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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, July 20, 2011

Freedom To Be

This was my second 4th of July as a citizen of this great country. I suspect that statement alone will cause many of you who know me to sit up and pay attention. Because I look like and probably sound like I always belonged in America.

Well, like the adopted child is sometimes more special to the adoptive parents because they chose that child, I, too, am an adopted child, but I got to choose my country. Originally born in Canada, I came to the US 12 years ago and married my love, Patrick.

There were many times I've felt like a red-headed step-child -- there, but not really belonging. And the struggle to Become wasn't easy. Some day, ask me to share the story with you over a large cup of coffee.

But all along I knew I was supposed to be here, in America, with Patrick. And that's what kept me going when all around me the devil was telling me no.

The 4th of July reminds me of the struggles and battles for freedom that have gone on in this country for 235 years. The fireworks reminds me of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, and did it gladly, without reservation. The parties remind me that we need to celebrate our freedom every single day, not just one hot day in July.

And all of this leads me to remember who paid the ultimate price for our eternal freedom -- Jesus Christ. Were it not for Him, many of us wouldn't be here.

And I'm one of those.

You see, before I was a Christian, before I was a writer, before I was an American, I lived a life that many others didn't survive. And as I went through the citizenship process, I realized many things I'd done in my past should have either landed me in prison or dead. And the Lord saved me from myself for this time. As a result of my past, I write the kinds of stories I write -- a little sassy, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes dark and edgy, sometimes soft and cozy.

As you celebrate our country's birthday, as you think about freedom, consider those things in your past that prepared you for where you are today. Thank God for your past, and ask Him how you can turn that into something productive today and for the future. Allow Him to use your mistakes to deepen your writing, sharpen your characters, and strengthen your plots.

Ask God for the freedom to be what He planned for you to be.

As for me, I have no doubt I was destined to be an American. Even as a little girl, I used to look at the map or watch planes flying overhead, and wonder why my ancestors stopped when they got to Newfoundland. The winters are long, the countryside is rugged, the ground is rocky, and the summers are a flash in the pan. I often said, "Why didn't they stay on the boat for another few hundred miles?" Even as a child, I wanted to be an American.

And now God, through His grace, has given me the freedom to be -- an American, a Christian, and a writer. How cool to belong to American Christian Fiction Writers -- a group that confirms who I was long before I Became.

God bless the USA, and God bless each of you.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jubilee

Golden showers burst over our heads as my family and I lay on a blanket, watching the brilliance of fireworks in the night sky. The bursts and sparkles were choreographed to a beautiful rendition of "God bless America." My husband sang along softly, sending a prayer for God's favor on our nation even as I fought a big lump in my throat. Thoughts of freedom, jubilation, and sacrifice sang through my mind and tears pricked my eyes even I whooped and hollered and celebrated.

In ancient Israel every half-century was declared a year of jubilee. Debts were forgiven, slaves were freed, and land was returned to original owners. Across the nation ram's horn were blown and families celebrated as their children and inheritance were returned to them.

In a spiritual sense we, as Christians, have been given a constant state of jubilee. Thanks to all Christ accomplished at the Cross, we are free and forgiven--our sin debts cancelled and our inheritance established. Every day we have something to celebrate--to whoop and holler and blow our horns about.

Because of Jesus' great sacrifice, we are invited to live as the children of God. We're part of the family. Never rejected. Always in the presence of the Holy One. Every single day we walk in freedom from sin and eternal damnation. Every moment of our lives we are connected to the Holy Spirit who lives within us, and He empowers us to walk in our inheritance of grace and prepares us for the glory of eternity with our God.

But do we live each day as if this is true?

Several years ago I came into a new understanding of all the cross had done for me. Though I had accepted Jesus into my life at a young age, I lived a life of egg shell walking--trying desperately to do everything right and never feeling I "lived up." A cloud of condemnation hung over me, and I was captive to self-inflicted guilt, inadequacy, and unworthiness. God's love and grace would break through on occasion, but I would quickly snuff it out in self-rejection as I allowed the opinion of others, or my own unrealistic set of expectations to determine how I saw myself. Scripture was a hand-book to discern how to be better and a measuring stick of my failures. I was imprisoned by my need to perform well.

Through a series of events God revealed Truth to me. The walk of faith wasn't so much about what I had achieved as it was about all Jesus had already achieved for me. Any good deed I did was filthy rags compared to the perfection of Jesus, but the Good News was He placed His righteousness over me like a brand new robe. I began to be clothed in HIS identity. I started to see myself as free to live outside the guilt--to be believe I was forgiven, treasured, bought-with-a price, and empowered to serve.

Early in this journey, after a particularly enlightening experience, I awoke to the Lord's Voice. He said, "It is for freedom I have set you free."

I recognized His Words as Scripture and quickly went to my Bible, hungry to know the rest of the verse. I found it in Galatians 5:1. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (NIV)

I thought about the verse and how it was so important to the LORD for me to know and remember its Truth that He actually spoke directly to me about it. I realized that the enemy would try to take away this new-found freedom. Through the words and actions of others, through my own failing and success, and through difficult circumstances, the evil one would seek to entice me back into the spiritual prison I'd locked myself it. He wanted to keep me a slave to inadequacy, failure, guilt, and performance-driven behavior.

But God's jubilee had come! I was free to live as my Father's beloved! I was free to believe that I was wholly accepted and wholly loved. I was free to walk without shame . . . in jubilant, beautiful freedom. This was my jubilee. Though Jesus has secured my inheritance over 2,000 years before, I finally accepted the right to live as a free woman.

This July, consider the concept of jubilee. Jesus returned to you your full inheritance as God's child. Have you given yourself permission to be free to receive it?

(By the way, I'll be sharing a little more about this at the More Than Conquerors Encouragement Series in Aurora on July 27th. If you'd like more information, email me: Paula@soulscents.us)

A writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God’s grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website, Soul Scents, offers devotional thoughts, 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 breathe His fragrance.

Fireworks photo taken from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7862527@N02/2520923912,
The 2008 World Pyro Olympics in Manila, the Philippines.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Admired Author? You!

I had a hard time deciding who to write about for my Admired Author post. Of course there’s no shortage of writers I find fascinating for different reasons.

Charles Dickens, who relentlessly shed light on the social injustice of his day.

The Brontë Sisters, reserved pastor’s daughters who pioneered my favorite genre—paranormal romance.

Jane Austen, witty and ahead of her time.

C.S. Lewis, a writer as integral to my own faith as the Sunday school teacher who led me to the Lord.

Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker for exploring the nature of humankind and the themes of good and evil by means of supernatural plotlines.

Anne Rice for capturing my imagination with her florid style.

J.K. Rowling for creating characters beloved by millions, including me.

Kristin Billerbeck for her honesty.

A recent find, Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games trilogy, for exemplifying tension on every page.

My own mother, Donita K. Paul, for trail-blazing the fantasy genre in CBA.

The same authors Mary Davis applauded in her post. Writers, like me, who keep at it even while doubting their own sanity.

With all these—and many more—authors who’ve captured my attention, how could I pick one who stands out the most? With the exception of Kristin and my mom, whom I know and love, these writers’ lives interest me because of their accomplishments, not because of who they really are/were. Their work commands my respect.

My deepest admiration is reserved for those writers I know personally. The people in my critique groups, friends I’ve met at conferences or workshops, those who are willing to open their lives to fellow writers and share the journey.

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably one of those people. Know that you have my admiration and thanks.

