Category: 2015

One Magic Moment

by Kayla I Shown-Dean, Miss December 2015

Too often when I ask my students to read a passage, they get so caught up in the action of the story that they skim over subtle details that can add to their understanding. Unfortunately, we can do the same thing when we write. For me, personally, this increase in momentum occurs in two types of situations:

1.) I get so caught up in my story that I lose my attention to detail. 

Usually, this occurs during or immediately after an intense scene, like when a character has died, or during a moment of intense action, like in Burn Notice when Michael Weston and Fionna Glenane were being chased and shot at. It’s in this rush that I forget to add detail like description of people and scenery, which doesn’t paint much of a picture for my readers. However, the worst mistake that authors make, myself included, is to get so caught up in the action that you lose your character. Yes, those action shots are great, but you have to slow down and assess your character. Yes, it’s terrible that your character discovered his mother’s body after she had committed suicide, but don’t get so caught up in the drama that you forget to show how this event has impacted your character. You may even need to break out those character sheets again and add (or subtract) certain character qualities after such a life-altering event.

2.) Another mistake I make is looking at the score board in the middle of a play.

I know, I know, a sports analogy, but trust me, it makes sense. Just as a football player can’t complete a play if he’s constantly eyeing the score board, we can’t finish our books if we fantasize about our finished product. Yes, choosing a dust jacket for your book is exciting and fun—and rewarding after all the hard work you’ve  put into your story, but you probably shouldn’t even bother thinking about one if you still have five chapters left to write. The same goes for querying. While it’s perfectly fine to query agents and publishers before you’ve finished your book, be very, VERY careful. Sending and writing query letters and synopses uses an entirely different type of creative energy. If you switch gears too often, you may lose your mojo on your book.

Ferocity quote

This quote from my book, Ferocity, is a good example of a magic moment. In this portion of the story, Christopher has finally arrived at him childhood home after fighting his way through the fallen Mobile, Alabama, with a complete stranger. In this snippet, we not only get a description of his house, but we also get to see his reaction (physical and emotional) to his home’s current state.

So how can you create these magic moments?

1.) Focus on emotions as well as actions.

It would have been far easier for me to just describe Christopher’s physical actions here, but by shining a light on his emotions, the reader gets to see the larger picture. They get to experience Christopher’s panic with him; this, therefore, makes the character more relatable and as a result, creates a bond between character and reader—and this is what’s it all about, isn’t it?

2.) S-L-O-W D-O-W-N

I cannot emphasize this enough. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And that’s exactly how these scenes must be written: one word at a time. Watch your word choice; make sure each word conveys the message that you want it to, as well as being clear and concise. Usually, when we increase our pace, our sentences either tend to get longer (for people who hate to punctuate) or get shorter (for those of you who love quick, quirky sentences). So be wary of this. Read and re-read your work, so you know under which category you fall. Then, combat this, head on.

3.) Practice makes perfect!

Unfortunately, this is just one of those things on which you continually have to work to improve. I’m still improving on this myself. One thing that I find that works for me is this: when I feel myself rushing, I take a deep breath and close my eyes and try to visualize the scene as my character may see it. I sometimes even type with my eyes closed (just make sure you don’t have a drink on your desktop while doing so as that can prove hazardous). If you do this and you still can’t quite visualize it, this might be a good time to take a break. Go browse Facebook or work on your blog for a while—or even better, go take your kids to the park and come back to it later.

Assignment time:

This week, I’ve provided a picture; this is actually a picture of my husband, Preston, but we’re going to use it for this exercise (shhhhh, don’t tell him).


Look at this picture and read the emotion on the man’s face. What do you think he’s looking at? How do you think he feels about what-ever-it-is he sees? Write a paragraph about this photo—and remember, he can be anybody to you (you don’t have to make him play the role of Kayla’s husband). I look forward to seeing your paragraphs in the comment section.

Thank you so much, ladies, for spending this month with me as we looked at the magic involved in our own writing. I hope you’ve enjoyed this time as much as I have. Please, come visit me sometime at and stay in touch through social media.

Also, if you’re interested in attending the book launch party for Ferocity—which I can promise will be completely magical—sign up for my newsletter. Information will be sent out on January 4th

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00074]

I’ve enjoyed getting to know you all.

