Send Me!

And then I heard the voice of the Master: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
I spoke up, “I’ll go. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 MSG)

Image result for image here I am LordFor Christian writers, there usually is a point in time when they sensed God calling them to write. Sometimes answering the call isn’t always easy. There are disappointments and obstacles to overcome.

When the prophet Isaiah was young, he made excuses and tried to ignore the call, but an encounter with Jehovah caused him to change his mind. The mighty prophet served four kings and penned one the most beautiful Old Testament books, full of hope and proclaiming the coming of the Messiah.

Have you ever thought of what might have happened if Isaiah had neglected the call? If the Scriptures that have comforted God’s people down through the ages had not been written? It’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?

None of us claim to be “Isaiah,” or even close to the anointed prophet, but God still has some writing assignments for those He has called. Some days we must dust off our keyboards in faith because we don’t feel like we have anything to say, but our heavenly Father sees things differently. His ways are higher than our ways. Our Father believes we have a story to tell. That is why He has called us to write.

Let’s raise our pens in faith and believe God will help us write stories that bring glory and honor to Him.

And when we hear the voice of the Master, “Whom shall I send? Who will write for Me?” . . . We can answer, “I’ll go. Send me!”


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by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

The Priority Maze

I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but I’m so glad you’re here. Yes, you! A blog without readers is . . . well, it’s more like a journal entry. And now, on to today’s topic.

Priorities List for Business plans or Life GoalsPriorities . . . we all have them. Our To Do list hints at just what they are. And our actions, what we choose to focus our energies on each day, are even more telling.

For the sake of this post I’m going to assume writing is high on your list of priorities. Though you may place the following items in a slightly different order, it’s best to include them all when it comes to writing.

WRITE

I realize this is self-evident, but you’d be surprised at how many writing-related endeavors (and non-writing-related ones) can crowd out time spent actually writing.

READ SKILLS DEVELOPMENT BOOKS, BLOGS, ETC.

It doesn’t matter how much you know about the ins and outs of writing, there is always more to learn. And the industry is always changing, so what you once thought a writing absolute may no longer be relevant. It is crucial that you stay current in your chosen genre or writing style.

APPLY WHAT YOU LEARN

Many skills development books include exercises. It’s best not to skip these. And even if they don’t, you can create your own exercises and write a short piece applying what you’re learning. Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly makes better.

READ ANYTHING YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON

Read what you write (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, etc.). Read what you’d like to write. Read what you can never imagine yourself writing. Read classical works. Read contemporary works. Read blog posts. I’m not suggesting you read something that offends your sensibilities, but do try to stretch yourself.

WRITE SOMETHING BRAND NEW TO YOU

Hopefully something you’ve read recently will challenge/inspire you to write something you’ve never tried your hand at before. Remember you never have to share this with anyone else, but you may be surprised. You might find you truly enjoy this new writing style.

GRAB YOUR NOTEBOOK AND/OR YOUR CAMERA AND GO FOR A WALK

It doesn’t matter what you write, inspiration is all around. Sometimes, however, life gets so busy that we forget to keep an eye out . . . or an ear. Snap nature pictures that inspire you. (Be cautious about taking photos of people or property without express permission; written permission is best.) Record snippets of conversations or visuals that stir your creativity. (This is one important reason writers should always carry a notebook and pen—or download a note-taking app for their smartphone.)

FLIP THROUGH YOUR PICTURES AND YOUR NOTES WHEN LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION

The more you have on hand, the less likely writer’s block will ever get the better of you.

TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND ASK FOR A CRITIQUE OF YOUR WRITING

When a piece is as good as you can make it—for now, ask for an honest evaluation of your writing. If you have been working on a specific skill (i.e. writing believable dialogue), ask that your reader focus on that area. Your reader need not be a writer, but it can help.

REWRITE. REWRITE. AND REWRITE SOME MORE.

The more you learn and the more people read your work and make suggestions (though not all of them will be helpful), the more you must be willing to rewrite. Although what constitutes “perfect writing”—if there is such a thing—is subjective, making your work the best it can be is something that will require rewriting—often.

And as the shampoo bottle says . . .

RINSE AND REPEAT

Wash away those nagging voices that say your work will never be good enough to share with the world and be willing to repeat the above steps time and time again.


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by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist 
 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

Source of Inspiration

Birth of IDEA. Concept background.Every writer will run around the “writer’s block” from time to time. Some days our creative juices just won’t flow no matter how many cups of coffee we drink. Here are some lessons I’ve learned to help prime my mind’s pump and keep me inspired.

