Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Writing Career--Love it or Hate It

It is never too late—in fiction or in life—to revise. ——Nancy Thayer

We are often tempted to take the path of least resistance in writing and in life. It is after all, the easiest way to go. No hindrances. No problems. But most often it isn’t the best path.

I won’t lie to you. Writing is often a discouraging career choice. Publishers aren’t buying. Agents aren’t reading. Editors don’t have time to sift through the mountainous slush pile on their desk in search of the gem that is your manuscript. Why even bother to submit? The reasons are endless as to why this is not the most sound career path for a sane person who likes to eat and wear clothes to take.

Many writers say they didn’t choose writing; the writing chose them. I’ve been thinking a lot lately of the passage of time, and how I’m not getting any younger, and what happens if I don’t get a contract by the end of the year, or even, God forbid, next year.

Should I do something else with my life? Should I go back to school? Should I polish my resume and hit the streets? But what exactly would I do? I’m a writer. I believe it’s the only career you can’t walk away from. Oh, you could do something else to earn a paycheck. You could cure cancer or walk on Mars or win an Academy Award, but everywhere you go, people will always ask; “Yes, but when are you going to write another book?”

Writing has chosen me and it isn’t letting go. Whether I get another book contract by the end of the year or whether I polish the three manuscripts sitting on my desk and submit them to my agent or not, or whether I bury my head under the covers and refuse to come out, I am still a writer.

I can revise my plans for a short time, but I can’t walk away from writing. It is who I’ll always be. So I’ll go back to revising my books, not falling too much in love with my words, and hope my dear husband doesn’t get tired of paying the bills while I wait on that elusive contract.

It will come, of that I’m certain.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Writing Workshops for every level of writing

Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself. – Truman Capote

As writers, we must continually learn the craft, and fortunately, there are numerous ways to educate ourselves. High school and college classes, books on craft, writing conferences, and nowadays, even online writing courses provide writers with endless possibilities to hone and polish their work.

Today, I’m thrilled to share with you about WIES Workshops. We began offering affordable, educational, online courses earlier this year. We usually have two or three courses each month, geared towards writers of all skill levels. Our workshops can be completed from the comfort of your own home and offer a great alternative (or even an excellent addition to) numerous conferences each year. Multi-published, award-winning, and/or best-selling authors considered experts in their chosen field teach our courses, so the benefits for the student are exceptional, for instruction and for networking.

Class size is small, format is easy to use, and the instruction one-on-one. Student feedback has been very positive thus far, and we can’t wait to hear of the successes as our students continue on their writing journey.

October course offerings include:

Writing Fiction Proposals, taught by Virginia Smith. This course covers all the elements of building a successful proposal, taught by one of the best. Virginia Smith has just signed her 12th book contract in four years, so she knows what she’s doing. She teaches other courses for us, and the students rave about her instruction. At the end of this 4-week course, Smith provides feedback on each student’s completed book proposal elements (minus the sample chapters.)

Reach for the Stars! A Writing Course for Young Authors is taught by Susan K. Marlow. This unique course is geared towards students ages 10-15. It’s a great unit study for homeschoolers, or for any young person interested in writing. Susan Marlow’s energy is contagious, so the class will be fun and educational. This 6-week course offers discounts for homeschool groups of five or more.

Writing Devotionals
is taught by Jeanette Hanscome, who brings her experience to the table to help writers learn how to share God’s truth without preaching. This 4-week course will not only teach you the basics and formatting of devotions, but will help you learn to write tight and focused, and help you find home for your work.

Other upcoming courses include:
· Build Your Publishing Credits
· Head Games: Exploring Point-of-View
· Writing for the YA Market
· Writing Romantic Suspense
· How to Write How-To Books
· From Flat to Full: Characterization in Fiction
· Writing for Children
· Writing Women’s Fiction
· And MORE!

Each month new classes are offered, so check the schedule regularly for updates.

Courses range from four to eight weeks in length, and $100-$150 in price. Gift certificates and payment plans are available; scholarships may be available for some of the courses, so please send me an e-mail if you’re interested in one, and we’ll see what’s available.

For more information, or to register for any WIES Workshop, visit

Teresa, thanks so much for welcoming me to your blog. I’d love to hear from your readers.

About Tracy:
Tracy Ruckman is a freelance editor, writer, and photographer. She owns Write Integrity Editorial Services and WIES Workshops, and hosts the popular Pix-N-Pens blog for writers, editors, and photographers. Her story, Miracle of the Nativity, appears in the book Christmas Miracles by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson, releasing October 2009.

Tracy is the blessed wife of an incredible husband and the proud mom of two grown sons and one spoiled rotten dog. She loves to travel, fish, garden, and read - and usually has her camera with her at all times.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Urgent: Victims of Sexual Trafficking

Brought to you by Kathy Carlton Willis Communications or

Salvation Army Sponsors
4th Annual International Weekend of
Prayer and Fasting
for Victims of Sexual Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery

September 25-27th concerned individuals across the world will join in prayer and fasting for the victims of sex trafficking and modern day slavery. In an effort to raise funds and awareness for this project, the Salvation Army is raising hands and hearts together in a special weekend dedicated to praying and fasting for the social injustices forced upon many individuals in our world today. For more information about this important project and other organizations partnering with The Salvation Army, go to the Salvation Army homepage.

For years, author Kay Marshall Strom has visited countries where human trafficking and modern day slavery run rampant. Her recent fiction release, The Call of Zulina, draws attention to the historical issues of slavery, that unfortunately continue today across the world and even in the United States of America. Through her diligence and commitment to help resolve inhumane issues revolving around slavery and trafficking Strom has become an expert in the field.

Kathy Carlton Willis Communications offers this timely free content article by Kay Strom to bloggers who would also like to draw attention to these relevant and current events in society. If you would be interested in posting the content below between Sept. 10-25th, please email GINA with your date and blog address. We will list your blog on the KCWC Blogsite during the week of placement to help drive traffic to your blog.

Stolen Identity by Kay Marshall Strom

Enormous eyes in a bony-thin face, and a baggy green dress that dragged the ground. Because of all the cast-off children at the village school in India, the raggedy girl stood closest to our translator, he gently asked her, "What is your name?"