If you’d like to check me out on social media, click the links below:

Facebook Author Page 
Amazon Authors 

If you’d like to purchase one of my books, check them out on Amazon:
Autumn Leaflets
Or for an autographed copy, visit my website: 

Magic of Motivation

by Kayla I Shown-Dean, Miss December 2015

Often, when people find out that I’m a self-published author they ask me, “How do you do that? How do you write a book?” At times, it’s easy just to laugh them off and say something like, “I just love to hear myself talk, so I just decided to put all my thoughts on paper.” In reality, however, writing novels, short stories, even poetry takes a lot of work. But today, I’m going to let you guys in on a secret to getting started: always start with your characters.

Plot is important, but it is characters that drive a story. You can have a wonderfully written, well-developed plot, but if you don’t have well-rounded, likable and relatable characters, you won’t attract many readers. Therefore, I like to think of each story as a social experiment. I ask the question: how would a person with this character’s qualities react if placed in a situation like this? If you keep this question in mind as you work on your book, you work toward authenticating your characters. This is a theory of literary criticism called Psychoanalytic theory, but that’s a discussion for another day.

So when you start writing, whether or not you have a story (plot) in mind, you should always start with your characters. I usually make a character chart similar to this one on my blog. I start with the character’s gender and age. Then, I start adding personality traits: Is this person patient? Anxious? Do they have a temper? Are they artistic? Creative? Athletic? Do they have any certain religious beliefs? Do they live by some sort of moral code? This usually gives me a pretty good idea of how my character perceives the world around them. 

You can also use a Dungeons and Dragons Character Building Chart to help with this, which makes things really interesting! Check out my blog post, D&D’s Contributions to my Literary World for more information. 

If you’ve done all of this and you still can’t get a good understanding of your character, try comparing them to someone you know personally or even someone famous. However, I must warn you to be careful with this. In doing this, you often take the risk of writing someone you know into your story. If you want to do this, then go for it. (Just be careful of copyright issues when dealing with celebrities and other characters.) But if you’re like me and want your character to stand on his or her own, then be sure to consciously limit yourself to only borrowing a few qualities of said person in order to better portray your character. In other words, don’t copy and paste someone into your story (unless that is your intention—which would probably only work in a memoir). 

After I’ve developed my character’s persona, then, and this is the most important thing, I ask the two BOOM questions. 

1.) What does my character want?

I didn’t include this on my blog post (because I didn’t want to give anything away), so let me demonstrate with another character from my book one in my series, Ferocity. 

Meet Judson.


Judson is the bulky, hulky, short-tempered brother of Abel in The Ferocity Series, and what Judson wants more than anything is to NOT leave his family’s island home.

BOOM! Just like that I’ve created my character’s motivation!

Now, follow that question up with the second BOOM question: what is stopping Judson from getting what he wants?

In short, his father wants to leave the island. At this point in their story, Father sees leaving as his only option to protect his children since the island’s food shortage. In addition, his brother Abel is considering leaving the island as well.

BOOM! Now, I’ve created conflict (which propels your plot) and tension between Judson and two other characters.

Now for the rest of my book, I know what’s going to motivate my character in everything he does. In addition, I know who and what is going to oppose him, and since I’ve already developed his personality, I know how he will react to said conflict. 

Easy-peasy, right? And that, my friends, is the magic of motivation. By discovering what motivates my character, I can dive right into my plot.


Assignment Time:

You guessed it: I want you all to create a character sketch. You can use pictures of friends, celebrities, animals, etc. to create a mood board for this assignment if you’d like. But still, you need to select a name, age, and gender for your character; develop that character’s personality; and finally, ask the two “BOOM questions”. Also, if you’d like you can check out my blog posts under the category My Work for some examples. I look forward to meeting some awesome characters in the comment section!

The Magic of Pretty Prose

by Kayla I. Shown-Dean

At a writing conference, I was shocked and appalled to hear one of our speakers announce, “Pretty prose is dead.”

While I realize this person has much more experience than me in professional reading/writing, I’m afraid I’d have to disagree. Pretty prose has several distinct purposes. First and foremost, it exists to paint a picture for the reader. The following passage is an example of pretty prose taken from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. It paints a beautiful picture, setting in this scene for the reader.

Heart of Darkness PrettyProse

I mean, could you imagine if Conrad had simply written: “There was a large jungle whose trees formed a straight line in a faraway land by the ocean. It was foggy there, probably because it was so hot.”

What kind of picture does that form in your mind’s eye?