Evangeline Denmark has storytelling on her heart and in her blood. The daughter of novelist, Donita K. Paul, Evangeline grew up living and breathing good stories. She has co-authored two children’s books: The Dragon and the Turtle (2010) and The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari (2011) and also writes adult fiction. Evangeline is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, serving as chapter secretary. You can find Evangeline online at www.evangelinedenmark.com and www.dragonandturtle.com

Monday, June 20, 2011

Author, Author

Who do I admire as an author?


That person sitting in front of her or his computer wondering why they ever thought they could write. They started out not knowing anything about writing and blissfully wrote. Then sent their proposals off to agents and editors, expectantly waiting that acceptance letter and contract.


Then that person started learning the craft of writing and realized just how much they didn’t know. They are embarrassed by what they first wrote and sent out for people to see. Were they insane the day they decided to start that first novel? Was the prodding of the Lord really just indigestion?


They question their call.


They question their passion.


They question their sanity.


They call it quits.


But the writing muse won’t leave them alone. They get the next great idea, and the passion to write is rekindled stronger than before. Dare they sit back down at the computer and put their tender fingers to the keys and write?


Yes!


More writing.


More rejections.


More doubts.


More years.


Should they quit? For real this time? Are they wasting their time? Their family is whispering. People are laughing behind their back.


But they know they can’t quit. They must write and write and write. It’s not what they do, but part of who they are.


Those are the authors I admire. The ones who haven’t had a book published yet but also haven’t quit for good. The ones who are discouraged but keep tapping away at the keyboard. The ones who keep learning to improve their craft with every keystroke.


I admire your persistence.


Keep On Writing!!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What's To Be Admired?


The longer I work on my writing, the more I have a greater appreciation for what an accomplishment it is to be a published author. There might be some authors who climb the ladder by skipping a few rungs but I think this is the reality. An author negotiates each step up the ladder feeling like they are blindfolded, handcuffed and with ankle weights on. When they reach what they perceive is the top of the ladder and “voila”, remove the blindfold...they see that the ladder’s rungs have grown exponentially.

So, what’s to be admired?

I am amazed by authors like Tracie Peterson and Nora Roberts who are so prolific. How can they write so many books in a year? You know they must have learned how to be disciplined and treat their writing like the job it is.

I delight in authors who can make characters come alive and not seem like clichés. I recently was introduced to a Colorado author, Kristen Heitzmann. I read some of her books and her characters seemed like they were real people with strengths and weaknesses trying to live life. Lee Child and Harlen Coben have some unforgettable characters that have hooked me and their upcoming books are always on my “wish list”.

Who doesn’t admire Jane Austen? Okay. There are probably some of you. But her style and word choice can tickle your ears like a beloved melody that is familiar if not known to all. I love the clear voice of Lisa Samson’s “Hollywood Nobody” young adult series. You find yourself zipping through all four books in no time. “I’m just sayin.”

I will never forget staying up into the wee hours reading Brock & Bodie Thoene’s Zion Covenant and Zion Chronicles series and trying in vain to stifle my sobs so I wouldn’t wake up my husband. And it takes a lot to move me to tears.

I regard highly Vince Flynn, C. J. Box and other thriller and mystery writers who keep me guessing or so involved in the story that I can’t wait to finish the book. (I experience many late nights reading with my Kindle and reading light so as not to disturb my husband who probably wouldn’t notice even if I left the overhead light on. Do we see a pattern here?)

Even the authors who share their knowledge with us about the craft of writing are certainly worthy of my admiration. Although I may struggle to remember their words of wisdom and to apply them, they have turned on the lights for me in more ways than I can list in this short blog post.

So, what’s to be admired? The scores of writers who have persevered and poured out their guts, funny bone or poetic phrases for our enjoyment and awe. Congratulations! And for the rest of us, keep writing and maybe one day someone will admire our use of the gifts God has given us that we struggle to express on paper.

************

Elaine Clampitt is Secretary/Treasurer of Mile High Scribes. Her normal schedule has been interrupted with the return of two of her children home from college for the summer. She is trying not to let this interfere with her writing pursuits, although, with ice hockey season coming to a close, she anticipates having more time to write, watch Hawaii 5-0 reruns and travel to warm and sunny places.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Author Admiration

June is Authors I Admire month here on the Inkwell.While I admire anyone who finishes a book, there isn't room to honor each of you individually, so before I go any further can I just say, "KUDOS!" to all you authors out there, published or unpublished!

I planned to write several short paragraphs on a variety of authors including some of my favorite contemporary CBA authors, but I instead found my heart drawn to the late Madeleine L'Engle. She has impacted my authoress heart perhaps as much or more than anyone I've read. My hope is that my thoughts of her will encourage your writing journey as they have mine.

Madeleine L'Engle
November 29, 1918 - September 06, 2007


Madeleine L'Engle published 63 books in her lifetime of 88 years. The most famous, of course, is A Wrinkle in Time. Part of the reason I celebrate Madeleine today is that she persevered. According to the sources I checked A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times. But Madeleine didn't give up.

Madeleine's perseverance and tenacity are certainly to be admired, but as I've read her non-fiction books I've also experienced her as a woman of great humor, intellect, and compassion. While her thoughts of life ran deep, she also didn't take herself too seriously. She accepted that the world was full of those more talented and intelligent than she, but believed she still had something to contribute. Her faith journey was quite unique, and it inspires me. She interacted in a culture of great intellects, many of who were agnostic or atheistic, but despite and environment that (to me) didn't seem to support faith, she emerged as a woman who not only knew God, but offered Him, in her own, unique way, to those she encountered.

But perhaps it is my personal experiences with her writing and the briefest of experiences of her as a person that made me choose her for this post. Here's my story: As a youth, my brother loved the Wrinkle trilogy and encouraged me to read them. However, they freaked me out! Something about them tested the safe little "Christian" box I had created for myself. After graduating from college, I gave them another try while teaching 3rd graders in public school. My closed mind was ready to think (a least a little) outside the box, and I was blown away by how these fiction stories impacted me. I explored new ideas I hadn't dared to think about life, God, control, freedom, good and evil. I couldn't help myself. I stayed up late one night and scribbled a long, messy missive pouring my heart out to the famous author. Not too long after I was surprised to receive a hand-written response scribbled to me on a family letter that told of Madeleine's personal life--her children and travels. Soon after my fiance took me to hear her speak, and I got my first autographed book. Somehow I felt my little 23 year-old heart and that of this woman I greatly admired had truly connected.

Recently I had another heart-connection as I read A Circle of Quiet, a non-fiction book where she shares a lot of her inner self--her thoughts on writing, faith, and interacting with the world. In this little book I was especially impacted by two things. The first is a personal story she told. She sets up the scene by talking about how she'd spent her thirties writing and being rejected while she raised her children. She believed the surrounding neighbors thought her an oddity, and she weathered what she perceived to be whispered comments about poor Madeleine who spent all those hours scribbling away but would never be published. (Whether or not the neighbors were talking, I don't know, but I have, of course, imagined just such gossip circulating about me and felt her angst!) Madeleine had told herself that her forties would be years of productivity and success, when her books actually made it into print and she began her life as a true author.

Madeleine then went on to write about her 40th birthday. It was on that very day she received another of those 27 rejection letters. She decided then and there that she wasn't spending another decade writing only to be rejected. She began to dismantle her office, telling herself she would never write again. After she'd been cleaning out the office for a while she realized that in her mind she was composing a story as she worked--a story about an author who weathered rejection. She says at that moment she realized she was a writer. She would never quit. Madeleine talked about how the decision, made in the midst of rejection, was more powerful than it could ever have been if it had been reached at any other time. Again, I had BEEN there and her words resonated deep within. I was a writer. I had determined to be one in the midst of rejection, not just success. I would persevere.

