It’s time for another Team Novel Teen Blog Tour! This time we’re touring Failstate by John Otte. It’s a really fun book about a young guy, who enters the show called America’s Next Superhero. But his superhero identity Failstate isn’t as cool as some of the other contestants. Here is the blurb:
Why did Robin Laughlin (aka. Failstate) think being a superhero on a reality show would be a good idea again? Things seemed so simple: win the show, become an official, licensed hero. But with his brother, Ben (aka. Gauntlet) stealing America’s heart and his own powers proving too unwieldy even for the monitored studio challenges, Robin begins to wonder if his calling isn’t to save the world after all.
Until one of his competitors is murdered.
Vowing to find the killer, Robin sets out on a very real quest to unmask the hidden villain. Can Robin find justice? Or will his lunk of a big brother ruin everything?
I’m going to post my book review tomorrow. (Click here to read it.) But I’ve got John visiting me today. Welcome, John! Your first novel released last month! Congrats! Share some of the exciting things that you’ve done during this release time.
Well, let’s see here. About a month ago, we had a big release party at my congregation. Around 80 people showed up and we sold out all the copies of the book (which was awesome; the proceeds went to the youth of the congregation for a big trip they’re taking next summer). We had an awesome band, some great snacks, and we streamed the whole thing on the web.
I’ve also been obsessively searching Google for references to my book. I keep getting nervous to find out what people think of it.
Don’t worry, John! It’s a great book! Have you received any emails from readers? Would you tell us about one? How did it make you feel to get that feedback?
I didn’t get an e-mail exactly, but I did get my first piece of fan mail from one of my confirmation students. He was turning in some late memory work and I was looking through it all when I found an envelope addressed to me tucked in the middle. In the envelope was two pieces of paper. One was labeled “Read First,” the other “Read Second.”
The first was a note explaining how much he loved the book. He then went on to explain what he thought should happen in the sequel. He had some very detailed ideas for characters and what should happen to them. The second note was a sketch he had done of what he thought the cover should look like.
I think I may have those framed.
That is awesome, John! You should frame them. Are there going to be more Failstate books?
There are! As a matter of fact, I’m about 2/3s of the way through the (as of yet) untitled sequel. There are zombies in it. Kind of. It’s not a true zombie apocalypse but I’m having fun with it.
And then there will be one more beyond that as well. I’m not exactly sure how to describe the plot without giving it all away. Suffice it to say, Failstate is going to face one of the biggest challenges of his superhero career.
I can’t wait. I adore Failstate. And you can’t go wrong with zombies these days. 😆 What do you consider some of your biggest life adventures, John?
I can think of a few. A year after my wife and I got married, we took a two week trip to Australia and I absolutely loved it! We saw the Opera House, SCUBA dove on the Great Barrier Reef, rode horses through the rain forest, and spent a few days on a place called Kangaroo Island. That last part was awesome. We got to see baby sea lions and we both got to hold a baby kangaroo. I also got to try kangaroo one night for dinner. Turns out, it tastes pretty much like steak.
I’ve also had some great adventures with the youth I’ve worked with. Every three years, our denomination has a big youth gatherings, usually somewhere down south. For some reason, most of the Gatherings I’ve been to have been in New Orleans, which is always a fun time. The last time, though, we spent a day cleaning up a neighborhood that was wrecked by Hurricane Katrina. It was a lot of hard work but absolutely worth it. I also donated blood for the first time at that Gathering, which is a major achievement for me seeing as I’m scared to death of needles.
But the biggest adventure by far has been raising my two boys. My wife and I adopted both of them and they mean the world to us. My older son is an absolute clone of me. We have very similar personalities. He’s started “preaching sermons” from time to time and he’s even started writing books. My younger son isn’t quite a year old but he’s one of the happiest babies I’ve ever seen. He has the most infectious belly laugh. I know both of them are going to have incredible adventures throughout their lives.
That is awesome, John. Love the picture of the rocks on Kangaroo Island! Not all life adventures are fun. And your story deals with some tough subjects. Robin and his big brother get a little competitive. Do you have any advice for teens that have to live in the shadow of a “perfect” older sibling?
