I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, July 30, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Photo by juliaf/stockxchang.com


The year I learned to read, our family moved to the suburbs of Vancouver, Washington, right across the street from a well-stocked library. Cara Newell, the grandmotherly librarian, became my best friend. She let me check out approximately two books a day, followed by leisurely discussions about their content.

For a while, my life goal became to establish a floating library houseboat up and down the mighty Columbia River, bringing books to people who had none. Then, during the third grade, I began writing about anything and everything.

Reading expands our world, letting us share amazing armchair adventures of Hillary climbing Everest or Armstrong walking on the moon. Besides letting us travel to other cultures and times, reading fills our hunger and thirst for knowledge with unending reservoirs of wonderful new experiences.

Years ago while working as a receptionist in Texas for a prestigious international real estate firm, I was allowed to read while I covered the phones over lunch hour. One day I chose Peter Freuchen's nonfiction Book of the Eskimos. I instantly became absorbed in blood-chilling, life-threatening white-out Arctic blizzard conditions defying survival. Winds howled so fiercely that those braving the storm had to walk bent over, almost lying down on the wind, to gain each step forward.

At that precise moment, with swirling winds howling their fiercest, Bart, the comptroller, and Joe, the vice president, flung open the office door and strode in. Horrified that they ventured into blizzard conditions without coats, I looked up and asked, "Joe! Bart! Where are your parkas?"

They never let me live that down.

As an author, Freuchen succeeded in creating writing magic--bringing me fully into the world of his story.

As we spread our wings to share our love for writing, may our described experiences also be so vivid that our readers equally savor the reality of our writing world.

~Delores Topliff

Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Audience of One


“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…”

One of literature’s greatest opening lines, and ironically, an apt description of my writing journey over the past year. It has been a fabulous year in which I have had amazing opportunities to learn writing from some truly gifted teachers, and I have been blessed to forge lifelong friendships with an amazing group of women writers.

On the other hand, I have struggled for every word and sentence I have written. While my fellow writers were posting hundreds and thousands in word count, I was seeing numbers like 51 and 79. I would sit in my chair and watch that wretched cursor mock me with its blinking until I gave in to check my facebook. It should have been so easy; I had an entire story line mapped out in front of me. All I had to do was write it. And yet I just couldn’t seem to move it forward.

And as I sat, with nothing to show for the time at my computer, I began to wonder if I had gotten it wrong. Maybe I wasn’t a writer after all. Well, at least not a writer of novels. I had no problem writing a 400 word response to a facebook status, or a novella in the My Book Therapy forum.

And yet, I was stuck. And I hated it. My deepest desire was to complete a novel, a work that would be powerful and life changing to all who read it. I wanted to prove to that college professor at Eastern Washington University in 1988 that I wasn’t shallow and I could write something worthwhile. I wanted to publish a great work of art that would once and for all erase the stigma of dropping out of college to go to Beauty School. It was the worst of times.

So I did what I always do when I want some semi-guilt-free procrastination: I went to the bookshelf that is laden with what I can only imagine is every book ever written on the subject of writing a novel. My eye was drawn to the bright orange spine with the image of an inviting cup of coffee at the top. The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction by Jeff Gerke.

Imagine my surprise to find the first chapter, or “mastery” as the author calls it, entitled “An (Accepting) Audience of One.” Here is the first sentence of that chapter:

“I want to start this book out by giving you the best counsel of all: be sure you understand Who you’re writing for and why you’re writing for Him.”

Wow. I had to read that one a couple of times to really let it sink in. Who am I writing for? A cranky college professor? My own fragile ego? I know I started writing out of a desire to glorify God, but somewhere along the road, I went my own way. As I read on, I began to understand that I was crippled by my need to impress God and all of the people I perceived to be my judges. And it was quickly becoming an idol. As Jeff Gerke points out, if you are not writing to genuinely glorify God, then you are not writing for the right reasons. Ouch!

So as I repent for seeking to glorify myself in my writing, I will begin each writing session with prayer and a desire to glorify the original Artist and Author of All, and I believe the best of times lay ahead.

“God is your audience. He is your target reader. But He’s not a hostile critic. He holds you on His lap while He delights to hear you read the story you wrote for Him.” ~Jeff Gerke, The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction

~Heidi Larson Geis

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Procrastination is an Action Verb


The due date for my first Ponderers' blog post stared at me from the bright red circle on my calendar. I work great under pressure, so I ignored the deadline and focused on my long list of other priorities pressing in on me.

I could pull this off. I would wake up the next morning and wow myself with something wonderful. But the next day, the due date . . . nothing.

