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Welcome to The Inkwell, the blog site of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) of Colorado.

Each week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you can find a wide variety of topics and insight
from inspiration to instruction to humor and more!

For detailed information on ACFW, click here to visit their main website.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spring Cleaning


I am not a clean freak. Dust does not offend me. And I’m okay with organized clutter. I do, however, have my limits.

Take, for instance, my living room: The one place in my house that’s always clean. Always. Of course, that means family members are not allowed to enter its realm unless they sit quietly on the couch or tap lightly on the piano keys. Doing anything beyond that usually results in someone getting the “mom look” and a brief scolding.

Next room on my nice-n-tidy priority list is the dining room—probably because it can be seen from the living room.

Prior three goes to the kitchen and priority four to the family room.

As far as the rest of the house goes, well, it’s pretty much a free-for-all.

When I think of my house—its tidy parts and its messy parts—I also think of my life…and my writing. Upon first inspection, some areas look clean and organized. Those are the ones you see. But if you look closer, if you dig deep down into my heart, you will find areas that are so unkempt that I’d rather have a train run over me than show them to you.

David once said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT)

Are you willing to let the Lord search your life? Will you let Him test you? Will you allow Him take control of everything—including your writing, even if that means laying aside that which you desire for that which He desires? Will you let Him into those nice-n-tidy and/or unkempt areas to do some spring-cleaning, or will you bar the doors and say, “Another time, Lord.”


Heavenly Father, my life, my time, my writing—all this belongs to You. I give You permission to freely roam its halls, open its doors, and rearrange or reorganize according to Your will. For it is You who calls. It is You who strengthens and encourages. It is Your path—Your priority of “organization” that matters, not mine. Guide me and teach me, O Lord, according to Your wisdom. And lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

“Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. … It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.” (Text) (Photo)

To honor those who gave their all. We live in a country that is free because of ALL the men and women through the centuries who have fought and died. Who gave their all.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13NIV) If a friend would have no greater love than to die for me, how much more love is it for a stranger to die for me. For our country. For our freedom.

People you don’t know and will never meet have died for you and are dying today for you to remain free. The love. The sacrifice. When I think on this, I am in awe.

“In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," Moina Michael replied with her own poem:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.”
(Text)

Just remember, freedom is never free. Someone, somewhere has paid for your freedom. And that blood of heroes never dies.













(Photo)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why Go To A Conference?

Just as Memorial Day begins our summer season, May seems to begin our conference season. And just like Memorial Day where we spend time with family and friends as we celebrate and remember, writers conferences are a time to meet and renew friendships with writing family, to celebrate, and to remember.

Writing can be a very solitary experience as we sit at our computers or typewriters or pads of paper and toll away at our stories and articles and books. And yet as solitary as the writing life can be, most writers long for the fellowship of other people who understand their eccentricities, who have heard voices in their heads, seen faces in their dreams, and who wake up at night with a great opening line or conflict or plot point screaming to be written down.

In other words, conferences are great places to meet people just like us.

Conferences are great places to celebrate successes and commiserate rejections and encourage those who are wavering in their writing lives. And even if you always seem to celebrate someone else's successes and commiserate your own rejections, remember that any time you encourage you are building the Kingdom of God, uplifting His people, and fulfilling His calling on your life.

Conferences are also useful for the memories they create. It's nice to meet up with fellow writers who weren't published the last time you saw them, or maybe they were published but not in hardcover. Or maybe the triumph isn't even about publishing, but they have finally gotten the courage to make an appointment with an editor, or talk to an agent about their books.

There are plenty of great conferences available. Ask a fellow writer for their recommendations. Check out Sally Stuart's Market Guide. Search online for conferences catering to your genre or market niche.

Consider every conference as an opportunity for ministry. Go with a heart open to what God wants to accomplish. Be willing to be open and vulnerable, eager to help someone else feel better about their writing.

And then watch as God works a miracle in you and in your writing.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Juggling Finances and Balancing Spreadsheets

All right, so many of you already know my time is quite limited these days. Then again, whose isn't?

My newborn daughter will be 7 weeks old this coming Thursday, and although we're beginning to settle into a routine, it's only the very early stages. That means it's still a work in progress as we both adjust.