Boy, that’s a tough one. I’m actually the oldest in my family. I don’t think I was a “perfect” older brother. My younger siblings and I once sat down and figured it out. I got the creativity, my sister got the athletic and intellectual ability, and my brother got the looks. So I’d like to think that we all got something.
But at the same time, I know it can be difficult walking in an older sibling’s shadow. I guess if I had any advice, it’d be to remember what St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12—“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men . . . All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 11).
God made you just the way you are. The Holy Spirit gave you the gifts He knew you could use to the best of your ability. And God doesn’t make mistakes. As hard as it may be, it doesn’t help to compare yourself to someone else. Focus on the gifts that God has given you and you will be able to do amazing things with His help and guidance!
Great advice, John! Thanks for that. What new fictional adventure are you working on now?
Like I said, I’m working on the first draft of the sequel to Failstate. I’m introducing some new characters (such as a sweet girl named Charlene and a teenage superhero named Kynetic). And I recently found the missing piece I needed to sew the plot all together.
At the same time, I’m getting ready to start editing a book called Hive. I call it my “pregnant teenage cyborg” book. It’s set in the far future. It has a lot of space travel and a little bit of romance.
I can’t wait to read your next Failstate story, and Hive is awesome–what I’ve read so far. I have a feeling you’re going to be publishing books for a long time! Thanks for talking with us!
To find out what the other Team Novel Teen members are saying about Failstate, check out the following links. And if you want a laugh, be sure and visit the Fiction Fire link. Christian Miles is one hysterical fellow.
ADD Librarian • The Book Fae • Bookworm Reading • Books I Recommend • Colorimetry • CTF Devourer • Fiction Fire • Gillian Adams • Hornspoon Reviews • My Story Shelf • The Pen and Parchment • Virtuous Girlhood
Team Novel Teen is a group of bloggers dedicated to spreading the word about clean teen fiction. Check out other posts about Failstate by John Otte by clicking on the links above, and check out www.NovelTeen.com for more information about Team Novel Teen.
Sir Gavin and Sir Caleb pose as bounty hunters and take Achan into Ice Island as their prisoner in hopes of freeing their men from the Prodotez.
Zondervan has updated and re-released Bill Myers’ Forbidden Doors series in four, three-volume sets. The Dark Powers Collection is the first book in the set.
Book 1: The Society
Becka and her brother Scott move to a new town. Having grown up on the mission field, it’s their first time living in a regular USA place. Right away they stumble onto things that remind them of the witch doctors from South America, who worship demons. But when Scott meets up with members of The Society and their Ouija board, he needs to dig down deep into his faith to know how to face them.
Great story. I instantly liked Becka and Scott. They’re fun, realistic Christian teens, who know just enough about their faith to get themselves into trouble. I enjoyed watching their struggle as they volleyed between keeping their mouths shut to make friends and speaking up for their faith. This is a fun story and one that will keep you thinking long after.
Book 2: The Deceived
Maxwell Hunter, a hypnotist, comes to town and convinces Becka that she was a powerful person in a former life. Scott doesn’t like the guy at all, but their mother is quite taken with him, so much that she goes out on a date with the guy! Scott is furious, and tries to figure out how to get his mom and sister to see that there is something wrong about this guy. But can he convince them before it’s too late?
This story intrigued me. Just the idea how people can so easily convince themselves that something they know is wrong is okay. That even Christians will feed their pride rather than face the truth. It makes me wonder what in my life I might be feeding for my own pride. This was a scary one, so buckle your seat belts!
Book 3: The Spell
The Society has had it with Becka and her brother Scott, so they place a spell on Becka, tying to shut her up for good. Becka finds creepy messages and dead animals in her path. She knows The Society is messing with her, and she knows they have no real power, but she’s terrified of what they might do next! Scott, on the other hand, is completely distracted by a very pretty face.
This one might have been my favorite so far. I really like how it shows ways that Christians can be used and taken advantage of when they give into fear or temptation and forget who to trust. I think I read this one the fastest. These are GREAT books. All Christian teens must read! Can’t wait for the next volume!
