Tag Archives: writing instruction

Interview & Book Give-Away with Crickett Keeth

Picture of CrickettIf you haven’t met Crickett Keeth, you’re missing a lot. She may be a tiny, little thing, but she is a powerful messenger for the Father! We met years ago when I was teaching at North Texas Christian Writers Conference and it has been a joy to get to know her better through her writing, speaking, and as Director of Women’s Ministries at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, TN.

I’m honored to share Crickett and her newest book with you. And in this season of gift-giving, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Her title? The Gift of Rest. Can I get an AMEN? I know you want and need a copy of this book, so be sure to leave a comment and you might win it next week! Now, let’s get started!

Welcome, Crickett. Before we start talking about your new book, would you tell us how you got started writing Bible studies?

I was leading a small group Bible study with some girls in Dallas, and we were using popular studies on the market. To facilitate richer discussion, I would add thought-provoking questions to the book questions each week. One summer, my girls challenged me, “Crickett, why don’t you write our next Bible study?” After praying about it, I accepted their challenge, and I’ve continued writing Bible studies ever since.

The Father certainly uses a variety of ways to move us, doesn’t He? So what compelled you to write a Bible study on the subject of rest?

I meet with women all the time as the Women’s Ministry Director at my church, and I started to notice a trend in what I was hearing. “Crickett, I’m exhausted. I’m worn out. I need some rest.” And I was feeling the same way. We’re all in need of rest. And I can’t imagine that this is God’s plan for us – to frantically rush through life at breakneck speed. So I began to search the Scriptures to see what God has to say about rest, and the result was this Bible study. In eight weeks, we look at God’s perspective of rest from Genesis to Revelation. And as we understand His perspective, it gives us freedom to embrace the gift of rest instead of feeling guilty about it. When we see how God emphasized, even commanded, rest, how can we not rest?

I totally agree! Why do you think people aren’t making rest a priority these days?

The reasons I most often hear are:The Gift of Rest cover Crickett Keeth

(1) I’m too busy. I don’t have time to rest. If I stop to rest, I can’t get everything done. Once I get everything done, then I’ll rest.

God gives us 24 hours a day, and He will never give us more to do than we can do in a day. The problem is not having too little time, but taking on more than God ever intended for us to take on.

(2) I feel guilty. I should be doing something productive. People will think I’m lazy if I take time to rest.

Jesus rested, and He didn’t feel guilty for taking time to do so, and neither should we.

(3) It’s not spiritual to rest. People who love the Lord stay busy. It’s selfish for me to take time to rest. I need to be serving others. I want to be a Proverbs 31 woman, and she didn’t rest. I’m not a godly woman if I rest.

There’s nothing unspiritual about taking time to rest. It’s actually unspiritual to work ourselves to the point of exhaustion without taking time to be replenished in order to carry out the ministry He’s given us to do.

I know you were going through a time of “no rest” when you wrote this study. How did you find rest in that season of life when circumstances wouldn’t allow you to rest?

Yes, the timing of this study was perfect for me in that tough season of life. My 98-year old mom was in the nursing home in Memphis, and I was there every day after work and on the weekends. Emotionally, it was draining to watch my mom lose her quality of life. I would come home from the nursing home every day, exhausted – physically and emotionally. But during those times of no physical rest, I found soul rest – a peace that God was in control. I found rest in that season by meeting with God, and letting Him refresh me through His Word. I knew He would give me strength for each day, one day at a time. But I needed time alone with Him to be reminded of His strength and sovereignty in this tough season.

Crickett Keeth Sumatra coverI have learned to value the gift of rest as a result of this study. And I pray that those who go through this Bible study will also come to embrace that gift.

And I join you in that prayer. What better gift could there be than to rest in the Gift of Jesus and His love? Thank you for sharing your book with us today, Crickett.

And friends, be sure to leave a comment for Crickett and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book! And return next week to see if you’re the winner.

Here’s more about Crickett:

Crickett Keeth is the Women’s Ministry Director at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, Tennessee, where she writes and teaches the women’s Bible studies. She is the author of several published Bible studies, including The Gift of Rest and Sumatra with the Seven Churches (co-authored with Sandra Glahn). Crickett was on staff with Cru for ten years and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. In addition to teaching regularly at her own church, she also speaks at women’s conferences and retreats. She offers free resources for discipleship and encourages others in their own walk with God through her website at www.CrickettKeeth.com. You can also connect with Crickett on Facebook and Twitter.

Blessings as we prepare to celebrate the beginning of a new year!

Vonda

 

 

Read entire post »

 

Interview & Book Give-Away with Lori Roeleveld

Lori Roeleveld Headshot 2015Friends, I’m so thrilled to have my friend, award-winning author Lori Roeleveld, back at The Christian Writer’s Den. This time she’s sharing her new book, Jesus and the Beanstalk: Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life. Lori and I met at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference many years ago and it has been a joy to watch her career skyrocket. Now sit back and enjoy another entertaining interview with Lori Roeleveld . . . if you dare!

And don’t forget to leave a comment for Lori and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book! Be sure to come back next week to see if you’re the winner. Now let’s get started!

Lori, your book opens with the line, “We live in a land populated by giants.” Tell us what you mean.

