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 

Make Time to Write

ideaUnless you write for a living, you may wonder how on earth you will ever find the time to write. And even if you earn an income from one type of writing, you may want to venture into another style or genre.

The truth is you will never find the time, but you can make it.

Here are 10 ways to do just that:

  1. Set your alarm back a half hour and use that time to write. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted by all the other things calling your name even before you get out of bed.
  2. Instead of watching TV after the children are settled in for the night, sit down with a pen and paper or in front of your computer and write for an hour.
  3. Keep a notebook by your bed. If a wonderful idea strikes you as you’re nodding off or when you first awaken, write it down. You may think you’ll remember it, but you may not.
  4. Keep another notebook with you at all times. A snippet of conversation, an observation, even a fleeting thought can serve as inspiration for your writing. (I’ve had a character’s name rattling around in my head for the longest time.)
  5. Back to the idea of conversation . . . You may want to keep a separate notebook for quotes you come across that grab your attention. (Years ago, I bought my son a pair of army boots. They really were too big, but he wanted them and this mama wanted to make him happy. At church the following Sunday, one of our older friends asked, “Hey, Boots, where are you taking that boy?” I’ve never forgotten the quote, though until recently, I didn’t know how I would use the question as inspiration for my writing.)
  6. Instead of surfing the Net, texting, or reading one of the many e-books on your phone (if you’re anything like me), use those found minutes to jot down ideas in your notebook . . . or on your phone. You may even want to write a line or two for that story that’s beginning to take shape. Those moments will add up—and so will the ideas.
  7. If you’re stuck, why not search YouTube for instrumental music that doesn’t bring lyrics to mind? Use it to fuel your writing.
  8. Grab your camera—or your smartphone—and go for a walk. Snap lots of pictures. Some of them may serve as inspiration for future writing projects.
  9. Are you interested in writing for children? Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) is simply amazing. Each day of November, you can read posts by professionals in the industry. And your only commitment? To come up with 30 ideas for picture books during the month. Plus, you’ll have several chances to win amazing prizes.
  10. Sign up for October Poetry Writing Month (OctPoWriMo)—even if you’re not a poet. It’s a wonderful way to make yourself write 31 poems in 31 days.

How do you make yourself write?


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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

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.


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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 

Time Travel

Pocket watch with starfish in the sand on the beach

When someone says, “historical fiction,” what comes to mind? How about researching an event from days gone by? Does this fill you with curiosity and anticipation? Or does the very thought of it make you yawn.

Here are six ideas to try even if history isn’t “your thing.”

  1. Do a little digging into your family history until you come across an interesting character you would like to learn more about. And then dig some more.
  2. Look into the history of your hometown. Record details you find captivating. Use these to write a piece for the local paper or as a springboard for a short story.
  3. Imagine yourself without modern day conveniences. Write a journal entry as if you were an earlier settler to your area. Do sufficient research to get the facts right.
  4. Is there a destination you’ve always wanted to visit? Virtually all have a rich history. Since you are beginning from a point of interest, studying their history should be more intriguing.
  5. What do you love besides writing? Fine art? Architecture? Photography? Choose something that interests you and do some research into its beginnings.
  6. Still not interested in ancient history—or even what happened in the 1800s? Consider the significant changes you’ve seen in your lifetime and try your hand at a creative nonfiction piece (a true story that incorporates setting, dialogue, and conflict as you would read in a work of fiction).

And now, it’s time to hop into your time machine and head off for the future. Even if you’re not a sci-fi fan, there are ways to approach the future that may very well spark your interest. Give at least one of these ideas a try in the week ahead.

  1. Let’s start by taking a small leap forward. Write a journal entry as if it were 10 years in the future.
  2. Look ahead and imagine your great, great grandchildren. What do you think their world will look like?
  3. So much has happened in the last century. It’s mind-boggling. Now picture yourself as a 22nd century reporter. You’re sent to cover the inventor of the most recent technological advancement. Write out that interview. Remember to cover the who, what, when, where, and why of the story.
  4. Imagine that because of overcrowding, you have to choose to live on Mars or under the sea. Which would you choose and why? Write in as much detail as you can.
  5. So, since we mentioned sci-fi, why not turn our gaze to the heavens? Write two pieces, a fantastical piece of what it would be like to encounter aliens and a piece in which you simply share your thoughts and feelings about seeing the heavens from deep space minus the alien lifeforms.
  6. If you’re so inclined, write a dystopian short story. (This isn’t my preferred genre, so perhaps I should give it a try to expand my writing horizons.)

