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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Who Has He Helped Through You Today?

(c) Staci Stallings, 2004

As I write this, it is December 5th. I mention that because with Christmas coming up, it is the season of giving. Along with the normal gifts, this is also the season when our thoughts turn to those less fortunate.

The paper angel trees go up in the malls. The kettles and bells come out. The requests from organizations that help the needy - from food banks to Toys-for-Tots - rise exponentially.

This is also the time our thoughts take in all the things we are grateful for and all the things that we wish for in the coming year. In short, this is a very special time of the year.

As January approaches, my thoughts have been on the New Years Resolution I made last year. The resolution itself was simple - to be an angel to as many people as possible. At the time I couldn't have foreseen many of the opportunities that came my way. In fact, maybe I thought of it more as a wish than a real resolution.

However, God used that desire to show me things about life I had never seen before, like how little it takes to make a difference, how a simple heartfelt note can change someone forever, how easy it is to love when you put fear out of the equation.

As the year progressed, I learned what it means to let Him help others through me. I learned that I don't have to do it. All I have to do is let Him guide my heart and my hands. All I have to do is let Him do it through me.

God has helped countless people through me this year - the homeless lady who desperately needed work and who now cleans my house (praise God for her!), the homeless people three states away who are wearing something I no longer needed, the young mother struggling through a heartbreaking betrayal who received a book and a CD filled with Christ's love for her and her family and knew someone cared.

The opportunities were boundless-as they always are. The biggest problem is we find so many ways to talk ourselves out of helping. We're too busy. It takes too long. It costs too much. We have our own problems.

The real problem is that the focus of all of those excuses is in the wrong direction - on "I" instead of on "Him".

St. Theresa once said that we are the only hands that Jesus has on this earth, the only feet Jesus has on this earth now. He wants to use our lives, to work through us in the world. Not because He has to, but because He wants us to share in what He is doing.

As the words of a song that's just come into my life says: "Days go by. . . it's all we've been given, so we better start living right now, 'cause days go by."

I don't think I'm going to set any goals this coming year as I have in the past. I think this year my resolution will be simply to let Him work through me every single day. And my question at the end of each day will be simply, "Who has He helped through me today?"

If you are thinking of trying my "angel resolution" out in your life - even if it is April or August or October when you read this - I know for a fact that you are one more person I can say "This is someone He helped through me today," and who knows the ripple effect that will spread from you to the world?

Peace and joy in your new life as it starts today, because if you take this challenge, today really is the first day of a brand new life.

Want more inspiration? Check out Staci's blog, "Homeward Bound" at: You'll feel better for the experience!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Writer Going Home

Celebrating my savior's birth notwithstanding, at this point I feel loaded down with the holiday season's commercialism and busyness.

Don't misunderstand. Christmas was great, but how do I come down from it, so I can get back to writing?

Sugar plum fairies still dance in my head uninvited.

Really, you too? So then, what do we do now? How do we focus on writing?

Personally, I need some distance.

I'm not going to stop writing, although that might be a part of it for a few days. What I mean by gaining distance is that I'll be looking for inspiration in a different direction.

It just so happens that I head to Oklahoma to visit some family this week, so I have a perfect opportunity to pick up the pieces of my brain, put them in a suitcase, and spend time in a different environment.

I'm looking forward to this not only to escape the after holiday shock, but to refresh myself for a new year of writing. At home, I'm going to let a different setting pour over me. New place, new people, a change in conversation; sounds an awful lot like new setting, new characters, and new dialog don't you think?

What are some other ways we writers can gain distance and clear our minds at this time of year? Maybe a brisk, cool walk at the community gardens? A two hour coffee chat with a literary pal? A list of writing goals for the new year?

There are so many different ways we can reconnect our writing thoughts, clear our minds, and get back to work. We can Go Home in different ways.

Personally, while I'm home I'm going to walk in the woods with my dad, breathe in the clean country air, and visit some old friends and family.

When I come back, my writer's head may or may not be clear, but I'm certain the sugar plum fairies will have flown away. Except for one.

I'll let her stay, just to chase away the writing scrooge.

Tina Ann Forkner writes contemporary women’s fiction and has recently contracted with Waterbrook Press, a division of Random House, to publish two novels. The title of her first book is Ruby Among Us (Jan. 2008, Waterbrook Press, a Div. of Random House). Visit her at, a blog based on a First Time Novelist's Journey.

Friday, December 29, 2006

A few last tips for cutting a synopsis

Tip#8 to cut a synopsis—cut modifiers

Adjectives and adverbs are usually the easiest to cull from a synopsis. Sometimes you don't even need to change the noun or verb. Other times, a stronger noun or verb is needed.

She determines to win without interference from her meddling friends.
She determines to win without interference from her friends.

He is physically attracted to her.
He is attracted to her.
He lusts after her.

Tip#9 to cut a synopsis—change nouns and verbs

This is similar to tip #8. Sometimes you can substitute a different noun or verb that's a little shorter than what you have. Because the format is typically left justified, even one less letter in the sentence can be enough to eliminate a line (see tip #7 about getting rid of short lines).

He sneaks up to the house.
He creeps to the house.

He needs to stay out of her way.
He needs to avoid her.

She leaves her job.
She quits.

Tip#10 to cut a synopsis—eliminate extraneous nouns and verbs

There are some places where certain types of nouns and verbs can be eliminated entirely. Things like "He realizes", "She understands that," "He hears her say," "She sees him."

He follows her. He sees her enter the hotel.
He follows her. She enters the hotel.

He reads the family Bible. He discovers that Sally is his cousin.
He reads the family Bible. Sally is his cousin.

His reaction opens her eyes. She realizes she's always been in love with him.
His reaction opens her eyes. She's always been in love with him.

However, be aware that sometimes, these verbs can't be eliminated, so don't beat yourself up if you can't do it:

They fight. She realizes she's always been in love with him.
They fight. She's always been in love with him. (doesn't make sense)

Camy Tang lives in San Jose, California. She previously worked in biology research, and she is a staff worker for her church youth group. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, and her Asian chick-lit novel will be released in September 2007.

Everyone who leaves a comment receives a 10% off coupon for Camy's Story Sensei critique service (coupons cannot be combined)! Please leave an e-mail address so she can send you your coupon (use this format: you [at]

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Writing and Kids

I have here before me a squarish red book titled, Games for Writing by Peggy Kaye. I’m so excited about the games in this book that I had to plug it.

Here’s a novel idea. Writing is about writing, not spelling. (I’ll admit, I blinked when I read that. I had my schoolmarm hat on.)

If you read my blog, you know I homeschool. You'd also know my mantra: Learning needs to be fun whenever possible! Handwriting for the K-3rd graders isn’t exactly a love affair. Why else would there be options out there such as Handwriting Without Tears?

This book is full of fun/easy ways to make the hesitant bold, to fan the flame of imagination gone shy, to reinstate the FUN of wribbling. (Read the book to find out what wribbling is, or use your imagination)

The book is divided into five parts. Below I’ll share one idea from each part to whet your curiosity. Keep in mind that some of her game ideas sound even better than the ones I’m sharing…they’d just take too much explanation on my part! The writing games are all aimed at grades K-3.