God’s Word tells us there are persistent forces of evil at work in the world. This translates into giant problems of every type that we battle individually, as a church, and as a society. Giants are challenges that leave us feeling small and inadequate. We all face them but biblically, it’s always been the people who believed God over the giants who triumph.

How does the Jack and the Beanstalk fairytale relate to 2 Peter 1:1-10?

People who don’t share our faith often think Christians have traded in everything of worth for a handful of useless beans, much as Jack’s mother felt about his trade. When we view our faith through their eyes, it can affect our attitude toward our own faith. In the fairytale, Jack clung to the beanstalk and discovered his giant-killing potential. As Christians cling to the vine that is Jesus, we, too, discover that we are giant-killers. 2 Peter 1:1-10 lists eight qualities that the world sees as boring (and probably useless) but Peter tells us having these qualities in increasing measure will “keep us from being ineffective and unfruitful in our knowledge of Jesus Christ.” I don’t know about you but that makes me want to plant those beans in my life and prepare for spiritual growth!

Is that why you call those qualities the “eight boring beans of our faith?”

That’s right. Of course, they’re not boring but in the eyes of those who don’t share our faith, they can appear to be. It’s unpopular these days to talk about the value of faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love, but Peter promises these hold important keys to effective living. It’s been exciting for me to unpack these qualities and explore how cultivating them, within a relationship with Jesus, increases our ability to defeat countless giants.

You talk a lot about how God loves our smallness and works through it. What do you mean?

One key to facing giants is understanding that God revels in using small people, places, tribes, and churches because through them, He reveals even more of His glory. Isn’t that the point? Not to draw attention to great men, women, tribes, and nations but to draw attention to the Creator God and His plan of redemption.

Where do you get your passion for small churches or people who feel small?Jesus and the Beanstalk

I grew up in a small town in the smallest state, Hope Valley, Rhode Island. There was nothing I wanted more than to be on the adventure with Jesus and I figured it had to be happening somewhere much bigger. What He’s spent a lifetime teaching me is that small places, churches, or ministries can have great impact when people in them obey Jesus.

How have you seen this play out in your life?

Since 2008, I’ve written a blog that for years had a faithful but small following. Still, posts I’ve written have had an impact on writers with larger audiences such as Ann Voskamp and Jim Rubart. Twice I’ve had posts go viral. One has been viewed more than 1.5 million times. In 2015, one week after the murder of nine Christians in Charleston, South Carolina, I was able to mobilize over one thousand believers on three continents to pray for their families, all from my small corner of the world. By my daily numbers, I’m a small-time blogger but God can use me to have a bigger impact than I can even imagine.

In Jesus and the Beanstalk, you tackle the subject of spiritual growth. What do you think are the challenges involved in discussing growing up as a Christian?

When discussing spiritual growth, we have to make frequent callbacks to the truth that we’re all saved by grace and not by works. That being said, God expects us to mature in our faith just as parents expect their children to grow up. We sometime hesitate to discuss spiritual growth because it can lead to comparisons or to a sense that some Christians are “ahead” of others. I address these challenges in Jesus and the Beanstalk and suggest an approach that helps churches and individuals navigate those challenges.

Jesus and the Beanstalk has a unique structure. Can you talk about that?

I wrote the book for individual readers but wanted it to be easy to study in small groups, too. The chapters are short and all have a closing section that includes questions I call “Small Steps toward Slaying Giants.” The first eight chapters explore spiritual growth using Jack and the Beanstalk and 2 Peter 1:1-10. The last eight chapters explore each of the eight qualities that Peter promises will make us effective and fruitful. Those are designed to meditate on one quality a week using five daily readings, one day with suggestions for ways to practice that quality, and one day with no assignment to allow for a day of rest.

Your chapter titles are intriguing: Jurassic Jesus, Why God Loves Empty Prayers, and Thou Shalt Pray like Sheldon Cooper.

I’ve been a Christian since I was a child and am a serious student of Scripture. I also came of age in the seventies and grew up watching sitcoms and late night TV so my quirky perspective comes through in the titles and in the humor of this book. I’ve wrapped my love of the Lord, my passion for His church, and my desire to inspire spiritual growth in an unconventional package. I like putting a fresh perspective on ancient truth.

That leads us to your tagline. You’re known as the “Disturber of Hobbits.” What is a hobbit and why do you want to disturb them?

Hobbits are the primary characters in Tolkiens’ Lord of the Ring series. They are creatures who love home, routine, comforts, and meals on time. Adventures are suspect to hobbits because they “make one late for dinner.” I can relate to that. I like to be comfortable and safe. Jesus adventures upset my applecart in that respect but I’ve come to love being on the adventure with Him despite my hobbit tendencies. My passion is to invite and incite other comfortable Christians into the Jesus adventure.

Al and Lori with AwardThank you, Lori. I always look forward to reading your books! Friends, that does it for another great interview. Be sure to leave a message and come back next week to see if you’re the winner of Lori’s book!

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). Since then, two more books have been released: The Red Pen Redemption and her latest, Jesus and the Beanstalk. Her blog, LoriRoeleveld.com, was voted Top 100 Christian Blogs by RedeemingGod.com and has enjoyed over 1.5 million views. Lori lives in Hope Valley, RI.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.

