Tag Archives: Vonda Skelton

Parting Words From The WORD…Your “Write” Role, Part 1

Jim Watkins headshotVonda here: Okay, friends, today kicks off four Parting Words Fridays that will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen here, or probably anywhere else for that matter! As many of you know, I just returned from teaching at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, where one of the highlights of my week was hearing author, speaker, and threat to society, James Watkins deliver his keynote, “Your ‘Write’ Role.” Another highlight was when he agreed to let me share the message with you over the next four Fridays!

So pull up a chair, put on your creative-thinking-and-real-life-application-hat, and hear Jim’s heart for Christian writers and speakers, Part 1.


Your “Write” Role, Part 1
by James Watkins


Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 12, as I read from the New Living Amplified Paraphrased King James Watkins Version for Writers:

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If a writer should say, “Because I have not been published in Charisma, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the Body. If the whole body was writing for Guideposts, who would write for take-home papers?

But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many kinds of writers, but one body.

1. You have an important role in Christian writing

How many of you truly believe that you have an important role in Christian writing?

Writers’ conferences are the absolutely worst place for you to feel important! Here’s what happens. You visit the website or look at the brochure, and there they are: “important” writers who have written fifty New York Times best-selling books, won “major awards” and spoken to thousands around the world.

And there you are having not written fifty New York Times best-selling books, not having won “major awards” and not speaking to thousands around the world.

And to be perfectly honest, I look at the conference faculty bios and wonder What am I doing here giving a keynote address?!

Okay, I do have books with Zondervan, Tyndale, HarperCollins, but most of my books are with small houses. Yes, I’ve spoken around the world, but mostly in cement-block churches with tin roofs and circus tents (no editorial comments, please, about clowns). And, while four of my books have won national awards, but not one has been a best-seller.

“Hi I’m Jim. I’m critically acclaimed, but commercially ashamed.”

So, if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and underqualified, I feel your pain. But my most “painful” event was a book signing in Seattle sitting next to Frank This Present Darkness Peretti. Frank had a line as far back as Nebraska; I had one or two people at a time in line. He was frantically writing “Frank.” “Frank.” “Frank.” I was writing little essays: Jim Watkins cartoon headshot

Dear friend, thank you for stopping by. If you can just stand there for just a few minutes until someone else comes, I won’t look like a complete loser. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Oh, here comes another person.

3 John 2, Jim

So, you’re not alone if you’re sitting here at this writers’ conference feeling less than important. But here’s that verse from 1 Corinthians 12 again.

But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 1 Corinthians 12:18

In your Bible, circle that name “God.” Then underline that verb “arranged.” God has arranged the body of Christian writers. He has you right where he wants you to be right now!

I hope and pray you feel safe here this week. It is so easy to feel all alone as a writers among people who just don’t get you. Here, you’re with your fellow peculiar people.

And most important, you are with fellow parts of the Body of Christ.

When you speak at churches in India, “honored guests” are outfitted with a gigantic floral arrangement around your neck, so you look like a Kentucky Derby winner. Plus, you have to take off your shoes when you’re on the platform. So there I was, the only white man in the entire church, dressed like a winning thoroughbred, in my sock feet, and they started singing “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High” and suddenly—I felt right at home. I belonged!

I felt that same way in our two trips to Africa. I was with my brothers and sisters! Okay, I was white brother who can’t dance, but I was family!

But it is so easy to lose our sense of importance with three deadly C’s:

Comparison: Back to the conference website or printed brochure. Maybe you’re thinking I haven’t had 50 books published. I haven’t been interviewed on national TV. I haven’t spoken to a stadium filled with fans. So I must not be an “important” part in the body of Christian publishing.

So, we move on—and down . . .

Copying: I’m going to write like Max Lucado. I’m going to get on the national talk shows. I’m going to be a great Bible teacher like Beth Moore.

And when we all, inevitably, fail, we move to the third level:

Criticizing: We move from feeling inferior to them to feeling superior to them. I can write better than E. L. James. Okay, anyone can write something better than Shades of Grey. I’m a better, deeper speaker than so and so.

Communicate to Change LIves Jim Watkins coverI love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Galatians 5:4-5:

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life (Galatians 6:4-5 MSG).

Comparison is a killer of creativity! And worse, a killer of your unique design as a writer. (We’ll talk more individuality later.)