Part one is titled: Just For Starters:

  • Play obstacle course: Take a blank piece of typing paper and at the top write HOME. At the bottom write ZOO. In between the two fill the paper with short 1.5 inch lines slanted every which way. Your beginning writer gets to practice controlling their pencil as they weave in between lines to get from home to zoo. (Easiest of all home drawn mazes!)

Part two is called: Stress Busters:

  • 15 minutes of silent written conversation. Teacher and child may not talk, but instead write questions and answers back and forth. If anyone talks during the 15 minutes, they get points against them for each spoken word. Words do not need to be neat or spelled correctly. (We’re trying to instill a love of creative writing here, no corrections!)

Part three in the book deals with Spelling, Handwriting and Grammar:

  • Speed contest–give them a page with a challenging spelling word written at the top. Have them study it a couple minutes, then write it as many times as they can in 45 seconds. If they are able to write it (correctly and legibly) enough times, they’ve won the contest.

Part four–Writing With Style:

  • “She is so silly”…have your child write a story about the silliest woman on earth…three or four sentences. She is so silly she wears slippers for mittens. Or “He is so hungry” etc.

Part five ends the book–Made With Pride:

  • Make your own board game. Disclaimer: the author makes a game board based on witchcraft (I know…) my girls and I made a board game based on the Spanish facts we were learning last year. We had as much fun making it as we had playing it.

This book is 225 pages chock full of ideas. It's been a must have for this homeschool mom. My once inhibited third grader is writing and enjoying it. Her writing speed increased dramatically after playing "speed contest" with each week's spelling list.

We that write know what a boon it is. Tis the best game of all, right? So go play it with your kids!

Mary is an old-fashioned thirty-something wife, homeschooler, and aspiring writer. Her blog, Home-steeped Hope, feeds her love/pursuit of the written non-fiction word while her women's fiction "dreams" are being revised...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Introducing: Lisa Biggs Crum

Lisa Biggs Crum is gifted in leadership and encouragement. She shares that gift through writing, speaking, and ministry consulting. (Well, actually that’s more like a dream at this point.) Her greatest pleasure in life is laughing with her two elementary age children and her husband of nearly 16 years. Read her blog at

I joined Writer…Interrupted to connect with Christian writers and to introduce my blog to others. I’ve been blogging since January 2005 and I’m excited to be very close to 100 posts. Primarily, I blog about God in my life and the mystery of his presence in this world. I’ve contributed devotionals and leadership articles to newsletters. My first (and only so far) paid writing assignment was for Group Publishing this summer. My most recent project was writing an Advent devotional book for our church.

It is fun to participate in what God is doing. Second Peter 1:3-4 inspires me to always seek those opportunities regardless of how small or how intimidating they are.

Mid-Week Motivation

Start your day out right!
Scripture, Short Devotion
If with heart and soul you're doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you're still better off. Don't give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. 1 Peter 3:13-15a
Whom are we working to please, the best thinkers of our time or the Thinker of eternity? What is the crucial end game for us, recognition on this culture's glittering red carpet, or recognition in the form of these words, "Well done, good and faithful servant?"

Often, it seems, Christian media is critiqued in such a cynical way that it's hard for those who create it to continue to be motivated. It almost seems that when a truly "good" piece is produced by a believer, the world assumes the position of unabashed amazement.

In the face of opposition and discouragement, let us not forget for Whose glory we are working toward. We must acknowlege our greater purpose, and agree to no compromise, regardless of the criticism or rejection we may face. We must resolve to put truth at the helm, and never turn back to another muse. We should be the model of working with all our ability, as scripture exults us to do the same.

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. --C. S. Lewis

Writer, keep your heart in attention before Christ alone! And know that as you do, in the coming year He will give you the passion and the privilege to write your heart and soul for Him.

Happy New Year!!!
Is Your House in Order?
Cleaning, parenting, marriage, organization tips, etc

While your children are small, introduce them to the rewards of a clean living space. Whether it's their own room or a family room, show them the proper way to "pick up" after a playing session. Even a toddler can learn to put everything back into a toy box, though as she grows older, she will find more satisfaction in choosing a more particular spot for each toy. Children are overwhelmed in chaos just like adults. Organization will encourage their developing skills and your present enthusiasm!

Afternoon Pick Me Up
Writing inspiration

Write about the process in which you set a goal and achieved it. What inspired you to set the goal? Who or what encouraged you to continue the pursuit of it? What are the rewards you enjoy now as a result of your determination? What do you think you may have inspired in others as a result of your achievement? Think of the time and effort you placed in seeing the goal through to success? What made it worth it all?

What's For Dinner?
Quick dinners, crock pots, etc.

Pork Roast with Apricot-Dijon sauce

You'll need:

1 medium sized Boston Butt pork roast

garlic salt

4 Tbsp Apricot preserves

1 Tbsp Dijon or spicy mustard

Preheat oven to 375. Heat a heavy frying pan on medium-high heat and place roast in it. Sear the roast on all sides, turning it over and alternating sides until they are slightly browned. Set out and sprinkle garlic salt generously over entire roast. Set the roast in a roasting pan and fill the pan with about 2 inches of water. Roast for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the outside has browned well and the inside is no longer pink.

Meanwhile, mix the preserves and the mustard for the sauce. Refrigerate until the roast is ready, and serve alongside, along with your favorite sides.

Serves 8-10

A Restful Night's Sleep
Scripture for a restful sleep

Now that He (Christ) has gone into heaven, He is at God's right hand, with angels, authorities, and powers subjected to Him. 1 Peter 3:22
No matter what you are facing, know that your Deliverer is sitting in supreme authority over it. The One who was willing to give His life for your reconciliation is dominant over anything that seemingly seeks your demise. And not only that, but He is seeking your complete and perfect benefit in His divine plan and purpose for you. What a friend we have in Jesus! Surely we can trust Him in our difficulties, and trust him for our betterment!

Chanda Canup is wife to Scott, a gifted worship leader, and mother to four children, ages 5 and younger. Come visit her at her blogspot: Thursday's Child--it will make her day!

Webring Spammed!

I've had to temporarily close the webring to new members due to the fact that I must have gotten AT LEAST 50 spam applications this weekend, and I have to go and delete them all one by one.

If you would like to join the ring, please email me, and I'll be happy to add you!


I've reopended the ring because I'm still getting spammed. If anyone works with ringsurf and knows how to get rid of the spam please let me know. It's filling up my inbox and taking too much time to delete!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My 2007 "Writerly" Resolutions

We writers need rejuvenation every now and then . . . especially when the rejection slips start to pile up, the endless “waiting game” becomes maddening and the mailman looks on us with pity as he hands us (yet another) fat envelope.
Since the start of a new year is a perfect time to begin again, and it's just around the corner, I thought I'd blog today about my writerly resolutions. Maybe they will spur you to make a few goals for yourself.

First, I will write regularly (even--no ESPECIALLY--if I don't have a deadline). There are a million other things that pull me away from the computer. I can justify them all, but those actions at times keep me from doing what I get paid to do--and what I love to do.
Second, I will take a break. I know this resolution sounds contradictory to the previous one. Often, however, I‘ve done my best writing after doing something else, such as reading or taking a walk. One good way to take a break without guilt is to set up a reward system. (one page completed=a soda, two=call to a friend, three=watching a favorite television show, etc.)
Third, I resolve to not let rejection slips and the word “no” crush me. Did you know that Richard Bach had his book, Johnathon Livingston Seagull, rejected 16 times before a publisher picked it up? It’s now a classic. Ironically, the company that finally accepted the book had turned the manuscript down one year earlier.

