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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Congratulations Cara!

Check out this interview with one of our own.

Hopefully she'll be posting a little testimony for us here at Writer...Interrupted.

Thoughts On Writing

Stephen King wrote On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft. If you’re around me long, you’ll know that this man has been my mentor even though he doesn’t know it. You may cringe because you think you know him, but stay with me for a little while. This man is one of the greatest storytellers of our time.

I want to address one sentence that I underlined on page one hundred fifty-two. He says, “If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?”

We’re all joined together here by the common thread of writing and mothering. I know that God gave me my son, Zane. I wake up with him, and I’m with him all day long. I feed him, I homeschool him, and I tuck him in at night after our prayer. God also gave me words. But for some reason, those get shoved to the bottom of the pile when things start to avalanche.

In my life, today especially, I need to ask God to forgive me for putting this gift of words under a basket. I always understood that verse to mean that I shouldn’t hide my love for God. But today, it means something new. I looked at it from a different angle. The light God asked me to shine comes in the form of writing. Yet I am so afraid of it, so terrified to admit I might be good at it, and so unaware that He has given it to me to shape and mold through Him.

Can you imagine the horror if I treated Zane like I treat my writing? Oh boy, medical emergency, can’t be with my son today. Fridge went out, no time for the boy. Life is crazy, put the boy aside. Gotta go grocery shopping, plan a party, go to Bible study, be a soccer mom, I’ll get to the boy soon, just not right now.

This thing called writing should not take over and consume my life, but it also shouldn’t be shoved aside and thrown out with the trash. It should be cared for and nurtured. It is the gift God gave me and He expects that I take care of what He gives me. How disrespectful of me to say, “Oh yes, Lord. Thank you for giving me this gift of words. Let me just shove it away in the corner until I’m ready to use it.”

The theme of this year’s ACFW conference was New Beginnings. I think this should be a new beginning. A clean slate. I’ve asked God to forgive me, now I need to show Him that I appreciate the gift of writing that he has blessed me with.

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, September 29, 2006

Introducing Fiction Fridays

Action vs. Summary
By Tricia Goyer

When it comes to writing fiction there are two ways to write scenes. One is
to "show" the action. The other is to "summarize," which is called
narrative. How do you pick which to do when?

1. Consider the importance of the scene. I've been working with some new
writers and one common mistake is that they give equal weight to everything.
The scenes that should be more in-depth, including dialogue, are the ones
that *highlight action.* Also, check with each scene to make sure it's
crucial to the story.

BUT . . . if the information is simply a connecting point for two more
powerful scenes, then use narrative summary. Sum things up and move to the action.

Finally, if it isn't crucial for the story (the story can't be told without
it) cut it.

2. Consider the pace of the scene. In fiction, most books do not have long
passages of narrative summary. We go back to the old saying, "Show don't tell." Narrative summary is telling. Instead you need the reader to *see* what's happening with your characters. Better yet, *live* what's happening because you've pulled them into the scene.

One way to get a good idea of pace, is to read books that you love, books
that are similar to your own, and preferably books that are best sellers!

Jack Cavanaugh says the best way to get a sense of flow, is to type out some of your favorite passages from your favorite books. First of all, it makes you slow down and notice what the author is doing. Second, after 10-15 minutes you have the natural rhythm in your head and when you move over to our manuscript then hopefully you'll be able to keep with that rhythm.

3. Turn off your internal editor. When you're writing, think *people and
action,* don't think about the mechanics. Let the people and action tell
your story. When I write my novels, I write at least 1,000 words at a
sitting, and I try not to stop. I don't look at spelling or grammar, etc. I
don't go back and read what I've written, until the next day. I just jump
into the book and let the story take me along.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's Carnival Time!!

I'm excited to announce a new feature here at Writer...Interrupted. It's the Carnival of Christian Writers. We will be hosting the carnival here once a month on the last Monday of the month. Please read the guidelines below and submit your entries!!


Your post must be related to writing.

Please check out the writing guidelines on the sidebar.

The deadline is the LAST Saturday of each month.

Please write a one to two sentence blurb about your post including your name with the link to your blog and a link to your actual post you're submitting to the carnival. Email it to me at

Please put a link to this blog in your post somewhere. We do not have a button at this time, but hope to in the future.

One more thing, spread the word!

Any questions? Email me.

Meredith Efken
Author and Homeschooler

SAHomeshoolingM, Meredith Efken maybe new to the author scene, but her debut novel SAHM, I AM, speaks from years of experience. I'm so glad she's made time in her busy schedule to chat with all of us.

Meredith, thanks so much for doing this interview. As a homeschooling mom and aspiring fiction author, I’m anxious to glean from all your experience.

Oh, dear. If you homeschool, too, that means I really can’t fool you into thinking I know what I’m talking about. Homeschool families are awfully sharp.

Why was your first book about a SAHM, and what message were you wanting to get out?

My first book was about a SAHM because it was the first story I wrote that was good enough to get published, and it happened to be in the right place at the right time.

I don’t know if I had a particular message burning in me. I just noticed that there were lots of “chick-lit” comedy novels that included SAHM characters, but none of the authors were getting it right in regards to what it’s really like to be a stay-at-home parent. They constantly made us sound out of control and pathetic. I wrote my book out of a need to tell OUR story—stay-at-home moms are real people who are smart, funny, and have hopes and dreams for their lives. We have a tough job, but we aren’t saints. Don’t put us on pedestals. We also aren’t victims or people to be pitied or disparaged. I wanted to let moms know that it’s okay to want something more than being a child-care worker and housekeeper. If that’s your passion, great. If not, it’s okay to go in a different direction.

Writing SAHM I Am was also therapeutic to me because I got to work through a lot of the mixed feelings I have about being a stay-at-home mom. Truthfully, “Mom” was never high on my list of What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. I love my kids, but I have a certain amount of ambivalence about the actual job of motherhood. My book let me express that in a way that was healing for me, in that it let me acknowledge my feelings and work through the guilt of not always relishing my mommy duties.

Before you were published, did you ever feel like you’ve “missed” God in regards to writing or home schooling, that maybe you should be doing something else?

Absolutely not. I’ve had lots of self-doubt about my ability to write well enough to be published (still have those doubts…they don’t go away after the book contract, sorry to say.) I’ve had my own self-generated guilt for not doing all the mom-stuff it seems that I’m expected to do, especially since “all I do is stay home all day.”

But I’ve experienced what it’s like to be in a career and/or volunteer position that God didn’t design me for. The square-peg-in-round-hole feeling is terrible. It’s not like that with my writing career. I fit there. It’s what God designed me for. And even before I was published, I knew that with or without a contract, writing was something in my soul that had to be done if I was to continue being a healthy person. I can’t go long without it or I feel withered and incomplete. I’m just extremely thankful that God did allow me to make a career out of it. It’s something I can happily spend the rest of my life learning more about and sharpening my skills and craft.

I feel the same about writing and being around writers. I finally found the place where I belong and it feels good to fit in!

Homeschooling…that’s a different story. I know beyond a doubt that it’s what we’re supposed to be doing at this point. But every year I find myself asking God, “Can we be done yet?” I like it, and my children are usually fun to work with. But it takes a lot of time away from my writing and editing duties, and I often feel like I’m totally muddling the entire job. The only reason we homeschool is because my oldest daughter is “twice exceptional” meaning she is intellectually gifted as well as having learning disabilities. It’s a difficult combination to serve well in a regular classroom, and homeschooling provides her the environment and type of structure that allows her to learn best and succeed. My youngest daughter would probably do just fine in a regular school setting, but she wants to be home with big sister. Plus, she is creatively gifted, and this way I can make sure that wonderful creativity is nurtured and not quashed.

Your kids sound a lot like mine and I have similar feelings about the homeschool gig.

Each year, I review our situation and pray about it to see if it’s time for a change. I have a feeling that if God ever releases me from homeschooling, I’ll probably end up in tears anyway the first day they go off to school. I gripe a lot about how hard it is to homeschool and write, etc., but the truth is I’m probably more attached to having them around than I like to admit.

Your life must be incredibly busy as a homeschooler and writer. Tell me a little about your family and what a typical day at the Efken house looks like.