For now, you may want to write this down:

I am important not because of who I am,
but because of Whose I am.

Give that a second to sink in, because it just may be the most important thing you’ll hear all week. More important than “Write tight,” “Show, don’t tell” and “Avoid adverbs.” Even more important than “Develop your brand and platform.”

My very funny friend, Jeanette Levellie, who has written two hilarious books reminds us, “God has already defined you. You don’t need others to tell you who you are.”

And from the founder of the Christian Missionary Alliance, A. B. Simpson:

Many Christians are in the place that the Lord has appointed them, and yet the devil is harassing their lives with a sense that they are not quite pleasing the Lord. If they could just settle down in the place that God has assigned them and fill it faithfully and lovingly for Him, there would be more joy in their hearts and more power in their lives.

So, you have an important role in Christian writing. But the enemy is ruthless. If he can’t convince you you’re not important, then he will try to make you feel you’re more important than you are! Look at verses 15-18 (New Living Amplified Paraphrased King James Watkins Version for Writers):

A writer for Decision cannot say to a writer of a church newsletter, “I don’t need you!” And a best-selling author cannot say to the one who writes letters to the editor, “I don’t need you!”

On the contrary, those writers who don’t command six-figure advances are indispensable, and the writers who don’t appear on the cover of Today’s Christian Woman deserve equal honor as those who do. And the writers who are never interviewed on Christian talk shows are just as necessary as those in the spotlight.

Paul is incredibly honest in acknowledging that there is an earthly hierarchy in the church and in Christian publishing. So, we need to maintain that careful balance that, “I am incredibly important, but I’m not any more important than anyone else . . . despite what the world may say and, particularly, despite what Christian publishing says!”

Moving on to verses 24-26:

But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

If one part receives a rejection slip, every part suffers with it; if one part signs a contract with Tyndale House, every part rejoices with it (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)

Copyright © 2015 James N. WatkinsJim Watkins real headshot

Bio: Jim wears more hats than his Aunt Luella!
*Associate acquisitions editor for Wesleyan Publishing House
*Conference speaker throughout the U.S. and overseas
*Director of programming for St. Davids Writers’ Conference
*Editorial advisor for ACW Press

You can reach Jim through his site at www.HopeAndHumor.org or www.JamesWatkins.com.

Vonda again: Thank you, Jim! Now friends, isn’t that a powerful application to us as Christian writers and speakers? Be sure to come back for our 1st Tuesday post next Tuesday and then return for more insight next Friday from Jim Watkins’ Your “Write” Role, Part 2.

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Hilarious–but real–writers’ take on 1 Cor 12 by @JamesWatkinsCom via @VondaSkelton #amwriting (Click to Tweet)

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Interview & Book Give-Away of Andrea Merrell’s Praying for the Prodigal, and Who Won Edie Melson’s Book?

Hello, Christian Writer’s Den friends. I’m back from Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and I’m so pumped! I can’t wait to share some of your books here at the Den, so get to work!

Andrea Merrell headshotToday is a special day as I introduce Andrea Merrell to you. Andrea and I met years ago when someone gave her my phone number, suggesting I could help her with writing. Well, as you know, I can’t make anyone a writer, but I can make suggestions of how to get started or what to do next. And the suggestions are always the same:

  • Attend writing conferences
  • Join a writer’s group
  • Learn to take critique well
  • Read everything you can about writing
  • Write, write, write
  • Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite
  • Hang out with writers (network) where you’ll constantly be learning from each other

Well, I’m happy to say that Andrea did everything I suggested–and more–and now she’s not only a published author, but a freelance editor, too! Way to go, Andrea!

(Friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for Andrea and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book!)

Okay, Andrea, let’s get started. First, would you tell us a little about your writing journey? 

Vonda, it’s such an honor to be with you and your readers today. I’ve been writing seriously for about sixteen years, but I owe a lot to you for being the first one to give me a spiritual kick in the pants (eight years ago) that got me headed in the right direction. Some of the best advice I ever received came from you, and I always like to pass it on to others, especially writers just starting on their journey: “Join a critique group, go to writers’ conferences, and network, network, network.” It takes time, effort, and finances to pursue the dream of being a writer, but when you know God has called you, it’s well worth it.

