Monday, August 30, 2010
Most Americans follow the adage, "If at first your don't succeed, then try, try again." Or, as Ephesians 6:13 says, "Put on every piece of God's armor so that you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm." (NLV) The prophet Elisha reprimanded Israel's king for half-halfheartedly stamping his sheaf of arrows only three times on the floor instead of being more tenacious--and totally destroying Syria. (2 Kings 13)
I'm impressed by fellow Ponderers who have already completed three or four manuscripts, while still producing more. We're all inspired by our mentor, Susan May Warren, who learned and honed her craft during eight years as a missionary-wife and homeschooling mom of four children in Russia. Using hard-won bits of time, she studied, wrote, submitted and won a novella contest with Tyndale. When the door to further mission work closed in their assigned region because of changing politics, Tyndale asked Susie what else she had. She presented and sold seven manuscripts that year.
I have two children's books out, but last spring one agent's rejection of my first novel shook my confidence. I considered ditching that manuscript. But Ponderer Amy urged me not to--like talking a disheartened soul down from a skyscraper ledge.
After enjoying the view and letting the wind riffle my hair, what next? Now I'm halfway through my second novel, planning a third, and will soon attend my first national ACFW conference.
At the end of sixth grade, when advancing to junior high school, I dumped my imaginative childhood stories into the classroom wastebasket. By the next morning, when my sanity returned, the janitor and the incinerator had done their work. I have a good memory, so I rewrote most of those pieces, but I cannot recreate an entire novel.
In the face of discouragement, we must press on, incorporating the new skills and critique suggestions gleaned. We must shake our sheaf of arrows . . . er, pens vigorously and often, constantly honing and improving our craft. After all, we are writing for the Master Creative Designer of the universe--who also changes and blesses our lives in the process.
Don't forget to participate in our August contest!
Friday, August 27, 2010
The answer is simple, really. When we're away from all the interruptions vying for our attention, when our only worries are keeping the suds out of our eyes and washing off the trail dust, our well of creativity is allowed to bubble up to the surface.
It’s in the quiet pitter-patter of the water droplets on porcelain that our imagination ignites. The possibilities are endless. So why not keep note pads in the shower? I know what you're thinking, "What! Is she crazy??" Umm ... yes, but this isn't about me. It's about your contribution of brilliance to the world of writing.
Perhaps wet, slimy paper isn't the solution to your creative dilemma and I'm sure your snazzy new laptop would meet an untimely end. A great alternative is to talk about it. I mean have conversations with yourself. Right out loud in the shower! Write your visions upon the tables of your heart through your words spoken to yourself. Oh, do keep a pencil and paper handy so you can write your ideas down as soon as you've dripped dry.
The greatest prose in history came from a thought of while somebody was in the shower. Some people sing. If that's you, great! For me, I'd just be able to make a joyful noise. However you decide to get the message out to your listening self, make sure you do.
As you converse with yourself, your wonderful story ideas will take on life. Tell you about your wonderful idea while you're sudsing up. Take it from me, once that idea evaporates, there are few chances of getting it back. Don't throw your brilliance out with the bath water.
Remember, your literary contributions are far too valuable to go down the drain!
Reba J. Hoffman
Don't forget to check out our contest for a chance to win the PJ Sugar series by Susan May Warren.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Photo by nota/Stockxchange.com
I would like to continue on Ginger's thoughts from Monday's blog. You have a gift to give others.
Stay with me here.
I prayed about going back to college to finish the degree I started before having children. I fretted about how going back to school would affect my kids. With all my existing responsibilities, my desire to write--could I really do it after being out of school for the last (yikes!) 15 years?
Remember the story of Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33)? Do you realize that at the same time he performed this miracle, Jesus was grieving the death of John the Baptist, his cousin? And that when he got to the other side of the water, there were people waiting for him? People needed him.
So it is with you and me. We have responsibilities, families, jobs--and they all compete for our time and attention.
But people still need the gifts God instilled in each of us.
The gifting God placed in you--to write, to serve, whatever it is--God is calling you to do it (Ephesians 2: 10). God has also given you the ability to accomplish what he's called you too. As a writer, you need to know that people need to read the story hidden inside of you.
So, back to my decision to finish college.
Being the researcher that I am, I went to talk to an advisor. I explained my situation: mother of four returning to college after a 15 year hiatus. You know what she said? She waved her hand in the air and said, "You're a mom! You are used to juggling."