Age Range: 12 and up
Part of a Series: Books 1-3 of the Forbidden Doors series
Once I’d officially given up my pursuit of being a fashion designer, I started thinking about what God wanted me to be when I “grew up.” I wanted to serve him in a big way. I wanted to change people, and I became convinced that I was supposed to do that by being a speaker. I had an interesting childhood, I made a ton of mistakes, and I wasn’t afraid to talk about it.
I started researching how people become speakers at teen events and schools, and I discovered that oftentimes people are invited to speak after someone has read an article they wrote in a magazine.
Well, how hard could that be, right? So I wrote some articles, submitted them, and discovered that writing articles was a lot harder than I thought. Each magazine had specific needs and formats. I had to craft a different idea for each one, and there was no guarantee that they’d even use it! But I kept at it, determined that I was doing something worthwhile and necessary.
Around that time a debate sprang up in our church about the Harry Potter books and whether they were “safe” for Christians to read. Now, despite what you feel about them, I was annoyed. I’ve always been an avid reader, and I knew there were far worse books out there for teens that most parents didn’t even know about. I got thinking, why couldn’t someone write books for teens from a Christian worldview?
Maybe I could.
I pushed aside my article writing and started a novel. Looking back, I did everything wrong. But I got hooked on it. It was so much fun. And I had no desire to go back to the hard work of writing articles.
I started to feel guilty. Hadn’t I decided to serve God in a big way? Hadn’t I dedicated my life to helping teens by sharing my story and what I learned? Writing my little spy kid novel was totally selfish! I was turning my back on something “holy” and doing something that was more fun. And God knew it!
I talked to my pastor about this and he set me straight. He reminded me that God can use anything he wants to reach people. And if I really loved writing this book, he thought I should keep going.
I got thinking about King David and Nathan and how Nathan wanted to point out that David was sinning with Bathsheba, but rather than tell the king he was doing something wrong, Nathan used a story to reach him. (2 Samuel 12) And it worked.
And Jesus told stories all the time to get people to think about deep things.
I decided to keep writing that book.
The thing is, planning is good. But God wants us to experience life, not schedule it. And sometimes we can’t know what he’ll put before us until he does it. And if we’re too caught up in our own agendas, we just might miss out on something pretty amazing. Something better than our own plans.
CS Lewis said in Mere Christianity: “Your real, new self will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.”
I was trying to plan out who I was going to be. But when I stepped back and went looking for God’s will instead of what I thought he’d find pleasing, I found myself.
Serving God doesn’t have to be taking a vow of silence, becoming a pastor, or going to bible college. It might. But God doesn’t want to bully us into a life of service. He wants us to give him our hearts. To love him above everything else. He wants us to be who he created us to be. Not who someone else already is. And when we find ourselves, we’ll know how to serve him. And if it’s truly our calling, we will find joy in it.
Have you ever gotten so caught up with your To Do list or your own agenda that you forget to seek out your creator? Have you ever struggled with your dream being too much fun or the complete opposite? Leave a comment and tell me about it.
There are, like, a thousand books on purity out there, and I’ve read a lot of them. What I felt was different about this book was that it got me thinking about purpose, which is one of my life passions. God has a purpose for each of us, whether we believe it or not. And he is asking us to seek him out and trust him.
Lots of people think that believing in God and living for him means that we have to follow a long list of rules. When I first started following God, that’s what I wanted, believe it or not. I wanted to the rules. I wanted to be sure that I would never mess up my life again. But that’s not how it works. We all mess up, whether we love God or not. And Elsa gets that. Man, do I wish I had read this book when I was a new Christian!
Elsa walks us through all the questions a teen girl might have. It’s not about setting impossible standards or being perfect, it’s about loving God and letting God love you. It’s about learning his plan for your life and embracing that. Can you imagine? God loves you and wants to give you a purpose while you’re here on this earth. How cool is that?
This book is filled with practical advice, true stories of girls who’ve struggled, and discussion questions to get you thinking about how to apply all this to your own life. Totally worth the read. I highly recommend this one.
Now that Lena Mattacascar has turned eighteen, she decides to leave home in search of her father in the wild wilderness of Scree where the Peculiars live—outcasts for their strange inhuman characteristics. Lena has always feared she might be part Peculiar because of her long fingers and feet, and she conceals her deformity as best she can, always wearing gloves.
