Category Archives: Announcements

Interview & Book Give-Away with Laurie Coombs: Letters From My Father’s Murderer, & Who Won Tammy Blackburn’s Book?

Laurie Coombs Round HeadshotToday is the 5th Tuesday, and that means that I’m free to do whatever I want on the Christian Writer’s Den blog. Well, today I want to introduce you to Laurie Coombs and her new book!

(I know this post is longer than usual, but this is a powerful message for all of us, so I pray you’ll stay with me as we work through this amazing testimony. You won’t be sorry.)

Laurie and I met in August 2014 when she attended the Christian Communicators Conference at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, NC. I immediately fell in love with her contagious smile and engaging manner. Little did I know the horrendous heartache she had been through. And now I’ve asked her to share her journey with you. So sit back, open your heart and hear how–through the power of the Holy Spirit–one young woman changed not only her own heart, but a murderer’s heart as well.

And as always, be sure to leave a comment for our guest and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of Laurie’s book.

Welcome to the Christian Writer’s Den, Laurie. Let’s start with this question: Why did you want to write Letters from My Father’s Murderer, which details such a tragic and painful part of your life?

To be honest, I didn’t initially want to write this book. I wanted to share my story, but I knew that writing it in a book would require me to bare all. I knew I’d have to share difficult things, and I didn’t want to. But greater than my resistance was my desire to see people experience freedom and redemption and healing as I had. I wanted God to be glorified for what He had done in and through my life.

I knew God was calling me to write this book. And I knew God well enough to know that if I answered that call I’d most assuredly see lives change as a result of the message He has given me. God allowed me to see that good could come out of the ashes of my past. That I could play a small part in the grand story He has been unfolding since the beginning of time. That I could participate in what He’s doing in the here and now, for the good of many. And so, I chose to say yes, and of course, I’m now completely on board.Laurie Coombs book cover

Tell us about the significance of the few interactions you had with your father just prior to his murder.

About one month before my dad died, he said, “Laurie, when I die, I want people to remember me for who I am. I don’t want anyone turning me into something I’m not.” The comment sort of stunned me at first. It came out of absolutely nowhere. My dad continued to tell me that people only want to talk about the good parts of a person after they die. “But that’s not who they really are,” he said. “There are good parts and bad parts to every one of us.”

For many years, I didn’t understand why my dad had said that to me––obviously, neither one of us knew he was going to die––but as I began to write this book, his words came to mind, and I knew, without a doubt, that God had him speak those words to me, over a decade before I needed them, to give me the freedom to share my story however God may lead.

You’re very honest in the book about the mistakes your father made and how that affected your teen years and even your choice to reject the faith you had been raised in. Was that difficult for you to do?

Absolutely. I had to do a lot of thinking and praying about how to write what God wanted me to write. But ultimately, I knew God was calling me to truth. My dad was an amazing man. A wonderful father. I really was a daddy’s girl. But he wasn’t perfect. And neither am I. It’s my hope that I conveyed my imperfections throughout the book as well.

Laurie Coombs Not-My-Plan-269x404Almost immediately after learning about your father’s death, you say the hate for his killer began to fill your heart. How did that hatred affect you?

My hatred affected just about everything I thought and did at first. Anger consumed me. But then after several months, I chose to lay aside my anger and my grief. I knew my dad wouldn’t have wanted me to live like that, and so I deliberately chose to put the whole terrible thing behind me and move on.

I didn’t see the affects of anger on the surface after that, and I honestly thought I had worked through it, but in reality, I had simply buried it. For years, that anger festered in my heart and turned into bitterness without me even knowing it until the day God brought it to my attention nine years after the murder.

You began to build a lovely life with your family in the years following the trial, and appeared very strong. What happened that finally brought you to the point where you turned to the Lord?

I fell apart. God presented me with something I couldn’t fix. Anxiety and depression finally brought me to my knees, and for the first time in my life, I couldn’t fix myself. I couldn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps, so to speak, as I had many times before. I had fallen into such an incredibly dark place, and I was scared. I tried everything the world tells you to do, but nothing worked. So as a last resort, I found my way to church.

My family and I willingly walked through those church doors with an incredible sense of desperation. God was truly my last hope, but even though I desperately wanted Him to be the answer, I was highly skeptical that He would be. The concept of God speaking to man was so foreign to me, but having that pastor preach a message to my inner thoughts got my attention. It was enough to draw me back the next week and the week after that and the one after that, but each time, I fully expected the God-thing to be a fluke. But it wasn’t. Over and over again, God showed Himself to me in many ways, and I was given the proof that I needed to believe.

What made you decide to begin corresponding with your father’s killer? What did you hope would Laurie Coombs Would-I-obeycome from it?

God had freed me from the anxiety and depression after coming to Jesus, but then He began to show me that I was irritable pretty much all the time. He showed me that the root of my irritability was anger, which had ultimately turned into bitterness.

I prayed, asking God to remove the bitterness in my heart, and that’s when I heard His gentle whisper tell me, “It’s time to forgive.” But then He took it a step further with “Love your enemy.” God’s call to forgive and love my enemy resulted in the my correspondence with the man who murdered my dad. Initially, I wasn’t sure what would come out of our interaction, but I did know where God was taking me. I knew He was leading me toward forgiveness and healing. I didn’t know what that journey would look like, but I knew wherever I ended up would be a good place.

And you were finally able to forgive. Tell us about that.