However, life doesn't stop to allow time to adjust. My work as treasurer still requires my attention, and since Donna and I just recently balanced our books following our annual ACFW Colorado Retreat, I figured writing about it would suffice for this month. *grins*

If you've meandered through our web site, you'd see the somewhat new PayPal buttons that have been added for the convenience of making payments online instead of having to snail mail them in to us. Our boards thought it would be a fantastic addition and simplify a lot of things. Well, in theory, it would....if it all worked right.

I won't go into all the details, but it took us about 2 months to get our account squared away to the point where we would be allowed to utilize all of the options available to us. The main issue was our not-for-profit status that required scanned documents, not electronic. After many phone calls and emails, we finally got it worked out and our account was restored to full status.

Then, there's the issue of 2 chapters with funds coming into one account and having to be divided so each chapter receives what was designated for them. Since some payments came through PayPal and others through checks, the total funds had to be calculated, then the expenses from each chapter had to be subtracted to determine what was owed where. Add to that the fact that some funds were in 1 bank account and some were in the PayPal account, and then the balance owed had to be delivered via check and PayPal transfer.

When all was said and done, the calculations were checked and double-checked by myself and Donna (the HIS Writers treasurer) and a spreadsheet was provided detailing the summary. Thanks goodness for a system of checks and balances!

I said all of that to say this: the process was confusing enough. But with a newborn and only having snippets of available time, I'm amazed it all came out balanced in the end. So glad everyone else provided excellent records of the costs and expenses and income. Otherwise, the end result might not have been so "balanced." :)




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, May 15, 2009

Words... How Are You Using Them?


All of us "writers" are wordsmiths. We string words together like beautifully made jewelry, attempting to paint a picture that inspires the mind and soul.

But they aren't always used that way. They can be a powerful sword that slices through people's hearts.

When someone wrongs you, do you go bash that person online with your words? Do you spread all the horrible stories you know about them, trying to get everyone to take your side? Do you get on the phone and spew hateful words? Twitter? Facebook? Blogs?

I'm challenging us all today, because words can hurt. In this age of technology, it takes but mere seconds to get our thoughts out there to the masses. The problem is, how many of us pray about those words before we write them? say them?

I just received an email from a reader who had heard an untruth about our family's story on TV. But guess what? This person began to "follow" me online, and noticed a difference in my words from the other party's. It was a powerful example to this reader.

Now, none of us are perfect. We will hurt people, wrong people, sin, and basically just make a mess out of things. But we can always try to do better. We can work on how we use our words. We can remember that spewing negativity will only make us more miserable. We can pray before we speak, or write.

We can follow Christ's example. How did He use His words?

Words. They are powerful. Use them wisely.

***
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, releases in September 2009 from Focus on the Family/Tyndale Publishers and is available now for pre-order. Kimberley lives, writes, and homeschools in Colorado with her husband and two children in their truly “extreme” home. Pre-order Welcome Home
Kim's Website

Friday, May 8, 2009

CCWC on Daystar TV

First, I want to say thank you to Niki who posted in my place last Friday. As Marlene's assistant at CCWC, I have a lot of responsibilities to carry out before the conference. And I appreciated Niki stepping forward and offering to do that for me.

The conference is next week . . . already! Yikes! So much to do before then. And this year we have something new to add to the pre-conference hype.

Linda Evans Shepherd will host Tuesday's Denver Celebration on Daystar TV and she will focus on CCWC. Three ladies—Dianne Butts, Liz Cowen Furman, and me—will join Linda on the set Monday afternoon for the taping. 

Trish Lord, the producer of the show, says, "This program will air [Tuesday, May 12]  from 11am – 11:30am on digital Comcast channels 20 & 243 and UHF channel 41.  This program airs throughout the greater Metro Denver area and our territory has just expanded into Greeley, Aspen, Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Granby and Silt (on channel 243 only)."

I'm a little (okay, a lot!) nervous about being on the show. But at the same time, I'm excited about the opportunity to get the word out about CCWC.

