Tag Archives: Vonda Skelton

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 Fathers 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 Fathers 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 TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.

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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?


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!


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Parting Words From The WORD…Love Your Enemies


“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…” Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)

(SC State Flag honoring the nine worshipers lost at Emanuel AME Church, created by Gil Shuler Graphic Design, Mount Pleasant, SC. Used by permission.)

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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.

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#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!


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Parting Words From The WORD…Your “Write” Role, Part 4

Jim Watkins headshotVonda here: I can’t believe it, but here we are already, at Part 4 of author, speaker, and threat to society, James Watkins‘ keynote at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Of course, you don’t want to read the last of the series without reading the first of it, so here are direct links to Parts 1-3: “Your ‘Write’ Role,” Part 1, “Your ‘Write’ Role,” Part 2, and “Your ‘Write’ Role,” Part 3. This four-part Parting Words Fridays is unlike anything you’ve ever seen here, or probably anywhere else for that matter!

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 4, taken from 1 Corinthians 12, as paraphrased by the New Living Amplified Paraphrased King James Watkins Version for Writers.


Your “Write” Role, Part 4

By James Watkins


4. You have an incarnational role in Christian writing

I’ll give you a second to let that truth sink in until I see whiffs of smoke coming out your ears.

I’m not diminishing the role of preachers, but writers have exponentially more influence and longevity! The average church in America runs less than 100 people. As a magazine writer, you can reach a thousand times that number with just one article.

And, unless the sermon is recorded and posted online, it stops reaching new people after the last amen! But as a writer, your work can last for years in waiting rooms and bathroom magazine racks. Thomas a’ Kempis’ Imitation of Christ is still in print over 500 years since he wrote it and continues to be a best-seller, second only to the Bible!Jim Watkins cartoon headshot

And even if your book goes “out of print,” it doesn’t go out of existence. It lives on until Jesus comes in homes, in church libraries, in garage sales!

I recently received this email:

I cannot tell you, how much reading the three chapters that i did just before writing meant for me. I am so thrilled with the way the Lord has gifted you not only in your writing; but primarily your love for Jesus and the deep Spirit filled way you have written this book.

It was from India . . . concerning a book that had long gone out of print . . . on a day I was feeling especially un-important!

God uses our words to communicate his Word!

Without the written word, Christianity would have never made it past the first century. The writing of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John preserved the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The writings of the church fathers, such as Augustine, gave us a systematized theology and kept heresy at bay.

Communicate to Change LIves Jim Watkins coverAnd as the relationship with the living Christ slowly devolved into a religion of works, legalism, profiteering and politics, Catholic writers like Thomas a’ Kempis reminded us of the pure, intimate relationship with Jesus in his The Imitation of Christ. Martin Luther’s 96-Point Thesis reminded us that salvation is by faith and faith alone.

And today, holy men and women are using pens and pixels to write the love of God on the hearts of followers and seekers as well. So, you and I are a part of the parade of published writers who have kept the Word alive for over 2,000 years. I’ll probably be in the tiny clown car.

For me, writing is an act of worship.

It’s acknowledging the important, indispensable role in writing that God has entrusted to me.

It’s fellowshipping with other writers, agents, editors, and publishers as an interdependent part of this eternal work.

It’s rejoicing in my individuality that God has personally, uniquely, lovingly crafted me into a writing instrument for his glory.

And it’s shaking with holy joy and fear that I am an incarnation of the Word of God!

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

Vonda here: Wow, Jim. Wow. Thank you for your powerful, encouraging reminder that we truly are “…His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)

Jim, thank you for sharing His heart through the lens of His hope and your humor. We love and appreciate you! And friends, if you appreciate Jim message, I hope you’ll visit his site and support his work as he walks the journey God created him to do!

Bio: Jim wears more hats than his Aunt Luella!Jim Watkins real headshot
*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.

Thank you for Tweeting…Sharing is sweet!

Don’t miss @JamesWatkinsCom final fun–but real–writers’ take on 1 Cor 12 -Part 4 via @VondaSkelton #amwriting (Click to Tweet)

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


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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


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 RetreatOctober 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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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!


