Why Angelica Bridges runs away from home

I finally figured it out!

Jess and I have always know that Angelica Bridges runs away from home. It’s the thing that defines her above all, at first.

But today, I finally figured out why. And I’m happy to say, I’m off to write it all down!

Alonsy, then! Off to write!

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Themes

Amanda and I have been working on themes lately.

We realized that it isn’t enough to just tell a good story, but we want a story with meaning and passion. We want our readers to not just be entertained, but to walk away being a stronger person, or at least be more equipped then they were when they started reading. Its surprising how just stamping a theme onto a book really defines and grows it, kind of like giving a name to a child, its a great step in creating a path for our book.

Advocate Progress Update

Due to some unfortunate financial realities (read: I got laid off and moved home to Portland,) Jess and I now live two hours apart. We live on Skype and Google Docs, but nothing beats brainstorming late at night in Jess’s living room, munching on stale artichoke leaves.

The good news is, I get to visit Eugene in two weeks, and team Advocate will be temporarily united. This is us below (taken on the night of the Deathly Hallows II midnight opening in Eugene)

In other news, I’ve broken through my writer’s block, so lots of writing will be flowing soon! I promise to have my story, Brother’s Keeper, completed by the end of July. It’s not Advocate-related, but it is the reason I’m writing again.

Note: If you are a fellow Christ-follower, please pray for The Advocate project. We truly believe that this series can be a blessing and a tool, and we invite you to partner with us through prayer as we work to bring it into the work.

Thanks to all who are following our efforts!

~Amanda and Jesse

Amanda M. Runion

I think I forgot…

~

I’m avoiding The Advocate lately, shunning my own child. I have excuses, like work and health, but the truth is I’m scared. Big-S Scared, even.

Now that we know where we want this to go, I am anxious about getting there. And unsure of myself along the way.

I’m scared because it’s getting real, and the more I write, the closer I come to showing it all to the world.

What a scary day that will be.

The good news is, that even as I write these words, I am smiling a bit. Because honest fear is never a bad thing. It just means I’m doing something really important. Something I wholeheartedly believe in. Something that matters enough to be afraid of. Only a proper risk could make me sweat like this.

At the same time, I need to just stop looking down. I’m high…

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Angel’s Verse

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A poem about our heroine, who ran away on a warm summer night:

    ~

Where have you gone tonight,

my love?

.

you’re trailing treble notes

as you flee through the town

.

I know

we gave up,

but even that won’t last.

.

I’ll come back soon

searching for the song

asking you to sing and

.

You say it’s not fair

and it’s too much, but you

are in my blood and you run

and I’m here

still caring

holding on but then despairing

.

but you couldn’t wait

had to go

had to grow without us

.

searching for

we don’t know what

.

we won’t know what

until we see you again

.

for memory wanes

as your music fades

   ~

For Angelica

On Taking My Characters Out For Coffee

I miss my characters when I go too long without them; I love them because they are real. I was lucky enough to stumble upon them–Chris, Rose, Sarah Rae–with the help of Jess and other good friends. But even collaboration didn’t bring these characters into being. We didn’t make them; we found them. In their schools, twirling pencils and daydreaming, at the rock gym, or the basketball court, in the back rooms of bakeries, (faces smeared with flour streaks.)

We found them in the places they live and work, and got to know them from there.

The funny thing is, I think they’ve always been there. Rose has always been a baker’s daughter; Sarah has always been a fireball; Angel has always been an outcast, a musician, a misfit at heart; Chris has always been stuck in the middle.

I know they are these things, because every time I sit down at the keys and try to steer these characters in a different direction, they refuse to budge. I tried to re-write Rose, and got Emma instead. A completely different character who we’ll use later on. But she just wasn’t Rose. Because Rose already was who she was.

I’m just meeting her for the first time.

