A Labor of Love

With Labor Day around the corner, I got to thinking about the word labor and what it means. The idea behind Labor Day originally comes from labor unions, who proposed the holiday for the purpose of celebrating their hardworking members and providing a well-deserved break. Although the idea was first introduced in September of 1882, it wasn’t until June 28th, 1894 that Labor Day was finally approved as a federal legal holiday on the first Monday of September. The rest is, well… history!

In anticipation of Labor Day, I found myself contemplating the definition of the word labor. It actually has four definitions according to Merriam Webster (there are more, but I will only comment on a few for the sake of brevity). What I discovered is that every definition involves an element of love.

Labor (/ˈlā-bər/) verb

1 : to exert one’s powers of body or mind especially with painful or strenuous effort
2 : to move with great effort
3 : to suffer from some disadvantage or distress
4 : to be in labor of giving birth

As a writer, the concept of labor is quite a familiar one. If you’ve ever put pen to paper in an attempt to author a piece of work, I don’t have to tell you: writing is indeed a tremendous labor of love. An author gives birth to a new creation! So many expressions in the writing world center around the word work; you’ve got your WIP (work in progress); there’s the working story, and even when you’re finished, your manuscript is referred to as a body of work. From every angle, writing involves labor in the form of researching information, writing, revising (numerous times), researching editors, querying agents, submitting drafts… (rinse & repeat, ad nauseam). This writing thing is indeed laborious, and you’ve really gotta love it in order to get your work out there.

This idea is indeed paralleled by our everyday lives; all of us labor daily in one way or another. Perhaps, you commute to and from your workplace or worksite (braving traffic, weather, & construction), where you put in several hours of hard work to earn a living and support yourself and your family. Maybe instead, you work remotely to do the same thing, but trade the tedious commute for juggling household responsibilities and childcare between meetings. Or, you may have chosen to work as a stay-at-home parent, where you care for the children you love dearly (but who—let’s be honest—render you exhausted by day’s end). Regardless of your unique situation, each requires that you exert your powers of body and mind with considerable effort. No matter whether you leave the house for a job, work remotely, are in the midst of raising a family, or something else entirely—your labor too, is a labor of love.

Finally, I look to the birth, life, death, and resurrection of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ as the most profound labor of love! I honestly can’t even hear the phrase without thinking about the distress that Jesus endured. He did all the work for me. As God himself, He went through the labor of childbirth, lived a life of extreme love, and ultimately labored the cross in sacrificial love! He bore my sins (of which there are a plenty) in the most complete, pure, and undeniable labor of love ever to occur.

“No greater love is there than this, than to lay down one’s life for a friend.” John 15:13

This Labor Day, I choose to celebrate love, the lifeblood of all labor and the greatest motivator of all. Happy Labor Day to you all—thank you for your hard work!

Ready… Set… GO!

After several canceled trips—including a thrice postponed trek to Israel—my husband and I decided to try our luck and plan an excursion to New Mexico. As the trip approached, parts of the state became ablaze with early, unexpected, and extreme wildfires. After some heated debate (no pun intended) we decided to go for it! I researched any and all things pertaining to wildfire preparedness leading up to our departure, knowing all too well that travel plans can (and do) change at the very last minute. I soon discovered that the alert system in place for New Mexico, and in fact the entire nation, is called “Ready, Set, Go!” This got me thinking: these three words, when put together, could apply not only to my trip, but to my writing and even life in general!

1. Ready

Prepare Now: Be aware of the hazards that can threaten your community.

With regard to our trip, “ready” meant familiarizing myself with possible situations, preparing myself for cancellations (at any point), equipping to adjust itineraries at a moment’s notice, and monitoring the news. As a writer, to be ready means adapting to the ever-changing publishing world and being prepared to revise, rework, and even restart. As far as my life (as a Christian) is concerned, this stage reminds me that I need to be ready for when God decides to call me home. I must live for Him, because it could happen at any time.

Ready: Keep up to date on local news, weather watches, weather warnings, and public health recommendations.

2. Set

Be Alert: Know there is significant danger in your area.

For the trip, this translated into us living out of our suitcases as opposed to unpacking everything as usual. This way we were “set” to go immediately, if needed. I also wanted to avoid being a hindrance to the hotel employees who would need to quickly get to their families and homes. Writing wise, I see the idea of “set” as impetus to continually be writing, revising, reading, and researching. It’s important for me not to become stagnant but continue to move forward regardless of rejections, “writer’s block” or time constraints. My manuscripts need to be fully completed and polished in the event that an agent request comes in. As far as my perspective on life goes, this stage warns me that sin presents me with numerous temptations and I must be intentionally “set” in my pursuit of Jesus, the way that I live, and how I treat those around me. After all, if I claim to be a follower of Christ, I’d darn well better behave accordingly and most importantly LEAD with LOVE!