"Ginger, can you have a blog post by 12:00 AM EST?" asked my dear friend and fellow Ponderer Beth.

What? 12:00 EST? I looked at my clock: 10:30 AM CST. That meant it was already 11:30 EST. Oh God, help me here. Even if I edited an old post from my other blog, I would want to run it by Beth, aka The Evil Editor.

Oh, it's late, it's sooooo late!

"Ginger, don't worry about it. I'll post for you," offered Beth.

And she did. Was I the only Ponderer who couldn't get her act together? I have a lot on my plate, but something twisted inside me. I felt sick about letting others down.

I pondered--yes, pondered--how procrastinating failed me this time. Usually, I write a rough draft or a few words and, within a couple of days, I write a decent post. Not this time.

And that's when it hit me.

I had never taken the time to write the first word, idea, or thought.

As writers, procrastination is part of our creative process. We mull things, as Roxanne pointed out in her post last week. But I hadn't done a single moment of mulling, so there was nothing for my mind to work from. A wise man once said--I think it was bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins--"You cannot edit what you have not written."

We've all met people that tell us about that book they are going to write. Yet 99% of them will admit they have yet to put one word onto paper.

Procrastinate if you must, but remember: Writing is a verb!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chasing the Dream: One Step at a Time

Photo by ywel/Stockxchange.com

I have a dream.

The question is: How do I accomplish my dream?

My life is full, between my husband, my children, the family business and church. I answer to wife, mom and nursery worker. Oh, and did I mention chauffeur, sister, daughter, cook--and so many more names. With my already overflowing life, I can't fit anything else in. Period.

But I have a dream. These voices in my head keep talking.

I want to write.

I'm dreaming this dream--and facing a hurdle that looks more like Mt. Everest on steroids. How does a woman like me go from not writing anything--zip, nada, zilch--to becoming a writer? Am I crazy? I only get five hours of sleep as it is.

How do I achieve my dream?

Step-by-step.

I looked on-line for advice from my favorite authors, starting with Susan May Warren. Amazingly, Susie was hosting her first StoryCrafters retreat in October 2009. Coincidence? Not with the God I serve. I took the leap and went.

I worked hard to get away. You know the drill. I arranged childcare for my four children, transportation to and from different schools, cooked meals, did laundry . . .

Phew! I got there.

I walked into the room and wanted to take 10 giant steps back. I was totally intimidated. Some of the attendees were (gulp!) published authors!

Well, I didn't flake out and I stayed in the room. I learned an incredible amount about writing that even I, the novice, could follow. I made some amazing friends, who shared great how-to tips and brainstormed ideas too! The prayer support? Totally out-of-this-world!

Now I'm facing the most difficult step: finding time to write.

Every day, sometimes every other day, sometimes every other week, I work toward my dream. The voices still talk to me throughout the day.

I'm not there yet. Oftentimes, I am my own worst critic. I get frustrated when I can't check off everything on my "To Do" list.

But I'm working on enjoying this writing journey--one step at a time.

Blessings,
Alena Tauriainen

Friday, July 23, 2010

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid. (Not!)


Photo by drniels/Stockxchnge.com


I couldn't write.
Even worse, I avoided writing. Choose between writing or cleaning out my refrigerator or organizing my sock drawer? Guess what? I chose scrubbing out my salad crisper or matching Hanes socks.
I was more than ready to craft my book proposal. Working title. Check. Purpose for writing the book? Check. Detailed marketing strategies? Check. I even had some statistics and spiffy chapter titles.
But fear strangled my creativity. Back in high school drama productions, I never experienced stage fright. But I saw others freeze up when it was their time to enter stage left. Weighed down by layers of makeup and costumes, they couldn't recall a single line.
Weighed down by reams of research and my own expectations, I now battled "writer's fright."
Tick-tock. Tick-tock.
Each wasted second of writing time reverberated on every clock in my house. I purged my pantry of outdated canned goods and ransacked my closet for no longer fashionable outfits.
But I didn't write a single word.
I contemplated going AWOL from my critique group. Week after week, they asked, "So, how's the proposal? Got anything for us?"
"It's coming along," I said, despite the fact that my proposal was going nowhere.
Finally I confessed I was immobilized by a book proposal. "I don't think I can do this. Why did I ever pitch that book idea?"
Writer's fright was running--and ruining--my life.
The group encouraged me to take a few deep breaths and push past the fear. "Write something. Anything. Bring even a few paragraphs to the group next week."
Time to wrestle my proposal into submission.
I can't lie--it was a painful process. I pulled out my one-page pitch sheet and transferred all the information onto that still blank page. Then, one section at a time, I fleshed out my proposal.
A week later, I presented my synopsis to my group. They did what any worthwhile critique group does: lovingly shredded my writing to pieces and then told me to try, try again.
When faced with writer's block, sometimes all I can do is clean out my closets while waiting for the block to crumble. When it comes to writer's fright, I learned it's a do or die battle.
I chose to fight back rather than watch a good idea endure a slow death.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Three R's of Creativity


Teri here:

“I’m not creative.” My friend Shelly heard these words over and over when she sought help with decorations for a women’s conference.


