Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writers and Writing

I just read John Green’s Printz Award speech from a few years ago.

He got it for Looking for Alaska.

Alaska is the reason for the flowerpot tattoo on my leg.

John Green has impacted my life and my writing and the way I think about the world so much.

I am grateful that he exists and chooses to share his thoughts with the rest of us.

He is a main reason I want to write books.

I try not to talk about wanting to write books too much.

In part because I don’t think I can because oh-my-gosh-what-if-i-don’t-have-anything-to-say.

And in part because I don’t want to be a person who always says things but never does them.

And of course because I’m afraid of committing to the life of a writer, of the road it will take me down.

But John, his writing makes me believe in myself, and it makes me want to do the hard work, long hours, and stress it takes to be a writer.

I found TWLOHA three years ago.

It was a beautiful story of hope and redemption that met me in a time when I desperately needed both.

Over these past three years, I have read countless blogs.

Sometimes when I saw a new blog was posted, I would tell myself if I did everything on my to-do list, then I could read it.

Sometimes, the blogs picked me up off the floor.

Other times, the words sat with me as I rocked back and forth, trying to soothe my pain.

Always, they made me feel less alone.

I remember writing in my journal once that I wanted to touch people’s lives like that with words.

Last week, I wrote a blog for TWLOHA (posted below).

It was only supposed to be for the road blog, but Jamie (the founder) read it and said it should be posted everywhere we post blogs (and that’s like 4 different places).

First of all, I was floored.

I mean, I worked hard on it, but mostly it was something that just flowed out after reflecting on the day with the team.

Suddenly, I had done something I wanted to do but never knew would be possible.

There are more than 100 comments on that blog full of praises about the words I wrote.

This is obviously encouraging.

It made me think maybe I can do this writing thing.

I’ve done so much over the past few years I never believed I could do before I decided to go after it with all I have.

For example, I am an English major (also, I realize some people may think that I am no longer an English major since I graduated, but that just isn’t true—I will be an English major for life).

I sucked in English all through school.

Like, I got my first D in Phonics in second grade.

And I hated being bad at English because I loved reading so much.

I made it into all the honors and AP classes in high school because I knew how to work the system, not because I was really smart in the subject.

I remember sitting in senior English reading Shakespeare and wishing so hard that I could understand his crazy 400 year old drama speak.

I also remember my first assignment for Shakespeare in college and how after Act I, I actually knew what the story was about.

I ended up chasing English as my focus for my college career because of Ms. Britt.

She believed in me.

She said, “a writer is someone who writes.”

That statement gave me so much hope.

I respect her, and whenever she gives me a compliment, I know it is the truth.

Ms. Britt doesn’t tell a lie when it comes to giving an opinion about writing.

She made me believe I could have a different story, and I am grateful for her all the time.

So, I guess what I’m really trying to say is I’m hopeful.

I know that Jesus believes in me more than myself most of the time.

He will take me places bigger than my dreams if I ask.

Now for a few updates:

  1. It cooled off for a few days!!!!!! I actually wore long sleeves and shivered. It was glorious. :) Sadly, it will be in the 80s again this week, but the staff says it will get colder soon.
  2. I really enjoy The Proposal (the movie with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds). We watched it last night on the projector (because we don’t have a tv), and it was just as awesome as when I saw it in the theater.
  3. I finished Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It was good. I think the challenge he places on himself and presents to the reader will stay with me for years to come. He dares us to live a better story, to realize each person is “a tree in a story about a forest.” And he has really great stories, short real-life vignettes to unpack all of his points.
  4. I really miss my apartment bed. It was a full size bed that I could sleep on one side with clothes and books and pillows on the other side. I also miss my nightstand. Not that it was fantastic, it just existed. I sleep on a top bunk here with no nightstand. It is quite unfortunate.
  5. Where the Wild Things Are is one of my favorite movies of all time. Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze executed the story beautifully on screen. The emotion is real and deep and is not explained away with too many words. I cried. A few times. I can’t wait to make it a part of my collection. Please read Libba Bray’s post for more of about the movie. I agree with her.

