Monday, October 10, 2011

Twelve Ways to Glorify God with Your Blog

As Christians we want our writing to shine as a beacon into our world. That means if we have a blog ministry, we want it to be the best. Here are twelve ways to provide your readers with God glorifying copy:
  1. Use compelling content--stories from your own life or retold Bible stories with life application.
  2. Insert scripture with or without Bible address. God's word does not return to Him void.
  3. Use good grammar and spelling. Nothing stops my reading faster than poor writing.
  4. Avoid purple prose (adverbs). Use active verbs (Try not to use helper verbs like "is, was, were, have, had, has, to be, would, could, should. . .")
  5. Use pictures. The Internet offers many free graphics and photos. I use Plus! Image or my own photos.
  6. Keep posts short. Aim for less than 300 words. No more than 500 words.
  7. Engage your readers by asking questions or opinions.
  8. Read and comment on other blogs. Link to other blogs or websites.
  9. Use labels that are likely to be used in searches (i.e. God's love, God's grace, Jesus loves me, Bible story titles)
  10. Choose topics that appeal to readers. A good example today is how to find joy in a troubled world.
  11. Use Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and Linked In to publicize your posts.
  12. Use compassion when responding to comments on your blog.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Will You Accept the Nehemiah Challenge?

When Hanani came to the citadel of Susa to visit his brother, Nehemiah, he announced, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province, are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." What would you do if you heard that your hometown sat in ruins ninety years after it's destruction? Nehemiah sat down and wept. He mourned, fasted and prayed to the God of heaven.

I teach my Sunday school students that Nehemiah was a man of prayer, and they can remember his name by thinking "Knee-high-miah," because he was on his knees about everything that concerned him or his people. The day Hanani told him about his people living in the ruins of Jerusalem, Nehemiah began four months of fasting and praying for a solution.

What follows is not only great leadership training but includes nuggets we can use in our writing to inspire. Here are four things to remember as you hone your craft to serve our Lord:
  1. Realize our limitations. Only God can change a man's heart. Although Nehemiah was one of Israel's captives in Syria, he had a great job as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. A strange law in the land prohibited anyone from showing sadness before the king. So Nehemiah was careful not to show his grieving for Jerusalem. Yet, the king knew something was wrong and because God's hand was on Nehemiah, the opportunity he prayed for arose. As Christian writers, we know our limitations. Even though we write to change hearts for God, it is He alone who is able, not us.
  2. Turn to God by praying and waiting. Four months Nehemiah prayed and fasted. Praying over our projects is essential as we use our writing to speak of God's love and grace. As we submit to God in prayer, we might find, like Nehemiah, that the answers are not immediate. We might have to wait.
  3. Organize a plan of action while waiting for the right opportunities. Do you have a plan to accomplish your goals? A book a year? twenty-five articles? Determine what it will take. How many words to you have to write each day to accomplish your goal? How much research is involved? How many queries or submissions do you have to make? Nehemiah developed a detailed plan of what he needed for his building project. So when the opportunity came, he knew what to request of the king. Amazingly the king not only supplied what Nehemiah requested, he sent him with an army.
  4. Recognize the opposition. We each have a stinker who doesn't want us to accomplish any good thing for God. His name is Satan and he will use whatever people, circumstances, lies and discouragement are necessary to throw us off track. Nehemiah faced the opposition of the surrounding nations' leaders. They heckled him and used several obstacles to keep him from his work. Praise God, they didn't win. The people of Israel under Nehemiah's leadership finished the project in fifty-two days. Incredible, isn't it?
How do you stay focused? How do you meet your goals and deadlines?  How do you thwart discouragement? It would be great if you could share some encouragement with our writers.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Impact of Our Witness

Have you thought about the impact of your writing? A lost and hungry world is looking for answers in churches, books, bars, and the Internet. We have a great opportunity to share our story through fiction, non-fiction, devotional readings, and scripture exposition. God can use our past failures and shortcomings for His glory as we share how He worked in our lives.

