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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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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 clich├ęd 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

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saint Valentine's Story

My name is Valentine. I was a priest during the third century when Rome was ruled by Emperor Claudius. A lot of people didn’t like Emperor Claudius including me.


Claudius wanted a big army and expected men to volunteer to join, but many men didn’t want to leave their wives and families to fight in wars. This made Claudius furious and he decided not to allow any more marriages. Young people thought this cruel, and I thought it preposterous.


One of my favorite duties was to marry couples. Even after Emperor Claudius passed his law, I kept on performing marriage ceremonies -- secretly, of course. Imagine a small candlelit room with only the bride and groom and myself. We would whisper the words of the ceremony, listening all the while for the steps of soldiers. And one night the steps came. Terror rippled through us. Thank goodness the young couple escaped in time. I was not so fortunate and thrown in jail, sentenced to death.


Wonderful things began to happen. Many young people came to the jail to visit me. They threw flowers and notes up to my window. They wanted me to know that they, too, believed in love. One of these young people who visited regularly, the daughter of the prison guard, helped to keep my spirits up. She agreed that I had done right in defying the emperor and performing secret marriages.


On the day I was to die, February 14, 269 A.D., I left my friend a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. I signed it, "Love from your Valentine." I believe that note started the custom of exchanging love messages on Valentine's Day. Now, every year, people remember and think about love and friendship. And when they think of Emperor Claudius, they remember how he tried to stand in the way of love, and they laugh -- because they know that love can't be beaten!


**Paraphrased from http://www.pictureframes.co.uk/pages/saint_valentine.htm

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Romance I Could Write

I admit -- in my BJ (before Jesus) days, I read a lot of secular romances. I read some not-so-wholesome stories. And after about 20 of them, I was bored to tears. They were all the same: boy meets girl; boy loses girl; girl gets involved with the wrong guy who treats her shamefully; boy1 rescues girl; they live happily ever after.

I am not against the happily ever after -- it just didn't seem real for me. I didn't have that kind of romance in my life, and I didn't know anyone else who did, either. So I stopped reading romance stories.

Even AJ (After Jesus), I avoided romance stories because the couple I did read were the same formula, except for the being treated shamefully, that is. That formula still wasn't real for me.

And then I attended a writers conference, and the only class in a particular time slot I was even remotely interested in was "Writing Romance That Sells" by DiAnn Mills. I wasn't really interested in writing romance; I was interested in writing a book that would sell.

So DiAnn went through the requirements of a romance:
1. Find a character no one would particularly like
2. Redeem the character
3. Put that character in a painful situation you have experienced where you were hurt and betrayed.
4. Write the opening line to the story.
5. Figure out why the hero and heroine would never fall in love and marry.
6. Figure out what makes your story different.

And I came up with a pathological liar who tries to make herself look good by making others look bad, but one of her lies rebounds to attack the only person she really cares about, an elderly widow next door, and she sees what her lies do to her and others. The hurtful scene, which really happened to me, was her boyfriend broke up with her by giving her a record album: 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. And told her he was going back to his wife (okay, in my case, it was his previous girlfriend)

My opening line was:
Slamming the door behind her, Madison was positive of only two things: she would never come back to Lincolntown, and she would never fall in love again.

My hero (not the jerk with the record album gift) and heroine would never fall in love and marry because she wants a career, and he wants a mother for his three small children. Oh, yeah, and she says she will never fall in love again -- it hurts too much.

And what makes my story different is that Madison learns that her importance is not in what she does, but in who she is in God. And she can be just as important to God changing diapers as she can climbing the corporate ladder.

When I finished the class, saw how DiAnn had tricked me into falling in love with a romantic suspense idea, I told her, "Now, this is a romance I could read. And one I could write."

So, I haven't written it yet, but it is on my list. I fell in love with the parts of a romance I like to write about -- the tension, the truth behind the facade, and the journey towards God.