The second thing that impacted me greatly was a thought she had about what she had to offer the world. I can't find my book right now or I would give you the direct wonderful quote. But here's the heart of what she said. Madeleine was told by one of her intellectual friends that she had nothing to offer the world that had never been said. As she processed his comment, she came to believe that he was right. She may never have anything to say that the world had never heard--but it didn't matter. It had never been said the way she would say it.

Then and there I felt validated. I may not be the smartest or more original person I know. I may not even have anything especially new or profound to offer. But what I do have is me. What God wants to say through me will not be said the same way when offered by anyone else. It is the Lord's truths, offered through my fingerprints, that will leave their mark on just the people who could only hear it the way I say it. And that is enough.

My interactions with Madeleine have offered me perspective in the face of disappointment, faith that grows outside my safe little boxes, a determination to persevere, and a belief that what I say has value to the world. In my opinion, Madeleine has given me some of the most important gifts a writer needs.


A writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God’s grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website, Soul Scents, offers devotional thoughts, 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 breathe His fragrance.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Stones or Stones of Remembrance

On Memorial Day—the day designated to remember those fallen heroes of our country who died protecting our freedoms—is a milestone each year. Yesterday at my church we had a very moving time of remembering these men and women.

Our church is right across the street from the south side of Crown Hill Cemetery in Wheat Ridge. My mother, along with several other relatives, is buried there. Just north of a large section of military graves marked with the distinctive white grave markers: memorial stones giving the name and rank of the military person buried there.

I'm not one to visit my mother's grave very often, because she's not there: she's with her beloved Savior. But every Mother's Day I do go and leave a bouquet of flowers, honoring the memory of a wonderful, godly mother. A milestone—a time to remember.

In our families, we celebrate milestones, as Paula pointed out. Births and each succeeding birthday. Salvations and baptisms. Graduations. Weddings. Promotions at work. New jobs. Or, in my case, rejections (or redirections) of my writing projects, whether they are devotionals or articles or books. And most recently, an acceptance of my first fiction. We celebrated with cheesecake (from my son), a bouquet of flowers from Paula and ACFW Colorado at our annual retreat, and dinner out with my family.

With this first fiction sale, the most special milestone for me was when my daughter posted on Facebook how proud she was of her mother for getting her first fiction contract . . . and the revelation that she'd secretly read and liked my very first attempt at writing a novel—a historical fiction for middle grade students—which she must have discovered buried in a file drawer! I don't know if it will ever see the light of day again. More than likely it will stay in the drawer as a stone of remembrance. :)

One of my uncles passed away this month. We had a "memorial" service, remembering the things about Jim that made him the man of God he was. Particularly he loved to sing. Last evening at church, my pastor and another man sang a duet, an old song titled, "I've Discovered the Way of Gladness." About halfway through, I leaned over to my son and said, "Uncle Jim loved to sing this song." He nodded and said he'd been thinking it was an Uncle Jim type of song. A small, simple stone of remembrance.

And today . . . we're going to spend some time at our family cabin near Eldora (Nederland). My great-grandfather built that cabin about 80 years ago. Over the years, we've spent many  days and nights at our Hessie Hideway. Here's a picture of my siblings and me on the porch of our cabin . . . (ahem) many, many moons ago. I'm the one in the middle. It's there I meet the Lord either alone or with family and friends. It's there I learned to love the mountains. There are many stones, literally, of remembrance at our cabin and the surrounding Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. And today we'll add another.



Marjorie Vawter has lived in Colorado only fifteen years, but she has a lifetime of Colorado memories stored up. She currently lives and writes in Westminster with her husband, Roger, and her 18-month-old Siamese mix, Sinatra.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Anchors and Other Vague Sailing Metaphors


It’s hard to note milestones when you don’t feel like you’re moving at all.

A friend of mine recently complained that even a rejection letter would be preferable to the great, soul-eating silence from the agents she’s queried. I understood exactly what she meant.

In the writing world we view rejections as milestones. It’s been said many times that receiving those rejection letters is part of the process. It means you’re getting your work out there. Blah, blah, blah.

But when you’re stuck in the Bermuda Triangle of publishing, the panicked questions take over.

Did the agent/editor receive my query? Should I send a follow up? Will that tick them off? What if my manuscript was so bad they figured it was a joke? Did I actually even send the query, or was that a dream? Am I dreaming now? Do I even exist?

When you’re this thoroughly lost and confused, it’s time for an anchor, something to tether you to reality. My critique partners regularly joke about tying a rope around my waist so that when I jump off a cliff, they can pull me back up. Critique groups are a writer’s sanity check. I wouldn’t hesitate to call any of the women in my writing group and ask, “Are you reasonably sure that I do, in fact, exist?”

I think only one of them would take that opportunity to really mess with my head.

Another way to drop anchor might be to go over notes you’ve taken in workshops or read an agent’s blog. I heard some good advice from an agent at a recent conference. She suggested that when you send that query off, you should look ahead in your calendar and make a note of the date four weeks out. Then forget about the query. Don’t sweat it. When that day comes and goes, it’s safe to do a follow up. Tips like this can help writers navigate the doldrums of the submission process.

You can also break free of the holding pattern by simply telling yourself, “It’s time to move on.” I know it feels like abandonment to leave that project you love and start on a new one, but this is one of the few things in the writing journey that is solely in the writer’s control. You can move forward just by writing. You can turn your stint in No Man’s Land into a milestone. In a few months time, you’ll look back and say, “I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I (yes, I) decided to move on, and look what I’ve accomplished because of that.”


Evangeline Denmark has to take Dramamine in order to even look at a boat. She has co-authored two children’s books, The Dragon and the Turtle (Waterbrook Press, 2010) and The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari (Waterbrook Press, 2011) and also writes adult fiction. You can find Evangeline online at www.evangelinedenmark.com and www.dragonandturtle.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Doing What You Don't Want to Do

The Apostle Paul said, famously, and this is my paraphrase, "I do what I don't want to do, and I don't do what I want to do."

The Writers Life is chock-a-block full of examples of this lament.

Take me, for example.

I don't blog.

I know, you're reading this on a blog, and you're thinking, "She doesn't know what it means to blog, obviously."

Allow me to repeat myself -- I don't blog. I don't sign up to blog. I don't read other people's blogs. I don't follow blogs. I don't friend blogs.

And yet here I am, doing as I have done since January 2009 (Yes, I went back and checked), something I don't want to do.

You might ask how that came about. Well, I missed a meeting. And got volun-told to blog.

Rule #1: Don't miss a meeting. Missing meetings might get you doing something you don't want to do, or you might miss out on doing something you really want to do.

And that leads me into Rule #2: Do what you don't want to do because it's not all about you. Sometimes your decision to participate is about others. See, this blog thing wasn't about fulfilling some desire in my heart to have millions of people read what I write. This blog was about being part of something bigger than myself, and being able to contribute to that.

And, like I said earlier, writing is about doing what you don't want to do.

I know people who say they are writers who never write; they just talk about writing. Maybe they get caught up in the research, or the outlining, or the plotting, or reading books on writing, or going to writers conferences. But they never actually start a story. Some of that is fear, some of it is a reluctance to put aside other activities and distractions, some is a lack of support or a lack of community.

Which brings me to Rule #3: If you are a writer, set a goal to write more than a list of books to get at the library or a schedule of conferences to attend this year. Write something that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. A story of some kind.

Rule #4: Find a community. Yes, that means join a writers group, find a critique group, join a book club -- anything that will bring you into a bunch of like-minded people who get you when you say you hear voices in your head.