This was her response after watching many, many moms return to school! How much more can you and I accomplish with God on our side? He is looking at you and he knows you can do it!
For me, my kids have already been blessed. They have watched me study and they've helped me get things done--and they've even laughed with me.
Now I'm stepping out in faith as I pursue my passion to write.
I know you can too.
Don't forget to take part in our monthly contest for a chance to win the PJ Sugar series by Susan May Warren!
Monday, August 23, 2010
You’ve got it!
You heard me—you.
This gift that God has given you is important. It’s a gift intended to feed hungry people, to change lives and to bring hope. But you have to share it. That’s right, you.
I know what you’re thinking: Maybe I’m not good enough to do this. Or perhaps: If I don’t write this story what’s it going to matter?
It matters because God has given you a unique voice to reach people who speak your language. I know you get discouraged when the words won’t come out right, when they seem to lay flat on the page in a jumbled mess. You might even be thinking that perhaps others are better suited to the task, like the pastor or the elders or someone “more spiritual" or who is a better writer.
Listen to what Jesus said about this:
Matthew 14:15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food." 16 Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."
Did you get that? Jesus said "Don't send them away, You give them something to eat."
Jesus blessed what they had (the fishes and loaves) and the disciples were able to feed thousands that day.
God will bless your words, you just have to be willing to write them and trust Him. He's faithful. Then the people will be fed.
Be encouraged today that God is with you. You can do this.
ginger r. takamiya
Friday, August 20, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
For the past four summers, I have helped my husband direct a week-long church camp for 3rd-6th graders. Every year I head into camp thinking of all the ways I can impact the kids who attend, and every year I come home amazed by all the ways they impacted me. This year was no different.
Let me start by pointing out that the book of Galatians (6:2) tells us to bear each other’s burdens, and that by doing so we are fulfilling the law of Christ. (Remember, when Jesus was asked about the law he said that we were to first love God and then love each other.) Next let me mention ever-so-gently that as adults, we can get so caught up in all of our own burdens that we forget about those around us. (What? I’m the only one? )
I would be completely misrepresenting the over 300 kids that attended our camp if I said they didn’t come with burdens. Because they did…some too many and too heavy for any child to have to deal with alone. And for the five days they shared at Silver Lake Camp, they didn’t have to. Every night for four nights I watched whole cabins gather together in clusters around the giant chapel to pray together, to stand together before their Heavenly Father and petition Him on behalf of each other for relief, healing, understanding, peace, deliverance, and every other need you can imagine. And make no mistake; this was not just adults praying for kids or kids praying for each other. I watched the tiniest kids praying for the biggest adults and I have to be honest, it wrecked me.
Most of us know that writing is notorious for being a very solitary undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can’t be. Like any predator, Satan needs only separate his prey from the pack for a successful takedown, but there is safety in numbers. God was pretty clear about us caring for each other, no matter what we do for a living or in our spare time, to help keep us from being easy prey. But we have to be aware of the burdens of those around us as well as those of our own.
I am blessed to have a wonderful group of writer friends who would carry my burden in a heartbeat if I needed them to, and the feeling is mutual. We share our burdens with each other and as a result they become lighter and easier to bear. I hope that you have a group like that, but if not, I strongly recommend My Book Therapy or American Christian Fiction Writers. Both are awesome communities. Like church camp. For adult writers! =)
~Heidi Larson Geis
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I don’t know about you, but I have certain memories from my childhood that are indelibly engraved in my mind. One such memory is the Gumdrop Theory. (Which really should be more of a Gumdrop Principle, or axiom…it’s impossible to turn off the scientist in me.)
Anyway, the Gumdrop Theory was relayed to me during a children’s sermon using an empty baby food jar filled to the brim with dried rice. My pastor sifted his fingers through the rice and said, “Each grain of rice represents the things you do every day.”
Looking back, I think he should have just told the theory straight to the grown-ups, because at ten, my “to do” list consisted of five things: study spelling words, don’t get caught tormenting younger brothers, play outside, set the table, go to bed.
But I stopped picking at my band-aid when he pulled a gumdrop out of his pocket. He tried to cram the gumdrop into the jar full of rice, asking us if it would fit. Not a chance.