 

Read entire post »

 

Interview & Book Give-Away with Angie Martin & Operation Birthday Celebration

Angie Martin headshotIt’s the 4th Tuesday, and that means it’s book-give-away day! But today is especially special since we’re also looking ahead to Christmas for the kids!

Friends, what an honor it is to introduce Angie Martin to you today. Angie and I met at a writer’s conference and I was immediately impressed with her work. My goodness, just wait until you see what she has available for you and the children in your family!

Are you like me and hesitant to add another secular focus to the Christmas season? Then you’re exactly the kind of person who needs to meet Angie Martin and get to know her materials! Be sure to read her bio below, but for now, just trust me that this is something you want for kids in your realm of influence.

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

Okay, let’s get started. Angie, I’m going to state the obvious. It’s September, not December. Why are we talking about a children’s Christmas storybook now?

Operation Birthday Celebration—A Journey to the Manger is a storybook with interactive features. Jesse, a shepherd-drummer boy, and his feisty lamb, Bongo, are part of a drummer squad whisked away by the desert wind from Bethlehem on a special Christmas adventure—leading families to the manger andAngie Martin book photo the true meaning of the season. These adorable characters must be hand-crafted to “come to life” in time for their visit in December. Now is the perfect time to order! The storybook comes with instructions for crafting the character dolls (which could be as easy as repurposing dolls already available). An “Assignment Manual” suggests activities and teaching moments for twenty-five days, ending with a birthday celebration for baby Jesus. Because each book is personalized with the child’s (or children’s) name, city and state, deadline for ordering books is November 16 to ensure delivery by December 1.

This is such a great idea! What inspired you to write such a book?

The idea for Operation Birthday Celebration came during a conversation with my daughter. She and her husband had decided not to facilitate the Santa fantasy in their home, rather focusing on the birth of Jesus. Many of her mommy-friends posted on social media about family fun involving a popular secular children’s book and activities featuring a magical elf. Feeling sad that her two young sons were missing out, she said, “Mom, it’s just not fair!” She vented a frustration of many Christians living in a media-saturated world with strong secular influences. They’ve bought into the misconception that the “world” has captured the corner market on entertainment and believers are missing out. I wanted my grandsons to enjoy the holiday fun, but my main motivation for the book was to affirm our identity as children of God. He’s the Master Creator and since we’re created in His image, He endows us with the gift of creativity. We should be setting the standard for entertainment! I felt commissioned to create a faith-based alternative to that popular elf. What a surprise that God allowed me not only to write the story but also to illustrate the book!

Angie Martin book pageWhy do you think Operation Birthday Celebration is a better choice for Christian families?

Christian parents want creative resources that capture a child’s imagination and fuel curiosity while staying true to biblical teaching. Operation Birthday Celebration is entertaining while supporting Christian values and doctrine. Children enjoy the characters Jesse and Bongo as they learn about the birth of Jesus. Crafts and service projects help grow their faith and love for God’s Word. Although the book is designed for ages three to nine, older siblings can join the fun by crafting the Jesse and Bongo dolls and leading the daily adventures for the younger ones. Grandparents also love participating.

What’s in store for Jesse and Bongo in the future?

Initially, I conceived the story and characters as a gift to my grandsons. But writing colleagues believed Jesse and Bongo would be welcome in many more homes and encouraged me to consider a wider Angie Martin photo OBCaudience. I introduced the book and characters to a dozen test families, whose enthusiasm confirmed the book’s appeal and purpose. Through social media they connected and shared holiday excitement and fun. God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine—and Operation Birthday Celebration is making its public debut! Besides enriching family life during the Christmas season, this innovative educational tool is useful for children’s ministry leaders, Sunday School teachers, Christian pre-school and elementary school teachers, childcare providers, and the Christian home-school community. Anyone involved with the developmental growth of young children will appreciate this creative approach that brings Scripture to life and presents on a child’s level such concepts as sin, a need for a Savior, God’s grace, and the perfect gift of His Son Jesus. Wondering what’s next for Jesse and Bongo? New adventures are on the drawing board!

Angie Martin Jesse&BongoThis is exciting, Angie! Where can we get Operation Birthday Celebration?

Please visit www.JesseAndBongo.com. A little drummer boy and his spirited lamb are eager to make friends with you!

Oh, Angie, what a joy to hear more about your interactive book and products. And although my grandkids are teenagers and have outgrown such a gift, I know of other little ones who would love to have their own adventures with Jesse and Bongo! Thank you for working so hard to help parents teach their little ones the true meaning of Christmas!

And friends, remember to leave a comment and then come back next week to see if you’re the winner. What an awesome gift for the kids on your Christmas list this year!

Grace and peace,

Vonda

Read entire post »

 

I Hate Outlines! And Kudos & MoGo7000 Successes

Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welcome to the 2nd Tuesday at the Christian Writer’s Den! Today we’re celebrating our friends’ successes, but first, let me tell you that I hate outlines!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I Hate Outlines!

I do. I hate them with a passion. The dislike (And yes, I would click the thumb down button here if there was one!) begins with the very premise of an outline.

You want me to put things in order? Line them up correctly? Stick to a pattern? FOLLOW THE RULES?

What about creativity? What about the muse?

Arrgghhhhh! (Did I tell you I don’t like outlines?)

