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Thursday, February 01, 2007

We've Moved

Help spread the word that we've moved to GinaConroy.com for Life Redefined!

New beginnings. That’s where I’m at in my life and career. I’m rethinking the old and realizing the past does not define who I am. All my past failures, mistakes, mishaps don’t matter. They’re in the past. All I have is now, and what I do NOW will determine my future. So I choose to disappear my past, start over from nothing, and embrace the possibilities in my life and career. I invite you to do the same and see the difference starting NOW can make in your life.
You have a dream to write. Maybe it’s lost or broken. Maybe your heart is weary or you feel inadequate. Maybe the spark has gone out. I’m here to tell you none of that matters. Your dream is not in the past. It is now. And within the pages of this website and through my blogs and classes I commit to providing you with a safe place to learn and grow and create… and find your voice. I commit to inspiring you to move closer to your dream and to ignite the passion inside of you so you can tell your story. I commit to walk alongside you on this journey as you create the life you want and stories of your dreams.
Dreams become realities when we commit to moving forward, not looking back!
If I can encourage you in your writing and life, please contact me at gina (at) ginaconroy (dot) com. And if you’d like to know when I have a new class available or want information on what I have to offer, sign up for my newsletter. 
I’m not allowing my past or the detours in life to deter me from my final destination. Will you?
Gina




Monday, January 29, 2007

Carnival Of Christian Writers # 4 -- January 2007

This months carnival is full of wonderful posts from Editors, Authors, and readers for your intellectual and recreational reading pleasure. Special thanks to Michelle Pendergrass for putting together the last severeal carnival. We bid her farewell from the fairgrounds as she pursues other writing opportunies. But I've been assured, she'll still be a regular contributor.

Her vacancy means we're looking for a new coordinator. So don't hestiate to step up and join the Carnival of Christian Writers.

Please keep your hands and feet inside at all times and buckle up for your safety. Enjoy the ride...




Literary Agent Terry Whalin discusses Making Your Books Stand Out. I'm thrilled to annouce Terry has just launched his own agency, you can view the details at his site: Whalin Literary Agency.




Jennifer Tiszai at Sonoran Saga offers a wonderful post on Writing From The Senses.




Jennifer at Snapshot tackles The Great American Novel.




Lillie Amman at A Writer’s Words, An Editor’s Eye looks at Writing About Tragedy.




Mark Goodyear at Good Word Editing washes away writer's block with S.O.A.P




Michelle Gregory at Life In The Midst Of Writing is Dancing With God.



Gina Conroy at Portrait Of A Writer...Interrupted tells us What She Learned While Not Writing.




Heather Goodman at L'Chaim tries to figure out the whole pomolit thing.




Michelle Pendergrass at Just A Minute tells a trucking story while exploring how to listen to the story everyone wants to tell in Cursed Or Blessed?

To participate in next month's carnival, send submissions to portraitwriter@gmail.com And if you'd like to host the carnival at your blog next month, let me know!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Prodigal Love

The suddenly there dawns upon us the vast, entire endowment of God's free love and forgiveness...It is this which bowls us over...frees us...transforms us.
Paul Tournier
Saved by Grace.
Christians throw that phrase around to express their faith, but do they really know what Grace is? I've come to a deeper appreciation and revelation about God's Grace. It's so amazing, even my six-year-old is still too young to understand it's power and meaning.
I've come to understand through my own Christian walk the difference between Grace and Mercy in these simple terms:

Grace is getting some reward I don't deserve. Mercy is being forgiven or pardoned from a wrong I did and a punishment I deserve.
The most remarkable thing about the God I serve is that He offers these to us generously, every day. Other religions of the world can't boast this about their gods. They promote religions where man gets exactly what he deserves or that he'll have to pay, or make atonement for their sins in another life or another time. They also promote works, and striving to gain the approval of their God and to enter into their idea of heaven everlasting life.I'm so glad I'm not a slave to their religions, but found the power of Grace through the gift God gave the world in his Son Jesus Christ.
Dwight Edwaerds uses the example of the story of the Prodigal Son to illustrate God's grace and mercy. When I had read the story in the past, my focus was always on the two sons, the wayward one and the one who stayed by the father's side. But let's take a look at the father.
Edwards pointed out that most of us think of prodigal as meaning wayward. I have to confess that's what I thought. But prodigal means "excessive or overflowing" as in the word prodigy, a person who is overflowing or gifted with exceptional abilities. In light of this revelation, let's look at the story a new. The story about the Prodigal Father. You may want to take a moment to read the story for yourself found in Luke 15.
Grace is the theme of the Prodigal Son, and it's demonstrated in the father's response to his son. In the story we read that "while the son was still a great way off, his father saw him." This can imply that though the son had done a terrible thing by taking his inheritance and running away, the father was still looking for him. Amidst his daily chores, the father was watching the road, hoping to see his son.
And when the father finally saw his son returning home, instead of saying "I told you so" or "I knew you'd be back", he had "compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him." Edwards points out that in that culture, an older man running toward someone was considered undignified and wouldn't normally happen. Now consider how this culture felt about pigs. They were unclean, defiled animals and his son smelled like a pig, covered in sweat and grime as he traveled in the hot son down dusty roads.
Now imagine the scene again. An old man running toward this filthy, defiled broken vessel of a man. How great the father's joy had to be to do this in front of all his servants and family. What a prodigal love the father had for his son!
Then the father restored his son to his rightful position as a son. What better picture of Grace is that? Being accepted back in the family though he didn't deserve it. Do you think the son was surprised? Of course, the best he had expected was to be a servant in his father's house. And the Grace didn't end there. "Bring out the best robe...a ring...sandals...kill the fatted calf..." The older brother say by and witness his father's grace and didn't get it. That's becasue "Grace is unimaginable in generosity. It gives beyond all reasonable expectation."
It's the same with God and us. He sees our sin, our waywardness, and yet waits, scanning the horizon for us to return, never giving up hope that we will someday be reconciled with Him.
Edwards says "God's Grace is the most unreasonable thing in the world. It's also the most powerful. Nothing is more effective for transforming lives, risky though it is."
I have to agree as I marvel at God's prodigal love for me.


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 is available now!

We're Making a Switch...

to a new site and it seems blogger is forcing me to switch to New Blogger, but then I won't be able to transfer the content of this blog over to the new site. This may be the last time I get to log on to old blogger.

Hopefully the new site will be up and running by the end of the week, but if it's not check out www.ginaconroy.com for more information and updates, but please excuse the mess, that site isn't finished either!!

Other contributors of this blog may still be able to log on, but I'm not sure. If Writer...Interrupted is down this week, please take the time to browse blogs on the Writer...Interrupted webring. With over 70 members, you're bound to find some new favorites!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Want Character Material?

Get to your closest large city and buy some public transit tickets. Take a notepad with you and ride.

I promise, you won't be disappointed!

My son and I just spent three fabulous days in Chicago and we did quite a bit of public transit riding. My mind is overflowing with the possibilities.

So how many of you actually take time to study people like this? I know that people go on trips to the location of their books for accuracy, so surely other writers must study people?

How do you study people?

~michelle
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

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Simple Science and Snow Ice Cream

Snow ice cream--one of the most fun of winter treats to make and enjoy as a family. My mom used to make it for us, sending me out to collect a big bowl of fresh white snow. And it couldn't be the first snow of the year...subsequent snows were cleaner. It helped that we lived in the country away from big city smog. Or, so we thought...