When traveling on the train, Lena meets Jimson Quiggley, a young librarian, and Thomas Saltre, a marshal. When Saltre learns who Lena’s father is, he asks her to spy on Jimson Quiggley and his boss Mr. Beasley and report whatever she learns back to him. In exchange, Saltre promises to help Lena find her father.
Mr. Beasley’s home is filled with strange inventions and noises in the night. The more she learns about Jimson and Mr. Beasley, the more she likes them. Lena’s confusion over who to trust leads her to a decision that changes everything.
This is a steampunk novel. I adore steampunk and wish there were more of them. Steampunk is merely a fantasy novel that takes place in a time period where steam power was used as modern technology. Such a storyworld enables interesting props and plot devices.
This is a fun book. Totally clean. Lena is shy and naive, self-conscious of how she looks, especially in regards to her hands and feet. Jimson is loyal to Mr. Beasley and enthralled with invention and progress. He doesn’t care much for Lena’s faith, which adds some interesting discussions here and there. And Mr. Beasley is the enigmatic inventor, who reminded me somewhat of Doc Brown in the Back to the Future movies.
I enjoyed the premise of what makes one human. The Peculiars with their strange deformities are said to be unable to go to heaven by missionaries in the story. The missionaries were written as firm legalists to their beliefs, though one changed her mind in the end. I’ll be interested to see where the author takes this subplot.
Lena’s search for her father gets derailed by the marshal’s quest, but it all comes around in the end. Her confusion about who to trust is likely a relatable experience for a young woman inexperienced with advances from a handsome man. The marshal is sneaky—I didn’t trust him. But I could see how Lena might. This is not a fast-paced book, but I was never bored and look forward to the second book in the series. This is a fun, thoughtful, clean read.
NIV Boys Bible
I’d been wanting to upgrade my son to an “older” bible, as he’s been getting too old VeggieTales one. 😉
This one is perfect! I love that he has the full Word, the same text that I have in my bible. He feels good about having this new bible, and the cover looks “guy.” He loves the “grossology” sections, which expand on something from a passage that is truly gross. And the “What’s the Big Deal” sections that appear every four pages give further thought into passages.
He knows that it really doesn’t matter what kind of bible he has, that reading God’s Word is all that truly matters, but I think this particular bible makes him smile and go looking to connect in his own 10-year-old way.
Cute cover. My daughter loves it. At eight, she’s a little young for the “Oh I get it” sidebars and “Dream Girl” devotionals, but she likes the “Is There a Little Wise Kid in You” ones and the sporadic quizzes. I like that there’s a brief intro page at the beginning of each book that explains in kid terms what the book is about and gives some highlights. I love that she has the same NIV version of the Word that I have, so we can each read from our own bibles and have the same text.
This is a bible she can grow up with and love until the cover wears off. And I think that someday she will read those longer sidebars and devotional passages and really enjoy them because they are deep and thoughtful.
Two thumbs up for both of these bibles. They give my kids the Word in a unique package that appeals to them.
A few years ago I first saw the cover for Solitary by Travis Thrasher (click the title to see my review). It was simple and intrigued me. And when I read the book, it totally sucked me in! I kept thinking, “Christian teen horror? Who knew?”
But then the book made me mad. (I may have thrown it once.) And in the end, it left me so puzzled that I needed to read book two, which left me dying to read book three to the point that I actually pre-ordered the thing. And now I’m a Thrasher Head, counting the days until January.
“Hey, Travis… I don’t suppose you need any endorsements for Hurt?”
Yeah… I figured as much.
At least I got to talk with Travis a little in the meantime.
I’d like to say that this isn’t a series you want to start in the middle. If you haven’t read Solitary, go buy it right now. Or enter to win below. Travis has graciously offered to give all three books to one of my blog readers.
So enjoy the interview, enter to win, and if you don’t win, go buy Solitary! You will be entertained.
In regards to the picture above, look how fabulous Hurt looks there on the end with the creepy ol’ church on the cover. Oh, Hurt! How I long to pluck you off the shelf and read all of your pages.
Okay… Jill’s losing focus here.
An interview! Yes. That was the plan. (Why do I feel like Doctor Who today?)
Without further randomness, I give you Mr. Thrasher. *applause*
Travis, when you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since third grade, and that has been the one constant in my life.