When I sat down to write my first novel, I tried to make an outline. I really did. After all, that’s what writers do, right? I gathered all my writerly stuff, including a dictionary, a thesaurus, and my college English textbook (this was before the development of online resources), put a sheet of paper into my electric typewriter, and pecked out a few words. Then I stared. A long time. Apparently it wasn’t a good outline.

I ripped out that paper, threw it in the trash and tried again with a fresh, clean sheet. I wrote a few words . . . and stared. A long time. Ripped out the paper and started again. Over and over the process repeated. Paper. Trash. Paper. Trash.

Finally I admitted defeat. Outlining just didn’t work for me. I must be a seat-of-the-pants writer, reasoned. I just needed freedom!

I rolled a new piece of paper into the typewriter and wrote a brilliant first line—14 times. I’d heard that getting published was really hard work, so I knew that first line had to be perfect. And after 14 tries, it was!

I hit the return, twice. (Remember this was before word processing.) After all, I had read an issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine from cover to cover. I knew the manuscript was supposed to be double-spaced. I stared at the brilliant first line, and then down to the blank one. And stared. A long time.

Three days later, I had one just-about-as-perfect-as-you-can-get-it double-spaced page of setting, dialogue, and plot.

But hard as I tried, I couldn’t move ahead. I had no idea what was happening next—and on top of that, it had to be perfect!

This was never going to work! Enter: the narrative outline. But not just any kind of narrative outline—the Vonda Skelton style of narrative outline.

I simply started writing plot points, stuff I knew about the characters, and what happened next—all single spaced with no dialogue, no setting, no paragraphs, no spell check, no grammar correction. On and on it went, page after page after page.  I realized that for me, the key was to trick myself into thinking I wasn’t writing a book at this point. I had to give myself permission to make it sloppy and ugly, and in order to do that, I had to single space, leave out dialogue, and forget any rules. Here’s a sample from the Bitsy and the Mystery at Hilton Head Island narrative outline:

Bitsy goes to Hilton Head Island w/her baseball team (she’s the only girl). I’m not sure why they’re going, maybe they’re in a baseball tournament. I’m not sure what kind of league they’re in, but it can’t be an official league because the rules won’t work. Since she’s the only girl, she can only go because the coach’s wife and daughter are going. But while they’re traveling something happens—car trouble? Sickness? Lost? but the mom and daughter have to go back home and B has to stay with another team at their house since there won’t be a woman with her team. She begs coach to let her stay with them but he won’t. their team is poor—no matching uniforms/in dilapidated van, but the team she has to stay with is rich. Her team is staying in an old dirty beach house but the team B’s with stays in a fancy house. Somewhere along the way—I don’t know what’ll happen to make it happen, but she’s gonna start telling lies in order to try to fit in and act like she’s rich. The Paris Mountain lie. Daddy in oilebusiness. She’s a good baseball player and they need her. There are 5 good players and 5 bad ones. The team has to be outside late at night—I don’t know what they’ll do, but they have to be out late at night so they can find a dead loggerhead turtle. Maybe she blames Ian or maybe somebody else does, but somebody thinks he did it.

And on and on it goes to the end. That’s my personal version of the Narrative Outline, and that outline has worked for me through all three of my published novels and my women’s non-fiction.

The key for is that I have to trick myself into seeing it as a long, fragmented note, NOT a book or an outline. That’s the only way I can be creative and I can turn off the internal editor at the same time!

So, are you having trouble moving ahead with your outline or your first draft? Then maybe you’ll want to consider a Skelton Narrative Outline for your book!

And the best part is, it’s FREE!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Let’s Celebrate Kudos With Our Christian Writer’s Den Friends!

What a joy to see writers working hard and being successful. Here’s the good news for this month:

1.  Marilyn Nutter (SC): My article, “Rock Collecting,” was published on A Widow’s Might/A New Season on August 27, 2016.

2.  Amanda Everett (VA): I was able to have a blog post, What I Wish I Knew in College published on The Rising!

3.  Tracy Crump (MS): 1)Chicken Soup for the Soul chose two of my stories to publish in their Joy of Christmas book that comes out in October. 2)My story, “Holey Memories,” was a finalist in Southern Writers Magazine’s Short Story Contest and published in their Best Short Stories 2016 issue. 3)And I have a new writer’s website! (No more pitiful homemade site.)

4.  Sandy Kirby Quandt (TX): My entry, Not All Heroes Come Back, was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Children’s/Young Adult Fiction category of the 85th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. (Vonda here: For those who aren’t familiar with Writer’s Digest Competitions, they receive thousands of entries for every competition they hold. Honorable Mention is highly honorable!)

Aren’t these inspiring reports? And I have a feeling that if you asked each of these writers how long it took to begin seeing results, they’ll tell you it was a long, hard journey that required lots of perseverance. So don’t give up. Success or failure isn’t measured by acceptances and rejections. I received 63 rejections before I ever had anything published! I often wonder how different my life would be if I had never submitted that 64th query.

As the late Gary Provost personally told me, “The only way to fail is to not write.” In other words,

The only way to fail is to quit.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Who MoGo’d in August and Earned Another Chance for $100?

