Monday, August 31, 2009
Joking aside, I realized this past week that I’m a glass half empty type of person even though, if you asked me, I’d tell you the opposite.
But when it comes to my writing goals, I buy into the “Don’t get your hopes up and then you won’t be disappointed” philosophy. But the truth is, that mindset never saved me from the sting of disappointment. Neither was it ever particularly necessary. Sure I’ve received rejections and setbacks, but none of them came with devastating words like, “You have cheese for brains,” “Don’t quit your day job,” or “Please don’t ever write again, not even grocery lists.”
We tell our kids the somewhat misleading platitude, “You can achieve your dreams.” But somewhere along the road to adulthood that becomes, “Don’t get your hopes up.” What is wrong with us that we have to go with an all or nothing approach? In writing, in dreaming, in life—balance is key. Notice I did not include eating chocolate on that list.
The next time you’re facing what you perceive as a crucial meeting, phone call, or proposal, save yourself some sweat and lay off the extreme self-talk. I know I need to take my own advice and stop making death sentences out of rejection letters.
Now, I think I’ll go do some positive verbal exercises while listening to When You Wish Upon a Star.
Evangeline is a nice person.
Evangeline is a good writer.
Other people like Evangeline.
Other people like to read Evangeline’s work.
Right now, someone is reading Evangeline’s words and thinking, “Evangeline is a nice person. Evangeline is a good writer. Evangeline has cheese for brains.”
WAIT! How’d that get in there?
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Immediately after the Exodus, the people of Israel began to grumble. They were tired. They were hungry. “At least in captivity we ate all the food we wanted,” they said (Ex 16:3). So that evening the LORD sent quail; but in the morning He sent something different. He sent manna.
Manna. A “small round substance as fine as frost” (Ex 16:14) that “looked like white coriander seed, tasted like wafers made with honey” (Ex 16:31) or “pastry prepared with oil.” (Num 11:8). It could be baked or boiled, “ground in a handmill or crushed in a mortar, cooked in a pot or made into cakes” (Ex 16:23; Num 11:8). The manna appeared with the morning dew then melted away as the sun grew hot (Ex 16:21).
For forty years the Israelites ate manna. In fact, according to Joshua 5:10-12, the manna did not stop until the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River, camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, kept the Passover, and eaten the crops of Canaan.
As a writer, how many times have I, like the Hebrews, grumbled against the LORD—asking for words of meat but receiving only manna? “It’s not enough!” I cry. “It won’t sustain me!” How many times have I begged Him to fill the empty white pages with words that will feed the souls of others and draw them into my story, only to end up with minuscule fragments that seem to melt away with the morning sun?
Too many times to count.
I, like the Israelites, sometimes want to walk away. Sometimes want to return to the way things were before the LORD called me to write. A simpler way. A way that didn’t require collecting a handful of manna each morning and hoping those words would be enough to get me through the day. But like the Israelites, I can’t walk away from a place the LORD wants me to be. So I’ll step out in faith, one more time, and take God’s daily provision of words. His daily provision of manna.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I had taken a correspondence course and then found out that there was another lady in our church who was a writer too. We became friends. She knew someone who knew someone who knew a lady who was part of a critique group. My friend told me to call and I did. We both joined the group. It was so great to have other writers to understand and support me. (Because let’s face it, we writers are a different breed.)
Then I moved and lost my support group. I was alone again, writing by myself in my closet. I was desperate to find other writers, so I searched and found one. It wasn’t like my old group, but I was around writers again. :-D
The leader of that group told me about a writers conference where I met a woman who told me about another conference that I also went to. Through circumstances beyond my control, my writing sample that was supposed to go to one of my favorite authors went to an editor to be read. I was terrified. But meeting with that editor led to my first book contract and publication.
So what? You’re probably thinking.
So because I met the other writer lady at church, I joined a critique group which led to another writing group which got me to my first conference which led to my second conference which eventually led to my first contract.
If you are one of the people who don’t think you are ready to go to a conference or that you shouldn’t go because you don’t think you should spend the money, you should go. Ready or not, conferences prepare you in your writing growth. I was not ready for my first conference, but it prepared me for the next one and my first sale.
It is all a building process. You don’t know what God has planned or who He has for you to meet, so . . .
One Thing Can Lead To Another. If you don’t go, you could miss the one thing that leads to all the others.