If she’d asked me, I would have said the same thing. Mind you, I’ve written three full-length novels, started on the fourth, and have ideas ricocheting around in my head for the fifth, sixth, and seventh. But I had boxed creativity into the category of crafts, and you don’t want to hear stories about my attempts at tying bows or pulling the trigger on a glue gun—although I have hot-glued some incredible blisters.

After I grasped the truth Jenness blogged about—that the ultimate Creativity Expert made us in His image and blessed us all with a capacity to create—I smacked my head and muttered a few of those names to myself that I’d never let my kids say to each other. (Dummy, noodle-head…you get the idea.)

Teachers use creativity when they think of new ways to present a concept to students. Computer experts use it when they devise clever new applications for our gadgets. Moms use it when they concoct shrewd ways to get their kids to do chores, eat their peas, and keep curfews. Lawyers use it…okay we won’t go there.

Mark Batterson writes about God and creativity in his book, Primal. After speaking about the two hemispheres of our brain—all that stuff about intuitive right side versus the logical left side—he makes this statement: “Being half-minded is no better than being halfhearted.”  I’d really like to love God with all my mind as well as my heart.

Three concepts help me in embracing creativity: risk, randomness, and reams.

Risk
Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized leader in developing creativity, said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

I have to risk the chance that not all of my ingenious ideas will be great. I have to take a chance on failing. I have to throw caution to the winds at times and ignore the advice of Mrs. Pitts, my third grade English teacher. (I kid you not, that really was her name.)

 So, I write an incomplete sentence if it sounds better or end a sentence with a preposition to avoid sounding awkward. I’m working at ignoring the critics sitting on my shoulder, both real and imaginary ones, because I want to risk being the writer God made me to be and write to an Audience of One.

Randomness
When life quenches the child-like spark of creativity inside me, randomness can reignite it.  Shelly (the same friend mentioned above) gave me an alphabet cube. When I need a new idea, a creative detail, or even a solution to a problem, it’s amazing what happens when I roll that cube and a random letter pops up. I brainstorm with that letter, and somehow it lifts me out of the rut. I’ll post more another time on how to use randomness with your writing, but I already hear my Ponderers sighing at my long-windedness. Getting excited about creativity does that to me.

Reams
This just means oodles, scads, gobs. No matter what you’re brainstorming, the more ideas you come up with the more likely you’ll get something really unusual. I read once that at Disney no one was allowed to pooh-pooh any ideas during their brainstorming sessions. Sometimes a silly idea provides a stepping-stone to a fabulous one.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if creativity has more r’s. We’d love for you to leave us a comment telling us what you’ve learned about creativity. Extra kudos for you if they start with r.

And get ready for this: I’m adding a $20 Barnes and Noble card to the gift basket!

Blessings, Teri

Photo credit: flickr.com

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shout-out to Ponderer Jenness Walker!

The Ponderers are proud to announce that our very own Jenness Walker is a finalist in the 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers’ Carol Awards! Her book, Double Take, is one of six books in the Short Contemporary Suspense category.

Congratulations, Jenness! The Ponderers are so proud of you.

The Carol Awards—formerly known as Book of the Year—changed it’s name to honor a Christian publishing industry’s trailblazer, Carol Johnson. In 1979, Carol made a bold move that changed the face of Christian fiction. She acquired author Janette Oke whose Love Comes Softly series opened unprecedented doors for all Christian fiction authors.

Both Carol Johnson and Janette Oke plan to be at the ACFW conference in September for the first-ever presentation of the Carol Awards. We’re so proud to have a Ponderer represented!

As you know, we are the MBT Ponderers, and MBT stands for My Book Therapy. Our resident therapists, Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck are also finalists in the Carol Awards!

Susie’s a double finalist with The Great Christmas Bowl in the Contemporary Novella category and Nothing But Trouble in the Long Contemporary category. Congratulations, Susie! Your Ponderers are not a bit surprised by this since we loved the books!

