Friday, September 29, 2017

Hope Changes Everything by Dawn Kinzer

Hope Changes Everything

Fridays at Seriously Write are devoted to sharing personal journeys to publication and offering encouragement to new and experienced writers. But today, I want to turn the tables and focus on our readers. I’m talking about offering hope.

Almost everything we do in our lives stems from hope.

There wouldn’t be any point to starting a diet if we didn’t have hope it would work and we’d lose weight.

Would we make a trip to the mall to shop for a new outfit if we had no hope of finding something we’d like?

Without any hope of getting a certain job, would we spend time and energy sending a resume and pursuing an interview?

However, it goes much deeper than those things, doesn’t it?

People who have hope have a reason to get up in the morning. They believe during challenging times, painful circumstances will change. Their finances will turn around, the sick will feel better, and broken relationships will be healed.

Most recently, thousands had their lives turned upside down by Hurricane Harvey. The devastation we witnessed on the news from our comfortable living rooms was difficult to watch. The number of people who were reaching out to help, risking their own safety, humbled me. It also made me feel guilty for having grumbled about the ongoing hot temperatures and draught that Seattle experienced over the summer.

When people have hope, they expect a rainbow to someday follow the storm.

But what happens when no matter how hard they try, things still don’t go right? When they’re hit with one horrible blow after another, and there just doesn’t seem to be a way out of their hurtful or messy situation?

They lose heart. They give up. Without hope, people die. If not physically, they die inside.

As Christians, we know all about hope. It’s what helps us deal with dark days, insurmountable obstacles, and heartbreak. We have hope because we know what we experience on earth is temporary. We know there is more beyond our life here.

It may not take much to restore a desire in someone to keep going, to try again. But who’s going to light that spark?

Perhaps it means providing physical needs—funds, items for survival, shelter, or even opportunities that will help them move forward. But, hope can even be ignited by something as simple as an encouraging note, an offered prayer, or a shared cup of coffee and a listening ear.

As Christian writers, I believe we have the ability—and maybe even the responsibility—to inspire hope with our written words.

Will you be someone who kindles hope in those around you?

Remember . . . hope changes everything.

How can you offer hope to someone this week?

In 1904, Hope Andrews, an aspiring fashion designer, struggles with leaving New York City. But with no job, her parents leaving the country, and an abusive ex-fiancé refusing to accept their broken engagement, Hope doesn’t have much choice but to give in to her parents’ wishes that she move far away and live with her cousin indefinitely.

Talented Benjamin Greene can’t deny his passion for painting, but guilt over a painful incident in his past keeps him from sharing his gift. Instead, he devotes much of his days to helping his younger sibling rebuild a farm inherited from a great-uncle. Only his brother is aware that Ben spends his spare time in a studio on their property.

In the small rural town of Riverton, Wisconsin, Hope and Ben can’t help but be thrown together. But as feelings for each other deepen, tension thickens over how talent should be used. Their mutual passion for art brings them together, but will it also drive them apart?

Dawn Kinzer is a freelance editor, and her own work has been published in various devotionals and magazines. She co-hosts and writes for Seriously Write. Her personal blog, The Garden of Dreams, focuses on encouraging women to find purpose and pursue their dreams in the different seasons of their lives. Sarah’s Smile is the first book in her historical romance series The Daughters of Riverton, and Hope’s Design is the second. Rebecca’s Song will be released in 2018.

A mother and grandmother, Dawn lives with her husband in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Favorite things include dark chocolate, good wine, strong coffee, the mountains, family time, and Masterpiece Theatre.

You can connect and learn more about Dawn and her work by visiting these online sites: Author Website, Dawn’s Blog, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Sign up on her website to receive her newsletter, and you’ll receive Dawn’s short story, Maggie’s Miracle (PDF format) as a gift.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Laced into Shape and the Ideal Victorian Weight By Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Courtney Sale

We have all most likely seen some depiction of the typical Victorian woman. In antique photographs, cards, old Sears catalogues--a dramatic hourglass silhouette is quite prevalent. If you are anything like us and enjoy sifting through books and the internet to ogle the drool worthy ladies fashions of the different bustle periods, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Again and again, there it is: the tiny waist, vivacious hips and a round, lifted bustline. 

