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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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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hope for a New Year



So here we come to the end of 2009. One day left. Then onward into 2010.

Wow! Who would have thought 2010 would come so soon? Thinking back to my childhood, reaching 2010 was as improbable as living next door to the Jetson’s in a floating home, while a robotic maid cooked dinner at the press of a button. But here it is…the future…and I’m still living in a house grounded by a foundation and cooking dinner with my own two hands.

It’s interesting how mankind looks at the future with anticipation and promise. Sure, there’s still a fair share of doomsdayers lurking in the crevices with their movies and books projecting Armageddon in skewed fashion, but overall the New Year is a time when people contemplate their future…with hope.

Jeremiah 29:11-14 says:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future . Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity…”

How cool!

If 2009 was a bit rough around the edges, if you feel tired and worn out by life, if there are parts of your past or present you’re having a hard time dealing with and/or forgiving yourself or others for, remember God promises us plans for hope and a future. A clean slate. A new year. For …as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalms 103:12)…therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

M
ay the LORD give you of heaven's dew and of earth's richness—an abundance of grain and new wine.* May He richly bless you, lead you, provide for you, pour out His grace upon you, give you peace, and provide for you hope and a future in the coming New Year!


* Genesis 27:28

Monday, December 28, 2009

First Story

About a week ago, my five-year-old wrote his first story—the tragic tale of Yummy the Crab who needed a new home and couldn’t find any food. Talk about tension! My son’s a natural! He dictated the sentences beyond his handwriting ability, illustrated the tale with crayon, and stapled the pages into book form.

But then he insisted on giving his first work of fiction to an eight-year-old friend of the family. I begged, bargained, and fake-cried, but I couldn’t convince my son to let me keep his precious little book. He simply could not understand that while his buddy might appreciate his efforts, I, his mother, would treasure them forever.

To me, his first story was a masterpiece made all the more special because he and I worked on it together.

I confess that lately I’ve been riding the what’s-it-matter-if-no-one-reads-it train with my own fiction. I desperately want to share my words with people. I’m so anxious for their good opinion. And subconsciously I think that if they like me and say I’m a good writer, then I’ll really be something.

But there is Someone else who sees my work and places immeasurable value on it simply because He loves me. And my story is all the more priceless to Him because He helped me form each word. Is He asking me to please, please give my words to Him?

Wow!

Makes me thankful that God uses my five-year-old to teach me lessons rather than the two-by-four I deserve.

If your wondering what I did about my son’s story, I’m happy to say I found a solution. I let my five-year-old give away his very first book, but I pulled his friend’s mom aside. “I want that book,” I told her. “When your little boy is done with it and tosses it aside, please give it back to me.”

She nodded and instructed her son to be careful with the stapled pages. She knew as well as I that worth is measured not by applause, popularity, or material value, but by love.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dream the Impossible Dream

I believe dreams are a necessity to life. They give us hope and direction. Without hope we die inside, and without direction we flail. Don’t be afraid to dream. Big and small, dreams can be achieved by setting goals.

I like to encourage people to set goals for the coming year. Don’t just make a mental list. Write them down and post them where you can see them daily. Your subconscious will work on them even when you’re not aware of it.

So think and pray about what your goals should be for 2010. Then write out three spiritual goals, three family goals, three personal goals, and three professional goals.

3 Keys to Successfully Achieving Goals
1) Make them realistic: Don’t set a goal so unachievable that you give up on it before you start.
2) Make them measurable: Reading more is a good goal, but how will you know if you succeeded? Rather set a number of books or pages you will read weekly/monthly.
3) Make them within your control: Setting a goal that is dependent upon someone else to reach it leaves you helpless.

Stretch yourself with some of your goals. Some goals you’ll want to make very attainable, but set one or two that will stretch you. Don’t be comfortable where you are.

Then trade your goals with a friend or among your critique group or Bible study and pray for each other during the year. Accountability is great to help you reach your goals. Be each other’s cheerleader. Get pompoms if you have to.

I hope you each set some awesome goals to reach your dreams and glorify the Lord.

May you have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Aim for the Heart

The most important thing I learned in journalism school was that I did not want to be a journalist. It took me two years of laboring and sweating my way through a master’s degree program to realize that I would not make a good reporter. I did well, academically speaking, but every time I thought of making a living “reporting the facts” my heart would hang heavy. It wasn’t long before I discovered that I am too empathetic to be a journalist. Too emotionally involved in what is happening around me. I struggle with being objective, especially in regard to my faith. And I like to embellish the details. (Facts without flair are so boring.)