Forgiveness came when I least expected it. My correspondence with the man had gotten heated. He was blame-shifting and justifying, and I was obviously not okay with that. All I wanted to do was rebuke him, and I almost did, but instead, God said to me, “Laurie, leave him to me. Now forgive.” And I did. But it wasn’t of me. God called me and enabled me to give that which I had already been given: grace and love and forgiveness.

After I forgave, God brought him to his knees. All the blame-shifting, all the justification stopped. He began taking complete responsibility for what he had done, and he was repentant. And ever since that time, I have witnessed this man share the gospel of Jesus Christ subtly, yet powerfully, with his fellow inmates. Lives are changing in there. He truly is living to the glory of God in that prison.

Laurie Coombs book signingWhat a powerful testimony! So what is at the heart of the message?

Hope is at the heart of my message. God truly has worked all things for good in my life. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” The first part of Genesis 50:20 says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” God brings good out of evil. Love out of hate. Peace out of despair. I believe it is His desire to do this for every one of us. You see, our pain won’t be wasted. We don’t have to sit in it. If we bring our pain, past and present, to God, He will redeem it.

Yes, He will. Thank you for being with us today, Laurie. But before we go, I want to tell our readers that your story was blessed to be part of Billy Graham’s latest film and evangelistic tool, Heaven. Friends, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch.

YouTube Preview Image

Don’t forget to leave a comment for Laurie and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner!

Bio: Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. She is the author of Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven. Laurie is a graduate of Christian Communicators Conference and a featured writer and blogger for iBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their two daughters, Ella and Avery. Be sure to visit LaurieCoombs.org or connect with Laurie on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is sweet…

Letters From My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of #Forgiveness – #FreeBook @LaurieCoombs via @VondaSkelton http://bit.ly/1U1tfOM (Click to Tweet)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Tammy Blackburn book cover

Who won Tammy Blackburn’s children’s book, How Do I Know?

And Random.org says the winner is…

Julie Garmon!

Congratulations, Julie! Simply contact me with your snail mail address and Tammy will get your book right out to you!

And for those who didn’t win…I know you want a copy for the little ones in your life, so here’s a direct Amazon link to How Do I Know?

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Well, that does it for another 5th Tuesday here at the Christian Writer’s Den. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! So now, go write the words He gives YOU to write!

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Tammy Blackburn

Itammy_blackburn_headshott is a joy to introduce my friend, Tammy Blackburn, to you today. Tammy and I met at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference many years ago and she’s been working hard ever since! In addition to being an author, she is a counselor and children’s pastor. I hope you enjoy hearing about Tammy’s new book and her journey to publication. As an author of children’s middle grade books, I love insights from writers of children’s literature.

Be sure to leave a message for Tammy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book! Now, let’s get started!

Welcome to The Writer’s Den, Tammy! I’m excited about your new book. Can you tell us what inspired you to write a children’s book?

Thank you, Vonda. I’d love to! Some of my favorite memories as a child were spent with a book in my hands. When I wasn’t reading books I was making up stories to write down with the dream of being an author someday. I grew up and had children of my own, but that love of children’s books never went away. A favorite time with my kids was curling up with a stack of books to read. Meanwhile, I continued to write stories of my own. Vonda, you were instrumental in inspiring me as well. In 2008, I attended my first writer’s conference at Blue Ridge. You were the very first person to ever give me an “official” critique. You were tough, but you gave me such encouragement about the story I had before you. That’s when I knew in my heart I would be published someday and I wanted my first books to be for children.

Wow, Tammy, I had no idea I would be part of your story! Thanks for letting me know. Yes, those first critiques are sometimes tough to swallow (mine certainly was), but what writers do with them often determine their progress as writers. So, where did the idea for How Do I Know? come from? Can you give us a sneak peek into the story?

Well, at the risk of giving my age away, let me start by saying I’ve been a Children’s Pastor/director for nearly 30 years and in that time have had some crazy questions thrown at me from left field. You know, the kind where you have to stare at the child for a minute in order to get yourself under control before telling them you’ll need to do a little research on that. But, I’ve had a few really good questions that seem to pop up regularly. One such question is, “How do I know God is real?” Our children live in a world full of evil and it can sometimes test even a childlike faith. In the first book of this series, I attempt to answer that particular question in a way that leads a child to think and discover God in a real way. My character, Michael is a little guy who is full of questions. When he finally gets the nerve to ask his mom about God’s existence, she answers him in a very beautiful way.

To what age group is this book targeted?

I’m glad you asked. It is written in a Dr. Seuss style rhyme and has beautiful illustrations. The book is in the 6-10 year old category, but my 3-year-old grandson loves for me to read it to him as well.

What is your heart’s desire for this book?Tammy Blackburn book cover

Oh, Vonda, if the words that God gave me to put in this book help to strengthen a child’s belief in God, then how could I ask for more? I have to share a powerful testimony that I have already received. A young lady was planning to abort an unwanted pregnancy. A friend of mine felt God prompt her to give this young lady a copy of How Do I Know? and even though it seemed a strange thing, she was obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. A few days later, this young woman came back to her and said the book had helped change her mind. She had decided to keep the baby! That makes every ounce of hard work and effort I put into this book worth it!

Wow! That’s a beautiful testimony to the power of our words. You mentioned this was the first book in the series. Can you tell us anything about future books?

Yes! How Do I Know? is the first book in a series of three. The next one is titled, What Do I Say?, and will help children know how to talk with their Heavenly Father.  It is already written and is in the hands of the illustrator.  

I’ll look forward to seeing that book in print as well! In parting, do you have any advice for other writers?