Snippets of our stories or explaining what a verse means to us in a blog is vital. My most visited posts are those about the meaning of God's love, grace and scripture. In these troubling times, people want answers. Will you share what God's love and word mean to you? Someone's soul might be at stake.

Besides the things we write, people are looking to us--how do we handle grief, suffering, or loss. Our lives were redeemed on the cross at a great cost to God. Our response means something to Him and to  our world.

Lord Jesus, make me a beacon of your light and love in this dark world. Amen.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Seven Tips for Writing Personal Experience Stories

Do you blog or journal your experiences? Do you have a story to tell? Here are seven tips to follow as you develop your story for publication.

  1. Consider what magazine you would like to submit your story to. Get a copy or two and study its style, departments and columns so you can suggest how your article will fit into their periodical. Find their writer guidelines. Do they want queries first? Do they want submissions by U. S. Mail or e-mail?
  2. Think of an attention grabbing title.
  3. Start with a powerful hook--action, problem, or conflict.
  4. Use fiction techniques--show (don't tell), multiple scenes, plot, climax, dialogue, description.
  5. What is the point of your story? Make it your takeaway. Christian editors are looking for takeaways.
  6. Write your query or cover letter. This has to be every bit as good as your manuscript or better. Make the editor want your article.
  7. If the publisher sends you an assignment from your wonderful query letter, submit your story exactly as assigned and within the prescribed deadline. Sometimes assignments are on a speculation basis. Make your story excellent so it will be accepted and so you can get more assignments with this publisher and build a working relationship.
Here are some great books on writing:
Writers on Writing-Top Christian Authors Share Their Secrets
Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins
On Writing Well by William Zinsser

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Writing Memoirs

Many writers who attend workshops and critique groups are writing the stories of their lives. They want to share the wonderful things they have learned over the years so others can learn from their experience. My cyber friend, Terry Whalin, has an excellent article for you if this is your desire. Visit his blog, The Writing Life.

You can earn a little compensation along the journey of writing your book by taking time to write personal experience articles for magazines and posts for blogs. By doing these two exercises, your writing will become tighter and better. At the same time you'll build a platform for yourself.

The response I hear when I suggest this from my book writing friends is, "I just want to write what a want to write," and you can. I enjoy using my personal experience stories in articles and blog posts. These two avenues also give me the best opportunity I have of telling others about Jesus and His love for them. Try it and you'll see your blog traffic increase.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

 Learn how to edit yourself into print. Whether you write fiction or creative nonfiction, you will benefit from this workshop with exercises in characterization, point of view, dialogue, voice and much more. Sue Tornai will facilitate the workshop using Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. It begins September 15, 2011 and continues the first and third Thursdays of each month at Sunrise Community Church, 8321 Greenback Lane, Fair Oaks, CA 95628, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. in room B-107.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Message from Dianne Butts-Author of Deliver Me

When I served on the board of directors of a small town pregnancy center, I witnessed both the agony of the women (and men, and families) involved in an unplanned pregnancy as well as the amazing stories of healing, redemption, and forgiveness.  

Some of the people our pregnancy center encountered were devastated by the news of their own, or a child’s or girlfriend’s, pregnancy. Others were dealing with the agony of a past pregnancy, whether last year or ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. 

I also witnessed many amazing stories of these same people finding hope because they were finding the help they needed in our pregnancy center. Needs were provided for. Resources were shared. Families were reconciled. Relationships were healed. And perhaps most importantly, people were finding forgiveness from God for past decisions and reconciliation with their Father in Heaven eawho loves them so incredibly and unconditionally. 

These stories needed to be told. They needed to be shared. And so I set about asking women and men to share their stories. It took eight years, but Deliver Me is that collection of stories.  

