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Today is the official release day for English Lessons. I found it hard to think of what to write to mark this momentous occasion on my blog, where the origins of this book can be traced to. So I decided to tell the chronological story of how English Lessons was born. Today is its birthday after all. Why not celebrate by marking the significant events that led to its existence?
English Lessons: A Birth Story
September 15, 2008: I moved to Oxford and spontaneously decided to start a blog. I titled it “English Lessons.” Because I was living in England and working on a master’s in English. Clever, right? My fist post was about what happens in England when you say you want “cream” in your coffee. That began a year of blogging about the English, their culture and what I was learning abroad.
September 2009: I moved to Nashville for my first job as an editorial assistant at Thomas Nelson publishers. I forgot about the blog. Real, adult life hit and it took some time to find my footing. Blogging, and writing for that matter, felt impossible.
May 2010: There was a flood in Nashville that inspired me to write about the city and resurrect the blog. That same month, I began writing a series of lessons about what England taught me about the world and culture and myself.
May 22, 2013 at 8:37 pm: I started a new Word Doc. on my computer. I titled it “Nice, Thin and Modest”—a collection of adjectives taken from a Brené Brown Ted Talk I had recently watched about what women feel most pressured to be.
I thought I would write down some thoughts about what being a woman feels like. Instead, I wrote a story about two friends and a park we visited in Oxford.
At the top of the Word Doc. I wrote this: “I am worried that if I try, nothing will come, but a cut always bleeds, and the blood is always red.” Probably subconsciously inspired by this:
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
March 1, 2014: I emailed the essay about the park and the two friends and two other essays about Oxford to my dad. He called me right away after reading them, ecstatic I was finally writing.
Other happenings of 2014 and 2015: I wrote, edited, sent out chapters for feedback. Wrote, edited. Spent a few solitary weekends writing and thinking. Wrote a proposal. Sent it out…
July 15, 2015: I texted friends to come over to my place to sit with me while I signed a book deal with WaterBrook Multnomah. We took pictures (below) and were overly dramatic about the whole thing.
December 2015: I started sending off chapters to the people I had written about to get their permission. I almost puked and had really bad heartburn. I discovered my people-pleasing tendency runs deep and needed to be uprooted. Not everybody was a fan. I removed chapters and characters. It was painful, but in the end, the book is exactly what it’s supposed to be.
February 1, 2016: I turned in the first draft of the book. And, unable to think of a better title, my editor and I agreed that English Lessons would work.
April 13, 2016: Had a major freak out about the book, threatened to quit writing forever and cried on the kitchen floor.
April 14, 2016: Got over it. (I could list many many dates that said this same thing—freaked out, thought about quitting forever, got over it—but I’ll spare you.)
February 19, 2017: Turned in final edits for the manuscript. The writing part was done, and I began thinking about how I needed to tell all of you that this was happening.
May 2, 2017: English Lessons: The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith is born.
You will note from the timeline that May has been a significant month for my writing these last few years. I think it is no coincidence at all that the publisher decided English Lessons should be a May release.
You will also note that much like the subtitle, the path toward writing this book was crooked. I did not know it would come about the way it did, nor did I know if it would ever come about. But almost four years after returning from Oxford I was finally ready to sit down and write about it. And in writing I saw that the people I met, the thoughts I thought, and the doubts I experienced had all been leading me somewhere.
If you’ve ever found yourself walking along the crooked path, whether that be in faith or a relationship or something else, English Lessons was written for you. I hope it can be a kind companion for your journey.
Happy birthday, English Lessons. (You took long enough to get here.) Welcome to the world.
*GIVEAWAY WINNERS: Katrina Epperson, Rupert Hays, Kayley Hibbert
In honor of English Lessons’ birthday, I am giving away three signed copies of the book! All you have to do is answer this question:
What is one trip you’ve taken in your life that impacted you and why?
Reply in the comment section below and you will be entered to win. If you also post your answer on social media using the hashtag #EnglishLessonsBook, I will enter your name twice.
You have until Friday to enter! Over the weekend, I will select a winner and announce it on Monday.*