Set: This might be the only notice you receive. Emergency services cannot guarantee they will be able to notify everyone if conditions rapidly deteriorate. Be SET to GO.    

3. GO!

Evacuate: Danger in your area is imminent and life threatening.

Trip wise, “Go” makes it clear we would have to leave NOW, as our very lives may be at risk. While it was my hope it wouldn’t come to this on our trip, we knew what to do if the notification came. On the other hand, this stage relates to my writing in that my manuscripts (and me!) must be ready to GO immediately when a publisher wants to move forward. Finally, when it comes to life, I know that the time WILL come when I’m called to go home—it could be in 30 years or in 30 seconds—and we get just one shot. Regardless of the timing, I rest in the fact that God has a plan.

Go: If you choose to ignore this advisement, you must understand emergency services may not be able to assist you further.

We did see some smoke coming over the mountains, but luckily that was the closest we got to the fires on our trip.

I’m happy to report that the trip went swimmingly! We had a lovely time visiting the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque and seeing centuries-old petroglyphs, watching glassblowing experts work their craft live in a Sante Fe gallery, and visiting the breathtaking Rio Grande gorge bridge in Taos (check out my instagram for pics). However, we never forgot to be ready & set to go at a moment’s notice. While I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life and property caused by the New Mexico wildfires, I am thankful for this reminder. Truly, a mindset of “Ready, Set, Go!” applies perfectly to so many aspects of life. What does the alert system cause you to ponder? What areas of life are you feeling unprepared in? Are you Ready & Set to GO when He calls you home?

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to commend the brave firefighters and emergency personnel who run toward these wildfires as we run away from them; they are a courageous, self-sacrificing group of men and woman to whom I am profoundly grateful! Please feel free to join me in donating to help those affected by this natural disaster by following this link.

To Lull or Not to Lull… That is the Question

What if we don’t have a choice?

Lull (/ləl/) noun
a temporary interval of quiet or lack of activity.

Rizzo: Master of the Lull

As you can see, it’s pretty apparent which course of action Rizzo chose, but what happens when a significant lull (quite unavoidably) chooses ME?

Not in a million years would I have considered an unintentional–and most certainly uninvited–lull to be just the spark that my writing needed! I suppose different types of lulls could be compared to the various types of naps; for example, a 20-minute power nap versus a 90-minute restful nap. Perhaps, I had been “power lulling” for too long, and needed (this was news to me) a nice long restful lull instead. That is precisely the type of lull I found myself in mid-summer.

The proverbial and unknown “they” claim that it is important to step away from your WIP (work in progress) occasionally so that you can come back with fresh eyes. However, I’m guessing “they” mean that a hiatus ought to last a week or so…maybe even a month. But TWO whole months? Nah–too long, right? I guess not for me! In all fairness, several major life events occurred during this time period (celebrating my daughter’s college graduation, hosting my son’s wedding, and planning my mom’s funeral), which seriously distracted me from my work. This time was different. In the past, I’ve continued to write through the many storms of life, but this time my brain flipped a switch, apparently deciding it needed a break.

Thankfully, the end of this lull (and the subsequent rejuvenated passion to write) occurred during my absolute favorite season: Autumn! When I was young (and still to this day), fall represented crisp air, glorious colors, and perfectly sharpened pencils with pristine erasers. A FRESH START! Just like that, I’ve jumped in “whole hog” with sharpened pencils–well actually, laptop–a blazin’, writing up a storm and loving it. I am reawakened, refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready!

This might illicit the question: “So, are you participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month- attempting to write 50,000 words in a month) again this November?” My answer: “Not this year. I think perhaps a brief and customized power lull, chock full of research and querying, is in order (although I could still change my mind).”

I am quite looking forward to falling snow and flowing words during my second favorite season, Winter. I have learned that a lull is truly acceptable, when needed, as long as one also knows when to lay off the lull!  After all, when it comes down to it, there’s a season for everything.

The Dog Ate My Manuscript

Never in my life have I used the excuse, “the dog ate my homework”. Have I been tempted to? Yes, of course! I’ve just never actually had the guts to say it (whether it be for fear of lying to my teachers–or more likely, not wanting to portray my sweet pup in a poor light).

That all changed when I began editing my middle grade novel.

Now, I am more than happy to command, “Chow down, Rizzo!” I begged. I pleaded. “Please eat my manuscript, Rizzo. Get it out of my sight!” As you can see, he seems to be asking my permission to do just that, right?