The best advice I can give is the same advice that has been given to me: attend writer’s conferences, join a critique group, network, and WRITE. Thank you so much for having me on your blog today. It was an honor.

Great advice, Tammy. Thank you for joining us today at The Christian Writer’s Den. And friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for Tammy and you could win a free book! Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner.

Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is sweet!

#Free kids’ book give-away w/TammyBlackburn via @VondaSkelton Christian Writer’s Den. #pubtips (Click to Tweet)

Bio: Tammy Blackburn is an author, speaker, counselor and children’s pastor. She lives in Kannapolis, NC near her children, their spouses, and her young grandson. Tammy homeschooled her three children from kindergarten through high school and continues to tutor in reading and writing. She writes curriculum for the ministries at her church including a women’s Bible study called, “Through the Looking Glass”. Her greatest desire is to follow the command of Psalm 78:4 to pass the Light of Christ to the next generation. You can read more from Tammy on her blog, FromTheBriarPatch.com or email her at info@tammyblackburn.com.

Happy writing!

Vonda

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Writer’s Headlines: Writing Opportunities and Conferences

newspapersWelcome to today’s bonus post of writing opps and conferences collected just for you!

First up, direct links to writing opportunities could be your ticket to publication! Be sure to follow guidelines carefully and send in your best work!

1.  Haiku Journal

2.  Naval History Magazine

3.  Adventist Review

4.  ADDitude Magazine for ADHD and LD

5.  Bible Advocate

6.  The Cattleman

7.  Insight magazine for teens

8.  Internet Genealogy

9.  North Carolina Literary Review

10. New Mobility

11. Outreach Magazine

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

12. Snowshoe Magazine

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And now let’s check out upcoming conferences!

1.  St. David’s Christian Writers’ Conference: June 24-28, 2015, Grove City, PA

2. Kentucky Christian Writers Conference: June 25-27, 2015, Elizabethtown, KY

3. Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference: July 29-August 1, 2015, Langhorne, PA

4. Atlanta’s Christian Writing Conference: August 20-22, 2015, Marietta, GA

ccclogosmall5. Christian Communicators Conference: August 26-30, 2015, Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, Asheville, NC. We are currently full, but the waiting list is open. Every year ladies on the waiting list have been able to attend. Maybe this could be your year! 

6. American Christian Fiction Writers Conference: September 17-20, 2015, Dallas, TX

7. Breathe Christian Writers Conference: October 9-10, 2015, Grand Rapids, MI

8. Blue Ridge Christian Novelist Retreat: October 18-22, 2015, Ridgecrest, NC

9. Next Step Writers Contreat: November 12-14, 2015, Albuquerque, NM

10. Writers Advance Boot Camp: February 19-21, 2016, Asheville, NC (I’ll see you there!)

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Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is sweet!

List of #writing opportunities & conferences just for you! @VondaSkelton #amwriting #pubtips (Click to Tweet)

Well, that does it for this month’s writing opportunities and conferences. I hope they help you on your writing journey!

Happy writing!

Vonda

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Who Won Lori Roeleveld’s Book?

Lori Roeleveld book coverYes, I know it’s the 3rd Tuesday and time for writing opportunities and conferences, but…

…Since I was out of state caring for my sweet cousin for over a week and am just getting back to the computer, today’s post will be short and sweet. I’ll simply post the winner of Lori’s book, and then post the usual writing opportunities and conferences tomorrow in a bonus post.

So, today’s winner of Lori Roeleveld’s book, Running From a Crazy Man, is…
Sandra Lovelace!

Congratulations, Sandra! Simply contact me with your snail mail address and Lori will get the book right out to you!

For those who didn’t win, here’s a quick Amazon link to Running From a Crazy Man. You KNOW you want your own copy!

And friends, don’t forget to check tomorrow’s email for a bonus post of writing opportunities collected just for you!

Blessings,

Vonda

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Could Anthologies Be Your Ticket to Publication? Call-Out for May Kudos & MoGo700 and Who Won Andrea Merrell’s Book?

bitsy3bookphotoFirst up for the first Tuesday of June: Could Anthologies Be Your Ticket to Publication?

Not long after my first children’s book, Bitsy and the Mystery at Tybee Island, came out, I had the opportunity to submit to a compilation, Mystery Readers Journal: Religious Mysteries. (And just so you know, the words “Religious” and “Christian” are not synonymous!)

I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was they were looking for writers of “religious” mysteries to share something of interest with mystery readers. Surely I had something of interest to say! So I wrote a piece, “Teaching Truth through Fiction,” and talked about the fact that we can teach Biblical and moral truth without preaching. I was thrilled when they accepted my article. And even though I didn’t get paid for it, it was still a good investment. Not only was it an opportunity to introduce mystery readers to my book, but the publication also gave me another writing credit. On top of that, “Teaching Biblical Truth through Secular Fiction” is now one of my most popular classes at writer’s conferences.

A few years later, I read of a call for submissions on stories about fathers. Being a card-carrying Daddy’s girl, I jumped at the chance to submit. What a joy to receive the acceptance letter and offer of a contract to be published in Embrace of a Father…and this time I actually got paid!

Compilations, also called anthologies, are a great way to gather some publishing credits and collect a little money along the way. Several of our readers have found quite a bit of success in this area of publishing, and many of the leads have come through the “Opportunities” list posted here the third Tuesday of every month.