Rachel and her co-author, Sara Evans, are finalists with their book Sweet By and By in the Women’s Fiction category. Congratulations to both Rachel and Sara!

You can see all of the 2010 Carol Award finalists here.

We invite you to share your words of congratulations for these finalists in our comment section. Two of these books are in our basket of goodies for our contest, so don’t forget to check that out.

Oh, and come back tomorrow for news of another addition to our basket!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Why I run Marathons

Simply put, I’d rather run than be on the sidelines. In 2006, I watched my sister-in-law run her first marathon…for five hours. And I only got a two-minute glimpse of her (gasping like she needed to die, actually). Yet, if these people—everyone from a Ronald McDonald look-alike to a ninety-year old grandma—could do it, surely I could too.

Gulp.

Couldn’t I? I mean, how many people actually finish 26.2 miles—in less than a week? Turns out, only 0.1-2% of the population does. Okay, so the odds weren’t exactly in my favor. Not to be deterred, I got home that weekend, paid the race’s entry fee for the following year, and signed up.

Then I panicked. And prayed for a broken ankle.

But I did something else, too. I trained. I did my research. I found a plan—a plan I could follow to log the miles each week. (I also ate those nasty energy bars and drank lots of water, but that’s not where I’m going here.)

Like running a marathon, sometimes as we slog through the middle of our novel, we feel like the odds aren’t exactly in our favor either. But, like running a race, we’ve trained. Attended conferences. Plotted. (And maybe downed a couple dozen bags of peanut M&Ms.)

The point is, even on the days you consider trotting out in front of a bus just so you can quit running, or chucking your computer out the window because anyone can see the cursor is obviously mocking you, or had a ceremonial burning of your WIP…don’t quit.

The biggest challenge of running a marathon is getting to the starting line healthy and prepared, knowing you can go the distance. And if you’ve written the first half, or even the first chapter of your novel, you’re there. At the starting line. So don’t quit.

Amy Lindberg

The Ponderers are having a contest! Check out the contest tab for more details!

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Time to Ponder


"The best time to plan a book is while you're doing the dishes." ~ Agatha Christie

If you absolutely can't get to your computer to write today, no worries. You can still make progress on your manuscript. All you need is to take time to ponder.

A published author told her husband she needed to write, then climbed the stairs to her home office, a computer desk tucked into a corner of her bedroom. Fifteen minutes later, the husband interrupted her at work. But instead of finding her typing away as he'd expected, she was laying on the bed.

The husband frowned. "I thought you were writing."

"I am," she said. "Thinking is a huge part of the writing process."

Face it, those of us with day jobs and busy lives long for time in front of the computer or with pen and paper. But once we get that coveted time, we don't always make the best of it because we haven't utilized enough pre-writing time.

Sometimes, we're so anxious to reach our word count, we don't properly plan ahead what we're going to write. I know that happens to me. I've got a home full of kids, and on most days I'd never consider selling them to a roving band of Gypsies. Of course, the opportunity has never actually presented itself, so I've never been tested. But life is often chaotic. Quiet writing time is as rare as leftover birthday cake--you mean, you have leftovers?--so I've got to plan ahead how to make the most of my time.

Some authors intricately plot out their stories before writing the first word. They'll create scene spreadsheets, compose detailed character worksheets, plan every conflict, and decide the story's ending. Other authors, known affectionately as "pantsters" because they write by the seat-of-their-pants, don't know where the story is going or what will happen next until they've written it.

Whether you're a plotter or a pantster or somewhere in between, you're going to spend a lot of time thinking about your stories. Of course, for a pantster that may happen after you've written yourself into a corner. Regardless of your writing style, how can you maximize pondering time, so the hours you're writing will be more productive?

Previous posts here reveal some of the Ponderers are potters, gardeners and knitters. Others walk dogs or run, and (unfortunately) all of us wash dishes from time to time. But busy hands allow our imaginations the chance to run wild, giving free reign to our creativity. So you can do double duty and perform a chore or indulge in a hobby and still count it as writing time, especially if you channel your thinking toward a specific problem or goal with your work in progress (WIP).

  • Take time to pray. Ask the Author of life to inspire your writing for His glory.
  • Go for a walk or knit or jog or clean house while you ponder.
  • When you're running errands, imagine your character having a conversation on this errand, instead of the overused settings like restaurants/coffee shops/kitchens.
  • While driving around town, look for surprising, new settings for unique and fun dates.
  • Keep a notebook on hand, or when that's not possible . . .
  • Carry a voice-activated recorder to remember a couple of key points.
  • Before falling asleep at night, consider your next scene and daydream about it. But, again, keep a notebook on your nightstand so you don't forget a brilliant idea.