A typical day at our house is full of things to do that never quite get done. I have to remind myself every night that I did what I could do with the day, and not stress about what I didn’t do. But stressing would be really easy for me if I gave in to it.

Glad to know I'm not the only one.

I’m not really a get-up-early person, though I do enjoy the idea of being a morning person. But I’ve been getting up around 6:30 a.m. recently to work out for a half hour. I really, really hate exercising, but I also hate being unhappy about my body and the poor shape that it’s been in for most my life. I decided I wanted my daughters to have a mom that displayed a healthy lifestyle and self-image. Obesity runs in our family, and I don’t want my girls to ruin their bodies by making poor health choices. Plus, I want them to avoid the trap of defining their self-worth based on their physical appearance. So I’m trying to emphasize that as Christians, we have a responsibility to treat our bodies well and to keep them in good shape. Thus, the exercising and eating right. (I just didn’t want anyone to think I was some sort of saint for getting up early to exercise!)

During the day, I try to keep my girls on a good schedule, especially during school. This fall, I’ll be freelance editing as well as writing, so our school schedule will be adjusted depending on if it’s an Editing Week or Writing Week. During Editing Weeks, the girls will have self-directed school assignments to do because I plan to edit full-time those weeks. On a Writing Week, we’ll do more activities together during the morning, and then I usually write during the afternoon and into the evenings.

I’m constantly tweaking the schedule. I’m not a schedule-person by nature, so it has been stretching for me to maintain a consistent routine. But I know it’s the only way to make this work for us. I try to keep a flexible mindset, though, and not be too harsh on myself if the schedule gets trashed for a day. I’m learning to make adjustments as we go along, and that’s helped me keep my sanity.

In the evenings, we sometimes have church-related or ministry duties, or the girls have activities. My husband and I are also trying to fit in some weight training. We try to limit what we get involved with, so we don’t get overcommitted. It’s hard to find that balance, because we also want our girls to have the opportunity to try a variety of activities. We all have to learn to pick and choose. It’s a good life skill.

Do you think it’s possible to give yourself fully to raising children, home schooling, writing, keeping in shape, cooking balanced meals, cleaning house, etc.? In my life I don’t feel I can give all these areas 100%. Is it possible or should I stop striving to “do it all” and just do what I can and not feel guilty about it?

NO, IT’S NOT POSSIBLE!!!! You can not do it all. It’s a big fat lie!!! (Just like “healthy” snack cookies or “all natural” hot dogs!)

You have to prioritize. You have to look long and hard at the hours God grants you every day and choose how you will spend those hours. And you have to face the fact that for every thing you choose to make a priority, there will be something else that seems equally worthy or urgent that you will have to sacrifice. There are consequences to those decisions, too. You have to be willing to live with those consequences. But do it consciously. Don’t just let life happen. Choose what you do with it and take responsibility for your choices.

You have to be creative and unconventional, too. Why structure your family and your routine based on what everyone else is doing or what some guru says is the right way to do it? Get out of your self-imposed box and be innovative about how to accomplish your priorities.

And then, when other boxed-in people start criticizing you for your choices, you have to choose again—take on that guilt, or remind yourself that this is YOUR life, and your family, and you’ve deliberately worked out your routine for what you feel is best at this time for what you are supposed to be focusing on.

(Whew, I needed that little pep-talk, too!)

How do you keep everything in balance?

The hardest part for me has been learning to say no to other things that I enjoy doing or feel I should be doing. I used to be involved in community and college theater. I’ve given that up because it just isn’t compatible with my other priorities. But sometimes I really miss it. I don’t go see many stage plays anymore because it makes me ache inside at not being able to be a part of that.

I also don’t do a lot of the typical SAHM things like play groups or women’s Bible studies or fellowship groups. If I wasn’t homeschooling, I probably would, but I can’t fit it all in. So I have to pick and choose and prioritize. It’s hard, and not a lot of fun. But it’s worth it.

I also involve my family in my writing and editing careers. My husband and I communicate very honestly and openly about what we both need in order to accomplish our goals and dreams as individuals, and we work together to take our family in the direction we want it to go. We support and serve each other, and we are honest about the needs we have or the struggles we are experiencing. Then we work together to solve those problems.

When I go to conferences, my husband plays single parent for that week. He also does a lot of the daily household stuff on a normal basis—grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, dishes, etc. This frees me up during the day to work with the girls or write or edit. During the evenings, I do other writing-related activities like research, promotion, brainstorming, editing, answering emails, etc.

That used to make me feel guilty, like I wasn’t doing the “stuff” a SAHM is supposed to do. But my husband has been very helpful in making me see that it’s his choice to do these things, and he makes that choice because he loves me and believes in my dream of being a writer. It’s his way of helping me get there. And it has been effective.

The cool thing is that I’m planning on using the fulfillment of my dreams to help him reach his. He wants to return to graduate school for a PhD in physics, to be a physics professor. Physics is for him what writing is for me—can’t live without it. He’s taken quite a detour from that love in the past 12 years since he graduated with his B.S. in Physics. In fact, he had given up on that dream ever becoming reality. But he’s sacrificed so much for me and my dreams, I’m determined to return the favor as soon as we can manage it. My writing and editing will hopefully support the family while he’s in school. That’s another reason I’ve stopped feeling guilty about not being able to do it all. It’s easy to let go of expectations when you are working toward something bigger and greater.

The only thing we really do poorly on is actual house cleaning. You don’t want to know how long the interval is between cleaning the bathrooms, for example, or dusting the living room! And there’s other stuff that gets put off—like home improvements, or car maintenance. I’d love to have a beautiful home that I’d be proud to invite visitors over to, but I’ve had to accept that until we can afford a cleaning service, that’s just not going to happen.

The guilt goes away real fast, though, when I hold my book in my hands and ask myself, “Which would you rather have? A sparkling toilet or this book?”

Thanks Meredith! And don't forget to check the book stores very soon for her follow up novel @ Home for the Holidays: It's beginning to look a lot like chaos.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Classic WFMW: Choosing a Curriculum

The natural reaction of most beginning home school parents is to run out and buy a curriculum. The thinking behind this is that "I, the parent, have no idea what I need to teach my child so I need to rely on outside help." The trouble with this is two-fold. First it is expensive--a basic reading curriculum can cost upwards of $100. Two, it is likely that the curriculum will not suit either the child's learning style, the parent's teaching style, the family's lifestyle, or all of the above. It is impossible to find the perfect curriculum and even if you find one that works perfectly for yourself and one child it is highly unlikely that it will suit the needs of the second child. For the most part the curriculum business makes a pretty penny because parent's will move from one "perfect" curriculum to the next trying to fill the needs of all involved. One of two things eventually happens, either the family quits home schooling in frustration or the family adjusts gradually, taking bits and pieces of the failed curriculums and creating that which is suitable to each child's needs. In the end you end up spending hundreds of dollars to develop your own curriculum.

If you really feel you must get a full curriculum, research, research, research. First find out what your child needs to know at each grade level, both on the state level and from your personal point of view. For this information look on-line or check out one of the many books on the subject. Next, ask every home school parent you can find the pros and cons of what they use. Look online, there are plenty of resources and articles that can give you all the background you need on any curriculum. Borrow some and try them out (often you can do this either by talking to fellow home schoolers or visiting a local home school group.) Some churches and schools will even lend a hand. In Pennsylvania the school district is required to supply home schoolers with the texts used within the district. If your state does this take them up on the offer, you can discover what works and what doesn't before you run out and purchase a curriculum that doesn't suit your needs.

Watch yard sales and thrift shops. I find some great old text books and activity books this way. If you purchase 20 text and activity books for $.10 a piece you can't go wrong, even if you only learn what you aren't looking for.

Make friends with teachers. I come from a teaching family. All my parents friends were teachers so I not only ended up going to school to teach but also made many friends that are teachers. Public school teachers are often initially weary of home schoolers, from their point of view you are saying that they can't do their job right so you, an uncertified teacher, are taking their place. If you show that you are educating yourself, willing to learn from their experience, and not only respect them but are trying to do what they are, the best thing for your child, they will come around. Be friendly and ask questions. Having teachers for friends are one of a home schoolers best resources. A seasoned teacher has probably run into many of the problems you are running into with your own child and will be able to look at it from a different point of view. Also, teachers love to share lesson plans and motivation ideas and will be thrilled to have another to share with.