To increase my acceptances, I resolve to attend to a writer’s conference. As a creative person, I often find myself eager to shut the world out and “do my own thing.” And that’s fine at times. However, there are instances when a freelance writer MUST network and expand his or her contact base. What if the magazines and businesses an author regularly submits to began to close up shop? We must continually broaden our horizons and look for new magazines, editors and clients to work for. And that’s what a writer’s conference is all about.
Next, I resolve to branch out into new territory. I have never written a novel or screenplay. Those are just some of the arenas I want to learn more about—and play with-in 2007.
And finally, I will realize that I have a great job. Writing is full of frustrations, and it’s easy to get stuck in the mire of hopelessness and self-doubt by concentrating on the negatives: editors who won’t return phone calls, magazines who send back form rejection letters, computer problems, low pay, etc. But what about the perks? Setting our own schedule, meeting (and writing about) fascinating people, seeing our names in print and receiving a paycheck for doing what we love are all wonderful reasons to keep our fingers on the keyboard.
If we don’t feel that way as writers, even the most lucrative writing contract won’t bring us happiness. So I resolve to be grateful to the Lord for the gift of writing, use that gift faithfully, and smile back at the mailman. After all, he’s become one of my dearest friends!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Carnival Of Christian Writers #3 December 2006

Merry Christmas!!

We're pleased to offer you a variety of posts from Editors, Authors, and readers for your intellectual and recreational reading pleasure. We're also including something new that we hope to continue: One flash fiction piece featured for your reading pleasure. This month's very fitting piece is written by Chris Mikesell. The flash fiction piece will not replace our normal entries and we'll be posting submission instructions soon. Please do not submit flash fiction to the carnival right now, they will be ignored.

As you journey the writing grounds, be sure to leave comments and tell them the Carnival of Christian Writer's sent you. Please keep your hands and feet inside at all times and buckle up for your safety. Enjoy the ride...

Our first featured flash fiction was written by Chris Mikesell "By Any Other Name" This story went straight to my heart, it is about Joseph making the first Nativity for Jesus to play with. Thank you Chris! As an added Christmas present, check out the prequel: A Need For Magi (Chris sent the first story via email and he's out of town, so I posted the story at my blog until he gets back and can post it on his ~michelle)

J.Blair Lane presents My First "Rejection Letter" posted at Scribblings by Blair.

Aquisitions editor for Waterbrook, Mick Silva discusses symbolism in "What's A Meta-For?" at Your Writer's Group.

Literary Agent Chip MacGregor answers the burning question "What's My Voice?"

Author and editor, Terry Whalin speaks to the stubborn ones in his post, "If It Were Easy..."

Author Cara Putman gives excellent Research Tips (especially handy for those of us who aren't research fanatics!)

Michelle Pendergrass tells how God called her to Write.

Gina Conroy finally realizes she's a writer who blogs, not a blogger who writes.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Gift from Above

(c) Gina Conroy
October 25, 1990

While asking the Lord what I should write for this Sunday, He reminded me of a Chritmas song I wrote over 15 years ago. Though you won't be able to hear the tune over the internet, may the words reach down deep into your soul!

A Gift From Above

Little eyes full of compassion
Little hands that would grow strong
Little heart full of love and tenderness
that would right all of man's wrong.

Who would have guessed such a little baby
could be a great gift from above.
How generous was the giver?
How great was His love?

What was it like to leave your mighty throne?
To come down to a desolate land and walk alone?
What were you thinking, how great was your love?
To leave your Heavenly home above?

Eyes full of forgiveness.
Hands stretched upon the cross.
A heart carrying all our sin
and paying the final cost.

Who would have guessed that the Lord
would give his life for me.
And what greater gift was there to give
then his blood upon that tree.

What was it like to leave your mighty throne?
To come down to a desolate land and walk alone?
What were you thinking, how great was your love?
I'm glad you left your home above!

May the true spirit of Christmas reign in your heart today and always!

Gina, at Portrait of a Writer...Interrupted, is founder of Writer...Interrupted and homeschooling mom to four high-spirited children. She writes about her experiences trying to balance it all. Her co-authored book , Anytime Prayers for Everyday Moms was just leased and is available now for Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

How Powerful Is Fiction?


Just how powerful is fiction?

Is it powerful enough to change generations?

Have you heard of Washington Irving? Of course you have, he gave us The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. He also gave us The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, maybe you haven't heard of this series written about the celebration of Christmas.

Here's a couple of free e-books for you:

The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon

Old Christmas by Washington Irving

Then of course, we have Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol (free e-book)

This one really gets to me. We all know the story, right? Sure. What genre would this fit in today? It is a ghost story. A story about ghosts that ends with the infamous line of Tiny Tim, "God bless Us, Every One!" Oh could it be--a Christian ghost story? This "Christian horror" that so many balk at? You know I'm giggling as I type this, right? This story is so ingrained in our culture that I'm not even sure people realize how hypocritical they are of the genre that is who I am.

Both of these novelists wrote about Christmas when Christmas wasn't even celebrated. Now, almost two hundred years later we cling to these traditions as if they were always real.

Yet, they were invented by novelists.


I'd say.

Merry Christmas and "God bless us, every one."

My thoughts grew hot within me and began to burn, igniting a fire of words
Psalm 39:3

Michelle Pendergrass is a coffee-lover who lives in Knox, Indiana where she homeschools her son, Zane. She blogs at Just A Minute. When you visit, please note that her son is most definitely weaned and has been for some time now. Some names just stick.

©2006 Michelle L. Pendergrass - All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 22, 2006

Fiction Friday: More tips for cutting a synopsis

Tip#4 to cut a synopsis—relevance

Cut absolutely anything that does not have direct impact on the main storyline. Be ruthless.

Don’t leave things in because they pertain to a subplot.

Don’t go off for too long (more than a few sentences) on a red herring.

Don’t include character backstory that doesn’t absolutely need to be there in order to explain the main plot.

Don’t describe characters’ physical features unless it’s a vital element to the story (such as the hero mistakes a red-head for the heroine).

Tip#5 to cut a synopsis—action

Don’t describe the characters’ every action unless that action directly influences the main plot:

She kicks the villain’s kneecap and runs outside. She tries to start the car, but it won’t turn over. The villain comes closer. Finally the car starts and she guns out of the driveway.


She escapes.

Tip#6 to cut a synopsis—character names

Don’t mention a character by name unless they appear more than twice in the synopsis AND each appearance is vital to the plot. Mentioning too many names can be not only confusing, it can lengthen your story. Refer to the minor character as “her neighbor” or “his old flame.”

