How to Make a Book Trailer

My new book Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark comes out in a little over a month, and last night I put the finishing touches on a book trailer.

For those creatives interested in the process by which I created this amateur, ad hoc trailer, here are some steps. For those who could care less about the how, feel free to just scroll down and take a look!


Step 1. Whine to your friends/spouse/significant other about how you have no idea how to make a “book trailer” and that the book industry expects too much of its authors. Why can’t we go back to the good old days when writes could just writeyou’ll say. Now we have to know how to use Twitter and make book trailers.

Step 2. Repeat Step 1 for 1-3 weeks until you’ve exhausted all the self-pity.

Step 3. Make a decision. While drinking your coffee one morning, realize that no one is going to force you to make a book trailer. But neither is anyone else going to do this work for you.

By this time, you’ll have already realized that you cannot control how your art goes into the world or how it is received… But you can control whether or not there is a book trailer.

Step 4. Scour the internet for existing book trailers. There are not tons to choose from, and some will be so outside of your (basically nonexistent) video-making skill-set and so well-resourced that you’ll be tempted to go back to Step 1 for a week or two. Resist this temptation.

Keep looking until you find a few simple, beautiful ones. What elements of these could you steal? What simple concepts are at work here that would be useful in marketing your own book/product/idea?

Step 5. Create an artistic vision. Make it as simple as you can. What themes does your work tackle? Is there something unique about the setting? Is there a significant object? You don’t need a cast or a production — you just need a simple way to tap into the heart of your book. Think small. 

Step 6. Gather your materials. With smartphones, getting good video clips is simpler than ever, and it’s easy to ask friends and family for help getting shots that you might be unable to get. (For example, for this video, I enlisted friends along the route that I drove in Night Driving to take clips of the road as they drove through their towns.)

You need to make sure that everything you use is royalty-free and that you site the source. This sounds complicated and possibly expensive… but it’s not. There are plenty of places online to get free royalty-free video clips and music, usually just by citing the author and the Creative Common License. (I found lots of great stuff on videvo for this project; the song I used came from

Step 7. Figure it out as you go. There are plenty of free movie-making apps and software available. Choose one, and learn as you go. Don’t be intimidated by a new interface. There are so many resources to help you figure things out. If the app/software is intimidating to you, it might be worth doing a quick search on youtube for an introductory video. And if you get stuck, check the online help or simply Google your question.

Step 8. Let it be imperfect. Do your creative best with this video, but remember that the trailer is not the thing. The book/product/idea that it represents is the thing. This is simply a way to help the world know that it exists.

Do your best, put it out there, and let it go

Night Driving comes out March 15, 2015, but you can pre-order it now from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Books-a-Million, or an independent bookseller near you!

Size Up

photo credit: Passing Time via photopin (license)

photo credit: Passing Time via photopin (license)

Today I had to buy bigger jeans.

I’ve been putting it off for a while, but at a certain point, you have to look in the rearview mirror of the minivan and have a heart-to-heart with yourself about the rubber band that you’ve been using to fasten the clasp on your jeans.

The rubber band is great old pregnancy trick for when the button won’t reach — except for you’re not actually pregnant.

“Hey girl,” You have to say to yourself in the rearview mirror with all the compassion and sternness you can muster. “It’s time.”

And then you have to drive to the nearest Marshall’s. And once you’re in there, you have to go past the rack of jeans that are the size that you still secretly imagine that you are (the size you were in high school when you were thin as a rail and wore teeny flared jeans with t-shirts you bought kids’ section of the thrift store).

Then, after that, you have to go past the jeans that are the size you have been cramming yourself into for the last three or four months. (You kept thinking that if you could just lose five pounds, you could make this work, but of course you haven’t lost five pounds, and it’s not working at all.)

And after you’ve let go of all that magical thinking, you still have to go bravely into the uncharted territory of bigger, bigger, bigger.

Why is this so hard?

Why does sizing up feel like failure, even when you understand that skinny is a false currency — a Chuck E. Cheese coin that is no good outside of the funhouse.

