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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.


Monday, December 27, 2010

A Sacrifice of Praise

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

A friend and critique partner shared this verse with me recently when I received yet another glorious rejection. Heart sick. I think nearly every writer knows the feeling. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ve experienced some kind of rejection. At best, the deferment of your dreams. At worst, the annihilation of all hope.

And it’s hard to get up the next day and keep trying. Logic says that getting a job at Wal-Mart is a safer bet.

I want to give up. Why should I keep trying to sell something no one wants buy? Isn’t it a waste of time to pour my effort into pages and pages of a story only a handful of people will ever read? What is the ever-lovin’ point?

This is when writing becomes worship, more specifically a sacrifice of praise. Because, you see, I still feel called to write. I don’t know why. It doesn’t make human sense. I mean, if I’m called to write, shouldn’t someone out there feel called to read what I write? Or am I merely a slave to my own inner drive? Like a hamster on a wheel, am I endlessly chasing my instinct and blind to the reality of my situation?

I don’t know. All I know is the call is still there. Even when I tell myself it’s time to be a grownup and do really meaningful things, like clean the bathroom. Even when I quit and surrender to the ever-present role of taxi-driving drone. Even when I tell myself, “Evangeline, this is your life. Be a good wife. Be a good mom. Be a good daughter. Clean the bathroom. Drive the car. Make the meals. That’s it.”

But that isn’t it. God desires more from me than duty. He desires my praise, my joy. And, because He designed my praise and joy to come in the form of written words, He desires me to write.

And, wouldn’t you know it, my particular form of worship happens to be the medicine for my sick heart. What starts out as a feeble attempt to follow my calling turns into life-giving communion with my God.

I’m not going to pretend it’s easy to keep crafting an offering that has no value in the human world. But it is my worship, and so I’ll keep at it.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. Hebrews 13:15

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Called to Worship

I have been called to write. I have questioned this many times, but the Lord keeps reassuring me. He has placed in my heart this desire to write, and He helps me everyday to when I write. He has called me to write then given me the ability to write. And just so I don't get a swelled head, He gave me the gift of a learning disability, so I would know that it is NOT on my strength but His that I can write.

I'm not sure why anyone would write who had not been called. It's certainly not for the recognition or money. We are truly underpaid for the hundreds and thousands of hours we pour into a single book. So few people gain fame and fortune from writing. So why do we do it?

God has called us.

Whether writing is easy or hard, being obedient to God's call to write is Worship. We have nothing. We can only give back what God has given us. He gives us the gift of writing everyday so we have a gift to give Him back in worship.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Like Pulling Teeth

Perhaps I stand alone in this confession: Sometimes writing as an act of worship can be like pulling teeth -- painful, messy, leaving an ache afterward, but I always feel better for having done it.

Not that I've had many teeth pulled, but I've had toothaches, and I know how good that feels when it goes away!

Writing as an act of worship is rarely convenient. There are many other things I'd rather be doing -- like laundry, organizing my spice rack, even dusting my office.

Writing as an act of worship is never comfortable. Even as I learn more about my characters and my setting, I learn more about myself. What makes me tick. What makes me boil. What makes me cry.

Writing as an act of worship is seldom complete. Just when I think I'm done with a paragraph, a chapter, a book, I find other ways to improve the story, tighten the writing, strengthen the plot.

Writing as an act of worship is always sacrificial. No matter how excited I am about sitting down to put words on the screen, I must choose that over any of the other dozens of tasks begging my attention.

Writing as an act of worship is spiritual in nature. I pray before I put fingers to keyboard, asking the Lord to write His story through me. Without Him, I would be just another hack writer begging to be read. With Him, published or not, I touch lives.

Writing as an act of worship is my greatest service to my King. Through my writing, I'm able to return to Him the words He has given. I can point others to the loving creator of the universe, offer them hope in a dark world, and share the love of Christ, sometimes without even mentioning His name.

Writing as an act of worship is integral to my writing process. Whether you find writing to be inconvenient, uncomfortable, or incomplete, keep on writing. Look for the ways that your writing can be sacrificial, spiritual, and service-oriented. Fill your writing with your passion for your Lord, the promises of His Word, and professions of what He has done in your life.

This month, look for ways to worship the King through your writing. Even if it is just between you and Him. Write, write, write!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Writing With God’s Voice

file0001247902629 I can’t think of anything more worshipful in my writing than removing myself from the equation and allowing God’s voice to penetrate through the storyline. Following is an article I wrote for CCWC’s unpublished prose contest in 2002. It has become my plumb line in all of my writing since. I share it now with you, and I pray that you, also, will come to realize that the most important voice with which to write is God’s.


By Kathleen E. Kovach

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20

Okay, repeat after me, "If you want to be a writer, you have to find your own voice." We've all heard it, read it, and studied it. It's standard curriculum for Fiction Writing 101. So, for years I tried to find my own voice.

I wrote poetry in verse, free verse, two lines, two pages, Haiku, Limerick. I even tried typing them in little letters like e.e. cummings, then despite my thickness, realized it had already been done.

I wrote short stories and novelettes, using first person, third person, a dog's view, but nothing seemed to be uniquely my voice.

