4 Extraordinary Things I Learned in 2013

As another year comes to a close, it’s a good time for all of us to reflect with much gratitude on what we experienced and the lessons we learned in 2013. What were yours?

#1 Yes, You Can Write a Book.  

Nothing says you’ve lived a milestone year like completing the manuscript of your first book. It takes a village to write a book. Special thanks to Fred, Joanna Bradley (my editor extraordinaire), and the entire Upper Room Books and Fresh Air Books Team for putting up with me!

The Upper Room Books Team! (AKA the "village" behind Saffron Cross)
The Upper Room Books Team! (AKA the “village” behind Saffron Cross) Photo credit: Linda Furtado

You can write a book, too. Consider this, and find your grit:

Grit is the disposition to pursue very long-term goals with passion and perseverance, sustained over time. So the emphasis is on stamina. (from Lifehacker)

#2 New York City is Creative Crack.

When Upper Room Books invited us to attend the 2013 BookExpo America, I nearly wet my pants. When we arrived, I couldn’t stop humming “Empire State of Mind.” The Big Apple screams, “You’ve arrived—and you have to keep going!”


Dana, on the creative crack.

“New York, concrete jungle where dreams of made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you.”

#3 Give it Your Best, and People Will Root for You!  

I was frightened for my publicist to distribute copies of Saffron Cross and schedule interviews with media. What if everyone hated it? What if it really was a sack of monkey puke and the message wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on? 

The most important lesson I learned this year is that if you’ve poured your heart into your creative work, it shows. If you’ve given each sentence all the energy you have, it shows. If you’ve kept your reader in mind, it shows. If your goal was to change, move, and inspire, it shows.

When you’ve given it your best shot—friends, strangers, readers, bloggers, journalists, and media will be willing to share your story (even if they don’t agree with or like it) because they see the value in starting the conversation.

Thank you to the World’s Most Awesome Bloggers, Journalists, and Media!

Saffron Cross would have fallen dead in the water if it weren’t for those who cared enough to explore what it means to foster interfaith conversation in our communities.

That’s why I love, love, love all these folks. They paused their busy schedules to read the Saffron Cross, consider the value of the story and share their comments

Thank you, to the World’s Most Awesome Endorsers!

#4 Community Gives a Book its Life

When I was five years old, I scribbled pretend sentences with large pencils on lined paper and dreamed of sharing stories.  

Joanna Bradley (editor, Saffron Cross), me, and Fred, talking with a reader. Nothing makes us happier! Photo credit: Jim Harris

Readers are the reason writers write. We stress over each sentence, character, theme, and arc—praying it resonates, that it strokes your cheek, tugs on your heart, or punches you in the gut—because that’s what other writers have done for us. 

This fall, nothing was more thrilling than being with readers. The culmination of a lifetime’s worth of dreaming and two years of grit bore fruit on October 2nd, when Fred and I gathered with over 100 of our friends at the Binkley Baptist Church book launch for Saffron Cross. 

Then we traveled throughout North Carolina and headed to Tennessee and Mississippi to meet you. We melted with your kind words, struggled with you on difficult questions, and appreciated your enthusiasm for what it means to be friends with someone from another faith tradition.

Young readers, in particular, shared with us that the sometimes harsh words their parents and faith communities have about other religions doesn’t fit the kindness, integrity, and sincerity they’ve experienced from their friends who practice another faith.

Most of all, you’ve taught us that interfaith dialogue is important and it’s something you care about. You’ve given Saffron Cross its life. Thank you.

Dana at Upper Room Chapel in Nashville, TN, with a staff member of the GBOD. Photo credit: Linda Furtado. 

Here’s to an extraordinary 2014!