Amen, sister, it is soooo worth it! So tell us why you wrote Praying for the Prodigal: Encouragement and Practical Advice While Waiting for the Prodigal to Return?perf5.000x8.000.indd

Without exception, everywhere I go I run into someone who is dealing with a prodigal. Because I went through several years of my own personal hell with not one, but two prodigals, my heart goes out to parents, grandparents, and guardians dealing with the same situation. It’s easy to relate to their pain. I’ve shared bits and pieces of my story over the years with individuals one-on-one, but felt God nudging me to write down my experience and everything He taught me along the way.

What do you want readers to gain from your book?

Because I’ve been there—and survived—I want to share some of the lessons I learned, offer some practical advice, and encourage parents to learn to pray the Word of God over their children daily. It’s also important for them not to get caught in the blame game, or be weighed down with guilt and condemnation. My husband and I never thought this could happen to us, but we learned that even good kids rebel, and even good parents can end up with a prodigal—or in my case, two.

Did you ever get discouraged and want to give up?

Yes, yes, yes … so many times. I would say, “That’s it God, I’m not praying anymore. They’ve turned away from you and everything we’ve taught them. I can’t take it anymore. I’m over it!” That would last for about thirty seconds before I started crying and saying, “God, I’m sorry. You know I didn’t mean that.”

What a heartache! It must have been difficult to be so transparent about what you went through with your own children.

Murder of a Manuscript coverWriting this book was definitely a challenge in many ways. As I poured out my heart on paper, I had to relive many of the events that threatened to choke the life out of me. Even though it’s been over fifteen years, I still get emotional when I talk about my children and some of the agonizing moments my husband and I experienced. But as a writer, I’ve learned the more real you are with people, the more they can relate and the more benefit they receive from your words. The best part is the healing that took place in my own heart as I wrote through the pain.

I know there are other books that deal with prodigals. What makes your book different?

Along with my story of dealing with two prodigals at the same time, my book has A Parent’s Checklist for Survival and a chapter with Thirty Days of Prayers and Scriptures. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to pray for our children daily, especially grabbing hold of specific Scriptures and making them personal. God is faithful. His Word is true, and prayer is certainly what protected my children and brought them back to a place of repentance and restoration.

Another unique feature of my book is a chapter that gives advice from the prodigals themselves. One day while driving and thinking about how to end the book, the Lord dropped this idea in my heart: Ask your children to give advice from the prodigal’s point of view. I knew it was from Him because I would never have thought of such a great idea. I got so excited I almost ran off the road.

Powerful revelation, Andrea! Now, before we go, if you could give parents one thing to hold on to, what would it be?The Gift cover Andrea Merrell

The main thing I want them to know is that there is always hope. God loves our children even more than we do and He never plays favorites. If He delivered and restored my children, He can and will do it for anyone. The key is to trust Him wholeheartedly, stand on His Word, and never, ever give up—no matter how bad the situation may appear.

Thank you again for being with us today, Andrea. And friends, leave a comment for Andrea and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book! Don’t forget to come back next week to see if you’re the winner!

Bio: Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is also a freelance editor and has led workshops at various writers’ conferences. Andrea is the author of Murder of a Manuscript, The Gift, and Praying for the Prodigal. To learn more, visit www.AndreaMerrell.com or www.TheWriteEditing.com.

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#Praying for your #prodigal? @AndreaMerrell knows & understands your #pain. #parents Win a book! @VondaSkelton (Click to Tweet)


WMSS, final, high resAnd who won Edie Melson’s book, While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those With Loved Ones in the Military?

Random.org says the winner is…

Jeanne Doyon!

Woo-hoo! Congratulations, Jeanne! I love it when God orchestrates a win for someone who can directly benefit from a book! Thank you, Lord.

Jeanne, simply contact me with your mailing address and Edie will get your book right out to you!

And for those who didn’t win, here’s your direct Amazon link to While My Soldier Serves.

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 Who won @EdieMelson’s book While My SoldierServes? #militaryfamilies #prayers via@VondaSkelton (Click to Tweet) 

That’s it for another 4th Tuesday. I’ll look forward to seeing you again on Friday!

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,


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Interview & Book Give-Away with Edie Melson, While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military

Edie Melson, crop, high resVonda here: I know you’re probably surprised to see a post from me on a Wednesday, but this is one of those times I just had to make an exception. It all started back in 2001 when Edie Melson and I met at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference as writing newbies. Not only did we discover we lived in the same town, but we lived only three miles from each other! It was the beginning of a special friendship of encouragement, support, learning, and love.