The girl stared.

"Your name. What is it?" the translator asked again.

The girl whispered her answer: "I have no name."

A child with no name. A little girl abandoned so young she could not even remember what her parents had called her. She grew up begging at the train platform, snatching up the scraps harried passengers dropped, watching other children picked off by traffickers. Now that she was seven or eight--perhaps even a scrawny nine--the traffickers had come for her. But the girl screamed and kicked and clawed so ferociously that someone called the police. Someone with clout, evidently, because the police came and pulled her away from the traffickers. Somebody in the crowd suggested that instead of putting the child in jail, the police might take her to the village school, which they did. They dropped her at the door and left.

Human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, is rampant around the world. We think of it as an eastern European problem, or Indian or Nepalese or Thai. It is. But it's also a Western problem. The U.S. State Department estimates between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the Untied States each year, but concede that the real number is far higher. According to the U.S. Justice Department's head of the new human trafficking unit, there is now at least one case of trafficking in every state.

The little girl with no name was fortunate that someone responded to her screaming pleas. What would you do if you heard a child shriek for help? Of course, if she were a trafficking victim in this country, she wouldn't likely scream or kick. She would probably shrink away in terror, or act submissively. You might see wounds--cuts, bruises, burns. Perhaps what would catch your attention would be the constant work: babysitting, cooking, washing dishes, scrubbing floors--never just being a child. Or maybe you couldn't say exactly what was wrong--only that something about the child's situation made you profoundly uneasy.

Please, please, if you suspect a person is being trafficked, call 911 and report it. Yes, it is okay. Yes, even it you are mistaken. In fact, eighteen states require citizens to report possible child abuse or neglect of any kind.

In the 1700s, Quakers led the fight against the African slave trade. In 1885, the Salvation Army took up the abolition banner, and since then it has led the fight against a different kind of slavery. More and more, 21st century abolitionists are followers of Christ determined to see slavery of all kinds ended in our day.

Oh yes... Before I left the school in India, I asked if we might give the little girl a name. She is now Grace.

About the Author:

Author Kay Marshall Strom has two great loves: writing and helping others achieve their own writing potential. Kay has written thirty-six published books including Daughters of Hope: Stories of Witness and Courage in the Face of Persecution and In the Presence of the Poor. She's also authored numerous magazine articles, and two screenplays. While mostly a nonfiction writer, the first book of her historical novel trilogy Grace in Africa has met with acclaim. Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writers' conferences, and special events throughout the country and around the world. She is in wide demand as an instructor and keynote speaker at major writing conferences. She also enjoys speaking aboard cruise ships in exchange for exotic cruise destinations.

Schedule Kay for an interview or request her book for review by contacting Kathy Carlton Willis Communications at or call 956-642-6319.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

If Mom Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy!

Ain't that the truth!!!!!!!!!
It isn't often I get to use the same grammer on my blog that I speak. So this is a good day for me. I am also happy to introduce Mary Byers and make you aware of her books and resources.

Mary Byers, author of The S.O.S. for PMS: Practical Help and Relief for Moms and Making Work at Home Work: Successfully Growing a Business and a Family Under One Roof offers two resources that directly address the frustrations many moms are experiencing today!

If you are a wife or mother and especially if you work at home, how you live affects more than just you - your family rides the same roller coaster every inch of the way (only without the cramps!). Mary Byers is an author and national speaker who is dedicated to helping women live and work more fully. With humor and insight, Mary challenges readers to take control of their circumstances, to become more confident in the roles that they play, and to discover new energy for the things that are important to them.

The S.O.S. for PMS

Throughout S.O.S. for PMS, Mary explores an often frustrating topic, the symptoms of PMS, and offers practical advice and encouragement for mothers. Readers will find comfort in the stories shared by other moms, realizing that they are not alone in their struggles with PMS.With this book, you will find suggestions designed to inspire healthier lifestyles, relationships, and daily choices for all women.

Mary Byers offers mothers encouragement, help, and camaraderie as she shares:

* women's stories-the good, bad, and the hopeful
* overlooked symptoms and how to manage them
* foods and activities to avoid or indulge in
* God's first aid for stress, depression, and anxiety
* a call for help-how husbands can come to the aid of their wives

Making Work at Home Work

In Making Work at Home Work, Mary shows moms how to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set without sacrificing their families. It covers important topics such as developing a successful business philosophy, balancing time between work and family, setting realistic goals, and handling the challenges of being both "Mommy" and "CEO" while running a profitable home-based business. In addition to including her own experiences, author Mary Byers profiles real moms with home-based businesses who offer their hard-won advice.

What people are saying...

"Making Work at Home Work is a must-have for anyone contemplating working from home, or anyone who is already working from home, but who wants to make things run a little more smoothly and make sure all their business-bases are covered!" Wendy - WAHM & blogger

"Inside Making Work at Home Work you will find practical tips and useful advice. The information is easy to follow and realistic. This is a fabulous book for any mom already working from home - whether you are just starting out or have been doing it for years. It covers everything!" Karla - Modern Media Mom

"Friends, SOS for PMS is a wonderfully helpful and practical and hopeful book. If you suffer from PMS or have a friend who does, GET THIS BOOK!." Tricia Goyer - Author/Speaker

"I opened SOS for PMS on Monday and started reading... and it was like I wrote this book.. the stories of the ladies.. it was like reading about my own emotions... splattered across a page... just raw and real. I started crying in the doctors office (which by the way leads to weird looks)... I wasn't expecting to read about someone else going through issues like myself." Amy - blogger

Help the millions of work at home, PMS moms and the people that live with them by reading these books and Spreading the Word by sharing these great resources.

For more information visit

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to Learn from Rejection by Karin Beery

Two years ago I sat down and wrote my first novel. It only took six weeks. I did some edits, then sent it to friends to read. They gave much positive feedback that I knew it was time to query.

The whole experience went so quickly, and so easily, that I knew someone would respond. Sure enough, in the first week an editor requested a partial! That's when I knew I was meant to write.

But a week later the same editor told me 'no thanks'. Unfazed and determined, I queried more editors and agents.

Rejection, rejection, rejection.