We'd take that huge bowl of snow and slowly add a premixed blend of three cups heavy whipping cream, a half cup sugar and one teaspoon vanilla. Mmm!

Last year prior to making our own batch, we decided to do a little experiment. I sent the girls outside to fill my biggest kettle with the cleanest snow they could find. They were super picky. We then took the large kettle, and placed it on the stovetop on low heat till it was completely melted. We observed two things...first, a lot of snow amounts to very little water! The second was that the supposedly "clean" snow was filthy! It was brown with little flecks of ? in it! Ugh, disgusting.

Ruined my day, let me tell ya!

So we had to come up with a workable alternative, something the girls could still make on their own with things we had on hand...that could turn into ice cream. Hmm.

I turned to the internet and found this very handy recipe, I hope you let your children give it a shake.

Ice Cream in a Baggie

Into a good quality sandwich size ziplock bag put:

  • 1 TB sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk

Zip the bag and put it inside a larger heavy-duty freezer bag. Surround the small bag with ice till the larger bag is half full. Now put 6 TB of salt on the ice and close the bag. Have the kids shake their bags for 5-10 minutes and ta-da...they've made their own ice cream. I assure you, it's delicious!

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, January 24, 2007

Mid-Week Motivation

Starting Your Day Out Right!
Scripture, Short Devotion
“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”
~ Psalm 27:14
Have you been guilty (like I have) of pushing to get your way? Making things happen? Forcing that square peg into a round hole? As I wait to join my husband at his current contract location, I found myself growing impatient. Part of me wanted to settle for any rental we could get just so the waiting would end. When I finally resolved to the fact that I would just have to wait, God provided much more than I would have settled for and it appears He’s not going to make me wait as long as I thought.

I laugh as I think on this, recounting in my mind all the times “He’s told me to wait”. I would typically take the news with a mini temper tantrum but I’ve often found that if I’ll give in to the wait, accept it as His will, things go so much smoother. Often times I end up with far better than I would have settled for. On the flipside, when I stay impatient, I typically do something stupid and end up with a mess that is much more painful than merely waiting.

Is God telling you to wait on something? If He is, trust that He has your best interest at heart. Wait for Him.

Is Your House in Order?
Cleaning, parenting, marriage, organization tips, etc.
Alright, our sinks show our reflections and we’re feeling more organized by practicing our Morning and Evening Routines. So, what’s next? Remember, we’re taking this really slow because I don’t want to become overwhelmed any more than you do. FlyLady has what she calls “zones”. Basically, you divide your home into five segments (zones) and then you work in one zone each week of the month. Your task this week is to develop your zone lists. For some examples, you can visit the Flylady link above or I have some lists on my site you are more than welcome to check out. While you’re making out your lists, be sure to keep that sink shined and your routines…routine.

Afternoon Pick Me Up
Writing inspiration
Do you remember that one paragraph summary you wrote two weeks ago? It’s time to pull that out and make it grow. Ingermanson tells us to “take several hours and expand each sentence of your summary paragraph into a full paragraph.” That’s it – seems rather simple after last week’s character building doesn’t it?

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

I’ve decided to change up the steps a bit from what is laid out at the 30DayGourmet site. I do agree there are five steps, I would just classify them a tad differently is all. So, let’s take a peek at step four shall we?

Step Four: We Cook!
You’ve shopped, you’ve chopped and now it’s time to put it all together. This is typically called “assembly day” as you now follow the recipes and assemble your entrees. If you take a look at their recipe for Grilled Chicken Parmesan, you can see that all of the assembly and freezing instructions are included. I’ve prepared this at every session. It comes together very easily (even the kids can help with it) and while these are flash freezing, you move on to your next recipe. By having all of your prep-work done, it should just be a matter of combining ingredients and placing them into your freezer containers.
Some recipes do recommend pre-cooking before you freeze them so you’ll want to pay close attention to the directions. Even with the prep-work completed, you will likely be looking at a full assembly day to put 30 entrees in your freezer. As you get more efficient at it, you’ll be able to complete it faster.
If you use freezer bags – be sure to get as much air out as you can and then freeze them flat. They take up a lot less room this way.
Well, you’ve been on your feet all day cooking but there is one last step and we’ll cover it next week.

A Restful Night's Sleep
Scripture for a restful sleep

“Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation…”~ 2 Peter 3:15a
This morning we pondered waiting on the Lord. Tonight, before we sleep, let us consider the patience of our Lord with us. All those times I’ve pushed ahead with my own plan, He still welcomes me back when I realize my error. His time here on earth, knowing what was to come and then the three days that followed must have felt like an eternity to the Father. And even now, He tarries His coming so that more will have the opportunity to choose Him. Yes, His patience means salvation; and tonight we should praise Him and thank Him because He waited…for us.

J. Blair Lane, founder of the child-loss support site, A Treasure In Heaven, is passionate about faith, family and writing. A resident of Texas, she travels with her husband of eleven years, Erik and homeschools their four living children. You can visit her blog at Scribblings by Blair.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It Works for Me

As I wait for the impending release of Ruby Among Us (Jan 2008), I work furiously on my second novel. One thing I have learned about the second one is that I am pretty much writing it using the same process I used for the first one.

At first, I tried to be very organized. I fought it and thought about trying things like outlines and index cards. After wasting a few months where I didn't write anything that I felt was decent, I tossed the index card idea out with the outline that never really materialized anyway.

I just don't write that way. Here is my way, and to some of you it might sound crazy, but it works for me. I write a few pages, I go back and re-read them and self-edit. I write a few more pages, I go back and read them, then edit them. I do this all the way until the end.

Call me strange if you want to, but it really does works for me. By the time I'm finished, I've read the manuscript from beginning to end repeatedly. And the really funny thing is that my agent says I'm fast!

I have a friend who loves to outline. And I've heard others who say they lay their note cards out in line and rearrange them in the scenes they want before they even write a chapter. Those people must rock. That is exactly how my husband would do it if he were a writer.

But he's not. I am the writer in the house. I'm also the one who doesn't see the point of straightening up my sock drawer or color coding my shirts in the closet. But like my mom says, it takes all kinds. If my husband was a less organized person, I'd really be in trouble. If I was like him, I wouldn't write the types of stories I write.

I'm sorry to draw wisdom from such a loose comparison, but the writing world is sort of the same. It takes all kinds of writers and thank the Lord we don't all work the same.

I think I'll keep writing as I always have. Write it, read it, edit it, and start over. I guess I spent too much time in the south last month because the best way I can say it is, if it isn't broken, don't fix it (that's a variation of If it Ain't broke, don't fix it, but as a writer I can't write it that way!).

The point is to be yourself. If writing is a new adventure for you, then by all means take a look at the rules and get ogranized. Terry Whalen at The Writing Life is a great resource and there are others.

We all have to follow some rules and be organized, but for me I've also learned not to fight my voice. It works best for me to write like me and comparing myself to others simply stifles that voice.

Tina Ann Forkner 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. To learn more, visit her website at http://www.tinaannforkner.org/ or her blog, She Plants a Vineyard, at http://www.tinaannforkner.blogspot.com/

Monday, January 22, 2007

In Due Time

I received this devotional in my inbox from the daily Tozer devotionals from Literature Ministries International. It came at just the right time for me. Maybe it's also a good time for you!