Many people who write seem reluctant to join into a community of writers. Maybe the reasons are the same as above: fear, busyness, feeling like they're on the outside looking in. The only way to overcome fear is to jump in. The only way to overcome busyness is to make a date with yourself. The only way to not feel like you're on the outside is to join.

One of my characters says about herself: You don't join because you feel you don't belong, and you don't belong because you don't join.

This month, as you read these blogs about Milestones, consider what leaps of faith you need to make in your own writing --
Do you need to join?
Do you need to meet?
Do you need to write?

And if the answer to any of these questions is Yes, then make your mark on your writing path and join, meet, and write. You'll be glad you did, and so will all the others in your group.

Monday, May 16, 2011

No Thank You

A.K.A. The Rejection Letter.

This is a huge milestone and shouldn’t be so feared. Like Kathy wrote, don’t let it be a millstone weighing you down.

Many writers think of a “rejection” letter, as a negative thing. Rejection even sounds negative. So I like to think of them as “no thank you” letters. Well, there is a flip side to every coin, a silver lining in dark clouds.

A rejection is two-fold—besides your manuscript not being published at this time.

First, like the lion in Wizard of Oz, you should get a metal. Do you know what a rejection or no thank you letter means?! You had the courage to send off your baby for someone else to judge its worth. That is huge!

Until you have received your first no thank you letter, you aren’t really a writer. You may write, even write a lot, but until you’ve laid your baby on the alter of worthiness, you just write. I believe a writer writes for others. So send out that manuscript and boldly proclaim yourself as a writer, author, novelist. Proclaim them all.

Second, I whole-heartedly believe that a no thank you letter from an agent or editor is direction from the Lord. He knows where you need to be and when you need to be there. He knows the perfect timing for a particular work to get published to get it into the hands He has planned for it to touch lives. He knows when you are truly ready as well as your manuscript for publication.

You aren’t really being rejected but redirected by the Lord.

So next time you get a no thank you letter, give thanks to the Lord.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Milestones

My day started at the DMV. Kiddo #3 is now the proud owner of his driver's learners permit. He's driven twice today without event, and I managed to stay (mostly) calm through the whole experience. Today's his birthday, and tonight he umps his first official game.

Lots of milestones in the life of my Stephen, shown here celebrating his birthday with the biggest ice cream cone made at the self-serve station at the restaurant where we celebrated. We know it's the biggest because the waitress said so and took his picture.

As a mom it is easy for me to track and celebrate my children's milestones.

As a writer pursuing publication, paying attention to milestones is crucial. In a career where your deepest places, poured onto the page, get rejected based on cold, hard numbers, it's difficult to be vulnerable over and over--to keep hoping and believing and working. Even after that first published article or book, you're going to face disappointment and rejection. Which is why I believe it's important to celebrate those milestones.

Where ever you are in the writing journey, you've crossed a milestone. For most of us the first big milestone is writing something. The second is finding the courage to share it with someone else, and the third is walking into that critique group, writer's conference, or writer's group for the first time.

A huge milestone for me was actually saying to someone, "I'm a writer." I couldn't say that sentence for a long time.

When I typed the last page of my first novel, I crossed one of those I-can-never-turn-back kind of milestones. My family and I celebrated with a video and pizza. We had another celebration when I rewrote the book. Celebrating the milestones not only helped me stop and recognize progress, it helped my family see that I was serious about writing and reaching goals. In return, they began to show me respect as a writer instead of winking at my "hobby."

I still remember the glory of my first published piece, and the delight of receiving my first check as a writer. I think it was only $20, but it meant something because I'd crossed a milestone.

Rejection letters are milestones, too. They initiate us into the real world of writing where we have to weather the hard knocks with the rest of the crazies who write for publication. Those are important crossing points--and that's why you'll get chocolate if you come to HIS Writers and let us know about your latest rejection letter. It's not that we celebrate disappointment. We embrace the process, and then we celebrate our ability to survive it.

Here's a challenge for you: Take a few minutes to assess your personal personal writing milestones. Consider making a time-line. Put a sticker or happy face on each date when you crossed a milestone. Next to your markers write little notes about the importance of that milestone. You may want to also put specific prayers, promptings, Scriptures, and promises the Lord gives you about your journey.

Hang your time-line above your computer. Next time you feel like you're not making progress, look up to that tangible reminder of your journey. Acknowledge the courageous forward movement you've made.

Then be brave and tackle another milestone.

Could you do one more thing? Take a minute to comment on this blog and share some of your most treasured (or recent) milestones. I'd like to celebrate with you!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Milestone? Or Millstone? Your choice.

milestone It’s funny how the words “milestone” and “millstone” sound so similar, yet serve such different purposes. A milestone marks the mileage on a road, yet goes nowhere. A millstone grinds grain, yet never stops. On the other hand, the second definition for each are:

  1. Milestone – a significant point in development
  2. Millstone – a heavy burden

I find it ironic that the first word signifies movement, when the object itself clearly cannot move. Yet the second word weighs a millstone 2body down to the point of making one immobile, even though the round object itself suggests movement.

How can we apply this observation to our writing?

A milestone represents a goal, an immovable spot up the road that we long to reach. It remains solid and steadfast, symbolically cheering you on to reach its side. There may be other milestones on the road, but we must keep our eyes on the first one in order to reach the others.

So often, we put too many milestones in our path, scattering our thoughts as we race about trying to reach them all before we’ve taken the proper steps. This confuses us which ultimately results in the opposite effect – a millstone around our necks, pulling us down into deep, dark confusion. We want to meet our one-thousand-word-a-day goal, but we can’t stop daydreaming about becoming multi-published and traveling the world. Or we work on our romance, then set it aside for a sci-fi. Then decide maybe a political thriller would suit us more. The result is a lot of unfinished, unpolished manuscripts taking up kilobytes in a folder on our computer.

Pick a goal and stick with it. When that goal is reached, look to that next milestone up the road. With each post you past, you will get closer to your final destination. And about that millstone? Let’s leave it out of our writing and only roll it out when we want bread.

************

Kathy Kovach is the ACFW Rocky Mountain Zone Director, and author with HeartsonKathleen Kovach low res jpgg Presents and Barbour Publishing. She writes Spiritual Truth…With A Giggle, thus proving herself as one of God’s peculiar people. With a passion for story, she dissects movies on her Craft Cinema blog. Read the first chapters of her books at Fiction Finder and visit her at www.KathleenEKovach.com

Saturday, April 30, 2011

SEEDS


This past Wednesday was my day to blog about “resurrection.” But no matter how long I sat at my computer, nothing decent seemed to come out. So I closed up shop and decided to wait until Thursday. Surely Thursday I would feel inspired.

Thursday came and went. Nothing. Same with Friday. Nothing. Now it’s Saturday. In desperation I prayed, “Lord, where is my resurrection piece?”

His answer? “Your resurrection is in May.”

Huh?

“Okay, Lord," I said. You should know more than anyone else, we celebrated Your Son’s resurrection last week. That would be April, not May.”

“Yes, I know," He answered. But your resurrection is in May.”

Now, I’ve always been a fan of a good mystery, but not when it has to do with my life. So I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear me say I wasn’t satisfied with God’s answer. I wanted…no needed…to know more.

“Lord, we’re talking about my life right now, not some fiction book, so I really need to know what the heck is going on in May that would cause You to say that.”

In my mind’s eye I saw Him smile. Not a broad grin, but that quirky little smile He gives me whenever He has something special up His sleeve.

“What?” I asked. “Why are you smiling like that? What's going on in May?”

“Resurrection.”

And that's all He said.