So, after I graduated with my master’s degree in journalism, I decided to start writing fiction. I have to admit, I was a little perturbed that I had done all that work for nothing, but God uses every experience in our lives to shape us and teach us, doesn’t he? Journalism school was no exception for me. While many of the classes focused on the inverted pyramid style (answering the questions who, what, when, where, why and how), objective reporting, ethics, and law, one class I took has impacted the way I write fiction. In this class we read a book called “Aim for the Heart” by Al Tompkins. While the book was written for newsroom reporters, I took some very critical elements from it that I apply to my fiction writing. I wanted to share them with you:

- “You reach the viewer’s [reader’s] heart by sneaking up on it. Great writers embrace the element of surprise.”
- “Surprises make viewers [readers] feel something.”
- “What you say and show at the end of the story is often what lingers in a viewer’s [reader’s] heart.”
- “Characters are usually people, but they can be objects such as an old church, an overgrown cemetery, a pristine lake, or a dying swan. Characters are the mechanism we use to deliver information and tell the story. After all, people remember what they feel longer than what they know.”
- “Sweat the lead. The first sentence of your story sets the main conflict in motion.”
- “Your first sentence creates the viewer’s [reader’s] first impression of the story. The lead should not overwhelm; it need not be the peak action of the story. But it should cast a wide net that captures as many viewers [readers] as possible.”
- “Precision writers use active verbs.”
- “Go on a ‘search and destroy mission’ for verbs that end in ‘ing.’”
- “When writers lean on worn-out adjective clich├ęs to describe a scene, the viewer [reader] gets the sense that this is not a unique or singularly important story.”

Well, there it is. Just some of the wisdom I gained during my detour in journalism school. What about you? What fiction writing wisdom did you gain during a detour in your life?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Season to Share

All around us we see ads for things to buy, places to spend, reasons to give gifts. Every family has its own traditions for this Christmas season, and each new generation will develop its own special blend of traditions and ways to celebrate.

My family is spread all over Canada, and my husband's family is spread all over the States. A few years ago, we made the decision we would provide support to worthwhile causes instead of mailing gifts hither and yon. At the time, it wasn't a popular decision to make, at least not in my family, where if you can see the tree, there aren't enough presents.

Each year since then, instead of getting caught in the rush to shop and mail, we have relaxed and enjoyed the season, carefully selecting which causes to send extra money to. This year we were able to send six solar-powered radios to communities in Venezuela, eight shoeboxes to Mexico, three gift packages to children with a parent in prison in this country, and extra money to a Bible School and Mission in India. The money we sent out will reach many more people than the same money spent on presents.

This is truly a season to share, not just in gifts or charitable giving, but in time, compassion, encouragement, and hope. The God we serve is mighty to save, slow to anger, quick to forgive, and has shared a most precious part of Himself with us -- His Son.

As we contemplate this season and the Reason for it, please take some time to share yourself with those around you. Sometimes the best gift can be a phone call to someone you haven't talked to in a long time, a plateful of cookies for the cranky neighbor who always shouts at your kids, a visit to a local homeless shelter to just sit and talk with the lonely and broken.

All around us, people are looking for a reason to want to go on for another day. Share your Reason for the Season with them, boldly, in love, and watch their lives change. I recently had a conversation with a lady at Walmart who had a t-shirt she was buying that said Merry Christmas on it. I commented it was nice to find shirts to buy that weren't afraid to mention the name of Jesus. We chatted for about fifteen minutes, and I know we were both blessed to meet another believer in a world where the name of Christ is whispered.

I would love to hear from each of you as you seek ways to share your hope with others this season. If God hadn't been willing to share His Hope with us, we would still be lost.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Celebrating Traditions and Seeing Life Anew

Last month, I shared about the thankful season and one of the main reasons I'm extra thankful this year. Not only do we have the many blessings of family, friends and the opportunity to share God's light to others we meet, but we also have the gifts that God has given us so we can touch lives with our talents too.

For years, I never thought my love of children or my skills with caring for them meant much more than the fact that I enjoy them. That is...until I had a child of my own. :)

It's amazing how often the years of caring for other children gave me the skills I now use on an almost daily basis. That, along with a super-duper dose of patience and love have kept me going with my daughter even when I feel like I'm near exhaustion. It's those times when I rely on God's strength to keep me going. I know I'd never make it on my own strength. There simply isn't enough of that to last.

One of the best aspects of this Christmas season is having the opportunity to revisit all the wonder and joy of Christmas through the eyes of my daughter. Far too often, we get lost in the hustle and bustle or the hum-drum of repetitive traditions year after year. Seeing a child discover everything for the first time brings all the excitement back once more and even introduces a whole new perspective on certain aspects.