When did you decide to try writing books?
I’ve always been reading and writing but I wrote my first novel in ninth grade. I still have it. It was written in pencil on notebook paper and it was called The Adventurer. It was pretty bad.
Was it hard work?
Writing is the easiest thing in the world to do. The hard part is writing something that is well written!
What was your biggest obstacle as you learned to become a writer?
Self doubt. I think that’s one of the biggest obstacles for any writer. Writing is such a personal and solitary craft. You’re left alone to your own habits and hangups. It’s easy to have insecurity about every part of the writing process. The key is plowing ahead even if or when you know the writing is awful or simply mediocre. I think I’m the most persistent writer out there. Not the most talented, but the most persistent.
What do you consider one of your biggest life adventures?
I live on a bloody battlefield. Except the blood is colored pink, and there’s lots of toys littering the field. As the father of three girls (a five year old and two 17-month-old twins), my wife and I are currently on an amazing adventure. Trying to do this while supporting all of us by “living the dream” (see question #1) can be tough. But doors continue to open to writing projects. I never know what adventure will be coming next!
Temptation is book three in the Solitary Tales. Here is the storyline:
It’s a fabulous book. But, again, if you haven’t read Solitary and Gravestone, read the series in order! Travis, in your Solitary books, Chris has to move to a strange town that’s far away from anything. What advice would you give teens that are forced to live in places they don’t want to live? How can they make the best of things?
Keeping a positive attitude is the best thing you can do. I know that sounds trite–I find it hard at times to keep positive myself. Life doesn’t always go the way we hope or expect. Moving around was hard for me–I went to four different high schools. At the same time, I wouldn’t change anything because it made me who I am now.
The older I get, the more I realize that every single day we have is a gift. When you’re a teenager, you think you’re going to live forever. You think that forty-years-old is over the hill. You sometimes can’t wait to be a grownup. Relish those times of being a teenager regardless of the circumstances.
Any real-life adventures planned for the near future? If not, what is one dream that you’ve yet to live?
I’m starting to look ahead to the future in terms of family plans. I’ve always looked ahead when it came to my writing, and I still do that. But now, with these three little ladies in our house, I’m looking through a different set of lenses.
What new fictional adventure are you working on now?
My next book is an eBook only release of a story called Teardrop that is part of seven other stories in the 7 Hours project released by Tyndale House Publishers. It comes out in May. Then in September, a novelization I worked on for the movie Home Run will be released. The movie is a tremendous story about a professional baseball player who is forced to go to rehab and ends up finding hope and redemption.
Thanks so much for the interview, Travis! I look forward to your new writing projects, and obviously, to Hurt. Here are some places to find Travis online:
Travis’ website: http://www.travisthrasher.com/
Travis’ blog: http://thejourneyiseverything.blogspot.com/
Travis’ Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Travis-Thrasher/13427461109?ref=ts
And to enter to win Solitary, Gravestone, and Temptation, leave a comment and/or “like” Travis’ Facebook Page. May the randomest entry win.
Today Team Novel Teen is reviewing Interrupted by teen author Rachel Coker. I can’t think of anything cooler than a traditionally published teen author. There are so many reviewers talking about the book, and you can visit those links at the bottom of this post. But I thought it would be fun to talk with Rachel, so I asked her some questions. I’ll post my review of Interrupted tomorrow.
I can definitely say that the last few months have been some of the most exciting of my life. It’s just been a whirlwind of interviews, radio shows, giveaways, talks, and even a few book signings! The most surreal thing to happen so far was when I got the chance to fly to Philadelphia to sign books at the Public Library Association Conference. Shaking hands with so many people and getting to share my book with them was just an amazing experience—I was smiling the whole time!
I bet! Have you received any emails from readers? Would you tell us about one? How did it make you feel to get that feedback?
Yes, I get emails from readers on an almost daily basis! Each one is so special and unique and they almost always make me want to cry. Happy tears, that is! It’s an amazing feeling to know that other teens from all over the country (and even a few international emails from places like Australia, New Zealand, and Canada!) are hearing about my book and are being inspired by my story. Every time someone tells me something like, “I never thought it was possible to get a book published in my teens, but you have given me faith and confidence to go out there and try to get my book published,” I feel like it’s my birthday, Christmas, and National Pie Day all wrapped up in one!