I hope this post finds you well and smiling. May your week be filled with good reading and lots of laughs.

so much love.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Follow the Link

for pictures. :)

so much love.

A Little Bit of What I'm Up To

This is a little something I'm working on for TWLOHA to post on the Tumblr blog. It's about a walk we participated in on Saturday. I hope you are well and still enjoying your fall. :)

Side by Side, We Walked

When we woke up to go the park in Cocoa Beach for the Out of the Darkness Walk, it was still dark outside. We loaded up in the van to go to the park. The walk was part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. We checked in and met Angela, the woman who organized the walk for our area. She wore a button on her shirt with a smiling young woman with long auburn hair on it. It’s her sister Carla. She died by suicide two years ago. Today, her family walked for her. We did, too.

Memory boards covered one picnic table. It was a place for attendees to write special messages to friends and family lost to suicide. This year we received donations at TWLOHA from friends and families in memory of loved ones lost to suicide. We hold them and their families close to our hearts. We walked in their honor and on behalf of their loved ones.

Before beginning the walk, Angela gathered us around. She shared the story of her sister’s long battle against depression. She talked about how important it is that we reach out to others, to make it real when we say “you are not alone.” She stressed the importance of medication and therapy. She said her family wanted to do this walk in an effort to help people like their sister. With a group of no more than thirty-five people, together, we set out to walk three miles, half on the sidewalk along the road, half on the beach. The sun had been rising in the sky, and the light was erasing the darkness.

We walked for the memories.

We walked for the families.

We walked for the names on our banner posted to the memory board.

We walked for the woman on the beach we met who lost her brother to suicide.

We walked with the family who lost their father two months ago.

We walked with the women who lost her father thirteen years ago to suicide, who attempted to take her own life seven years ago.

We walked so that we don’t forget.

We walked because we are all connected.

We walked to let our stories come together, to tell a greater story of hope.

Yes, we walked for HOPE.

It was an honor to be a part of such an intimate setting, walking with such a freshness of healing. We are grateful to have been there, to literally walk through this with people in our community. We entered the walk among strangers, and left with friends, left with people who truly cared for one another, left with encouragement that we are doing the right thing. We left in the light.

so much love.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Updates, Books, and Home

I hate the way that time seems to run away from you before you even realize it. I’m not so good at updating this blog more than once a week. The sad part is that I have so much to blog about, but there doesn’t seem to be enough time to get all of the thoughts down. I will be better about this.


1. So, I watched Whip It! Ellen Page is phenomenal, and the story is good. But for me, it was hollow. I read half of the book. If you know me, you know that rarely do I only read half of a book. But the story wasn’t captivating enough. And the author is the same person who wrote the screenplay, so I think it’s more that I don’t like her writing. I mean, I love the idea of a young and quirky woman with a lot of spunk decides to challenge herself with roller derby. But I kept waiting for something deep to happen, for there to be some amazing and profound line. It never did. Unfortunate.

2. I saw Rob Bell on Tuesday in Tampa. He released a new book in August called Drops Like Stars. It’s about creativity and suffering and love and Jesus. The book was amesome as was his talk. But his talk simply added an interactive element to the book. I expected it to be somewhat like a lecture because I’m forever a student. :) It was good, and I still took away pockets full of wisdom even though I had read a lot of what he said already.

3. Zach Williams is amazing. He is a musician who lives in Brooklyn. His music is raw and honest. Sometimes he wails so much passion that I get chill bumps. Normally, that only happens with live music. His music is inspiring me lately. I haven’t felt inspired by music in a long time, so it is beautiful to be in that once again. You should check him out:

4. Have I mentioned that Florida did not get the memo that it is fall? Because it didn’t. And it is HOT. I am a North Carolinian who enjoys ALL of the seasons. Want to know my least favorite? You guessed it: summer. Oh the sacrifices we make to do the things we love. Haha. jk. I listened to Christmas music on today just to feel cold. Haha. It didn’t work, but it was nice.