I honestly believe that to remove pretty prose is to take the art out of writing. It takes years of hard work and practice (countless hours spent) to perfect each passage at the sentence level. It often means writing, rewriting, editing, rewriting, rewriting, editing, and rewriting three or four more times. It means being selective about your word choice. Each word has been chosen for purpose and clarity—and if you’re one of those writers who loves to employ symbolism, theme, and motif, this task is doubly difficult. Still, it is well worth the work.

For example, there’s a passage in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights that is absolutely breath-taking. 

Wuthering Height pretty prose

While on a surface-level reading, it appears as only a description of the distraught Heathcliff, but because of the author’s use of the word cloud, the reader can see that there is some deep storm brewing within this man. In fact, word cloud is used 24 times in this story, making it a reoccurring symbol as it reveals the ever-changing mood of its characters.

So now, you may be wondering: how can I write pretty prose?

To answer simply: it takes a lot of practice. However, there are lots of tools you can employ to help you along the way.

1.) Describe, describe, describe

As you’ve learned, pretty prose is a lot of description. So pull out those adjectives! If you’re looking outside, what colors do you see? Are there any shadows? Where is the sun? (That can be used as a subtle way to indicate the time.) What textures and shapes are out there? Do you have any snow on the ground? Is it melting, fresh, mushy? Etc.

2.) Use your five senses.

Don’t just limit yourself to your sense of sight. Yes, we depend on this sense the most, but your other senses have a lot to contribute to the painting of your setting. What sounds do you hear? How does it feel? Is it windy? Is it hot? Dry? Cold? What does it smell like? Is there a crisp, cool wind? Does it smell of pine? And for all you foodies out there: taste. I believe this is one of the least used senses when it comes to writing. When our characters are eating, we tend to just say what they eat, but we don’t describe its taste. Bring your readers in with you; make them hungry!

3.) Pull out those similes and metaphors.

What does that pie taste like? Is it similar to another kind of dessert? What about the noises you hear? Do your kids run around the house screaming like a cat getting run over by a garbage truck? Or is your husband a sloth of a man? Using similes and metaphors can help make personal situations more relatable to your readers.

** Remember, a simile is a comparison of two things using like or as, while a metaphor compares two things without the use of the prepositions.**

4.) Be consistent with any set theme or motif.

For example, if you’re working with reoccurring symbols of darkness and light and you’ve decided to let darkness represent ignorance and light represent knowledge, make sure that you haven’t shifted gears or gotten your wires crossed somewhere in your writing process. An easy way to do this is to do a find-word search in Microsoft Word. Then you can search each time you used the word light to make sure it is used in the way in which you intended.


Assignment time: (you knew it was coming, right?)

To practice pretty prose, I want you all to write a paragraph describing what you see (touch, taste, hear, smell) when you’re in your own backyards. Go ahead; reveal in the magic of pretty prose. Then, paste your paragraphs in the comment section or post them to social media using the hashtag #magicalstory.

Taking Magic for Granted

by Miss December 2015 – Kayla I Shown-Dean

I don’t know how many of you have seen Richard Linklater’s movie Boyhood, but this quote is one of my absolute favorites, and it’s so true for writers.

boyhood quote

Often, when writing, we are seeking escapes from our own world. For example, we may feel compelled to write a memoir about the first day of college as a first generation college student. However, we talk ourselves out of it, thinking that our stories are too dull or boring. So we decide to change things up. Instead, we may change our character to an Arcturian alien who crash-landed on Earth and must disguise herself as an underprivileged college student in order to learn the ways of our world. Often, we make changes such as these simply to just “spice things up”—or, for the more literary types, to symbolize and magnify the level of confusion and/or isolation felt by first generation female college students.

Now, this isn’t a dig at the fantasy genre or the literary world,—I actually enjoy a good fantasy read from time to time—and really, both stories, with some development, would be entertaining. However, to change a story simply because you don’t feel it’s exciting enough does the literary world a great injustice. There are probably several people out there who could relate to Story A (the first generation college student), and it’s this connection that all authors should aim to achieve with their readers.

Unfortunately, what I see a lot of with my students is something in between. Instead of keeping the original character in Story A—they will alter her a bit. Maybe make her a single mom going back to school after a tough divorce, or perhaps her part-time job is moonlighting as a stripper to pay for tuition. While I realize that these situations are sometimes true-to-life, the danger here is falling into clichés and stereotypes—or what I like to call hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold syndrome.