Tip#7 to cut a synopsis—get rid of a short line

When you're down to only a few lines to go until your target page number, look for any paragraphs that end with a partial line, such as the example below:

Sports-crazy Lex Sakai isn’t too worried about
shouldering the unofficial family title “Oldest Single
Female Cousin” when her cousin Mariko marries in
a few months. Her control-freak grandma nags her
about her lack of man, but it’s easy to ignore—until
Grandma bellows at her in the middle of a
restaurant that Lex can’t get a guy because she
needs breast implants. Bristling at the challenge,
Lex insists there’s nothing wrong with
her—Grandma says to prove it. If Lex can’t find a
boyfriend by Mariko’s wedding in June, her ruthless
Grandma will cut off funding to the girls’ volleyball
team that Lex coaches. And pay for breast
implants. (14 lines)

Cut words here and there in the paragraph until that last line disappears.

Sports-crazy Lex Sakai isn’t worried about
shouldering the unofficial family title “Oldest Single
Female Cousin” when her cousin Mariko marries in
four months. Her control-freak grandma nags her
about her lack of man, but it’s easy to ignore—until
Grandma bellows in the middle of a restaurant that
Lex can’t get a guy because she needs breast
implants. Bristling at the challenge, Lex insists
there’s nothing wrong with her—Grandma says to
prove it. If Lex can’t find a boyfriend by Mariko’s
wedding, her ruthless Grandma will cut off funding
to the girls’ volleyball team that Lex coaches. And
pay for breast implants. (13 lines)

Camy Tang lives in San Jose, California. She previously worked in biology research, and she is a staff worker for her church youth group. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, and her Asian chick-lit novel will be released in September 2007.

Everyone who leaves a comment receives a 10% off coupon for Camy's Story Sensei critique service (coupons cannot be combined)! Please leave an e-mail address so she can send you your coupon (use this format: you [at]

Thursday, December 21, 2006

We're Getting a Make Over and We Need Your Help!

I started Writer...Interrupted out of my own need to connect with other writing moms interrupted by raising kids and taking care of homes. Little did I know that my desire for community would turn into an opportunity to give other interrupted writers a chance to use their gifts.

With over 50 members on our webring and over a dozen contributors I think it's time we celebrate! So for our 6th month anniversary, I thought it'd be a great idea to give Writer...Interrupted a make-over.

But honestly, I have not solid idea of what the new site should look like! That's where you come in. In the comment section, leave your ideas on color scheme, layout design, photo or logos, one column or two columns, and anything you'd like to see in the sidebar that currently isn't there.

I'm hoping to make this work by the new year and with your help, I just might do it!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mid-Week Motivation

Start your day out right!
Scripture, Short Devotion

Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. --Mt. 5:16

I was shopping at my favorite store the other day for stocking stuffers, and I happened to have all four kids with me. I know this sounds like lunacy, but I had little choice in the matter wanted their help wanted to feel like I was spending some quality holiday time with them like the mothers with cute Christmas vests who stitch their children's name by hand on the stockings and put lit up reindeer in the yard. If you are that mother, I applaud you. You are an inspiration to the rest of us slackers.

Anyway, I was making my way down the very narrow aisle, all four children in tow (and on their best behavior, I might add), when one of my daughters accidentally bumped into another customer. Being that it is the Christmas season, I put on my best "mother" face and said,"Sweetheart, you bumped in to her. Say excuse me." At which point the lady, who happened to be a child hater old scrooge annoyed with said daughter replied in a very Christmasy way, "yes, in fact we have bumped into one another several times, haven't we?" before turning and stalking out the door of the shop.

Now, had I not been in the motherly mindset, and in particularly the Christmasy motherly mindset, I may have not been nearly as steamed about this. However, the case was as stated, and in response to the unsportsmanlike attitude of the mean lady, I'll have to tell you I thought a whole string of un Christmasy thoughts about her as she turned her back on my daughter's apology. Of course, the Lord didn't ignore my fleshly upheaval and as I drove home, and pervaded my thoughts with the following:

This time of year, it is easy to hand out smiles to carolers, little old ladies, and salvation army santas. We pat ourselves on the back for letting perfect strangers out onto the road in front of us, even when they have a Darwin fish on the back of their car, because it's Christmas, right? 'Tis the season to be kind to others and point them to Christ; besides, we feel this is our duty as good Christian people. But when someone takes the gas pump we have been waiting for, or the register that the checker motioned to us for at the grocery store, or that last Christmas Barbie that we were reaching for, it is just so easy to behave in like manner, pushing and shoving, giving dirty looks, or just simply thinking dirty thoughts.

My point is, perhaps we should take a look at our habits this Christmas season--not our Christmasy habits that we don like gay apparel for 30 days, as long as we are not offended, and then take off on New Year's--but the ones we revert to when we are angry at someone who cut us off, or snubbed us at the restaurant, or even disregarded our well-meaning and sensitive child. The year is too short to hide our light under a bushel of selfishness; there are too many lost to pay them heed only once a year. So friends, let's let our lights shine, no matter what! And let it shine all year long!

Is Your House in Order?
Cleaning, parenting, marriage, organization tips, etc.

As my pastor turned our attention to the accounts of Mary and Joseph concerning the Christmas Story (Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18-25), I noticed a certain missing "something" in the passage describing Mary's experience. There was the part about the angel giving her the great news, the part about her finding favor with God, and even the part about her being afraid yet obedient to God's will. What I didn't find, however, is the part about how she tried to convince Joseph of what the Lord had told her, and how she had persuaded him to follow God's direction. That part wasn't there because that's not how it happened. The Lord gave Joseph a word completely independent of Mary, based on Joseph's relationship with Him and personal in that way.

I think sometimes we strive to express what God has spoken to us in the deepest places of our heart with the one dearer to us than anyone else in this world, and we are often frustrated when he doesn't understand what we are trying to say. There's nothing wrong with sharing what the Lord has laid on our hearts with our spouse, but maybe we shouldn't place so much importance on whether or not they comprehend fully what we have caught a glimpse of. The Lord will speak to him at the right time, and based on his relationship with the Savior. If we are unwilling to be patient in waiting for the Father, perhaps we should contemplate whether or not in a small way we are seeking to take His place in our spouse's life. However, if we will trust the Lord in speaking His plan in His time and in His way, we can be sure that He will be effective in a complete way, and our spouse will be drawn into a more loving relationship with our Savior.

Afternoon Pick Me Up
Writing inspiration

Take a piece of fiction that you are familiar with, and find a particular reference in it that you can expound on. For example, in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, I could choose the sentence, "When I had attained the age of seventeen, my parents resolved that I should become a student at the university of Ingolstadt (first sentence in chapter 3). Research the statement in some aspect, such as "university of Ingolstadt," and write about why this author may have chosen to include this reference. Think about plot and character development, historical setting, and thematic element that are linked to the reference. Is it used as an allusion to draw the reader farther into the piece, or is it part of a broader idea that the author is trying to communicate?

What's For Dinner?
Quick dinners, crock pots, etc.
Feliz Navidad! A break before or after the traditional Christmas feast.
You'll need:

2 lbs. ground beef or chicken breast

1 large can (28 oz) enchilada sauce ( I like Old El Paso's green chile sauce)

20 small flour tortillas or white corn tortillas (I use the corn ones)

3 cups cheddar-jack shredded cheese

sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 and spray 13x9 inch baking dish with cooking spray

Cook meat just until pinkness is gone over medium heat, but do not overcook. Drain groundbeef or cube the chicken, whichever you are using.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups cheese, meat, and 2 cups of the sauce.