I started Donald Miller’s new book the other day. It’s called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It’s a spiritual memoir and kind of a sequel-ish thing to Blue Like Jazz. I read that one at a pivotal time in my life in college and got me thinking about Jesus in new ways. This one is doing the same thing.

The book focuses on the journey Don was on when two guys asked if they could make his book (BLJ) into a movie. Of course, the story had to be edited. So, Don learned a lot about story and that in good stories a character goes on a search for something. Don says that to have a meaningful life, we need to live a meaningful story. And I wonder if I am living a meaningful story. I think I am. I will let you know how the rest of the book goes.

I miss home. I mean, almost everyone who leaves home misses it at some point. I am no different in that regard.

I miss the kids,

and the way Meredith looks in the fall,

and my conversations with Luke about movies,

and listening to Noah while he reads,

and playing barbies with Isabel,

and drinking wine and talking with my mom,

and watching LOST and hanging out with my sister,

and my apartment and the four of us who made it a home,

and the living room that was “my room” for a month and a half before I left,

and walking the halls of Joyner on the way to class,

and helping students in the Registrar’s office,

and my wonderful professors and their wealth of knowledge,

and Shakespeare,

and reading Chaucer in Middle English,

(not so much Jane Austen, haha),

and Raleigh with roads I know and the random late night drives they took me on,

and my snobby Barnes and Noble in Cary where all the booksellers know me.


I’m not sad; I just miss it. Remember what I said in the last blog about learning how part of loving someone means that there is a part of you that aches when they are not around. Well, I ache for home. I don’t want pity. I simply wanted to share.

That’s all I have for now. But I promise to write another blog before 7 days pass.

so much love.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

As Promised

I promised a blog of updates, so here I go . . .

1. I am very excited for Whip It to come out on Friday. Ellen Page is the star, and Drew Barrymore is directing. I think the women in my house may be game for getting together to see it. Which would be awesome because I haven't seen anything in theaters since Paper Heart.

2. I very much do not enjoy going to work at 9. I mean, I do it because it is part of the rules, and I'm a rule follower. But just to share, I'm not a fan. I think 10 works much better. But no one asked me. lol.

3. I like to hear from you, dear readers. I want to know what you're thinking, how you're doing, and what you want me to write about. So, you can leave that in comments, send me an email, or facebook it to me. Either way, your thoughts and opinions are important to me. Just know that.

4. I will always be a night owl, no matter what my schedule is.

5. I am still in love with my mac.

6. I am thinking about what happens next (I mean, really I have never stopped thinking about this). If they ask me to stay for another term, at this point, I don't know what I would say. But there are other things on the table now, like grad school and other service work (where I may be able to get some kind of stipend). For a long time, I thought working for TWLOHA would be a destination. I'm learning that it may be just a part of my journey. And I'm okay with that. :)

7. I'm beginning to understand what it means when people say I love you. I've always had a difficult time really knowing what people mean when they say "I love you." Even when I say it to other people. But I am beginning to see that part of it means that there is a piece of themselves that they keep for you and it aches when you're not around.

8. Sticking to a strict budget is difficult and takes a great deal of discipline. I am trying.

9. Florida is still hot. Like NC summer hot. I am not amused or excited. I want fall, the whole shebang of 60-70 degree weather ALL DAY, leaves changing colors, and a countdown to Cornhuskin'. :)

10. The Cocoa B and N is nowhere near as good as the Cary B and N. I kind of want to send the Cary one a letter through snail mail professing my love, but that is a creepy thing to do. So, yeah, I'm not going to. Just sharing.

11. I get to see Rob Bell next week!!! :)

12. I am trying to lean on Jesus. This experience is hard and stretching. Definitely worth it, but I need Jesus to help me with this. So, I am trying to be more open to that, to let myself be vulnerable and have faith. Please pray for me in that.

All for now.

Another blog soon.

Take care of you.