Two of our characters have their own blogs already. One, because he’s an insomniac, and the other because she’s running for local office. Angel, our heroine, is both a writer and a composer; I’ve been watching her lately, as she sits on the chalky blue mats of the rock gym, cuddling with her sketchbook and watching her friends scale the towering walls.

I wonder why she doesn’t climb. Fear, maybe? Old injury? Bad associations? Or maybe it’s just not her style. Too much effort. Too physical instead of philosophical.

We’ll have to see.

I like not knowing yet. I like getting to know her bit by bit, almost as if we are dating. Every time we sit down for coffee, I get to know her a little more. The more I watch her go through her life, the more I find out about her quirks and habits. Her passions and vices. And I won’t always love who she is as a person, but I will always love her character because she is real.

And she is mine. At least for the moment, my characters are my kids.

I am a lucky girl.

~

Amanda M. Runion

The Advocate has been largely inspired by my own experiences doing street outreach in downtown Portland. I worked with an organization called Janus Youth Services; we were the “Yellow Brick Road” volunteers. Every Wednesday, my little team of three would stock up on socks, condoms, and first aid supplies. Then we’d hit the streets for a few hours, and try to get kids connected to resources.

I saw a lot that way. There were kids being stupid, sure, and playing with fire by pretending to be homeless. But there were also foster kids who ran away from abuse, and elderly veterans who had run out of sanity. We’d find people passed out drunk, people huddled under doorways, people rolling in the clouds. We knew where they’d be, and what kind of help they would accept. And we did our best to give it, even though it seemed like so little…

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The Jess Rivas factor

Everyone around town knows Jess Rivas. Any party you go to, chances are he’s brought half the people. He’s amazing at bringing people together and laying the groundwork for flourishing communities.

We met when I was 20 years old, leaving church on a warm Friday night. Jess was leaning on the railing outside, glancing side to side and fiddling with a cell phone. He had dark hair and cute green eyes, and looked like he needed a ride. So I asked him where he was going.

Turns out he was on his way to my house for my housewarming party that night. He was already friends with my roommates. I gave him a ride, and six years later we’re writing a book together.

“How do you know Jess Rivas?” is a good anecdote catalyst around here. I always tell people that I met him hitchhiking, which is sort of true. It’s how we met anyway, because he needed a ride and he happened to be going to my house.

The truest story, though, is this: When Jess introduced himself for the first time, leaning on the railing of the huge Onyx House porch, the first thing I blurted out was, “That’s the name of my childhood best friend that I’m secretly in love with.”

I’m still not sure how he inspired such honestly, but we have been friends ever since.

~

Why We Write

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(From Amanda’s blog.)

Jess and I are knee-deep in our current literary adventure, The Advocate. 

As we continue to craft characters and stumble into strange scenarios, I’m stopping to wonder why I write. Why do I struggle every day to create? Why am I letting myself be driven half-mad by the scope of this project? What is my ultimate aim?

At the moment, I can answer like this:

My goal in writing is to bring truth to light, through the use of story. Truth, too often, gets shoved aside in daily life. In fiction, we can hope to see it clearly once again.

I want to tell about God without using his name. To show bravery and beauty and goodness, and redemption in the midst of messy humanity. To show hope slicing ennui into ribbons. To teach people that God is more than books and buildings.

And I pray for the grace to do it well.

How writing is like having a baby

Amanda and I skyped yesterday

We talked about how she could not stop writing and thinking about the Advocate but realized that sharing our work is scary. It is scary, when we write it is a piece of us that just came out and its slimy and gross, but beautiful at the same time.

New writing is like a new baby, beautiful not because of what it is, but because of what it has the potential to be. So often we get stuck keeping our baby in and letting it die. Its vastly important to get it out as quick as possible so it can experience the world and grow. At first we only let close friends and family see it and let them clean it up a little bit, but then we invite our extended friends come over and admire how cute our baby looks. We then will spend the rest of our life growing it up until eventually it leave our house, and once its with the publishers its outside our hands.

Thats would be a great and terrible day.