Then he emptied out the rice and placed the gumdrop at the bottom of the jar. He asked us if we thought he could get all the rice back in atop the gumdrop. Not likely. After all, he’d already proved the grains wouldn’t all fit with the gumdrop inside. But when he poured the rice back into the jar, miraculously, each and every grain fit. He twisted on the cap. I sat amazed.
“This gumdrop represents God,” he said. “When you try to cram God in after everything else in your day, He won’t fit.” He held up the closed jar. “But when you put God into your day first, everything else will still fit.”
Looking back, God must have known that memory would take up permanent residence in my heart. How often in my writing, in my life, do I put God in last, then ponder why He doesn’t fit? As we spend time developing our God-given gift as writers, remember to spend time with Him first each day. The Gumdrop Theory proves if you put God in first, the rest of your life, and your writing, will always still fit.
Blessings as you write,
Monday, August 16, 2010
Hi, I'm Roxanne Sherwood and I've invited Allison Pittman to visit today. Allison has published six novels and one nonfiction book, Saturdays with Stella: How My Dog Taught Me to Sit, Stay, and Come When God Calls. Her first novel, Ten Thousand Charms, was nominated for two RITAs, and another, Stealing Home, is a finalist in ACFW's Carol Award. A former English teacher, Pittman lives in Texas with her husband and three sons.
Your latest book, For Time and Eternity, will be released September 1st. What inspired the story?~~I actually had no intentions of pursuing this topic in fiction, but then one day I got an email from the lovely people at Tyndale. They were interested in finding a writer to venture into the Mormon’s story, and I immediately just got chills. You see, I was raised in Utah, and my husband is an ex-communicated Mormon, so I was instantly intrigued. Within minutes, the character of Nathan Fox was fully formed in my head, and I couldn’t reply fast enough. My first instinct was to portray the early Latter-Day Saints as a people desperately seeking God. It’s never been my intention to “take on” the Mormon church, or even to vilify the practice of polygamy. As with all my books, I want to tell a good story. I simply wanted to portray a loving couple torn apart by the church and its early doctrine of plural marriage.
I loved For Time and Eternity and I'm excited that Camilla and Nathan's story continues in Forsaking All Others.~~Me, too! The story arc for Camilla—to restore her faith and her family—was simply too immense to tell in one book.
What do you have planned for the Sister Wife Series?~~The second book will, of course, continue Camilla’s story. Beyond that, I know I want to tell Rachel’s story. She is Nathan Fox’s twin sister, and I’ll probably bring the reader back to their childhood, living as orphans in St. Louis, Missouri. I’d also like to explore the experiences of the European immigrants who came to this country specifically as members of the church.
How did you conduct your research for For Time and Eternity?~~I actually did quite a bit of reading of The Book of Mormon and The Doctrine and the Covenants—the LDS sacred texts. I also indulged myself in a 4-day solo trip to Salt Lake City’s Temple Square, where I strolled through museum after museum, taking in all the tid-bits of the pioneers’ every-day lives. That was such an indulgence, really. I left with my notebook full of scribbles, and my heart heavy for the globalization of their false doctrine. It makes me sad that, by and large, Christians don’t seem to be able to be motivated to the level of dedication that the Mormons have achieved.
Your rich, well-developed characters compel your readers to keep turning pages to find out what happens next. Do you develop characters or plot first?~~Characters first. Always. In For Time and Eternity, I knew my “husband” would be a good, sincere, loving man who desperately wants to please God. As an orphan, he grew up feeling like he had no value, and the teaching of Joseph Smith would give him that validation. That foundation fuels the plot; truthfully, “Nathans” exist today. But, I think it’s a million times more interesting to have a character who could live in any time period than a story that could be lived by any character.
How long did you write before you sold your first book, Ten Thousand Charms, which was published in 2006 and nominated for two RITA's?~~Well, that totally depends on your definition of “write.” Charms was my first attempt at writing a novel (no drawer full of unfinished manuscripts for me!). I worked on it on and off for about three years—sadly, much of it was written after I had an editor interested in buying it. I’m not a very driven person, so God really had to pave an easy road for me. One or two rejections, and I would have been done!
You've got a husband, three sons at home, a part-time teaching job at a university, a critique service, and various ministries within your church. How do you do it all?~~I always have one element dormant at all times. And, yes, sometimes the element that gets shoved to the side is the family. Some would say that’s terrible, but it’s necessary. My boys have learned that any request made during deadline time will be immediately deferred to Dad. Hubby just knows not to make requests! I only teach during the fall, I’ve learned to be strong and smart about my church work, and I give myself a good (one or two week) break after each deadline.