Here are some things you need to know if this area of writing and publishing sounds like something you might want to consider:Mystery Readers Journal cover

  • Read the guidelines and follow the directions carefully regarding formatting, word count, etc.
  • Check the address for submission. It’s not always the same as the email of the contact person.
  • Be sure your story meets the topic guidelines. Don’t waste your time–or the editor’s–with pieces that just don’t fit.
  • Be sure you understand the rights you are giving. Many compilations allow you to keep your rights and use it again in the future, but a work-for-hire contract probably means you will not have any rights to the story after they accept it.
  • Find out if you’re able to purchase copies at a discount for resale. You can often purchase copies for about half price, allowing you to make a good profit on books you sell. Even after discounting the price to my friends and family and including free shipping, I still made almost $300 profit from the first batch of Embrace of a Father books I sold. And even though the book is now out of print, it’s still available through secondary venders on Amazon.
  • Even if you don’t receive financial compensation, reputable publishers usually at least give you a complimentary copy of the book.
  • Keep good records. It can take years for books to finally land on the bookshelves and you could forget you even submitted the story!
  • Some books use “seed stories” where the author or editor uses the gist of your story, rather than printing your actual words. In that case, you should receive an acknowledgement (usually in the back of the book), but most likely won’t be listed as the author of the story.

Does this sound like something you’d like to do? If so, check out the latest call-outs for upcoming Chicken Soup books. They could be your ticket to a writing credit AND a pay-check!

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Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Time for Call-Outs for Your Kudos…I Want to Brag on You!

Have you had an article published? Contracted a book? Created a new website? Have an event coming up? If so, I want to hear from you! It’s really simple, but I do ask that you contact me with the info in this format and order ONLY:

**Your name
**Your state in two-letter abbreviation
**Link to your website or blog
**Your good news
**Link to your good news, if online (online bookstore, online article, etc)

I can’t wait for us to celebrate with you!

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Call for MoGo7000 Totalsmogo7000 logo

If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in May, you can receive an entry in the drawing for the 2015 MoGo7000 $100 cash prize! It’s open to everyone who qualifies.

To report your May results, please leave a comment below with your total new words written in May. (Please do not send your totals by email or through the Contact page. Totals must be left as a comment here by next Monday). 

If you missed out on last year’s money-winning writing challenge, don’t worry, the 2015 challenge is open all year! Here are the MoGo7000 Challenge rules. All you have to do is write at least 7000 NEW words on a book project in any month and you’ll receive an entry into the end-of-the-year drawing for $100.

Each month that you qualify with 7000 new words, your name goes in the “hat” for the drawing. Reach the goal one month and you’ll have one entry. Meet it 6 months and you’ll have 6 entries!

So what are you waiting for? Get started now and you could have an extra $100 in January. And it doesn’t cost you a cent. :-)

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perf5.000x8.000.inddAnd Who Won Andrea Merrell’s Book?

The winner is. . .

Tammy Whitehurst!

Congratulations, Tammy! To receive your free book, simply contact me with your snail mail address and Andrea will send it right out to you!

And for those who didn’t win, here’s your direct Amazon link to Praying for the Prodigal: Encouragement and Practical Advice While Waiting for the Prodigal to Return.

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Well, that does it for another first Tuesday edition of Christian Writer’s Den. I hope you’ll return next week to celebrate with those who are reaching their writing and speaking goals. And if you don’t see your name highlighted here, don’t feel bad. Just keep doing the work of a writer and speaker, keep submitting to the writing opportunities posted here, and keep attending conferences and learning…and chances are good that one day you’ll see your name listed here. I look forward to celebrating with you!

Happy writing!

Vonda

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Writer’s Headlines: Writing Opportunities, Conferences, & Who Won Mary Allen’s Book?

newspapersWelcome to The Christian Writer’s Den! Today is the 3rd Tuesday, so there’s lots of good stuff to cover. Let’s start with a list of writing opportunities collected just for you!

1.  Penned from the Heart, a 366 day compilation of poems and devotions is looking for submissions for the 2016 edition. Writer’s guidelines can be found at www.marilynnutter.com.

2.  A+ Playwriting Contest for Teachers.

3.  The Mighty Newsletter is looking for articles that highlight the strength, joy, and beauty in disability and disease by featuring real life experiences and perspectives from people just like us.

4.  Since I’m working hard and having fun at Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference this week, I’ll share this HUGE list I just found of Book Editors and Book Publishers: Christian, Religious, Inspirational, New Thought, and Spiritual Books. Please note: Do not assume all are Christian. Be sure to read and follow guidelines carefully!

Okay, so with that longgggggg list of writing opps, you should have plenty to keep you busy. Don’t forget to let us know if you have good news from these efforts. We’d love to celebrate with you!

Photo courtesy of Mary Denman

BRMCWC photo courtesy of Mary Denman

 

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Conference season is going strong! Where will you learn this year?

1. Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference: May 17-21, 2015, Ridgecrest, NC (I’m here now–come on and join me!)

2. Write To Publish: June 3-6, 2015, Wheaton, IL

3. West Virginia Writers Conference: June 12-14, 2015, Ripley, WV

4. St. David’s Christian Writers’ Conference: June 24-28, 2015, Grove City, PA

5. Kentucky Christian Writers Conference: June 25-27, 2015, Elizabethtown, KY

6. Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference: July 29-August 1, 2015, Langhorne, PA

7. Atlanta’s Christian Writing Conference: August 20-22, 2015, Marietta, GA

ccclogosmall8. Christian Communicators Conference: August 26-30, 2015, Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, Asheville, NC. We are currently full, but the waiting list is open. Every year ladies on the waiting list have been able to attend. Maybe this could be your year! 