I live in the county in Colorado that has the largest birthrate to unwed mothers. Besides those currently in an unplanned pregnancy, according to current estimates if today’s trends continue, by the time they are 45 years old, 43% of women will have had at least one abortion.[1] That’s nearly half our population of women! And the numbers for men surely are comparable. Regardless of how vocal the prochoice crowd is, privately and silently many women (and men) grieve and agonize over an abortion in their past. Many who shared their stories for DeliverMe told me they thought this was the unforgivable sin, that God would never forgive them for what they had done. But they discovered they were wrong. God does and will forgive—even for this. 

 America needs to know. Women (and men) the world over need to know that God loves them, that He will forgive them, and that He is right there with them no matter what they have done or what they are facing right now. There are stories in Deliver Me that reveal how women and men have discovered this truth. 

Besides the chapters that speak about women who considered abortion and women who experienced abortion, Deliver Me also has whole chapters devoted to stories of women who wanted to keep their child, who gave for adoption, whole families who were affected, an entire chapter of stories from men, and more. Women and men who work in pregnancy centers also share their stories about who they are and how they came to be involved in such work.  

Besides the true stories, Deliver Me includes dozens of interesting statistics and valuable resources for practical help.

Deliver Me is available from your favorite bookstore. (Ask for ISBN: 978-0-9831649-0-6.) It is also available on,, other online retailers, and direct from the author at and $14.99  (236 pages, released April 2011). Special discounts available for ministries; for more information contact Dianne at


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Deliver Me--Hope, Health and Healing

She stares at the test strip, palms clammy, breathing uneven. She's never felt more alone. Tears blur her vision. Panic edges in.

An unplanned pregnancy can leave emotional wounds that take years to heal. The options are many: abortion, adoption, keeping the child. The questions are even more: How? Why? Where can you go for help? What do you do?

Deliver Me: Hope, Help, & Healing through True Stories of Unplanned Pregnancy explores each of the choices and their after-effects, highlighting the most sensitive moments women and men in unplanned pregnancies face, and how it affects grandparents, friends, and other loved ones. You'll find:

· More than 50 intriguing true stories

· Facts and statistics about unplanned pregnancy

· Practical help

· Valuable resources

Whether you're a woman currently facing an unplanned pregnancy, a man whose partner is there, a friend or family member wanting to help, you'll find hope in the stories of others who walked this road and faced the same decisions.

Is your pregnancy experience in your past? Regardless of what its outcome was, you'll find kindness, compassion, and healing. You've dealt with the pain long enough. It's time to discover your healing.
After years of prayer and challenges, this book is finally in print to offer help for women in unplanned pregnancy. I had the pleasure of interviewing people and writing two of the stories in this book, thanks to my friend, Dianne Butts. Check in to this blog next week to read more about Dianne.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Write to Inspire Conference

American Christian Fiction Writers and Inspire Christian Writers are co-sponsoring "Write to Inspire" conference, August 26 and 27 at First Baptist Church in Elk Grove. You don't want to miss it.

The featured speaker is editor and agent Karen Ball who will lead the following sessions:

  • Editor, Friend or Foe?
  • What’s in an Agent?
  • Refine Your Craft
  • The Power of Storytelling (in Fiction and Nonfiction)
  • Taming Your Dragons
  • Write Your Passion
You can also pitch your project to Karen and participate in the writing contest. All the registration information is on the Inspire Christian Writers' website. I look forward to seeing you.



Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lake Almanor-Northern California’s Hidden Jewel

Lake Almanor, CA is our favorite hide-away. We camp in the Lassen National Campground on the west shore and enjoy exploring the surrounding area as well as fishing the lake, Feather River and Hat Creek. The picture is of John fishing at Hat Creek. In case you're wondering why this story is in Pathways to Publication, I wrote it as an exercise in writing travel articles.