Search out other home schoolers. Having friends that home school is great as you not only have people to commiserate with but also to share experiences with. If you must you could join a home school group or just form a loose get-together-every-so-often group of friends to share resources and field trips with.

In the end, before you even think curriculum, figure out your style, your child's style, your family style, discuss what you think will work, test out some different philosophies and curriculums, and pray, pray, pray. May the Lord guide you towards the wisest course of action for you and your household.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

ACFW: Mission Accomplished

What a wonderful ride! It's so hard to put into words this year's ACFW experience, but if I had to choose one word, for me it would be emotional! My second word would be peace!

From laughter to tears, from education to building relationships, ACFW Dallas had it all.

Worship was incredible. The spirit of our living and loving God fell in big doses on me, every time! I don't know why I even bothered putting on eye makeup because it was all cried off after every worship service and some writing sessions as well thanks to Mary E. DeMuth's class on Writing from the Inside Out.

I had never heard Liz Curtis Higgs speak before, and now I won't be able to forget her spirit. Though her words may get lost in my memory, her enthusiasm, humor, spirit, testimony and love for the Lord will be etched in my heart.

I was also blessed to meet our very own Writer...Interrupted members and bloggers. I'll be posting photos later with all the new friends I made.

There was exciting news for some of our members as well. Tricia Goyer won the Book of the Year award in the Historical category and Cara Putman (my crit partner) was awarded her very first contract right in front of the entire 400 attendees! She'll be posting on her experience soon, so I'll let her fill you in on the details.

The morning sessions brought me a much need refreshing in my spirit and confirmation of my writing journey. I will be going into this more in depth on my blog, but will share that throughout my writing journey I had elevated the craft of writing above my calling to write and somewhere along the way lost my voice by putting too much emphasis on publication. On the last day, God gave me a sweet reminder. Unless He builds the house, he who labors, labors in vain!

So friends, writers, busy people. Know that God has a plan and purpose for your writing lives, and though He wants you to learn and develop your gift, He doesn't want you to take your eyes off of Him.

Happy writing! Happy serving! Happy living!

For conference photos go here. But be warned, my tired mug shows up in almost all the photos and it's not always a pretty site!

Gina Conroy is a homeschooling writing mom of four and founder of Writer...Interrupted blog and webring. For more musings by this author visit Portrait of a Writer...Interrupted.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Hike

My son, Nathan, was commenting the other day about his two hamsters. "Mom, they have totally unique personalities. One is calm and likes to be held, the other is wild and always on the go. "

"Just like kids," I responded. "No two are exactly the same." Or should I say no "three," because I witnessed this in my kids this own week.

On Labor Day we took time off and went for a seven-mile hike. (3 1/2 miles each way, and it was the most laborous thing I've done all year!) I had to chuckle because my kids' personalities on the trail were a perfect example of their personalities in life.

(And just as a side note, or perhaps rabbit trail, I DID have a proposal due to a publishing house the next day, but I chose to leave the computer and join my family. Yes, the proposal was a day late, but we had a day we won't forget. Choices, choices.)

On the hike, Cory took the lead. At age seventeen, and a first born, he has to be, uh, first . . . always. He set the pace and forged ahead.

Of course, he had to watch out because his sister was hot on his tail. Even though Leslie is three years younger, it has always been this way. My daughter has never been the ruffles and lace girl that I always imagined I'd have. She had no time for girl stuff, she was too busy keeping up with Cory. Even at age 3, she was reading . . . for the very fact I was teaching her brother. Even last year, Leslie skipped ahead a few grades in school because she looked at Cory's work and declared, "I can do that."

On the trail it was no different. She stayed not more than one step behind her brother at all times. Then, when she'd think she'd have a chance, she'd attempt to bolt ahead. Unfortunately, her brother is still quicker, and even if she did get past him, he was strong enough to literally pick her up and set her back in place.

Then there is my sweet boy, Nathan. I've always said he's the easiest kid ever to raise. He's kind and thoughtful. He's never much trouble because he's content wherever he's at, even if it's behind everyone else. He has nothing to prove and won't fight for first place. On the trail, he trudged behind--dead last--happy to chat with his mom and dad, unconcerned with the struggle of the other two ahead.

Years ago, I was wasn't so comfortable with these differences in my kids. I pushed Nathan too much, while at the same time trying to get the other two to slow down and stop their frantic pace for first. I attempted to mold them into something they weren't . . . something I envisioned the "perfect" children would be like.

My kids refused to be perfect.

Then, God started talking to me, and I realized (duh) that He didn't make my kids as totally empty vessals--ones in which I needed to fill with all the stuff I think is important. Instead, He created them as unique individuals, and it was my job not to forge their paths (or to scream directions every step of the way), but to make sure they stayed on the trail. What a concept!

Of course, when it comes to actual hiking, even keep them on the trail is a challenge. We hiked to a waterfall, you see, and guess who wanted to hike to the top? And guess who wanted to join her big brother?

The picture above is Cory and Leslie looking down on the rest of us from the top of Morrell Falls. To put it in perspective, below is a photo of Nathan and I. You can still see Cory and Leslie as tiny dots just left of the top center.
You can also see where Nathan and I considered best . . . still on the bottom, sitting on a comfortable log, cheering them on, but content to watch them forge ahead.

Tricia Goyer


to Tricia Goyer, one of our own, for winning the ACFW Book of the year award in the Historical category for her novel Dawn of a Thousand Nights! I read it a few weeks ago and agree that it was a winner. The WWII setting made me feel as if I were there at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese bombing and her characters were compelling and drew me into the story.

So go out and buy the book and see what all the rave is about!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Grace Shining Through

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness " Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
~2 Corinthians 12:9

His promise, that His grace will be sufficient, makes all the difference. Every time I start to doubt my ability as a writer or as an artist He brings this to mind. Am I glad to boast in my weakness so that His power may dwell in me? Well, not glad maybe, but I am determined.

I am not enough. I can write my heart out, spend days drawing or taking photos, I can spend all my time developing the "right" relationships or doing all the "right" things, but unless He is in it I will fail.

For many years I tried too hard. I would work at one thing then another, trying with all my heart to succeed. I wanted to paint so I tried to paint. My paintings were technically good but never sold. I wanted to write so I attempted to write. My writings got me good grades but I didn't know how to sell them. I've done metal smithing, photography, house illustrations, figure drawing, poetry, inspirational nonfiction, fiction. All have shown the talent the Lord gave me, some sold, yet none has gone anywhere because He was not in it.

I am not a genius. He did not make me so. My work is not perfect and I know it well. I know that He has given me some talent in a variety of things. I am Jill of all trades, master of none. Only now am I realizing that this is how He made me. He has given me the desire to create yet there is nothing new under the sun. He has given me many small talents, all of which I am to use to my fullest for His glory.

As I find a use for each one, He blesses it and uses it to bless others. I am learning, with Paul, to glory in my weakness. As I see how He uses my small thing, with all its flaws, to bring glory to Himself, I am greatly blessed.

His grace fills in all the gaping holes of my flaws. He beautifies all my mistakes and then uses them to show others Himself. Praise the Lord for my flaws, praise the Lord for my lack, praise the Lord for my weakness, for it is through those holes that He shines for all to see.

Heather Young is a saved by grace, homeschooling, mother of three, wife of one, writer, artist, and web designer who drinks way too much coffee and spends too much time at her computer. She writes for Graced by Christ, Everyday Miracles, and Writer....Interrupted. Someday, God willing, she will finish one of her WIP and attempt to get it published, but not until God says the timing is right.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Pause in Our Regular Program

Gina is away at the ACFW conference and left me (Heather of Graced by Christ) in charge of the blog. "No problem, I can handle it," I said.

"Just post the drafts of those who don't post their own each day. It should be fine," she said.

Yup. Just peachy.

Except that Michelle of Just a Minute didn't get a post up and I can't get in touch with her. My assumption is that this post still holds true. It's the last thing she posted and if things didn't go well I can certainly understand why she didn't get her blog post up (and that means she really needs our prayers. In fact, please take a moment, stop over there and let her know you are praying for her.)