Place about 2 spoonfuls into each tortilla and roll up, placing fold-down in baking dish.

Pour the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Cover with foil and bake about 25 minutes.

serves 8-10

Muy delicioso!

A Restful Night's Sleep
Scripture for a restful sleep

O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;

Nor do I involve myself in great matters,

Or in things too difficult for me.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;

Like a weaned child rests against his mother,

My soul is like a weaned child within me.

Psalm 131:1-2

A wise soul once said, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." That person surely understood that our God is a God of order, and that He establishes everything for a time and a season. The key to peace within is to trust Him to reveal to us whatever He wills today, for His will is perfect in benefit. Our opportunity lies in grasping with our whole being that which He has laid before us in this moment, for this season. Put aside your worries about what you do not know and do not understand; He will give you that key when it is time for you to open that door. Find joy in the door you have before you and thank Him for giving you all that you need to enter in.

Chanda Canup is wife to Scott, a gifted worship leader, and mother to four children, ages 5 and younger. Come visit her at her blogspot: Thursday's Child--it will make her day!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nuts and bolts on writing

I wanted to discuss some of the “nuts and bolts” of this writing business. Some of my observations and lessons I’ve learned over the twenty-six years I have been writing.

1. Talent is important but equally or more important is perseverance with some luck thrown in.
2. Rejection is part of writing and sending your work out. We have to learn to move on and not let it stop us from writing. I have seen some very talented writers give up because of rejection (refer back to number one). Have a support group to help you through the rejections. We all need it from time to time. You should see my file of rejections!
3. Set a schedule to write. If not, it is easy to get sidetracked. Life happens.
4. The second sale is often harder than the first. It doesn’t get any easier after you sell the first book. The good part of this is that it keeps you on your toes and hopefully makes you a better writer. Don’t stop trying to improve your craft.
5. Deadlines are important to make. I can’t stress that enough. We are professionals and want to be treated as professionals.
6. Networking is important and can open doors for you whether it is through a conference, chapter meeting or online groups.
7. Critique groups can be good but remember the book is yours ultimately and you have to decide what advice to take or not take.
8. No agent is better than a bad agent.
9. Learn when to give up on a project and move on to a new one. I have heard of some writers working on the same book for years--polishing and polishing it. Learn to let go.
10. This business is subjective. One editor may not like your writing while another may. So don’t give up on a project because of one rejection (refer back to number one).
11. This business is cyclical. What is popular today, may not be tomorrow.
12. Take time for yourself and be aware of the signs of burnout. Stress will take its toll on you and your family.
13. Think twice before quitting your day job. This business is so unpredictable. I realize a day job can get in the way of writing sometimes (I have one) but there is value in having a job outside the home. I have gained a lot from working that I use in my writing. I interact with students and people which have enriched my writing and observations.
14. When something is bothering you about your book, listen to that inner voice. I have found it is usually right whether it is a plot element, the structure of a sentence, or a piece of dialogue.
15. Have fun with your writing. It will show in your work.
16. Research. It shows if you don't. But don't feel you have to put everything in the book that you discover when you research. That shows, too.

Margaret Daley
HEART OF THE AMAZON, Love Inspired Suspense, January 2007
Margaret's website
Margaret's blog

Monday, December 18, 2006

To All a Good Night--

Blame it on the holiday rush and stress, or perhaps it's sensory overload. With all the gorgeous things to see in our neighborhoods and towns, all the wonderful smells coming from our kitchens, all the sounds of carols and bell-ringers and jingle bells, it's no wonder when it comes to writing, the spirit is oh-so-willing, but the flesh is doubly weak.

I find myself thinking, oh, I'm going to write about that. I should do it right now. And then what happens? My Google calendar is beckoning me back to plans and parties and purchases yet to make. Somewhere between the Live Nativity and Food for the Hungry drive, I feel the emotion welling up in me that signals it's time to write. I want to write about family and home and peace and joy. I want to write about festive landscapes and the hanging of green--the pungent odor of cedar on a mantle and midnight-blue glass ornaments exactly like the ones my mother had her first year of marriage and how much I miss her still whenever I read the Christmas story to my son.

I want to write about how you can't go home again and how new traditions are born with each new generation--how precious time becomes as you realize that you only pass this way but once. The words are bumping around in my brain, trying to find an outlet, an escape. But finding none, they race and blink in flourescent spasms that allow me only to stop for a moment to reflect upon them briefly before reaching for the plug to let them go for the night.

And in the darkness I lie and wonder what the New Year will hold and what new inspiration I will find in the days to come to fill my pages and mold my dreams and render me useless for anything but the splendor that I find in the written word. Oh there's no denying it, no pushing it to the back of my mind, no ignoring the impulse. I switch the lamp beside my bed back on and reach for my laptop--my modern quill. Shall I stay and ruminate a while? After all, the children are nestled all snug in their beds--and you know what that means for me--the best kind of night for a writer to have--a blissfully silent night.

Merry Christmas to all my friends. May you find joy in the Season as you worship the Reason.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Ever Faithful

(c) Staci Stallings, 2006

For many years of my life, I wanted to be successful. I put a lot of effort into that endeavor. I worked and worked and worked. If I joined an organization, I had to be president because I wanted the organization to be successful and I wanted to be seen as a success in the organization. Success was always my goal.

After I started writing, I turned my success-orientation toward God. I wanted to be a success for Him. Somehow I thought that would prove to Him I was worthy of His love and gain me a place in His kingdom. I wanted Him to love me, and I thought the only way He would love me was if I was a success. Sad how some of us get so mixed up like that.

It took seven years of writing, three years of publishing, and a gentle re-direct from God for me to see how wrong I had been the whole time. As always, I had been working and working and working, trying to get the publishing and marketing to work out. I put an enormous amount of time and effort into that endeavor. Still, things were not pointing toward me being a success. Even when I had successes, they were too small for me to acknowledge, and so I called them failures and resolved to do better.

When I finally woke up to see that what I was doing was not what God required of me-that He didn't require me to be a success for Him to love me-that was truly a revelation. In a very real way He saved me from me!

Since then, lesson-by-lesson, I have learned to let go of doing it myself and to let Him take over the controls of my life. Not always easy for a control-freak, but by far the easier way to live once you get the hang of it.

The other night in a sermon, God spoke to me in a way that made me smile. The priest said, "God doesn't require you to be a success. He only requires that you be faithful." Well, that's about as direct a message as you could get.

However, would I have heard those words ten years ago? Probably not, but they sure resonated with me the other night.

The amazing thing is that a friend of mine and I have been talking about this very thing-being faithful. She said, "What I am learning is that God doesn't even require us to be faithful because our faithfulness is imperfect. God simply wants to show us His faithfulness."

Wow! Not only do I not have to be a success to gain God's approval, I don't even have to be perfectly faithful to gain God's approval! The more I thought about this, the clearer it became. Over and over and over again, God has shown me, "Staci, even when you fall, even when you're discouraged, even when you feel like a failure, even when you're scared, I am here-loving you, cheering you on, giving you Me."