So, I went into reflective mode. What is my voice? Why should I even have a voice? Who am I? Why would anyone want to listen to me? What do I have to say that's so important?

Then, out of the fog I call my thought process, a voice clear and strong gave me the answer. "I am."


"I am."

I shook my head. I am…what?

The voice cleared my head with an eternity of wisdom. "I am important".

Those words seeped into my heart, my soul, my very existence. I had written about God before, but had I written with His voice? Had I allowed Him to speak through my fingers? Or did I just run with the idea in my head, hoping that it made sense?

The next step in this new revelation was to learn how to recognize God's voice. Out came the concordance. Scripture after scripture, I proceeded to learn wonderful things about God's voice. It evokes obedience--yet entreats. It commands and confirms. It roars, strikes like flashes of lightening, shakes the desert, and breaks cedars--yet, it is hushed. It's powerful, majestic, like a trumpet--yet, it can ask a simple question. It can raise the dead. It shakes heaven and earth, it twists the oaks and strips the forest bare--yet, the sheep who love that voice know it and are comforted.

My mission was clear. I must set myself aside and write with God's voice. This was harder than I imagined. Too many times I let my own beliefs, or the particular soapbox I was on that week, infiltrate my work. I had to stop and use the criteria from that concordance exercise. Did the message roar, was it powerful or majestic? Would those who read it feel comforted--or convicted? Would they feel anything at all? The voice of God moves objects, unseals tombs, and changes convictions. If I wrote with God's voice, it would change minds and mend hearts. Those who know His voice would say, "Yes, that's right."

What a responsibility! I had written for years, yet it was not until I became a Christian that I had anything to say. Then, I had to be certain it was not my words, but God's.

I'm still working on taming my voice to step aside for greater wisdom. But if I look to Him, and listen to that still, small voice, my writing will be stronger for it, and more importantly, will reach those who need to hear it.

Oh, someone is knocking at my door. I hear His voice so it's time to let Him in, have a meal together, and put my pen to paper.

Kathleen Kovach low res jpg

Kathy Kovach is the ACFW Rocky Mountain Zone Director, and author with Heartsong Presents and Barbour Publishing. She writes Spiritual Truth…With A Giggle, thus proving herself as one of God’s peculiar people. Check out her books at

Friday, December 3, 2010

Come! Adore Him!

“Come and behold Him,

Born the King of angels

O come let us adore Him

Christ the Lord”

Jesus, Creator of the universe, King of all time, the very Word of God coming to earth as a helpless baby, dependent upon a young girl for nourishment, hunted by cruel King Herod, under the protection of a poor carpenter. It’s preposterous.

Scripture says the angels watched in baffled amazement as God’s plan for the redemption of man unfolded. They couldn’t believe God would choose to become flesh and hang out with lowly man. To think the Holy One would allow those infinitely inferior to Him to birth Him, raise Him, and eventually kill Him seems outrageous.

And yet that’s what our Lord did. He left the splendor and perfection of heaven to walk among us, teach us Who God is, and save us from ourselves.

“Come,” the song says. “Come and adore the Lord! Behold the King of angels wrapped in cloth and born as man.”

And while something divine within me swells and longs to shout in exultant worship, I feel ill qualified to offer my adoration. All I can give and think and say and do seems miniscule in comparison to what He deserves and who He is.

Sometimes it is hard to come—to know how to adore.

What does adoration look like? How do I offer it to Something as big as God?

As I grapple with these questions, the face of my two-year-old nephew flashes onto the screen of my mind. He is grinning. His whole face is alight—brown eyes sparkling and smile free and full. His expression says, “I know you adore me, Auntie Paula and I’m thrilled by it.”

What amazes me about this memory is how little I’d done to illicit such a delighted response from the little guy. I’d simply looked his way, gazed into his big eyes, and smiled at him.


Perhaps that is all the Lord asks this day as well. No contrived worship. No cooked up accolades. No forced exultation. No struggle to give Him all He deserves. No fussing and worrying and feeling inadequate. Instead, just a humble honest acknowledgement of our love.

Perhaps Jesus is simply waiting for us to glance His way, look Him full in the eyes, and smile.

Maybe adoration is not so much something bigger than us, but an honest offering of our love.


Acknowledge how precious He is.

Let us adore Him.

~Want to think more about worship? I was hired to do a whole Rio Family Currents newsletter for David C Cook on worship. Check it out for thoughts on worship and ideas on how to worship with the family in this season of the incarnation!

A writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God’s grace and intimacy with Jesus. She is published in book compilations, magazines, and e-zines, and writes curriculum for David C Cook's new RIO! line. Her website, Soul Scents, offers a free weekly devotional, and you can visit her blog at GraceReign. Paula serves as president of HIS Writers, the north Denver ACFW chapter. A devoted Pride and Prejudice fan, she loves good conversation, peppermint ice cream, and walking barefoot. Her greatest desire is to be close enough to Jesus to live His fragrance.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Passion and Progress

I’m grateful for so many things in my writing journey. My supportive husband. My critique groups. My mom, of course. Not everyone gets to be Donita K. Paul's daughter. Conferences. People like Susan May Warren and Jeff Gerke who write books that help me figure out what I’m doing.