Majestic pines, a view of the snow-capped Mt. Lassen and cobalt blue water of Lake Almanor show off one of God’s most magnificent masterpieces. My husband, John and I enjoy camping in the National Campground on the West Shore, near the quaint and friendly town of Chester, California.
Every day of our vacation is filled with lots to see and do. The mornings begin with walking my dog, Maggie, on the trail, which starts at Prattville (approximately two miles south), goes through camp, travels along the edge of the lake and ends halfway to Chester. Maggie and I walk only a small section of the trail, but we enjoy the tall pines and hear the sounds birds chirping, the pounding of woodpeckers and the barking of squirrels. We often see graceful deer families too. Then John and I head for the Coffee Station, an old auto service station that’s been turned into a coffee-house, complete with Wi-Fi and delicious pastries. I usually sink my teeth into a frosted cinnamon roll, with melted butter on top. To die for! Sometimes we feast on a full breakfast at the Kopper Kettle where the dining is always filled with hungry patrons.  
Treasure Hunting:
Our favorite thing to do in Chester is shop the Forget-Me-Not Thrift Store that benefits hospice in Plumas County. Upon entering, John always likes to ring the bell for service and most of the time the volunteer is at the counter. She winks at John and hollers,
“I like your hat,” says John. “How much?”
“Not for sale,” she smiles.
Sometimes we spend hours rummaging through other people’s give-aways in search of our treasure. We love being there more than anything else. The second best place is on the other side of town—Second-Hand Rose. It’s owned by an entrepreneur and her daughter. One time I found a Royal Albert teacup and saucer worth much more than what I paid for it. Another time I found a suede jacket in my size and favorite color (purple). Awesome!

John and I have fished Lake Almanor by trolling as well as anchoring. Once when we were in the middle of the lake, we turned off the motor and didn’t anchor. We drifted wherever the wind and current took us while reading our books or watching other boats. The recently rebuilt boat ramp at the National Campground is excellent (and free) for those interested in fishing or skiing.
I’m having fun learning to fish the Feather River and Hat Creek. Part of the Feather River runs through Chester by the library, another place we enjoy hanging out. Casting into the river is more fun for me than dragging bait up and down the lake. Every place along a stream where John and I fish is postcard picture perfect.

Sports Activities:
Besides walking or biking the trails at Lake Almanor, you can enjoy horseback riding, water skiing, jet skiing, canoeing and kayaking. John and I haven’t participated in these but one year the mile high bike trek around the lake inspired me to purchase a bike. The Bodfish Bicycle Shop, not far from the Coffee Station, hosted a refreshment stand so I had to check out the bikes and found the perfect one for me.

Mt. Lassen National Park:
Mt. Lassen draws lots of tourists and for good reason. In John’s earlier days he climbed to the top several times. The view of Lake Almanor is fantastic. For others like me, we can see amazing beauty while driving through the park or walking through the meadows or along Hat Creek. 

High mountain lakes (Echo, Silver, Butte and others) formed when Mt. Lassen erupted, and are great for fishing, canoeing and kayaking.

Night Life:
Most weekends during the summer, the restaurant at Plumas Pines Resort has live music and dancing. People come from up the lake and park their boats on the dock to dine on the terrace that overlooks the lake. John and I enjoy quiet dinners in camp, but I think sharing a steak on the lake would be kind of romantic. Maybe John will take me there this summer.

Our Favorite Hide-away:
Lake Almanor is our favorite hide-away, a place to read, write, explore or just kick back. It’s close to any place we want to be and it’s our home away from home. Most definitely, it’s Northern California’s hidden jewel.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Your Christmas Letter 2011

It's not too soon to start thinking about what you'll write in your Christmas letter. I suggest collecting the pictures and stories you want to use and putting them into a folder marked Christmas 2011. You'll be surprised how much easier this will make your work.

When December comes, you'll have events to attend, shopping and decorating to do. And if you are like me, you will be scrambling to get your letter done before Christmas. I have even missed the deadline and given my Yule Log a New Year's theme.

Remember our Christmas letters are one of the great opportunities we have to share the God's love with our families and friends. We can show our love by recognizing accomplishments or special memories made during the year.

Thank you, Lord,  for the families and friends You have given us. Help us to shine your love and light in their worlds. Amen.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ending Your Query

You've grabbed your editor's attention with a great opening and outlined your take on an area of interest for her readers. In the closing you must sell yourself. This is the part of the letter that is cousin to a resume. Tell what qualifies you to write the story whether it's life experience or writing clips. If you're a beginner, do not say you have not been published. Instead, describe your experience or research on the topic.