And wherever you are, I hope you have fall and you're loving it. :)

so much love.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Silence Says Love

So, my next blog will be of the update variety.
But for this one, I wanted to share a piece that I wrote in response to a prompt from my Intern Coordinator.
The prompt was: Write about a journey with an uncertain destination.
Here is what I wrote:

Silence Says Love—whitney wilson

The sun is going down, but we will not turn on the lights. I’m afraid if I move, we will lose everything we’ve built in the last hour. I think it’s something like trust, but thinking about what is happening will take me out of the moment. We are sitting on the itchy Sunday School classroom carpet, our legs crossing over one another’s. Our youth group is meeting in the fellowship hall, while the pastor’s voice of urgency cries faintly from the sanctuary. This is more important.

I am holding her hands like she’s hanging off a cliff. In a way, she is, and I beg God to let every piece of hope and strength I have pass through my fingertips to her. It’s too dark now to see the tears that I know are rolling down her cheeks. The person I was a few months ago wouldn’t know how to respond to what she has told me tonight. Jesus is teaching me that those things are not the point—that He has told me to love. I am trying. Tonight will not be the last night she cuts herself. And I can’t make her put down the razors. But I will love her through it.

All the people who have said they would stand by her have gone. She feels alone and judged and angry. I still don’t know what to do, but I listen. I look her in her eyes to let her know I’m with her, and I listen. I hold her hand, and I listen. And I tell her I’m not going anywhere. People always leave her. I will not leave. I will tell a different story. The part of me that thinks that people are objects to be fixed struggles to find words that will revive her. I am unsuccessful, and I try to remember that people want to be heard and loved. Maybe silence will speak louder than any words that I could say. Maybe if I don’t try to fix her like everyone else, she will trust me.

Two weeks later, we sit in my car trying to cut off the world around us: church, youth group, and wondering eyes. She is still angry at them. I am too. I am angry on her behalf because I have chosen to step into this journey with her. We sit, and she says,

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful, but I don’t understand why you care so much.”

“I can’t explain it,” I said, unsure how to describe how love works. “There is something within me that makes me care. I love you. You are important to me. And I want to help you. It just is. I don’t know how to respond any other way.”

There is silence. We are good at silence, but I wish I could give her something to believe in. I tell her a story that is changing my life—not a parable or a piece of Scripture, just something I’ve read about a girl from Florida that is related to her story, and in it, I see love.

A year later, we meet the man who wrote that story that helped save her life. She has come so far in one year. We have built a beautiful friendship since the first time I grabbed her hand and told her I was in this with her. When we became friends, I had no idea I was beginning one of the deepest relationships of my life. And it isn’t over.

Sometimes, she looks at me with this intense stare, remembering, I think, those first few months of our friendship. Once, I asked what she was thinking when she did that, and she told me how much she loves me. She thinks I saved her. But I think she saved me, too.

The end, but not really.

I would love to hear what you think.

Be sure to check back again soon.

so much love.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Long Time Comin'

My name is whitney, and I've decided to write a blog.

If you know me, then this paragraph will be a lot of review, and you may want to just skip to the next one. I'm just going to be a little narcissistic and believe that at some point maybe people who don't know me personally will read my blog. And maybe they will want to know how I started, so logically, they would refer to the first post. So for those unknown readers that I'm hopeful for, here's myself in a nutshell: I graduated from Meredith College, a small women's college in Raleigh, NC, this past May. I majored in English, an accomplishment I am quite proud of since I was never very good at it before. It is amazing what happens when you mix women's college empowerment, Ms. Britt, and a little encouragement together. Anyway, after feeling completely directionless for half the summer, I got an interview for an internship with To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit organization based in Cocoa, FL. I've been tuned into this thing for three years, and when I got accepted, it was all that cheesy dream-come-true stuff. I decided I would give it a shot, try to tell a story of hope in a world of brokenness. Now, I'm in Cocoa, and I've just finished the first week of the internship, and I plan on keeping a blog the whole time I'm here and hopefully after. Other important things to know about me:

I am in love with reading, writing, editing, and books--and when people say that publishing is dying it breaks my crooked little heart;

not surprisingly, I read a lot;

I just got a new MacBook thanks to a gracious family that I hope is always a part of my life;

I follow Jesus, and I'm not awesome at it, but I try;

I have had some variation of purple in my hair for three years;

Barnes and Noble, even with its corporate ugliness, calms me down and helps me feel centered;

and I like and ask a lot of questions.