Trials and Pain: Not Yet "Due Time"

But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come
forth as gold. --Job 23:10


God has said He will exalt you in due time, but remember, He is
referring to His time and not yours!

Some of you are actually in a fiery furnace right now. You are in a
special kind of spiritual testing. The pastor may not know it and
others may not know it, but you have been praying and asking the
Lord: "Why don't you get me out of this?"

In God's plan it is not yet "due time." When you have come through
the fire, God will get you out and there will not be any smell of
smoke on your garment and you will not have been harmed.

The only harm that can come will be from your insistence that God
must get you out sooner than He plans.

The Lord has promised to exalt you in due time and He has always
kept His promises to His people.

As children, we can always afford to wait. A saint of God does not
have to be concerned about time when he is in the will of God.

"Lord, I pray this morning for anyone who is 'actually in a fiery
furnace right now.' Give great grace to endure until the 'due time'
when You bring release and exaltation. Amen."

For more information about LMI: http://lmi.gospelcom.net/

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Risk In the Real World

(c) Staci Stallings, 2002

And when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon Peter answered, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but at Your bidding I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish; and their nets began to break... --Luke 5:4-7

'Put out into the deep water.' How many of us never take the time to really understand the significance of these words? We are too busy floating along and trying to stay in control on the shallow water to even think of putting out to the deep water. But why did Jesus tell the apostles to put out to the deep water?

Simple. That's where the fish were. To understand why, you must understand the principles and the assumptions that the apostles were making. First, at this time, there were no motors. When you were on the water, you were at the mercy of the wind and the elements, and the further out you went, the more this was true and the less the chances that you were going to make it back to the shore. In fact, it was the fishermen who were the real risk-takers in Jesus' time. These were men who finessed the boundaries of safety just to do their jobs on an everyday basis.

So, when Jesus told Peter to put out into the deep water, Peter knew well what the deep water represented-risk. Ultimate risk. Death if the winds caught the boat and they couldn't get back to the shore. The very act of obeying the command shows Peter's faith. What he couldn't know was what the Lord already did. Every other fisherman in the region had already fished in the shallow water, it was out in the deep that the overwhelming quantities could be found.

This lesson is no less true today and was recently brought into focus for me in a very modern-day way. As a webmaster, one of my tasks is to get people to know my site exists. In doing this, I have taken several avenues-one of which is having an on-going link campaign. In layman's terms, this means going out surfing for hours, searching for sites to approach to ask if they would be willing to link to my site, and thus give surfers one more way to find me. It is a time-consuming and very often frustrating undertaking.

Because I write Inspirational Romance, I try to contact sites that fit into one of the following categories: Christian, women, writing, and romance. Now, let's talk risk. On one side, I have people who are adamant about traditional values, family-friendly messages, and staunch, unbending Christianity. On the other side I have romance sites which often bend toward decidedly un-Christian values. I find myself on the tightrope in between, wishing that both could understand how close they really are. In our society we have unfortunately gotten the message that romance and God are mutually exclusive. The reason of course is that romance is equated with sex (generally outside of marriage) and God condemns these kinds of practices. The very fact that I choose to write Inspirational Romance should tell you that I don't buy into this myth. To me, there is nothing more holy than a man and woman who have committed themselves to each other through God's love.
For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.
--Ephesians 5: 31


The problem is too many equate romance with prurient sex, base the opening days of a relationship on sex, and believe that they have to because "everybody else does." Thus, no one puts God into the relationship until they are ready to get married. Then they want the big church wedding, and the soul-fulfilling notion of standing before God and man and commit themselves to each other-although they haven't bothered to acknowledge God's presence in the relationship until that moment. And we wonder why the divorce rate is high. Wouldn't it be far better to promote a message that encourages couples to invite God into the relationship from the very beginning, trusting in Him to guide both partners, and believing that if it is meant to work in His great plan, it will? This is the message that I'm trying to get out.

However, this is not a message that is even an option on many sites labeled "romance." Nonetheless, because I believe this is an option that no one should go into a relationship without being exposed to, I try to put my site link on pages that promote romance, which means they are listed on pages with the romance equals sex idea. This upsets some of the Christian sites that I approach. Now I'm not saying this message is on my site, it is in linking to sites that have this on their sites that I get into trouble.

Of course, my other option is to absolutely not allow any site with anything resembling this message linking with mine (knowing that my link won't be on their site because of this policy and thus will not be on many if any romance sites). Thus, when someone searches for romance, their options will be only those sites which relate to pleasure at its basest-with no mention of God or how truly beautiful real romance with God in the center can be. Maybe it's me, but I think this is sad.

And so, I am left with the choice of preaching only to the choir or going out in the deep, knowing the risks I'm taking but feeling that Christ is in fact in my boat and will get me safely back to shore. It's a risk I'm willing to take for all those poor souls out there who see no connection between God and romance. To me, that would be a terrible place to live.

~*~*
Read the first three chapters of each of Staci's newest books FREE! http://www.stacistallings.com/Previews.htm You'll feel better for the experience!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Fiction Fridays
Reclaiming Nick by Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep’s Clothing, a thriller set in Russia , was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice award. A former missionary to Russia , Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota.

Reclaiming Nick
Back Cover Copy


Nick Noble hadn’t planned on being the prodigal son.

But when his father dies and leaves half of Silver Buckle—the Noble family ranch—to Nick’s former best friend, he must return home to face those he left behind. And to make sure that the Silver Buckle stays in the Noble family.

Award-winning journalist Piper Sullivan believes Nick framed her brother for murder, and she’s determined to find justice. But following Nick to the Silver Buckle and posing as a ranch cook proves more challenging than she first anticipated. So does resisting his charming smile.

As Nick seeks to overturn his father’s will—and Piper digs for answers—family secrets surface that send Nick’s life into a tailspin. But there’s someone who wants to see the Silver Buckle leave Noble hands, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen, even if it means taking a life.

Review

I guess I should start off by saying I'm not a very good reviewer and don't really read romance, or cowboy novels for that matter, but stay with me because Reclaiming Nick definitely kept my interest until the end. Susan's modern tale of the Prodigal son took me back to cowboy country, and I didn't mind a bit. Nick is every cowboy lovers dream, though he carries guilt from his jaded past. The characters were engaging and the plot moved along at a good pace. I thoroughly enjoyed the subplot, I think even more than the main plot (translation: too much romance for this suspense lover).

The icing on the cake of this sweet tale of mistakes, regret, forgiveness and love hit the spot, was the message that God offers love and forgiveness to all people.

So bottom line, if you love cowboys and romance, go out and grab yourself a copy of Reclaiming Nick! And even if you're not a cowboy lover, after Reclaiming Nick, you just might become one!

Interview with Susan

Tell me a little about your family and what a typical day at the Warren house looks like.

A typical day! These days, the only thing typical is that I’ll open the fridge about 6:00 pm every night and say, Hmm, food…wonder what I should serve for supper.*grin* But, if I were put it all together and shake it all about, the “average” would look something like:

Get up at 6am, have my QT while I intermittently harass my daughter to get out of bed and into the shower. She’s out the door with my husband by 7:30, and then I throw in some laundry and hop on the treadmill, reading a good book while I walk 1-3 miles depending on how much I have to get done. (Or how good the book is.) Then I wake my boys (ages 10-12-15) and roust them out of bed while I hit the showers. We spend the rest of the morning working on home-school assignments (in-between me doing email and other writing-biz stuff).