I sought counsel from more experienced (i.e. published) writers. Go to conferences. Read books. Enter contests. I did it all. Then I waited for someone to notice me.

Yeah, right.

At the conferences my introverted self surfaced. It took so much effort to remain calm in the midst of published writers that I had very little courage left for the agents and editors.

Then my contest results came back, and I wasn't enough close to finaling in any of them. Some of the judges' comments were hard to accept, but they all found flaws.
I read best-selling novels and craft books. Each one pointed out more of my inadequacies.

Every day my confidence and desire waned. Soon I was doubting why I was writing and if I even wanted to continue doing it.

During all of this I had been looking for freelance work (someone had suggested it). One glorious day I got an email from an online arts magazine in California. Though I had no experience, and no bylines, the editor decided to let me submit. She didn't make promises, but agreed to see if she could use anything..

You've never seen anyone so excited to get such a non-commitment!

It wasn't a fiction job, but it was a chance to write, so I took it.

The magazine eventually ran five of my articles. That led to a part-time job at a weekly newspaper, which led to another part-time job with another weekly paper. My confidence increased!

With my non-fiction career taking off, I decided to hit the fiction again. I picked up my original manuscript – and cringed.

Two years prior it had been a masterpiece, but after months of conferences, reading, and studying, the errors jumped off the page and smacked me in the face. My writing was terrible!

My first reaction was to quit. I felt justified in it – I had the evidence of my bad writing in my hands!

But then I got a check in the mail for one of my articles. A mere $30 for my efforts, but also proof that I could write, even if it was non-fiction.

I picked up the manuscript again. This time when I saw the mistakes, they applauded me. If I could identify them, that meant I had learned something. If I had learned enough to recognize my faults, then I could change them. There was hope!

I decided to try the fiction market again, but on a smaller scale. I submitted two short stories to an online magazine.

Rejection...and suggestions! The editor liked my story, but thought it could be better. She suggested, I changed. Suggestions, changes. Suggestions, changes. After the third submission...


I called everyone and did my happy dance. The website can't pay me, but I don't care. It's not about the money – it's about the validation.

I can write fiction! The process has taken longer than I expected, but I'm doing it!
If you're frustrated with your writing experiences, take a break. Try something different – write an article or a devotional or a poem. But keep learning, and keep practicing while you do it. Don't let a few rejections get in your way. If you want to write and are willing to put in the time and effort, it can happen.

Good luck!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Winner of Where in the World is the Albino Squirrel

A day late in posting the results of the "Where in the World is the Albino Squirrel?", brought to you by Joy in the Journey and author Vicki Moss. My computer was tied up yesterday with tech support.

Up and running once again in time to announce the winner who found 8 albino squirrels hiding in cyberspace was Patricia Goldbach.

Thanks again to everyone who played, and especially to all the bloggers who so generously agreed to help and make the search a lot of fun. A special thank you to Vicki Moss whose Writer Rat inspired the whole thing.

Patricia, please email your address so we can get your prizes to you.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Where in the World is the Albino Squirrel?

Welcome back to Joy in the Journey and Part II of Writer Rat by Vicki Moss. Last week we read about how Vicki's first encounter with an albino squirrel sparked her imagination to write. Please enjoy Part II of the story. Don't forget to enter the contest "Where in the World is the Albino Squirrel?" at the end of the post.

Hurry! The winner will be announced Monday, September 21st.

Writer Rat by Vicki Moss
I filed the picture away. One day, I would write a picture book about
that squirrel.

After the encounter, I said on different occasions, “God, what kind of
story would you have me write about your albino rat with a bushy tail?
You created him. You tell /me./”

I waited.

Nothing came.

For fourteen years I waited on God.

I wrote other stories.

I waited on God.

The squirrel story refused to come. Until I thought about giving that
critter some redeeming qualities. I looked at God’s creature through new
eyes – a different light. What if I made him a good guy instead of a
flea ridden plague carrier? What if instead of being different - a freak
- he was really /unique?/

What if I made him a hero?

Instead of wearing a white hat, he /was/ the white hat.

Now this writing business was becoming fun.

What if I made him – lovable in some way?

And I was reminded of Mark 10:21 “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”

Only when I manifested love for the freakishness of an albino rat with a
bushy tail would his story shine forth. Then one morning, it came as
stories sometimes do in the shadowy time between sleep and wakefulness.
It was a story about a south of the border outcast who lived in a
fantasy world where he could be his own hero. Some days he rocketed like
a Russian astronaut. Some days he posed as a Chinese sky-diver. Some
days he pistol-gripped a sabre and wore a cape as one of the three
French Musketeers. And then one day something changed. A
once-in-a-life-time snow fell and the plot thickened. He was no longer
the odd-kid-out. He blended in with the landscape at last. He spread his
cape to become a hero.

The story was written. I titled it “All For One and One For All.”

Then, procrastination set in like gel on souse meat.

Two years later, after the story had dry marinated in a drawer, I dusted
off the manuscript and entered it in the July 2009 Alabama Conclave
writing contest. They were a serious bunch - writers who held
conferences on the University of Alabama campus. I knew if they gave an
award, I was on the right track.

The story was awarded honorable mention. Not first place, but not shabby
either. Elated, I said, “Thanks for the story God. You rock, you reign!”

“But fourteen years from the time you snapped the picture until the
story was written…egads!” I heard wannabe writers wail. “And it’s still
not even published!”

Yes. And I was still relishing each joyful revelation along the revision
journey. At one crossroads along the path, I was reminded that like
Simon Peter, I could sometimes be a rat too.

I thought back on my first meeting with that albino critter. What if I’d
thought of a squirrel as only a flea-ridden rat with a bushy tail?

What if I’d never mailed the story in?

What if I’d tried to quiet those ideas and voices in my head.

She’s crazy. She hears voices in her head.

Nah, she’s a writer.

As a writer, I’d been given a gift from God. My gift required being
nurtured, watered, exercised, and the hard part – tested.

With testing came rejection. And with me, angst rode in on rejection
like a demon riding a fast Kentucky thoroughbred.