This and all the other craziness that comes with being in charge of someone else's blog got me thinking. Life has a habit of getting in the way of writing. Often, it is a love-hate relationship. If we have no experiences we have nothing to write but if we have too much busy-ness then we have no time to write. It is such a delicate balance.

This is especially so when the words start coming. While looking for Michelle's email address, I noticed her new favorite verse: My thoughts grew hot within me and began to burn, igniting a fire of words. Psalm 39:3 As a writer this happens too often, the urge to write growing so intense that we would willingly lay aside everything else for the time to do so. How do we stay balanced? How do we find enough time to do all the things that the Lord is calling us to do, especially when we also have the urge to write it all out?

This is where constant reliance on the Lord comes in. There is a time for everything under heaven. For us that means that there is a time to live and a time to write. We have to, as Elisabeth Elliot says, do the next thing, relyng on Him to show us when it is time to write.

I know many writers set aside a time each day to write, others write only when inspiration hits. I have tried both.

A couple weeks ago I tried to make a schedule. I have done it before and thought, with all the things we are doing now, that maybe I had better make one so we could get everything done. I scheduled in school time, writing time, ministry and Bible study time, chore time, meal time, etc. I posted it on the wall and determined that the kids and I would follow it and thus get more done. I promptly forgot about it until the next week when I looked up and noticed the schedule. I talked to the kids about it, how we should all try to use it. They didn't like the idea. I said I would go pray about it.

During my prayer the Lord reminded me in that nearly audible, quiet voice He likes to use, that He does not go by the clock and that He did not design me as a by the clock person. He was right, of course. I get much more accomplished, with much less stress, if I keep my eyes on Him and ask Him what comes next.

So now I am on His schedule instead of my own and know that even though I have not planned my day, HE has.

The conferance, the hospitalization, the craziness of the blog, even when to write; they are all in His plans and He knows what comes next. So today I would remind you also to not worry about all that needs done and to instead, do the next thing. His timing is perfect and His ways are awesome.

Heather Young is a saved by grace, homeschooling, mother of three, wife of one, writer, artist, and web designer who drinks way too much coffee and spends too much time at her computer. She writes for Graced by Christ, Everyday Miracles, and Writer....Interrupted. Someday, God willing, she will finish one of her WIP and attempt to get it published, but not until God says the timing is right.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Lifting Your Hands

© Staci Stallings

It's sad how difficult we make being a Christian. We do it to ourselves and to each other by putting rules and conditions on ourselves once we're saved. Before we're saved, we're told, "You can't do it. Jesus is your salvation."

After we're saved, we're told, "Okay, here's the rules. You can do this. You can't do that. Don't even think about doing that." And I'm not even talking about the big rules like killing someone or being envious of their position. I'm talking about pickiness that goes way beyond that.

For example, in my line of work--Christian romance writing, there are "rules," some call them "standards." They go like this:

You can't have anyone in your story drink alcohol because some of our readers don't believe in drinking.

You can't have anyone in your story dance. Ditto number one.

No showers.

Do not show the character in bed even alone. And the character may never be described as being in their pajamas-even if they are alone because that is suggestive.

Now, I'm sure they have their reasons for all these rules, but for me, rules are not where it's at. We spent two thousand years with the Old Testament going around and around and around that mountain to come to the conclusion that rules don't work! We can't do it. Only God can.

Personally, I think we are far more like a baby who is trying to walk than a god who can come up with enough rules to keep us in line. Further, I think we can learn a lot about how God loves us by watching a good parent with a baby.

A child who is learning to walk first stands, and when he falls, a good parent does not huff in disgust at the child's "failure." A good parent does not condemn the child, call him worthless and give up on him. No. A good parent immediately picks the child up, praises him, loves him, and encourages him to try again.

Now does the parent pretty much know the child will fall again? Sure. If you've ever been there when a child takes his first steps, you know they are going to fall. Does that deter the good parent from praising and applauding each and every small step the child takes? No. Because they know it's their praise that will encourage the child to take another.

And so it is with our Heavenly Father. He is ecstatic when we take a step-even a faltering one-toward Him. From my own experience with my kids, it wouldn't surprise me if God called all the angels in to watch when we're taking steps toward Him. "Oh, look! Johnny took another step toward real understanding of Me, toward really learning to be loving! Oh, yeah, Johnny!" And, I'm equally sure that the angels for love of the child's Father if nothing else get excited as well.

Does God know we will fall again? Sure. Does that deter Him from getting excited about each positive step we take? No. He, like any good parent, is right there cheering us on, encouraging, praising, smiling at the steps we are taking.

I think the most applause comes when we take not worldly accomplishment steps, but Heavenly accomplishment steps. When we learn to have a little more faith, when we learn to be a little more loving, when we learn to be a little more compassionate and have mercy. I just know God is up there, tears in His eyes for how proud He is of us. I know because I've sat on the floor as my children took their first steps toward me, and there is simply no other reaction than tears of joy.

In fact, we would all be much better off if we spent our time as little children, our arms up-reaching to God to let Him pick us rather up than concocting rules to get ourselves "good enough" to spend eternity with Him. The truth is, we are babes in need of a Heavenly Father who loves us so much that He is willing to be patient when we fall because He knows (better than we do) that falling is part of the learning process.

It would be wise for us all to remember that about each other as well. Then we might hear the applause of Heaven because we have taken another small step toward becoming the loving child of God He meant us to be.

Don’t miss out! Read the first three chapters of Staci’s newest releases at: You’ll feel better for the experience!

(For Reprints, email

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Special Kids, Special Needs: Tools, Part 1


Wow, two weeks flies, doesn’t it? :-D I have to say – I love being a part of this blog. When I posted last time, I was asked to show/explain some of the tools I use in dealing with my unique boys. The first and most pivotal tool I used for them is called the Penny Card. This is a simple “token” method for my boys to monitor their behavior. It worked so amazingly well, that even my boys loved it! For the most part, I no longer have to use it. However, there are times (like vacation, trips, or when I leave them with a babysitter) that we do use them. It’s very simple to use. I’m inserting a picture of it.

What It’s Made Of:. It is made from a baseball card protector (hard plastic). I’ve printed my son’s name and inserted it into the sleeve. On the top and bottom rows are the fuzzy round Velcro dots (make sure they are non-sew version LOL). Along the top row, are pennies, which have been backed with the matching Velcro mate.

How it works: All pennies start at the top. As your child works through tasks, say a worksheet or picking up toys without being asked, allow THEM to move one penny to the bottom row. Once all pennies have moved to the bottom, your child has earned a ‘reward.’ This can be time playing with a favorite toy, a treat, or anything that is important to YOUR child. When you notice ease of movement through the five pennies moving, then up the ante. Tell your child, they must now earn TEN pennies, which means they must move the pennies back to the top to earn their break (this is also appropriate for those with longer attention spans).

I say it’s important for a child to move their own penny because this is one way they see TANGIBILITY of their behavior/action/obedience. My boys were quite proud to be able to move their pennies. It also allowed Ryan, who struggles with my Asperger’s tendencies than his brother, to know the structure of his day. Five pennies, a break. Five more, another break. This really works for him.

This method was taught to me during my internship with the Child Study Center in Fort Worth, TX. It is a facility staffed with some of the most amazing teachers and caregivers I have ever met. I learned so much—and this experience transformed my life.

Remember, our special needs children do not function the way the majority of other children do. It *is* okay to reward behavior. It is *NOT* bribing them, because bribing imbues a dishonest intent. Your intent is to help your child transform and manage their behavior. This card is one way to give them a VISIBLE and TANGIBLE marker of how they are doing. I hope this helps someone.

Blessings in Christ,


Ronie Kendig is a mother of four children, ages 13, 10, & 6 year old twins. She homeschools, attends college, and is a writer. Married to Brian, her husband of 16 years, Ronie yearns to help other mothers who are struggling with special needs children. Visit her at her blog: Supernatural Craving or her website

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

WFMW: Old Fashioned Fun

My kids love books. We love to read together, especially old fashioned stories. The girls love "Little house on the Prairie", "Anne of Green Gables", and pretty much any other classic story I am willing to read them. They also love to see the pictures in those old books. When we read "The Princess and the Goblin" by George MacDonald, they wanted to know what a spinning wheel looked like. When we read "Emily's Runaway Imagination" by Beverly Cleary they wanted to know what a hoop skirt looked like.