  1. Rest! Rest! Rest! Be sure you are getting adequate rest. Fatigue dries up creative juices and clouds a writer’s mind. I’m convinced a 15-minute afternoon power nap can recharge brain cells.
  2. Clean your plate. Be sure you are eating nourishing meals. Sugary snacks can cause blood sugars to rise for a few minutes and then plummet. Low blood sugar creates foggy thinking. Keep healthy snacks at your fingertips.
  3. Count your blessings.  Make your favorite pastime counting your blessings. Stress short circuits creativity. Remind yourself often that you’re too blessed to be stressed.
  4. Keep growing. Read inspirational books, blogs, magazines, etc.  Expand your mind and continue to develop as a person. Don’t allow the problems in life to make you bitter and cynical.
  5. Keep making music. If you play a musical instrument, take time out of your busy day to relax and make music. If you don’t play an instrument, turn on the radio or play your favorite CD. Fill your home with songs that move and motivate you.
  6. Join a writer’s critique group.  It’s a great day to be a writer. If you don’t have a writer’s group in your area, you can join one online. Be humble enough to allow others to critique your work. Remember the best manuscripts aren’t written, they are rewritten.
  7. Visit a nursing home. My first story in print was about two elderly women bidding each other a final farewell. I was an eyewitness and deeply moved by their simplicity and authenticity. I went home and jotted down the encounter.

Find your source of inspiration . . . and keep writing!


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by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

When Is It Okay to Play Hooky?

play-hooky

Have you ever had those times when the tsunami of undone tasks threatened to crash over you? It’s at those times that something has to give. Much as we don’t want to, sometimes we have to admit to ourselves—and others—that we just can’t fulfill a particular responsibility; we must play hooky. (That’s what happened to me last week.)

As you may know, I seek writing inspiration pretty much anywhere. So, let’s use this reality to prompt our writing this week.

How?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

Here are seven ways to use life’s craziness and our humanity as fodder for our writing:

  1. Write a poem about your hectic schedule.
  2. Allow your character to “play hooky” for a scene and thus, take the story in a slightly different direction. It’s a good way to add a twist if your readers are expecting the character to respond in a certain way. Just be careful; readers won’t be happy if there isn’t a plausible reason for the unexpected change.
  3. Write a blog post on the topic of playing hooky and when it’s acceptable—and perhaps, when it isn’t.
  4. Write a creative nonfiction piece about a time you actually played hooky. If you never did, imagine doing so and write a fiction piece that sounds like it could be true.
  5. Do you feel guilty if you have to let something slide, if you think you’ve let someone down? Write about it as a journal entry.
  6. Write a list of all the things you would like to accomplish in the next week. Go over the list and rank them in order of importance. Include specifics if this will help you decide (i.e. why this is important/why it can wait). Choose at least two things from the bottom of the list that you can put off at least for now, if not indefinitely. If there isn’t time for your writing, you may want to shuffle some things around.

This next one may not include writing exactly, but it could provide lots of inspiration for your endeavors in the future.

  1. Plan a party. I know. I know. How is that going to free up any time? It’s a Let’s Play Hooky party. No, I’m not suggesting you ditch school or call into work sick. But an evening out with a few friends can be energizing. It may just give you the lift you need to “get back at it.”

When have you played hooky? Did it turn out to be a good thing? We’d love to hear about it.


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by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist 
 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

There’s a Book Inside You

See the source imageI once saw a comic that tickled my funny bone. A man went to the doctor and had x-rays. The doctor points to one of the x-rays and says, “Good news! You have a book in you, just waiting to come out.”

I meet people all the time who ask, “How do you know what to write about?”

I always tell them that I write about real life. People’s stories are fascinating. Your story is fascinating.

As a child, I remember devouring the Little House series. I was a reluctant reader, but when my grandmother introduced me to Laura Ingalls Wilder, I was hooked on books. Her stories were written about everyday pioneer life and are a timeless collection, still recommended by elementary educators today.

I’m sure when Laura was a little girl she never dreamed she would grow up and write a story about her life. For those of us mesmerized by her storytelling, aren’t we glad she did?

I’ve always loved the elderly. I guess it was a gift my mother gave me. She was a geriatric nurse and would allow me to make “short and sweet” visits to some of her patients. Mom would introduce me and usually give me a brief history of their life. She had a way of making each feel loved and extremely important. She still has this gift today.

After I married and became a mother, I began to realize I how much I wanted to preserve the history of my grandmother’s story. I purchased a Memory Book for her. The book was filled with questions.