Tell me more about this National Pie Day… Kidding! Have you ever gone to a writer’s conference? Would you be interested in teaching a class at a conference? If so, what topic might you speak on?
No, I’ve never been to a writer’s conference, although I would love to go to one! I do have several speaking engagements lined up to talk to teenagers interested in writing at different schools and libraries. I have this great workshop prepared called “How to Live Like a Writer” as well as talks on practical fiction writing advice. And of course I love to talk to teens about how to go about getting their work published!
I want to take your workshop! Not that I’m a teen, but… What do you consider one of your biggest life adventures?
While I have experienced a lot of amazing things, I really hope that my greatest life adventure hasn’t happened yet. I have so many dreams of seeing the world, meeting new people, and embarking on many great adventures. I just pray that I’ll get to see some of those dreams realized one day!
Well, Interrupted is a wonderful story. Here is the back cover copy:
Can love really heal all things?
If Sam Carroll hadn’t shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time. Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother. She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept. Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie’s heart from hardening completely.
But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her. As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.
Not all life adventures are fun. And your story deals with some tough subjects. Allie has to take care of her sick mother. Do you have any advice for teens that have a parent that needs care?
Oh, this is such a tough topic. One of the most difficult aspects of writing Interrupted was forming this relationship between Allie and her mother. Because Allie’s mom suffers from a brain tumor and begins losing her sanity, their traditional mother-daughter roles are reversed and Allie turns into her mother’s nurturing, maternal figure. It’s always hard when life throws us curveballs and we have to face difficulties that we didn’t think we’d have to deal with until we were well into our adult years. But I think the only way that anyone with difficult circumstances can cope with tragedies and hardships is through praying. We have a God that promises to supply all our needs and give us the strength to carry on and make those hard decisions. It may have taken Allie several years to realize that, but all along it was God’s strength that supported her.
That’s wonderful advice, Rachel. Thanks for sharing that. What new fictional adventure are you working on now?
I’m putting the final touches on my next novel, which due to release in March 2013. I’m really excited about this one! The story revolves around a teenage girl named growing up in Georgia during the 1960’s. Her younger brother has autistic tendencies, but because so little was known back then about mental disabilities, everyone just regards him as a freak. Scarlett encounters so much turmoil and stress as the world changes around her, and so many things threaten to tear her family apart. But in the end, she has to learn what’s really important in life. It doesn’t matter what other people consider normal or acceptable. What’s important is to be true to yourself and to look after those you care about. I can’t wait to share more details as the release date grows nearer.
Wow! I can’t wait to hear more! It sounds like a powerful story. Congrats on the new contract and thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
Find out what the other bloggers are saying about Interrupted!
Team Novel Teen is a group of bloggers dedicated to spreading the word about clean teen fiction. Check out other posts about Interrupted by Rachel Coker by clicking on the links above, and check out www.NovelTeen.com for more information about Team Novel Teen.
I’m the oldest of five. I grew up in Alaska. My dad built our house bit by bit as the bank account allowed. We didn’t have electricity. We didn’t have TV. Every time we went into town, I checked out a bag of library books. When I wasn’t reading, I was daydreaming.
Most my daydreams centered on becoming rich and famous, which I figured would bring true happiness. I dreamed I was a rock star, an actress, a movie director, a writer, and a fashion designer.
The fashion design dream—that was the one that stuck. My mom did our back-to-school shopping at thrift stores. So I remodeled all my “new” clothes. And when someone complimented me on my outfit, I’d say, “I made this!” The positive reactions of my peers fueled my dream. I sewed clothes from scratch, sewed my homecoming and prom dresses, and joined the FCLA and sewed for competition.
When I started looking at fashion design colleges, my parents wanted me to get a teaching degree to fall back on. It wasn’t bad advice, really, but it felt like they were saying I’d fail at fashion design. And a few people actually told me I’d fail.
No way was I going to let that happen.
I learned everything I could about the industry. I studied famous designers like Coco Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, and Calvin Klein. I subscribed to VOGUE. I found documentaries on the industry and memorized them. I was obsessed.