This is the place for experienced writers to say where you've been published and include clips with your letter. If you submit your query by e-mail, be sure to include links to your clips and/or your website.

Don't miss the opportunity to ask for the assignment. I usually end my queries with something like, "I appreciate your consideration of my story "Title," and I look forward to hearing from you. All that is left is a polite closure. I like to use "Blessings" for the Christian market and "Kind regards" for the general markets. Be sure to include your contact information in your signature.

If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll purchase your copy of Queries and Submissions by Thomas Clark.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Heart of Your Query

Stay focused on the purpose of your query. Remember to include these eight ingredients:
  1. Gain your reader's attention with an opening most appropriate for your story.
  2. Awaken a need for your idea.
  3. Tell how readers will benefit from your story.
  4. Use facts, opinions and statistics from experts or other reliable sources.
  5. Don't overdo details in your letter. Those are for your story.
  6. Give the reader a reason to respond. Then make a confident request.
  7. Don't assume your reader is convinced by prefacing your statements with, "As you know," or "I'm sure you agree."
  8. Reveal your plan by with an outline of your story idea.
This is a chapter well worth the time and energy to study it in Queries and Submissions by Thomas Clark. In my next post, I'll discuss how to end your query. Until then, happy writing.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Six Ways to Open Your Query

The opening of your query letter should have all the impact of an article hook. Consider using a variety of techniques.
  1. The straightforward lead jumps right into the topic with statements, contrasts, or quotes.
  2. The surprise opening could be a clever turn of a phrase, a startling statistic, or a shocking situation. Overplaying or overacting this hook could have a negative impact on the editor.
  3. Leading with a question can be tricky. What if the editor's first response is, "Who cares?" To use this opening, your answer must come quickly so the reader won't lose interest.
  4. Opening with your article's lead is good if you're selling reprints of something you've already written. Otherwise it's like thinking backwards, since the query is used to see if there is an interest in the topic.
  5. Starting with "why you" and "why now" will establish yourself as the right person to write on the topic. This works for specific stories, but is usually later in the letter.
  6. A complimentary comment about an article you read that the editor wrote is another trick to have in the ways you open your queries.
Which of these is best for you? Which one is best for your story idea? More in depth descriptions of opening your queries are in the book Queries and Submissions by Thomas Clark. This is a must-have for your writing library.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Approaching the Query Letter

In the next few posts, I'll be gleaning important information from Thomas Clark's Queries & Submissions. The book isn't new, so if you follow along, you'll find it amusing to read about putting fresh ribbons in your typewriter before typing your queries. Part of Writer's Digest's "Elements of Article Writing Series," and recommended by Terry Whalen, I'm finding it a great writing tool.

The query letter is the most important manuscript you'll ever write to get the results you pray for. Editors judge your qualifications and fitness for assignments by what you say in your initial sales letter. It is considered a handshake or an application for employment. Your letter must show the following:
  • Confidence in your idea, your talent and ability to meet the publisher's demands.
  • Qualifications and credentials to write the manuscript.
  • Immediate connection in your approach.
Although the query letter is written in business letter format and could be considered a business letter, it is much more. It's your opportunity to demonstrate your style and appropriate tone for the project. Do a little homework by researching as much about the editor as possible, so you can make a relevant comment. Maybe he/she or the magazine recently received an award.

