able to walk to all of these locations? And it nearly reached seventy degrees? It reminded me of Pullman, minus the hills.

After these important errands we searched around hunting for postcards. I’m a cheesy tourist and couldn’t refrain.

I’m still writing, in case you were wondering. I’ve been working on a lot of personal  projects all of which include writing of some sort. I won’t go into much detail but this includes learning more about writing from a handful of my favorite authors and applying those lessons. For more hints you can see my Instagram profile. I have been doing my best to make the most of this short blip in time where I am taking a semester off from school.

One project that is not secret at all has been my Indiegogo fundraiser campaign I started for my service dog Charley—who’s litter has not been chosen or likely born yet. Boy has that been an experience. Hardly halfway through my campaign and already over thirty percent of my funds have been raised.  A couple of others include two different news outlets, two dreadful sociology papers and my church back in Pullman!

Three. The number of times some dear soul has paid me to write. Beginning and ending my job at the newspaper was awful. Not long after my first front page article was published in The Daily Evergreen I had to abruptly leave. I had to abandon many people and classes and activities I love. I know soon I’ll be back. I’m not concerned about returning. I’m anxious about being uprooted again.

Not knowing is an awful feeling. Not knowing when or where my health could suddenly take a downward spiral. More than a feeling this has been a journey of trust. On more occasions than I can count I’ve asked God “why me and why now?” I realize I placed so much faith and hope that moving out and being independent. November was terribly disappointing.

All of that mess was redeemed. And through people and events that only God could orchestrate. You and I will consistently fall for the the lie that good things cannot come through difficult circumstances. But God breaks our fall. He doesn’t leave us abandoned. He intervenes. I say this now, after he’s picked me up. I offered no pleasant words to God or anyone in the midst of my mess.  It’s OK to not be OK.

Much love,

Kayla

Where Words Fail Art Prevails

I’ll always call myself a writer. There is no doubt about that. But there are some seasons where words-of any kind- don’t come easily. I’m not necessarily saying I give up on writing completely during these periods, but typically any words I do write don’t make sense or bring satisfaction or healing (if I’m working on personal writing that is). Writer’s block. I hate it. Mostly because I consider it my craft, but also because the habit writing relieves me of my burdens and also reminds me of life’s many, many joys.

And so, this week I decided to give the arts another chance. Painting, sketching, sewing, crocheting. They’re all things I’ve experimented with, but hardly ever been consistent in. I can’t say I’m completely disciplined in my writing but I think you get the picture.

I went to a Women’s Retreat with Northshore Community Church and during our very first session Lindie Freed shared her testimony in the most unique way. It’s called a Storyrope™.

. She held in her hand one long strip of fabric. Thick and sturdy. On it various scraps of fabric. Some patterned, others with different textures. All represented different seasons or events in her life. I nearly cried hearing her share her story. The imagery was simple and beautiful. She was so transparent. By the end I was close to tears. I knew that I had to make one.

The rope I interpreted as Jesus, the one firm and sturdy thing on to which everything else is wrapped around. He has been constant every single day of my life. He hasn’t always felt close. I’ve pushed him away. I’ve doubted. But numerous times I’ve come to the end of myself, mentally and physically and been reminded that he really is everything. By pushing him away I render myself incapable.

For every area of my life that I feel like I don’t measure up I’ve chosen to try and prove myself in an area I feel that I am proficient. My junior year of college and my first time away from home I took six classes, started working two jobs, and tried to keep up with different clubs and activities. I burnt out quickly.

Nobody asked me to work. Nobody said “Kayla, you have to finish school in two years.” I brought all of those burdens upon myself. After pushing my limits and then suffering a serious health event I realized that school is secondary to my well being. School and work isn’t going to make me happy unless I allow God to take control of the steering wheel.

I’m both nervous and excited for this special season in my life where God is bringing people and ministries into my life to help heal past wounds and turn them into something beautiful. Only He can completely restore. When we try in our own strength to stuff and hide our garbage it makes for a heavy heart.

What’s funny is that after working on my story rope today I’m here, on my blog writing again and sharing with all of you. It’s good to be back.

Much love,

Kayla

P.S. For more information on how to make a rope see http://storyrope.blogspot.com/

Travels with Kayla: In Search of Funds for Furry Friend

In my twenty years on this earth I’ve read hundreds of books. One of these  titles was Travels With Charley: In Search of America, a short memoir written by John Steinbeck. In high school, The Grapes of Wrath turned me off. I never picked up another book written by this famous author after reading it in American Literature.  If it hadn’t been for the recommendation from the lovely man behind the counter at Re-Read Books in Edmonds, Washington, I would have looked for or found this hidden gem.

But man. I’m so glad this book made its way into my hands. It has reminded me to never stop dreaming, learning, traveling, and living. Even if I did suffer from a life threatening seizure that nearly killed both me and my dreams.  Life will have an abundance of trials.(I know what you’re asking “why will no one stop telling me this?!”) The answer my friend, is because very few people go through life without them. Don’t view this negatively. Hard circumstances, hard people, hard questions have grown me and will undoubtedly grow–if you allow them.