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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!



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Parting Words From The WORD…Your “Write” Role, Part 3

Jim Watkins headshotVonda here: Yes, it’s time for Part 3 of author, speaker, and threat to society, James Watkins‘ keynote at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. But before you read today’s post, you’ll want to check out “Your ‘Write’ Role,” Part 1 and “Your ‘Write’ Role,” Part 2 first. This four-part Parting Words Fridays will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen here, or probably anywhere else for that matter!

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 3, taken from 1 Corinthians 12, as paraphrased by the New Living Amplified Paraphrased King James Watkins Version for Writers.


Your “Write” Role, Part 3
By James Watkins


3. You have an individual role in Christian writing

Paul writes, “Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church.” It’s not a exhaustive list. There are other lists in Romans 12 and Ephesians 4. But here’s the point: everyone is an individual in the body.

The late, great author Calvin Miller wrote of me: “Jim Watkins is one in a million. Two in a million would be overkill.” I think that was a compliment. Right?

We all have a choice. I can try to be a second-rate Max Lucado, or I can be a first-class Jim Watkins. You can be a imitation Debbie Macomber, or you can be an original you!

Now, I tend to write and speak in a way that makes people squirm in their comfortable padded pews. I’m a firm believer that writers and speakers are here to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. (Vonda here: This is a great quote–you should write it down!) I don’t let people sit too comfortably, so in the Body of Christ . . . I’m a hemorrhoid!

And I’m determined to be the world’s best pain in the behind!

God doesn’t need another Billy Graham or Karen Kingsbury or whoever you wish you were. He needs you to be you. And as scary as it sounds, he needs me to be me.

In the words of the great theologian Theodore Giesel, better known as “Dr. Seuss”:Jim Watkins cartoon headshot

Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is You-er than You!

And the closer you get to God, the closer you get to being who He designed you to be.

Okay, how to do we determine our role in the Body? Here’s my P-A-T answer:

Passion: Can you not not write? Do you live and breathe to write? Would you write even if you weren’t paid? I’m guessing that because you took vacation time and maxed out your credit card to be here, you can check YES. Writing is your passion!

Affirmation: Has someone—other than your mother, best friend or spouse—affirmed your writing? Have you been published in a paying market?

Be careful on this one, because even though I started writing for the high school paper and won an award in the national honor society; and even though I’ve now written and contributed to over 35 books over the past 30 years; and even though I’ve won three professional writing awards and four industry editing awards . . . I got a C in Freshman Composition in college. A C!

And so I stopped writing for publication from 1972 to 1982! Ten years wasted because some professor decided I was a grade C writer. I’d like to take my solid walnut and brass Campus Life “Book of the Year” award and smack him up up side of the head. But I’m not bitter!

So, be careful! Those who can write, write. Those who can’t write, edit. And often, those who can’t write or edit, teach!

But if you’re receiving good professional critiques, if you’re being published, then you can check YES. You’re receiving affirmation!

Talent: Does writing seem to be much easier for you than your friends? Were you that one weird kid in high school who loved term papers? And do you have those divine moments when you look at what you’ve written and think Wow! That had to be God!

When your passions, affirmations, and talents all converge, that’s probably where you’ll live out the purpose for which you were created.

Communicate to Change LIves Jim Watkins coverI wrote to a writer friend in February 2015:

While I am not seeing the success I hoped for in writing and speaking, I am beginning to realize what an impact I am making in the lives of people in print and online, at conferences, at church and especially in the lives of my daughter and her daughters. I’m realizing it has been a “Wonderful Life” and that I am a success with so many friends in the church and writing community. And I’m looking forward to what God has planned in the future. And if it doesn’t involve a best-selling book or stadium speech, I think I’m okay with that.

You were born an original, don’t die a copy! God created you to be you—and no one else.

Like any good novel, this talk has a surprise ending that you didn’t see coming.

The original text of the Bible is not broken up in chapters and verses. Just one solid block of text. So, if you’re ever on Jeopardy and the final answer is, “It’s the first English Bible to be divided into chapters and verses,” you would write—in the form of a question, of course—“What is the Geneva Bible published in 1560?”