With that understanding, how then, I ask you, could I ever feel like a failure? How could I ever think I was anything less than a success? And it has nothing at all to do with me. It has nothing to do with my performance, my plans, my control, my abilities, my knowledge, my understanding. It's all about Him.
His performance, His plans, His control, His abilities. His knowledge, His understanding, His wisdom, His love, His mercy. His faithfulness.

In a very real way, all He asks of me is that I take a step back from me, look to Him, and marvel at His faithfulness. He is ever faithful to me. Not sometimes faithful. Not faithful when it's easy or convenient. He is EVER faithful!

Just as He is ever loving. He is. And if I let my worth be based not on me but on Him, then I'm already a success.

Isn't He the coolest?

For much more inspiration, check out Staci's blog "Homeward Bound" at: You'll feel better for the experience!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Michelle Sutton's review of @ Home for the Holidays by Meredith Efken

From the Publisher:

Sitting by the fireside, humming carols and knitting mittens...not! For these stay-at-home moms, the weeks before Christmas are anything but mellow. How can you balance housework, home crises and the husband without losing your mind? Plug in your laptop! Meet Dulcie, Zelia, Jocelyn, Rosalyn, Veronica and the rest of the women of SAHM I Am. An e-mail loop of stay-at-home moms, they've seen each other through months of domestic drama: babies who won't come, bills that won't leave, kids who won't listen and spouses who won't talk. Now, as the yuletide approaches, the SAHMs are on hand once again, bearing gifts of sisterhood, sanity and the real Christmas spirit.

My review:

This is my all-time favorite Christmas novel EVER. I usually think holiday stories are sappy and never watch them on television, let alone read them. I'm not sure why. I used to like The Grinch That Stole Christmas. Hmmm... Anyway, I'm thoroughly impressed with how Meredith has taken an e-mail loop and made the characters so vivid and real that I want to join the loop myself. Though the story ends with Christmas, it covers over half the year so you can read it at any time and still enjoy it. Honestly!

I SO love the classic Christian snobbery exhibited by Rosalyn, the loop moderator and topic of the week coordinator. We all know someone like Ros, don't we? And the struggles with parenting and job-related issues were so realistic and well-portrayed that I was sucked right in. I've had many infertile friends and the pain is so real. These gals on the SAHM I Am loop are the real deal. Even their e-mail names made me snicker. That Veronica, she just tells it like it is. Sometimes we need that. And her metaphor about the cake...I almost wet my pants over that one. You have to read it to know what I mean!

I just can't say enough about how hilarious, yet deeply spiritual this book was. Some of the scenes with the kiddos just made me want to cackle like a nut case. And how many of us take on so many projects and causes that we neglect our first love? Enough said. I think even my son would love this story. The lessons within its pages shoot straight to the heart. Fabulous book. Now go out and get one before they are all gone!

@ Home for the Holidays was published by Steeple Hill and released on November 1, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

Tips for cutting a synopsis

Tip#1 to cut a synopsis—formatting

Check your formatting. Make sure all your margins are 1 inch. Make your header ½ inch from the top.

Make your header only one line with the manuscript title, the word “synopsis,” and your last name (e-mail address optional) on the left side, and then the page number (optional) on the right side. It’ll look something like this:


You don’t have to put the word “Synopsis” at the top of the actual text. Just start the synopsis text.

Tip#2 to cut a synopsis—repetition

Eliminate any repetition. If you mention something once—say the hero left the heroine five years ago—don’t mention it again. For example:

After a five year absence, Ronald McDonald returns to Birdy’s life . . .

A paragraph later:

A different man than he was five years ago, Ronald is still in love with Birdy . . .

Don’t mention the five years again. Cut it: Now more spiritually mature, Ronald is still in love with Birdy . . .

(Thanks to Dineen Miller for the idea of this example)

Tip#3 to cut a synopsis—eliminate subplots

Cut out any mention of the subplot. Be ruthless. Even if the subplot gives a bit of depth to the hero because it tells the reader about his life as a drug runner in Brazil, if it doesn’t directly impact the main plotline of saving the heroine’s ranch, don’t include it.

This is especially true if you’re trying to cut your synopsis down to a page (as per some agent/editor’s submission guidelines). You don’t have to include all those subplots. The editor/agent will realize you needed to eliminate some things in order to fit it into one page.

Some subplots do influence the main plot near the end of the book. Here you have a couple choices:

1) Pare down the mention of the subplot to the absolute minimum needed for the ending to make sense. Maybe a sentence in the beginning of the synopsis, and then a sentence at the end when it impacts the main plot.

2) Eliminate mention of the subplot completely and insert something near the end to make the ending make sense.

Don’t do more than that for subplots if you can absolutely help it.

Camy Tang lives in San Jose, California. She previously worked in biology research, and she is a staff worker for her church youth group. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, and her Asian chick-lit novel will be released in September 2007.

Everyone who leaves a comment receives a 10% off coupon for Camy's Story Sensei critique service (coupons cannot be combined)! Please leave an e-mail address so she can send you your coupon (use this format: you [at]

Thursday, December 14, 2006


(c)Tricia Goyer, 9/2006

I have three kids ages 12, 14, and 17. If you have teenagers, then you know they know everything. This is especially true for homeschooled teenagers. Every time I try to teach them something I get this look that says, "Yah, I already knew that."

So, if you're like me. Then next time you get "that look" here is something that could help SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING?

"Stewardesses" is the longest word typed with only the left hand and "lollipop" with your right. (Bet you tried this out mentally, didn't you?)

Maine is the only state whose name is just one syllable.

No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple.

"Dreamt" is the only English word that ends in the letters "mt".

Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing.

The sentence: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" uses every letter of the alphabet. (Now, you KNOW you're going to try this out for accuracy, right?)

The words 'racecar,' 'kayak' and 'level' are the same whether they are read left to right or right to left (palindromes).

There are only four words in the English language which end in "dous": tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous.

There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order: "abstemious" and "facetious."

TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard. (All you typists are going to test this out.)

All 50 states are listed across the top of the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the $5 bill.

A dime has 118 ridges around the edge.

A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.

A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds. (Some days that's about what my memory span is.)

A "jiffy" is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second.

A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.

A snail can sleep for three years. (I know some people that could do this too.)

Al Capone's business card said he was a used furniture dealer.

Almonds are a member of the peach family.

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

Babies are born without kneecaps they don't appear until the child reaches 2 to 6 years of age.

February 1865 is the only month in recorded history not to have a full moon.

In the last 4,000 years, no new animals have been domesticated.

If the population of China walked past you, 8 abreast, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction.

If you are an average American, in your whole life, you will spend an average of 6 months waiting at red lights.

Leonardo Da Vinci invented the scissors.

On a Canadian two dollar bill, the flag flying over the Parliament building is an American flag.

Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite!

Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated. The average person's left hand does 56% of the typing.

The cruise liner, QE2, moves only six inches for each gallon of diesel that it burns.

The microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket. (Good thing he did that.)

The winter of 1932 was so cold that Niagara Falls froze completely solid.

There are more chickens than people in the world.

Winston Churchill was born in a ladies' room during a dance.

Women blink nearly twice as much as men.

So for all you smart kids out there .................. Now you know everything!