But then, all the world seems like a kind of funhouse, everything a little distorted, a little loud and bright and addictive. On Pinterest, models are decked out in skimpy “winter fashion” that shows off their preposterous thigh-gaps and could never actually keep them warm. The magazines in the Target checkout aisle show slimmed down versions of movie stars just weeks after giving birth, and I recently read an article in which Jennifer Aniston mentioned that she plans to rock a bikini in her 80s.

On Monday nights, the Bachelor contestants strut around in tiny dresses, tiny bathing suits, — tiny, tiny, tiny — and I watch to the hypnotic drone of funhouse music, comparing myself and feeling fat and unattractive in my sweatpants and ratty t-shirt…

But then, of course, healthy and tiny are not the same thing (as is evidenced by the emotional turmoil of the girls in the bikinis, sobbing in the camera and all turned around about what love really means.)

And for me right now, healthy looks like brown-crusted bread, fresh from the oven, insulating me from the cold. It looks like long hot showers that dry out my skin and then gads of Bath and Body Works lavender chamomile lotion. It looks like croissants and coffee and curling up with a good book. It looks like a glass of red wine and a bad Hallmark Valentines Day movie. It sometimes looks like a run on the treadmill, but mostly for the endorphins, not the caloric burn.

For me, at 32, healthy does not look like Size 0 or flat abs or scrambling to lose five little pounds.

In the dressing room, I have to peel myself out of the old pants that don’t fit, and when I do, I find that they have left harsh red marks on my abdomen.

The new jeans, in the size I have never worn before, are generous and forgiving. They button without hurting; they fit.

And of course I need new jeans. After all, I have spent the last two decades expanding.

I’ve made room in myself for big questions, for complexities, for entire seasons and landscapes that I didn’t know existed. I made room for two humans to spark into being and then grow into babies — 9 pounds 3 ounces; 7 pounds 10 ounces, respectively.

My heart holds a vastness of love at 32 that I didn’t know existed at 14, when my stomach was a flat board and my hips were nonexistent and the boy I liked scoffed and told my friends he’d never date a toothpick like me.

In the past two decades, I have eaten fresh jiaozi made by old Chinese women in their tiny closet of a restaurant in Pinghu. I’ve eaten bruschetta made from fresh tomatoes that we grew in our yard and bread that I kneaded with my own two hands. Lefse that my Grandma Grace taught me to make. Grandma Betty’s cheesy potatoes.

There have been glasses of wine with friends over deep, belly laughs and glasses of wine that I drank alone, trying to drown a deeper pain. And there has been grape juice playacting as wine in church to symbolize blood of Christ, poured out for you, and all of it is important. All of it matters.

It has expanded me into this person in the mirror, this grown-up, mother-person who is holding so much in her imperfect body.

“See?” some wise voice says from the deep place of my heart. “You are too old and too awesome to wear things that don’t fit you.”

And it’s about the jeans…and it’s not.

It’s about my body…and it’s not.

It’s about letting go of what doesn’t fit anymore, of who you used to be, of who you  thought you might turn into. (You are too old and too awesome for all that nonsense.)

In the mirror, the reflection you see is not one of failure but of courage as you expand, expand, expand more fully into yourself.

What I’m Into: January 2016 Edition

wiit - january 2016

We survived another January, which always seems like something of a feat when you live in a place like Minnesota. It helps that the temperatures have ben mild and the morning sunrises have been beautiful, and I always like this first bit of the new year — when everything feels fresh and new and possible.

Our trip to Mexico probably also helped make the month go faster, but it also made it feel sort of strange and disjointed. (Weird to go from Christmas vacation to a week of reality and then back on vacation.) Even though we’ve been home for nearly two weeks, I still feel like I’m trying to get back to business as usual, which accounts (sort of) for my piecey Internet presence this month.

What I’ve Been Reading:

My reading list was heavy on the work-process books this month. In the last few months of 2015, I started to feel like I was losing my grip on my routines, needing better ways to stay organized and on-point with all I had to do. (It’s also a little heavy on the chick lit. Whatever. I was in Mexico. I couldn’t help myself.)

january books 1

Beginnings: The First Seven Days of the Rest of Your Life, Steve Wiens: I enjoyed Steve Wiens’ debut book, which used the Genesis creation poem to explore the ways that God works through our beginnings. It was a perfect book to read in January. (I wrote about it in a bit more depth here.)