9. American Christian Fiction Writers Conference: September 17-20, 2015, Dallas, TX

10. Breathe Christian Writers Conference: October 9-10, 2015, Grand Rapids, MI

11. Next Step Writers Contreat: November 12-14, 2015, Albuquerque, NM

12. Writers Advance Boot Camp: February 19-21, 2016, Asheville, NC (I’ll see you there!)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Mary Allen Cover-reduced

And who won Mary Allen’s book, Crying in the Morgue, Laughing in the Dark?

The winner is:

Shirley Buxton!

Congratulations, Shirley! To receive your free book, simply contact me with your snail mail address and Mary will get the book right out to you!

And for those who didn’t win, here’s your direct Amazon link to Crying in the Morgue, Laughing in the Dark.

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Well, that does it for another Writer’s Headlines Tuesday. I can’t wait to hear of your successes that come from going to a conference and then submitting your work. After all, that’s what real writers do!

Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is sweet!

A new list of writing opportunities & conferences at Christian Writers Den @Vonda Skelton #amwriting #pubtips (Click to Tweet)

Happy writing!

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Mary Allen, Kudos & MoGo7000 Successes, & Who Won the Bad Poetry Contest?

Mary Allen headshot reducedMy goodness, do we have a packed Tuesday or what? Let’s start with an interview with debut novelist, Mary Allen

I first met Mary Allen when she attended Christian Communicators Conference in 2013 and when we saw each other, we became instant sisters. After all, we’re both very short, we’re both RNs, we both love to sing, and we’re both writers and speakers. What better way to connect with a sibling, right? And today I’m thrilled to share her and her debut novel, Crying in the Morgue, Laughing in the Dark.

Be sure to leave a comment for Mary and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book! Don’t forget to return next week to see if you’re the winner!

Okay, Mary, Let’s get started. First, please tell us how you got started writing.

I fell in love with words in junior high school. I wrote some poetry and short stories but not much more. When I went back to school in my 30’s, I took some creative writing classes, yet still hadn’t caught the dream. Several years ago, at a women’s retreat, I shared my heart on the topic of joy. The speaker suggested I write a book. A seed was planted. At another retreat I shared my testimony around bonfire.  The positive reaction surprised me. Another seed. Shortly after that I attended Women of Faith where a friend told me I’d be a great speaker. I laughed it off, but another seed was planted. A couple of years later, as I struggled with what God wanted for my life, I prayed and fasted, asking God for guidance. I prayed, “Lord, do you want me to write a book? I need a story, please.” A month later, while spending a little time with my older brother, he shared a part of my life I had never known. The story I wrote is now my book, Crying in the Morgue, Laughing in the Dark.

But I thought your book is fiction.Mary Allen Cover-reduced

Yes, it is. It is a fictionalized memoir. It’s based on the true story of my life with some minor changes in sequence and characters. It is a story of my struggle with self-worth and joyful living though difficult circumstances. It’s a story of finding out, with God, I am good enough. It’s not just my story. It’s God’s story. It’s the story of what He did in my life.

You told us about your story at Christian Communicators and I was blown away. I can imagine it was difficult to write about those memories.

Yes, sometimes it was difficult. The most difficult thing to write, however, was my parents’ back stories. As children, it’s hard for us to comprehend that our parents had a life before we were born. And, if we find out their lives weren’t perfect, or they made mistakes, it is easy to point a judgmental finger. I didn’t want that for my parents. I believe it’s important we understand our parent’s childhood struggles in order to fully appreciate the choices they made in their lives. We must view our parent’s lives through eyes of compassion. I tried to do that. I pray my children do the same with my life–mistakes and all.

Powerful insight, Mary. Why did you self-publish?

As a speaker, my time is often limited, so in order to tell the whole story, I wrote the book to bring with me to my speaking engagements. But I wanted the freedom to fulfill my dream on my terms, in God’s time. Self-publishing gave us that freedom.

Mary allen and VondaSo what is the take away message you hope your readers embrace?

Most women will be able to relate with the story at some level, but I doubt any two women will be touched the same way. If God lead a woman to read Crying in the Morgue, Laughing in the Dark, there’s a personal message there for them. I wanted to be able to touch women who haven’t found their purpose in life, to make women realize their unique worth to the Father. I always struggled with feelings of inadequacy, until I heard the entire truth. The moment my brother shared that information with me, I realized God loved me so much He saved my life the morning I was born. He filled my life with joy, blinded me from certain hard truths, and waited patiently for me to embrace His love for me wholeheartedly. My worth in God is immeasurable. That is the message I hope women will take away from this story.

Sweet, Mary. Any words of wisdom for other new writers?

It took me four years to complete my book. Most mornings I was up by 5:00 AM to write before work. (I am a home health nurse.) Looking back, it was worth the effort. I would say, be patient, join a good critique group, attend writer’s conferences, make time to write what’s in your heart and trust God with your story. You are good enough for God!

Amen, Mary! Thank you for sharing from your heart today. I pray God uses your powerful story to point others to the truth that He loves us just the way we are. Period.

Friends, be sure to leave a comment and you’ll be in the drawing!

Bio: Mary Allen lives with her husband Bob, the love of her life. They’ve been married a whole bunch of years. They have a wonderful, ordinary family they love with an extraordinary love. Mary loves to sing, read, laugh and make people smile. She hates high tech gadgets, but puts up with them. Just barely. She’s hoping she’ll inherit a million dollars from a long lost relative so she can quit the job she loves as a home health nurse to stay home and be a full time writer. But she’s not holding her breath. When she speaks about God at an event, a hand full of people listen, but when she prays, the God of the universe hears every word. You can reach Mary at MaryAAllen@comcast.net.