Last summer we found a great way to satisfy their curiosity without breaking the bank. We became antique store window shoppers. For us antique stores are free museums. We pick one that looks interesting and browse until we have our curiosity satisfied. Sometimes we find something we haven't seen before and go home and research it. Sometimes we have discussions about why things were made that way and what they were used for. Sometimes we figure out how much things would have cost originally and why they cost what they do now--this works especially well if it still has the original price tag. Sometimes we have nice long conversations with the dealer about any of the above items.

We do have several rules that we go over before we enter.

1. No touching unless the dealer gives permission. Many antiques are very fragile, especially those made of cloth and paper. Touching them can ruin them. Children do not naturally understand what things are touchable and what are not which is why we ask first. This also usually leads to conversation with the dealer about why such items could be damaged if touched.

2. We don't buy anything on these trips. These are window shopping only. We are there to learn (and dealers usually love to know that you are teaching your kids about antiques so don't mind that you aren't buying. In fact they are often extra nice when you mention what you are doing and why.) More than once on such visits the dealers have given the kids some inexpensive little keepsake to let them practice with antiques. I even have a mildly mildewed geography primer that a dealer gave me . It wasn't sell-able but he knew we would appreciate it (and we do.)

3. Misbehavior means we leave immediately. I do not give the kids a chance to be a poor witness either of homeschooling or, more importantly, of Christ. If they act up we say thank you to the dealer and leave immediately. They know this and have gotten pretty good about not acting up, knowing that I am not kidding.

4. If you have a question you ask. If they have a question for the dealer then it is up to them to ask. If they feel shy they can whisper it and then I will repeat it so it can be understood but they have to articulate themselves. This is part of the experience. They are learning how to communicate their questions so that others can understand them. It also makes the dealers realize that these questions are theirs, not mine, and they are more likely to explain it in a manner that the children can understand.

We have had some wonderful educational field trips this way. By the time I started working for an antique dealer/appraiser they were already well versed in antiques and vintage items and love going through the shop where I work finding things that they have read about in books. They have found a real spinning wheel, bonnets and aprons, old fashioned oil lamps and candlesticks, old composition dolls (one that even looks like "Hitty" though it isn't carved of ash), plenty of old books, a miniature clothes wringer (a door to door sales sample), and all kinds of antique toys including an iron that really works. It has been a wonderful opportunity for them to really understand the books we read and the world that produced the stories, and makes for tons of family fun.

For more tips check out Shannon's blog, Rock's in My Dryer and

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Refreshing With Rene Gutteridge

Rene, Thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview. I know you must be busy with all the new projects you’re working on. For the latest information on Rene's up coming releases visit her webiste

I’ve heard you speak several times, and your testimony of how you broke into the business has been a great encouragement to me. Can you share a bit about that ?

Not too many years ago I found myself pregnant with my first child, maintaining a drama ministry at my church, and trying to get a handle on the tremendous passion I had inside of me to write. I was seven months pregnant. I was tired of getting all the rejection letters. I was so confused, because I had this passion that I was certain was from God. Yet nothing was happening. Absolutely nothing. Or I would get really close only to fail. I was unsure, anyway, how I was going to balance all the writing time with a new baby.

It was a cold February night, around 3 a.m., when I rose from an already restless sleep. I got down on my knees in the middle of the living room, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. And I said, "I can't do it any more, Lord. I can't keep going to the mailbox everyday with my hopes up that there will be a positive letter from a publisher. I can't keep writing things that nobody will ever see. I'm done. I'm finished with it. If you want me to be a writer, then it's in Your hands. I know You can make it happen, but I can't." I rose, and went to bed.

That night I slept better than I had for years. Literally like a baby. And I felt a tremendous peace, I think mostly because I didn't feel the burden any more. I had convinced myself that God wanted me to be a mother, and that the sacrifice I was going to make to be a mother was my writing career.

Well, the rest is history. My son was five weeks old when I got the call from the publisher that they wanted Ghost Writer.

Wow! Everytime I hear that story I am encouraged knowing that God is the one who has to do the work, and all I have to do is hand my dreams over to Him. There is definitely peace in giving up that kind of control! I'm still learning how to walk in that peace.

Is there any advice you would give to young moms pursing publication who are feeling the weight of rejections?

Don’t give up! Every writer, mom or not, feels the weight of rejections. We often feel like, “Well, if I didn’t have to mess with the kids, this dream might happen for me.” Remind yourself that kids or no kids, God’s will is going to be done in your life. The writers journey is filled with rejection. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.

You’re a mom to two small kids, a best selling author, and a wife. How do you do it all?

Some days I don’t do it all. Some days I’m on top of my game. I have a friend in California who keeps saying, “I look at you and I don’t see how you do it all.” I tell her, “No, you don’t look at me. You hear me over the phone. If you saw my house you would see I don’t do it all!”

I hear you! Add homeschooling to a writing moms life and you've got C.H.A.O.S. Can't Have Anyone Over Syndorme. I stole that from the FlyLady.

So, how do you balance everything?

Everything falls apart when I’m not close to God. I’ll go through a season where I put off my daily prayers and Bible reading, and I can feel it. My focus strays and everything comes unwound.

When do you write, and do you ever feel like you’re neglecting your children?

I don’t feel like I’m neglecting them. I spend a ton of time with them. I think it’s good for them to see me working, and I often explain to them how much hard work my husband and I do to make sure they live in a warm house and have food. As for finding the time, it’s what every writer must conquer: self-discipline. Whether or not you have kids, you still have to find that discipline.

There are plenty of things to take you away from the story. And it’s easy to do when the story isn’t moving like you think it should. It’s easier to go in and turn on Oprah or whatever. I write two hours in the morning and some on the weekends. I owe a lot to my husband, who is very helpful in this area. He watches the kids a lot.

How do you handle interruptions in your writing life?

I just roll with them. It doesn’t really break my flow. In fact, sometimes it actually helps! If I miss a writing time, I try to make it up, but I don’t panic. Kids get sick, cars break down, you just have to go with the flow. I’m getting better at this the older I get!

How do you get back into the flow of writing after you’ve been interrupted?

I basically just re-read the paragraph I was working on. It usually starts clicking. Long ago I had to abandon the idea that I can only write when I feel inspired. That’s a MYTH! You must write when you don’t feel inspired, which is most of the time! Or, like with me, inspiration hits when I can’t get near a computer!

How do you position yourself to HEAR God’s voice when all the noises of life are swirling around you?

I try to listen, all day long. I talk to God a lot, pray, trust Him to lead me the right way.

If you feel your priorities slipping, what do you do to get back on track?

Pray! Read my Bible! Pray! It’s the only way I’ve found.

Has there ever been a time God told you to set aside your writing to focus on other areas of your life? If so, how did you handle that?

Not really. This is my profession, it’s how I make a living, so it’s a part of my everyday life. Early on I gave up my writing dreams, before they even got started, to God. It felt so good to give it all to Him. My priorities can slip very easily, and I think if they got too messed up, God would take drastic measures. But so far, I haven’t had to put writing aside.

I’ve heard many published authors say that once they got published they lost their joy for writing. Has that ever happened to you?
Nope. There are hard days, really hard days. Sometimes I sit and wonder who in the world I think I am doing this writing thing. But I’ve never lost the joy. I’m working on my eleventh novel right now, and it’s as fun as the day I started.

I know God’s timing is perfect, but if you had to do it all over again in regards to being published and raising your kids, what would you do differently?

I think I’d be more laid back. I’m kind of tightly wound, a little high strung. But a lot of that part of my personality allowed me to the adrenaline to get through. I do struggle with stress, though. I like taking the world onto my shoulders and seeing how much I can hold. Not a good thing.

Rene, thanks so much for this wonderful glimpse into your life. You'r journey is an inspiration to writing moms everywhere.

Check Out this Interview

In hopes of promoting this blog I did an interview with 5 Minutes for Moms and were listed in their writers section. Check it out and don't forget to leave a comment!