ACFW has an awesome conference September 17th - 20th. If you are thinking of going, GO! And see what God is going to start.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
But sometimes we look at it like it is. We had a work day at our church last Saturday, and since we have a small church there was an even smaller group of people there to do the work. The 80-20 rule applies to churches too -- 80 percent of the people skip off on work day and leave the other 20 percent to do the actual work.
There was lots to do, and by early afternoon, we were all getting tired and just a little bit cranky with each other. We were there to do a good job, to do God's work, and still -- we kind of lost sight of the goal -- God's work.
And then in through the door came a ray of sunshine, in the form of a young Chinese girl. Lucy Lu is a missionary from China who was in the area doing some witnessing, saw the church, and came to see if anyone was around.
We were charmed by her open and honest love of Jesus, her frequent declarations of how much He has done in her life, and her fervent desire to witness to her people in China. She has spent the last ten months in America, traveling around, witnessing, learning, studying. And now she is excited to go home and do the work she believes the Lord has called her to. She told us she is surprised by how many Americans do not want to hear about Jesus. She told us she is encouraged because so many of her countrymen do.
Our exhaustion disappeared in an instant as we were reminded of how God is working through the lives of many believers all around the world. Our crankiness melted in the shine of her love for God, and I was reminded of Moses having to cover his face with a veil after he spent time with God.
She came to America to learn to witness and minister, and she witnessed and ministered to us instead.
Our writing is a lot like this young Chinese girl's decision to share Jesus. It takes dedication, it takes time. To be a good writer, we must be willing to learn, take direction, be corrected, rejected, and criticized. To write well, we must spend long, unrewarded hours in the pursuit of the calling God has placed on our lives.
We must be willing to work.
And sometimes, in the middle of the work, the grind, the sweat and the tears, we too will find a ray of sunshine that completely dispels everything that went before, so that all that remains is the brilliance of the Lord in our lives, in our books, in our words.
And that's what makes the work worth it. And that's what gives the work its value.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Our calling as Christian writers is critical. The words we write and the messages we share through those words can have a big impact on those who read them. Because of that, we need to be even more careful about the words we choose and the image we're presenting. To do that effectively, we need to grab hold of the single most important weapon and tool we have:
Our church body is in the middle of a 40-day prayer vigil, 24-7, with members taking 1-hour slots day and night for 40 days. When we finish with this, we're going to continue on a 24-7 vigil, with members taking 1-hour slots each week. The same time every week as a commitment to regular prayer. The spiritual battle we face involves an enemy who only needs a foothold to get in. But he's not content with just that. Once he has it, he'll wedge in his heel, then his leg, then his hip and his arm until finally he has a complete presence.
You've likely heard the old adage, "The pen is mightier than the sword." This has never been more true than it is today. With so many people turning to the internet, texting on cell phones, emails and the electronic communication, verbal impact is losing ground. So much is read now, and it's so easy to sway someone's thinking when the messages are repeatedly pounded into the brain through the eyes.
So, join with me in prayer for your writing, for your ministry, for your impact, and for your witness. Your words could be the saving grace for someone out there. Make sure you put prayer first before you set your fingers to the keyboard or pen to paper.
Tiffany Amber Stockton is an author and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author in beautiful Colorado Springs. They celebrated the birth of their first child in April and have a vivacious puppy named Roxie, a Border Collie/Flat-Haired Retriever mix. She has sold six books so far to Barbour Publishing. Other credits include writing articles for various publications, five short stories with Romancing the Christian Heart, and contributions to the books: 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage and Grit for the Oyster.
Read more about her at her web site: http://www.amberstockton.com/.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Sitting here at my desk, I'm surrounded by blog interviews that need to be done, TV appearance requests, Radio interview requests, three new book proposals, bills, receipts, and book endorsement requests. And that's just my "writing" stuff. Let's not even talk about personal stuff, or homeschooling, or ... ugh. I'm feeling just a tad bit overwhelmed.
My title for this was: Running . . . out of time. Aren't we all running? Shouldn't we be running? Hebrews 12:1-3 says this, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart." (NASB)
So yes, I'm running. And I'm running out of time - we ALL are. I'm running the race set before me and as the enemy tries to steal my time (especially my writing time, it seems) I'm going to keep ON running. How many more people will God place in my path? I don't know, because I don't know how much time I have left, but I DO know that He wants me - and all of us - to be lights for Him, use the gifts that He has given us, and keep running the race.