Suddenly my mind started filling with all the happenings of next month: one daughter will be graduating from high school and moving on to college, another daughter will be graduating from college and moving on to the career of her dreams, my only son will be asking his girlfriend of four years to marry him, and I will be on the road to becoming a grandmother…again.

So many old seeds dying. So many new seeds coming to life. And my life will change with each one.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. –John 12:24 NIV

Then the picture became clear: All these seeds of mine were falling to the ground—seeds from my tree of life, seeds that needed to fall away so that they could burrow deep within the richness of God’s soil and become healthy trees of their own, bearing fruit and seeds from which many new trees would come. And with the falling of these seeds came another simple truth: God was clearing my plate so that He and I could write. So that He could resurrect the story He gave me over ten years ago.

It’s hard to let go. To let those seeds fall. But if they’re going to fall to the ground, who better to trust than the LORD Himself, Gardener of Life.

Yup, my resurrection month is May. And though my heart aches for the seeds that are passing on, I rejoice in knowing that another seed will soon be sprouting from my soil: The seed of writing His story.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Present and in Awe

This may sound strange, but I have never liked the traditional Easter call and response of “He is risen, He is risen indeed.”

It took me awhile to figure out why I got uncomfortable every Easter Sunday when the pastor said, “He is risen,” and all around me voices droned, “He is risen indeed.” Finally it occurred to me that this rote response lacks meaning. For me, that is. I know I’m probably in the minority, and I am certainly not advocating the removal of this part of Easter Sunday service. But for me the wonder and awe of the resurrection cannot be expressed in an automatic response.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get annoyed with the Bible for not giving me enough details. Something horrendously interesting will happen, and the scribe gives it one summary verse, and I’m going, “Hey, what happened next?”

Not so with the account of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I cannot help but be moved by the details of the event. Crowds chanting, a purple robe, a crown of thorns, darkness that came over the land, wine and vinegar, a tomb cut out of rock, spices, sunrise, a man dressed in white with a message for Mary Magdalene. Wow! It’s so much more than words. I can see it in my mind and feel it in my heart.

As writers, it’s our job to never lose our wonder in the world and its Creator, in humankind, in sound and sight, in touch and sent, in love. Anne Lamott puts it like this:

This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of--please forgive me--wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in on our small, bordered worlds. When this happens, everything feels more spacious. Try walking around with a child who's going, "Wow, wow! Look at that dirty dog! Look at that burned-down house! Look at that red sky!" And the child points and you look, and you see, and you start going, "Wow! Look at that huge crazy hedge! Look at that teeny little baby! Look at the scary dark cloud!" I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world--present and in awe.

Why does the account of Christ’s crucifixion have the power to affect us thousands of years after it was written? Because the vivid details make us see it anew every time we read it. The words make us present. And, most importantly, the story of the resurrection cannot fail to draw a completely personal response from our very core—awe.


Evangeline Denmark has storytelling on her heart and in her blood. The daughter of novelist, Donita K. Paul, Evangeline grew up living and breathing good stories. She has co-authored two children’s books, The Dragon and the Turtle (Waterbrook Press, 2010) and The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari (Waterbrook Press, 2011) and also writes adult fiction. Evangeline is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, serving as chapter secretary. You can find Evangeline online at www.breathenbreatheout.blogspot.com and www.dragonandturtle.com

Thursday, April 21, 2011

When Your Writing Needs Resurrection

We've all been there -- we have written ourselves into a corner and don't know where to go now.

This happened to me on the first book I ever wrote -- I got down to the second to last chapter, and still didn't know whodunnit, or why. No motive, no suspects, no alibi, no idea.

At this point, you can do one of the following:
1. Dump the entire book because it was a stupid idea to think YOU could write a book.
2. Send out a survey to 100 of your closest friends to ask them if they think you could write a book.
3. Read 100 blog posts from published authors who will confirm you couldn't write a book.
4. Read 100 newsletters from multi-published authors who will tell you that even if you did write a book, you wouldn't get it published because it's much too difficult and your skin isn't thick enough and you don't know the right people.
5. Read 100 success stories about published authors who were rejected dozens of times before getting published, then go back to work on your book.

I chose option 5. Okay, first I prayed. I went to my source, the One who gave me the story to begin with. I figured if God wrote the story through me, He knew whodunnit. And okay, I didn't read 100 success stories, but I did read a couple of books on writing mysteries, something I should have done before I ever sat down to write one. Then I went back into my book, set up some red herrings, some clues, some alibis, increased the tension, and WHAM! The killer jumped off the pages at me. The person with the least apparent reason to do it, the person nobody would suspect, but when I wrote in several clues and some hints and innuendoes, WOW! It made sense. And later, when I had several independent readers read my book, they were all satisfied with the ending, and did not suspect the killer.

That's what you want to hear!

So, when your writing needs resurrection, go to the Source -- pray. If you don't have time to pray, you don't have time to write. Then, don't be ashamed to go back to basics. Don't be too proud to learn some more, to ask questions, to ask advice of people in the writing business.

We're all in the same business, the same situation, and we all write for the same reason -- God has given us the story, and if we don't write it, He will find someone who will. So write, pray, resurrect the passion in you for the story. To God be the glory!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Recycle, Reuse, Resurrection

(Well Paula took my idea for a post, sort of. But it’s well worth repeating. Mine is more the resurrection of an idea in general whether it’s a full manuscript like Paula’s, a partially written story, or just a germ of an idea.)

I think we all have story ideas we have started and for one reason or another have abandoned. Whether we became disinterested in the idea, the idea fizzled out, or it had gotten rejected one too many times.

An editor recently mentioned to me she might be in need of historical series ideas and would be interested in seeing what I might have. No guarantees.

If an editor says this, you bet your booty I’m going to send her something as quick as my daughter’s woodpile cat can disappear. He may be big but he is lightening fast. :-)

Starting a series from scratch takes a long time, even to just get the overall idea then each individual novel in the series.

The key words with a time sensitive project are recycle, reuse, and resurrection. Since this editor didn’t need chapter samples from me, just the synopses, the work was cut in half, but still a lot of work. By recycling, reusing, and resurrecting, my work was again cut in half.

One.

Two.

Three.

And they were off. One I recycled a series idea and tweaked it for this different market. One I reused a single story idea and built on it for the other two stories I wanted to propose in the series. And one, I resurrected a story that had previously been rejected as a single title.

In a short time, I was able to send off three series proposal to this editor. Now I’m waiting to see if she bites on any of them.

What ideas do you have lurking or hiding in a drawer (or computer file) that need a facelift to give them new life? Go mining for gold.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dying to Live

This time of year is bittersweet for me. Over the years, the month of April has brought tests and challenges that were painful and difficult. My emotions remember that traumatic path and want to shy away from the memories. My mind wants to block out the events themselves.

One event happened 19 years ago. I was in the middle of dealing with a family-wide bout of the chicken pox while trying to adjust to a recent move to an apartment with four children ages 9, 6, 2 1/2 and 8 1/2 months. The day after my husband was able to return to work, our 6 year-old son was involved in an accident near the playground of the apartment complex. I remember it vividly. The innocence of the oldest twirling obliviously with a stream of yellow caution tape. The horror of seeing my 6 year-old unconscious on the ground with no one around to help. The frustration of wanting to rush out but concern over leaving the two younger ones in the apartment by themselves. Having to leave my children in the care of a stranger while I went to the hospital.