The fiction track at the conference is very strong this year, and I hope to see many of you there. But even if you are unable to attend this year, please pray that those who the Lord wants there will tune in to the show on Tuesday and then register for the conference. And pray for us during the conference, as well.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In Honor of Genesis

I found this poem I wrote in 2004 and thought I'd post it in honor of the brave contestants in the Genesis contest. I judged 7 gifted writers. All of them had talent. All of them were beyond beginner in their craft . . . and most of them had too much weight in their ms. It reminded me of the third stanza of this poem and my own struggle to hone craft.

I hope you enjoy this silly ditty written one day in frustration. I dedicate it to anyone who's written enough to discover just how much they have to learn. Blessing to all!
~Paula~

In Honor of Genesis

Fuzzy, just beyond the grasp of my mind they float
I reach for them with a cry
But I can't claim them
They allow me to play with them, try to put them in a colorful array
But they mock me with their black and white boredom
They tease me with stoic normalcy and refuse to come to life
They’ll line up, march in a row, even make sense
But they won’t sing for me
They won’t dance
They won’t show their splendor

I am angry with them
Furious that I cannot escape their enticement
If they won’t become all I dream they can
If they won’t give their best for me
Why can’t they leave me alone?!

My fingers move upon the keyboard
Trying to find a tune, a rhythm
Rarely do my fingers plod or probe
They rush across the letters, writing word after word
But of what?
Clich├ęs, too much back story, overwrought description
Heavy words, their very weight hiding their glory
Behind thick curtains of too much

Find the core, the seed of emotion and character I am told
Unmask the gem, let it shine!
But my brain is thick
And dull
I hear the instruction, feel the breathless desire
And work with awkward hand and clouded mind
I don’t know how

Why do the words claim me?
Why can’t the story let me rest?
If they won’t behave
And give me their all,
Why won’t they just go away?

PS Hope to see you all at HIS Writers on Monday. We're so excited to have Susan May Warren all the way from MN!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Just Not That Into You

I'm in a new relationship. We've been together three months now, but it isn't going well. I'm becoming convinced, even though it's hard to admit, that my manuscript is just not that into me.

Ever have the same feeling? You know the signs.

1. It's distracted when with you. You sit down to spend time with it, and the words jump all over the page refusing to coagulate into a coherent sentence. Nothing you do pulls it together.

2. It's not calling you. You go through your day and realize, "Hey, I haven't thought about my manuscript in, like, forever." It has not made an effort to call you to sit down and write.

3. It doesn't want to commit fully. You're moving along, thinking you're on the right track, when everything falls apart in the middle. The whole manuscript unravels, and you realize it's not doing its part to bring the storyline to completion.

4. It has disappeared on you. It's gone. And with it every unique idea, every bit of plot, every colorful character. You don't know where it went. All you know is that you must start over. And you realize, maybe it wasn't the storyline for you, anyway.

Every relationship takes work. This couldn't be truer than for you and your new manuscript. When you first meet that special storyline, pray to be sure it's the right one for you. Then, if you feel peace about moving forward, follow these steps to avoid the "Just Not That Into You" relationship:

1. Love is patient. Relax. Take your time to develop a solid plot.

2. Love is kind. Kindness is love in action. Do something special for your manuscript. Spend the time it desires, nurturing it, letting it know how important it is to you.

3. It does not brag and is not arrogant. Nothing will kill a relationship with a manuscript faster than an egotistical author. Manuscripts have a way of bringing down the boastful. Plot lines drop. Characters become flat. Settings? What settings?

4. It is not self-seeking. Know that you and your manuscript are on the same team. If you feel you're struggling with it, guess who has just become a world-class wrestler? Strive instead to dance with it, arm in arm, and listen to its heartbeat in the rythym of the words.

5. It is not easily angered. Throwing your manuscript against the wall is not allowed. Instead, attend to its needs. Patiently work on each problem, and soon it will thank you by flowing smoothly once again.

6. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Believe in your manuscript. If you prayed, as suggested above, know that it will stick with you until completion.