What kind of a romance could you write? Every genre has romantic elements -- post your comments about your genre and how you weave romance into the plot. And if you haven't written any romance in yet, how could you do that?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Love Is in the Air

Okay, Paula took my idea for this post. And Kathy posted about every romantic movie I could think of, and many more I've not heard about. (Can you tell I'm not a movie fan?) BUT Kathy didn't mention the one book/movie that always resonates with me because of the subtle romance. Pride and Prejudice.

Do I hear a collective sigh? (Mr. Darcy will always look like Colin Firth to me.)

I've never wanted to be a romance writer, especially since that isn't my preferred fiction reading. However, I love a good mystery, suspense, or thriller that has a touch of romance. And that's what I write. I don't really want to be hit over the head by all the various ways of describing attraction, most of which makes my eyes roll. Some even makes me want to throw the book across the room. Especially if what is keeping the hero and heroine apart is something that could be cleared up in a matter of minutes if only they would talk to one another!

My hubby and I met at a very, very conservative Christian university in the South that had extremely strict rules for dating couples. We were not allowed to even hold hands on campus. In addition to the usual dating opportunities a college campus has—lunch, dinner, sporting events, concerts, recitals, etc.—we had what was called the "Social Parlor." Think huge furniture store with loveseats and coffee tables scattered all around. And a chaperon sitting sitting at a desk or walking round the "parlor," making sure all couples were adhering to the rules.

A little strict? Yes. Archaic even? Yes, again. Frustrating at times? Absolutely! But those were the times that taught us the power of a look and the ability to communicate that has held us together over the last 33 years. And when we were together away from the school, we held hands, hugged, and yes (GASP) we kissed! LOL

That's why Jane Austen's subtle romance as portrayed in Pride and Prejudice appeals to me. As Elizabeth and Darcy got to know each other better, the more they came to appreciate each other for more than just physical attraction. That's the kind of romance I strive to portray in my own writing. And that's the kind of romance I like to read as well.


Marjorie Vawter is a professional freelance editor who proofreads for CBA publishers, edits for individual clients, and does a little writing herself in her “spare” time. An avid reader, she also judges for several prestigious awards in the inspirational marketplace, and serves as conference director’s assistant for the Colorado and Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conferences. Since 2008 Marjorie has had the privilege of working with other writers as the ACFW Colorado Area Coordinator. When she can get away, she enjoys hiking and snowshoeing near their cabin in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area northwest of Denver. She and her husband have two adult children.





Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Great Romance

Last night my almost twenty year old was curled up with a younger brother watching Swan Princess, a favorite from her childhood. I slipped in next to them, bummed that they'd already finished off the popcorn, and delighted in the romance.

As I watched my thoughts turned to the basic story-line of all the great fairy tales--wonderful prince fights evil, rescues beautiful and good-hearted princess, throws a royal wedding, and they live happily ever after.

And then I thought about Jesus.

Wonderful Prince leaves His royal dwelling and descends to those more lowly than Himself. By sacrificial giving He wins the battle against evil, qualifies us to be His bride, and invites us to the wedding feast, promising us a happily ever after.

And those thoughts led me to think about the grand theme in any good romance, which takes the over-arching picture a little deeper. As Kathy talked about below, in the really good romances the hero or heroine sees the true essence of the other person and calls it forth.

Which brings me full circle to Jesus.

Jesus, my Creator, sees the real me. He loves sacrificially and unconditionally. His care causes me to long for Him, and to long to be the person He sees. He calls forth more goodness and beauty than I knew I had, causing me to blossom in His love.

I love how the themes of love and redemption run true in good romance. I love it that our Creator inspires writers who, knowingly or not, tenderize our hearts for the Greatest Romance of the Ages, the romance between Jesus and us.

Our Creator has a romantic heart. How could He not? He's the one who designed red roses, vines full of purple grapes, sunsets, ocean views, and turtle doves. He gave us music, poetry, dancing, and stories themselves.

As I've begun to discover Jesus as my Lover, and not only as my Lord, my relationship with Him has taken new wings. He is the Great Romancer of my heart, whispering love like I've never known, surprising me with beauty, and calling forth the true essence of Who I am.

As writers we have the unique opportunity to write God's heart of romance, tenderizing the world for the Greatest Romance of all.


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 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.
 
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