Instead of mail-merging your query letter to several publishers, take time to study every magazine. Use the appropriate slant and tone for each editor. A stuffy business letter that reads more like "Dear Occupant" will find its way to the editor's round file.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Just Too Busy--Review

Although it was many years ago I remember meeting myself going and coming, taking kids to football and cheerleading practice, church, music lessons and trying to have dinner on the table before bedtime. I was an overwhelmed taxi driver, policeman, cook and mom. Today I see my kids doing the same with their kids. Joanne Kraft and her husband experienced burnout from this lifestyle and took their family on a radical sabbatical. Frankly, I'm glad they lived to tell about it, because it brings hope to families caught in the hurry-up schedule crunch. Maybe it's time for you to withdraw from a few things and strengthen your relationships with your spouse and kids. Because I recommend it so highly, I am drawing a name from people who leave comments on this blog and sending him/her a signed copy of Just Too Busy by Joanne Kraft. The drawing will be Friday, June 10, 2011. Good luck, my friends.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ten Steps of a Successful Query Letter

Would you like to cut down on your rejections? Who wouldn't? The query letter is key in a writer's success. Here are ten proven steps of great queries.

  1. Make a thirty second phone call to the publishing house. Request the editorial department. Request the name of the editor who covers the topic of your proposed article or book topic. Confirm spelling and address.
  2. Write an attention-grabbing story title and use it in the subject line of your letter after "Story Proposal."
  3. Hook the editor in the first paragraph with your best creative writing.
  4. Introduce something new, maybe provocative, that will make the editor want to read your manuscript.
  5. Deliver your manuscript's focus. Tell why the readers will find value in your story.
  6. Suggest the area of the publication where your story will fit. If you do this, the editor won't have to figure it out. One less job of him/her to do.
  7. Give the approximate word count. The editor wants to know if it will fit in the section you suggested.
  8. Tell why you are qualified to write the story. Do you have credentials or have you interviewed and/or performed the required research?
  9. Tie up your query letter with a convincing statement that will make your project hard for the editor to reject.
  10. Attach samples of your previous work and close with your contact information.
As a Christian writer, I start and end my letter with prayer, asking God to bless my efforts as well as go before and with my correspondence, trusting Him to lead me to the right projects and publishers.

I am offering Queries and Submissions by Tom Clark, and recommended by Terry Whalin, to the first five people to subscribe to this blog and leave a comment. Also, please e-mail me at with your mailing address.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dealing with Writer's Block--Part 2

Last week we started discussing how to deal with writer's block from the 18th Chapter--"Writer's Block," in Donna Goodrich's A Step in the Write Direction. Today we will discuss Part 2 of the same chapter.

You're Stuck in Your Writing:
Donna says the biggest reason for this happening is that you haven't planned in advance what you're going to write. She uses outlines. The more detailed the outline, the easier your writing project will go. This works for fiction and nonfiction.

Too long with my bottom in chair wears me out and I have to get up and go for a walk. Getting out in the sunshine is great for gaining a positive perspective. Other times I need to read or pick up my knitting needles and work on something totally different. It's amazing to me that when I am reading or knitting, fresh ideas come to mind about my writing project.

One way to avoid writer's block is to hitchhike your thoughts while your writing by jotting down related ideas when you're working on your current project. While searching for a Bible verse for one devotional, you might see and idea for another devotion in a nearby verse.

You've spent a lot of time researching for an assignment. Use the research to write another article with a different slant or write a short filler article for different publishers. Sell reprints when the first contract has expired. This works if you've sold first or one time rights, but not for all rights.

What do you do when you struggle with the blank page? I'd love to read your comments.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dealing with Writer's Block--Part 1

Facing the blank page is difficult for writers, but it's something we have to deal with. Chapter 18, "Writer's Block" (reasons and solutions), in Donna Goodrich's A Step in the Write Direction is so good I wanted to capture some of the main points for you. I have divided this information into two posts. One today and the next to be published on May 15, 2011.

Sometimes life gets in the way. We may suffer from personal or family health issues, loss of job, home or someone we love. During times like these, I've found it hard to stay on track, but I try to at least write in my journal--facts, prayers or things I feel during the pain.

A Difficult Assignment:
I've had the overwhelming assignment that caused me to procrastinate, wondering how to handle the subject. Breaking the project into manageable pieces encouraged me to write a little every day. Now before I accept an assignment, I consider its complexity and if I'm really qualified to write it or if I can research it. This has saved me a lot of grief.