I reminded the wannabes that Margaret Mitchell took eleven years to
write /Gone With the Wind/ in a time without computers. It was her

It took only one good story to change the world. For instance – the
Bible written over centuries by many inspired authors who penned a hook
of a beginning, a racing middle, and a dynamite raising-the-dead ending.
Some of it written during a time when carving on stone was the original
form of texting. Okay, maybe the begats slowed the pacing down some and
would have been boring twitter but they were still important to the plot.

So, I spelled it out. Writing for me was a lot like being an outcast.
There was a lot of
R = rejection

A = angst

T = testing

No matter how I looked at it, it still smelled of rat. But what if I
threw on some fluff? Now, that’s when the joy wafted through.

I deduced I might never write a masterpiece, but I could always be a
unique writer rat with a bushy tale.

Bio – Vicki H. Moss is an award winning writer who’s poetry and many
stories have been published in magazines. With a two time award winning
YA novel waiting for the right publisher, she’s presently working on
Christian romance novels and a couple of women’s nonfiction. To find out
more about her work, go to www.livingwaterfiction
and hang out awhile.

This is your last chance to search for the albino squirrel. Follow these links to see where the squirrel is hiding in cyberspace. Email the list of blogs where you found the squirrel to me. Entrants who find at least 8 squirrels will be entered to win a $15 gift card and a can of mixed nuts.

Happy Hunting!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Writing Fiction that Matters by Kathi Macias

Lovely Friday to everyone. Today I am happy to welcome Kathi Macias, the author of over 30 books to Joy in the Journey. Kathi has generously written a post about the importance of writing what matters. Fiction that matters. There are a lot of misconceptions about Christian fiction, much like Christian Rock, I suppose. But Kathi is here to set us straight. Or at least give us something to think about.

Take it away, Kathi.

Writing Fiction that Matters by Kathi Macias

One of the most common questions we writers hear is, “Where do you get your ideas?” Getting ideas really isn’t a problem—at least not for me or most authors I know. The problem is sorting through all the ideas and deciding which ones to pursue. For me that means asking myself which ideas really matter in light of eternity.

If any of you have ever done work-for-hire writing projects or assignment-type writing for magazines or newspapers, as I have, you know that you can do well on any given topic if it’s part of your job. That’s not the same as having a passion for it. When I tackle an assignment that I need to complete to get my paycheck, I do the best job I can, get it in on time, and then move on to something else. But when I’m working on a project—book, article, short story, whatever—with a subject I’m passionate about, I tackle it with much more enthusiasm.

I’ve heard criticism, particularly in Christian circles, about fiction being “fluffy” or irrelevant. At times that may be a valid observation, but more often than not that criticism is coming from someone who hasn’t read Christian fiction in awhile and has no idea how many relevant topics are tackled in these well-crafted stories. For instance, my next four novels, the “Extreme Devotion” series, is loosely based on the true life stories of modern-day martyrs of the faith in other countries. A stand-alone historical novel that I co-authored with Susan Wales for Abingdon Press and that releases in October 2010 vividly portrays the life (and death) of many who came to Christ during the horrific persecutions of the third century. And those are just a fraction of today’s novels that deal with vital, life-changing topics.

When I hear criticism of Christian fiction, I always remind the critics that Jesus was a storyteller. He used fiction to make His points with His listeners, and He was well received. However, He didn’t tell those stories just to entertain His listeners, but rather to challenge and/or educate them. That’s an important distinction, one I keep in mind when sorting through my many story ideas to decide which ones are worth pursuing. I want to entertain, yes, but for a purpose—to educate and challenge my readers to grow in their faith and love for the Lord.

My most recent novel, My Son John, deals with a powerful topic—that of unconditional love and forgiveness in the midst of the most horrific of circumstances. Though my readers constantly tell me “I couldn’t put it down,” meaning I did my job as a writer in holding their attention throughout the book, they also tell me they were in tears by the time they finished reading. Many are moved to go to someone and extend forgiveness for something they thought they would never be able to resolve. And that humbles me beyond words.

Fiction matters, folks—as does nonfiction, and anything else we do in the name of Jesus. We are here for a purpose, which is to preach the Gospel and bring people to Christ, to fulfill the Great Commission by discipling new believers, and above all to worship and glorify God. How exciting that God has given us writers the ability and privilege of doing that through the written word!

***Kathi Macias is the award-winning author of thirty books and the host of an international blogtalkradio show called “Write the Vision.” A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. Kathi is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and recently won the prestigious 2008 member of the year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) at the annual Golden Scrolls award banquet. Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend their free time riding their Harley. You can learn more about her at her website

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Search Begins for the Albino Squirrel

Finally! What we've all been waiting for. Some amazing friends of mine have hidden an elusive albino squirrel on their blogs. Your job, fearless hunter, is to follow the trail below to these blogs to find as many albino squirrels as you can.

Simply visit each of the blogs listed. Find the albino squirrel posted somewhere on the blogs, and send the list of where you found them to me. This picture of the squirrel doesn't count.) Each entrant who finds at least 8 squirrels will be entered in a drawing to win a $15 Amazon gift card and a can of mixed nuts.

Because of different countries' regulations, we regrettfully restrict the contest to entrants living in the U.S. only. Sorry.

Here's the list of blogs in no particular order: m

Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Premeir Christian Fiction Conference


"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:58 (KJV)

SEPTEMBER 17 - 20, 2009

Bestselling authors, publishing industry representatives, and newcomers to Christian fiction writing will gather in Denver at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s annual conference September 17-20 to compare notes, learn from each other, and encourage one another in the pursuit of publishing goals.

This year’s conference theme , Standing Firm…Moving Forward, will especially inspire the full range of talent and dreams in the ever-changing publishing world today.

This amazing conference will feature representatives from major publishing houses like B & H, Guideposts, Zondervan, Harvest House, Barbour, Steeple Hill, Summerside Press, Bethany House, Waterbrook Multnomah, Marcher Lord Press, Tyndale House, and Thomas Nelson, and top literary agents who will meet with writers and identify promising proposals from both new and veteran novelists. Conferees will have access to publishing panels, professional critiques, and customized workshops based on skills and interests.

The keynote speaker is New York Times bestselling author, Debbie Macomber, who has more than 100 million copies of her books in print worldwide.