Remember, sometimes ideas just have to percolate.

What are other ways you've found to maximize your writing time?

~Roxanne Sherwood
http://www.thewritingroad.blogspot.com/

The Ponderers are having a contest! Check the Contest tab for more details!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The. kitten.I'm.not.keeping. aka Mazie


The Ponderers are having a contest. Info at the bottom of this blog...

Summertime in Mississippi means hot temperatures and air so thick you can stir it with a spoon. Last Friday was no exception. By ten a.m., you could fry sausage on the sidewalk. Ignoring the heat, I drove to the local Dollar General to buy a couple of birthday cards.
I left with a kitten. The.kitten.I'm.not.keeping.

I'd heard the loud mews when I entered the store, but couldn't locate the source. Still heard the mews when I came out and got into my car, but again, didn't see anything that resembled a kitten. Not that I tried very hard.

When I pulled out into the street, for some odd reason I glanced back at the store. And right where my car had been parked squatted a pitiful, black and white kitten struggling to get to its feet. My heart sank. The temperature on the pavement had to be at least 110 degrees.

I turned around and went back, found a box and took the kitten home. To die, I thought. But at least it wouldn't be on a hot parking lot. By mid-afternoon both of the kitten's eyes had swollen shut. She wouldn't eat or drink so I fed her soy milk and water with a dropper. I didn't expect her to be alive when I awoke the next morning.

She surprised me. She even had one eye opened. I posted the kitten's story to the Ponderers- my writing friends and the other contributors on this blog. Immediately a cry went up to name her. Something with Ponder in it and of course, Susie May...

Noooo! I can't name this.kitten.I'm.not.keeping..

By afternoon she even drank a little soy milk from a saucer. She seemed most comfortable when I held her. So, I held her, and she wrapped her paws around my wrist. And I prayed for this little creature God had created. Bit by bit, she improved and wrapped her little paws around my heart.

This morning as I talked with God, I asked Him why He put this kitten in my life. He knows I travel a lot, and I'm too busy for a cat. His answer came immediately. Joy. I gave her to you that you may have joy.

May Ponder (named after Susan May Warren and the Ponderers) will be called Mazie, because as Susie May says, "Every heroine needs a nickname." Mazie is also short for Amazing Grace-it's the only reason she's here.

Pat Trainum

We're having a contest to kick-off our blog. Leave comments during the month of July and you'll have the chance to win a fun assortment of prizes, including:
  1. A Starbucks gift card
  2. A signed copy of Susan May Warren's latest book, Sons of Thunder
  3. A signed copy of Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck's The Sweet By and By
  4. A signed copy of Jenness Walker's romantic suspense, Double Take
  5. A signed copy of Beth K. Vogt's book, Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and preparing fof Motherhood after 35
  6. A copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul's A Tribute to Moms
  7. Chocolates!
  8. Copies of Delores Topliff's children's books: Whoosh and Little Big Chief and The Bear Hunt

We're still collecting items for our prize baskets, so who knows all the goodies you can win. Use the word "Ponder" and we'll enter your name twice!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Who put the weeds in my plot?




The Ponderers are having a contest. Info at the bottom of this blog...

Gardening is my passion ... er ... obsession. It’s a love I inherited from my father.

At first, I did a lot of container gardening. Pots lined the stairs to my home, overflowing with impatiens, coleus, and begonias - even a few vegetables. That is until the idea of taking seven-hundred square feet of yard space and turning it into a bed of perennials took root.

That summer I wasn’t the most popular person in my home. Did I fail to mention I live in Ohio, where rock-hard clay soil abounds? Thanks to my husband and three strong sons, we removed eight inches of sod and clay and replaced it with rich, dark topsoil. I eyed the empty ground much like an artist measures up a blank canvas, or a writer, pen in hand (or computer on desk), mulls through plot, characters, and the ultimate black moment. I put in four-hundred plants consisting of Forsythia, Daisies, Dogwood Trees, Black-eyed Susan, Hostas, Burning Bushes, Bee-balm and many others.

Eight more flower beds and twelve years later, I have a garden sanctuary to which I can escape. And yes, I’m considering flower bed number ten for next year – but don’t tell my husband! ;-)

So you are wondering how I can compare gardening to writing? A little over two years ago the dream I’ve had since childhood started growing - I wanted to write a book. I’m still not published, but I have written three manuscripts to date. Each time I cultivated an idea, let it grow and mature. I pruned it back, removing poorly written scenes. I weeded out the cliché phrases and added word pictures that bloom into life right in front of the reader.