So, Paul doesn’t take a breath between 1 Corinthians 12 and 13:

So, earnestly desire the most helpful of all the writing gifts. But now let me show you a way of writing that is best of all.

If I write with the pen of the psalmist and win national book awards, and donate all my royalties to the poor, but have not love, I only a clattering printer or a pounding four-color offset press with burned out bearings.

Where there are magazines, they shall cease publication. Where there are speaking venues, they shall pass away. Where there are Web sites, they shall crash. But love never fails.

Here’s what blows my little mind . . . straight out my ears . . .

John writes in chapter 4 of his first letter:

No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us (1 John 4:7-12).

John also writes in his gospel, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The “author and finisher of our faith” has now given you and me the responsibility to take that “Word” and put it into our own words, to be authors of the faith.

You are important. You are interdependent. You are an individual. But most of all . . . wait for it . . .Jim Watkins real headshot

Vonda again: Be sure to return next Friday for Part 4 of James Watkins’ Your Write Role. You’ll be glad you did…and so will the rest of your Body. :-)

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

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.

Thank you for Tweeting…Sharing is sweet!

Another hilarious–but real–writers’ take on 1 Cor 12 – Part 3 by @JamesWatkinsCom via @VondaSkelton #amwriting (Click to Tweet)

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


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Interview & Book Give-Away with Lori Roeleveld and May Kudos!

Lori Roeleveld Headshot

(Vonda here: I’m currently in Michigan caring for my dear cousin who needs a miracle. Please join me in praying for his healing. Thank you, dear friends.)

Lori Roeleveld is my special guest today!

Friends, I’m excited to introduce my friend author Lori Roeleveld today. Lori and I met at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference several years ago and it has been a joy to watch her career skyrocket. She was the recipient of the 2015 Blue Ridge Director’s Choice Award for her new book, Running from a Crazy Man (and Other Adventures Traveling with Jesus).

Be sure to leave a comment for Lori and you’ll be in the running for a free book!

Welcome to the Christian Writer’s Den, Lori. Let’s begin with the question everyone asks about your book, who IS the crazy man?

My title, Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus), comes from the story of King David. David knew God had anointed him king and had every reason to believe his path would lead straight to the throne. It must have created incredible confusion for David to find himself spending part of his life running from King Saul but we know God was present and active in David’s life even then.

What is the message for modern believers that you explore in the book?

In the seventies, the message communicated about Jesus was that He would make our lives better. That’s true but it doesn’t always look or feel the way we expect. Many of us begin our life with Christ with expectant hope, but not all of those hopes are realistic. When our lives detour down roads called disaster, disease, depression, or personal devastation, we’re tempted to pull off to the side of the narrow road and wonder what happened. I wrote Running from a Crazy Man for those moments in every believer’s life when following Jesus doesn’t make sense, to encourage us all to remain in the adventure.

Alton Gansky, Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, called your book an “unconventional devotional.” Tell us how you’ve designed each chapter.

Each chapter is adapted from a popular post on my blog so they’re short – usually under 1000 words. The titles are quirky such as Elephant Repellent, Church Bullies, and I Hope that You’re Perturbed but I include headings to help you know what each is about such as Following Jesus when You’re Feeling Useless, or Following Jesus when Other People are Mean. I’ve concluded each chapter with scripture references, thought questions, and words to remember so readers can use this book as a daily devotional or with a Bible Study/small group.

One thing I love about both your blog and your book is the ability to pull me in through those quirky titles. I even noticed that rather than the usual Foreword, your book has a Forewarned written by bestselling author, James L. Rubart. What led you to create such a unique voice for your projects?Lori Roeleveld book cover

Readers tell me they enjoy the humor of my posts but always know that something in the post will unsettle or challenge them in their faith. When they forward my posts to others, I’ve noticed they often warn that the post may create discomfort that may lead to action. I decided to embrace reader reaction to my voice. Challenge is what I seek in my spiritual life. I’ve loved Jesus for over fifty years and I know the temptation of settling in, getting too comfortable, or expecting to drift through my later years on cruise control. I always want Jesus to spur me on to a deeper relationship with Him. God uses hard times in my life to unsettle me and like Frodo (from Lord of the Rings), I’ve learned that even though I resist it, I do like adventure with Jesus. I hope to invite and incite others to continue in the Jesus adventure.