Most are aware of  the corset’s existence and that it is this contraption that helps create those tiny mid-sections and va-voom hips. It is this device of accursed apparel that is depicted in films as squeezing the air out of women’s lungs, causing the poor damsels to hyperventilate. This has been vastly exploited as the norm of corsetry. But seriously, corsets are not and were not meant for torture. The beginning concepts of the corset were originally produced in the 1500’s and were designed as stiffened undergarments to give needed functional support. But the existence of the corset soon developed a new fashion concept. Up till this point, fashion had been about shaping and altering the clothing to accommodate the body’s unique shape. When the corset entered the scene, manipulating the body itself to fit the shape and styles of the day became the new trend. Skip ahead a few centuries to the Victorian corset. It creates the envied  hourglass shape by redistributing fat and skin on the body to accommodate the ideal style; A silhouette we associate with the Victorian era. 

It became a desired and necessary addition to every Victorian woman’s wardrobe. They truly are lovely to look at. But after the many hours fawning over Victorian themed Pinterest boards, we noticed a pattern. In the most popular fashion plates, illustrations and photographs of Victorian women, they were always so flawlessly smooth and well . . . thin. Where were all the chubby ladies? You don’t see any lumpy back fat spilling off of these corseted beauties. 

Based purely on these depictions, one could easily come to the conclusion that Victorians must have all just been skinnier than we are today. We could speculate the validity of this theory using Victorian diet, economy, and/or less sedentary lifestyles as the cause, but overweight Victorian women were not uncommon. Sure Victorians were, on average, smaller all around than we are today but the interesting truth is that most of the popular illustrations for Victorian catalogues and fashion plates were actually depicting teenagers and younger women. Much like today, the Victorian fashion industry would target the younger generations to determine and set trends. It was not that the majority of Victorian women were necessarily any skinnier, merely that advertisements were alive, well, and depicting the youthful ideal of the times.

What the corset did for the Victorian lady had nothing to do with her age or weight. As mentioned earlier, the corset brought forth the concept of changing the body shape to suit the fashion. This undergarment granted the opportunity of illusion; a way to achieve the ideal silhouette and proportions, not a specific size. So upon further research, we found that there were many photographs of Victorian women who would be considered overweight by today’s standards. They had wider arms and thicker thighs, but they still achieved the infamous hourglass shape.

We were greatly inspired by one of the more well known overweight Victorian beauties, Ms. Lillian Russell (1860-1922). She was an American actress who remained a pinnacle of beauty despite her hefty weight gain in the later part of her career when she weighed 200+ lbs. 

Now don’t misunderstand and think that larger Victorian women didn’t feel a burden because of their size. There were still Victorian weight loss efforts and fat shaming--again, not much has changed--but a person’s size was still at the mercy of the ideal of beauty for the time period. They could only adapt to match it whether that meant adding to or subtracting from themselves. The Victorian corset was the equivalent of today’s Spanx or butt enhancing shapewear.

Different styles and materials within the corset would cause varying effects to the fat distribution on the body. The corset could be tailored to fit the needs of each individual in order to obtain the desired silhouette.

You can observe for yourself the effects of these different styles on our bodies. If Alanna wished to accentuate her small waist instead of enhance her bustline, she would opt for the overbust corset. For someone like Courtney, the tightly laced, sweetheart corset with flat steel boning helps define her waist and bustline.

This was the game for Victorian women: What combination of corset and petticoat layers would create the illusion of the hourglass? If you were a thin, wispy Victorian woman with no rear or hips to speak of, you would have packed on the layers of petticoats and added a “butt pillow”, as we call it, to create the illusion of having curves. It was all about tucking and fluffing to create the ideal waist to hip ratio no matter your weight.

Of course, there were individuals that went a bit overboard. Some women did in a sense torture themselves to get a smaller waist. They would deliberately choose corsets too small for them and tight lace themselves into smaller measurements. This would sometimes shift internal organs, break ribs (sometimes on purpose or even have a rib or two surgically removed), and cause fainting spells.