Too Many Assignments:
I apply for assignments and pray to receive them. Earlier this year I received several within a short period of time. It seemed daunting to me until I wrote down what was required of each one and the deadlines. Then I mapped out what I had to do each day and week to meet the deadlines. Working on two or three projects at the same time inspires and motivates me to keep writing.

No Inspiration:
Runners run, bikers bike and writer's write, right? Runners and bikers have to train every day whether or not they feel like it. Many times I don't feel inspired to write but write is what I have to do. I don't have a full time job to go to anymore, so I write. The most challenging times for me are the times between projects or assignments. During these periods I use writing prompts or market research to get me writing again.

Look for more ways to deal with writer's block next week. Meantime, if you have something that works for you, I'd love for you to leave it in a comment.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lady in Waiting-Review

Jane owns and runs an antique store in Manhatten, New York. Just when she thinks her life is going along great, her husband takes a job in another state. As she confronts issues that turn her life upside down, she finds a treasure in one of the boxes purchased at an estate sale. The stories of two women with the same name, but centuries apart, unfold the greatest treasure we have on earth or in Heaven--our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Can we trust our Lord and Savior during our most trying times? Author Susan Meissner answers this question and more in her compelling story of a Lady in Waiting. Her leading characters' faith strengthens them to endure extraordinarily challenging situations. Tender love and emotion fill the pages of this novel and inspire me to new heights in my worship and prayer life. It is available in book and Kindle versions here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Creativity vs. Administration

Have you lost the writer's guidelines to the project you are working on? It happens to me all the time. I've printed the guidelines to one of the projects I'm working on three times. I'm sure all three copies are here under one stack or another of magazines or books on my desk or on the table behind me. Please tell me you have a similar problem so I won't feel weird.

Every day when I report to work in here, I say to myself, "First on my "to do" list today is clean up this place. But first I check my e-mail, then downsize it so I can see when the number of unchecked mail goes up. That's a mistake because the number is always going up so I'm always checking to see what the e-mail is. If the number doesn't go up for a while, then I start to sort through the stacks. That's when I see articles and stories I want to read. Reading is where I get creative ideas so that's an important task, right? Minutes turn into hours before I realize that little progress has been made to clean up the place. Please tell me you do this too so I won't feel desperately alone.

When a creative idea comes to mind, I have to write it down--maybe a few words, maybe an outline, maybe a first draft of a story. Then I check my blog traffic. An idea for a new post enters my mind so I feel like I have to go with it. It's easy to get lost in here and forget what's going on around me. The other day my puppy, Maggie, chewed up one of the books I was going to read. That's because there was no more room on my desk or table. The book lay on the floor and Maggie found it quite delicious. Please tell me you have days like this so I won't feel like I'm losing my mind. 

My thoughts always turn to a picture of weight scales, you know, the icon lawyers use. On one side is creativity--measuring the value of my projects, and the reading and research they require. On the other side is administration--measuring cleaning, filing, sorting. The admin side is usually the heaviest but I think to myself, I gotta go with the creativity while it's present and I promise myself after I get the first draft or the next draft done on my project, I'll clean up the place. Today I think I better clean up the place or I'll have to print the guidelines to my project again.

Lord Jesus, I know you never leave me or forsake me, but to tell the truth, I'm embarrassed that You see this place right now. Although I've dedicated this place to You for accomplishing all You have for me to do, I need Your help. Thank  You for not giving up on me and thank You in advance for helping me clean up this place. Amen.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Write on Target

Learn to make the most of your Christian Writer's Market Guide. Develop your market research skills to know the publishers to submit your stories to and receive more acceptances. Come to a workshop led by Sue Tornai:
  • Wednesday, May 4, 2011
  • 7:00-9:00 PM
  • Sacramento Library, 5605 Marconi Avenue, Carmichael, CA 95608
  • Bring your Christian Writer's Market Guide. If you don't have one, a limited supply will be at the workshop.
See you there.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

You Can Write for Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup for the Soul is looking for inspirational, true stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Stories that warm the heart and rekindle the spirit touch the souls of readers and help them discover life principles they can use. Isn't that why we are here?