This goes against the number one rule I’ve been taught as a writer: write what you know. This doesn’t mean that I’m prohibited from accessing foreign or intergalactic worlds and characters; neither does it mean that I’m limited to telling my own story. It means that I should use my own personal knowledge and experience with others and society to build my alternate world. It means that my personal stories are not invalid. On the contrary, they are worth sharing, and it is from these personal experiences that I will draw inspiration to develop well-rounded characters for my stories.

For example, I included this character, Tex, very briefly in my last novel, Muted; what my readers don’t realize is that he is loosely based off my alcoholic grandfather. But it’s exactly my experience with my grandfather that authenticates this character.

Muted quote


You see, just like Mason (Ellar Coltrane) in Boyhood, we, as writers, often believe that our stories are boring—that they are void of excitement, adventure, and magic. But they aren’t. The entire human experience is writhing with magic. It’s just up to us as writers to unearth it—to describe the ordinary in such a way that it becomes the extraordinary. The old adage “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” reigns true. Especially in writing. It’s all about perspective, and if we as writers can’t find the beauty and the magic in our world, how can we expect others to do so? 

Today’s writing assignment:

Write about something that you find completely boring and ordinary, but describe it in a way that makes it seem magical. Afterwards, share your description on social media using #magicalstory in your post, or simply include your description in the comments.

Miss December 2015 – Kayla I Shown-Dean

Hello, all. My name is Kayla Dean, and I am honored to be ARWB’s Miss December 2015. I’d like to begin by telling you all a little bit about myself.

In short: I’m an incredibly busy person.

The longer story:

I’m a mother of an adorable four-year-old boy named Lukas Conrad.

Mommy and Lukas

 In addition to being his full-time mommy, I also work full-time at Arkansas State University in Beebe as a Student Development Specialist (which is just a fancy title for tutor—a.k.a mother to all panic-stricken college freshman). As a tutor, I wear many hats, helping with everything from Spanish to English, Algebra to Microsoft Applications, and even a bit of PR and business classes. This year, I have been selected to be a part of the university’s L.E.A.D. program that has kept me very busy learning about the administrative side of higher education—which is really interesting! I occasionally teach a few classes at the university as well in Composition and World Literature (right now I’m enjoying a semester off), and I voluntarily lead our youth program at church. Also, in my spare time (which is dwindling nowadays), I write books. Last year, I self-published two books: my novel, Muted, and Autumn Leaflets: a Collection of Poetry. Currently, I am working on a YA trilogy called The Ferocity Series—book one is currently available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released January 15, 2016, and I’m writing book two.  And last but certainly not least, I blog. 

I started blogging in November 2011 (three months after my son was born) after a mentor at a writer’s retreat held at Hemmingway-Pfeiffer suggested it to me. I didn’t know much about blogging at the time, other than the blogs I’d read on my Facebook feed—though, at the time, I don’t think I even realize that they were blogs. But I’m so glad that I was introduced to blogging because I LOVE it!

One thing I’ve noticed about bloggers is that we all seem to have a passion and joy for the written—and the spoken—word (Yes, that was my stab at a we-talk-too-much joke), but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I’ve heard it said that most talented writers do talk too much. While I’m not entirely sure if this is true, my oversized mouth and I like to think that it is. Writers always have a lot say, and when they can sit down and put their stories to paper, magic happens. And that’s what I’d like to talk to you all about in this month’s posts: the magic of writing.

In the coming weeks, I’d like to inspire you all to do some creative writing. Perhaps, you’re already an amazingly creative writer—that’s great! I’d love to read some of the stories you come up with. Or maybe, you never thought creative writing was your thing—that’s fine too! But I do hope that you will give it a try. Think of it this way: at least you will have a few short stories to add to your portfolios—or you could use one as a future blog post for those busy months when you don’t have time to say what you want to say.

Either way, “the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful,” so go ahead; snuggle up on the couch with a blanket and a notebook and put to paper some of your own magical stories.

Pretty Tree

I’m looking forward to working with you all this month on your magical stories. If you post any of your work on social media, make sure you use #magicalstory so we can all find each other. Or feel free to post any of your stories in the comment section below.