Monday, September 18, 2006

When is Enough, Really Enough?

If this photo looks familiar, it is. But it also portrays exactly how I'm feeling!

I've been working on the same WIP, no the same prologue for almost two years now. I've entered it in contests and got critiques. My crit partners have bleed all over my pages and it was even critiqued by an agent. All had great things to say. And with every critique I made changes. I thought it was almost finished. In fact, I had a writer friend look it over and she said it was excellent. Then I took the opportunity for a free critiqueby another writer/critiquer friendand it was obvious there was still room for improvement.

Now, I guess this WIP will be marked as the major LEARNING WIP because I am learning so much. But I'm wondering, will it ever be ready to get published? Honestly, I've seen some pretty bad fiction published. They could have used a dozen critiquers to help improve the prose, but when is enough really enough?

I love the new edit I just got and I made some great changes already, but when will it be ready to be sent out again? It's been rejected by many of the big houses, so obviously it wasn't ready. But when will it be, and when will I know?

Being a writer can be so frustrating at times. I want to learn, but in my humble opinion it takes a lot of money to learn. I've already spent probably a couple hundred (not including conferences) on this one WIP, and it's still not ready. [shaking my head] It's really enough to make me want to through in the towel.

But I can't. I'm a writer.

[Sigh] So what's your opinion? When do you shelve your WIP and move on. It might be easier for me if I didn't have such conflicting opinions about my WIP! If I knew it absolutely stunk, I'd shove it in a drawer and lift my hands in defeat. But two years on the same prologue? I haven't even finished the WIP, yet. When is enough, enough?

Gina Conroy is a homeschooling writing mom of four. For more musings by this author, visit her blog Portrait of a Writer...Interrupted.

Free Books for Big Mouths!

SPREAD THE WORD . . . tell all your friends!

Calling all bloggers, MOPS groups, parenting clubs, Sunday school groups, and people with really BIG mouths.

I'm putting together my influencer list for Generation NeXt Parenting. (Which means I'm looking for people to give a free book to who will spread the word!)

It's a non-fiction parenting book for Gen Xers (born between 1961-1981). To give you a taste of the "flavor" of this book, all the chapter titles are 80s songs. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun . . . You Gotta Have Faith . . . Once in a Lifetime . . .

(The book will be out the end of September. Yeah!)

Here is the book description:

Generation NeXt Parenting

Get Real, Become Focused, Begin Thriving!

You're a generation of parents aspiring to excellence in every way, but you're also just plain tired. You don't need another parenting book promising perfection or another formula guaranteeing great kids; you need practical advice that shows how to deal with your and your children's hearts.

If you're worn out from trying to do too much while giving your child every opportunity under the sun, if you're striving to excel in every way but suffering from a lack of focus, this book is your solution. It will help you understand how your specific tendencies are common to your generation as a whole.

You'll embrace the positive qualities that enable you to parent for God's glory. Lay a firm foundation and thrive as you raise up the next generation!

. . If you're interested in a FREE copy email me your name and address. And let me know how BIG your mouth is . . . and how you can help promote this book!

Also, if you have a BLOG, I'll send TWO free books. One for you and one to give away!

Email: (change at to @)

Impromtu Writing Carnival

Here is a list of great writing posts you won't want to miss.

Don't miss Mick Silva's post on ACFW conference Do's and Don'ts. And notice the Writer...Interrupted code in the side by. He's our first official guy in the group!

Terry Whalin talks about The Making of a Best Seller.

Sherry Thomas, newly published author, talks about her rejections. Be sure and skim her archives for other great posts.

Check out the genre experiment at Charis Connection. Be sure to check all the posts to this interesting twist.

At Keep Me In Suspense, they never keep you in suspense about writing or the challenges of writing a series. Just ask your question, and I'm sure they'll answer it. They always answer mine!

And if you're not the mom you want to be, check out this interview with Suzie Eller.

That's all for now. Time to get back to my pitch for ACFW!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Of Waterpots and New Wine

© Staci Stallings

And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and Jesus was also invited, and His disciples, to the wedding. And when the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it." Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification... John 2: 1-6

There is more of course, but for our purposes we will stop right there. You've probably heard this story more times than you can count. It is of course the story of Jesus' first miracle when He changed water into wine. And not just any wine, no, the best wine. That lesson is for another article, for now I want to focus on the final eleven words of this passage.

Specifically I want to ask you to reread the passage and look closely at what kind of pots they used. In my previous reading of this passage, I had always pictured... well, pitchers. Large earthenware vessels that look like modern day vases. You know the kind you would normally put wine into. But that's NOT what it says! NO. They put it in "stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification." In the Message Bible it says it this way... "six stone pots, used by the Jews for ritual washings..." Do you know what that means?

Very simply, those pots were used to enforce and carry out the rules, the law, the prescribed way of purifying yourself so you were clean enough to be presentable to society. Ritual washings were one of the biggest outward signs that someone was steeped in the rules of the Jews. There was a prescribed amount of time you had to wash, a prescribed amount of times you had to wash... And Jesus used those pots to do something totally new!

On top of that, the ritual washings were meant to show one's attempt to wash their sin away and thus be pure (If I wash myself enough, if I follow all of the rules, I shall be clean in the eyes of God). But the reality was, people were still dirty. Their bodies were dirty. Their hands were dirty. Their lives were dirty with sins they could not get rid of no matter how many times they washed themselves. And even when they washed, they got dirty again and thus had to wash again.

And Jesus (isn't He awesome?) used the pots that had been used to wash people, pots that symbolize us and our lives (dirty and nasty) to put drinking wine in. That is not just a little inconsequential detail! That's huge!

In fact, upon closer reading, it does not even say that Jesus first said, "Take those waterpots and wash them out, clean them out, and then fill them." No. He said, "Go and fill them." In all the times you have read and heard this passage, have you ever for a second pictured those servants as taking the time to go and wash out the pots on their own?

I haven't because prior to really reading this, I hadn't seen the need for them to. However, at the risk of your lunch, consider what they did. Guests had washed themselves in these pots. We don't know how many guests there were, but I have always pictured a rather large contingent of guests. At very least we know of fourteen, Jesus, the disciples, and Mary. At minimum, that's 28 hands, four for each pot, that have recently been washed in them. Now, Jesus says, "Go and fill those with water," and presumably without the benefit of Dawn Dishwashing Liquid, these pots were filled with water.

Then Jesus said, "Draw some out now, and take it to the headwaiter."
Something tells me, if I was one of those servants, I wouldn't have had the guts to tell the headwaiter what kind of receptacles that wine came from. Of course, we all know that the headwaiter proclaimed that this wine was the finest of wines.

So, consider that in one moment, Christ took us, these waterpots, empty yes, but permanently stained with the dirt of many hands. We had been steeped in the myth that our own actions could somehow wash us clean enough to gain entrance into Heaven. He took these empty, dirty, disgusting waterpots, and He poured Himself (His blood--water made wine) into us, and then he did something new! Not just new wine. The BEST wine! Not the rules. Not our sins. Him. And He is enough to make us THE BEST!

Believe me, I will never mistake those waterpots for pitchers again, nor will I so easily take for granted the mercy and grace He poured into me, dirty from within with no hope to ever get myself clean enough to earn anything. He did not require me to clean up before He washed me with Himself. He didn't look at me and say, "Ew, disgusting. Let's use something else."

Instead, He looked at me and saw not what I had done and what I was, He looked at what He could do. That's the new wine-what He can do in a life, and trust me, it's the best thing you've ever tasted, poor dirty waterpot that you were before He showed up.

Want more inspiration? Hop on over to Staci's own blog. http://stacistallings.blogspot.comYou'll feel better for the experience!

(For Reprints, email

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Did you try?

Last week, we talked about finding something to do for your husband that would have him wanting to praise you.

What did you do? How did he react? Did your week feel different? How?

I had to make an emergency trip to South Carolina (I live in Indiana) to be with a sick friend, so I'm not so sure my husband was praising me this week. It might be an inconvenience for him to make his own lunch and coffee, but he knows what I'm doing is a good thing. We've talked on the phone quite a bit and he's just as worried about my friend as I am.