What was life like when you were growing up?

Where did your parents buy their groceries?

What did you pay for a dozen eggs?

What was your greatest disappointment?

What was your greatest joy?

Who were your parents?

When were the born?

Grandma filled in the questions a little bit at a time. When she passed away, this book became one of my most treasured possessions.

I encourage you to write some stories about your life for your loved ones. Share them now if you can, and be sure to tuck them in a hope chest or somewhere safe. Your family will be glad you did. So what are you waiting for? Get writing. There’s a book inside of you, just waiting to come out.


Team.Dixie-120-140

 

by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

Why I Want to Go Screen-Free . . . At Least Now and Then

woman reading news on smart phone multimedia flying iconsAs Ammon Shea, the author of Bad English, says, “A language that doesn’t evolve is a dead language.”

I have learned in my 50+ years that this is definitely true. And “screen-free” is one of those new words, one I need to put into practice.

The desktop computer (and the tablet and the cell phone) are fantastic for so many reasons. And yet . . . there is a time to click the off button and leave it that way for extended periods, at least to disconnect from the Internet.

The following are realities in my life—and possibly in yours as well:

  1. If I’m constantly wondering what emails and status updates I may be missing, my mind is not solely on the task at hand.
  2. And if I allow myself to become distracted, I must reign in my thoughts repeatedly in order to do the best possible job I can for others.
  3. If others are constantly texting and surfing the Net in my presence, I feel as if what I have to say matters very little to them. I don’t want to make others feel this way.
  4. When I allow my brain to overload, the ever-increasing stress and tension—both physical and mental—is palpable. (Just ask the burning in my shoulder.)
  5. The vast amount of information at my fingertips overwhelms me. Just how will I find the most gripping, the most accurate data to share with my readers? How will I have time to even scratch the surface?
  6. I develop the mistaken impression that what’s “out there” is somehow more important—at least more interesting—that what’s “right here.”
  7. I neglect the physical resources I have on hand (physical books rather than e-books and online info, for example)—and flesh and blood people with whom I share my life space not just my virtual reality.
  8. I have what I call the Butterfly Syndrome. I flit from one thing to the next to the next. And with all the additional possibilities opened up with the Internet . . . Let’s just say, there are too many “beautiful distractions” for this butterfly to take in.
  9. And because there are so many things to see, I feel as if I never truly complete anything. There are always more things to learn and see and do, always more inspiration to find.

All that said, I am thankful every day that I live in the cyber age. There are so many advantages. However, I am in the process of learning to balance the time I spend online and the time I go screen-free.

How about you? What are some challenges you find with the ready availability of the World Wide Web?


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by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist 

 


Please visit our websites: 
Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

 

 

A Step in the Write Direction

So you feel God is calling you to write for little ones, but you aren’t exactly sure where you should begin. Nothing is more rewarding than “sowing seeds” of God’s love in the hearts of children.

If you enjoy writing short character-building stories for children, the Christian magazine and e-zine market is a wonderful place for new writers to get their break. The possibilities are there, but you can’t get published if you don’t submit. Polish up your best stories and submit them for a children’s devotional magazine or a Sunday school take-home paper. While you are waiting to hear back from the editor, keep writing. Remember the best way to improve your writing is to write.

Sometimes writing an entire story can be overwhelming for the new writer. Don’t despair. Fillers, short pieces that fill in the gaps, are a good way to hone your writing craft. Some Christian magazines are looking for fillers that offer interesting tidbits of information that relate to the theme of the article.

Don’t be fooled by the small size of fillers. It takes more skill to write less in a concise manner. Many Christian magazines for children are looking for the following types of fillers:

  • jokes
  • poems
  • prayers
  • recipes
  • craft ideas
  • games or quizzes
  • seasonal recitations, especially for Christmas and Easter

One year I concentrated on writing fillers for a publisher that sent them out with church bulletins. The churches who purchased their bulletins also received several sheets of fillers they could choose to print in their bulletins. I was paid a minimum of $30 per filler and most of the time more if it was a longer poem.

Be sure to follow the writer’s guidelines. That is always a step in the “write” direction.

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by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com

Giving Dimensions to Your Fiction Characters

四季Please note that I live in the Great White North. The seasons and their corresponding emotions are reflective of life along the 49th parallel. The emotions, however, can be applied to your characters no matter where you place them, geographically speaking. If the cause of their mood is related to the season, be sure they are in a location that experiences that particular season at the specified time of the year. (Your protagonist may be depressed during Christmas in Australia, for instance, but it will not be because of mounds of snow.)