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Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now it’s time to celebrate YOUR successes!

Congratulations are in order for some of our Christian Writer’s Den writers and speakers.

1. Jayme Hull (TN): Jayme just signed a new contract with the Moody Collective division of Moody Bible Institute for her book for millennials, Face To Face. She is writing the book with Laura Captari and they’re expecting a spring 2016 release.

2. Lori Hatcher (SC): I’m praising God for these two gifts: 1) In 2014, one of my goals was to teach at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. I’m delighted have been invited to teach four workshops at Blue Ridge next week—two on the topic of public speaking. Thank you, Carolyn Knefely for encouraging me to go for it. 2) I’m privileged to present the one-day seminar “Praying with Power” to the women’s ministry of Good Shepherd United Methodist Parish on May 9.

3. Jeanne Doyon (CT): Vibrant Life has accepted my article, When Your Kids Leave Home: Six Ways to Ease Your Empty Nest. It will be published this fall.

4. Susan M. Baganz (WI): My debut novel, Pesto and Potholes, released on May 1, 2015 in print and Ebook. It has been in the top 100 of “hot new bestsellers” in its category for the past few days. Yay! (Vonda here: Susan says she has “…written many novels racking up my word counts with MoGo7000….”)

5. Maureen Hager (NC): My testimony, Out of the Brokenness, is published in Trials and Triumphs II, Rooted and Grounded in Love.

Congratulations Jayme, Lori, Jeanne, Susan, and Maureen! I’m so proud of all of you!

(And I hate to admit it, but I thought I’d heard from another Christian Writer’s Den friend who had a kudos, but for the life of me, I can’t find another one. Hopefully I’m thinking of another month. But if you sent me something and it’s not here, PLEASE let me know!)

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Who met the MoGo7000 Challenge in April?

These writers earned an entry into the 2015 MoGo7000 Writing Challenge, giving them another chance at winning $100 at the end of the year!

#3: Tim Suddeth – 12,314 words
#4: Joan Hall – 30,909 words

#5: Susan Baganz – 12,876 words

Okay, writers, as you can see, this is a VERY good year to get in on the drawing. The odds are looking really good for winning the cash prize. And it’s FREE!

Want to know how you can join in the fun? Check out the MoGo7000 Challenge guidelines here.

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And who won the Chip’s Bad Poetry Contest at the Christian Writer’s Den?

According to my husband, the winner is…

Nice Lady with Gun!

Congratulations on your horribly-awesome poem, An Oculance of Love!

And no, Nice Lady didn’t win because she has a gun. :-) She won because I am a former RN who worked in ophthalmology and neuro-ophthalmology in surgery and in the office for many, many years, and Gary and I loved all the ocular references! “Vitreous humor” was absolutely brilliant! I laughed out loud when I read it and still giggle every time I think of it.

Be sure to visit last Wednesday’s post about Chip MacGregor’s Bad Poetry Contest, and read the bad poems (in the comments) written by some of our own Christian Writer’s Den readers and entered into Chip MacGregor’s Annual Bad Poetry Contest.

Nice Lady, simply visit my store, then contact me with the downloadable workshop you’d like to receive, and I’ll get it right out to you!

Disclaimer: The contest here at the Christian Writer’s Den is a shameless tag-along to Chip MacGregor’s annual contest. He will be announcing his own favorite horrible poem, so be sure to check there to see who wins at Chip MacGregor’s blog.

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Well, that does it for this 2nd Tuesday. Be sure to come back next week when I’ll share a brand new collection of writing opportunities collected just for you!

Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is Sweet!

Book Give-Away w/ @MaryAllen, #writing life through fiction. And writers successes! #amwriting #pubtips @VondaSkelton (Click to Tweet)

Happy writing!

Vonda

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It’s Time for Agent Chip MacGregor’s Annual Bad Poetry Contest! Enter There and Win Here!

Laughing horse morguefile

Okay, I know you’re not supposed to be getting a post from me today, but I couldn’t take a chance that you might miss out on this ab-so-lute-ly amazing writing opportunity and chance to win.

It’s time to join in the fun going on over at Chip MacGregor’s Bad Poetry Contest to celebrate his birthday. And if you enter there, you could win here!

For those who’ve been around writing conferences for a while, you’ll recognize the name, Chip MacGregor. For those who don’t know him, Chip is owner of MacGregor Literary, one of the most recognized agencies in the business. He’s spoken at writing conferences in over 100 locations. And I can promise you, once you’ve been around Chip, you won’t forget him. He helps writers around the world with his snarky voice and big heart. (Don’t tell him I said the big heart part. He likes to protect his image.)

Now, this is how it’s gonna work here at The Christian Writer’s Den. Please read Chip’s intro below and then finish it at his blog. Then write your own bad poetry and leave it as a comment for Chip at his blog. BUT THEN…come back here and post a comment that you left an entry at the contest, and I’ll put your name into another contest HERE! I’ll go to Chip’s blog and read for myself how bad your poem is. I hope it’s really bad! My husband will select a winner from among the Christian Writer’s Den submissions.

Here’s Chip’s introduction to his 7th Annual Bad Poetry Contest:

This is Chip.

This week is a special, heart-touching time of year, when all young writers turn to thoughts of bad poetry. That’s because, each year at this time, we take a week to celebrate my birthday — not with cards, not with songs, not with cutesy memes on Facebook that will make me want to gag. Instead, here we do the more creative thing… we create bad poetry. The badder, the better.