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen: This was the most helpful book I’ve ever read on task management. Allen’s system is about getting all the things you need to do out of your head and into various lists of projects, reference and next-actions. He is also fundamentally against the daily to-do list, and after listening to this audiobook, I agree. I’ve done most of January without one, and I’ve felt more productive and less stressed about tasks than ever before. Not high literature, obviously, but an extremely helpful book for anyone who feels like things keep getting lost in their brain.

The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, Daniel Coyle: This short, easy read was fine, but I think it has more to offer for those looking to improve athletically or musically. As a writer, I found some of Coyle’s tips were helpful (it was interesting to learn that it’s better for your brain to practice your craft for small intervals each day (5 minutes a day) than longer intervals (an hour) a week), but there were many that didn’t really apply to my particular situation. For a short, inspirational book for writers and other creatives, I much prefer Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.

Manage Your Day-to-Day, Jocelyn E. Glei: This book, authored by a variety of writers and experts, has more to do with managing the creative process than managing tasks. Most of what I read here was not new to me, but it was filled with good reminders: Write every single day. Create blocks of time (preferably in the morning) to do focused, creative work. Spend those lost moments waiting in lines or for appointments disconnected from your phone and attentive to the world around you.

january books 2

The Rumor, Elin Hilderbrand, This was my first Hilderbrand, and it was a good beachy read. The plot was fairly predictable and the characters spend most of their time in the shallows of life, but Hilderbrand knows how to write and how to keep an audience engaged. She’ll probably end up being one of my go to authors for beach books.

Victim of Grace, Robin Jones Gunn: Last year, I wrote a blog post about my issues with the new Christy Miller Christian romance novels and then ended up talking to their author (and the literary idol of my 12-year-old self), Robin Jones Gunn, on the radio. After the call, we exchanged memoirs. I sent her When We Were on Fire, and she sent this one.

I finally read it in Mexico, and it caused me no small amount of existential angst. In the book, RJG walks through the story of her life and shows the way that God’s grace was at work, interjecting her own stories with insights from “Kindred Spirits” in the Bible. What was troubling to me about this book is that, much like in the Christy Miller books, God always works things out in the best case scenario. The cancer scare is negative. The seemingly dead book contract turns into a huge new deal with a travel budget for places like Australia, Finland and Kenya. Packing up and moving out of the house with no clear plan of where you might end up is rewarded with a beautiful home in Maui at a fraction of the cost.

In RJG’s life, God always seems to speak in really obvious ways at the exact moment she needs to hear him. This has not been the case in my life, and it’s hard to read a book like this and feel like I’m okay, like my messy, imperfect faith is okay, and that I, too, am loved by God — even though it looks nothing like this.

I don’t doubt that RJG is telling the truth of her story here, and there are a lot of things I loved about the book. (I might steal her tradition of reading through her last year’s journals every year on January 2nd and noticing the ways that God was at work.) But I also know too many people who trust God just as wholly, just as beautifully, and have been given impossible suffering and trials instead of super-inexpensive beach houses in Maui. There seems to be little-to-no recognition of that in the book, and that made it, for me, a tough read.

(Sorry. That was long. Apparently I  had a lot to say about all that.)

The Matchmaker, Elin Hilderbrand: Another fluffy romance novel, but his one had me ugly crying in the middle of the night in our 80’s style resort room in Mexico. Just to warn you.

Humans of New York: Stories: I read most of this when I first got it in December (it made my Book Ideas for Everyone on Your List post around Christmastime), but I read it again, slowly, in my pajamas this month because reading other people’s stories expands something in my heart, and because Brandon Stanton does such an amazing job of capturing (both in words and in direct quotes) what it is that makes us all human. This is a worthwhile book to have; I’m sure  I’ll go back to it again.

What I’m Listening To

Photo from

Photo from

I’ve listened casually to Cloud Cult before, but this month I started listening in earnest to their albums. Cloud Cult is a local band — from Duluth, Minnesota, one of my favorite places in the world — but they’ve gotten a lot of national recognition, and it’s easy to see why.