Tricia Goyer has written hundreds of articles, Bible Study notes, and both fiction and non-fiction books.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mid-Week Motivation

Start your day out right!
Scripture, Short Devotion
"Who is wise and understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom's gentleness. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don't brag and lie in defiance of the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." James 3:13-18
Who of us isn't ambitious? I would say that anyone with a goal is, and without goals, where would we be? But this verse brings to our attention the motive behind our ambition. Are we fueled by dreams of furthering self, or furthering our God? Is the root of our enthusiasm fed by the bitter envy of what others have or have accomplished, or is it nutured by the purity of the Father?

A good indicator is of course, our fruits. Does our success tend to yield pride and self-centered hypocrisy? If it does, our seed needs to be examined. The Bible says, "the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace." Our hearts should be in the pursuit of peace in the midst of our ambitions: peace with others, with ourselves, with our Lord. We must be at peace in whatever He determines and at peace with whatever the outcome may be. When we focus so much on self, the result can only be disorder. When we make Him our focus, He will bring order to our deepest dreams and desires.

Pray for the Lord's peace in directing you in achieving your goals today. There's wisdom in laying something down that he never planned for you, and there's success in gaining His perspective on your ambitions. Ask yourself, "am I a sower of peace?" 'Tis the season for "peace on earth." Let it begin in me.

Is Your House in Order?
Cleaning, parenting, marriage, organization tips, etc.

How do the people you love most receive love from you? In this season of giving, it's easy to be focused on packages and parcels and Christmas festivities. Sometimes we expect others to consider these things we do as love exhibited to them, but many people receive love in a completely different way. We can knock ourselves out trying to buy them the "X-box" they mentioned in a tally of their interests, and that person may experience Christmas not feeling loved by us at all.

Gary Chapman wrote a phenomenal book, "The 5 Love Languages." If you are already familiar with this work, I'm sure you're a fan. In it, he describes the different love languages that we communicate and receive love in. So many times, these "languages" do not line up congruently with those closest to us, and familiarizing ourselves with another "language" can help in our relationships immensely.

Just to pique your interest, the five languages he includes are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Why not take a quiz to find out your personal style and then think seriously about those that surround you? I know that this time of year, especially, I want those nearest and dearest to me to receive an extra dose of appreciation. What better way to communicate my love effectively than to speak the language of love that they can easily interpret?

Afternoon Pick Me Up
Writing inspiration

Many times an interior designer will focus the room around one particular piece. It is her inspiration and everything else is spawned from it. Nothing draws the eye away from it without another piece drawing the eye back. I think it's a trick the designer uses to introduce many other elements without overwhelming the individual. There's always something to bring us home.

Think of an idea or observation that is particularly interesting or meaningful to you. Write your best sentence about it, being as effective in your communication to the reader as possible. Try to make the reader feel what you feel regarding this particular subject. Then, build a poem or short story around your sentence. It can come at the beginning, the middle, or the end of your piece, positioning really doesn't matter here. However, your theme should be obvious by the end of the work; the reader should see exactly how you came to your conclusion or perspective on the subject.
Writing comes more easily if you have something to say. Sholem Asch

What's For Dinner?
Quick dinners, crock pots, etc.

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo
this is one of our family favorites...hope you enjoy it too!

You'll need:
One jar of Alfredo sauce (doesn't matter what kind)
One bag of frozen broccoli florets
One box of Angel Hair pasta
Garlic powder
3 tbsp olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a deep skillet or wok. Add chicken, sprinkle with garlic. Brown the chicken and lower heat. Add Alfredo sauce. Simmer on low.
Meanwhile, steam or boil broccoli, cooking thoroughly. Drain and add to chicken/alfredo mixture.
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Serve with alfredo mixture.
Serves 4

A Restful Night's Sleep
Scripture for a restful sleep
"Lord, now You are letting Your servant
depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of
all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.
These words were uttered by an an often unsung hero named Simeon. Simeon had waited patiently for the Lord to fulfill His promise to him to reveal the Messiah before his death. Despite the delay of this fulfillment, he lived his life in commitment to the Lord, and as the Lord promised, he was shown the face of the tiny Savior. What a wonderful moment for this faithful servant! A moment of epiphany he had spent his life dreaming about. A moment he had looked forward to for so many years. I'm sure the moment was sweeter for the waiting.

As you spend your last moments awake in this day, thank the Lord for His faithfulness to you. He does not work on our timetable, none can refute this. But He is faithful to do what He promises, and there is a purpose in our waiting. Trust Him in His plan, and praise Him for the blessing He has in store.

Come visit Chanda at her blogspot:Thursday's Child

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Gift of Time

Over the last few months I've given myself a special treat. (No, I did not wait for Christmas!) I signed up to have once a month sessions with a life coach for writers. Yes, it's pricey, but the few hours I've spent on the phone with her have been life-changing.

In one of our exercises, I was given a gift. Okay, it wasn't something I could touch, but I could see it when I closed my eyes. In my mind there was no fancy wrapping paper or exquisite bow, but with my life coaches' permission, I mental opened something my heart longed for. Was it a new house? A vacation in Maui? A trip to the New York Times Bestseller list? No, what I gave myself (once I was given permission) was a blank calendar. BLANK.

Currently, my calendar is anything but blank. I have written down the days I'm blogging where (I like to get around on the web). My kids' sport practices and times. My church classes and radio interviews. Christmas parties and book deadlines. (The last one is the most time-consuming and overwhelming.) Whew.

The idea of a blank calendar was so . . . well, so . . . so exactly what I needed.

Then, the life coach gave me an assignment--to buy a new calendar for the new year. She also gave me permission . . . to fill it up as I pleased (and as it pleased God), giving myself permission to schedule in quiet time, coffee time with friends, and even reading time as I need them. (Isn't that how it always is, these needs get pushed to the side for the "greater good" of family life?!)

So right now, my new calendar sits on my desk. Yes, it's under a pile of to-do items, but it's a good start.

How about you? Does a blank calendar sound like a wonderful gift?

I hope so, because I'm passing on the request to you: buy one. Now, fill it as you desire and God leads. It's in your hands.

Really, I give you permission.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fill Your Creative Tank

Running on empty? Out of steam? Well run dry? Experiencing creative blocks? Gina shared with us her experience of feeling like she's running on empty through the busy holiday season.

We've all been there...drawing a blank, nothing left to give. The best way to prevent these types of situations is to make sure we're nurturing our creative selves with a little daily rest and rejuvenation. But for the average woman, taking time for you doesn't always happen.

For those times when you need a little extra fuel, there are practical solutions for filling the tank. Here is today’s creativity-inspiring, tank-filling, unblocking suggestion: manage distractions.

Oftentimes we're too distracted to create. Those distractions, or the tyranny of the mundane, prevent creative thoughts and habits from finding their home in our lives. The best way to eliminate this problem is to go to the source.

Find out what's distracting you: a messy house, long to-do list, lack of sleep, poor eating habits, etc. Take thirty minutes to manage that distraction to the point that it no longer consumes your thoughts, i.e. clean the room or get someone to do it for you, make an appointment in your schedule for when you'll tackle that to-do list, take a nap, eat a healthy snack. You may not completely eliminate or remove the distraction, but you can manage it long enough to allow creativity to take hold.