In all actuality, average Victorian waist sizes were somewhere between 22-28 inches without a corset on. Most would only lace their waists down 2-4 inches which isn’t so unheard of today. Have you ever measured yourself before and after you squeeze into your Spanx? This idea that every Victorian lady had a 15-19 inch waist or sought to achieve this is insane. Those women were few and far between.  Remember, these women still had to function and live while wearing the corset. So no matter their size, the average Victorian woman would not torture herself for the ideal weight, but simply lace herself into shape.
Corsets are amazing accessories of history. But the practice of manipulating the body and creating an illusion to achieve an ideal of beauty is nothing new.  We hope we can all learn from these Victorian ladies that there is nothing knew under the sun and that we only have one body. No matter the fashion trends, we are the ones who must be determined to look, feel and act beautiful. That’s the idea. 

Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Courtney Sale have a combined total of 53 years experience in the seamstress arena. Both starting at a young age, they learned the enjoyment of sewing from their grandmothers.

Courtney's interest historical costume came from watching Rodgers & Hammerstein films as a child. She fanned that flame by joining the seamstress at the University of Central Oklahoma Costume Shop. Likewise, Alanna's interest began when she joined a Medieval and Old West reenactment group.

Their paths collided in Fall 2015 and they immediately bonded as chosen sisters. They have recently started a God-centered business named The Crooked Needle to produce quality costumes, historical garb and accessories. They desire to expand and provide services to historical authors who long for accurately dressed book covers.

Alanna's first published story, Legacy Letters, came out in 2016.

Amazon Buy Link: Legacy Letters

You can connect with Alanna online at:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Kidspiration by Pepper Basham

I’m a mom before I’m a writer. It’s one of my favorite things to be. And I KNOW God has a sense of humor because he gave me five fun, crazy, challenging, and imaginative kiddos who’ve rocked my world in the best possible way. My oldest is 19 and my youngest is 10 – three boys and two girls.

It’s amazing how much these kids have direct inspiration on my life as a writer for several different reasons.

1. They teach me about ‘life’ which translates into my stories – Living life with a bunch of people who have different personalities, interests, and ways of seeing the world creates amazing opportunities for different discussions and perspectives. I hope that comes out in my stories. I like variety in characters and concepts, even if all of my books are romances. My kids have grown me as a person and a Christian, and I hope readers benefit from that in my stories.

2. They help me write kid-stuff – I LOVE to add kids into my books, in fact a few of my characters have been directly inspired by my kids. I think kids can add levity and depth to stories in a very different way than an all-adult cast can do. Getting to experience that in real-life certainly impacts the way I write about it in fiction.

3. They keep my imagination active – Oh boy, do they!! I’ve engaged in front-yard sword-battles, Nerf gun attacks, fantasy-world dress-up, new gaming opportunities (Go Mario, Zelda, and Minecraft). In my upcoming novel, I even allude to a very fun Nintendo game. With my oldest son (19 years old), I get to talk about character development and story creation because he’s a writer too. My 15-year-old daughter loves to talk books and movies with me. My 17-year-old son and I discuss various gaming story world – and all of those discussion push my imagination into motion in different ways. It’s so much fun!!

4. They’re invested in my writing journey too – My kids pray with me before I submit a proposal to publishers. Isn’t that SWEET? They also ask me about my imaginary people in my imaginary worlds. And they’re fantastic cheerleaders. My 15-year-old daughter has been my ‘assistant’ to all of my local book signings and has even traveled with me to conferences before because she loves joining me in this journey. It’s been super fun to introduce her to my writing buddies 😊

As a side note – I’m doubly inspired because I work with kids in my “day job” as a speech-language pathologist. In my current WIP, I’m including a character who has a repaired cleft lip and palate, and I hope to continue to be inspired by these amazing kids that I serve to incorporate them into my future stories.

I can’t imagine being on this journey without the support of my kids…and am grateful for the purposeful and ‘accidental’ inspiration they provide to help me create believable, fun, and creative characters 😊

Who do you take along on your writing journey?


Second Impressions 
Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes novels inspired by her love for history and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her Penned in Time series has garnered recognition in the INSPYs, Grace Awards, and the ACFW Carol Awards. Her contemporary romance novel, A Twist of Faith, received 4-stars from Romantic Times, and most recently, her newest release, The Thorn Healer, received a Top Pick from RT with 4 ½ stars. Her newest contemporary romance, Just the Way You Are, released in April 2017. You can connect with Pepper over at her group blog, The Writer’s Alley, her websiteFacebookInstagramPinterest, or Twitter.