If you’d like to check me out on social media, click the links below:

Facebook Author Page 
Amazon Authors 

If you’d like to purchase one of my books, check them out on Amazon:
Autumn Leaflets
Or for an autographed copy, visit my website: 

Owning the Holiday To-Do List

By Amanda Farris, Miss November 2015

It’s crunch time for the holiday season! We all just wrapped up a busy Thanksgiving week and are now making sure we have our to-do lists checked off for Christmas and trying to juggle our regular to do lists as well. Time management is essential. Really time management is essential any time of the year because busy is simply a part of our culture and who we are.  Busy is not unique to any one person or season of life, it’s a constant. But, it is how we handle our schedules that matter. It’s our attitudes that matter. 

As I was thinking about the “Abundance” theme for this month the thought of an “abundance of time” came to my mind. I’m sure we all wish we had an abundance of time to get things done and to still have time to do all the things we want to do. But one thing is certain, there are only 24 hours in every day. It’s the same every single day. We can’t pack in more hours to make handling our to-do lists easier.  But, we can manage our time wisely and let things go that aren’t as important, especially during this holiday season. 

Time Management 

For me, this means making sure my Christmas notebook is ready to go.

It means, putting some of my blogging goals on hold until after the holidays so that I don’t short change my family and rob them of time and attention.

It means shortening my holiday to do list and only keeping the things that my family truly enjoys doing. A tradition isn’t fun if it’s forced every year. Keep your holiday traditions narrowed down to ones that everyone enjoys and aren’t stressful.

It means making a daily list of what needs to be done, but being more realistic about what I can really do in our 24 hour days. 

Time management during the holidays means making and prioritizing time for the things that matter and letting other things slide until next month. You have to be realistic about what you can really do in a day and cut the things that you can’t make happen. 

Making Time

kids ornament exchange

Here are a few things I plan to make time for this season:


  • Host a ladies ornament exchange in my home and try a new recipe. Lots of silly games will be played! This is important to me because it serves others and builds community. 
  • Host a Christmas tea for my little girl and her friends. Annual traditions that make sweet memories build a strong family culture. She’s 6 now and I hope to still be doing this when she is 26! 
  • Go out on a Christmas date with my man and reminisce over the past year 
  • Make Ornaments with my kids for the annual cousin homemade ornament exchange 
  • Continue teaching my kids about the true Hero story of Christmas
  • Watch at least 4 cheesy Christmas movies
  • Pull out our Money Jars
  • Deliver goodies to people in my small rural town and share the love of Jesus with them
  • Teach my kids all the verses of at least one Christmas hymn
  • Snail mail our annual Christmas letter to keep up with friends and family (Snail mail is fun during the holidays!)  
  • Play Christmas music every day
  • Decorate my front porch 


I plan on managing my time this holiday season in such a way that prioritizes family, building community, and showing love to others.

Family Pic ARWB

Ladies Christmas Party 

What things do you always try to make time for each year during the holidays?

What things do you let slide on your to-do list during the holidays so that you can prioritize other things? 

ARWB – Abundance of Encouragement

The theme this month here at ARWB is abundance. As I sat down and thought about what I wanted to share with all of you this month, the phrase abundance of encouragement kept coming to mind when I thought about the group at ARWB. 


Blogging and this media world is hard. For me, it’s a constant struggle of time management and questioning myself on if my efforts are worth it. I take the time I have in a day seriously and I want to manage it well and not waste any of it on efforts that aren’t worth it. I have a deep desire to blog and would secretly (Shh… that’s a secret) like to get my podcast up and running. But when it comes to getting it all together, finding the time is a struggle. The desire and willingness to work is there, but I don’t have the time or the childcare to be able to carve out specific time to work on some of my big blogging/podcasting goals in this season of my life because of some other commitments I already have on my plate. So blogging or social media has to be done late at night or early in the morning. I sometimes question myself when I get overwhelmed— Is it worth it?

Does what I say matter?

Does what I say encourage anyone?

Is blogging a good use of my time?

Is starting my podcast a good use of time?

Will anyone listen?

Could what I say help someone?

How will all of this benefit my family? What will it cost them?

These are things that run through my head when I get overwhelmed and think about quitting. 

But then, someone from ARWB always seems to send some encouragement my way. It’s not about the blog or web here at ARWB. It’s about the community that has been built with the purpose of encouraging one another in our adventures, whatever they may be. The friendships I’ve made through blogging are not online surface friendships, but real life face to face friendships that I fall back on and receive an abundance of encouragement from.

arwb friends


The community at ARWB is a huge factor that keeps me blogging.  