Learn more about the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference by visiting Click on the left sidebar on Annual Conference.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How to write a query letter that gets noticed

Last week our guest host Lisa Lickel talked with us about the nuts and bolts of submitting to editors...the part of the business most writers dread more than tax season.

Before an editor ever sees the beautiful prose you've penned, they will read your query letter. I once saw a query letter from an aspiring writer which basically read; To whom it may concern, here's my stuff. Hope you'll publish it.

If you submit a query letter like that, you've just branded yourself as a rank amateur and it isn't likely they will read one sentence of your beautiful submission. Lisa can explain what you should and should not do better than me, so I'll give her the floor.

Welcome back, Lisa, and welcome back, readers, to Part II of The Nuts and Bolts of Submission.

What should you spend the most time and effort on? Your first impression, of course, which will be the first thing the prospective editor sees. That will most likely be the greeting of your query. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get the name right. Don’t laugh. It happens. All the time. If you were a busy editor, how far would you read if five hundred random people sent you letters begging for the chance to fill one slot in your schedule? How would you start to sort that out? Think about it. Ditch spell-check after the first pass and read everything out loud, including the punctuation. And then have someone else look at it, too.

Remember: everyone has an opinion about what works and what doesn’t. Listen to a lot of people, read a lot of information and then do what you think is the best to showcase your efforts and make the publisher say “yes! I want to work with this.” You have thirty seconds to make a positive impression. Go!

Rule number one and foremost: Do what you’re asked to do.

Double check the requirements. Are you submitting electronically? Does the editor want an attachment or a message in the body of the e-mail? Is there a form from the website to use? Do they want queries by mail? Check the dates. Many companies offer only certain windows of opportunity during the year. Make sure you read all of the guidelines found on the website, the preferred method of checking the most current information. Unfortunately, many companies do not accept unsolicited queries. It won’t get you anywhere to try and send one, anyway. Some editors keep files that last a long time. I recently learned that one such editor could recall at a click the last material sent to him by my agent a couple of years earlier. Do not annoy them.

Query/query letters

Query, of course, means to ask. The publisher wants you to ask them if your project is a good fit for them. This is your first impression. You might be asked to submit a simple query of a paragraph or so on line, or you might be asked to submit a query letter. These letters almost exclusively are limited to one page. If you have a paragraph to make your case, use succinct language to outline your project in a couple of sentences; one sentence about why it fits the publication and one or two sentences about why you’re writing this particular item. This is good practice for any time someone asks you what your book is about, anyway, so you might as well see what you can do.

A whole page query letter will seem like a feast after trying the paragraph query. The whole page, of course, includes the industry standard format of header, body of letter, signature. Don’t make it look too crowded. “Industry standard” asks you to use a font like Times New Roman, 12 point and one-inch margins. No odd type face. Black lettering. White paper. Cheaters will be caught. Bleary-eyed editors can tell ¾-inch margins or 10 or 11 point font in an instant. Some care. Don’t give them any excuse to toss your letter unread. This format holds whether you submit electronically or through the mail. A letter is a letter. One page is one page, no matter how much room you think you have in the body of an e-mail.

Header: You name and address
Name of Publication
Name and address of enquiring party – and make the effort to use a name, unless specifically directed to enquire of the particular department
Body of letter: probably about three paragraphs. In general, how to make your case would include the above information, just expanded. I usually use up a sentence thanking the editor for looking at this query.

Do include:

-Nature of your project, including the final word count (Now here’s where I have to say to beginning writers – please don’t submit stuff before you have it finished. It’s jut a bad idea. And yes, I have experience with this.). Pretend you’re looking him or her in the eye, and they’ve just asked you what your (book) is about. Answer in three-four sentences. Pitch one project at a time, even if you have a drawerful of finished manuscripts burning a hole in your roof.

-Who you are and your reason for tackling this project. The range for this paragraph is enormous. Just sticking with the facts is always best.

Do not make any statements about what you think the scope of your project will be – that’s their vision. Do not bring up the fact that your writing group or your brother who works in marketing for the local newspaper thinks your work is the cat’s meow. Do not compare your work to the big guns – although….some editors will tell you they like to know if you think you write like Jodi Picoult or Ted Dekker…it’s a tough call. You could probably be safe by sticking with genre instead of name dropping. Are you in any national organizations? Professional organizations? What’s your day job and does it have anything to do with your potential audience. This paragraph will mostly be a personality test and a potential marketing platform. Portray the best and most real “you” there is. If you’re a shy flower, ask someone else to describe your strengths and use some of those concrete descriptions. Again, you have three to five sentences. Bullet points take up room, but can be useful. Make them count.

Your third paragraph will probably be house-keeping stuff, like letting the editor know that you know who they are. Some general sentence about a recent release or article that affected you can sometimes be helpful if it’s not too smarmy. A little repeated thanks. Let them know when you can be reached. Let them know you’re a hard worker and willing to do what it takes to be successful without sounding like you’re mealy, begging or groveling or… well, you know. Probably not a good time to mention that drawerful of rejections. Be professional, be courteous. Courteous professionals do not sully the discussion by bringing up money or contracts. They don’t even ask questions.

A good story at a good time will usually get a look. If your query is denied, don’t burn bridges. No follow-ups, no arguing or you-hurt-my-feelings or you-could-not-possibly-have-read-or-understand-me e-mails. Jerry Jenkins, in his thick-skinned critique workshops, says with the proposal you don’t get to argue your case face-to-face, so make the most of your words and presentation to the editor.

Reasons for rejection: It might not have been a good day for the editor. The company might have accepted something just like yours. You had a couple of typos. Your message went astray. The story (gasp) could use work. The publishing schedule is really full.

Keep trying. Keep growing and learning. Most people have stories about how many rejections they got before their work was accepted. Even Mark Twain and Charles Dickens started out self publishing. Not that you should, but really, getting a few dozen denials is character-building. You can always roll your eyes at anyone who had it too easy.

Okay? Clear as mud?



Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Where in the World is the Albino Squirrel?"

Dear Readers, we are about to embark on an exciting search for an albino squirrel. Read Part One of the following story by Vicki Moss. After the story you will find details about a contest we will start next week called "Where in the World is the Albino Squirrel?"