Traditions are explored on a whole different level, the hum-drum becomes woo-hoo as even the most mundane tasks are given a new dimension. This is only the beginning. There are many more years of enjoying a new lease on life as we celebrate the seasons with our daughter, making new traditions and continuing a few old ones.

So, this Christmas, take the challenge to see even just one tradition or aspect of the season through new eyes. You might just be amazed at the difference it makes in your life.



Tiffany Amber Stockton is an author, online marketing specialist and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart. They have 1 daughter and a border collie. She has sold eight books so far to Barbour Publishing, is a columnist for the ACFW e-zine and writes other articles as well. Read more about her at her web site: http://www.amberstockton.com/.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Celebrating Gifts

In the last two days, I have attended Christmas parties for two Christian writers’ groups. A couple weeks ago, I attended a celebration party for a secular writing group. Today I am thinking about the blessings of writing for the Lord. One of the greatest blessings is the people He has brought into my life as I write. The people at the secular party are nice and there was lots of laughter at the party. But I never heard anyone’s heart during that time. No one asked what was on my heart. At the last two parties, there were very nice people and lots of laughter. But at both these parties, I heard people talk about what was on their hearts. Several people asked what was on my heart. This month we are celebrating many gifts, especially the gift of God’s Son. In addition to His Son, God has blessed me with a gift of writing to glorify Him, but He knows I can’t do that alone. He knows I need someone who understands the struggles of writing and who care about what is in my heart. I am very thankful for the gracious and wonderful gift of writing brothers and sisters who care what is in each others’ hearts.

Friday, December 4, 2009

NaNoWriMo recap

Well, November is over. Can you believe we're only three weeks from Christmas? Yikes! How does the year go by so quickly?

NaNoWriMo 2009 is history. . . . Along with my own major shortfall of words. However, I'm that much farther along in this wip, so not all was lost.

Congratulations to all those who finished with 50,000 words. I know how incredible that feels. Even if they aren't all "good" words. That's okay, too.

I learned some things about my writing last month. The main thing is that I either have to dive into a wip with very little pre-planning or a complete detailed plan. There's no middle of the road for me.

Recently I took a little quiz to determine left brain vs. right brain, and which is more dominant. (Can't remember where/why I found this quiz, though.) It explained so much about me and how I approach every area of life: I am over 90% left-brained.

Now that won't come as a shock to those who know me, but it sure made me understand the dichotomy that is me. And I'm learning to accept it and I'm working to find ways to write that work for me.

What have you learned through your experience with NaNoWriMo this year? I know many of our ACFW Colorado members were participants. Please leave a comment with your answers.



Marjorie Vawter is a freelance editor and writer, who loves to encourage others to Christlikeness. She currently serves as ACFW Colorado Area Coordinator.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hope to see you on Friday or Saturday!

Just a quick reminder that THIS Friday and Saturday is HIS Writer's big Used Book and Media Sale and Author Book Signing. That's Friday the 4th and Saturday the 5th of December. Though the temperature outside is predicted to be "frightful," the warmth of friends, good coffee, and books will be "delightful." (Sorry, one of my favorite winter songs plays through my head as I type this with the snow falling outside my window and temperatures lower than they've been this year!)

I talked tochairman extraordinaire of the Used Book and Media sale, Niki Nowell, last night. Donations have been generous, and the sale has much to offer. We have lots of Christian fiction, but we also have non-fiction, DVD's, CD's and VHS. For you writers out there, we have several writer's conferences on tape and MP3. We even have children's movies and books. So stop by, chat with us over a cup of Joe, pick out a few things, and help start a scholarship fund for HIS Writer's members!

We're also excited about our 16 ACFW authors who will be signing their latest releases. (Click over to our events page for specific signing times and listing of authors and books.) Our authors love to chat with readers, and we're looking forward to good fellowship. While you're there, pick up a signed copy of a book for a loved one. What better gift than a personalized book that shares the love of Jesus? So come and see us. We're going to have a blast and want to see YOU there!

Join us at Daz Bog Coffee, 1050 104th Avenue, Northglenn, CO from 9 - 3 each day. (Daz Bog is located just west of I-25 and 104th ave. Take 104th west past Huron. The next left is Croke. Daz Bog is on the corner of Croke and 104th Ave.)

A writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God’s grace and intimacy with Jesus. Paula serves as president of HIS Writers, the north Denver chapter of ACFW, and enjoys leading a Bible study group for high school girls. Her writing appears in magazines, book compilations, and devotionals. Most recently she’s written curriculum for David C. Cook publishing. Her devotional website, Soul Scents, offers a free weekly devotional. A devoted Pride and Prejudice fan, Paula loves good conversation, peppermint ice cream, and walking barefoot. Her greatest desire is to be close enough to Jesus to live His fragrance.

 
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