These writers wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in August:

#17:  Susan Baganz – 33,356 words
#18:  KathryneAnn – 13,357 words

Congratulations, Susan and KathryneAnn! So proud of your hard work and many words! I’m looking forward to Na-No-Wri-Mo in November. Hope to see lots of CWD writers there!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well, that does it for another 2nd Tuesday. Didn’t see your name in the list of successes? Don’t worry! Just be sure to return next week when I’ll be posting a list of writing opportunities, contests, and conferences just for you!

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

Vonda

Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Read entire post »

 

Interview & Book Give-Away with Susan Baganz & Please Pray For My Mom

Baganz 0524 Edited colorSweet friends, first of all, I need to ask for your prayers. My 83yo mother took a nasty fall on Sunday and is still in ICU. Praise God, nothing is life-threatening right now, but she had a deep gash to her forehead, which was repaired Sunday in the ER. But the bad part is she has broken multiple bones, including her arm, shoulder, multiple ribs, and her kneecap. She’s in a lot of pain and has surgery scheduled (again–this is the 4th date we’ve been given!) for Wednesday. Christian Communicators Conference begins tomorrow and I’m not going to be able to be there, at least not now. I’m praying I’ll be able to get up there later in the week.

Please pray for relief of pain, successful surgery, and that she’ll be able to get into a good rehab facility. She’s expected to be in rehab 3 months. Praise God, none of this has taken our Lord by surprise and He’s still in control! Now let’s get to this exciting interview with author and editor Susan Baganz!

Friends, if you’ve ever wondered how anyone can write a gazillion words a month and create multiple books a year, well, here’s your chance to find out. Prolific writer, Susan Baganz, is with us today to share her story about writing stories!

And if you’d like a chance to win a copy of Susan’s latest book, Feta & Freeways, simply leave a comment for Susan here and you’ll be in the drawing!

Let’s get started! Welcome to the Christian Writer’s Den, Susan. We’ve all seen you post significant word counts over the past few years on this blog for the MoGo7000 Challenge. So inquiring minds want to know, how much and how often do you really write?

I’m an author but I’m also an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group so I juggle my writing with my editing for others. I can’t write every day but when I do, I do it quickly and obsessively. I’m a panster. I start with a concept and inciting incident and my characters take me on a journey. On a rare day I can pen 5,000-10,000 words (the next might be 161!). I write every year in November for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org), and “won” seven years in a row.  I’ve written two to three novels/novellas a year for some time now, completing 16 manuscripts in six years. As of this date five have been published and eight more are contracted.

That’s unbelievable! Don’t you ever get writer’s block?

I don’t call it writer’s block. I call it a wall of fear. With every novel I hit a point in the story where I think the story is crap and I’ve written myself into a corner. I pray. I go to bed. The next morning, I force myself to write. I cannot remember where that spot was in any of my stories. Fear is a writer’s biggest enemy.

I totally agree! What’s been your biggest surprise in writing?

I love my stories and characters but when revisions come I’m always amazed at the mistakes I made. Editing is a humbling process. I write romances but what surprised me most is that men love my stories. I’m grateful for the unexpected audience.

You’ve written a series of contemporary romance novels of which Feta & Freeways is the third book. What ties these novels together?

I wrote the first book, Pesto & Potholes, to show not only the story but the importance of being involved in a church. The opportunity to worship, be taught, engage in fellowship with other believers along with encouragement and accountability—is a key part of our faith in Christ.

All stories are set against the backdrop of a fictional church, Orchard Hill.FetaandFreewaysCover copy-1 Renata and Tony were the subject of Pesto & Potholes and Stephanie was Renata’s roommate and became the subject of Salsa & Speed Bumps. At the end of that novel we meet Tia who becomes a friend of Stephanie’s. Tia appears in book 3, Feta & Freeways. Niko and Tia feature there along with Niko’s cousin Johnny who then becomes the feature of book 4, Root Beer & Road Blocks. There are several more fun titles and great characters in the series to come!

Those are fun titles, how did you come up with them?

I originally wanted to show, in Pesto & Potholes, the concept of potholes. The difficulty of overcoming challenges through perseverance. That even with faith, emotional growth is often a rocky trajectory. Pesto had Antonio, a single Italian chef, and it’s a favorite sauce in our family. A funny combo of food with a road-related theme became a fun way to set the stories apart.

When someone dared me to write book two and title it Salsa & Speed Bumps the challenge was on to continue to use road themes to illustrate growth through emotional challenges but in the context of a body of believers.

When I got my Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School I never dreamed I would be using my education and training to illustrate God’s love and the power evidenced in the Body of Christ, through fiction. The reality is that our faith is dynamic and thrives in community. We cannot grow spiritually without also growing emotionally. Personally I can’t imagine facing the trials of this life without God and the support of a community of believers. My characters live those truths.

Yes, I can attest to the fact that characters can help us and others face lies and live truth. What an honor to create evidence of the Lord and His Light! 

Thank you for being here with us today, Susan. And CWD friends, thank you for stopping by. If you’d like to have a chance to win a free copy of Feta & Freeways, simply leave a comment for Susan and you’ll be in the drawing. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner!

BIO: Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits, and is a native of Wisconsin. She is an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group, specializing in bringing great romance novels and novellas to publication. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.

Susan speaks, teaches, and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. With her seminary degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and years serving in church ministry, she understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. She serves behind-the-scenes in various capacities at her church and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and serves on the board of the southeast chapter. Her favorite pastimes are lazy…snuggling with her dog while reading a good book, or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte.