Steinbeck embarked on his journey across America so that he could adequately write American Lit. And besides, who doesn’t love a good road trip? I’ve begun a a quest of my own. The best part is that like Steinbeck, I’m meeting a lot of cool people along the way. Unlike Steinbeck, I’m starting out without a dog. Unfortunate for me, but I’m making friends along the way and they all want the best for me. They’ve donated their time, skills, and finances. For that I am grateful.

Hop on the bandwagon with me!

Huge shout out to http://www.ericfossphotography.com/  and my friends at WSU, CWU and U of I.

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Two years later

Photo: Luke White
Photo: Luke White

In July of 2012, I travelled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti with a small team of  high school and college students from Northshore Community Church.Our initial goal was to partner with a small orphanage located in one of the most poor and dangerous city in the world.

On that twelve day trip, I met an amazing man named Windy Sauver. He had a passion for the children of Cite Soleil and a huge heart for Jesus.

He had an enormous impact on my outlook on life and my relationship with Jesus.

Windy is the most joyous person I’d ever met. His wide smile revealed pearly white teeth. When he thought no one was looking, I’d find him wearing his headphones and jamming to Imagine Me by Kirk Franklin.

At the time of our visit, Windy was also incredibly ill. Windy, unable to access reliable healthcare, was taken under the wing of Jeff and Terry Clark, our team leaders. The Clarks both work in the medical field in the United States. The Clarks, who worked alongside medical organizations in the states finally concluded that Windy’s illness was most likely Leukemia.

On December 8th, 2012, Windy was finally able to see the face of his sweet Jesus. All of his earthly pain and suffering was finally removed and his body fully restored. My heart aches because I selfishly wish that he never had to stop listening to his gospel music and writing his book. However, I also am comforted because I know that he found solace and strength.

As someone also living with a disabling condition, I found his endurance, faith, and hope absolutely incredible. Ever since I had been diagnosed with epilepsy as a child, I consistently failed to believe that anything positive could come from my situation. His testimony gave me hope.

I relayed briefly these anxieties to Windy who bluntly stated  that I was lacking the faith I claimed to hold. It took some time, but I eventually realized that he was not reprimanding me for any doubt. I think doubt is inevitable. In my life, doubt has always motivated me to seek truth and reassurance.

Windy told me that all the time God is good.  I began to take his words to heart.Joy remains within reach and fear should never dominate our lives, especially if we claim to be followers of Christ.

All Things Considered

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Today I cried. It was the first time I had cried in a long time. At least from what I can remember and I haven’t been remembering too well lately. Short-term memory loss tends to make life difficult in that way. Anyhow, I cried and it felt really, really great. I cried first with my sister and then with my mom.

Moseying around our room at home today,  my sister asked me “are you OK?” I responded with “yeah, sorta, well actually no.” Cue tears. And she said that’s OK. Nothing is wrong with not having it all together. No one is asking or expecting you to be totally with it. I had a similar conversation with my mom. I am so thankful for these women in my life.

After coming home from spending two weeks in the hospital in Seattle, I wasn’t sure the kinds of emotions I would experience, but after one week in I’ve mostly felt overwhelmed. After being home for one week, there is still so much to process. That is to be expected.

Two weeks ago, I had a seizure that caused me to become unconscious. After not being able to communicate with me, my parents started reaching out to my school friends via Facebook. Finally, after sending my friend Andrew directly to my dorm room finding that I did not respond to his knocks, the police were called and the door to my room was broken down.

Before being flown to Seattle Children’s Hospital from Washington State University, where I had been enjoying my first semester.  I spent a short time in the ICU at Pullman Regional Hospital.

Things were bleak. I am no doctor, but I’m pretty confident that a lot of people were unsure of if or when I would wake up, and if so, what damage would follow?

Waking up, while clearly a great step towards recovery was nonetheless very confusing. I didn’t know where I was, who my parents were, or even what had happened.

In all of the confusion, there has also been  a lot of clarity. I’ve had to rely and trust entirely on Jesus and my doctors. Jesus has shown me that my priorities are out of place and I also need to take it easier on myself. His presence has been so imminent. One of the workers in the hospital told me “I am so glad you have your faith!” I am too. I cannot even begin to imagine where I would be without my faith.

I have never felt so loved in my life. By God, friends, and complete strangers. I’ve also learned that just because God throws us curve balls in life and we don’t receive what, does not mean at all that he does not care for us. This is not the case at all.

I feel strongest in my weakest moments. People have been calling me “miracle child” and more commonly, “fighter.” And while I know this is meant to be flattering, I rarely ever consider myself either one. I call it being human. I am who I am because of hope. Side note: many people who follow my blog, read a blog post I wrote in March titled Hope is Hard. If this post interests you in any way, I’d also encourage reading my thoughts about hope as it is a topic I have brought up.

When people ask me how I’m doing and how I’m handling everything, my typical response has been along the lines of “All things considered, I am doing great!” However, internally, I’ve also recognized it’s perfectly healthy and normal to recognize that there have been large bumps in the road and recovery, especially emotional recovery, will only come with time.

Everyone, whether diagnosed with epilepsy or not faces trials and tribulations of various sizes. Sure, the events which took place two weeks ago my not occur to everyone, but everyone has a story-one that is unique!

No matter what I write about, storytelling almost always becomes incorporated. I write and share with you only because I hope that it’ll prompt you to do the same! So tell me, what’s your story?

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