Most recently, I’ve found myself thanking God for my agent. He inherited me after my former agent moved, and at first I thought, “But he’s a guy! He won’t understand my out-of-the-box romantic novels!”

After a meeting here and an email there and a few phone conversations sprinkled throughout, I realized two things about the guy I call Secret Agent Man.

1. He is, above all, supportive of my writing.
2. He quotes Shakespeare in every day conversation.

He has other great qualities too, including a background in marketing, keen instincts, and superfly Clark Kent glasses, but it’s the above two characteristics I find most reassuring.

The first is self-explanatory, but you might be wondering about the second. Or, maybe you also majored in English and right now you’re saying, “Oh yeah, if an agent quoted MacBeth to me, I’d feel totally at ease.”

It isn’t really love for the bard that feeds my confidence, but rather my agent’s appreciation for the classics, for high-blown themes, and graceful language—for everything Shakespeare’s work encapsulates. Those concepts feed my soul, even if my mind lives on the literary equivalent of fast food.

For the past two months, Secret Agent Man and I have been piecing together a proposal for my WIP, The Immortal Heathcliff. I’ll be honest with you, the process was somewhat laborious. I don’t know many writers who adore writing synopses, summaries, and market analyses. I was relieved in September when we had most of the pieces in place. Then Secret Agent Man tossed me a curve ball.

“Let’s put together a book trailer,” he said in his most non-threatening Clark Kent voice.

“Now?” I asked, sure I’d misunderstood. Weren’t book trailers for already published works? It seemed presumptuous to create one to go out with my proposal.

Secret Agent Man assured me all the kids were doing it, so I went home and handed the project over to my computer geek husband. It crashed two computers, cost nearly $200, and ate up our evenings for more than a month, but the end result is eye-popping.

I sent it off to Secret Agent Man and he loved it!

“We’re good to go now,” I thought.

Then Secret Agent Man emailed, “Why don’t we make a page on the Brontës to go with the proposal?”

I banged my head against the wall, then tried to say something brilliant about the Brontës that hadn’t already been said a million times. I failed, of course. But Secret Agent Man came to the rescue, formatting our page into a Q&A and supplying me with interesting questions to answer.

I handed it in and held my breath. I figured next he’d ask me to dress up as Emily Brontë and make a clip for YouTube. But, to my delight, he pronounced us ready to move and sent out the book trailer and query.

Our work paid off. No, I don’t have a contract yet, but we’ve had lots of positive feedback on the extras we put in the proposal. I’m so thankful Secret Agent Man understands the classic themes that drive my passion to write and also knows exactly what tools will clarify my sometimes less-than-focused interpretation.

And if he asks me to don Victorian clothes and talk about Wuthering Heights into a camera, I probably will, but only if he wears a black suit and sunglasses and stands behind me with a walkie-talkie.

Evangeline Denmark has co-authored two children’s books, The Dragon and the Turtle (available now) and The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari (available 1-11-11) and also writes adult fiction. While less cultured than most Austen Addicts, she enjoys a classic love story and a cup of Chai tea. You can find Evangeline online at and

Friday, November 19, 2010

In Everyone, Give Thanks

“In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” – Albert Schweitzer

Writing can be a very solitary endeavor. Often times it is just you and the computer (or you vs. the computer, depending on how your day is going). I’ve been feeling the solitude lately. I’m about two-thirds of the way through a manuscript that is likely the most tense and emotional story I’ve ever attempted. It’s been tough. Draining. And recently I started to feel that inner light of creativity and passion start to flicker as if it’s about to go out.

At times like that, I’ve learned there’s only one thing to do: stop writing and pick up the phone. Call another writer, a critique partner, a loyal friend who reads (and loves) everything you write, and let them rekindle your inner spirit.

In a month where we are focusing on an attitude of gratitude, I have been reflecting on how much God has blessed me through relationships with other writers. If it had not been for my critique partners, a dedicated mentor, and good friends who love to talk books and writing and dreams as much as I do, I would have given up my pursuit of publication a long time ago. I am so grateful that we are not in this alone, that God designed us to be in relationship so we can encourage, support, and inspire each other. I am so grateful for my friends.

A lifelong storyteller, Sara Richardson is passionate about communicating reasons for hope. Previously she has been an advertising copywriter, an Internet communications manager, and a whitewater rafting guide. In addition to writing fiction, Sara has published nonfiction articles in parenting and family magazines. As a member of MOPS International, Sara enjoys speaking to moms’ groups. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University. Visit her at

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gratitude Overwhelming Me

Okay, so I'm late with my post again. So the first thing on my gratitude list is I am thankful no one has been bugging me to post, except for the note on my calendar, highlighted in yellow, buried underneath five other things to get done yesterday.

I am grateful for highlighters.

Think about it. Those pesky little pen-wannabes that shout your accomplishments, cry over those things you forgot, and remind you of what you should have done and didn't.

I even have Bible highlighters that don't bleed through that thin paper and blot out what's on the other side. I have them in several colors, so I can highlight according to some long-lost code -- I was once in church, and a little girl ahead of me turned around in her pew, and saw me using my highlighter in my Bible. She turned to her mother and said, "That lady is coloring in her Bible." The mother looked over her shoulder, her face red with embarrassment, and said, "It's okay." The little girl looked into her mother's eyes and asked, "How come I get in trouble when I color in my Bible?"