Then, after a lunch break where I either answer more email or maybe watch a TiVoed episode of Prison Break/Gilmore Girls/NCIS/Men in Trees, or Heroes, I go up to my room, hang a sign on the door that says, “Cry me a River,” which translates to “You’d better be bleeding from the ears or have a really technical math problem before you THINK of knocking on this door.” And then I write like crazy, or sometimes just WISH I were writing like crazy and not surfing the net reading my friends’ blogs. But no one knows, because, well, the door is CLOSED. I do try to write 3000-5000 words a day.

I take a break around 4pm to greet my daughter, and hear the latest Jr. High gossip, and check in on the home-schoolers, maybe do some threatening of missed Play Station games if they don’t knuckle down to work, and then retreat to the office for more writing/procrastination. Which brings us to the moment, when my husband is puling into the driveway and I’m looking at the fridge wishing I had a cook. The rest of the evening is spent with the fam…

Every time I turn around, it seems like you have another novel coming out. How do you balance your writing career with the responsibilities of everyday responsibilities of raising children and caring for a home?

Balance? Oh, you said the B-word! I once lamented that I go in cycles – sometimes my house is immaculate, but I haven’t written a word in weeks. Then I’m a writing maniac but no one has any clean clothes. My girlfriend, who also happens to be a life-coach said balance isn’t when everything is perfect all the time – balance is an average, say a month, where if you put it all together, you managed to accomplish it all, just not all in one day. I really liked that definition. Mostly, I prioritize my family and my time with the Lord, and if the house gets cleaned, if I have balanced meals, if we have clean clothes and if I get my allotted writing done, well then life is very good. I do have to interject that 1. I ask for help from the kids. 2. On my gravestone, I am okay if it never reads, “And she had a really clean house.” (Although I have to say, my house is pretty clean…*g*)

Do you ever feel your priorities slipping and if so what do you do to get back on track?

Sometimes, if I am up against a deadline, and I’m spending a lot of time writing and haven’t seen another living soul for a few days, well, I might feel as if my mothering priorities have slipped. But even if I am swamped with work, I make sure I take time out to tuck the kids in bed. If they don’t have a story read, they’ll live through the night, but they have to have those few minutes with me. Or rather, it’s me who needs those few minutes with them. And, if I am going through a couple weeks when writing takes a higher priority, I talk to them about it before hand, and I find they are surprisingly supportive. If I involve them in my dreams, I believe they will involve me in theirs. I also brainstorm with my kids, and ask them to go on “brain-cleansing” walks with me, and talk out plots with them. They are involved in my stories and as excited as I am, and very proud of their mom when I have a new book come out. And I in turn tell them how proud I am of them, for being such great kids as to give me the time and support to write.

At one point you were a missionary in Russia, writing as well as homeschooling. When did you find time to write and did you ever feel like you’re neglecting your children when you did write?

Here’s the thing about home-schooling – when you are with your kids for six, seven hours a day, they WANT you to go to your room and leave them alone! By 3pm my kids were all but pushing me into my room with promises of heavenly behavior, housecleaning and cooking. At that time, when they were little, I had an absolute OPEN DOOR policy, where they could come in anytime, for any reason. (And I wrote more than one book with a child on my lap!) But I did ask them to respect my time, and if they could solve the problem themselves, I asked them to do it. I think it taught them not only responsibility, but an understanding that Mommy was a person with dreams, too. Also, I made them a part of the celebration process. When I finished a chapter, we all got ice-cream. When I finished a book, we went out for dinner. They practically begged me to write! *g*

The one year that they were all in public school, I only wrote when they were gone. Now, I have to say that although I started writing when my youngest was two, I didn’t commit any significant time to writing until he was about five or six. One of my tricks was to let him watch a movie (or a learning-channel show) while I sat in the room with my laptop and earphones on. I was there for him to see when he needed me, and yet able to focus on my work. I think the essential component here is, my children always knew that they were numero uno in my life, even if I wasn’t spending every moment with them.

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?

God has asked me to wait upon Him for writing projects, or asked me to use my writing time for other purposes than writing books, but so far, He hasn’t asked me to stop writing novels. I don’t know that God would ever ask me to stop writing in general – perhaps He’d ask me to stop writing for publication during a time -- but writing is part of my devotional life, so even if it is just God and I, on a desert island, there I am, writing in the sand. Like a singer must sing. But as for novels, my entire purpose for writing is to glorify God in the process, and in the end product. If I am not doing that, then I shouldn’t be writing, and if God asked me to stop writing for publication, I would have to look at why He might be doing that. And, yes, I would be obedient.

Has the time you were able to commit to writing for publication been different in various seasons of my life?

Yes. When my children were very small, I only wrote on Saturdays, when they were spending time with Daddy. I have been blessed with a very supportive spouse, and there was never any conflict with him feeling neglected, so I very much felt God’s blessing on my writing time. Also, during the season where I only had Saturday, and then later 1-3 hours a day, I prayed that God would redeem my writing time, and make it productive. He really answered my prayers and I was able to crank out books surprisingly fast. I think, as a writing mom, that’s the best way to keep it all in focus – prioritizing the kids, and trusting God to give you the words to write for Him. I always try and remember that God has my writing journey planned out – one that is tailored to my personality and dreams and designed to speak softly to me just how much He loves me.

Thank you for sharing your experience with other writing moms here at Portrait of a Writer…Interrupted.

Thank you for letting me share a bit about myself and my writing journey – God bless you as you write!

Monthly Columnists Needed

We have several spots open in our monthly blogging calendar. If you would like to blog for Writer...Interrupted and are a member of the webring, please read the submission guidelines.

Needed:

Published Author/Editor/Agent to blog about the craft on the first Tuesday of Every Month.

Several published Authors/Editors/Agents needed for Ficiton Friday column. We can take stand alone posts or series, no longer than four posts per series.

Someone to blog about family/homeschool/children on the Third Thrusday of the Month.

Mid-Week Motivation writers. We're already full through March, but would like to fill spots for the rest of the year.

Fillers for the off weeks: If you have a topic you feel would benefit Writer...Interrupted, then send it in a word document, and we'll let you know if we can use it.

Always needed are co-ordinators for various departments.

If one of these spots interest you, please email along with a sample post in a Word document.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Carnival of Christian Writers Need Submissions



The Carnival is just around the corner and we need YOUR WRITING Submissions. Go here for the guidelines and submission forms. The submission deadline is Saturday the 27th.

Special Kids, Special Needs -- Back In the Saddle...Structure

Hello, everyone! I'm back. :-D Thank you to Gina for allowing me a break as I finished my Psychology degree. We've just finished Christmas break, and are heading into another full semester. I must tell you, that for my twins, the last week of Christmas break was as close to horrendous as we've come in a very long time. With the somewhat lack of structure, not being in school, and the constant here-and-there of the holidays, not to mention the never-ending energy that built toward Christmas day, they were worse for the wear. Meltdowns. Screaming at each other. Bedwetting. You name, chaos ruled--for a while. LOL

Things are settling back down...but only to discover that we are going to be moving in a month's time. This means that the boys will have to change schools--and I'm quite unnerved about that. Their special education teacher is a miracle in the flesh. This woman has more patience than it should be legal for anyone to have. LOL I've already cried over having to take them out of her class and their school.