We’d love to hear which of these ideas you used as writing prompts. Did they give you a new view of the past or the future? How so?


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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 

Keep Writing for the King

Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance. Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.”

And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.
Genesis 29:16-20 NKJV

Have you ever felt like the unwanted on or the unattractive one? Leah did. By birth, she was Rachel’s older sister, and by her father’s trickery and deceit, she was Jacob’s first wife. Can you imagine what she must have felt like when Jacob looked at her and realized she wasn’t Rachel, the one he was deeply in love with and had worked seven years for? I’m sure the rejection she felt stung to the bone.

God loved Leah and had a plan and destiny for her life. She bore Jacob six sons and one daughter. Levi was one of the boys born to Leah and Jacob. The priestly tribe came from this lineage. Judah was another son born to Leah and Jacob. King David came from the lineage of Judah—and so did Jesus Christ.

cropped-write5.jpgYour Father has a plan for you, too. You might feel others can write better and are having more success in their writing endeavors than you. Stay faithful. Keep writing. Don’t compare yourself with someone else. Be authentic. Be transparent. Be the one God created you to be. God has a destiny for you and your writing. You never know where He will send your stories. Keep writing for the King.


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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 

8 Sources of Inspiration

Birth of IDEA. Concept background.Because of my eclectic interests, I rarely encounter writer’s block, but I do love the fact that inspiration for our writing is all around us.

Here are eight sources you may or may not have considered:

Conversation

Whether you are involved in a conversation or simply happen to overhear it, a word or a phrase may stick with you. Jot it down in that ever-present notebook . . . you know, the one you carry at all times.

Dreams

You know that long-lasting joy or heaviness that can hang over you when you wake up from a dream—even if you don’t remember the details? Try to evoke strong emotion in your readers that will stick with them long after they forget your words.

And, of course, a scene or spoken phrase from a dream may also act as inspiration for your writing.

Thoughts while Drifting Off

You know those moments when your thoughts take flight? Those thoughts are not quite linear and may head off on bizarre tangents. Why not let yourself drift for a while and then record some of your thoughts in the notebook you keep by your bed.

Old Photos

I love old photos, even if I have no personal connection with the subjects. Thumb through some old black and white pics and see what stories begin to stir in you.

New Photos

Even if you don’t consider yourself a photographer, grab your camera (or your smartphone) and head out for a photo walk. Just snap away . . . anything that captures your attention. When you get home, go through the pictures and see what ideas come to mind. Life is different when seen through the lens.

Online Memes

You may love them or find them exceedingly annoying, but take a look at the pictures people post online that include an inspirational, funny, or sarcastic saying. One or more of them may jump off the page at you and stir your creativity.

Days Gone By

Ever been standing in a store and heard a song that took you back to your youth? Ever seen children at the park and thought, “Hey, I used to play that when I was growing up”? Take a walk down memory lane and see what inspiration presents itself.

Favorite Movie or Book Characters

It is commonly referred to as fan fiction—and you have to be especially careful about copyright restrictions if you plan to publish it—but it can be a lot of fun basing a story on one of your favorite characters. If nothing else, it will give you practice writing fiction and that’s a very good thing.

Where do you get inspiration when the well seems dry? We’d love to hear from you.


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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 

The Power of the Written Word

The day before what would have been my maternal grandmother’s 100th birthday, I spotted an old letter crammed in the back of a dresser drawer.

Senior writes a testament“Wow! This letter is over 30 years old,” I gasped when I saw the postmark. “And it’s from Grandma!”

I plucked the three-page letter from the tattered envelope and began reading. Immediately tears trickled down my cheeks.

                Dear little Dixie,
                I love you more than you’ll ever know . . . 

Discovering Grandma’s letter reminded me of the power of the written word, whether a simple note or professional manuscript. Our words have power to impact the reader and keep memories alive.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking every time we write, it has to be something profound, but I’ve discovered more often God uses the everyday experiences of life to minister to others.

I want to share a piece I wrote about my paternal grandmother’s death. I never dreamed my “common” experience of losing a grandmother would resonate in the souls of so many, but it did, and I have had numerous requests for reprints.

Never underestimate “your” story. God may just use it to heal the brokenhearted and your words could touch a generation your eyes may never see. Keep writing.

_____________

Mable

The move from a spacious home to a small, one-bedroom apartment was devastating to Grandma Eleanor. Devastating, but necessary, because of a terminal inflammatory breast cancer diagnosis.