If I’m lucky, my dog just might eat my homework!

“You want me to eat ALL of this?”

He didn’t try to take a nibble… he didn’t even attempt to sniff it! Perhaps I’m imagining all this because I’m hoping that he’ll eat it and then I won’t have to keep “tightening up” my novel!

One thing is for sure–this editing thing is hard!

No matter when or how you choose to do it, editing is never an easy step of the writing process. I’ve been told many times that I should just “let the words flow” when I first sit down to write. “Don’t worry about grammar, wording, or typos,” they say. By the way, who are they… and how come they know so much about my writing habits/needs/practices?

I digress.

Anyway, I’ve never been relaxed enough to just completely let words flow. I think that a person’s writing style matches their personality quirks. For example, I tend to be a teensy bit too uptight to just ‘let-er-rip’ when it comes to my writing. As with most things in my life, I’m always trying to get done today, that which could truly be done tomorrow. Then–when I do start writing–there inevitably seems to be ebbs in the “flow” of my words as I hop back to add a comma or change a character’s comment. On occasion, it even feels as though my characters are telling me to do this.

Essentially, I guess the proverbial ‘they‘ have gotten into my head, but my intrinsic need to to “fix things on-the-spot” prevails in the end. Thus, no matter how hard I try, I always unconsciously perform edits as I go. Funny thing is: even with constantly overthinking each word and contemplating every little detail of a sentence, it still doesn’t make the revision process any easier or quicker. No matter how strategically you approach the editing step, there only seems to be one consistent outcome…

Revise, revise and edit once more!

P.S. – Rizzo never did eat the manuscript. I edited it. It was painful, and it took quite awhile–but you know what? Looking back, I am so grateful for process. It was all worth it!

#TheDogAteMyManuscript #Editing #Writing #Manuscript #EasierWrittenThanSaid
#Dog #Puppy #Author #AmEditing #AmQuerying #WritingCommunity #TheDogAteMyHomework #Details #MiddleGrade

It’s About Time

I have never been a resolution kind of gal; however, I have always been goal-oriented, and I can honestly say that the year 2020 has presented me with a bit of a conundrum.

On the one hand, I feel compelled to make an extensive list of all the things that I want/must/need to achieve in 2021 based solely on the fact that 2020 was so CRAZY. On the other hand, it is that very craziness that reminds me that I am not (nor will I ever be) in complete control. Sure, I can set personal goals for myself, but I cannot simply stop there. I have no choice but to place those goals in God’s hands because I genuinely believe that He is in control.

In all truth, I can’t imagine navigating 2020 without this outlook on life.

I will most definitely set writing goals for myself this year, and I will most definitely hold myself to their achievement. I have peace, however, knowing that God gave me the ability to write, and I will (or will not) become a published author when he sees fit. Don’t get me wrong, I would absolutely love to have my works published, but I know it all comes down to timing. It is much easier to surrender the anxiety about when it will happen, and instead adopt an attitude of looking forward to whenever it happens.

I have no doubt that removing this constant pressure of wondering “when?” will allow me to write more freely, while still maintaining realistic–but flexible–goals for myself.

I’ve had an epiphany.
I want to have drive without being driven.

I’d like to enjoy the writing journey without the weight of an unyielding goal. I am learning to embrace the fact that life is much sweeter for me when I remember that, ultimately, it’s not all up to me. I can loosely set goals, while resting in the knowledge that God will make the final revisions and edits, and they will be perfect!

Happy & Healthy New Year to all!

MJ Wallace

Seeking The Silver Linings

There was a time I was described as “the woman who could even find the silver lining in her father’s death”. Once considered an unabashed (and occasionally nauseating) optimist, I have come to the realization that I am, in fact, an idealist. This personality trait (or curse, depending on your perspective), has admittedly been a tremendous asset during the rollercoaster ride that is this pandemic. 

As a writer, I have had the unique opportunity of participating in virtual writing conferences from around the nation, many of which would have been nearly impossible for me to attend in the past. In all likelihood, I probably wouldn’t have even heard of them pre-pandemic. The experience has been so enriching to my professional life.

As a wife, I have been afforded so much more quality time with my husband. As a mother, I have spent so much more time talking and interacting with my children (and praying for them). As I grieved the loss of my mother on March 1st, I was able to find the silver lining by recognizing the immense blessing of the timing of her passing. If she had died even a few days later, she would have been completely alone. Instead, she was in the loving arms of her children as she closed her earthly eyes for the last time.

As a child of God and woman of faith, my relationship with Him has deepened tremendously. I am reminded daily (sometimes hourly) that God is in control, and for this I am so incredibly thankful!