7. Love never fails. If you love your manuscript, it will love you back.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Preparing For My First Writer's Conference

In two short weeks, the 12th annual Colorado Christian Writer's Conference is being held at the YMCA of the Rockies, in beautiful Estes Park. Although I am a conference veteran from my youth ministry days, this will be my first one devoted to the craft of writing. As the newest ACFW member that blogs here, I'm going to assume that other newbie writers might need some conference preparation tips too. Here's what I've learned from my own experiences, lessons taught at the writer's groups I'm in, friendly advice, and a few helpful websites:

BEFORE

PLAN AHEAD

1. Study the Conference Brochure. Identify What you most need to learn, then choose workshops that provide it. Learn something new.

2. Know who the faculty are. There will be professional writers, mentors, Agents, and Editors there. If you happen to sit next to one of them at a meal, or land a coveted appointment with one of them, it would be nice if you knew their name.

3. Find out what is required to make appointments with your chosen professional, and make your requests early. Prepare a list of questions to ask editors, agents, and/or writers -things you want answered before you return home.

4. Create a 30 second pitch for your book/article/screenplay idea and practice it. Try writing your idea in 20 words or less. Your time will be limited during your meeting, and you'll be prepared to answer the most popular question of your conference stay, "What do you write?"

5. Prepare professional looking proposals, one sheets, and queries, and have copies available if an agent or editor requests them.

PACK

1. Comfortable clothing and shoes - the level of professional attire depends on the standards of the conference you're attending. Dress in layers for varying room temperatures. Check the weather ahead of time and bring an umbrella, snow boots, or whatever else is needed for your trip.

2. A sturdy tote bag to hold the following:
  • Laptop and/or paper and pens - you decide what works for you.
  • Business Cards - make sure ALL of your information is current.
  • Bible & Journal
  • Thank you notes for follow up after your appointments
  • Water Bottle, mints, and snacks
  • Camera
  • Money for the conference book store. You know you'll want to buy stuff! :)
  • An extra tote or room in your suitcase for the stuff you buy.
  • Labeled folders, manila envelopes, or even an expandable file. Possible labels might include:
  1. Contacts - To hold business cards/brochures of people you meet.
  2. Expenses - Receipts for tax deductions like meal expenses, transportation, CD's or books to improve your craft, etc.
  3. Proposals, Queries, One Sheets - self explanatory, and it looks good when you're organized.
  4. Workshop Notes/Handouts - Even for those you don't attend so you'll have them if you buy the CD or mp3.
A little organization before you leave will save you lots of time and hassle while you're there AND after you return home!

DURING

1. Prepare for little sleep, your creative energy will be high, but pace yourself. Unplug if you need some quiet time to reflect and relax, or just need to escape for a nap.

2. Don't be shy. Meet as many people as possible and ask questions. Everyone has something to share and there will be those who are new or attending alone and they're feeling awkward too. Practice active listening and don't monopolize the conversation, but speak up when it is your turn to do so. Remember that you have something to share too.

3. Talk to the professionals. They are there to help you grow as a writer. Ask your questions and write down any thoughts or ideas they share that you might forget.

4. Remember to collect and file business cards, handouts, receipts, etc. These will be very important to you after the conference ends.

AFTER

1. Give yourself a few days/week to regroup. You may find yourself in "conference overload" and need time to process all that you learned. Keep your notes and ideas handy!

2. Send thank you notes to the people you had appointments with, your roommates, and anyone else you need to acknowledge that made your conference a memorable experience.

3. Take what you learned and apply it to your writing. WRITE. RE-WRITE. SUBMIT. REPEAT.

4. FOLLOW UP! If an agent or editor requested your work, send it to them within 30 days, or even 2 weeks. The sooner the better. It's amazing how many people don't follow through with this step. Don't let fear hold you back!

5. Stay connected to the writers you meet. You're adding value to other people. Who knows your writing trials and triumphs better than other writers?

Above all else, PRAY before, during, and after the conference!


I hope these tips have fanned the flames of excitement as you prepare for an amazing 4 days! Look for me while you're there. I'll be the curly redhead with the big smile and the dazed look on her face. I'm kidding...sort of.


My helpful sources:

Megan DiMaria's Writing Conference Tips

Lessons from my friend, Michele Cushatt

The Words For The Journey Blog

Preparing to attend a writer's conference by Julie H. Ferguson
(Used with permission)

The wonderfully creative, mostly organized, and occasionally wacky brain of Niki Nowell
 
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