Throw off those encumbrances, get rid of that sin, fix your eyes on Jesus and let's run with whatever amount of time we have left.
Kimberley Woodhouse is a wife, mother, author, and musician with a quick wit and positive outlook despite difficult circumstances. A popular speaker, she’s shared at more than 600 venues across the country. Kimberley and her family's story have garnered national media attention for many years, but most recently her family was chosen for ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Montel Williams Show, and Discovery Health channel’s Mystery ER which premiered in 2008. Her story, Welcome Home: Our Family’s Journey to Extreme Joy, is available now from Focus on the Family/Tyndale Publishers. Kimberley lives, writes, and homeschools in Colorado with her husband of seventeen years and their two children in their truly “extreme” home.
Check out Kim's Website to order her books!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I could say these were great books that kept me up at night because I couldn’t put them down.
I could say these books touched my heart and taught me about faith.
I could say Healing Waters, really touched my heart and soul as I deal with my own weight-related image issues.
I could say these books hold great spiritual truths and how they apply to life.
I could write long articles about all of the above because they are true. But today, I want to write from my author’s heart. These two books reminded me of all the classes I have taken, books I have read, and things I have been told about the best point of view from which to write.
Nancy Rue and Steve Arterburn followed an interesting pattern in these books. In these novels, there are two main characters. The first is Sullivan Crisp, a Christian psychologist, who appears in both books. The female protagonists are Demitria Costanas in Healing Stones and Lucia Coffey in Healing Waters. The POV changes back and forth between Crisp and the women. The women’s stories are told in first person and Crisp’s story is in third person.
By using first person I was drawn deeply into Demitria’s and Lucia’s stories. This was especially true of Healing Waters. One of the issues in this story is how self-image is related to a woman’s obesity, a problem with which I struggle. As I read, “This is what I feel….” or “This is what I think…” I could actually hear myself saying the words as I have many times. I felt as though I was actually inside the minds of these women.
In Crisp’s use of third person, I heard someone leading me through a path of exploring wisdom and finding answers for my life. Crisp has his own flaws and struggles; just as people we turn to are imperfect. This gives a very clinical feeling to the story.
Overall, the use of two different POVs from first and third persons was effective in making me feel like I was part of the story in a real life setting.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
As always it's good to connect with other writers, editors, agents, and publishers—people who understand and love this wonderful world of writing and the unique minds that go with it. And I'm loving seeing my Colorado friends here in Philly, many of them for the first time: Jeff Gerke, Tanya Warrington, and Shannon (Hill) Marchese. And I'm probably missing someone. Though I'm too tired to go look at the list.
Next month is the annual ACFW Conference in Denver! And I already can't wait. I'm looking forward to more wonderful times with my writer friends. This is the one conference I attend that I pay for. But even then I won't be sitting idly in classes. Since Colorado is hosting the conference we have many unique opportunities to volunteer and give back to a great organization. Some of the opportunities we've already let you know about through our chapters and the ACFW Colorado loop. Others we will try to keep you updated with here on the blog as they come up. If you are interested in helping out in some way, please leave a comment on the blog, and I'll get back to you with the possibilities. Many of you have already volunteered. Thank you to all of you for making ACFW Colorado a great place to be!
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I'm always amazed at how uneducated the general public is on the books published in the CBA. Yes we have our Amish books and our prairie romances--and some of them are absolutely fabulous and have hung out on best seller lists. But we also have fantasy, thrillers, mysteries, and . . . well, you name it, we've got it. (Almost.) CBA books offer diversity in style, taste, and artistic expression, even as they all offer the most important thing--God Himself.
Take, for example, three of the novels I read this summer. They weren't even that dissimilar in genre. All three included some romance. All three three explored an inner female journey. All three included faith elements. But despite the fact that they had similarities, they were very different. On purpose.
I won Gunfight at Grace Gulch in a drawing when its author, Colorado ACFW member Darlene Franklin, spoke at HIS Writers. I breezed through the book, enjoying references to places I knew from my childhood in Oklahoma, including the lake I swam in most every day one summer. The book was a light fare, romance and mystery, and perfect for an evening when I just needed to escape the pressures of life and enjoy a safe story. Published by HeartSong Presents Mysteries, I knew it would be a book I could trust not to rock my world too much--a fun, quick read. And it lived up to its expectation. Dependable. Trustworthy when my heart couldn't take one more assault. The guy got the girl--or uh, the girl got the guy. The bad guys were defined and called out. The faith questions were dealt with. I enjoyed humor, creativity, and romance while taking a break from a stressful time. When I finished this book I felt peaceful. There was a hope that all can be righted in His due time, that justice will eventually be served and love will find its voice. I rolled over to quiet dreams as God's faithfulness wrapped around me like a hug.