My heart aches for all that have been touched by this pandemic. So many are suffering at the mercy of this terrible virus and the resulting hardships left in its wake. Many have lost loved ones. Many are fighting for their lives. Many are suffering from prolonged isolation and separation from loved ones. Many have lost their jobs, livelihoods, and homes. Please know, I have no intention of minimizing the immense pain or the horror that engulfs our world right now; instead, I am merely encouraging you to seek out the “silver linings” that have arisen from the events of 2020. In light of the struggles, what positive aspects of your life are you thankful for today? I pray for us all as we attempt to navigate through these difficult days with grace.

Now…

For so long, we have chosen to be unkind…
Now, we must choose to be kind.
For so long, our words have been divisive…
Now, our words must unify.
For so long, we have been concerned with self…
Now, we must be concerned for others.
For so long, we have taken care of “me”…
Now, we must care for each other.
Now, we must  “love one another as HE first loved us.”…


All of my stories aspire to what we can be, in the midst of who we frequently are. My characters learn (often the hard way) to treat others with kindness and respect. I struggle mightily with the fact that humankind is predisposed to choose self over other and often hate over love. It is my ardent hope (and prayer) that during these uncertain times we will fight that which is instinct and truly learn to love one another.

Volunteering to bring food to local seniors!

I was looking for an opportunity to help during these uncertain times, when my church put out a call for volunteers to assemble “cheer baskets” filled with food and goodies for the elderly and vulnerable members of our congregation. Since I used to run a gift basket business, this was right up my alley.

During these difficult times, it’s a perfect opportunity to find something that aligns with your abilities, and stay busy! You can help others from inside or outside your home: have kids draw pictures & send notes to nursing homes or children’s hospitals, call grandparents, mow lawns for those who need it, sew masks, bring dinner to someone, donate a meal to healthcare workers, pray for one another… the list goes on and on. 

I pray that you and your families stay healthy as we navigate the rest of 2020

#COVID19 #shelterinplace #coronavirus #quarentine #elderly #love #mjwallaceauthor #easierwrittenthansaid

‘Twas The Night Before…

The combination of the busy holiday season and trying to get work done can sure be stressful! The writing I share below is an ode to the Christmas classic, and shows you just a little of what I go through as I progress through the final stages of writing and preparing my stories. Enjoy!

‘Twas the night before submitting, and timing was tight
I reworked my manuscript to get it just right!
My family lay nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of book contracts danced in my head.

The dog was asleep, all the lights turned down low.
I sat at my computer, the screen all aglow.
Why, the story was written, the words seemed to flow.
But still I worried: was it ready to go?

Yes, it was perfect now, what more could I do?
The manuscript was finished; it was set for debut!
Critiqued, studied, and splayed with red ink
It had been through the rigors, the whole kitchen sink.

It was time to let go, it was time to believe
that this creation of mine was ready to leave!
But what if they hate it, or it needs one last tweak?
Oh, my hesitation rendered this manuscript weak.

But it was then that I realized, it was then that I knew,
this manuscript deserved the ultimate review.
A read by the publisher; a true fighting chance.
My beloved work of art was so ready to dance!

So I sealed up the envelope, slipped back into bed,
And fell asleep to the sounds of success in my head!
For it was time to let my precious work fly
and dream that its words would never die!

Happy New Year folks! Thank you so much for following.
Stay tuned – I expect 2020 will bring lots of exciting news!

Greetings from San Antonio!

Hi Y’all!

I’m greeting you Texas style, because like my main character Samantha Willis, I have fallen in LOVE with San Antonio, Texas! As some of you may know, the main setting for my upcoming middle grade novel, Sam’s Movin’,Groovin, Cookin’ Club is in good ole’ San Antone. So, it made perfect sense for me to visit the Alamo city and do some extra research at the Culinary Institute of America campus AND the Rio Plaza! Both sit on the beautiful River Walk along the Rio (river). San Antonio is rich in history, culture, and the culinary arts.

My husband and I enjoying a lovely day touring San Antonio!

I have visited the Alamo city before, but this trip in particular was all about the culinary aspects of this wonderful town, and I can assure you that it did not disappoint! Many thanks to Bernadette Lewis, former Marketing Manager of the Culinary Institute of America, and Melanie Planas, Events Director at the Rio Plaza (elegant private event venue on the River Walk)! Both accomplished women shared with me an authentic behind the scenes “taste of the city”. Not only were their personalized tours of each venue extensive and extremely informative, but their guidance and joy in being “San Antonians” was positively contagious as well! 

Pictured below is the Culinary Institute of America’s Texas campus.