With last week's post in mind, before I left for my trip, I decided to do what I could to make his week easier. I pre-packaged all his chips and pretzels in snack sized Ziplocs. I bought yogurt and energy drinks and I put them all together in the fridge. I bought a 7 day pill container and laid out the week's worth of vitamins and medications. All he had to do was make a sandwich and coffee, grab one of everything and go. He did say he appreciated it a lot.

So what are you doing to make your husband praise you?

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 Breakfast at ACFW

Several of our members said they'd like to get together for breakfast on Friday morning, so it's official. Look for me and my Writer...Interrupted sign. There's plenty of room left at the table, so leave a comment or send an email letting me know you'll be joining us.

Those who have "other" plans for breakfast, please stop by our table and say "hi!"

Friday, September 15, 2006

Free Blog Design

If you've never seen my blog, go over and take a look. Susie with Bluebirds designs did it and all for an amazingly affordable price. She's so easy to work with so I'm passing her Fall Contest on to you! Even if you don't win, consider dropping her an email and tell her I sent you.

Autumn is my favorite time of the year, and it's just right around the corner. To celebrate the beginning of the season, I'm having a contest for 2 lucky people to win a totally free, completely customized blog design from Bluebird Blogs. Information on how to enter: - Send an email with your name and blog address to

- Your name will be entered into the drawing.- Entries will be accepted from 7:00pm EST on Thursday 9/15/06 until 11:59pm EST on Friday 9/22/06. *Bonus* - Mention this contest in a post on your blog and receive 5 extra entries into the drawing! The winner will be announced on
on the morning of Saturday, September 23rd, 2006 . Good luck to everyone!

He Doesn't Care About the Cupcakes

© Staci Stallings

I remember that day so very well. I was young - four or five. We did something unusual that day, unusual for my house at least. We made cupcakes. With my mom helping out on our family owned and operated dairy, there wasn't much time for cupcake-baking. But that day, for whatever reason, we made cupcakes.

At that point in time my grandfather, who later lost his sight to diabetes, could still see. Also at that time he had several horses only a quarter-mile from our house. That day my grandpa happened to be out with the horses, and one of us, my mom or me, decided that I should take him a cupcake.

Now from the time I was small, missions were very important to me. I held my responsibilities in very high regard. I didn't want to simply do things - I wanted to do them perfectly. So I set out, barefoot, from my house, cupcake in hand, bound for the pen where my grandpa was working.

However, when I got there, I found a huge problem for a little girl with a cupcake in her hand - the fence that separated me from Grandpa's side. There was a gate connecting the fence. It was an old gray aluminum number with about four horizontal slots held together with one long diagonal slot. At five or so feet tall, it was a monster.

Worse, whatever held it upright didn't hold it steady. So the gate swayed dangerously top down with any pressure applied to it. For little me, that gate presented a big problem. I wasn't big enough to open it. I couldn't yell loud enough for Grandpa to hear me. So as I surveyed the situation in my little mind, I decided my only option was to climb the thing.

I only hope that now I would be smart enough to set the cupcake through the gate before I started climbing. Unfortunately, I didn't think that far ahead that day. Instead, cupcake in hand, I started climbing.

The journey was going pretty well until I got to the top. As I hiked my first let over the top slot, I ran out of hands to keep me stable just as the gate swayed the other direction. I remember Grandpa yelling for me to stop and wait. I remember saying something like, "Grandpa, look! I brought you a cupcake."

The next thing I remember is hitting the hard ground on the other side with a body-whacking thud. The next thing I remember is seeing the cupcake smashed to a flat, chocolate mud pie next to me. Grandpa made it to me about ten seconds after I hit the ground. I was absolutely hysterical. He picked me up and held me, telling me it would be okay and asking if I was hurt.

All I could think was I had smashed the cupcake. His cupcake. I had failed the mission. I had let him down.

It took me many long years to learn the lesson of that day. The truth was: He didn't care about the stupid cupcake. He cared about me.

I learned this only when I realized that is exactly how God is with us. We're all worried about the cupcakes we've made and are bringing to Him - like our accomplishments and our good deeds and our ministries. But the reality is He doesn't care about our cupcakes - He cares about us! And it really doesn't matter to Him if our cupcakes get smashed along the way or if they were ever perfect in the first place. All He cares about is being able to hold us so He can ask what's wrong, where are we hurt, and being able to hold us until we're all better.

It took me a long time to be grateful for falling over that gate, but now that I see the lesson, those cupcakes, those missions, and being perfect don't seem nearly as important. What's important, all that's important, is He loves me. Everything else is cupcakes, and He doesn't care about the cupcakes.

Come Visit Staci at Homeward Bound! Inspiration every Tuesday and Friday! You'll feel better for the experience!
(For Reprints email

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Okay ladies, so who's going to ACFW in Dallas next week and when will you get there? If I had a table reserved for Writer...Interrupted groupies one morning for breakfast, who will join me. I'm thinking Friday morning.

Leave your comments! I can't wait to meet some of you.

Webring Blog Highlight: Lynette Snell

I am a mother of two adopted children, I am very (sometimes overly) involved in their school life, and in June, I recently moved my family (husband, 2 kids, dog, & cat) from Orlando, Florida to Indianapolis, Indiana. I write romance (inspirational, historical seems to be my focus right now). I was motivated to focus on my writing career last fall after I attended Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference. I came home jazzed and ready to write...let nothing stand in my way. It was my very first major conference, and as it was a Christian conference at that, I learned more than I had ever hoped to learn: about the craft, about writing to glorify God, and about not hiding the talent He has given me (however strong or meager that may be!). I am fortunate enough to stay home while my children are at school and it is during this time that I write the most. I am attending the ACFW conference in September and hope to present a proposal to Heartsong Presents. I am, as yet, unpublished, so this is a great opportunity for me, I believe.

I love to read, and I am rarely anywhere without a book in hand. In fact, my husband & I (he also loves to read) just sold 18 book boxes filled with books to Half Price books so we could free up some space in our house! My office is lined with books...those that I have read, those on the craft of writing, and those I am planning to read in the future.

Here is a link to one of my more recent blog postings. I appreciate you taking the time to look it over. If you are interested in my blog, I would be thrilled to be a part of your group. If it does not work out, then I will know it is not a part of God's greater plan.

Lynette Snell

If you are a member of the webring and haven't been highlighted, please email me with your write up and your links!

Spending Time with Your Teens

As a family of readers, we love to discuss the books we're enjoying. I have
two sons, ages 13 and 14. Our weekly family Bible studies are always fun and
let me tell you...teens see stuff we boring adults miss.

Proverbs is a hoot if taken literally (beware of a woman who is a snare and will capture you with her eyelids) and stuff like that. Oh, and in Luke when it talks about two MEN lying in bed and one is taken and the other left, it actually says
men. The next line says women. Leave it to kids to find something like that
and ask why it says men. Sheesh. My youngest said, "Mom, that's disturbing,"
and we all laughed. That's probably the most fun we have.

The discussions are also great. We follow the yearly plan developed by Discipleship Journal Magazine. And sometimes we play Uno attack. That's fun enough to make you
laugh until you cry. We also have brainy games. Just being together and
interacting is a great experience. Thankfully my kids are still enjoying
family time. I'm glad we make the time to have it because it's THAT
important to our family health. :)

Michelle Sutton
Writing truth into fiction...digging deeper, soaring higher
Writer/fiction reviewer

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

WFMW: Museum Day

Now showing at a museum near you: Museum Day!

Mark your calendars for Sept. 30, print your free pass, and find the closest museum participating in Museum Day. A trip to the museum gets expensive nowadays, especially for a medium sized homeschooling family. Free visits are a blessing.

Check out Rocks in My Dryer for more great tips.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Writing Tips from Tricia Goyer

I wrote fiction unsuccessfully for many years. What boosted me to
publication was a class on Scene Writing by a former Hollywood scriptwriter.


1. Consider each scene as a mini-novel with a beginning, middle, and a
climax. It should open with a unique setting and a character that wants
something but can't have it. It should highlight ACTION and end with a
climax that doesn't get resolved (i.e. a hook).