Several years ago I found myself seeing a Christian counselor trying to understand where “I” had gone. I couldn’t understand why my zest for life had abandoned me. It felt like I had been swallowed by a black hole. I had been enjoying new energy and health after having lost a great deal of weight when my normally optimistic self seemed to ooze out of every pore never to be seen again. If you have never been clinically depressed it is something that is hard to explain. Feeling that you are sitting in a tiny boat in the middle of a vast body of water with no shore in sight and no clue as to where that shore or any safe haven might be.

Even as I remember the pain of my son’s accident and the struggles that followed as he worked to overcome his brain injury, I rejoice that he is now finishing college and has taken the recovery skill of learning to play instruments and turned it into a passion. I marvel at his gift for music and am thrilled that he will graduate next May with a degree in Music Composition.

As for me, I rejoice that God had a way out of the pit that I was in. Thankfully, doctors were able to diagnose the cause of my depression which enabled me to find “me” and to see that there was indeed light and a way back to feeling whole again.

What does any of this have to do with writing? Aside from believing that life’s trials and challenges give us insight that we would never experience otherwise for our writing, they also give us perspective. As important as our writing is to us and even to God, He has a life journey for us. It lasts more than a moment be it of pain or trauma or even joy. Part of that journey is to resurrect those moments and bring something new out of our life.

So, while part of me still doesn’t look forward to the death of anything in my life, I know that it truly isn’t the end but rather the beginning of the life that He has planned. God is faithful to resurrect our dry bones and breath new life into them. (Ezekiel 37:5-6)

****************
Elaine serves as Secretary/Treasurer for Mile High Scribes, the ACFW Southwest Denver chapter now meeting at the Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch. She is currently working on a series set in the world of professional ice hockey. Elaine and her husband are rejoicing in the thought that 2 out of 3 of their children will graduate from college in 13 months.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Resurrecting that Manuscript

I'm a firm believer that my first two books will publish. Yes, I wrote them years, not months, ago. Yes, I'm a better writer now than then. Yes, they will take a lot of work. But they will resurrect. I know it.

Maybe you have an old manuscript that needs resurrection. Let me tell you what I've learned:
1) It's good for a manuscript to lie in the grave awhile. Even in the grave it changes.
2) Unlike Jesus, sometimes a manuscript resurrects more than once before fully coming to life.
3) Like Jesus, newness of life for the manuscript itself and those who read comes with resurrection.

Let's take my first novel for example. I wrote it from my heart, loved it, won contests with it, rewrote it many times, learned from it. Finally I sensed the Lord telling me it was time to lay it down. Into the grave it went. Waiting was good for it. It needed me to grow up--as a writer and as a person--to do it justice. Before it went to the "grave," I was given some advice about the manuscript I resisted. The advice went with my manuscript to the grave. What I didn't know is that advice was changing the manuscript even as it slept.

Then, one day, someone who loved the manuscript asked me to resurrect it. I poured over it, rewriting the first few chapters to bring it up to my present understanding of craft and my more fully developed voice. Low and behold, I realized the advice I'd buried with the manuscript had been right! I made sweeping changes and took it to a writer's conference where an editor requested a full! Excited, I dug into the rest of the chapters, ready to bring my story to new life. But--you guessed it--things didn't go as I planned. Some of it was my skill level, and some of it was life circumstances. Eventually I had to put it away and take care of the crises at home.

Fast forward a couple of years. It's again been requested that the manuscript be resurrected. I prayed and felt the Lord say it was time to learn a little more, to bring newness of life into my beloved story. On my to-do list is another round of polishing those first chapters so I can take it to someone more advanced than I for advice. I don't know if this will be a final resurrection or just another groaning hinting of the new life it will someday lead.

But I do know resurrection day will come. The Lord planted the faith within my heart to believe it will someday come fully to life and bring new life with it for others.

Until then I wait, in eagerness and expectation.

If you have a manuscript that just won't die, don't be afraid to resurrect it. Each time you pull it from the dark recesses of your computer, look at it with new eyes, revisit past advice, and rewrite with the newness of life that's grown in you since the last time you tackled it!

And wait in expectation. Sunday's on the way!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Overcoming


Everywhere I look, someone's life is torn apart, never to be the same again. War, natural disaster, job loss, cancer—it just doesn't seem to end. The times we're living in have become overwhelming. Even those who don't believe in our God can sense this world moaning and crying out for the Redeemer to return.

Christians are called to be overcomers. Not through our own power, but through the power of the blood of Christ. We are never alone. The Holy Spirit promises to help and counsel us, to get us through life—even when it sucks. And every moment we take a breath we are given a chance for a new beginning.

Same with our writing. What might seem difficult...maybe even impossible...today can become something we overcome tomorrow. Even if it means starting over.

Jesus said, "...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33). How comforting it is to know that despite what the headlines say, despite what difficulty we face in our lives, despite how hard it is to put that next word on paper, our LORD will be there, with us, to help us overcome our circumstances and, if need be, start over.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Where'd you come from, Hot Stuff?

It seems strange to be talking about new beginnings when I’m smack in the middle of my WIP. Then again, it’s while you’re slogging through the muddle in the middle that new ideas spring up out of nowhere.

You’re staring at the computer screen, ransacking your brain for your next sentence, and suddenly a plot for a completely different story pops into your noggin. Strange new characters whisper in your ears while you labor to get old Klaus and Gertrude down off the mountainside before the volcano erupts.

It’s so easy to get swayed by these new project possibilities. I once read a funny piece that compared the allure of a new story idea to meeting a new romantic interest. The temptation to dump your current dimming flame and take up with that hot, new prospect can be overwhelming.

What should we do with these new beginnings that crop up when we need to be focusing on finishing our current novel?

First, be encouraged. You may feel like your brain is an empty paper bag with nothing but a hint of Sesame Chicken wafting around inside it, but creativity lurks amid those dried-up bits of rice. Use that spark of a new story to remind yourself why you write, that you CAN create, and that God has more exciting plans for your writing journey.

Second, write it down. Throw just a few words into a document detailing that mind-blowing plot or those compelling characters. You’ll feel better knowing you’ve put something on a page and can come back to it when the time is right.

Third, get back to work on your WIP. Tell that flirty new beginning that you’ll be in touch soon, then disconnect and get back to business. Because the only thing more exciting than a new beginning is the satisfaction of typing “The End.”


Evangeline Denmark has co-authored two children’s books, The Dragon and the Turtle (Waterbrook Press, 2010) and The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari (Waterbrook Press, 2011) and also writes adult fiction. Evangeline serves as chapter secretary for Worship Write Witness and has only broken up with one of her novels since she began writing in 2006. You can find Evangeline online at www.breathenbreatheout.blogspot.com and www.dragonandturtle.com

Friday, March 18, 2011

Meet my 8th child!

9781616261221

I’m like a proud parent, showing off my newborn. I even showed her to the lady at Curves, who sincerely tried to match my enthusiasm, but I could tell she was just being polite.

If you’re a published author, or even simply blessed your project by typing “The End”, you know the feeling. Every story, or article, or poem is a new beginning. It’s that bouncing baby book that you gaze at with wonderment. I created this. What a miracle!  It breathes new life into your stagnant career, reminding you that you can do it again, and again.

Oregon Weddings is my eight cover. Inside are stories I had already birthed and had covers of their own when they first came out:

  • God Gave the Song – Two people learn how to forgive with the help of a melodious alpaca.
  • Crossroads Bay – She seeks a treasure. He seeks her heart.
  • Fine, Feathered Friend – An actress afraid of birds enlists the help of a bird trainer afraid of actresses.

But seeing this fresh, new cover brings back the excitement. I’m an author with child, dreaming of what the next one will look like. Holding this infant book in my hands makes me long to see the art on the stories still in my head. It gives me the kick in the pants I need to get them written.