By next Saturday when we post the second part of Vicki's story, you will have all the necessary components you need to search for the albino squirrel. The entrant who tracks down the squirrel hidden somewhere in cyberspace will win a $15 Amazon gift card and a can of mixed nuts.

Well, enough from me. On to the story with more details about the contest following.



Vicki H. Moss

Eating lunch one day beneath an oak tree at Vine Street Market, an
assertive squirrel crept closer to the table I shared with my friend

“Shoo-getaway!” growled Suzanne as she stomped her foot at the encroacher.

The varmint refused to back off. With a that-turkey-sandwich-is-mine
look mirrored back through dark beady eyes, he jumped a half foot closer.

Suzanne shrieked and stomped again. The squirrel retreated and hung
upside down from gray bark to glare at us.

“What’s the big deal?” I asked. “It’s just a squirrel.”

I’d grown up with a flying squirrel living in my brother’s pocket and a
forever escaping hamster named Ambrose who could be found in my
brother’s dirty clothes pile.

Suzanne shivered with disgust. “A squirrel is nothing more than a rat
with a fluffy tail. They’re nasty and they give me the creeps!”

Wow. After that, I never looked at my mother’s squirrel and dumplings
the same. Suzanne was right. They were also a home for fleas. Rats had
been known to carry infected fleas harboring bubonic plague. I’d just
never before pondered a squirrel’s downside.

Later, while on vacation in Beaufort, South Carolina with my mother and
girls, I spotted an albino squirrel. Cool! A squirrel with pink eyes. I
threw the stick shift in park. I grabbed the camera I always kept on
hand for cute and extraordinary Kodak moments.

“Sit still.” I eased the car door shut.

Mother adjusted her glasses. “It’s just a squirrel.”

“I know – a rat with a fluffy tail.”

“It’s just hanging on a tree!” said my observant ten-year-old daughter.

“Yeah,” piped my eight-year-old with the bobbing ponytail.

She squinted. “He’s not even doing anything special.”

“Look closer, gang,” I said, my mouth near drooling from anticipation. I
whispered, “He’s albino.”

At first glance, everyone failed to recognize that this rat with a
fluffy tail was extraordinary. White instead of gray. There was a story
somewhere in this freak of nature. For he had to be a freak because he
was different, right?

Bio – Vicki H. Moss is an award winning writer who’s poetry and many
stories have been published in magazines. With a two time award winning
YA novel waiting for the right publisher, she’s presently working on
Christian romance novels and a couple of women’s nonfiction. To find out
more about her work, go to www.livingwaterfiction and hang out awhile.

As for "Where in the World is the Albino Squirrel?", next week I will give you a list of blogs to search for the same Albino Squirrel you see pictured here. Visit each of the blogs listed to see if the squirrel is hidden somewhere in one of that blog's current posts. Send me a list of every blog where you find the albino squirrel. The entrant who finds all the squirrels will be the winner. As I'm sure there will be multiple winners, Vicki and I will utilize the scientific method of drawing the winning name from a hat.

Because of different countries' regulations, we regrettfully restrict the contest to entrants living in the U.S. only. Sorry. Now don't forget to check back next week for a list of blogs where the squirrel may be hiding.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Boys are Boy-sterous

Today is my first Friday Fun Day here at Joy in the Journey. Fridays are reserved for fun stuff like book reviews, author interviews, contests, even character interviews. Today I am excited to welcome Jean Blackmer, author of Boy-sterous Living. I grew up in an all female household, so I have to admit I was a little intimdated when I brought my son home from the hospital in 1984. It might've been helpful to have a head's up on what to expect.

Thanks to Jean and Boy-sterous Living, families can learn to celebrate their loud and rowdy life with sons.

"A fun read with a fresh perspective on raising boys!"
- Dennis Rainey, Family Life

"In my years of mothering, I've found the most sound and practical advice comes from other mothers who understand my challenges. Jean understands boys! In her uniquely personal, humorous and insightful style, she tells parents of boys what they need to know."
- Carol Kuykendall, speaker and author of several books including "Five Simple Ways to Grow a Great Family."

"I highly recomend this book to every woman who wants to understand boys."
- Rick Johnson, author of "Better Dads, Stronger Sons"

"Life with boys is part mystery, part comedy, and all adventure! Jean Blackmer equips parents to understand the mystery, laugh at the comedy, and buckle in for the adventure."
- Carla Foote, director of media and executive editor of "MomSense Magazine", MOPS International

Boy-sterous Living

Celebrating Your Loud and Rowdy Life with Sons

Raising boys isn't easy. Life with them is loud. If it's quiet, they're probably up to something. Boys are messy, competitive, fearless, and proud. Living with them pretty much guarantees that you're in for an adventure.

As the only female in a house with three sons, a husband, and two male dogs, Jean Blackmer has learned a lot about living with boys. She knows that as a mom it isn't always easy to communicate and connect with these creatures of noise and energy. Everyday, they force you to live in a world where bugs are cool, safety is an afterthought, and "talking is torture."

In Boy-sterous Living, Jean shares a few of the priceless stories and laugh-out-loud lessons that she and her boys have experienced over the years. With humorous insight and practical advice, she offers encouragement and ideas to help both mothers and fathers impact and shape the lives of their sons. From understanding their love of sports to overcoming the superman complex, Jean shows moms how to find joy and contentment in everyday life by celebrating the laughter, passion, noise, and endless energy boys bring to our lives.

Additonal resources include:

* Thoughtful questions to help parents explore their views on raising sons
* Bible verses to help parents apply God's truth to the trials and joys of raising a family
* Suggestions for more information on several topic and issues related to parenting boys

Beacon Hill Press, 192 pages.

Meet Jean!

Jean is currently the Publishing Manager for MOPS International and she's been free-lance writing for 16 years. She has been published in a variety of local and national publications, including: Guideposts, MomSense, Today's Christian Woman, Christian Parenting Today, American Girl, Proverbs 31 Woman, Chicken Soup for the Mother and Son Soul, Chicken Soup Cookbook for the Busy Mom's Soul, Focus on the Family's Teen Phases, Guideposts Miracle Series, and others.