My point to all this, again, is structure. The more I study and research and live/breathe special needs, the more aware I am of how CRUCIAL stucture is to these precious children. The simplest little upset in that structure or routine can be devastating to the little ones whose minds demand it. Already, I'm mentally preparing for the summer, when they'll be out of school. As any mother knows, summers might mean vacation (from school) for the kids, but more often than not, there's little to no vacation for the moms (or care providers). I hope to get some simple workbooks (like from Wal-Mart) and plot out their mornings. This will take a lot of energy on my part, but without it, life will be disastrous.

Also, regardless if your child is clinically diagnosed with special needs, it may behoove you to arrange a schedule for the summer. My family will have afternoons free to themselves, but they will have a series of events/things that must be accomplished in the mornings before playtime can occur. I'd rather surrender my mornings than the entire day.

Have you had experience with this? Please, share your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mid-Week Motivation

Starting Your Day Out Right!
Scripture, Short Devotion

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” ~ Colossians 1:9

Part of growing in our relationship with Christ is all about other believers. Here we find one believer praying for a group of other believers. What was he asking God for? He was asking God to help them get to know HIM. Those of us who are veteran believers should have at least one person on our list that we pray for in this manner. New believers need to know that their fellow brothers and sisters are there to uplift them in prayer. At the same time, if you are brand new in the family of God, you really need to let some people know so they may surround you with their prayers.

I believe we should be looking for ways to uplift, support, encourage and appreciate one another. Instead we tend to do a lot of backbiting and bickering over petty differences of opinion. What if, this week, we took some time to pray specifically for some of our brothers and sisters to be drawn closer to the Lord? Maybe, just maybe, by spending more time asking God to work something big in their lives…according to His will, we might find that we aren’t all that different at all. Every one of us needs direction in God’s specific purpose for our lives. My direction may not be remotely the same as the direction He sends you in…but that’s alright, He sees the big picture, we're just instructed to follow Him.

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

Ok, we’ve shined our sink and we’ve worked our morning routines. And yes, we are going a bit slower than even the FlyLady. So, this week, another simple task is to develop an “evening” or “before bed” routine. This is something that you will accomplish most evenings. Try not to make it too complicated…remember this is supposed to simplify your life, not take years from it. Here’s an example of an evening routine:

Evening
Shine Sink
Write Tomorrow’s To Do List
Prepare Lunches
Personal Hygiene (teeth, face, hair)
Journal

That’s not so bad is it? I typically do my Bible study in the evenings. Feel free to add yours to whichever routine works best for you.

So, this week we are going to add our evening routines. Put these two lists on a piece of paper and stick them somewhere you will see them several times a day. They may seem like insignificant exercises but by taking care of these basic tasks, you are centering your world and preparing yourself to totally reorganize your home.

Afternoon Pick Me Up
Writing inspiration

If you’ve checked out the Snowflake link included in the last two weeks, you know what’s coming…Character building! I think this is probably my favorite part of this process so far. The task is simple in form, but could be a bit time consuming. Here is what Ingermanson suggests as our third layer of the snowflake:

For each of your major characters, take an hour and write a one-page summary sheet that tells:

• The character's name
• A one-sentence summary of the character's storyline
• The character's motivation (what does he/she want abstractly?)
• The character's goal (what does he/she want concretely?)
• The character's conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching this goal?)
• The character's epiphany (what will he/she learn, how will he/she change?)
• A one-paragraph summary of the character's storyline

You can see how this could take up a chunk of time. I assure you it is fun though. I did this for every major character in a recent project and it changed my overall plot multiple times. They were good changes, necessary changes, but changes nonetheless. I also enjoyed “getting to know” my characters better. If you’re thinking, “hello crazy lady, I’m not writing fiction here”, I assure you that you can most definitely apply this to whatever project you’re working on. Even a poem about a tree has a “character”…it might be an “hundred year old, silver-leafed maple”, but it still works. You may have to think outside the box a bit in some cases but figure out who your “characters” are and get to know them this week.

Source: The Snowflake Method

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

We’re still “baby-stepping” through the process of freezer cooking so let’s take a look at the third step this week:

Step Three: We Prep!
Preparing for assembly day is a huge step. When you get to this point, you are half-way through the entire process. When you finish this step, you have made a giant leap toward the finish line. So, put on your apron and let’s get to choppin’!

Prep Day is just like what it sounds. On this day you will want to do all of the tasks that can be done in advance. Per 30 Day Gourmet, some of those might include:

• skin chicken parts • cook and drain pasta • make coatings for chicken parts • start slow cooker meal • brown ground meats • dice or grind ham • make sauces • cook and dice poultry •

I would like to add chopping, peeling, dicing and slicing vegetables. That alone is a huge time saver on assembly day. Do you see why fridge space is a premium?

Source: 30DayGourmet

A Restful Night's Sleep
Scripture for a restful sleep

"When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly."
~ Acts 21:17

This morning we talked about supporting other believers. I wonder now, as we close our eyes in sleep, if we might consider those wonderful believers who have “received us warmly” into the family of God. Who encouraged you in your faith? Who prayed for you? Who challenged you to grow and learn? Take a moment and give thanks to God for placing these people in your life.


J. Blair Lane, founder of the child-loss support site, A Treasure In Heaven, is passionate about faith, family and writing. A resident of Texas, she travels with her husband of eleven years, Erik and homeschools their four living children. You can visit her blog at Scribblings by Blair.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How to pitch

Before I talk about how to pitch (and I don't mean a baseball), I would like to invite people to visit my blog and sign up for an opportunity to win a free book by Susan May Warren called Reclaiming Nick. I will be posting an interview by her on Wednesday. Margaret's blog link

One of the most important reasons to go to a conference is to pitch to an editor and/or agent. Many CBA publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. This is a good way to get yourself before an editor you have targeted. In the spring conferences you can attend really start popping up. The big one will be in September (ACFW) in Dallas. So start practicing now.

1.Know who you are pitching to-You do not want to waste your time nor the editor or agent. If they don't publish what you are trying to pitch, then it is wasting everyone's time.

2.Prepare the pitch and practice-You can in front of a mirror or with another friend (preferably a writer).

3.Be professional in dress and manner-No slipping an editor your manuscript under the bathroom stall door (you laugh, but that has actually happened).

4.Prepare questions you may have for the editor or agent (this is especially true for a meeting with an agent).

5.Anticipate questions and practice answers-Examples of questions might be: how is your book different; what is the protagonist's motivation, goal and conflict; who is your target audience; how are you going to promote this book?

6.Get a business card if possible from the editor/agent.

7.Make notes after meeting-You can write the note in a notebook or on the back of the editor's business card that she gives you (look at number 6). We tend to forget the details of these meetings sometimes and this is a way to keep it fresh in our minds.

8.Breathe, smile and have fun!-Also you can write a thank you note to the editor or agent. This is another way to get your name in front of them. Do not go over your time and take up someone's else appointment.

Margaret Daley
HEART OF THE AMAZON, Love Inspired Suspense, January 2007 (read first chapter on my website)
Margaret's website

Monday, January 15, 2007

Five Tips for the Writing Dad (or Mom)

My alarm goes off at five. I get up. Flip on the coffee, stumble to the computer, and blink myself awake while the computer hums through its startup. I read a little of my work from the previous day and begin to fall into the clicking rhythm of creation.

When the coffee burbles, I go fill a mug and find my daughter standing in the hallway.

“Daddy, I’m scared,” she says. “Can you lay with me?”

There are two kinds of writer’s block. Internal blocks and external.