But most of all I have planted a garden of new God-centered friends ... the Ponderers. Thanks to Susan May Warren and her My Book Therapy retreats, I’ve been able to sow new friendships across the country. But it’s more than that. It’s the ongoing support of fellow writers, going through the same struggles of putting disappointment, disaster, destruction, and devastation into riveting plots, filled with romance, intrigue, and laughter.

Stay with us. Root for our heroes, sneer at our villains, ponder plots with us, but most of all...follow our journey.

Jennie Atkins
http://www.jennieatkins.com/

We're having a contest to kick-off our blog. Leave comments during the month of July and you'll have the chance to win a fun assortment of prizes, including:
1. A Starbucks gift card
2. A signed copy of Susan May Warren's latest book, Sons of Thunder
3. A signed copy of Sara Evan's and Rachel Hauck's The Sweet By and By
4. A signed copy of Jenness Walker's romantic suspense, Double Take
5. A signed copy of Beth K. Vogt's book
Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35
6. A copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul's A Tribute to Moms
7. Chocolates!
8. Copies of Delores Topliff's children books: Whoosh and Little Big Chief and the Bear Hunt
We're still collecting items for our prize basket, so who knows all the goodies you'll win! Use the word "ponder" when you comment and we'll enter your name twice!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Creativity and the Soul

The Ponderers are having a contest! Check out the details at the end of the post!

Do you ever stop to think about how imaginative God must be? Just a walk through the produce section of the grocery store is amazing if you think about it. All the different shapes and colors and textures and smells, not to mention the tastes! And some grow on trees, some on vines, some on little ground-hugging plants…

It amazes me.

Then there’s the ever-changing canvas of the sky, all the different things that go inside a human to make us tick and to make us unique, lovable animals and not-so-lovable ones.
And music: the crashing of the waves, the whistling of the wind, the twittering of the birds.

God’s creativity has no end. And we’re made in His image. We’re made to be like Him.

I’m no theologian, but I kind of think that a spark of His creativity is what sets us apart from the rest of His amazing creation. What if our imaginations are connected to our souls?

He’s surrounded us with an environment just bursting with inspiration. Now it’s up to us to create.

In His image.

I think that second part is key. True, not all stories can spell out the salvation message. But we can make sure the motive of our heart in writing it—the attitude with which we approach promotion and every other aspect—is Christ-centered. That, I believe, makes for creativity that has a lasting impact for good.

Here’s today’s creative prompt/discussion question:

What book have you read recently that had an allegorical element? Is there a way to subtly insert an allegorical element into your own WIP?

Jenness Walker
http://www.jennesswalker.com/

We're having a contest to kick-off our blog. Leave comments during the month of July and you'll have the chance to win a fun assortment of prizes, including:

1. A Starbucks gift card
2. A signed copy of Susan May Warren's latest book, Sons of Thunder
3. A copy of Sara Evan's and Rachel Hauck's The Sweet By and By
4. A signed copy of Jenness Walker's romantic suspense, Double Take
5. A signed copy of Beth K. Vogt's book Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35
6. A copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul's A Tribute to Moms
7. Chocolate!
8. Copies of Delores Topliff's children's books
Whoosh and Little Big Chief and the Bear Hunt

We're still collecting items for our prize basket, so who knows all the goodies you'll win! Use the word "ponder" when you comment and we'll enter your name twice!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Master plan guaranteed (uh, and spreadsheet woes)

The Ponderers are having a contest. Info at the bottom of this blog...


Sometimes I think about hurting the guy who invented Microsoft Excel. Like, squeezing a lemon in the general direction of his eye. Ooh, or taking a doctor’s rubber hammer thingy to said techie’s funny bone.

That’d teach him.

Okay, I’m not that violent. But Excel spreadsheets really bring out the Chuck Norris in me, ya know? Sadly, spreadsheets are an unfortunate reality of this little thing I call my day job.

Yeah, I’m a working girl. A single working girl. A single working girl who’s dedicated enough – or maybe just weird enough – to write in her off hours.

Despite my spreadsheet angst, my job at a Christ-centered homeless ministry is pretty cool. I write snazzy (er, professional) grants, plan rockin’ fund-raisers (i.e. elegant women’s luncheons)…and yeah, battle Excel.

But after 4:30 p.m., I’m Melissa the storyteller, the aspiring author who wants to write something as cool as Susan May Warren. (Shout out to Susie!)