She also co-authored her first book, Where Women Walked: Powerful True Stories of Women's Perseverance and God's Provision. (Tyndale/Focus on the Family, 2004) This book was nominated for a Gold Medallion Award.

Jean graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder with a Bachelor's (1987) and a Master's (1992) degree in Journalism. She lives in Boulder with her husband Zane; three boys, Josh, Jordan, and Jake.

Find out more about Jean here!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Inspiration at your Local Library

I once met a writer who told me he doesn’t read—never has, never will. I can’t wrap my head around that concept. Writers are readers, right? At least that’s what I’ve always heard. It’s definitely been my experience. I believe for the vast majority of us, our first love will always be reading. If you weren’t practically addicted to the written word, it’s unlikely you would’ve ever been compelled to write when you were a kid and no one but your mother pretended you had a knack for it.

Today is Thursday, my Tips and Tricks Day to get the old creative juices flowing. I’ve been at this a while so I’ve found a trick or two that usually works for me. The point of Thursdays is to share those tricks, and hopefully learn a few myself. If you are a writer—or any type of self-starting, disciplined, ambitious individual—feel free to share here. I can always use a kick in the pants.

Few things motivate me more than a trip to the library. The smells, the sounds, the harsh lights— all work on my senses the moment I shove through the heavy glass door and step across the threshold. I typically head for the section of books in which I write. But sometimes I bypass the new releases and suspense sections and take a detour down an aisle I don’t normally go.

I am never disappointed, even if I don’t find a book I want to read. As I walk along the aisles, scanning titles with my eyes and my fingers, I drink up the images the books generate. I imagine an author bent over a keyboard, bleeding and sweating her burden onto the page, and knowing full well the reader must never realize how difficult it was to create that one perfectly written scene. I feel her pain, her frustration. I’ve been there a thousand times myself. And I’ll be there a thousand times a thousand more before it’s over.

Regardless of what books I see that day, which ones I load into my tote bag, I return home with a renewed sense of purpose; of excitement that I have a story in my head that won’t let me rest until it’s finished.

Not long ago, a reader paid me the highest compliment a writer can receive. “But it comes easy for you, Teresa. You don’t have to struggle to get your words onto the page.”

If she only knew. It’s always tough. Sometimes I think it gets tougher with every book. Every word, every sentence, every scene, every character takes a little piece of me. But isn’t that the point? Isn’t that why I sit down at my computer every morning and open up a file? Or open a vein as someone once said.

The next time you need inspiration or wonder if there’s really any point in writing when there are already so many doing it and doing it well, take a trip to your local library. If you are truly meant to write, if you have a message inside you, you will leave inspired and motivated and anxious to get back in front of your computer and give another piece of yourself to your work and the world.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

My Surrendered Heart

Wednesdays are now Words of Encouragemet Day

My first guest host is Sharlene MacLaren. Anyone who has ever met Shar, live and in color or only online like me, knows she has a huge heart and love for others and God. Please read what Shar has to say. I hope it will encourage you like it did for me.

By Sharlene MacLaren

Over the years, many have asked, “What’s it like to be a writer?” In fact, I get the gamut of comments and questions—everything from, “How does anybody write a one-inch thick book when I can barely write a one-paragraph Email?” to “How long does it take to write a book?” to “Have you always been a writer?” to “How in the world do you come up with all those ideas?”

Great questions! Each one gets a different answer, of course, but my overall response is that God Himself planted in my mind and soul an earnest desire to write, and I truly experienced a “calling on my life” – probably in much the same way a minister or missionary or any church worker might experience. And because of that calling, He is the one who ultimately equips me with the tools I need to complete the task.

Have I always written? Interestingly, no. I am 60-years-old, but I didn’t complete my first full manuscript till the “well-seasoned” age of 52. Why? Well, in short, many things in life impassion me—my spiritual walk with Christ, my darling husband, daughters, grandchildren, music, reading, traveling, and, until retiring from 31 years of teaching in 2003, my career! I did not know I had room for one more passion, but God did! And in the year 2000, He began to plant a seed.

It started with a dream that I’d written a book. I, of course, shoved it aside as silly. A book. Imagine me writing a book. Yes, I’d always been a creative writer in school, my essays and term papers usually earning me ‘A’ grades, and I had dabbled in scribbling off foolish high school romances back in 11th and 12th grades. But then college came, then marriage, and children, a career in education, my involvement in church activities, a vocal music ministry. And the list continues. Plainly put, writing was the very last thing on my mind.

So, why ever would I dream I’d written a book? But then it recurred at least two or three times more, the same dream. – I had written a book. – I recalled having earlier asked God to show me what He would have me do with the second half of my life once I finally did decide to retire from teaching, and pleading that He would lead me into an area in which I could make a difference in the lives of others. I wanted my life to count, to touch hearts for eternity. Was it possible He wanted me to attempt writing an entire novel? And if I did, what would it even be about? Again, I prayed. And this time my prayer was, “Lord, I am willing to travel the path You set out for me. Take me out of the equation and simply work in and through my spirit. I surrender all.”

And that was the key! My surrendered heart. One sunny summer day in the year 2000, I sat down at my computer and began to write, and let me tell you, the ideas literally poured from my brain, down through my arms, and onto that keyboard! And my brand-spankin’ new passion came into existence!

Did I immediately find a publisher? Absolutely not. Timing is everything, namely, God’s timing. I had much to learn in this new realm I found myself – writing seminars and conferences to attend, books to read on the craft itself, not to mention mountains of information to gather about the writing/publishing industry. And then it still took years before I reached a point of readiness and my books found a home in the wonderful place known as Whitaker House.

I think if I have learned anything on this journey, it is this: God is simply NOT done with us until He says so. Oh, how He loves a willing heart, no matter our age or stage in life. If you put yourself out there and say, “God, I would love for You to take my life and use it in a way that can be effective for Your kingdom—and will bring You honor and glory,” well, He doesn’t take that lightly. No, He is right on that prayer!

Whether you are an office assistant, a daycare provider, a banker, a contractor, a stay-at-home mom, a single parent, a factory worker, or a mail carrier—whatever your pursuit in life, God has plans that go beyond your imaginings. He is always looking for “harvest workers”. I challenge you to pray the prayer of surrender—and then watch what He does to fulfill His purpose in your life.