The encouragement found in this group is like none other. It is a treasure that I do not take lightly. I’m thankful for the transparency, honesty, and support that is so openly given.

Thank You ARWB for being awesome and encouraging me to just BLOG ON. 

How does ARWB encourage you?

As a side note- Thank You to everyone for the outpour of encouragement and support on The Women Bloggers store. Your encouragement and kind words are a gift! 

 What would you LOVE to see on a t-shirt? 

Joy Dare

November is the month that most people start posting their “Thankfuls” on social media every day for the entire month. November is the month we set aside to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday while we eat an abundance of food, celebrate abundantly with family, and in our family’s case- play an abundance of board games. But something, I’ve done with a friend that really encouraged me throughout the year is my Gratitude Journal. It is the habit of practicing thankfulness and counting your gifts all year long.  Every day at some point we would both write down what wewere thankful for using Ann Voscamp’s prompts from her Joy Dare based on the book 1000 Gifts. I have kept this up for 2 1/2years now and enjoy it all year round. Gratitude truly is the pathway to joy. 

give thanks

When I’ve done this with a friend, we would each read the daily prompts and then text each other what our gifts were for that day. We were able to share in each other’s lives and Grow, Gather, and Connect for a small piece of the day by sharing our gifts before we hit the road running for our busy and life filledchaotic days. 

It became a quick way to partake in someone else’s joys which is the route to genuine community. With those joys shared, sometimes hard things were shared that you found a blessing in. Those can be the best kinds of gifts to look for and share. The ugly beautiful. 

For me in this season of life some of my ugly/beautiful JOY GIFTS are:

• MOUNDS of Laundry that I’m always backed up on means we have clothes to wear and that I have three wild kids to wear those clothes and fill my house with laughter, jokes, and fun. 
• An unplanned vehicle repair and hefty expense last week caused cancelled plans, missed deadlines and agenda changes due to being stranded at home. But the beautiful is that it meant an unexpected day at home with my kids on a cold rainy day with books and movies. 
• My kids growing up way too fast means healthy kids to watch grow up.
• That ugly C-section scar means a beautiful family to do life with.
• That scratched and dented base board means a lot of laughter from three little people riding a toy zebra up and down my hallway over and over and over. 
• All of the unfinished house projects and plans are a gift of getting to plan and do projects with my husband while spending quality time building our life together. 

It’s all about perspective. 

There are TONS of ugly/beautiful that you can find as a gift if you really think about it from a thankful perspective. I loved hearing my friends and seeing the ugly/beautiful from her perspective. 

I encourage all of you to keep a gratitude journal. Whether you write it on paper or text it to a friend every day. There is always something to be thankful for. I like using the prompts that Ann Voscamp put together in a free printable because it stretches me to think outside the box and look for joys and gifts in unexpected places. Sometimes, when you get to going through life so fast making sure you get everything done or just don’t drown you can easily look over some of the gifts in your life. The habit of gratitude brings daily joy and perspective to your life. 

And because I LOVE our community here at ARWB and feel so strongly about how much I love doing this with my friend.  I’m going to give away this journal to someone, with the joy prompts already printed and bundled for you. I highly recommend using these prompts and sharing them with a friend daily! 

joy dare


All you have to do is write in the comments 1 JOY or GIFT that you’ve received from being a part of ARWB. 

If you aren’t part of ARWB and have just stumbled across this post via social media, write in the comments 1 gift of laughter.  (That’s the prompt for tomorrow. That is actually one of my favorite prompts to write and share and to hear what my friend would say. Laughter is always good medicine and I love hearing her perspective on something that made her laugh!) 

If you’d like to print off your own JOY DARE printable Click HERE

Winner announced next week!




Bringing Back Simple Hospitality

By Amanda Farris, Miss November 2015

Lately, I’ve been trying to give out “happy’s”. A happy is a simple, small, unexpected gift of appreciation or encouragement towards someone. With the holiday season approaching, we will have a lot of opportunities to be intentional about giving to others. But personally, I think it is fun to give when it is not a holiday or special occasion. A “just because” gift when it is least expected is sometimes the most appreciated. 

Be Happy

I have a good friend who has been doing this to me for several years. Most of the time, when she comes to visit she always comes with a small token or gesture of generosity. She might bring a magazine she thought I might be interested in, a box of cereal, a dessert, or something for my kids. The spectrum of what she might bring is vast and wide. But, the point is, when she comes to visit or sees me it’s not uncommon for her to bring me a “happy”, a simple, small, unexpected gift of appreciation or encouragement. She doesn’t make it a big deal, she simply leaves me a little something on my counter. 