I’ve got their live collection Unplug playing on a loop right now in my minivan. For this album, they chose “songs with kind of philosophical messages,” and the lyrics of their searching are so profoundly beautiful. Their song “Purpose” is one of my favorites. It begins, “There must be purpose here cause most of us keep waking up.” Highly recommended for the searchers, mystics and poets among us.

What I’m Watching


It’s January in Minnesota, so I’m watching a lot of TV. Don’t judge. My current favorite is the show Younger, which started its second season this month. The premise is a little kooky — a 40-year-old woman pretends to be 26 in order to get a job in the publishing industry, and her lie  spirals out of control. Sutton Foster is fantastic (I fell for her back in Bunheads), and Hilary Duff is surprisingly adorable as well.

I accidentally-on-purpose started watching The Bachelor again, and I’m still into Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. (I loved this article in the New York Times about its creator/lead actress Rachel Bloom.) I’m waiting eagerly for my Shonda shows to start up again in February. In the meantime, I’m rematching Parenthood on Netflix while I cook/run/do laundry/pack lunches.

Other Things I’ve Been Into:

Cozumel, Mexico: I wrote about our rainy winter vacation here, but for all of its imperfections, the whole thing was a gift. Though there were a few moments with the kids I would have just as soon skipped, it was so cool to have this extended time with my family. We’ve never done a trip like this together before and I did love that we were able to share this adventure with the boys.

Ziermans do Mexico

Reading with my son: It was about this time seven years ago that I was decorating Dane’s nursery with children’s book illustrations. A Where the Wild Things poster above the crib; a trio of illustrations from Corduroy by the changing table.

This month, something about reading clicked for Dane, and it has been so much fun o watch. Last night, he read me Corduroy himself as we sat together in the hallway. The night before, he finished his first chapter book: Frog and Toad Together. So much fun.

reading wth my son

Home: This month, some family friends moved in with us. They’ll be staying with us during the weekdays for the next few months while they build a house, and the transition from four to eight people in our house has been interesting for this introvert. The big dinners together are my favorite part, and the pockets of time with just my own family on the weekends have become precious to me in a new way. I’m thinking a lot about home, about hospitality, and about what it means when we talk about welcome.



Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark comes out in less than two months (on March 15th). My publisher is working on getting advanced copies out this week, which means that people are going to actually be reading this thing soon. Not sure I’m ready for that, but here we go.

The big news with all of that is that Oasis Audio bought the rights to both of my books. The audio version of Night Driving will be released alongside the print edition in March; When We Were on Fire should release, I believe, sometime in April. Exciting!!

This month, I was a little absent from the blog. I wrote a defense of New Year’s resolutions, a reflection on gratitude and our time in Mexico, and, my favorite — a response over at Off the Page to the question, “What do you do when you want to believe…but can’t?”

You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up for my newsletter (see the sidebar), which I’m still trying to get into a groove with but which I am hoping will be monthly.

Linking up as usual with the illustrious Leigh Kramer.

What have you been into this January?

When You Want to Believe and Can’t {Dear Addie Column 2}


It’s my second month writing a new advice-ish column at Off the Page, and I have to tell you — it is the hardest, most exciting writing that I feel like I’m doing in my life right now.

I don’t know if my answers are actually helpful to anyone — I hope they are. But the very act of engaging with other people’s deepest questions has been so good for me. It makes me think in different ways both about my own experience and about God, and a certain kind of space forms in the dialogue that I can only describe as holy ground.

(If you’ve been thinking of submitting a question, I hope you’ll do it! Click here to get to the form.)

Today’s question is from a woman who grew up much like I did — evangelical with a bent toward on fire — and who, in a recent inventory of her beliefs, found she doesn’t really believe any of it anymore.

Rachel’s question is long and layered and complex (and you can read the full text here), but the heart of it is this: “What is one to do when they want to believe, but can’t?”

I spent weeks waking up in the nights, thinking about this, and in the end, my answer has to do with the importance of questions, the stages of faith, and longing.

Click over to Off the Page now and read it now!