I'm grateful I don't get in trouble for coloring in my Bible, even when I'm not highlighting, because, yes, sometimes I do use my highlighters to color the flowers that decorate my Bible, or the oceans in the maps.

And I am grateful for sticky notes.

Yes, those pesky little reminders of things not to forget, things not important enough to write somewhere permanent, things you didn't even remember you'd forgotten until you find the note behind your desk two years later.

I use them sometimes in my Bible to mark a passage I want to turn to quickly when I'm talking with someone in a Bible study, or I'm going to read from the pulpit. They sure make it easier than trying to memorize all those books and what order they're in.

But most of all, I am grateful for Bible ribbon markers. They keep me on track, help me find important verses I turn to over and over again. When I'm at the end of my rope, I can flip open my Bible to one of these ribbon markers, and I am bound to find, at my fingertips, a verse that will set me right again. A verse that reminds me of God's promises, of His grace and mercy, of His compassion and His plans for me.

Highlighters, sticky notes, Bible ribbon markers -- tools of the trade for a Christian.

As we count the days to Thanksgiving, think about those little things in your life you are thankful for. It's good to have big reminders of God's love and care for us, but even these tiny tools of the trade can have a big impact on your life.

Lord, thank You for taking such good care of us, meeting our needs, filling our hearts, changing our lives, even when we can't see it. Remind us of Your presence in every aspect of every thing we do. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Am Grateful!

Repeat the title ten times out loud. Each time with more gusto, emphasizing a different word or syllable until you feel it.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I am grateful.

i Am grateful.

i AM grateful.

i am Grateful.

i am GRATEful.

i am grateFUL.


I Am Grateful.



My work here is done.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Memories To Be Thankful For

November brings a myriad of emotions for me. In years past it was marked by a mixture of anxiety and delight as I prepared for the impending visit of my parents. Now as I look back, my memories of those times are bittersweet. My father is with his heavenly father and my mother rarely travels from her warmer Texas climate to the uncertainty of Colorado’s late fall weather. Although I was thankful for their regular visits each November when my children were younger, I appreciate them even more now that I will never have the opportunity to experience them again.

Having four children, you’d think that there would still be plenty of feet under my table as I look forward to Thanksgiving dinner. I treasure the memories I have of getting out the china and sitting around the dining room table together sharing our traditional foods including a layered Jello dish discovered in a cookbook from the small Canadian town where my father grew up. Up until a couple years ago that was the happy scene. Now three of my “children” are adults living in other states as they pursue their interests and passions at college. The short break and costly airfare are two of the factors in our choice to let them find a place to share Thanksgiving with others. I am grateful for the families who have extended an offer of hospitality to them as they are far from home. I’m glad I have the memories of us all together and will look forward to making new memories during their Christmas breaks.

While I have memories that I am thankful for, I am challenged to consider if my gratitude and appreciation are reflected in my behavior. Am I taking the time to show my thankfulness to those who are a part of my memories while I still can?

We often hear the phrase “having an attitude of gratitude” which is our topic for this month’s blog. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines attitude as “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person's behavior” and gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

I encourage each of us to take a few moments this month to examine our behavior and see if it matches the gratitude we feel. Let others know how they have given you cause to be thankful whether it is family in blood or spirit, especially the One who has given us more than we can ever ask or think.

A blessed Thanksgiving to all.


Elaine Clampitt is Secretary/Treasurer for Mile High Scribes, the South Denver Chapter of ACFW. She is excited that hockey season is finally underway and is not so feverishly working on her NaNoWriMo novel set in the world of professional ice hockey.

Come check out Mile High Scribes new location starting in January - the Tattered Cover bookstore in Highlands Ranch meeting on the first Monday of the month.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Freed by Thankfulness

Several years ago I had an article, Freed by Thankfulness, published in Discipleship Journal. The magazine is no longer in print, but they are taking articles in the archives and putting them online through their e-zine, DJ Online.

This month my article is again featured. So I'm making my post for this month easy for me. Something for which I'm very thankful! LOL

You can read it by going here. You may need to set up an account to get in, but it's free.


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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Little Things

Today I was swamped. With the Storycrafter's Seminar just a week away and a house guest coming soon, life's demands swirled around me. It was late afternoon when my hubby suggested a walk. The clicking time bomb to do list screamed, "no." I glanced behind him to a window framing a brilliant cobalt sky and a yellow-leafed bush. Then I glanced back at hubby, looked into those baby blues that first attracted me to him, and thought, "of course."

Shoving my chair back from the computer, I dashed up the stairs for my tennies taking two steps at a time, grabbed my sunglasses from the ledge, and ignored his suggestion that I grab a jacket. (I am convinced this whole perimenapausal thing is happening to me because it takes frigid air for me to be cold these days. That--or dressing in sandals and a skirt and rushing out the door without a coat like I did at 7 a.m. earlier this week. But I digress.)