“Invite and incite,” I must admit that doesn’t sound like the usual call to salvation. Is that where you came about with the tagline, Disturber of Hobbits?

Yes, exactly. I love the Lord and I love the church. As much as I’m aware of the shortcomings of the church of Jesus, I just love the family of God. I equate believers with hobbits because hobbits like comfy settings, we like our meals on time, and we resist adventures because they make us late for dinner. When I write, I use humor but also gentle exhortation to remind us all of the goals set forth in scripture. I’ve been making comfortable Christians “late for dinner” for many years now – I included.

As we close, what advice do you have for other bloggers?

Partner with God in your work and don’t underestimate the power of “small.” I hear bloggers complain, “Only 30 people read by last post.” If 30 people showed up on your doorstep asking your thoughts on God, you’d consider that a ministry. Respect the value of a small but faithful readership. Pray for them and give them your best work. We don’t write for numbers, we write for readers. Each one has value in God’s eyes. My blog is small but God uses it in big ways for His glory.

Al and Lori with Award

Photo courtesy of Mary Denman

And readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for Lori 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: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored an unsettling blog since 2009; a pursuit that eventually resulted in her first book, Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus). Though she has degrees in Psychology and Biblical Studies, Lori learned the most important things from studying her Bible in life’s trenches. You’ll find her at her website www.LoriRoeleveld.com. If not, know she’s off somewhere slaying dragons. Not available for children’s parties.

Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is Sweet!

Running From a Crazy Man-Be forewarned-this book will unsettle you, not make you comfortable! @LoriSRoeleveld @VondaSkelton #Christian (Click to Tweet)


Free photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Free photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And now let’s celebrate with these Christian Writer’s Den friends!

Congratulations are in order for some of our writers and speakers.

1.  Nan Jones (NC): My first book, The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife, is releasing on June 30th. I’ll be having a Facebook launch party on July 2nd from 7-9pm with special giveaways (the big one is a prayer shawl crocheted by me at a value of $85) and girl chats and encouragement and fellowship and… and… Hope you’ll join me. It will be fun. Click here for the Amazon link to my author page and The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife.

2.  Tracy Crump (MS): My story, “The Circle of Volunteerism” will appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering and Giving Back. My story “Fishes and Loaves” has been accepted for CrossRiver Media’s anthology, God’s Promises. My article “Chicken Soup with a Dash of Faith” appeared in the Christian
Communicator. And my devotion “Two Little Lights” appeared on ChristianDevotions.us

Congratulations, Nan and Tracy! So proud of you and all you continue to accomplish!


Well, that does it for another second Tuesday. Be sure to return next week for a new list of writing opportunities, conferences, and contests. Oh, and don’t forget to check to see if you’re the winner of Lori’s book!



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Parting Words From The WORD…Your “Write” Role, Part 2

Jim Watkins headshotVonda here: After seeing your incredible response to Part 1 of author, speaker, and threat to society, James Watkins‘ keynote at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, I’m even more excited to share Part 2 today! Before you read today’s post, you may want to check out “Your ‘Write’ Role,” Part 1 first. This four-part Parting Words Fridays will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen here, or probably anywhere else for that matter!

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 2, taken from 1 Corinthians 12, as paraphrased by the New Living Amplified Paraphrased King James Watkins Version for Writers.


Your “Write” Role, Part 2
By James Watkins


2. You have an interdependent role in Christian writing

When I was directing another Christian writers conference on the east coast, one of the faculty came and sat down beside me.

“I’m working on my novellas about women of the Bible. I was wondering if I could bounce some ideas off you?”

“Uh, excuse me?”

“I respect you and would like your opinion.”

“Uh, well, I guess . . .”

That woman was our keynote speaker, Francine Rivers! Francine Redeeming Love Rivers!

I met her just recently at Mount Hermon where she was there as a conferee! “I can always learn something new.” And she asked me to pray for the work of turning that book into a major, A-list film!