You can learn more by following her blog www.susanbaganz.com, her Twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page, www.facebook.com/susanmbaganz. Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/silygoos

 

 

Read entire post »

 

Writer’s Headlines: Writing Opps, Contests, & Conferences

newspapersIt’s the 3rd Tuesday, so it’s time to share some writing opportunities and contests with you!

1.  Today’s Christian Living writer’s guidelines.

2.  Charleston Style & Design submission guidelines.

3.  Call for anthology submissions: The Binge-Watching Cure. Word counts vary from 100-25,000. Deadline December December 31, 2016.

4.  Cricket Media submission guidelines for their 11 magazines for kids!

5.  Real Simple Magazine’s 9th Annual Life Lessons Essay Contest. Deadline September 19, 2016.

6.  Bethany House Life Changing Miracles guidelines. Deadline “a couple more weeks” per editor. You can follow Jim Bell Compilations on Facebook for announcements and call-outs.

7.  Call Out for Chistian Quotes from Your Books

8.  Connecticut Magazine submission guidelines

9.  Guide Christian Story Magazine for 10-14yo guidelines here

10. Small Farm Today magazine is dedicated to preserving and promoting small farming, rural living, community and agri-preneurship. Writing guidelines here.

11. I Love Cats Magazine writers and photographers guidelines.

12. Relate Magazine: To inspire teen girls to pursue their dreams with confidence and to teach them to be an example for others in their speech, life, love, faith and purity. Topics include design, entertainment, the future in terms of college and jobs, beauty, faith, life, quizzes. Average article is between 300-450 words in length. Sidebar information is also encouraged, as well as graphics, including illustrations, and photographs. Online. See Relevant Magazine writer’s guidelines at bottom of the page here.

Well, that should keep you busy for a while!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Which conference are you or conferences are you planning to attend in the next year? This list should help you decide!

1.  Atlanta Christian Writers Conference: August 18-20, 2016, Marietta, GA

ccclogosmall2.  Christian Communicators Conference: August 24-28, 2016 The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, Asheville, NC.

3.  American Christian Fiction Writers: August 25-28, 2016, Nashville, TN

4.  Maranatha Christian Writers Conference: September 29-October 1, 2016, Norton Shores, MI

5.  Breathe Christian Writers Conference: October 7-8, 2016, Grand Rapids, MI

6.  Blue Ridge Christian Novelist RetreatOctober 16-20, 2016, Ridgecrest, NC

7.  Heart of American Christian Writers Network Conference: October 20-22, 2016, Kansas City

8.  Classeminars Writers Contreat: November 10-12, 2016, Albuquerque, NM

9.  Asheville Christian Writers Conference (AKA Writers Advance Boot Camp): February 17-19, 2017, The Cove, Asheville, NC (I’ll see you there!)

10. Carolina Christian Writers Conference: March 10-11, 2017, Spartanburg, SC

11. Blue Lake Christian Writers Conference: March 22-25, 2017, Andalusia, AL

12. Write2Ignite Conference for Writers of Children’s Literature: March 24-25, 2017, Tigerville, SC

13. Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference: April 7-11, 2017, Mount Hermon, CA

14. Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference: May 21-15, 2017, Ridgecrest, NC

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So there you are, opportunities, contests, and conferences for writers. What’s stopping you from succeeding?

Happy writing!

Vonda

Read entire post »

 

Ask the Agent: What 10 Editorial Mistakes Do Most Novice Authors Make? And Kudos!

This is Chip.

This is Chip.

If you’re not following agent Chip MacGregor’s blog, I have three words for you: You need to. Chip is a literary agent and president of MacGregor Literary. He works with both the Christian and general market and loves sharing his snarky-laced words of wisdom with writers. I’m telling you now, you don’t want to miss his annual Bad Poetry Contest every May–what a fun way to celebrate his birthday!

Today, I’m thrilled to share a recent question submitted to Chip’s Ask the Agent blog series. Great advice for those who are serious about writing. But watch out, you must have your humor hat on or you may not get it.

Thanks, Chip!

Excerpt from Chip MacGregor’s blog series, Ask the Agent: “What 10 editorial mistakes do most novice authors make?”

I suppose if you asked this of ten agents, you’d probably get a hundred total answers, but here are my pet peeves with newbie authors:

  • Too many exclamation points!!!
  • A proposal that has not been proof-red
  • Overpromising, as in “This proposal will sell a billion copies!”
  • FEELING A NEED TO PUT LOTS OF WORDS IN ALL CAPS.
  • Random numbering in an outline.
  • I did this, I did that, I did this other thing, I, I, I.
  • Random commas, that make no, sense.
  • A failure to understand how to properly use “quotation” marks. (Also parentheses. And their attached punctuation).
  • Failing to understand the difference between its and it’s (or there and their and they’re).
  • The manuscript is passive due to the author.

From Chip: Hint for the humor impaired: There are intentional errors in that list. If you see one, don’t send me a scolding note or you’ll be banned from the blog. It’s a joke. I know you don’t get it. Just trust me – others find it funny. 