The crisp autumn air brushed against my face and coatless arms as we crunched across the leaves in our front yard and headed through the neighborhood toward the walking trail. My poor husband did a lot of nodding as I talked with barely a breath (though I was beginning to huff and puff a bit by this point) about all the stuff happening with HIS Writers and ACFW Colorado--a myriad of things most people will never see, the behind the scenes triumphs and struggles that make or break organizations and events, but are really important only to someone immersed in them.

Meanwhile teenagers staged a football game on the grass in the middle of the track we circled while some little boys peeked through the fence at them, their own football in hand. We then went down the hill, underneath trees almost barren, and passed through the park. There two tiny boys in baseball gloves they'd yet to grow into listened with serious intent to their dad, who threw the ball high in the sky and urged them to go for the catch. My husband grinned wider as he inclined his head toward them. "Isn't that cool?" he said.

We pushed up the hill, both of us panting by this point, passed the fence where three yippy dogs always chase us, and too soon we were home.

It's the little things in life that I'm thankful for--like a walk on a golden fall day with the one I love.

Like working for an organization that really cares about writers and training them up to share words that will draw others to Christ.

Like getting good deals on printing. Like retreat centers and hotels that reduce down payments so we can go for the dreams God put inside of us for this group.

Like standing side by side with a board who works hard and loves well.

Like believing in friends and watching them succeed.

Like chuckling at correspondence with clever speakers to be.

And like my daughter cleaning the shower downstairs so Susan May Warren won't be too grossed out when she comes next week.

Or maybe those things are actually big things.

May your November be filled with the beauty of little things . . .

A writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God’s grace and intimacy with Jesus. She is published in book compilations, magazines, and e-zines, and writes curriculum for David C Cook's new RIO! line. Her website, Soul Scents, offers a free weekly devotional, and you can visit her blog at GraceReign. Paula serves as president of HIS Writers, the north Denver ACFW chapter. A devoted Pride and Prejudice fan, she loves good conversation, peppermint ice cream, and walking barefoot. Her greatest desire is to be close enough to Jesus to live His fragrance.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Just Because

file000824117114 I love November. Not just because of turkey and pumpkin pie. Not just because of fall colors. Not just because my beloved snow should show up in the second snowiest month in Colorado. Not just because any of these things, but because of all of them.

Plus, it’s my birthday month.

Ah ha! Now we get down to it. I’ve lived on this earth a smidge over a half-century, (Ack! That sounds really bad!) and it wasn’t until a smidge before that half-century that I was awarded with my first writing contract.

Am I grateful in this, the most thankful month, that my dream had been realized before I turned fifty?

Well, not just because of that.

I’m grateful because my LORD gave me the gift of turning story into something beautiful for Him. I’m grateful that He didn’t allow the spirit of “it’s too hard,” to enter my vocabulary. I’m grateful that somehow, when writing all those plays as a kid, poems during my teen angst, and volunteer newsletters after I became a mom, became a training ground for the bigger purpose.

What is the bigger purpose? Becoming a published author? No, the bigger purpose is the blessing God has put on my writing to reach untold numbers of hurting souls. I praise and thank God for that opportunity.

Yes. Just because of that.

Kathleen Kovach low res jpg


Kathy Kovach is the ACFW Rocky Mountain Zone Director, and author with Heartsong Presents and Barbour Publishing. Check out her books at

Saturday, October 30, 2010

God's Business is Our Business

There are many aspects of writing covered in this month's posts, and all are helpful, coming from direct experience in the business of writing. The source of the information is always important -- generally speaking, we can trust people we know when they know what they're talking about.

When we run a business, there are many tasks to perform, jobs to be done, details to be considered. And that can be really difficult, because writing is supposed to be a creative process, flowers and butterflies, and all that stuff. While business is -- well, business. It involves boring things, like keeping track of expenses, filing papers in a logical way so you can find them again, deciding whether you can actually spend a month writing an article you know nothing about and you aren't getting paid for. Things like that, and more.

No flowers or butterflies in all of that, to be sure.

And yet it is part of the writing process.

Writing is a lot like driving a car. It's great to take the key -- your story idea -- stick it in the ignition -- develop your main character -- back it out of the driveway -- your opening paragraph -- and drive down the highway, with no goal in mind -- hey, wait a minute -- you have to have a plot, right?

The plot of your story -- where you are going to take the reader on this journey you're calling a book, or an article, or a devotion, or a poem -- needs to have a destination, and it needs to be worth the trip.

While writing is a worthwhile endeavor even if you never get paid for it, Jesus said we are to count the cost. And that's where the business part of writing takes over.

You might think it doesn't cost you anything to write. You just sit at your computer and type.

Wait a minute -- computer, desk, chair. Money.

Okay, so you already had all those things, never actually put out any money to start your business.

Consider your time. What else would you be doing if you didn't spend the time writing? Notice I said "spend"? There is a cost. And even if you don't quit your full time job, if you write in the evenings, if you get up early, you could be doing other things. Maybe not money-generating activities, but something else.

Writing is a business. It is serious business. And when you are called by God to write, it is profitable, even if you never get paid one penny for writing. Jeremiah 1:5 says God knew you before you were born, and He appointed you to be a spokesman to the world. That's God's business -- souls. And our business should be focused on God's business -- that's where the greatest profit will always be found.