God has blessed us both through the years, and we’re constantly amazed at how He has overseen and directed our lives as we’ve left the newbie stage behind and are now privileged to encourage, support, teach, and love on other writers.

And this week, while Edie and I are both at Blue Ridge again–she as the co-director, me as faculty–I want you to join me in celebrating the release of her brand new book, While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military. I know you’ll see why this book is so important, especially at this time in our nation’s history.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for Edie and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book!

Interview & Book Give-Away with Edie Melson, While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military


Welcome to the Christian Writer’s Den again, Edie. I’m so excited about your new book! Let me start by asking was it so important for you to write this book.

I struggled with fear while our son was deployed. Often the worst times were when I was awakened with horrible nightmares. I’d make my way downstairs and sit in the recliner, clutching my Bible and trying to pray. So often the prayers wouldn’t come. I longed for a book like this to give me a jumping off point for my own prayers.

Oh, Edie, I well remember those days for you. How was your own perspective helpful as the mother of an active duty marine?

I think that experience has given me insight into the deepest fears we face while a loved one is away at war. I know firsthand the hopelessness that comes from being unable to protect someone you love.

Why is prayer vital for our military soldiers?WMSS, final, high res

It’s vital that we’re covering our military with prayer. Prayer activates God’s power. Sure, He can and often does work without it, but I’ve also seen how He moves mountains because of it. Our prayers help provide protection, comfort, even peace for those serving so far from home.

I loved the fact that the prayers didn’t only focus on the soldier. Why is it important to not only pray for the soldier, but for their families and loved ones as well?

Our soldiers are not the only ones serving. The families may not be official members of the military, but the battles they face are every bit as real and every bit as dangerous. This is especially true now that terrorist groups are targeting military families in their war against America.

How did you choose the six categories (Wisdom, Strength, Faith, Protection, Peace, Those Close to My Loved One) to pray for the soldier?

I kept a deployment journal while my son was away at war. When I looked back through the prayers I recorded there, these were the things I prayed. It seemed to make sense to go with what brought me peace during those stressful time.

How did you choose the seven categories (Fear, Peace, Patience, Faith, Strength, Anger, Reaching Out to Others) to pray for oneself / those waiting at home?

Again, by going back through my journal and looking at the things I struggled with.

I love that you offer the most prayers for Faith for our soldiers. Why is faith so critical to those serving during these trying times?

I think faith is what gets us through the dark times. So often when things are the blackest, it’s hard to hear from God. Even though it isn’t true, it feels like God is far away with His back turned. It’s only our faith in what we know is true, instead of what we feel, that keeps us moving forward.

Image courtesy of Edie Melson

Image courtesy of Edie Melson

Yes, prayer is often the only thing that can get us through the dark times. I noticed that each prayer provides a perfect notable quote as well as dedicated scripture to tie in with the prayer’s message. How and why did you choose these?

I love quotes, and I felt that adding a quote would be another way to illustrate the focus of each prayer.

I know that the book isn’t just limited to individual family members and friends at home. Please share how While My Soldier Serves can be used for prayer groups praying for the military.

This book is a powerful tool for prayer groups. We know that when many people are praying the same thing it multiplies the power of those prayers. The idea of potentially thousands of people praying the same thing at the same time for our military is one of the most exciting aspects of publishing a book like this.

Thank you for joining us today, Edie. I pray God’s richest blessings as you continue to reach out to others through your writing and speaking ministry!

And readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for Edie and then return next Tuesday to see if you’re the winner of her book!

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Military & their families & friends need #prayer. While My #SoldierServes by @EdieMelson via @VondaSkelton Win a book! (Click to Tweet)

 Here’s the Book Blurb:

While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military

Thousands of families send loved ones off to fight on a daily basis. These families spend a lot of time living in a world out of control. This kind of stress can take an incredible toll, but there is hope. When we feel helpless, we can take our fears to the One who loves us more than anything and holds the universe in His hands.

In this book you’ll find the words to usher you into His presence. These prayers are a place to visit again and again as you take your own fears to God. They’re just a starting point, written to help you find your own voice as you call out on behalf of the one you love.