A note about bad poetry: Some people just don’t get it. They seem to think we’re making fun of great poets. No indeed. We’re making fun of ALL poets. Those who think they are deep. Those who want to show they’re smarter than you. Those who rhyme “love” with “dove,” “glove,” and “above.” And most of all, those who call out, “Hey, look at me! I’m sensitive!” So the time has come once again to your bad poems. Stop the wordsmithing madness and start constipating on wrong rhythms and awful word choice. The 2015 Bad Poetry Contest is here! Read more from Chip…

I hope you’ll head on over to Chip MacGregor’s Annual Bad Poetry Contest and read the rest of his post, then post your bad stuff and make me proud!

THEN come back here and post a comment letting me know that you entered, and you’ll be in the running for a FREE DOWNLOAD from my writing workshops! ($14.95 value!) Be sure to come back next Tuesday to see if you’re the winner!

Remember, to be included in HIS contest, you have to post your bad poetry AS A COMMENT ON CHIP’S BLOG! And to be included in OUR contest, you have to leave a comment here that you entered Chip’s contest.

Clear as mud?

So go on now…get started. Show off your bad self and make me proud!

Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is sweet!

Time for #Agent @MacGregorLit Annual Bad #Poetry Contest! Enter There & Win Here! @VondaSkelton #amwriting (Click to Tweet)

Expecting great things from you…

Vonda

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ProfNet: The Freelance Writer’s Friend, Call Out for Kudos & MoGo7000, and Who Won Twila Belk’s Book?

magazinesIt’s the first Tuesday, and time to learn something, report your accomplishments, and see if you’re the winner of Twila Belk’s book!

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ProfNet: The Freelance Writer’s Friend

For many years, my primary source of writing income was from freelance articles. Although I’m not freelancing these days as much as I used to, I still love teaching other writers how to see their work in print. One of the most beneficial resources I’ve found anywhere is ProfNet, also known as PR Newswire.

When I first began writing query letters and submitting freelance articles, I used my professional friends as expert sources. That was a good place to start. But as a health writer, I soon discovered I needed experts beyond my network of friends. That’s when I was introduced to ProfNet.

After becoming associated with ProfNet, my expert sources included professionals from Harvard and Duke and the Mayo Clinic. They begged me to include their doctors, dieticians, and researchers in my articles–and it was all free! My writing credibility, acceptance rate, and assignments quickly increased.

But you don’t have to be a health writer to find good expert sources. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing about scrapbooking, soccer, or gem cutting, ProfNet can mine a mother lode of sources to pull from.

Interested? You can sign up as a journalist on ProfNet here. (Freelance writers, bloggers, newspaper and TV/radio reporters fall under the Journalist category). It’s easy to sign up, but be sure you read the information first so you know how to do it!

A clear post will help you get the experts you need. Here is the link to ProfNet’s guidelines for posting your request.

And don’t forget, these experts are professionals. Your kind, gracious communication will go a long way to help you be a journalist the experts want to work with and support!

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Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Call for Kudos!

Okay, friends, it’s time for us to celebrate YOU and celebrate EACH OTHER! After all, that’s the goal of The Christian Writer’s Den–to encourage and instruct writers.

In order to do that, I need to hear from you! It doesn’t matter how small it may seem to you or how recently it’s been, every step forward is a step that leads to the next one.

So I want to know what you’ve been up to. Have you had something exciting happen recently in your writing or speaking life? Maybe you’ve had an article published, signed a book contract, released a new book, got an agent, or started a new blog. If so, we want to hear from you. Everybody’s welcome to share.

It’s really simple, but I do ask that you contact me with the info in this format and order ONLY:

**Your name
**Your state in two-letter abbreviation
**Link to your website or blog
**Your good news
**Link to your good news, if online (online bookstore, online article, etc)

I can’t wait for us to celebrate with you!

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mogo7000 logoWho Worked on Their MoGo7000 in April?

If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in April, you can receive an entry in the drawing for the 2015 MoGo7000 $100 cash prize! It’s open to everyone who qualifies.

To report your April results, please leave a comment below with your total new words written on a book project in April. (Please do not send your totals by email or through the Contact page. Totals must be left as a comment here by next Sunday). 

If you missed out on last year’s money-winning writing challenge, don’t worry, the 2015 Challenge continues! Here are the MoGo7000 Challenge rules. All you have to do is write at least 7000 NEW words on a book project in any month and you’ll receive an entry into the end-of-the-year drawing for $100.

Each month that you qualify with 7000 new words, your name goes in the “hat” for the drawing. Reach the goal one month and you’ll have one entry. Just starting out? Don’t worry! Meet it the next 8 months and you’ll have 8 entries!

So what are you waiting for? Get started now and you could have and extra $100 next year. And it doesn’t cost you a cent. :-)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Twila Belk book signing B&N

And last but not least (How’s that for a cliche?), who won Twila Belk’s new book?

According to Random.org, the winner is…

Julie Garmon!

Congrats, Julie! Just contact me with your snail mail address and Twila will get the book right out to you!

And friends, I know there are many of you who can’t wait to read Twila’s book, so here’s a direct Amazon link to Raindrops from Heaven: Gentle Reminders of God’s Power, Presence, and Purpose. Enjoy!