As you write, as you try to find time to write, as you block out times on your calendar to write, when you get up early or stay up late to write, when you get one more rejection, when one more editor ignores your emails, when one more person raises their eyebrows when you tell them you are a writer, remember -- you and God are in business together.

And His business never fails, He always pays on time, He always pays well, and His retirement plan is out of this world!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Evangeline's Super-Duper Helpful Time-Saving Tips

Since The Dragon and the Turtle came out in August, Mom and I have been concentrating a lot of energy on marketing. We’ve done interviews, booksignings, school visits, and readings. Those events—especially the ones with kids—are a lot of fun. But they’re also time-consuming and exhausting.

More than once I’ve found myself wishing for a quiet day at home, and the longer I ignored my WIP, the crankier I got. But trying to grab an hour here and an hour there in between other commitments didn’t exactly produce fresh-squeezed creative juice.

I know many authors struggle with balancing the creative side of writing with the business side. I certainly don’t know all the tricks. But over the past few weeks, I’ve discovered a few ways to snatch some writing time even while marketing our new release. Here’s my list of helpful hints:

1. Fast food. The health nuts have given this convenience a bad name, but when you need to spend the afternoon writing—not planning a balanced meal—Pizza Hut is your friend. Besides, tomato sauce is a vegetable.
2. Wear your clothes more than once before washing. Admittedly, this is easier for me since I spend a lot of time sitting at my laptop, not getting dirty. It can be a challenge for young children who tend to spill three of their three meals a day on their clothes and for husbands who cycle on their lunch hour. But as long as you don’t have to actually be around your family, the Wear Twice method works just fine.
3. Just say no. Yes, we all know it’s hard to refuse that PTA member or Sunday School committee organizer. But I find if you scream, “No, no, no, no,” while looking around wildly as if expecting a monster, alien, or IRS agent to materialize behind your shoulder, people stop asking and start to avoid you in general.
4. Cultivate free-range dust bunnies. If you don’t have time to clean your house, why not consider raising free-range dust bunnies? I really think this market is going to take off. I mean, everybody loves the organic, free-range, hormone-free chicken they serve at KFC, right? Why not bunny?
5. Finally, if your family simply won’t go away, try ignoring them. I’m good at this, apparently. Below is a picture my son took of me working. I have no recollection of him snapping this photo.

Like I said, I’m no expert. I’m relatively new to this writing business thing. I’m sure other authors have developed their own strategies. And I have the feeling I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to time-saving methods. Next, I intend to explore the possibilities of espresso combined with No-Doze.

So, writers out there, how do you balance the business of writing with the creative side? Does anyone have any tips for me to add to my list?

Evangeline Denmark has co-authored two children’s books, The Dragon and the Turtle (available now) and The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari (available 1-11-11) and also writes adult fiction. Her ability to take things seriously was severely impaired by an accident in college, despite this, or maybe because of it, she leads an almost normal life. You can find Evangeline online at and

Monday, October 18, 2010

Business or Ministry?

You may think that your writing is a ministry. Well I agree. It should be. We should have the spirit of ministry wherever we go, whatever we do, and in all our words. But writing is also a business. You may not like to think of it that way, but if you are at all trying to get anything published, then you have entered the business of writing.

A publishing house (whom you want to publish your book) is a business. They must make enough money to produce books, distribute them, and pay their employees as well as other expenses. It IS a business as well as a ministry. You can’t keep the ministry going if you don’t pay attention to the business side.

You must think of your writing as a business as well as a ministry. In this day and age, you can’t have one without the other. Writing doesn’t do any good as a ministry if you don’t take care of business.

A church must take care of business to keep their doors open. Mission organizations must take care of business to keep their doors open and help people. A missionary must raise money before they can go out on the mission field. And writers must take care of business to get published and get their message into the hands of needy readers.

So take care of business.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Banking on Writing

While the business side of writing is not my forte, I have learned a few things that help. Most of my writing contracts have earned very little. I think my first check for writing was $10! I'm now at the stage where some of my contracts are in the $1000 range, but I haven't yet sold a large work, like a book. So keep that in mind as you read the ideas below. They are designed for writers who are beginning to bring in a little income, but not a full-time salary.
  • Set up a separate bank account for your writing. I started with a business account, but soon found the extra fees weren't worth the amount I used in extra services. I switched to a personal account that was separate from our family account and was much happier. It meets all my needs with no extra fees. That may change someday, but for now it's the best choice.
  • I use my debit card or checks from my personal writing account for all my writing purchases so they are easy to track.
  • I write the purpose of each expenditure on my writing related receipts. I can deduct a percentage for meals eaten when I attend a writing meeting, but I can deduct the full amount for meals when attending a conference or seminar, so I'm careful to designate those kinds of details.
  • Periodically I record my receipts in a central location where I write down all income and expenditures that are writing related. I've devised little codes to remind myself whether the expenditure was for a conference, a board meeting, supplies, etc. Smart people use spreadsheets for this kind of thing. Maybe one day I'll be that smart. Right now it's just a little sheet of paper in my desk. (Recorded receipts go into an envelop.) At tax time I work from my list and hang onto the receipts in case anything is questioned.
  • With four children still at home my writing income disappears quickly. I decided from the beginning to tuck at least 10% away each time I'm paid to give back to the LORD. This tiny amount has become a huge blessing to me and perhaps the most fun part of having my own earnings. If I made $50 bucks on writing, at least $5 gets tucked away. It isn't much, but enough $5 tucked away and I have something worth sharing. Then I pray. The LORD shows me where that tithe is to go. There are few things as fun, especially when I'm feeling financially poor, than feeling that prompting inside and slipping some cash to the place it should go.
  • I recently opened a savings account attached to my writing account. I put 10% into it each time I am paid. I didn't do this for a long time because my family's needs are so great, but a few months ago I felt led to pursue this. I only have a small amount in this account right now, but it's been fun watching it grow, sometimes only by $5-$10 a time. The whole chunk may end up going to one of the kids instead of being reinvested in my writing. That's the season I am in. But in the perfect world that account would grow to help cover a writer's conference or the cost of equipment break-downs.
  • I find a tiny way to splurge when I get paid. It's not usually much--a Starbuck's coffee with a writer friend or a new shirt off the clearance rack for one of the kids, but being able to spend a little something the way I want helps me celebrate my work and motivates me to go after that next writing contract.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Business of Writing