Bio: As the mother of a frontline infantry Marine, Edie Melson lived this book before she wrote it. Edie understands what it is to face adversity and come out triumphant on the other side. Her years as a wife, mother, and ministry leader have given her a unique perspective to reach out 
to others facing the same struggles.
 She’s the Military Family Blogger for Guideposts.org, social media director for several writing websites, and a popular ministry and conference speaker. Connect with her on her blog, The Write Conversation, Twitter, and Facebook.

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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



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.


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!

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

Happy writing!


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Parting Words From The WORD…I Thank God for You

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

As I write this, I’m hard at work preparing for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference that begins Sunday. It’s my writing conference home, and I’m honored to be there again this year, teaching four classes, meeting with writers, and hopefully encouraging attendees to answer the call God has placed on their lives…even if the road isn’t easy.

So today I decided I’d repost a favorite Parting Words From The WORD from a few years ago. I hope it encourages you today.


A friend texted me a few minutes ago and asked for the first scripture passage that came to my mind. It only took me a second to reply because I had just been thinking about this verse moments earlier as I was talking with another writer/speaker friend.

Now, as I sit down to write this week’s Parting Word From The WORD, I realize how much this verse applies to you as well, friends and readers of my blog.

About seven years ago (now nine years ago) I had an idea to start a writer’s blog, a gathering place for Christian writers to come, be encouraged, instructed, and helped. A place where I could be real and pass along my experiences and struggles as a writer. A place where readers could learn how to avoid the mistakes I made.

I wanted a place for writers to find writing opportunities, hear from other writers, and win good stuff. A place where writers could feel at home and fit in, where it’s completely normal to talk with imaginary characters one minute and plan how to kill people without getting caught the next.

But most of all, I wanted a place where the ultimate goal was to use our words to glorify God and lift up the name of Jesus. A place to shine His light in the middle of darkness.

And we did it. Together, we did it.

So today, my verse is all about you. Because without you, there’d be no reason to have the Christian Writer’s Den. Without you, we wouldn’t be working together to bring the lost to Jesus in this little corner of the internet.

The verse?

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you…
Philippians 1:3 (HCSB)

And I do. I really do.

Thank you.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,


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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.


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!)

mogo7000 logo~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

Laughing horse morguefile~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.


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!


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Parting Words From The WORD…Oh, Be Careful

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Today’s post started out like most of my Parting Words posts. As usual, I came across a verse this week that God used to speak truth to me. I knew days ago that today we would talk about I Timothy 4:16.

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:16 (NIV)

But I didn’t realize exactly what the message would be.

As I read that verse, God impressed on my heart that as speakers and writers, we must be especially careful of how we live our lives and proclaim God’s Word. Others are watching, so we must watch our lives and doctrine closely, we must persevere, and in doing so, we save not only ourselves, but those who hear our words and watch our lives.

Wow. Just think, because of how we live and spread His truth, others can be saved. What an honor and a privilege we have!

As I meditated on the verse, the phrase, “Watch your life…” reminded me of the song we all learned as children, “Oh, Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” I decided to look it up and within minutes, I was taken back to my childhood and songs I haven’t heard in 50 years. I had a hard time leaving.

Here’s Oh, Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.

Click here to hear an old recording of one I had totally forgotten, Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam.

So what began as a look at 1 Timothy 4:16, ended up taking me back 50 years to the truths of God’s Word, learned as a little child, through the old songs.

So the message of this post is:

  • We must be careful of what we see, what we hear, what we say, where we go, and what we do
  • Jesus wants us all to be sunbeams for Him, shining His light into all the world
  • We must watch how we live our lives because others are watching…and listening

If we do, lives can be changed for eternity.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,


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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…


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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!


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!


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!


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!


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,


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Parting Words From The WORD…Yea, I Can Do That

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.


I might not be able to decorate a house, but I make a pretty good pot of homemade vegetable beef soup.

My skill at organization? Not so hot. But my ability to make people laugh? Yea, I can do that.

I can’t create a musical masterpiece…but I can write a story that could change a life.

I no longer dance or run races or snow ski. After all, I’m at the age that I’m afraid I’ll fall and break a hip! But I can still teach Sunday School and sing in the worship ensemble and lead a feeding ministry team.

What about you? Are you good at building dog houses? Organizing birthday parties? Teaching God’s Word?

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.
If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides,
so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.  I Peter 4:10-11

How are you using your gifts to help others today?

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,


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