Friends, I hope you learned something about agents and what they’re NOT looking for. And if you’re a writer interested in finding out more agent answers to your questions, check out Chip’s new book, How Can I Find A Literary Agent? And 101 Other Questions Asked by Writers .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Kudos must have taken a vacation!

It’s definitely summer. We writers are too hot, too busy, too far away to worry about writing or reporting successes. For that reason, I’m especially thankful that Sandy Quandt and Kristi Woods had a lot to celebrate this month!

1.  Sandy Quandt (TX):  1)Won the 1st place award in the unpublished Children’s Literature category at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. 2)Contracted to write 20 devotions for Worthy Inspire’s Seeing God in Nature devotional. 3)Article, “How to Write a Devotion in 300 Words or Less,” was published on WOW! Women on Writing*.

*(Vonda here: I’m so sorry, but Sandy notified me today that I had already run her kudos last month. Please know this was my mistake, not Sandy’s! But I have to admit, she has enough good stuff going on that it SHOULD be repeated! 🙂

2.  Kristi Woods (OK): In July, Kristi Woods was published on Proverbs 31’s Encouragement for
Today devotions and Crosswalk.com. Additionally, she became a contributing writer for Life Letter Cafe and Blessed Transgressions. It was a busy, fruitful month full of thanksgiving to God.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well, that does it for another 2nd Tuesday. I hope you’ll come back next week when I’ll have a collection of writing opportunities, contests, and conference collected just for you!

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

Vonda

 

Read entire post »

 

All the World is a Writer’s Stage, Call-Outs, and Who Won Cheryl Barker’s Book?

Cole and Mallory in CherokeeWow–how did it get to be the 1st Tuesday in August already? Today we’ll announce call-outs and see who won a free book, but first, let’s talk about a writer’s stage . . .

Several years ago, I had a one-day job at the Cherokee Indian Museum where I also took the time to learn about my own Cherokee heritage. After that visit, I knew I wanted to go back, take our younger grandchildren, and learn more together. A few weeks later, we did. It was an amazing experience.

But on my way home that day, I realized I did more than simply learn dates and historical events. I began to write about it, at least in my mind.

Isn’t that the way we writers are? We go on a simple vacation or go shopping or read a current event and before we know it, we’re contemplating characters, mapping out plots, scouting locations, capturing events, and creating a world inside our heads.

In As You Like It, William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players . . . .” Today I realize how true that statement is.

Little did I know those events in life would prepare a stage for my characters–-real or imagined–-to enter and exit. After all, I didn’t set out to find locations for children’s books. I simply found myself there . . . and the characters and their stories began.

Now I’m already looking forward to doing something with these nuggets of Cherokee ideas, even though it won’t be right now. After all, I went to Tybee Island in 1961, but it was well over 30 years later that I began to write about it.

I have a feeling I’m not alone in this phenomenon. What about you? Have you experienced anything similar? If so, would you share it with us here at The Christian Writers Den? It could be fun to see where our stories–-whether published or not, whether written or not–-originated.celebration - Morguefile

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Calling All 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!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

mogoWho Worked on Their MoGo7000 in July?

If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in July, you can receive an entry in the drawing for the 2016 MoGo7000 $100 cash prize! It’s open to everyone who qualifies.

To report your July results, please leave a comment below with your total new words written on a book project in July. (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 2016 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 5 months and you’ll have 5 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. :-)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Cheryl Barker book cover

And the winner of Cheryl Barker’s Mother of the Bride: Refreshment and Wisdom for the Mother of the Bride is . . .

Kristi Woods!

Congratulations, Kristi! To claim your free book, simply contact me with your snail mail address and Cheryl will get your book right out to you!

And for those who didn’t win, you can get your own copy of Mother of the Bride with this direct Amazon link.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well, that does it for another Tuesday. Don’t forget to share your insights about finding your stories from life!

I’d love to hear from you!

Happy writing…

Vonda

Read entire post »

 

Writer’s Headlines: Writing Opportunities, Contests, & Conferences

newspapersToday’s the 3rd Tuesday, so it’s a day of opportunities collected just for you! Let’s start with writing opportunities and contests…

1.  Coast & Kayak Magazine submission guidelines hereThey want to hear from people involved in paddlesports, including the kayak industry.

2.  Library Journal Indie eBook Awards contest. You must hurry–deadline is July 31st!

3.  Smoky Mountain Living submission guidelines. Celebrates southern Appalachians and brings the area to life.

4.  Gather Magazine guidelines here. Readership is primarily Lutheran women, but also offered to other evangelical churches.

5.  History Magazine is accepting queries. Looking for interesting and thought-provoking (not academic) pieces on major historic events.

6.  Parent.co is a digital magazine for parents who are committed to raising great kids.

7.  Good Housekeeping writing guidelines here.

8.  Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine guidelines here.

9.  WOW: Women on Writing Flash Fiction Contest. Cash awards! Deadline August 31, 2016.

10. Country Woman contributor guidelines.

11. Educational Markets for Children’s Writers: LOTS of markets listed here for children’s writers!

12. Christian Devotions is always looking for new devotions writers. And they love working with new, teachable writers.

Well, that should keep you busy for a while. Be sure to let us know if you get a publication from our Writing Opportunities. We want to celebrate with you! workshop sign Pixabay

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now, let’s take a look at upcoming writing conferences…

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably have gotten the message that I believe writing conferences are the best way to publication!