We are focusing on the business of writing this month at ACFW Colorado's The Inkwell.

Most of us have the luxury of writing full time. But if you are taking your writing seriously, selling the occasional article or devotional, and/or are under contract/have published a book, then you'll need to consider various options.

When I first started publishing devotionals and articles, I didn't get paid enough for the IRS to care about that piddly income. But when I started proofreading for Barbour (ahem . . . ten years ago), my hubby encouraged me to find a name for my "business." I laughed. Right! So I came up with the name. Still, added to my income as a Christian school teacher, it was okay for a second income.

Then during the 2004-2005 school year, the Lord started nudging me toward resigning from my teaching position and going full-time, editing and writing. Totally freelance. Scary!! Then I really had to get serious about setting up a business.

The first thing I had to decide was what type of business would I be (for tax purposes) and were there options I might want to pursue later. With our daughter's help—she's a tax accountant—we decided that I would stay as I was—sole proprietorship, using my social security number as my Federal tax ID number. I went to the bank with that info and records of past years filing a Schedule C with our joint income tax form, and opened a business account. I also had to have this information for setting up our medical insurance as a Business of One group.

Then came the serious job of keeping up-to-date records of income and expenses, including mileage on the car every time I went out on writing/editing related business. For a couple of years, I kept separate files for income (invoices) and expenses (receipts). Kathy gave me a list of what I can legitimately claim, and I threw all those receipts into a folder. Which my husband then waded through each year when he filled out the Schedule C.

After a couple of years of that, he set up a few Xcel templates for me so I could keep track of things all year long. First, he set up an income template on which I record the date I finish a job, who the job was for, the specific project title, what I did (writing or editing or conference), and how much I was to receive. He has another column that keeps a running total of my income. Later I went in and added one more column—when I received payment—because of normal human error in losing an invoice or an editor forgetting to send my invoice to accounts payable.

He also set up a separate template for mileage, as that is figured differently on the business deductions.

Finally he set me up with an expense form. It has columns for the date the expense was incurred, the business name, product or service rendered, what category it will go under on the Schedule C, and the amount. Then when he does the taxes, he can do a simple sort (well, simple for him! LOL) and write the totals in the proper places. I hang onto the receipts just in case the IRS wants actual proof of my expenses. So far, that's not happened.

I'm willing to share these forms with anyone who is interested. They're not copyrighted, but they are flexible and you can work within the templates to set up something that works for you. Either leave a comment here with your e-mail address so I can send them to you, or e-mail me directly at marjorievawter at gmail dot com.

Marjorie Vawter is a freelance editor and writer. She currently serves as ACFW Colorado Area Coordinator.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

Question: When is a writer successful enough to stop learning?

Answer: Never.

Just like any other profession, the life of a writer needs to be an on-going and ever growing process, otherwise it will become old and stale. This means staying on top of the market, honing one's skills, and not being afraid to take risks.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. I said risks.

It's quite easy to sit back and dab at that which has become safe and familiar. But think. Great authors did not become that way by playing it safe, by playing follow-the-leader. They became who they are by being different and taking chances. By "boldly going where no man has gone before."

Shakespeare. Poe. Twain. Fitzgerald. Lewis. Tolstoy. Austin. Tolkien. King. Rowling. These are just a few who carved their names into the tree of literature not only by being great writers, but also by being risk takers.

I encourage you--writers young and old, new and seasoned--to take hold of the gift God gave you. Allow Him to push it outside the box. Outside your comfort zone. Give Him permission to teach you: Take classes. Go to seminars. Find a mentor. Maybe even write outside your genre. Outside your safety zone. See what can happen when you allow God to push you beyond your boundaries.

Whether you're a newbie or multi-published author, ACFW has great tools available for those who are looking for ways to walk down that road. The Storycrafter's Seminar is one of them. Coming November 13th to Thornton, Colorado, Susan May Warren will offer techniques that help turn an idea into a story. Great seminar for those who need help with the basics. Great seminar for those who need help with brain freeze. Great seminar for those who wish to add a little spice to their writing stew.