Bernadette Lewis is a self professed “military brat” (Lackland Air Force Base is one of the largest bases nationwide) who has come to call San Antonio home. Her elaborate tour of the CIA campus included a visit to its restaurant SAVOR. As part of their studies, San Antonio students prepare all of the food, and the aspiring pastry chefs actually have to run the whole show from accounting and advertising to menu selections and food prep for a day. These budding chefs learn all sides of the business and graduate truly prepared. The CIA has four campuses – the main campus is in Hyde Park, New York, two locations in California, the San Antonio campus and one in Singapore. Since the San Antonio Campus located in the Historic Pearl district has the only Latin Kitchen (including the nation’s only Mesa machine), there is a mandatory two week stint in the Latin Kitchen for every campus that must be completed here on the River Walk. It’s obvious that the culinary education here is exemplary!

Historic Pearl District

A mile or so down the riverwalk, you will find the statuesque Rio Plaza. Melanie Planas introduced us to this regal representation of the Spanish architectural grandeur of San Antonio. This gorgeous venue with its elegant stone exterior hosts events from showers and weddings, to graduations and Quinceanera celebrations and even corporate events. 

See the pictures captured at the breathtaking Rio Plaza below

Spanish architecture, mosaic tile, native woodwork, and Texas grandeur abound in their seven private spaces which accommodate 20 to 200 guests and pay homage to the rich traditions of this city set on the river. The obvious respect and admiration for the history of San Antonio and the River Walk in general is apparent. Standing on the River Walk, mere feet from the famed Selena Bridge, it’s impossible to avoid being swept away by the nostalgia of the past and the peace that comes with residing on the San Antonio river as you gaze upon the water from the rooftop terrace.

Robert Hugman Bridge, more commonly referred to as ‘Selena Bridge.’ I was very inspired by this unique landmark!

I simply cannot wait to share the splendor of San Antonio and its rich traditions with you in the future, via Sam Willis in Sam’s Movin’,Groovin’, Cookin’ Club!!! 

As always, I would greatly appreciate if you spread this and let your friends know! I can’t wait to share my work with you all, but I need followers to do that! You can stay up-to-date on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! Thank you, friends! Stay tuned…

@Rio_Plaza @sariverwalkfun @thesanantonioriverwalk @PaseoDelRio @theSARiverwalk @CIASan Antonio  @theculinaryinstituteofamerica @culinariasa @ritasontheriver  @ChoppedJunior @FoodNetwork @duffgoldman @MasterChefJrFox @masterchefjrliv @epicurious @CookWithAmber @Wolfiesmom  @COSAGOV

#CulinaryInstituteofAmerica #RioPlaza #Riverwalk #SanAntonio #selenabridge #riverwalk #ChoppedJunior #MasterChefJunior #epicurious #RVGKids #KidsCookOff #starkids #KidsBakingChampionship

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cropped-rev4_041-06767_mjwallace_2996760_47-01-1-1.png

Welcome to MJ’s World

Welcome to MJ’s world! Here you’ll meet ten thirteen year olds cooking up a storm as they navigate the perils of preteen life all the while “devouring” our nation’s delicious history. Or perhaps you’ll encounter a precocious pup who is faced with a game-changing decision while competing in his first major golf championship. Of course, there’s always the possibility that you might enhance your environmental awareness and learn to better appreciate nature as you read along with your toddler or you might find yourself rooting for a group of youth plotting the demise of Adolf Hitler. Alas, it is here, that you will see the world through the eyes of this “child at heart”. A world in which kids try to encourage one another and conflict resolution involves honest discussion and thought despite flaring tempers, hurt feelings, pride or stubbornness. Here, problems are managed with thought and compassion. While my characters are most definitely “human”, and make mistakes like all of us, they attempt to handle things with integrity and try to do that which is right. There are those who might (and have) referred to me as a Pollyanna, and I actually embrace this. I want kids to aspire to handle conflict without bullying of any kind. I truly believe that we are all able to rise to any occasion and ultimately choose to be kind and compassionate to our peers while making the right choices in difficult times and I earnestly seek to share this vision with the young minds of tomorrow!

More About Me…

I am the author of five picture books as well as a middle grade novel. While my true passion is writing for children, I am also a copywriter and have plans for future adult novels as well. I have served as facilitator for a writer’s group and have also participated in several writing classes, workshops and conventions. I am so excited to one day see all of my manuscripts published so that I can share them with everyone!

Keep checking my blog and social media to hear about what’s coming up!

Easier written than said…

My motto. I find it encapsulates my love for writing and reinforces my belief in just how impactful a story can be.