That’s the beauty when Christian publishing works as the Body of Christ.

The King James Version translates 1 Corinthians 3:16-17:

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

That verse has been used as a Louisville slugger against anything the person swinging it believes harms the body. But the King James translators failed to take into consideration that Greek has two separate words for “you”: you singular and you plural. If you’re from the south, you already know that. You is singular. “Y’all” is plural.

The New Living Translation acknowledges that Paul is using “y’all.”

Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple (1 Corinthians 12:25-27).

That verse is not talking about the human body at all! Y’all’s the Temple or Body of Christ.

So Paul is not telling us to take care of our own bodies because they’re the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We Jim Watkins cartoon headshotshould take care of our bodies, but that’s not the point he’s making here. You’re important all right, but you’re interdependent! Y’all’s a part of the Body of Christ, and y’all need to take care of each other!

Gone are the days of Emily Dickinson when you could be a recluse, never leave the house and still be a best-selling author.

Publishing is a relationship between you and your readers. That’s why building your “tribe” with social networking is so important.

It’s a relationship between you and your agent in planning your writing career and choosing the projects that best fit your “brand.”

And it’s a relationship between you and your publisher. Editors are not cold and heartless people—those would be the marketing minions. No! Even marketers are a part of this writing body.

We all need to work like a body. But the absolute worse place to watch that play out is in church. For instance, here’s how a body would act if it acted like some churches.

You’re putting up paneling with those microscopic finishing nails and you hit your thumb. You roll your eyes, shake your head in disgust and scold, “You did it again! How many sermons have you heard about ‘fleeing even the appearance of hammers’? Or that ‘the love of hammers is the root of all evil’? And you were nearly through the twelfth step of H.A. And now, you’ve gone and got yourself hammered! I’m sorry, but you brought it on yourself and I’m tired of your excuses.

Is that how your body works? Here’s how mine works:

You scream: words of loving compassion

You stick your thumb in your mouth: Warm, protective comfort

And you dance! The whole body involved in ministering to the suffering part.

Communicate to Change LIves Jim Watkins coverSo, here’s another passage from the New Living Amplified Paraphrased King James Watkins Version for Writers:

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by passive verbs, you who are members of the writers’ group should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path of action verbs. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself using adverbs to prop up weak verbs. Gently critique and enthusiastically encourage one another, as we follow The Word and the Author of Our Faith (Galatians 6:1-2).

And why do you do that? Because he or she is a part of the same body you are a part of! So treat that “thumb” like your thumb—because it is! We are interdependent, so when one suffers, we all suffer.

In the same way, when one is honored, we’re all honored.

Secular celebrities do a much better job of sharing the honor than most Christians. On the red carpet, they proudly announce who designed their gown. And when they win an award they thank their agents, managers, spouses, and the Academy, and on and on . . . until the music ushers them off stage.

So when Jerry Jenkins sells another million books, I’m honored too, as his friend and spiritual brother. And when my friend gets her 36th rejection for her series Jesus Calling from the Purpose-Driven Shack, I hurt with her.

Well, before we get too depressed thinking about rejection, let’s keep moving . . .

Now in the ministry of writing, God has appointed novelists, letter writers, those who have the gift of poetry, local church reporters, best-selling authors, devotional writers, those who write their legislators, and those with the gift of writing advertising copy.

Are all novelists? Do all write letters to the editor? Do all have the gift of poetry? Are all local church reporters? Are all best-selling authors? Are all devotional writers? Do all write their legislators? Do all have the gift of writing advertising copy? No! But eagerly desire the greater gift of writing with love.

You have an important role in Christian writing.

You have an interdependent role in Christian writing and . . .

Vonda again: Thank you, Jim! Friends, be sure to return next Friday for Part 3 of James Watkins’ Your Write Role. You’ll be glad you did…and so will the rest of your Body. :-)

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.

Thank you for Tweeting…Sharing is sweet!

Another hilarious–but real–writers’ take on 1 Cor 12 – Part 2 by @JamesWatkinsCom via @VondaSkelton #amwriting (Click to Tweet)

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


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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!


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!


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. :-)


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.


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!


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