2. Watch movies. (A great excuse!) Note set-up and highlighted action.
Notice unique characters, settings, character tags, and dialogue. Then, as
you write, watch your "movie" unfold in your mind.

My mode:

1.. Start with a unique character. Mine have included:
--a sympathetic Nazi wife who helps concentration camp victims

--a thirteen-year-old musician who fakes his way into a camp orchestra

--a Jew in hiding who finds herself pregnant by a Nazi officer.

2.. Research.
--I read over fifty research books, memoirs, and I interviewed veterans or
historical witnesses. What can you do to dive into your story world?

--The "true" events in history help me build a riveting plot. I formulate my
plot as I read. (With help of Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method:

--I take notes to help with description, characterization, events, etc.

3.. Write.
--I know it's time to start writing when I close my eyes and I'm "there." I
know my story, know my characters, and see my in-mind movie.

--I write fast. Instead of trying to figure out what's next, the characters
and story hurl me along and my fingers have trouble keeping up with them.

4. Edit.

-- Look at each chapter and scene to make sure it advances the story. In my
last two novels I've cut whole chapters after I realized that they were nothing
more than wonderful research. Yes, there was action, dialogue, etc. but I knew
they had to go when I cut them and it didn't change the plot.

-- I do "finds" on passive verbs and rewrite those sentences to make them
tighter. Then I reread each scene to make it as tight as possible.

-- I take out "saids" if it's clear who's talking.

-- Make sure my scenes don't start too soon or trail on too long.

-- Cut out any descriptions of emotion. If it's obvious from the text how
the person feels, I don't need to say it.

For DAILY writing encouragement, go to:

Happy Writing! Tricia Goyer

Tricia Goyer was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference "Writer of the Year" in 2003. Tricia was a finalist for the Gold Medallion Book Award and she also won ACFW's "Book of the Year" for Long Historial Romance in 2005. She has written hundreds of articles, Bible Study notes, and both fiction and non-fiction books.

Monday, September 11, 2006

We Remember

I was in my bedroom, half awake, not even dressed for the day. My baby was asleep in his crib so I flipped on the TV and there it was. The buildings on fire, the news commentators playing over and over again the planes flying into the towers. I sat in shock, not fully comprehending what was happening. My eyes were glued to the screen.

Then I saw it unfold on television. I knew what was happening even before the news commentators did. The first tower was crumbling.

More shock, disbelief.

Honestly, I can't remember all the emotions I felt. Most likely terror, fear, shock. This couldn't be happening. Then the second tower fell. It was surreal. Like something out of Hollywood.

Though I lived hundreds of miles from New York, I was worried about my kids at school. It brought back memories of the Oklahoma City bombing, and I worried about my husband being away at work while all this was going on. But most of all I was concerned for my family in New York.

I tried to call my family in New York, but the phone lines were jammed. I'm not sure how I heard the news. I think it was through email.

My dad was missing.

I wasn't really panicked, but his wife was. Maybe it was the peace of God, maybe it was disbelief that it was all happening, but I stayed calm and prayed. He came home safe and sound to Brooklyn, along with hundreds of refugee city workers who had to walk home from Manhattan. At least he didn't have to go through it alone. At least he was safe.

Later he told us his story:

He was teaching a class at Aveda Cosmetology school when someone said a plane crashed into the towers. They all took a break and went outside, thinking it was a freak accident. He saw the second plane fly into the tower, and he knew things weren't right, and wasn't about to wait around to find out what would happen next.

He tried to get home, but no one could get out of the city by car, bus or train. He decided to walk home with hundreds, maybe thousands of others.

My family and friends were lucky that day. No one I knew or loved was lost in the attack, though plenty of my friends and family worked and lived in the city. One friend was supposed to grab breakfast at the towers after she dropped her kids off at school. The first plane hit while she was still at their school. They all saw it.

There are so many stories like the ones I shared. But there are also stories of those who didn't survive. Let's not forget them or their lives.

Please take a moment and pray for the survivors, for America, our country's leaders, this world we live in and the men fighting for our freedom.

You can find more September 11th memories here. And in the Carnival of Blogging Chicks.

What do you remember? Leave a comment.

And it's a Tie

Jackie and Mary both visited ALL the sites. Can anyone else tie with them? If so, better email me ASAP? I'll be drawing one of their names soon!

Sidebar Additions

Check out the "Writer's Helps" section in the sidebasr. If you know of a great link that helps writers in their craft, leave it in the comments section.

And dont' miss out on Tricia Goyer'sride along into writing her next historical.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Experiencing Christ Within

I've started on a spiritual journey that has me intrigued and excited. Revolution Within and the companion workbook Experience Christ Within by Dwight Edwards is a fresh look at God's covenant with his people. I've only completed the first chapter which was very indepth and time consuming with tons of scripture references to look up, but the good thing is I'm doing this study on my own and there's no group deadline. So I can take my time to really absorb these principles.

To sum it up I'll quote from the workbook:

"In the Old Covenant (the law), God's people were instructed with the repeated words, 'You shall...' and 'You shall not...'

But in the New Covenant, the watchword is no longer 'You shall,' but God's 'I will':

'I will put My law in their minds...and I will be their God...I will forgive their iniquity'; 'I will cleanse you...I will give you a new heart...I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statues.' (Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27)

Nothing is more fundamental to understanding and appreciating the difference between the two covenants than these two phrases."

Did you get what the scripture is saying? For Choleric Meloncholies like me it has been the beginning of my freeing from doing, striving, trying to be perfect and right. What the new covenant says to me is that I don't have to strive to be perfect. I can't be perfect, that's what the old covenant, the law, has shown us. I can't do it, so God must! And he did by sending us Jesus.

In the old covenant we are told that obedience is our righteousness.(Deut. 5:28-33; 6:1-9,17-19, 24-25; 8:1-20, 11:8-21) In the new covenant Christ is the end of the law so there might be righteousness for those who believe. (Matthew 5:17-18; Romans 8:3-4, 10:4)

I'm just beginning to grasp the truth of this.

One of the other reasons I'm excited about this study is because it relates to my momlit I'm brainstorming. I'm beginning to realize my character is living under the old law of striving to do what's right, but she's failing miserably. She is easily swayed by other people's advice, yet forgets to turn to God for the answers. She doesn't trust herself to hear the voice of God, so she resorts to living under the old law.

Gina Conroy is a homeschooling mom of four. For more musings by this author visit Portrait of a Writer...Interrupted.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Does he praise you?

Her husband Praises her.
Proverbs 31:28

Phil has to get up for work two and a half hours from now; four central standard time. I've now been up twenty one hours.

Maybe I am crazy. Don't tell me if I am, OK?

I made some commitments and I intend to keep them. One of them is simply a personal promise I made to myself concerning my husband. Some mornings I really kick myself for it, but there are times that it feels really good. I wanted to make an impact on my husband's day. He works hard and I wanted to do something to let him know that I appreciate him. So I decided that I would get up with him every morning to make his coffee, his lunch, and kiss him on his way out. Before you get that June Cleaver image in your head, let me assure you, I am not anywhere close.

He was at work one day eating his lunch and conversation turned to wives and mornings and making lunches. Phil was the only one who had a wife that got up to make her husband lunch. All of the gentleman with him were envious. As the weeks went by, Phil would hear comments like,

"Yeah, well Phil's wife makes his lunch."

"He's special, his wife fills his thermos for him in the morning."

They teased, "Does she turn back your bed and put a mint on your pillow?"

The teasing was all in good fun, but digging a little deeper and recognizing their envy made me a little sad. I wish every wife would do something for her husband that would make him praise her. I wish every husband could walk around with a smile on his face knowing that something is different in their relationship; something that he praises her for.

When Phil came home that first day and told me how he was the only husband who was "spoiled" enough to get his coffee and lunch made, it made me feel good. He was really proud of it and while pride usually has a negative connotation in a Christian's life, I really think its ok for a husband to be proud of his wife. I think it boosts his self confidence and days go by with less stress.

Why don't you try it for a week. Get up a little earlier and make him coffee and make his lunch. If he doesn't take his lunch, make him breakfast. If you already do this stuff, slip a note in the lunchbox with a reminder of how sexy you find him.

Check back with me next Saturday and tell me if it made a difference in his attitude during the week.

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