I’m passing out cigars. Want one?

*************************

Oregon Weddings is due out in early April. Watch for it in stores or order it online at Amazon!

Kathy Kovach is the ACFW Rocky Mountain Zone Director, Kathleen Kovach low res jpgand author with Heartsong Presents and Barbour Publishing. She writes Spiritual Truth…With A Giggle, thus proving herself as one of God’s peculiar people. With a passion for story, she dissects movies on her Craft Cinema blog. Read the first chapters of her books at Fiction Finder and visit her at www.KathleenEKovach.com

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beginning again -- again

I spoke with a fellow writer this week who was excited about his writing again. He told me he thinks about his book all the time, particularly when he isn't writing. And he has managed to find small chunks of time here and there to actually sit and write. He also told me he knows why he is excited about writing again, because according to his words, he hasn't been especially enthralled with the task of sitting to write for some time.

He went to a seminar. Then he went to a couple of good writers group meetings. Then he signed up for a writers retreat. And all of that ignited his passion for writing once again -- investing in his calling as a writer made that calling seem more real, more urgent, more attainable.

Because, let's admit it, there are few things in life as scary as staring at a blank piece of paper or a blank computer screen, waiting for words of inspiration to come flying out of our pen or our fingertips.

Sure, once we get the words flowing, it's easy after that. Getting some positive feedback from a publisher or editor, seeing a deadline in black on white gets the creative juices racing.

But the every day, mundane, mandatory process of writing can wear us down.

Unless we see value in it.

Let me share a parable with you: Our church runs a small food bank ministry each week. When we first began, we didn't ask for any donations, because we had minimal costs, and our church was happy to cover those costs. What we discovered, however, is that when the clients who received food from the food bank went out into the parking lot, they threw away some food items they had received. So, foe example, if an apple had a bruise on it, they threw it away. If the bananas weren't green, in the trash. And we realized that the clients didn't put a value on something they didn't have to pay for. So we started asking for a $2 donation. And people were happy to receive it, and we didn't find food thrown away. Why? Because they had to "pay" for it (although the donation was always voluntary).

If we don't see a value in our writing, we might tend to "throw" it away -- we'll find reasons not to attend a meeting, we'll find excuses not to write, we'll allow distractions to take us away from our calling.

Investing in your writing career is one way to ignite your passion to write. Remembering how excited you were about your story when you first started writing will inspire you to sit and write. And if you aren't sure you're writing the story you need to tell, sit down and make a few notes that will identify the story that is burning you up on the inside as it waits to be written.

Beginning again, again, is no sin. There is no shame in admitting you got side-tracked, but now you are back on the road again. Setting aside your current work and starting a new one is not the same as quitting -- you are just going to write the story that you should have started with.

Is something holding you back from beginning again, again? Tell it to go away. Nicely, of course. Tell it to come back after you've finished with this book, this story, this poem, this song.

All writers will, at times, face a brick wall of reasons why they can't write. And even if you can't write all day, for an afternoon, an hour even -- find fifteen minutes in your day and at least think about your project.

New beginnings are all around us at this time of the year. Today, right now, is the best time to begin. So sit, write, make notes, don't worry about how much you have left -- count your words from today, right now, and put them in the plus column of how much closer you are to the end.

And then, when you reach the end, begin again, again. And again. And if you haven't signed up for the writers retreat in April with Cecil Murphey as keynote speaker, you need to do that. Check out the details on www.acfwcolorado.com. You will definitely be ready to begin again, again after that.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"Do you know what today is?"

My dad would say in a cheery voice.


As I shuffled into the kitchen, my first thought was, How can anyone be cheery so early in the morning? Then I would try to think if this was some special day I had forgotten. I would grunt, then say, “Tuesday?” Hoping it was indeed Tuesday.


And in his cheery voice he would say, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

I would groan not believing I fell for that one again! I heard this saying from my dad more times than I cared to count growing and never appreciated it.


When I was older, married, and with children of my own, I realized my dad was saying that today is a fresh start, make the most of it. Don’t worry about yesterday and the past. Today is a new beginning.


The song Morning Has Broken from the 70’s came to mind as I was thinking about new beginnings and this being the first day of the rest of our life.


God made that first morning and He gives us each new morning.


“What is today?”


“The first day of the rest of your life.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fourth Annual ACFW Colorado Retreat

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jill Hups, vice president, HIS Writers (north Denver chapter of ACFW)
Email: vice.president@hiswriters.acfwcolorado.com
Phone: 303-460-8122


CECIL MURPHEY COMING TO COLORADO APRIL 8-9, 2011
NY Times Bestselling Author and International Christian Speaker to talk on “Knowing God,
Knowing Yourself: An Invitation to Daily Discovery”

Cecil "Cec" Murphey, The Man Behind the Words, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s
fourth annual ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Colorado retreat, to be held at the
Ponderosa Conference and Retreat center in Larkspur, Colorado.

As a NY Times bestselling author and Christian international speaker, Cec has authored or cowritten more than one hundred books that have been translated into more than 40 languages and have sold millions of copies, including the bestseller, 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper). His newest book, Knowing God, Knowing Myself, released December 2010, will be the theme of this year's retreat.

Cecil has also written hundreds of articles that have appeared in a variety of publications. His
passion is to stimulate people's minds and nourish their souls. Since 1984, he has been using his writing and speaking to help him accomplish those goals.

Join us as Cec teaches on Knowing God, Knowing Myself, and let him lead you into a deeper
awareness of God's presence, startle you out of common spiritual reflections, and take you on an uncommon path of daily self-discovery and Christ-centered insights.
For more information and to register, go to www.acfwcolorado.com/acfwcoloretreat.

ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) of Colorado
Serving Christian Fiction Writers Throughout the Rockies
www.acfwcolorado.com


* * * * * *
This event is sponsored by ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) of Colorado.
You do not need to be member of ACFW in order to attend this event.
Visit us on the web at www.acfwcolorado.com

Renewal


You're my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your Word to renew me. (Psalm 119:114 The Message)

I love spring. Only in Colorado one is never sure exactly when spring will arrive. Since March is our snowiest month . . . well, there are absolutely no guarantees. Those of us who have lived in Colorado for any length of time know that all that snow could, and probably will, come all at once.

Especially since the “huge” storm that was “scheduled” for this week didn’t materialize.

I’m so thankful that I don’t have to rely on external circumstances for renewal of spirit. I am renewed each time I “feed” on God’s Word. Each time I pray, my soul is renewed. And every time I’m with God’s people my mind is stimulated and renewed, challenged by their lives to live wholly and completely for Christ.

This is especially true when I get together with other writers. It’s energizing to be around people who “get” me, who understand what I mean when I say my characters are speaking to me or they’re holding out and refusing to talk to me—even though I am the one who gives them life. Almost always I come away from such meetings with at least one “new” idea or thought to chew on.

I believe I mentioned in last month’s post that my hubby, Roger, lost his job early in January. We’ve now “survived” nine weeks of being unemployed. While we still have no prospects for a job out of the many he’s applied for, we are renewed daily through the prayers of God’s people. And our needs, and even some of our wants, have been provided for through the prayers and generosity of God’s people.

And I’ve been very busy, trying to keep up with the many editing/proofreading assignments I’ve gotten from both publishers and individuals. New writing projects with interesting prospects keep popping up as well. In fact, with all the renewed confirmations of God’s purpose and tasking for me, I’m a little bewildered as to how to handle it.

Until I remember that God is my quiet retreat, that in His Word I am renewed daily to walk His best path for me.