But here’s the glitch in my writing pursuit: it goes against my love for guarantees. See, as much as I dislike Excel, it’s dependable. If I highlight a column and hit “sum,” I can trust Excel to give me the correct total.

Writing? Darn, there’s just no guarantee that a guy from Thomas Nelson will show up on my doorstep and say, “Miss Tagg, I love your stuff! Michael Hyatt and I want to publish this and all future stories. And by the way, I’m charming and handsome and am moving to a delightful little cottage in Iowa. Marry me?”

Probably not going to happen. If it does, I’ll write a retraction of this post…and invite you to my wedding.

While writing doesn’t come with the guarantee of a book contract (or my time, efforts and money back!), I’m reminded – often by the Ponderers! – there’s something I can count on: God has a plan for my writing. As Lisa said Wednesday, he’s got a pattern already in place. After all, it’s God, the grandest Storyteller of all, who gave me a love for stories. And regardless of how He chooses to guide my writing journey, I never have to worry that I’m walking it alone.

That’s huge.

And it’s why I keep plugging away at this writing thing …even on days when I come home from work wishing I could pull a Jack Bauer on Excel.


Melissa Tagg
www.melissatagg.com

We're having a contest to kick-off our blog. Leave comments during the month of July and you'll have the chance to win a fun assortment of prizes, including:


  1. A Starbucks gift card
  2. A signed copy of Susan May Warren's latest book, Sons of Thunder
  3. A signed copy of Sara Evan's and Rachel Hauck's The Sweet By and By
  4. A signed copy of Jenness Walker's romantic suspense, Double Take
  5. A signed copy of Beth K. Vogt's book Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35
  6. A copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul's A Tribute to Moms
  7. Chocolates!
  8. Copies of Delores Topliff's children books: Whoosh and Little Big Chief and the Bear Hunt
We're still collecting items for our prize basket, so who knows all the goodies you'll win! Use the word "ponder" when you comment and we'll enter your name twice!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Created For Dreams

Knitting has been on my to-do list for years. Having learned to crochet at a very young age, I really struggled with handling two knitting needles versus one crochet hook. Finally, last November, I grabbed needles and a ball of yarn, watched online knitting tutorials, pulled out stitches, and tried again until I completed a basic garter stitch scarf. 

Multi-published and award-winning author Debbie Macomber presented the keynote addresses at the 2009 ACFW writers conference in Denver, CO. Many of Debbie’s books have permanent places on my keeper shelf, but I appreciate another talent Debbie shares with her readers on her site and in her novels—her passion for knitting.

In her non-fiction book, Knit Together: Discover God’s Pattern For Your Life, Debbie writes about knitting for dreams. She compares the various colors and textures in her yarn room (yes, an entire room devoted to yarn) to dreams. She says, “You never know what wonderful creations a knit pattern or a dream can become.”

Before our parents even considered our existence, God had a plan in mind for each of us. He designed us with a purpose. Within each one of us, he created a dream.

The Ponderers came together through two shared dreams—God and writing. Our different colors and textures have been knitted together to create a fragrant garment of faith, love, and encouragement from a pattern God put in place during the My Book Therapy retreats

Any dream requires a plan, a pattern, trial and error, and continuous education. God has already gone ahead and put the pattern in place for each one of us. He wants us to be in the center of His will and desires a lasting relationship with us. When we use our God-gifted imaginations for His glory, His dream knits with ours to create a beautiful masterpiece.

Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. 
Psalm 139:4 NIV

Lisa Jordan
***
We're having a contest to kick-off our blog. Leave comments during the month of July and you'll have the chance to win a fun assortment of prizes, including:
  1. A Starbucks gift card
  2. A signed copy of Susan May Warren's latest book, Sons of Thunder
  3. A signed copy of Sara Evan's and Rachel Hauck's The Sweet By and By
  4. A signed copy of Jenness Walker's romantic suspense, Double Take
  5. A signed copy of Beth K. Vogt's book Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35
  6. A copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul's A Tribute to Moms
  7. Chocolates!
  8. Copies of Delores Topliff's children books: Whoosh and Little Big Chief and the Bear Hunt
We're still collecting items for our prize basket, so who knows all the goodies you'll win! Use the word "ponder" when you comment and we'll enter your name twice!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Writing and Ceramics

Photo by jzlomek/StockXchange.com

The Ponderers are having a contest! Information at the end of this post!


As a writer and a potter, I've always been fascinated with how the two crafts parallel each other. Both involve the creative process and both require me to practice. Though, in the beginning, it would've been kind to say what I produced was any good.