And speaking of snow . . .

How does the cold weather affect your state of mind? Do you find yourself thinking too much, over-analyzing your life? Do you jump aboard the emotional roller-coaster?

This time of year can lead to everything from low grade depression to full-blown S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Does the cold weather affect your protagonist? Would it add a new dimension to the story if it did?

Signs of Spring

And as March approaches, so does the promise of spring—my hubby’s favorite season. He loves to watch the trees come to life and keeps me posted as the buds become more prominent and finally burst into leaves. I admit spring never caught my attention until he pointed this out. And I do love it when tulips and crocuses push through the last of the snow.

Maybe one of your characters feels the same.

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

As summer approaches, many people’s minds turn to rest and relaxation, kicking back at the beach, and going on vacation. Personally, I’m not a fan of sweltering hot days, but that’s just me.

How does your antagonist feel about summer? If it’s relevant to the story, be sure to let readers know—by showing rather than telling, of course.

An Explosion of Color

Can you tell which season is my favorite? I love the smells, the sounds, and the sights of autumn. The nip in the air. The promise of new beginnings. The call to grab my camera and go for a photo walk. It likely goes back to my childhood, but it’s hard to remember back that far (grin).

Maybe that pile of leaves in the neighbor’s yard beckons your character to revisit their childhood. Do they succumb? If so, what comes of it?

These and many other possibilities present themselves to give your story a whole new dimension—and maybe even take you along a storyline you hadn’t imagined. And, if nothing else, you will know your characters better and that will shine through your writing.

Enjoy the journey, my writing friends!


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by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist 

 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

I-N-S-P-I-R-E: Seven Secrets for Success in Selling Devotionals

inspireMost writers have discovered there isn’t a lack of talent in our field today, but sometimes there seems to be a lack of inspiration. Throughout the stresses of life, who among us can’t use more nourishing soul food? This is a great day to be a writer and good news for those of us who love to write inspirational pieces. According to my research, there are hundreds of opportunities for devotional writers. A single piece doesn’t pay much, but the savvy writer realizes the financial potential of inspirational writing tucked in with regular writing assignments.

Here is a simple acrostic to help you increase your sales as a devotional writer.

I-N-S-P-I-R-E

 I—Investigate writers guidelines before submitting to these markets. You will have a better chance to sell your pieces if you follow their instructions.

N—Never give up. Keep writing from the Father’s heart. When you do, people will stop and take notice. Of course, you must sit often on the Father’s lap to write from His heart. Don’t neglect time with Him.

S—Submit often. You can’t be published if you aren’t submitting material on a regular basis. Set realistic goals and submit something every month.

P—Pray about your writing and proofread your material carefully. Send your best material. Remember you are representing the King. Ask Him to help you write in a way that leaves eternal footprints in the souls of your readers.

I—Identify your audience. If you are writing a devotional about raising children as a single mom, don’t submit it to a senior citizens magazine. Know who you are writing for.

R—Rally the troops. Attend writing workshops. Take creative writing classes. Hone your skills and get to know other writers. Keep those creative juices flowing. Many times God places writers together to write for Him. Don’t be too proud to let other writers speak into your life. Leave your ego at the door. The best stories aren’t written. They are rewritten.

E—Expect your devotionals to find a home. Don’t be discouraged by rejection slips. If your material is well written and you’ve done your homework, publishers will take notice. Be patient. It may take time, but eventually all your pieces will find a home if you are diligent and follow these helpful hints.

Above all, stay inspired. To be an inspirational writer, you must be oozing with creativity. The best devotional authors discover God in everyday life.


 

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by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 
 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

Wondering What to Write?

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
– Isaiah 61:10 NIV

dress-upHow many times have we debated what to wear for an important occasion?

Sometimes I face the same dilemma with writing. Instead of my usual, “What shall I wear today?”  I find myself staring blankly at my computer screen. “What shall I write?”

Some days I find myself running laps around the dreaded “writer’s block.” And there is this question: “Should I waste valuable time on writing about that?”

Just like we are careful what we wear, we also want to be careful in what we write.  God’s Word instructs us to dress with care inwardly.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
– Colossians 3:12-14 MSG

As we clothe ourselves with biblical character traits, we will write with

  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience

Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we have a purpose and passion for what and why we write. Our writing will bless those around us.

You’ll have to excuse me. I have to decide what I’m going to wear for our grandson’s second birthday party.


Team.Dixie-120-140

 

by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com