Those writers with internal writer’s block are their own worst enemy. They block themselves. They run out of ideas. Or they get anxiety. Or they self-edit so much they can never write more than a paragraph or two. The solution to internal writer’s block is simple. Start writing. Shake it off, and get back to work.

I have external writer’s blocks. One of my blocks is two years old and the other is five. And I love them even more than my writing.

Which is the problem. If I have to choose between being a writer and being a dad, I’m going to choose dad every time.

But that isn’t healthy for me. I need to write. In a certain sense, God has called me to write. I don’t want to bury the talent he’s given me--like the man in the parable did. It would be irresponsible and short-sighted of me to think the best way to be a dad is to stop writing. Even temporarily.

I’ll say it again: writers need to write. I even think our kids need to see us writing. I explain to my kids that I have two jobs. This is true in a sense. My employer pays me to research and edit. And in my spare time (ha!), I have a second job as a freelance editor and writer.

It sounds good when I’m talking to my daughter about why she needs to play quietly for an hour while I write an article for Gina Conroy. But in my heart, I know there’s a big hole in this argument. Second jobs are supposed to make money. This job makes very little money. In fact, I’d make more money flipping burgers.

Oh, sure. Writing could pay off big someday. For now, though, I’m just happy to have readers. And I'm ecstatic if my writing finds print in a magazine that pays with contributor’s copies.

Of course, I can’t eat contributor’s copies. Neither can my family.

And now I’m getting around to the real problem. Sometimes I feel like writing takes me away from my family.

If you feel that way, these five tips are for you:


1. Stop expecting words to make money. Writing is a gift. The process of writing is a gift to the writer, and the product of writing is a gift to the reader. Even if there are only one or two readers.

2. Let your family be your readers. Tolkein developed much of his middle earth mythology while telling stories to his children. C. S. Lewis began Narnia as a gift to a particular young girl. If I treat my writing as a gift, I can give it away to my children.

3. Be disciplined about your gift. Schedule time to write and enjoy being a cocreator with God. It is an act of worship, and it deserves a time slot in your daily calendar.

4. Talk to your kids about your writing time. Explain what you are doing. Talk about the parable of the talents. Be transparent about your process and share your work. Obviously, this works better with a five-year-old than with a two-year-old. But two-year-olds take naps. Two-year-olds go to bed early. Heh heh heh.

5. Don’t make an idol of your writing . . . or your children. I try to make my writing time sacred, but sometimes my daughter gets scared early in the morning. When that happens, I need to stop writing and take care of her. On the other hand, the universe doesn’t revolve around my children. It is okay to tell them that I’m choosing to write rather than play another game of go fish.

Marcus Goodyear is the editor for The High Calling and Faith in the Workplace. His blog can be found at http://www.goodwordediting.com/

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Who is Jesus?

If you spend anytime reading my blog, I hope you know this question is not referring to my fundamental belief that Jesus is the Son of God.

So who is Jesus, to you?

Is He still a tiny baby in a manger who you think about once or twice a year? Someone you pray to only when you want something, and when your life isn't going as planned?

Is He a friend in time of need, someone who sticks closer than a brother? Someone who's there for you when everyone else seems not to care?

Is He your Savior? Someone who knows the ugliness of your sin, and loves you enough to take on your sin so you could be reconciled with God?

Is He your Lord? Someone you've surrendered your life to? Someone you not only love, but strive to be like and serve?

Jesus has been all these to me at different stages in my life, but right now I need Him to be Lord over my life.

I'm hoping to re-establish Jesus' lordship over my life this next year. I've fallen into some laziness and bad habits in certain areas of my life which have kept me from experiencing the fullness that God has for me. I believe if Jesus regains control of these areas in my life than I will be back on the path He has for me.

So who is Jesus?

If you don't know, now might be a good time to figure it out.

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 is available now!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Whatever You Do...

“…whatever you do, do all things to the glory of God.”
I Corinthians 10:31

This Scripture was a convicting one for me because I am so guilty of not doing all things to the glory of God. Though I am learning about how to invite God's glory into my daily life, I usually grumble (outloud and under my breath) about having to do the laundry, fix dinner, clean up spills, etc, when I'd rahter be writing, blogging or reading.

I'm also learning (though slowly) to be content in all things. That God hasn't called me to juggle a bunch of hats at once, instead He's called me to wear one at a time..
It's so much easier that way! When I'm homeschooling, I wear the homeschooling hat, when I'm cooking the domestic hat, but only if it were that simple because while wearing one of the not so pretty hats, the dazzling writer's hat always catches my eye. It is then I need to remind myself to be content in all things and the time will come when I get to put on my writer's hat.

Sure sometimes I take off my other hats and place the more desireable ones on my head, but then God calls me back to my purpose. To be content in wearing one hat at a time.

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 is available now!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Ficiton Friday
Character Goals and Motivation

A goal is like an agenda. Something the character wants. It has to be hard to get. Readers like to see the character struggle. They like to know what the character wants, but they have absolutely no idea how she'll get it. Your audience wants to live moment-by-moment through your character's life, feeling all the setbacks. For the reader to immerse herself in the character's struggles, first the reader must understand your character's goal. It's your job as a writer to clearly identify the goal then point your character toward getting that goal.

A good goal is something that the character wants but they don't have. It sounds simple and obvious, doesn't it? But this is something that beginning writers sometimes do. Don't have characters want more of what they already have. This creates weak characters. Characters should desperately need what they don't have yet. Dangle an apple in front of a character who hasn't eaten a bite in weeks. This will make that apple dire. That apple becomes something your character desperately needs to survive.

What makes life so unpredictable is that we all want something, we all have agendas, and when those agendas collide, well, something's gotta give. Make your character actively go after that goal. Make another character go after something else . . . or the same thing. You see a collision coming? Oops, I'm getting ahead of myself by talking about conflict, which will be in another article. Anyway, you can keep that idea in mind as you think up a goal for your main character, (also called the protagonist).

But remember, when you think up a goal, that character has to take action. Action makes plot. And in order to write a book, you need plot, and plot moves the story forward. (Webster defines plot as a plan for designing a building or novel). Why not let the characters create plot for you? Let them struggle throughout the book toward their goals. The havoc they wreak will make an excellent story!

Okay we know the goal must be something important, something the character doesn't have. We must also must make the goal urgent. Failure to get this goal will create dire consequences for the character. An example of this would be something like this: A mother needs to find a kidney for her child. Let's make it urgent -- A mother needs to find a kidney for her child who is dying. Let's add a ticking bomb to that goal by placing a time limit -- A mother needs to find a kidney for her child who has two weeks to live.

The above example is an external goal. It's something tangible, that we can feel, touch, hear or smell. Getting a kidney is something physical, so it's external. If the character has to feel it(experience emotion) in order to achieve it, that is something inside the character and is an internal goal. If you want multi-dimensional characters, (and you do!), you've got to have an internal goal. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker wants to defeat the Death Star. That's a tangible goal, something physical. What is his internal goal? He wants to live in a safe world where his loved ones are not endangered. That's something emotional.

In the example with the mother who wants a kidney for her son who has two weeks to live, what could be her internal goal? She wants her child to have a healthy, long life. This makes her multi-layered, makes her have an emotional component working hand-in-hand with the external goal or plot.

In KISSED BY MAGIC, Kain is the protagonist. His external goal is to own the Nottingham Blue dye. His internal goal is to hold himself aloof from others. Why? you ask. The why is very important. It's what makes the goal believable.