Now onto the regular bloggery things.

The first week of the internship was intense. And that is putting it lightly. Not intense in that running-around-like-a-headless-chicken sense, but in a this-stuff-is-so-heavy-that-it-makes-you-feel-like-you-ran-around-a-football-field-even-though-you-didn't sense. To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) deals with issues of depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. Our week was focused on becoming more educated about these issues and having discussions about community, a part of healing we think brings light into those darknesses. It was good, and I'm still glad I'm here, but I'm tired. Thankfully, today, we slept without alarms. I didn't get up until the afternoon.

On the subject of sleeping till the afternoon (a sure sign of a college student) . . .

It is weird for the reality of school-lessness to sink in. Like, even if I go to grad. school, I will still have a grown-up job paired with that. My life will never look the way I've always known it to look again. That's scary because I don't know (yet) how to live any other way. Obviously, I will learn and adjust. But the transition is hard and sometimes unfortunate.

In happier news, my MacBook is glorious. The only downside is the sharp edge where my arms rest while typing. Dallas, one of my greatest friends, warned me of this. But like I'm learning to live a different kind of life, I will learn to type a different way (or deal with the pain). Let's hope this transition is easier. I have an orange case to put the computer in. Orange makes me think of a great friend I had when I was in high school. I don't think you'd say we are friends anymore, but I like the memories I have when I see that color. Orange is the color of community for me, the color of deep friendship where you hold hands in the midst of hurricanes.

I'm just going to assume you are interested to know where the title for my blog came from. I would certainly be interested in an explanation had I come across it in my reading. If you're not interested, it's okay, you don't have to tell me.

The title is from three books by three writers I admire and respect dearly.

Chiaroscuro is not in the title because I am an artist or because I'm crazy about art. It is there because it is part of a quote in A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. Gemma learns about chiaroscuro in her art class, but she applies it to life later in the story: ". . . in each of us lie good and bad, light and dark, art and pain, choice and regret, cruelty and sacrifice. We’re each of us our own chiaroscuro, our own bit of illusion fighting to emerge into something solid, something real. We’ve got to forgive ourselves that. I must remember to forgive myself. Because there is a lot of gray to work with. No one can live in the light all the time." This is something true, and Libba says it well. I live in this contrast, constantly trying to get to something real. Hopefully, this will ring true in this blog.

Fragments comes from David Levithan's The Realm of Possibility. It is a book with twenty different voices from the same high school. When I say it like that, it sounds simple and maybe even fun. But it is so much more. It is hard and hopeful, sad and illuminating. It is one of my favorite books. The quote is from a girl who says, "I often feel I am living in fragments, skipping / over words, leaving the rest of the sentence / blank in order to move on to the next page. / Maybe there is hope in fragments, that what is lost / can always be filled in by someone who knows." I feel like this, like my life is a jumble of fragments, but I love the way this character tries to find hope in that. And this blog will be a compilation of fragments and an attempt to let other people fill in the blanks.

The Great Perhaps comes from John Green's first book Looking for Alaska. They were part of the last words of Francois Rabelais, a poet. The Great Perhaps is believing in having a "more-than-minor life." Near the end of the book, Pudge, the main character, realizes, "it was worth it to leave behind my minor life for grander maybes." And this is what I want to do. Because grander maybes are much better than minor realities. In a way, that's why I'm in Cocoa. Being an intern for TWLOHA is part of my Great Perhaps.

So throughout my journey, I hope to share with you my light and my dark, and my belief in grander maybes, no matter how fragmented they may be.