You can write a story for Chicken Soup. The basic ingredients of a winning CS story are:
  • True first person story
  • Powerful hook and compelling scenes that lead to a memorable takeaway
  • Inspires the heart and soul
  • Brings hope and encouragement
  • Causes tears, laughter, goosebumps or any combination of these
  • Stimulates emotion
  • Motivates compassion
Chicken Soup is currently accepting stories for these upcoming books with their deadlines:

Brides and Weddings, April 30, 2011
Christmas Stories, June 30, 2011)
Family Caregiver, July 15, 2011)
Food and Love, May 15, 2011)
Home Sweet Home, August 30, 2011)
Marriage and Married Life, May 30, 2011
Think Positive for Kids, December 31, 2011

Here is the link to CS guidelines:
I know each of you have powerful, inspiring stories. Write them well and submit them two or three weeks before the deadline.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Where to Get Ideas

      Donna Goodrich, author of A Step in the Write Direction, says "Ideas are everywhere.!" She gleans newspapers and magazines to find ideas for devotions, fillers and articles. Later she gives them different slants  and sells them to other publishers.  Once at lunch during a writer's conference, Donna wrote notes as fast as she could. People probably thought she was capturing ideas for future stories when she was actually eves-dropping on nearby conversations and recording dialogue.
      Other places Donna gets ideas are from things children say, everyday events, from reading the Bible, and stories in her past. I especially like the way Donna finds spiritual application in ordinary things. If you have a copy of her book, A Step in the Write Direction, find examples of how she turned ideas into fillers and devotions starting on page 163. Page 166 has more than a hundred topics for idea files.
      I would like to add that reading, whether novels or non-fiction, give me ideas for stories or articles. Another way to collect ideas is by carrying a pen and small note pad. The pen and pad come in handy when I need to write descriptions or outlines that come to mind. If you find yourself on the go and you don't have time for the pen and pad, use your cell phone to call yourself and leave an idea on your voice mail. You can also record ideas with a hand held recorder.
      Like Donna says, "ideas are everywhere." Keep your eyes and ears open and don't let any slip past without recording them one way or another.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Write With Active Verbs

Writing with passive verbs makes our stories boring. Effective writers weed out the pesky use of the forms of "to be" verbs by using stronger, more colorful and active sentence structure. Consider what action is taking place.

Forms of "to be"
is, am, are, were, has, had, will be, will have been, has been, had been, would (should, could) have been, being, to be.

Camouflage fatigues are worn by soldiers in war zones.
Susan seems to be an accurate news reporter.
The discussion will be led by Sandra Johnson.
There are many women who become doctors.

Possible Solutions:
Soldiers in war zones wear camouflage fatigues.
Susan reports the news accurately.
Sandra Johnson will lead the discussion.
Many women become doctors.

For more information click here:

Avoid Purple Prose

My Dear Writers, I was appalled when I read this week that we should not use Purple Prose in our writing. Purple happens to be my favorite color. Whoever named this form of writing should have named it Orange Prose, or Black Prose. Anything but Purple Prose! If you don’t know what Purple Prose is, I am glad I can enlighten you.

 In her book Crafting Stories for Children, Nancy Lamb refers to using adjectives and adverbs as Purple Prose. You know the LY and ING words? She says adjectives interfere with prose more often than they improve it and adverbs kill a sentence more often than they enliven it. But I thought our writing should be wonderfully descriptive so we could put our readers in captivating settings. Nancy gives these examples:
Don’t write this way: Tiffany smiled prettily, her beautiful, enticing, cat-green eyes dancing seductively with alluring and predatory fires.
Write this way: When Tiffany smiled, her eyes danced with predatory fires.
So my friends, bury those weak words and craft strong descriptive sentences without them. Okay, okay, you don’t have to bury all of them. You can use your favorites, but sparingly. Happy writing.