In her apartment complex, other women who were experiencing the same pain she was—terminal illness, limited income, loss of spouse to death or a nursing home—surrounded her. A remnant of these women formed a weekly Bible study. Grandma became a faithful member. This band of women became kindred spirits as they prayed for one another and comforted one another from God’s Word.

It became apparent by fall Grandma would not be with us much longer. Her spirit was strong, but her body grew weaker. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, she had to be hospitalized. The cancer had metastasized to her lungs and colon.

Word spread quickly among her little Bible study group that Eleanor was dying. Some had seen the ambulance take her away. Loving cards and concerned phone calls began pouring in.

Wednesday morning a knock came to her Hospice room.

“Mable, how did you get here?” Grandma asked.

“Took a cab, Eleanor. I just had to.” Mable tiptoed to Grandma’s bedside with a brown grocery sack in her arms. “It’s cold outside, but it was warm in the cab!”

“Oh Mable, you shouldn’t have come out in this bitter cold.”

“I had to, Eleanor! Christmas is coming. I wanted you to have your Christmas card and the gift I made for you! It’s all right here in my bag.” Mable rummaged through her grocery sack, pulled out a bright red envelope, and tore it open. “Let me read it to you.”

Mable cleared her throat and continued,

               “What can I give Him poor as I am?
                If I were a shepherd, I’d give Him a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I’d do my part,
I know what I’ll give Him,
All of my heart!”

Tears glistened in Grandma’s eyes. “Thank you, Mable.”

“That’s not all, Eleanor. There’s more! Christmas is coming! I just wanted you to have your Christmas present a little early this year.” Mable pulled out a small package topped with a recycled bow.

Grandma was too weak to open her gift. Mable handed it to me. I gently tore the paper off the box and opened the lid. Peering back at me was a teddy bear holding a lacy parasol.

“Yep, it’s true, Eleanor! Christmas is coming, and I just had to give you your present a little early this year.” Mable reached for Grandma’s hand.

“Mable, thank you for being my friend this past year. You tell our little group good-bye for me. Thank them for all their prayers. Tell them I’ll be spending Christmas with Jesus this year.”

Tears trickled down Mable’s face and fell on her quivering lips.

“I love you, Eleanor!”

“And I love you!” Grandma replied.

Mable collapsed in my arms and wept.

After Mable left, I stood beside Grandma’s deathbed. I placed the little teddy bear on the table. I realized Grandma’s “home-going” would be soon. I looked at the teddy bear holding the lacy parasol and reread Mable’s Christmas card, “What can I give Him poor as I am?”

I realized that I had just witnessed these verses lived out before my eyes. A loving friend with meager means had given her very best. She even celebrated Christmas before Thanksgiving knowing my Grandmother wouldn’t live to see Christmas this side of heaven.

I closed my eyes and silently thanked God for giving me such a wonderful grandmother, and for giving my grandmother such a wonderful friend.

Grandma went home to be with Jesus two days after Mable’s visit. She did just what she said she would. She celebrated Christmas with Jesus!


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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 

Fear of the Blank Page

Notebook and penThere you sit, pen in hand, a brand new notebook on the desk in front of you.

The page is so clean, so smooth, so pristine.

You take a deep breath and lift your hand.

But no . . .

What if you make a mistake? What if the ideas won’t come? What if they come but then branch off in a hundred different directions?

What if the spark inside you fizzles and dies as soon as you put pen to paper?

But . . .

What if it doesn’t?

What if that spark fuels a raging fire and the first blazing word is just the beginning of a sentence filled with warmth and light . . . a paragraph . . . an entire book?

You’ll never know until you face your fear.

Here are a half dozen ways to overcome:

  1. Copy your favorite writing-related quote on the first page of your notebook. When you need inspiration, consider it your secret weapon.
  2. Hand off the task of filling that first page. Allow your child to draw a picture or write a poem. Ask each member of your writers’ group to list their #1 writing goal. Find a picture in a magazine that stirs your imagination and stick it on the page. (Okay, so in this case you’ve actually done the work, but you didn’t have to think of anything profound to say. [grin])
  3. Open the closest book at random. Copy the first two-syllable word you see onto the top of the page. Use it as the spring board for a five-minute freewriting session. And now the page is full—and perhaps you’ve gained inspiration for Page 2 and beyond.
  4. Close your eyes and imagine yourself protecting a frightened child. Look all around. Take note of every sight, every sound, every smell. Now, open your eyes and write about it in great detail.
  5. Put on some music that gets your blood pumping and write—just write.

And if that first page is bad—really bad?