Reading The Queen of Sleepy Eye, by Colorado author Patti Hill, was a whole different experience. Published by B & H Fiction, this novel was willing to push the envelop. Still a story of faith, everything wasn't settled so neatly. The struggles were real, the heart strings were tugged, and as the heroine grew up, so did I. The end satisfied not because everything was settled perfectly, but because God was faithful even when life was hard and choices were less than stellar. As one reviewer said on the back cover copy, the book portrayed the "crushing cost of sin and the transforming power of grace." It's a book that made me think a little deeper, and live a little more honestly. Even though it was hard to walk through the pain of that growing up summer with its heroine, Amy, the story was offered to me with gentleness, penned with beauty of phrase, deep characterization, and an eye to redemption. God's hug wasn't quite so safe, but it was just as faithful, and perhaps its grasp was little tighter--a testament to HIS faithfulness in my weakness.
ACFW author Claudia Mair Burney's book, Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and white, didn't come to me with gentleness. It sang out with passion and zing. Liz Curtis Higgs calls the book "Unflinchingly honest and bold as brass." Published by David C. Cook, this book confronted me with the raw power and unpolluted clarity of God's amazing grace--undeserved, yet freely given. The romance was so beautiful at times that I wept, swept away by the glory and purity of love, and yet the story's twists and turns also included such agony that on occasion my stomach hurt. It undid me, probing ugly places I don't want to even admit are in my world, leaving few sacred stones unturned. The writing also sometimes left me breathless--both from the story it told and from the sheer strength of the collection of its words, carved onto the page with a voice all their own. There was no meandering through this book. There was no holding onto false illusions of strength. I was laid bare, reminded that it is only the merciful God of grace who can save. Reminded that He never gives up. God's hug through this novel was fierce, protective, and unrelenting. He will never, ever let me go.
Three novels. Three experiences. Three reactions. Yet all three showed me God's faithfulness. Maybe that's part of what I love about reading books from the CBA. I can find books for my ever-changing seasons and needs. I know where to turn when I need to be stretched and what to grab when I need to feel safe. And I can trust each time that I will find God there, calling me into His arms.
Next time someone you know wants to put CBA in a box, send them my way. I'll bet we can find an author who tickles their fancy--and give them a God hug at the same time.
Monday, August 3, 2009
One of the best things about becoming a grandmother is seeing the sonogram for the first time. A sonogram is the ultrasound picture that allows you the first glimpse of your grandbaby.
Last week I saw the sonogram of my fourth grandchild.
I also received the mockup of the cover for my fourth book.
Sonograms show a work in progress.
Mockups also show a work in progress.
When you see the first sonogram you either think, “What a cute little face.” or “What a cute little inkblot.”
When you see your first mockup, you either think, “This is perfect! The artist catches my vision of this story!” or “What were they thinking? Did they even read the five page form I sent of every minute detail?”
The baby in the sonogram finally makes an appearance. You either think: “What an absolutely beautiful red-faced raisin.” or “Kinda looks like your Uncle Fred,” if it’s a boy. “Kinda looks like your Uncle Fred,” if it’s a girl.
Mockups finally arrive on your doorstep attached to real books. You either think: “I’m proud to have my name stamped on the front of this cover.” or “Where’s the Wite-Out?”
Yes. I’ve had both reactions to my covers. The good thing about a book cover over a baby is that if you have an author-oriented publisher like mine, they allow you to suggest changes.
My three grandchildren and Inkblot? Absolutely gorgeous. Every one of them!
Kathleen E. Kovach is an award winning author, leader of the local critique group JOY Writers, and the Rocky Mountain Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Kathy lives in northeast Colorado with her husband of over three decades. She has two sons, three grandchildren (and an inkblot), and two grandpets - all of whom, at one point or another, have taken advantage of the revolving door on her empty nest. She is the creator of two blogs: www.kathleenekovach.blogspot.com and www.craftcinema.blogspot.com. Please visit her website at www.KathleenEKovach.com.