What advice do you have for aspiring novelists? Or what do you wish you'd known before you sold?~~Be ready to be both overwhelmed and underwhelmed. The work to promote this book will probably be just as consuming as effort it took to write it. You’re going to invest a fortune in postage and slather your blog and facebook and website with your up-coming book signing, and the same eleven people who would have bought copies from the box in your van in the church parking lot are going to show up. If you put your heart in the hands of the publishing world and the readers, it’s going to get broken. You’ll have a fantastic idea rejected, you’ll get a lousy review, your royalty statement might just as well be a series of frowny-faced emoticons. But, trust your heart to the Lord who has called you to this work, thank Him for the gift that allows you to pursue it, and pour your love into the characters on your page and, to paraphrase: “Oh, bad review, where is thy victory? Oh sales, where is thy sting?”
I'm going to paste those last words above my computer. Thanks for your wisdom, Allison. It was great to have you visit.
P. S. Don't forget to check out our contest tab - you can win the PJ Sugar Series by Susan May Warren!
Friday, August 13, 2010
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
One day my hard work will pay off and I’ll get published. If not, I’ve tried. I have done what few people have. Everyone says they’d like to write a book, some try, but few finish it. I have finished three manuscripts to date, two of which have been rejected. My past may be “checkered by failure” as Teddy puts it, but I have tried, I’ve stepped out, and I am blessed that God has given me the wherewithal to try again. I am not deterred easily and I refuse to let those Wascally Wabbits get me down!
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Two kinds of writers:
The first comes with a one-track mind. She has the story she's working on, maybe an idea for a sequel. Not much else. She just has to hope against hope that new inspiration will come when the time is right.
Then there's the one with the exploding idea file. Lots of character or plot or scene ideas or titles or even random bits of dialogue to spark the next story. She never has to fear she’ll be a one-book wonder. Unless, of course, she never stays focused long enough to finish that second book…
I belong to that second category. Even if I can focus, I’ll never have enough time or energy to write all the novel ideas that have paraded through my mind over the years. If only I could find a way to make money auctioning off the ideas themselves…
That thought resulted in the founding of a useless organization called The Idea Oasis, of which I am the esteemed president. Amy Lindberg is my talented VP. Lisa Jordan is my amazing marketing director. And we have done absolutely nothing.
So for those of you who are in the first category of writers, I am going to do my first not-really-official act as president and give you a short, complimentary list of ways to find story sparkers.
1. Donald Maass' agency website’s list of what they’re looking for this month. I love checking that out just to get the wheels turning. Like the time they wanted a suspense about an ex-CIA agent who was keeping her past a secret, but had to take down her old nemesis while staying on track with her wedding planning. How fun is that?
2. Music. Flip through the radio and listen to some lyrics, even if you don’t care for the musical style. Like when the guy’s apologizing to “Ms. Jackson” for making her daughter cry. Or “Hello” by Evanescence. Who’s not breathing? Why is the person denying it? Or “Unfaithful” by Rihanna. If she knows she’s killing him, why is she doing it? And doesn’t that remind you of Redeeming Love, Hosea and Gomer, and...well, me in my relationship with God sometimes?
3. People watching. Like the overweight guy wearing a 007 t-shirt as he rode down the sidewalk on a rickety old bicycle. Or the woman who actually knelt on the shoulder of the highway, refusing to move as the man tugged on her arm. Who are they? What are their dreams, their deepest fears?
4. Real life. That true crime book. The newspaper article. The interview on the radio. Did they react the way you would have? Wouldn't that career be an intriguing choice for a main character?
5. Mixing things up. What if the 007 guy came along and rescued the girl on the highway, and she ended up being Ms. Jackson’s daughter—the one whose heart he broke back in high school when he left to join the CIA?
Or…not. But you get the idea.
Actually, I hope you get lots of ideas. But if these don’t help, hop on over to chat on My Book Therapy. A little bit of brainstorming with these fabulous ladies will get things moving. Of course, there are so many more places to look for inspiration, but now it’s your turn! Where do you go to find your story sparkers?
P.S. Don't forget to click on our CONTEST tab for details about the August contest and PJ Sugar--one of my favorite series from Susan May Warren!