Then, on February 5, 2011, the 3rd Annual Peak Writing Conference will take place in Colorado Springs, featuring award-winning editor, best-selling author and speaker Karen Ball, and Alive Communications agent Andrea Heinecke. Join us as these talented ladies share their combined experience ranging from fiction to non-fiction, and from simple books to complex novels.

Coming April 8-9, 2011, to the ACFW Colorado retreat, is New York Times best-selling author and keynote speaker Cec Murphey. Known as the "Man Behind the Words," Cec's passion is to stimulate people's minds and nourish their souls.

And finally, link up with a local ACFW chapter each month to hear seasoned speakers, writers, and professionals talk about everything from encouraging God's call on your life to what a publisher looks for in a novel to how to handle trauma in the emergency room (great tool if you are writing an emergency room scene). Not a chapter in your area? Now would be a good time to start one up. You can get more information on "how to" by contacting our Colorado Area Coordinator, Margie Vawter.

In the words of Captain James T. Kirk of the starship USS Enterprise, "All your people must learn before you can reach for the stars." (-- Kirk, "The Gamesters of Triskelion", stardate 3259.2) And what better time to learn, than now!

(For details on the above opportunities, visit our web page at

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Confessions of a Non-Traditional Student

It was a dark and stormy night in the little village of Coldwater, Ohio, when the young widow determined she had one of two choices. She could continue working low paying jobs and surviving on Social Security benefits, or she could step out of her comfort zone and investigate the possibility of a secondary education.

A local community center offered evening classes in *Word Processing, where our widow enrolled and completed the classes with enthusiasm and determination. However, upon completion of the Word Processing classes, she found herself still unable to secure gainful employment. Determined to improve her lot in life, she pushed forward and endeavored to take her secondary education one step further.

One bright and sunny afternoon she drove to the neighboring village of St. Mary’s and visited the branch campus of Wright State University. There she met with an advisor who showed the widow the educational opportunities and financial assistance available to a women in her situation. The adviser concluded the interview with, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

With her head spinning and the front seat of her rusted out 1980 Chevette strewn with registration materials, our widow drove home with an entirely new outlook on life. There was a whole world of opportunity out there and she wanted a piece of it. “What do I want to be when I grow up?” she pondered.

Arriving home to her twelve-year-old son and nineteen-year-old daughter the widow discussed the possibility of her entering college as a part-time student. The twelve-year-old son’s reaction was, “Mom, don’t you think you’re a little old to be going to college,” and the nineteen-year-old daughter shrugged with a “Whatever.”

After much research, soul searching, and discussions with her advisor, our ambitious student of 42 determined she would enroll that fall, not as a part-time student, but as a full-time student working in the faculty offices. And so, she began her educational journey at the branch campus, majoring in Social Work. Three quarters later, she completed her Associates Degree in English at the little campus by the lake. (Even at the ripe old age of 42, we often change our major.) That summer she began French classes at the main campus in Dayton, Ohio, and in May 1993, our widow earned her B.A. in English and Professional Writing, walked with her class, and graduated with a 3.8 GPA.

As you probably have assumed by now, I was the widowed mother of two who became a non-traditional student at a major university at the age of 42. In addition to earning my degree, I received an amazing hands-on education in computer usage. At that time PCs were only beginning to run in Windows with a mouse. That is correct, up until 1991, all PCs ran in DOS (Disc Operating System). Only Macintosh used a mouse, and only geeks used a Mac. (Yes, I admit I was a PC snob.)

Through the years I have been blessed with computer training opportunities offered though my employers. I have been blessed to learn new software programs and to advance that knowledge through subsequent employers and positions.

Now, my writing career has opened a plethora of opportunities to learn. This past year I completed the two year Apprentice course of study with the Christian Writer’s Guild and intend to begin the Journeyman course of study next year. I have attended several writing seminars, numerous lectures at our ACFW meetings, two Christian Writer’s Guild Conferences and am registered to attend my third in February 2011. I have attended one National ACFW Conference and one Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference. The classes at these conferences are informative, encouraging and keep me on track with my writing. I hesitate to mention the numerous books on the craft that I lug home each time I attend a conference.

Thanks to my education and training, today I have a good paying job that I truly enjoy, but a job that I hope to retire from in eight years when I begin my career as a writer and public speaker. With the Lord’s blessing it may be sooner than eight years, but that will depend on my success as a writer and speaker. As you can tell from my late entry into college, I seem to be a late bloomer, and it takes me awhile to get things right. (I didn’t learn to swim until I was 30.)

I intend to be a lifelong learner, and I advise anyone of any age to do the same. It keeps your mind alert and functioning and makes you a much more interesting individual.

*For those unfamiliar with a Word Processor, it was a type of stand-alone office machine that combined the keyboard text-entry and printing functions of an electric typewriter with a dedicated processor – like a computer processor – for the editing of text. Word processors usually featured a monochrome display and had the ability to save documents on memory cards or diskettes. This was 1989, and personal computers were in their infancy. Even the Commodore was only recently available to the general public.

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