I earned a fashion degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Our graduation was at Radio City Music Hall. The same place Daddy Warbucks bought out the show in Annie! How cool was that?
We moved to Los Angeles. I worked at a little girl’s dress making company, and later, a better evening gown company. I was living the dream!
Except things weren’t at all how I dreamed it would be. The designers were worried about losing their jobs and never let assistants design anything. Ever. I ordered buttons and zippers, I beaded straps, created stylebooks, worked up cost sheets, cut swatches, and mailed the line to New York, Dallas, and Philadelphia via FedEx more times that I care to remember. But I never got the opportunity to design.
I wasn’t living the dream at all. It was more like a Devil Wears Prada nightmare!
I decided to start my own business. I loved bridal, so I designed a line of better wedding gowns. I created the patterns, chose the fabric and trim, and sewed all nine of them myself. My company was called Lugano. I went to the Chicago Bridal Market in spring of 2001. Two of my dresses even showed up in a fall issue of Modern Bride! I had done it!
The whole ordeal was amazing.
And a reality check of epic proportions.
You see, when a girl gets engaged, she buys a stack of bridal magazines and marks the dresses she likes. The ads tell her whether there is a store nearby that carries each gown. She visits the store to try on the dress. She might not buy it. But that advertisement was what got her to the store.
Each season, bridal stores have a budget for what new dresses they can purchase for their store. And most of the budget is used up on a few designers that advertise in magazines, since those ads get customers to the stores. And even thought I got a little free publicity with my two dresses that appeared in Modern Bride, it’s the big, full-page, color ads that get most brides calling up the stores.
Back in 2001, a full page ad in a bridal magazine cost around $40,000 (and higher!) per page, depending on which magazine and whether the ad was color.
Jill did not have $40,000.
The only other way I could get my dresses in stores was to go on the road doing truck shows. I’d put my gowns in the trunk of my car, drive to different stores, show my gowns to store owners, and hope they’d order one. Stores might take a dress on consignment, which means I’d give it to them for free. If they sold it, they’d pay me. If not, they’d give back the dress.
I couldn’t afford the materials to make dresses for free. Nor did I have the time to go on the road and try and hand sell my line. Brad and I had bills to pay.
The bottom line: I had a pretty good head for business planning, but I was terrible at finance and I hated sewing. My biggest skills were in patternmaking. But I had gone to college for design. I thought about going back to major in patternmaking, but after much prayer, I decided to let this dream go.
My husband was experiencing a similar dilemma. He had dreamed of becoming a movie director. But after four years of working in the film industry in Los Angeles, he too was at a crossroads.
All we really knew was that God was asking us to trust him. And looking back I see that he wanted us to stop striving so hard for fame and fortune. He wanted us to learn that those things would never satisfy.
And when I look back on my desire to be a fashion designer, sure, I had some skill, but I grabbed hold of that dream because some people had praised my skills and some had told me I’d fail. Neither of those reasons were godly motivations. They were both motivations of pride. Pride isn’t always a bad thing, but it should never be our primary motivation. Our primary motivations should come from God.
Had I wasted eight years of my life on the wrong thing? No way. I learned and grew so much through those experiences. I might not have been following God in my pursuit of fashion, but God knew I needed to experience that journey—to find out for myself. Like a child who is told the stove is “hot,” often times the child doesn’t learn what “hot” really means until he experiences the pain of touching and feeling it.
So I entered a new phase in my life. I was ready to see what God wanted me to be when I “grew up.”
Wherever you are in life, whatever you “want to be” or truly feel “called to be,” wait on God’s perfect timing. Trust that he has a plan for your life that can’t be beat. Trust that each day’s journey is important. And trust that everything you experience is part of your story. If I hadn’t chased my dream of being a fashion designer, not only would I still wonder today if I had totally missed out, I wouldn’t be the same person. That journey is part of who I am.
Don’t be in a hurry to live your life. Slow down. Enjoy each moment. Serve God in each moment, for that is what God wants each of us to be when we grow up: His servant. Trust him in all things, and he will lead you where he wants you in his perfect timing.
How about you? Do you feel God is calling you to something specific? Or do you feel a little lost with what you should do with your life? What are some ways that you say “yes” to God each day?