  1. Well, there’s always Page 2.

Have you ever experienced fear of the blank page? What did you do to overcome 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 


 

Living Centers

Recently I read the story of Dorcas and it ministered to my heart in a fresh way.

There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor. About this time she became ill and died. Her body was washed for burial and laid in an upstairs room. But the believers had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!” Acts 9:36-38 NLT

Dorcas was one of those rare souls with a servant’s heart. The Bible tells us she was always showing love to someone or helping the poor.  We’d probably find Dorcas comforting a bereaved family or sewing a coat for a needy child.  When she died, her friends were devastated and sent an urgent request to Peter. “Get here as soon as you can!”

Peter came and a miracle happened. Dorcas was raised from the dead.

I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t experienced “dead” places in their lives.  Their dreams have died or hopes have been dashed. Those parched places make the simplest tasks difficult.  A spiritual drought can wreak havoc on a soul.

But after a while the brook dried up. (I Kings 17:7 NLT)

living-water1There is only one place we can go to find a refreshing drink in our dry times. We should run to the feet of Jesus and spend time in His presence. He is our Restorer and gives us Living Water. He loves to revive withered spirits and resurrect “lifeless” souls.

And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm,
and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm. (Joel 2:25 KJV)

If you are experiencing a “dead” place in your life, don’t despair. Raise your shield of faith and speak life to those “dead” places. Give a word of encouragement and hope to those who are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. As you do, the Holy Spirit will pour life into your own soul. Only when we are fully alive in Christ can we fulfill His plan and purpose for our lives.

A young couple renovated a building that had been a funeral home in a small Iowa city. Several ministries set up offices at the newly refurbished location. When asked what the new structure would be called, the husband smiled and replied, “The Living Center.”

As Christians, we believe in the resurrection, don’t we? Let’s be “living centers” for Jesus.


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

Eight Ways to Improve Your Craft

mm_words_smAre you a newbie or an experienced writer? Do you write fiction or nonfiction? Full-length manuscripts or short stories? Poetry or prose? Articles or blog posts?

No matter what you write or how experienced you are, there is always more to learn. Here are eight ways to improve your craft.

Follow Writers and Authors on Facebook and Twitter

I offer this advice with a grain of salt. It is easy to spend so much time on the social networks that you neglect your own writing. However, it is a great way to learn what other writers are up to, what books and blog posts they have published recently, and how you might want to engage your own readers when the time comes.

Read Blogs

Of course it makes sense to read blogs on the craft of writing, but it is also a great idea to read blogs posted by writers whose style you enjoy and/or who write about things that interest you. Reading posts that are well written can help as you seek to develop your own skills.

Reference Books and Market Guides

There are countless skills development books available.

I also advise buying one or more style guides, such as The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, and/or The Associated Press Stylebook.

Market guides are invaluable. Writer’s Digest publishes a wide variety every year.

“It is easy to go overboard when stocking your bookshelves,” says she who has done so both with physical books and ebooks.

My number one suggestion would be ask fellow writers for suggestions, read reviews, and purchase one book on each topic that interests you. After reading a book, you may want to repeat the process to buy another on the same topic.

Attend Conferences

Attending a writers’ conference can be intimidating, but it can be an amazing experience for many reasons. Here are just a few of those reasons:

  • Learn from keynote, seminar, and continuing class speakers
  • Rub shoulders with published authors
  • Meet editors, publishers, and agents (and possibly interest them in your project)
  • Make new friends
  • Go home supercharged to write

Submit According to Guidelines

Take the time to read the submission guidelines carefully—and follow them. A sure sign that you’re an amateur is to disregard these guidelines. Remember to behave professionally. It will go a long way.

Enter Writing Contests

If you don’t know where to start, simply type “Writing Contests” into your search engine. Some are free to enter. Others have an entry fee. The prizes offered are usually comparable to the fee. While it costs $30.00 to enter the Writer’s Digest contests, the prizes are well worth it.

On the other hand, contests with substantial prizes also attract many gifted writers. Your work really has to shine.

That said, there are many benefits to entering writing contests: working to specifications, meeting a deadline, following submission guidelines, to name a few. And who knows, you might win a prize and that will fuel your enthusiasm to continue writing and entering contests and/or submitting your work to paying markets.

Write, Just Write

Never, ever, ever think you have to know it all (or even know more than you do now) before you write regularly. Writing is a classic case of learning by doing. Schedule time to write and keep your appointment. Ideally, do so every day.

team.stephanie_120x140_2015Stephanie Nickel, CES Editor/Writer/Coach

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