It took me a couple years into our friendship to realize that she did this often. It was not a fluke incident, generosity was part of who she was.  If she was bringing her kids to my house, she would always bring something special for all the kids such as a treat or a craft. Nothing too extravagant, fruit snacks and an old coloring book would do just fine.

One time, she brought me a new kitchen gadget that I had been eyeing of hers that she had.

I know that I was slow in realizing what she was doing, but she was purely practicing simple hospitality. Hospitality is the generous or friendly treatment towards others. 

So, I have been trying to give out more “happy’s” to others and bring back simple hospitality in my life as the giver. I love the idea of bringing simple hostess gifts when someone has my family over for dinner. I love the idea of giving just to give unexpectedly with the goal to encourage someone, show appreciation, or surprise them. I love the idea of bringing a friend a pick-me-up “happy” when they least expect it. 

parkwife happy

It doesn’t have to be a grand event to bring someone a “happy”. It can be anything for any occasion. You make the occasion by celebrating the everyday. It’s the little things that matter. 

What are some items you would give to a hostess?

What is a “happy” that you might bring your best gal pal?

Do you keep a gift closet stocked? 

Speaking of giving a little “happy”, you could grab a cute Arkansas Women Bloggers Coffee Mug and attach an encouraging note to give to a fellow blogger as a simple gift!

Miss November 2015 – Amanda Farris

I must say that I am immensely honored and surprised to be Miss November for Arkansas Women Bloggers. I feel like I should run down the line of fellow women bloggers giving out high fives to celebrate this community. Maybe I will get to do that one day but until then we can hang out here at Arkansas Women Bloggers and at embracing grace and living the adventure. (that was a plug for my blog if you didn’t catch that.)

Around my house, in the midst of the daily grind, my husband and I often just have to stop and say “just living the adventure, baby!” It can get pretty hectic, chaotic, and busy as I’m sure you can relate. Here’s the thing, everybody has different lives. We are all different people and we all have different stories and challenges before us. We all have plans. And then the plans change. Once you’ve accepted that, DUCK! 

Oops, too late, they changed again and again and again. That’s why in my house we live the adventure. That’s why we rely on grace. Embrace it. This is the crux of my blog and who I am.

Amanda Farris November

I went to school at the University of Central Arkansas and obtained my degree in Exercise Science and Nutrition. Afterward, I went on to get my teaching license and coaching endorsement for the state of Arkansas and taught and coached basketball after graduating.  My husband and I coached basketball at the same school and even shared an office after graduating from college together.  Cue: Awwww 

Since then, my life has changed quite a bit. I went from coaching and teaching other kids and chasing my career to coaching and teaching my own kids in the homeschool arena. I went from working outside the home to working from the home. I went from never changing a diaper in my life, to having 3 kids in 3 ½ years (that equals a lot of diapers). 

November Blog

And with all of this came the blog Embracing Grace and Living the Adventure and a new season and chapter of life. Because we all need some Grace whether it’s on the giving or receiving end and life is a big adventure. 

I blog about a little bit of everything at You might find a recap post of our family adventures, random lists, recipes, healthy nutrition stuff, mom posts, and anything in between. It’s my corner of the web where I share a slice of my life.  It is a place where I keep myself accountable to live life by practicing what I preach, and to connect with others hoping to encourage them. 

I enjoy a little of everything, somewhat of a renaissance woman. I get asked at least once a month what I am going to do in five years. Will I go back to the classroom? Will my kids go to public school? Will I take a different job?  Are you going to coach again? The simple answer is; I don’t know. I have a plan and goals  in the back of my head, but I’m hesitant to share it often because  God has a sense of humor and likes to change my plans from time to time, sometimes just for a good laugh.  If you had told me five years ago that I would be blogging and homeschooling, I would’ve called you crazy.  

But, I can honestly say that Life is Good and that I’m excited to see where this adventure takes me. 

Stick around and hang out this month to hear some of my random musings during November. 

If you want to hang out between posts, my favorite place to hang out is Instagram.

You can find me


Instagram: amandafarris1

Facebook: Embracing Grace and Living the Adventure 

Twitter: @Amanda_Farris1