My first pot started out in my mind as this slender and elegant vase that would hold long-stem roses. It ended up being a doggie bowl for a toy Chihuahua.


It didn't matter. I had actually centered a lump of clay and transformed it into . . .well, not exactly a piece of art, but something. Clay now coursed through my blood, and I began the long process of learning how to get better.


When I first started writing, I didn't know anything about the process, but I had this story in my head that wouldn't go away. I pounded it out on an ancient, blue portable typewriter, the words spilling from my fingers onto white paper. Not perfect words, but words that captured the pictures playing in my head. I was hooked, my life forever changed. Writing became something I had to do.


Many drafts later, that first story sold to Woman's World as a mini-mystery. I floated for days. When I came back to earth, I realized if I wanted to repeat the success, I had much to learn.


To make a vase I'm proud of requires an intimate knowledge of the clay. The clay and I become one. And I don't get that by letting the clay sit in a box in my pottery room.


Writing the stories that still play out in my head takes the same hard work. It takes practice for the words to flow. But when the words flow, there is no feeling like it.


Oh, now I routinely throw clay on a wheel and pull up those tall, elegant vases.



We're having a contest to kick-off our blog. Leave comments during the month of July and you'll have the chance to win a fun assortment of prizes, including:

  1. A Starbucks gift card
  2. A signed copy of Susan May Warren's latest book, Sons of Thunder
  3. A signed copy of Sara Evan's and Rachel Hauck's The Sweet By and By
  4. A signed copy of Jenness Walker's romantic suspense, Double Take
  5. A signed copy of Beth K. Vogt's book Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35
  6. A copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul's A Tribute to Moms
  7. Chocolates!
  8. Copies of Delores Topliff's children books: Whoosh and Little Big Chief and the Bear Hunt

We're still collecting items for our prize basket, so who knows all the goodies you'll win! Use the word "ponder" when you comment and we'll enter your name twice!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Let the Pondering--and the Contest--Begin!


Eighteen writers spread across twelve states. Honing their craft in five different fiction genres.

Two 2010 Genesis finalists.

Four finalists in the first annual 2010 My Book Therapy (MBT) Frasier contest.

Eleven published writers--in both fiction and non-fiction.

One editor--gasp!--to cross our t's and dot our i's.

Three PhDs and one PhD-to-be.

A software engineer and several small business owners.

Women who are single, married and widowed.

Stay-at-home moms and work-from-home-moms and go-to-work women.

A marathoner and a dog walker.

A potter and a jewelry maker.

All of us experiencing two-steps-forward, one-step-back successes and setbacks as we pursue our goal: publication.

All united by one event: a MBT coaching retreat.

We call ourselves The Ponderers.


Why?

Well, basically because we are a bit rebellious. At the first MBT Storycrafters retreat in October 2009, bestelling author Susan May Warren forbid us to ever use the word "ponder." She hurled the verbal gauntlet--and we picked it up when we caught Susie using "ponder" several times during the weekend.

So what's our plan for The Ponderers' blog?

We'll be talking writing. Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday a different Ponderer will post on topics like:


  • Creativity

  • Balancing your "real" life with your writing life

  • Why you should care about commas and periods and spelling (Guess who is writing that post?)

  • Recaps of MBT online chats

  • Interviews--and Susan May Warren promises to drop by the blog!

  • A runner's perspective on writing & a gardener's perspective on writing

  • Jumpstarting your writing career while working fulltime

  • The craft side of writing & the spiritual side of writing

Author Jessamyn West said, "Writing is a solitary occupation." When it's just you and your work-in-progress (WIP), that's true. But thanks to the relationships forged between The Ponderers, we've discovered the writing life doesn't have to be lonely. This blog is our way if inviting you into our corner of the writing world. Join in the fun. Share your thoughts. And if you want to use the word "ponder," that's okay with us too!




We're having a contest to kick-off our blog. Leave comments during the month of July and you'll have the chance to win a fun assortment of prizes, including:

  1. A Starbucks gift card
  2. A signed copy of Susan May Warren's latest book, Sons of Thunder
  3. A signed copy of Sara Evan's and Rachel Hauck's The Sweet By and By
  4. A signed copy of Jenness Walker's romantic suspense, Double Take
  5. A signed copy of Beth K. Vogt's book Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35
  6. A copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul's A Tribute to Moms

We're still collecting items for our prize basket, so who knows all the goodies you'll win! Use the word "ponder" when you comment and we'll enter your name twice!