Marjorie Vawter is the ACFW Colorado Area Coordinator. She lives in Westminster with her husband and 15-month-old “kitten,” Sinatra.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New Beginnings

Bright yellow daffodils. Mercies that are new every morning. A first, fresh cup of coffee with real cream. The crackle of the binding when opening a spanking new book. A newborn with intense eyes full of wonderment nursing for the first time.

New beginnings. There's nothing like them.

But sometimes we let the past cloud our new beginnings. I was given a new beginning this week, but it took a few days for me to believe it, embrace it, and celebrate it. Why? The pain of the past was so close that my emotions couldn't catch up to the hope of the future.

God has something to say about that:

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland."
Isaiah 43:18 - 19 (NIV)

This little Scripture has popped up over and over in my life the last few years, a reminder to me that God is all about taking the barren and making it fruitful. I can choose to hand over Him the dry, dusty crumbles of the past, forgetting the barren places, the hurtful places, the hopeless feelings. Instead I can choose to believe He is doing a new thing.

Creation reminds us of God's character of trustworthy newness. Every single day God does a new thing, offering a fresh start as the sun peeks over the horizon and pours forth its warm, golden rays, beginning a day that has never yet been lived. The ecstatic little birds start to sing and their joyful worship songs fill the air as they welcome daylight--and new beginnings.

May I learn to do the same.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wordsmiths

Our pastor reminded us the other day of how our Lord created romance. It's a love between two fellow beings.

Our ultimate love is Jesus Christ. He is the one who loves us unconditionally every day. Every day is Valentines Day for us that follow Him. He woos us to His side for friendship and passion. He always wants to please us. He brings us love, flowers, candy, and most of all compassion. He wants us to allow Him to fill me with this unconditional love to overflowing, then we have extra to give to our fellow men.

It's so easy to do but yet so hard because I get side-tracked in my walk with Him. I leave many opportunities to share that love on the side of the road as I concentrate on little ol me. Sweet man that He is, Jesus doesn't get angry, instead He says, "Try harder little one, I'll help you if you ask."

I'm available to help support each of you as much as I can. I believe in Psalm 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity. (NIV).

Let's see what I can do with these words, procrastination, perfection, passionate, personality, (smile), precious, patient, and perseverance! I can grow in all of these for sure.

Hey precious Wordsmiths be encouraged this year, it's going to be a great one and you are going to be at every moment exactly where God has planned for you to be. He knows every single hair on your heads and He will give you the strength to keep up the good work you are called to do in Him. I'm reminded of Ecclesiastes 2...God's perfect timing.

So this year, I'm walking in the JOY of the Lord, won't you come along and join the fun?
Psalm 68:11 The Lord announced the Word, and great was the company of those who proclaimed it: (NIV).

May you each be blessed abundantly above and beyond your wildest dreams in Christ Jesus in 2011. :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How do I love thee? Please state in 130 words or less.


This month our focus is on romance. So who better to talk about that the famous poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)?

Picture this conversation Elizabeth is having with her crit partner after finishing her now-famous poem, "How Do I Love Thee?":

Crit partner: Elizabeth! My ears have just heard Penny Post Press has extended their hand to receive poetry. Can you imagine? Poetry!

Elizabeth: Poetry? You truly heard this correct?

Crit partner: Yes. I was fortunate enough to spy on conversation between Mrs. Mitford and Mrs. Towry, where Mrs. Towry's maid spoke of this to Mrs. Dinkle, whose daughter spoke of this to Mrs. Smythe, whose son spoke of this to Master Wimbolt, who said Penny Post Press is receiving numerous requests at this very minute.

Elizabeth: Oh friend! Your words are music to my ears! I've become less than cheerful these past few months, as you well know, with the burden of these poems laying painfully on my heart.

Crit partner: Mrs. Browning! Time is not to be wasted. Get thine query letter sent right away! Deliver it yourself, if you must. My ears have heard, though not directly, mind you, that Alfred Lord Tennyson and Mr. William Wordsworth already carried theirs by hand.

Elizabeth: I will, dear friend. I will!

* * * * * * * * * *

Response from Penny Post Press to Elizabeth:

My dearest Mrs. Browning,

In regard to your poem, "How Do I Love Thee?", although your words speak of love with the most feverent of heart, it is my duty to regretfully inform you that, in this particular case, too little time has been spent on "tell" and more than sufficient time on "show." Therefore, unless it becomes your choice to rewrite in a fashion this firm finds acceptable, I am sorry to say we must regretfully decline thine offer.

Sincerely,

Editor
Penny Post Press

Of course, it's easy to look back on history and laugh at the above fictitious scenario, but it becomes less than funny when it happens to us.

Mrs. Browning knew the world of the writer quite well, and was not much different than we are: she had a love for writing and engaged herself in this passion, she overcame insurmountable obstacles, and she persevered during a time when it was tough to get published. Yet through it all she didn't give up.

Neither should you.

Write what your heart tells your to write. 160+ years later, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem is still considered one of the greatest love poems of all time. Did she know this would happen? I doubt it.

Whether what you write ends up published or not is far less than important than the words themselves. Your words have been given to you by God, poured into you and through you so that you can pour out. Words that could easily, one day, end up in the hands of someone who despirately needs them. Words echoing truth to a world in dire need of change. Words that may fall on many ears--or just one.

Even if it takes 160 years.


* * * * * * * * * *

How Do I Love Thee?
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

How Do I Love Thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

(Number 43 from Sonnets from the Portuguese. First published in 1850.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

True Love and Onions

The other day I was thinking about what to write for this blog post while chopping onions for chili. Before long I was crying. It occurred to me that if my boys happened to walk in the kitchen, they would ask, “Why are you crying, Mommy?” They would be worried about me and would try to comfort me. Why? Because they have no experience with onions.

Now, if my husband happened to walk in while I wept onto my cutting board, he would laugh and make some smart remark like, “There’s no need to cry over dinner, honey.”

Why the different reaction? It’s obvious. My husband is older and wiser than my kids. He’s chopped onions a time or two and knows the water works are a simple physical reaction.

I believe the same principle applies when we write romance. An immature reader looks at the physical signs of attraction, believes the characters are in love, and is satisfied. An experienced reader knows infatuation for what it is and wants more depth.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a sizzling, tension-filled interplay between hero and heroine. But if we want to truly engage our readers’ hearts, we must employ what they know to be true about genuine love.

That can be hard, can’t it? After all, if we struggle to show real love to our spouses and those around us, how much more difficult is it to have fictional characters put the word into action?

I suggest that as we formulate our main characters and plot lines, we pick one or two of the love principles from 1 Corinthians 13 to ascribe to our hero and heroine. As we write, we can focus on just that characteristic and how we can bring it to life on the page.

For instance, I have chosen “Love keeps no record of wrongs” for my heroine. Now I look for ways to make that truth evident between my heroine and hero. Maybe he offends her early in the story, and the next time they meet their interchange is strained. By having my heroine choose to let go of that offense or try to see the situation from his side, I can

• bring depth to the scene
• show a genuine aspect of love
• maybe surprise a reader who expected a clichéd fight-over-nothing.

Go ahead and give it a try next time you’re writing a scene. Just beneath the spice and sparks of physical attraction add a touch of true love in action. I think you’ll find that not only is your romance delicious, but it’s also genuine and heart-filling.


Evangeline Denmark has co-authored two children’s books, The Dragon and the Turtle (Waterbrook Press, 2010) and The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari (Waterbrook Press, 2011) and also writes adult fiction. Evangeline serves as secretary for Worship Write Witness and serves onions for dinner whenever she can. You can find Evangeline online at www.breathenbreatheout.blogspot.com and www.dragonandturtle.com
 
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