Once you've got that distraction controlled, try your hand at creating again. You should notice a clearing, or space, for creative thought and energy that wasn’t there before and it only took you thirty minutes or less.

Next time we'll talk about refilling stations that I've found most effective in my own creative life. Until then, keep it simple and live what you love.

Tasra Dawson is an award-winning scrapbooker, personal discovery coach, and author. As an entrepreneur, wife, and mother, Tasra understands the demands on time and energy faced by career women and busy moms. In Fall 2006, Dare Dreamer Press released her book, Real Women Scrap: Create the Life and Layouts You’ve Always Wanted.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Running on Empty

I feel like the last couple of weeks I've been coasting down hill, running on empty. Like many people, my life has become insanely busy and the more important things have been pushed to the curb or all together forgotten.

Often times I've thought of pulling off the interstate to refuel, but obstacles in the road of life keep me missing the nearest exit. So I chug along, hoping to make it through the chaos of the holiday season, my final destination.

Even today is filled with the business of church, my son's matinee performance and a party afterwards.

Lord prepare my heart to hear from you today, to refuel during the next week when I'm running low, and to slow down, especially around the curves.

Gina Conroy , is founder of Writer...Interrupted and a homeschooling mom to four. She writes about her experiences trying to balance it all. Her co-authored book , Anytime Prayers for Everyday Moms was just released and is available now for Christmas!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Introducing Amy Quinn

Amy O'Quinn is a pastor's wife and former schoolteacher-turned-homeschool mom of six wonderful blessings! She and her family live in rural south Georgia in her late grandparent's 1930's remodeled farmhouse...complete with window boxes, arbor, and picket fence! She also tries to fit in a little bit of freelance writing around the fringes of family life--something that takes quite a bit of juggling at times! Her other interests include reading, baking, learning about whole foods nutrition, classical/easy listening music, gardening, and cottage style decorating.

She has publishing credits in several publications, including Jack and Jill, International Gymnast, Guideposts for Kids, US Kids, Learning Through History Magazine, Homeschooling Today, GEORGIA Magazine, and Rocking Chair Reader: Family Gatherings (anthology). She has several web writing credits as well, and she recently sold a rebus story to Highlights for Children. She also does curriculum reviews for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and is the president/newsletter editor for her local homeschool group. Come visit her at her blog at ~Ponderings At Picket Fence Cottage~ .


My son Zane does not follow certain rules well. I know all too well he comes by it naturally. His mama doesn't like a lot of rules either.

At the dining room table yesterday (our school room), he was working on some grammar worksheets. He would not read the instructions. He'd glance over the worksheet and read the questions and go at it. Ok. No big deal, he got them all right. Then he started on some reading comprehension and deduction worksheets. He glanced over the story and started answering questions and got them wrong.

I asked him if he read the instructions. He was honest, said he didn't. The teacher in me explained that the directions are important, those are how we know what to do. If the directions tell us to circle something and we cross it out, it might not be a big deal on a worksheet like this, but what would happen if we were cooking and the recipe told us to add sugar and we added salt?

He seemed to understand that, so I added: "I understand you don't want to follow all the rules, there are times you can be creative like when you're drawing or painting or writing a story, but there are even rules to creativity."

"When mommy writes a story, she can make up any story she wants, but when she writes it down she must spell the words right, make correct sentences, use the correct punctuation, all sorts of things. It cannot be sloppy, but the story, it is whatever story God puts in mommy's brain."

He said, "OH! So you mean that if you spell bad and are sloppy you won't get a book like this?"

The book he held up was my copy of Self-Editing For Fiction Writer's.

That's right son.

Then it hit me. I can write down whatever story God puts in my little brain. I can follow His directions or I can follow man's. It is my choice. I can do research and write a story for a particular publisher, following all of their rules, or I can write a story following God's rules.

That's where my natural rebellion lies. Typically dormant, sometimes I don't even know it's still there. But tell me to do something like write for a publisher that expects (add in your list) and I'm like a caged animal, pacing and growling. I'm ok with God's rules, though, most of the time. I guess the difference is that I know God has my best interest in mind and I'm safe and comfortable with Him being in charge. I am not comfortable with another human being in charge of my writing.

While there's no big epiphany here, no big lesson, I understand my rebellion a bit more as I watch my son's grow and become more like me.

I have no desire to write what the market demands or to write for the readers. My only desire is to write for Christ. So for me that means continuing on with my ghost story about three generations of bastard sons even though some influential people have told me it's a bad idea. I imagine some of those Hebrews marching around Jericho thought God had a bad idea there, eh?

My thoughts grew hot within me and began to burn, igniting a fire of words
Psalm 39:3

Michelle Pendergrass is a coffee-lover who lives in Knox, Indiana where she homeschools her son, Zane. She blogs at Just A Minute. When you visit, please note that her son is most definitely weaned and has been for some time now. Some names just stick.

©2006 Michelle L. Pendergrass - All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fiction Friday: The role of the synopsis when submitting

Why do I need to cut a synopsis?

While I haven’t talked to every editor and agent on the planet, the majority of the ones I’ve spoken to prefer a 2-3 page synopsis.

However, every editor is different. One editor will want a one-page synopsis, another will want an extensive chapter-by-chapter synopsis.

In my experience, it’s usually better to opt for the shorter synopsis when submitting a proposal. If they want a longer one, they usually specifically mention that they do.

Another reason to have a short synopsis handy: Writing contests often have you submit a short, 1-2 page synopsis with your entry.

Here’s a little tip: when querying a novel, it doesn’t hurt to slip a one-page synopsis in with your one-page query letter. And it doesn’t cost any more in postage.

Also, when submitting a partial manuscript or a proposal (only at the editor’s request, of course), most standard proposals consist of a 2-3 page synopsis, not a chapter-by-chapter. Sometimes you can include BOTH a 2-page synopsis and a chapter-by-chapter synopsis in with the proposal, to give the editor his/her pick of whichever length they prefer.

Are editors/agents even reading my synopsis?

Some editors and agents have admitted they don't read the synopsis when your proposal or manuscript hits their desk. So if that's the case, why even bother to invest so much time into it?

The truth is that some editors and agents do read your synopsis. And if it gets taken to editorial committee, it's likely that the VP of Sales or the VP of Marketing will read your synopsis, not your manuscript. They're looking at the marketability of the book.

The synopsis is important to let them know several things:

1) The characters are likable, with faults and flaws
2) The characters learn something on a spiritual level by the end of the book, with a solid spiritual takeaway for the reader.
3) There is definite rising tension and various obstacles in the middle of the book
4) There is an exciting climax where the reader roots for the character
5) There is a satisfying ending.
6) There is an issue or theme that would appeal to readers and which can be marketed, but which isn't preachy.
7) There is something unique and different about this book that would make it stand out from the other books in its genre on the shelves.

They also don't want a hugely long synopsis--they just don't have the time to read it. 1-2 pages, single-spaced, is a good range to aim for.

Camy Tang lives in San Jose, California. She previously worked in biology research, and she is a staff worker for her church youth group. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, and her Asian chick-lit novel will be released in September 2007.

Everyone who leaves a comment receives a 10% off coupon for Camy's Story Sensei critique service (coupons cannot be combined)! Please leave an e-mail address so she can send you your coupon (use this format: you [at]