He doesn't understand exactly why, but later he will. His external goal of wanting the dye is because the color reminds him of his brother's eyes. He is driven to own the dye becaue of his love for his deceased brother. The hero believes he's responsible for his death. He was always the dark brother, the evil one -- and his brother was always good and kind. The hero is so full of remorse over the events that led to his brother's death that he doesn't feel as if he deserves love or happiness. So he ostracizes himself from society.

See how closely the internal and external goals and motivations are woven together? If you can hit upon closely related internal/external goals and motivations, your story will be all that more stronger.

Gloria Harchar
email me@gloriaharchar.com or visit Gloria at

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Introducing: Gloria Harchar

Author of the romances with the fantasy land of Quelgheny, Gloria Harchar received an education degree from Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio and a business degree from Oklahoma State University. It was during those blessed years shortly after love and marriage, when her children –fifteen months apart – were young that she began writing fiction. Since then, she has been one of the top three finalists in the Dell Diamond Debut contest, finalist in Central Florida Romance Writers Touch of Magic contest, first runner up in the Daphne du Maurier and Indiana's Golden
Opportunity contests, first place winner in Where The Magic Begins and the More Than Magic contests. She lives with her husband and children in Oklahoma. Now she is working on an exciting new venue, spreading the news about Christ with her inspirational romances. Gloria loves to hear from her readers. You may email her at me@gloriaharchar.com or visit Gloria at http://gloriaharchar.com.

I want to join Portrait of a Writer . . . Interrupted because this blog really speaks to my heart. I can feel the Lord moving through everyone's hearts in this community and I would love to be a part of this movement!

Copy Cat

(c)Tricia Goyer 9/2006

More than anything, kids are copy cats. They see how their parents relate to the world, and they follow.

I had a humorous example of this over the weekend.

Saturday I threw a baby shower for one of the moms I mentor. She also has four-year-old and two-year-old daughters. Her two year old is an adorable kid who's finally getting some words. (Mama, Dada, Nana--that's me!)

We were in the middle of cleaning up from the shower when suddenly we realized we didn't know where the two-year-old, Audrey, was.

"Where's Audrey?" I asked, then we went scouring the house.

When I came to the bathroom door I expected a mess awaited me inside. The light and fan were on and the door was locked closed. I knocked, "Audrey?"

As clear as could be she responded. "I going pee-pee."

Now, she's not potty trained, and the door was still locked, and I imagined all the things that could be floating in the toilet at this moment. Her pee-pee in the toilet wasn't one of them.

We got the door open, and there she was. Light on. Fan on. Diaper off. Audrey sat on the toilet and declared again, "I going pee-pee." Okay, the truth was, she was sitting backward on the toilet, but I give the kid an "A" for effort.

Later, when I was thinking about it, I realized how much Audrey had picked up even though her mom hadn't been actively teaching her. She even flipped on the fan for goodness sake!

I see the same things in my own kids. Often, I even hear my words in their mouths when they're talking to others--such as my son's words to his sister about her new job at a soda fountain.

"You know Leslie, it only makes sense the place actively seeks out homeschoolers to hire. It makes sense that if their parents are going to dedicate all that time to their child's education, they'll also spend time on their child's moral character, which makes a great employee."

(Wow, they do listen!)

Audrey's incident also got me thinking about who we, as parents model ourselves after. After all, we may have grown up (a little) but we're still copy cats too.

So, my friend, who do you follow?

It's okay to shout out the Sunday School answer, "Jesus!" It's a good answer after all. But I don't know about you, sometimes I just need flesh to watch for a while--like a friend or an acquaintance who models how I want to be.

During my life, my eyes have scoped out different people at different times. In fact, the reason I started homeschooling is because I saw a homeschooling family who had a great relationship between the parents and teens. Even though my kids were toddlers, I thought, I want that.

But I didn't stop there, in all areas of my life, I'm continually on the look for others who are a little bit ahead of me, succeeding in the areas I desire to excel in.

I'd love to hear about some of your life-models. Who do you choose to watch and follow? Why? Also, what is one thing you've learned?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mid-Week Motivation

Starting Your Day Out Right!
Scripture, Short Devotion


“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” ~2 Peter 3:18
Last week we talked about the Spiritual milk we all need at the beginning of our faith walk; that simple, child-like faith that allows us to place our trust for eternity in the capable hands of God, our Creator. This week, I’d like for us to consider our rate of growth. Not each of our growth rates will be equal. After all, the Bible does indicate that more will be required of some than others. What we should all be striving for is true growth though. I believe just as this verse indicates, it begins with getting to know our Savior. How do we do that? We can start by reading about His life on earth. Back in 2005 I wrote how “Jesus was a radical” and challenged that:
“If we’re going to carry out the great commission, we’ve got to get in touch with this radical, born of a virgin, healing, truth speaking, loving, sacrificing, Son of God Almighty…If we don’t get to know our Savior, how can we be called His followers much less believers in His Name?”

I’d like to challenge all of us as believers to start this year with a fresh reading of the life of Christ. Pick any of the gospels and begin today.

(Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)

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

Did you keep your sink shiny all week? What about most of the week? If you’ve got this habit under your belt, it’s time to take the next step to re-claiming your home. According to the FlyLady, we now need to come up with our “morning routines”. So, take a moment and brainstorm about some things you can do each morning after you wake. Here’s an example of a morning routine:

Morning
Make Bed
ExerciseShower
Prayer/Bible Study
Review Goals
Prepare Breakfast

Get your routine on paper and begin doing it tomorrow morning. This week, your only focus toward re-ordering your home is keeping that sink shiny (that's tough to say) and working your morning routine. You can do this!

Afternoon Pick Me Up
Writing inspiration

How is your one sentence summary from last week coming along? Did you get it all fleshed out and on paper? If you did, I’ve got your next assignment. This week, turn that sentence into a five sentence paragraph. The first sentence should give an introduction to the piece. The next three should tell about three distinct areas of the piece (acts, major disasters/conflict, and points). The final sentence is how it will all wrap up.

You’ve got all week, but you may find yourself writing and re-writing not just your paragraph but your sentence summary also. That’s ok because things tend to change as the piece goes from merely an idea to a living, breathing work of art.

Source: The Snowflake Method

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

This week I’d like to go a little more into detail about the first two steps to freezer cooking. It is a several day process, but since we’re still “baby-stepping” through this thing, let’s begin with “planning”.

Step One: We Plan!
“Set Dates for Planning, Shopping and Cooking” – My first session took me days to complete. Most of that was due to inexperience. It took me about six days altogether to get from zero to 17 entrees in my freezer. I’ll tell you that it does get faster as my last session producing 83 entrees took me less than 4 days. At first, expect it to go slow and if it goes faster you can be pleasantly surprised rather than frustrated.

“Take Inventory” – This is time consuming but I really think it is necessary (especially the first time) to take a FULL inventory of what you already have on hand. This will be helpful knowledge when you’re choosing your recipes. Now that I know what I’m doing, I typically only check the items I’ll use in my recipes.

“Choose Your Recipes” – I purchased the 30 Day Gourmet book but you can convert most recipes to a freezable version with a little knowledge. I wanted to go easier my first time out so I used their book. Try to only pick about 3-5 recipes your first time and do several of each. Look for simple and know that as you get better at it, you can get more and more adventurous later on.