1.  Word Weavers Christian Writers Summer Seminar: July 23, 2016, Lexington, SC

2.  Greater Philly Christian Writer’s Conference: August 3-6, 2016, Langhorne, PA

3.  Taylor University’s Professional Writing Conference: August 5-6, 2016, Upland, IN (This is a brand new conference!)

4.  Atlanta Christian Writers Conference: August 18-20, 2016, Marietta, GA

ccclogosmall5.  Christian Communicators Conference: August 24-28, 2016 The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, Asheville, NC. (We’re full, but the waiting list is now open. Details for waiting list here: Conference & Registration Details. Waiting list is free.)

6.  American Christian Fiction Writers: August 25-28, 2016, Nashville, TN

7.  Breathe Christian Writers Conference: October 7-8, 2016, Grand Rapids, MI

8.  Blue Ridge Christian Novelist RetreatOctober 16-20, 2016, Ridgecrest, NC

9.  Classeminars Writers Contreat: November 10-12, 2016, Albuquerque, NM

10. Asheville Christian Writers Conference (AKA Writers Advance Boot Camp): February 17-19, 2017, The Cove, Asheville, NC (I’ll see you there!)

11. Carolina Christian Writers Conference: March 9-10, 2017, Spartanburg, SC (Watch for the website update soon!)

12. Blue Lake Christian Writers Conference: March 22-25, 2017, Andalusia, AL

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sharing is sweet! Please share these opportunities with other writers…

Writer’s Headlines: Writing Opportunities, Contests, & Conferences #amwriting @vondaskelton (Click to Tweet)

These opportunities, contests, and conferences are your tickets to publication. That doesn’t mean it’ll happen overnight, but if you keep working, I know it’ll happen.

Happy writing!

Vonda

Read entire post »

 

8 Tips for Writing a Synopsis: Short & Sweet and Kudos & MoGo7000 Results

Writer morguefileToday I’ll start by sharing 8 Tips for Writing a Synopsis – Short and Sweet

You’ve just completed the Great American Novel. You’ve done everything you’ve been told to do. You’ve created compelling characters and plopped them right smack in the middle of emotional/physical conflict. You’ve engaged the reader with your perfectly executed plot and subplots. You’ve edited and proofed and allowed your baby to be critiqued by your writer’s group.

Now it’s time to share the pictures and see if anyone wants to hold her. So you register for another writers conference where editors, agents, critiquers, and contest judges may ask for a synopsis.

A what?

Although you’ll find varying guidelines depending on the organization, here are 8 tips to creating a great synopsis:

1.    The synopsis is a summary of the plot of your book that gives the reader a chance to see if it warrants a closer look.

2.    It’s often limited to 1-3 pages, but in a few cases, the page limit is much higher. Be sure to follow the guidelines of the organization you’re submitting to.

3.    It’s usually single-spaced with an extra space between paragraphs and 1-inch margins on all sides.

4.    Print it in black ink, on white paper, using a standard font (Times New Roman is most often used).

5.    It is written in present tense, third person.

6.    The synopsis must tell the ending of the story, even if the book is a mystery, thriller, or suspense novel. This is not the time to leave the editor/agent/judge/critiquer hanging and hope he or she will beg you to tell the ending. I’ve actually read a synopsis where the writer said something like, “I can’t give away the ending because it’s so unusual, but believe me, it’s a real twist!” Hmmm. Not a good idea.

7.    You can’t cover all the points of the book, but you’ll want to include the major plots points that move the story along to a satisfactory ending.

8.    Give enough detail that the reader is engaged, but–with a limit of 2-3 pages–you’ll have to carefully decide what earns a place in the synopsis.

So, there you have it–8 tips to writing a synopsis. Remember, it’s the short and the sweet of your story!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And kudos to these talented Christian Writer’s Den friends!

FreeDigitalPhotos/Iosphere

FreeDigitalPhotos/Iosphere www.FreeDigitalPhotos.com

These CWD writers are doing the work, and finding success. Let’s celebrate with them!

1.  Cheryl Barker (KS): My book Mother of the Bride: Refreshment and Wisdom for the Mother of the Bride was officially released by BroadStreet Publishing on July 1st.

2.  Sandy Quandt (TX): Sandy has THREE things to share this month! 1)1st place award in the unpublished Children’s Lit at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference; 2)Contracted to write 20 devotions for Worthy Inspire’s Seeing God in Nature devotional; and 3)Article on “How to Write a Devotion” published on WOW! Women on Writing.

Books and articles and awards, oh my! Congrats, Cheryl and Sandy. We’re proud of you!

And friends, if you didn’t find your name on this list, be sure to check back next week where I’ll have a collection of opportunities just for you!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

mogoNext up…Who earned another entry into the MoGo7000 drawing for $100?

#15: Susan Baganz – 11,114 words
#16: Amanda Everett – 7,019 words

Congratulations, Susan and Amanda! And friends, if you’d like an opportunity to win $100, just check out the MoGo700 Challenge guidelines here. It’s all free!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well, that’s does it for today. I hope you’ve learned something and been inspired to keep writing. After all, writing isn’t a race to the finish line. The finish line is whenever we pass into glory. And the only way to lose at writing is to quit.

Keep writing!

Vonda

Read entire post »