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Thanks for Tweeting! Sharing is Sweet…

Freelance #Writers need ProfNet – Find expert sources & up your income! @VondaSkelton #amwriting #pubtips (Click to Tweet)

Well, that does it for another first Tuesday. I can’t wait to see what you have been up to! I love giving away money to writers–so get to work and write!

Happy writing,

Vonda

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Writer’s Headlines: Writing Opps with a Contest, Conferences & Who Won Rebecca Davis’ Book?

newspapersYep, it’s the 3rd Tuesday, time for some Writing Opportunities selected just for you! (And be sure to read about the cool Writing Opportunities Contest we’re running this week.)


What a special “writing opportunities day” we have today! Here’s the deal: Last year I shared a call-out for a compilation book, Love is Out There: True Stories of Hope for Single Women Over 30, by Melissa Williams Pope.

Well, Melissa recently contacted me with the good news that the book is out and one of the ladies who was published in the book says she can’t say for sure, but she might have read the call-out here! Yay, another confirmation that writing opportunities lists can help…as long as you’re willing to do the work!

So we came up with a cool contest. After studying the writing opps below, simply leave a comment sharing which of the listed opportunities you’ll be looking into. Each commenter who notes a specific opportunity will be in the drawing a copy of Love is Out There: True Stories of Hope for Single Women Over 30, donated by Melissa. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner.

Here are some of Melissa’s Insider Tips from the Editor’s Side of the Desk:

- If you’re looking at a Callout and wondering if you should give it a go, the answer is YES.
– Read submission instructions carefully and follow them.
– It’s not always easy, but write bravely, from your heart. Readers are looking to connect and to feel understood. It’s hard for them to do that if you’re hiding.

To find out more about Melissa, visit her website at TheBusyQuill.com. Melissa Williams Pope can’t resist a good love story and seeing dreams come true! Originally from Los Angeles, Melissa holds advanced degrees in pastoral ministry and classical acting, and is a freelance writer, actor, singer and former church staffer. Even though she spent about a decade crisscrossing the globe from Europe to the South Pacific, Mr Right still miraculously found her! She currently gets to enjoy living the newlywed life with him in Auckland, New Zealand.

Now, here’s your new list of opportunities. Which ones interest you?

1.  DaySpring Cards is always looking for quality material. DaySpring Editorial Guidelines here.

2.  Chicken Soup has a long list of needs. Varying deadlines posted for each category. Chicken Soup wants stories!

3.  Just Between Us Christian Women’s Magazine writing guidelines.

4.  Pennsylvania Magazine wants pieces about Pennsylvania. Click on Downloads for guidelines and instructional pieces.

5.  Guideposts Magazine may be interested in your story! Be sure to study the magazine and follow the link to writer’s guidelines.

6.  Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Open for submissions June, 2015, so gets started working on your story now!

7.  The Lookout  – Several of my friends have written for this magazine!

8.  Celebrate Life Pro-life Magazine writing guidelines.

9. How to Write for LIVE, take-home quarterly for adults

10. Sew News wants articles and project ideas from you.

11. Creation Illustrated Magazine writer’s guidelines here.

12. Living Better at 50+ is running a Mother-Daughter Story Contest for Mother’s Day. Check out details on the LivingBetterat50 Facebook page. Scroll down to find the details in a post dated April 15.

Okay, so that does it for this month’s writing opportunities. I hope you’ll find something of interest here and then post a comment telling us about it and you could win a free book next week from Melissa Williams Pope!

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Now it’s time to check out upcoming Conferences to help you take the next step in your writing and speaking!

 

Don’t miss out–be sure to attend at least one conference every year!

1.  Orange County Christian Writers Conference: April 24-25, 2015, Santa Ana, CA

2.  Writing Success XXIV: April 25, 2015, Stoneboro, PA

3.  Colorado Christian Writers Conference: May 13-16, 2015, Estes Park, CO

4.  WordGirls Writer’s Getaway: May 14-16, 2015, Duncan, SC

5.  Northwest Christian Writers Renewal: May 15-16, 2015, Redmond, WA

6.  Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference: May 17-21, 2015, Ridgecrest, NC (I’ll be there and would love to see you there!)

7.  Write To Publish: June 3-6, 2015, Wheaton, IL

8. West Virginia Writers Conference: June 12-14, 2015, Ripley, WV

9. St. David’s Christian Writers’ Conference: June 24-28, 2015, Grove City, PA

10. Kentucky Christian Writers Conference: June 25-27, 2015, Elizabethtown, KY

11. Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference: July 29-August 1, 2015, Langhorne, PA

12. Atlanta’s Christian Writing Conference: August 20-22, 2015, Marietta, GA

13. Christian Communicators Conference: August 26-30, 2015, Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, Asheville, NC. We are currently full, but the waiting list is open. Every year ladies on the waiting list have been able to attend. Maybe this could be your year! 

14. American Christian Fiction Writers Conference: September 17-20, 2015, Dallas, TX

15. Breathe Christian Writers Conference: October 9-10, 2015, Grand Rapids, MI

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Rebecca Davis cover BJUP With Daring Faith

 And who won Rebecca Davis’ book?

 

Random.org says the winner is Ruth West! Ruth, simply contact me with your snail mail address and your Rebecca will get your book right out to you!

And for those who didn’t win a book, here are direct Amazon links to some of her books:

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Thanks for Tweeting!

@VondaSkelton shares Writing Opportunities-Guidelines-Contests-Conferences #amwriting #getpublished (Click to Tweet) 

 

Don’t forget to leave a comment with a writing opportunity that sounds interesting to you and you could win Melissa Pope’s new book!

Happy writing!

Vonda

 

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