“Plan Your Containers” – This is important actually. When you’re deciding what to store your food in you need to consider space and safety. I personally use a lot of one gallon freezer bags. I used the kind with the zippers because they were easier but I’ve also found that they tend to leak (not safe) more often than the double seal ones. If you use rigid containers (like I do for the lasagna & meatloaf recipes) you’ll need to factor in space as well. Be sure to realistically consider the amount of room you have in your freezer. After my second session my husband surprised me with a chest freezer for the garage. Before you make huge investments in rigid containers and freezers though, give it a try with freezer bags and what you already have to see if this is something you really want to keep doing. Another tip, ALWAYS buy more freezer bags than you think you’ll need. Inevitably I usually end up with something I need to store in the freezer (like extra cheese or sauces).

Step Two: We Shop!
You’ve got your lists and you’re ready to go. To save more money, you can clip coupons for items on your lists and check store ads for bargains on bulk items. You can also do some “bulk” shopping at places like Costco. Plan a day for this. When you go, be sure to take a cooler with you if you’re hitting several stores and the weather is warm. Do not do your shopping any more than one day prior to preparation day. Here's a great tip from the 30 Day Gourmet site:

"Before you go, clean out your refrigerator and freezer. You will need as much room as possible for all of those groceries and you won’t feel like doing it after you drag all of that food into the kitchen!"

So, that’s the first two steps in the process of freezer cooking. It may seem overwhelming but once you get them down, it really does go fast.

Source: 30DayGourmet

A Restful Night's Sleep
Scripture for a restful sleep

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
~ Matthew 11:28-30

This is the beckoning of our precious Savior. He wants to know us. Invest some time in Him and you’ll find that He longs to give you rest. Just last night, I couldn’t sleep so I lay prostrate on the floor and told God all that worried me. He traded yokes with me as I prayed and read scripture about His strength and help. Tonight, when you crawl into your warm bed, tell Him what you are wearied and burdened about. His yoke is indeed easy…it is light. Don’t forget the importance of “learning from Him” though. I trust you already have plans to continue reading one of the gospels tomorrow, but for now, “find rest for your soul” in Him.


J. Blair Lane, founder of the child-loss support site, A Treasure In Heaven, is passionate about faith, family and writing. A resident of Texas, she travels with her husband of eleven years, Erik and homeschools their four living children. You can visit her blog at Scribblings by Blair.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

How to Improve on a Blank Page

One of the most common questions I get from aspiring writers is “How do I start?” The ideas are in their heads, but the problem is getting them on paper.

Whether you are writing magazine articles, story stories, novels, or even homework assignments—here are some tips for improving on the blank page.

1) Sift Through Your Ideas. Realize some ideas will remain just that . . . ideas. When I first began writing in 1994 I wanted to use everything—every cute thing my children did, every Scripture verse that stirred my heart, and every flash of inspiration. I soon realized that although my ideas were good ones, I didn’t have enough time in the day to use them all. So what did I do instead? I began keeping a journal. It’s just for me, and I don’t worry how it looks. I use regular, spiral-bound notebooks, and I have them on hand to write down my prayers, favorite Scripture verse, to-do lists (I always start these on a clean page in case I need to tear them out), and writing ideas. Sometimes the words stay in there as just ideas. Other times I’ll go back to them, ponder them, and jot down more notes. Then, if I can’t shake it, I know it’s time to take a closer look, and I ask these questions:

Ø Is this something God wants me to write?

Ø Who is my target audience?

Ø What are the needs of this audience?

Ø What would be the best format for my message?


As much as we don’t like to think of “publication” in these early stages, this is an important step. To be effective as writers, we need to mold our message into a medium that will reach people. Many times I think of two or three different venues such as how-two articles, personal experience articles, or books.

The next step is to prayerfully consider where God wants me to share my message. And when. I still have ideas that God gave me years ago that I hope to use some day. Some, perhaps will “come to life” after a long hibernation. Others may not, and instead they may just be message that God speaks to my own heart.

2) Open the Page and Start Writing. Once you know that you want to write—or have to write—the next step is to begin. Yes, that means opening a blank page and just starting. Once I start typing I’m often surprised how much is already in my head. I refer to this first step as “cleaning the pipes,” and I pour everything in my head and heart onto the page. For articles or non-fiction these might be paragraphs of writing mixed in with various ideas. For fiction, it may be character description, story ideas, research notes, or any combination of the above.

Most people want “perfect writing” from the moment they start typing. This just doesn’t happen. Instead of striving for perfection, give yourself the freedom to “play around with the words.” Your first draft will NOT make it to publication. You don’t need it perfect when you begin. Don’t think about grammar, about your theme, about crafting perfect sentences. Instead, just let the ideas take you where they will.

3) Write Fast. Once you allow yourself to start writing, keeping going and don’t stop! I find my best writing comes when I let the ideas flow. I don’t stop to read what I’ve just written. I don’t pause to think. I don’t worry what an editor would think about my grammar. I just let the thoughts continue on uninterrupted. The funny thing is . . . this fast writing usually ends up as my best stuff!

After you get all your thoughts on paper. Close your document and give yourself a break. Refuse to go back and read what you just read . . . instead carry around your notebook or journal and write down any ideas that you can add to your work-in-progress. Think of this as a pot of soup simmering on the stove and add in whatever ideas come to you during the day.

I get ideas when I’m in the shower, while I’m driving, or when I’m cooking dinner. The ideas will do their own work in your head. Just make sure you’re ready to jot down further thoughts. (This also means keeping a notebook and pencil beside your bed!)

www.triciagoyer.com
www.triciagoyer.blogspot.com

Monday, January 08, 2007

All Work, No Play

Sound familiar? We’ve all heard the expression, maybe even joked about it. But do our lives reflect our commitments? Have we allowed work, responsibility and obligation steal the joy and inspiration from our lives?

For many, the answer is a resounding yes. But it’s not too late to turn it around. In fact, now is the ideal time to schedule in something new: time for you.

Schedule Time for YOU!
Whether it's exercising, writing, scrapbooking, Bunco, or golfing, put it in your calendar and keep the appointment. Even if it's just once a week or even once a month, having something that you know you can count on to rejuvenate and inspire you is vital. You will not be able to think or live creatively if you do not make time to do those things that inspire, encourage and uplift you. You will in fact allow yourself to become drained to the point that you are no longer able to give or create because of the lack of creative energy coming in.

Here are a few simple suggestions:
  • If you crave girl time, set a standing coffee date with a girlfriend. You probably both could use the time together and keep each other accountable.
  • If you really want to get your pictures in photo albums, call your local scrapbook store and find out when they’re open. Most stores have a weekly or bi-weekly crop that you can join. I go to my local scrapbook store every two weeks for Midnight Madness on a Friday night. I get scrapbooks complete, spend time with girlfriends, and get a break from the daily routine of my life.
  • If you’re a runner or love to workout, do it. Don’t break the date or miss your appointment unless it’s an emergency. You deserve the time. Even if it's just a quiet walk outside in the morning before things get crazy.
Whatever it is that you crave and know you need to keep yourself sane, please do it. Make it happen. While others in your life may complain or resist at first, do it anyway. As moms, we must begin to take care of ourselves at least as well as we take care of everyone else. They'll begin to see a happier and more inspired woman, wife and mom when you start to nurture yourself!

Tasra Dawson is an award-winning scrapbooker, author and international speaker. She has appeared on NBC11 and taught writing workshops at Barnes and Noble. 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.