A surrendered life equals one exciting adventure!

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Nuts and Bolts of Submission

Welcome to the launch of my redesigned Joy in the Journey. The purpose of Joy in the Journey is still to chronicle my journey from obscurity to New York Times bestselling author. Mondays are the day I'm most looking forward to. It is Roll up Your Sleeves Day, a reminder I desperately need.

So to kick off our first Roll up Your Sleeves Day, let me welcome Lisa Lickel to Joy in the Journey. Lisa will share a workshop with us in three parts from the Wisconsin Writers connect day coming up October 17.

Welcome, Lisa, and thank you for sharing your expertise.

The Nuts and Bolts of Submission by Lisa Lickel

For beginners--Part I

Nuts and bolts are integral to the framework upholding your final product. In our case, “final product” is that published article, devotional, short story, novel, novella, play, joke, greeting card, poem, song…okay, whatever you’ve written. As in any building endeavor, there are directions to follow in order for the completed structure to stand strong. Publishers already know this. That’s why they’ve developed a particular strategy to weed out the chaff from the wheat. Besides publisher’s guidelines found most often of websites, the Writer’s Market is an invaluable tool that includes lots of advice.

Remember, a publisher can’t say “no” if you don’t submit. They can’t say “yes” either.

So, a few rules:

Start the submission process with a completed project.

Do your homework. Make sure your work fits the publication

Follow guidelines exactly. Seek the publisher’s submission guidelines and do what they say.

Really. Do what they say – no more, no less.

Have patience. Be professional. Be polite. Don’t burn your bridges.

Submissions have a lot of variance according to individual publishing house rules. Let me reiterate: A LOT! You must be very careful to follow something called “guidelines” which we’ll get to. But there are some basic underlying documents to prepare and keep on hand that can be adjusted as needed. Even if you don’t use each document, it’s still good practice to prepare. The preparation will help you understand and bond with your project. Enthusiasm is important when pitching your project, both verbally and in writing. For most written work, you’ll put together a “submission packet” which will probably include some or all of the following:

Query/ or query letter

Cover letter

Synopsis which will include a hook or theme or log line

Writing sample, which will usually be the first few chapters or completed piece for shorter items

If needed/available: Resume, Clips, for non-fiction or marketable information about yourself

Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope if sending by land

Only the above items should be included, and only on industry standard supplies in industry standard format. Keep in mind, though, that different companies have different requirements. You may be asked to include a resume or fill out extensive information about yourself and your goals and experience.

What not to use or include:

Fancy stationery of any kind
Perfume or scent
Gifts of any kind
Voice messages
Revelations from God or anyone else
Underwear or any other personal items (one CBA agent recently revealed that he had received such an item included with a proposal and considered the sender “nuts”)

Thanks again, Lisa, for sharing. I never would've thought some of these things would be an issue with aspiring writers. I look forward to next Monday and Part II of The Nuts and Bolts of Submission.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Please join me Monday, September 7th in launching the redesigned Joy in the Journey. This blog is about enjoying whatever stage of the journey you are in. In my case it's a writing journey, but I hope anyone will find something here they like. I’ve changed the schedule, enlisted the help of some great writing friends, and am hosting my first contest—with prizes—so please join in the fun.

Monday is Roll up Your Sleeves Day, and I'm pleased to have guest host Lisa Lickel here for the next three Mondays. She will share from her workshop at Wisconsin Writers Connect Day called The Nuts and Bolts of Submission. Please stop by Monday and welcome Lisa to Joy in the Journey.

Stop in every day next week to see what's happening. Don't forget to play the game which begins on Saturday, September 12.

If you are a writer and would like to share your writing journey or some of the nuggets of wisdom you've picked up along the way, please submit to become a guest blogger. Writers at any level will be considered, as long as you are working toward writing as a career and not just a hobby. Joy in the Journey has a Christian world view. While your writing doesn't need to, I reserve the right to reject anything readers may deem inappropriate.

My schedule beginning September 7th is as follows:

Monday——Roll up your sleeves Day—Instructional and/or motivational posts on everything from how to create characters to inspiring the muse.

Wednesday——Encouraging words—We all need a little encouragement from time to time. Encourager extraordinaire Sharlene MacLaren, author of the Daughters of Jacob Kane series, has generously written something for us on Wednesday. I would love to see more encouraging, inspiring words from the rest of you. Nothing is too short or too long.

Tricks & Treats Thursday——Thursday is the day to get those creative juices pumping. From writing prompts to dyed in the wool tricks to get moving and keep those keyboard keys humming.

Friday Fun Days——interviews, book reviews, contests. If you would like your book featured, let me know. We can interview your heroine, discuss your writing journey, or whatever you think readers might like to know about you.

Saturday Smorgasbord——The name says it all. Who knows what might happen on Saturdays. The first Saturday in September we will be on the search for an albino squirrel courtesy of Vicki Moss. I would love to get other bloggers involved in the search. Vicki and I plan to blitz the web with announcements and sightings. Please join in the fun.

Okay, that's it. If you're a reader, aspiring writer, published novelist, or anywhere in between, there is something here for you. If you have questions you'd like addressed or want to know more about me, writing in general, or pet adoption, just ask. If I don't know the answer, I'll find someone who does, or I'll just make something up.

See you on Monday.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Countdown to Revamp

Tension in building. It's nearly time for the unveiling of a redesigned Joy in the Journey.

Okay, only the content is getting an overhaul. I redid the template a few weeks ago. If I'd been more marketing savvy I would've saved that for Monday as well. Sigh. Hindsight, I suppose.

Regardless, I hope you are as excited as I am. Sadly, I am also exhausted. Not only am I re-planning the blog, I'm hosting a contest, "Where in the World is the Albino Sprirrel" and it's turned out to be a major undertaking. Not to mention all the time it has taken from my writing career.

BTW, if you're a blogger and would like to participate in hiding any albino squirrels on your blog, contact me. If you plan to play the game, I'll give more details later. Suffice it to say, it'll be simple, painless, a lot of fun, and oh yeah, prizes, there will be prizes.

Hope you will join us for the grand unveiling on Monday. I'm so excited. Talk to you soon.