Thursday, October 18, 2018

Iron Sharpens Iron--The Conference Season

The Big Dance, the national ACFW Conference of 2018, has taken its place in history. Much as I would’ve loved it, I didn’t get to attend for a variety of reasons. However the writing world is filled with conferences and retreats—Christian, secular, romance writers, children’s writers, state and regional gatherings. All have something good to offer—an opportunity to learn the craft, gather information on trends, and rub shoulders with agents, editors, and writers. Each event has its own distinct flavor.

Annually, I budget  a specific amount to attend a conference somewhere. So this year, for the first time, I went to the Breathe Conference at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Beautiful campus dressed in glorious fall colors! The conference lasted two days and was chock full of breakout sessions. There were so many good ones to choose from that I’ll order several recorded sessions that I missed.

Here’s what I got out of my weekend.

1. Spiritual refreshment. From Marvin Williams’s Sunday sermon to Jocelyn Green’s keynote speeches, The Word infused every speaker’s message. What a blessing! 

2. Specific feedback on my work. Knowing my WIP isn’t ready for prime time, I made a couple of one-on-one appointments with editors and asked, “If these first pages of a novel crossed your desk, what would be your reasons for rejecting it?” Now, that’s not as negative as it sounds since other editors have responded to queries telling me the writing is excellent, but the story “doesn’t  grab me.” The conference was an opportunity to find out exactly where I was losing the reader. Now I know what to work on.

3. Friendships nurtured. Karen, my online critique buddy also attended the conference. Members of our group, The Scriblerians, hail from as far west as Arizona, as far north as Minnesota, as far south as Texas and Louisiana, and beyond the border to Canada. We cherish every chance we get to meet up in person. Karen's purpose in attending the conference was a little different from mine. She was seeking information to build up and finesse her platform, so she concentrated on offerings about newsletters, podcasts, and the like.

Conferences can cost as little as ninety-nine dollars for a weekend (check out Taylor University’s workshop in August) or run into a couple thousand dollars depending on length, venue, and faculty. ACFW even has a free at-home conference that offers sessions concurrently with the live conference.

No matter which meeting you decide would work best for you, go for it. You won’t be sorry. By joining with others in this industry, you become a better writer. As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron.”

Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.
Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft. She still visits the school and teaches creative writing workshops.
Where Linda can be found on the web:

Saturday, October 13, 2018

A Prayer for Those Who Miss the Mark

I was supposed to have a post ready to release on this blog this morning. I was supposed to be me and not miss a deadline or commitment. I was supposed to accomplish what I’d set before me.

I was supposed to write.

But I just couldn’t. I had too much on my plate, too many deadlines and commitments. Too many Band-Aids about to come off. Something had to go, and a thoughtful post for this blog was it.

Instead I’ll offer a prayer for the too busy, for the overwhelmed, for the ‘I just couldn’t” people like me. I know you’re out there, if not today, maybe next week or next month.

Lord, whether because of circumstances or our own actions, sometimes we find ourselves so busy or overwhelmed we miss a mark. Maybe we’re skilled at planning and meeting expectations and deadlines, but that doesn’t mean we’ll never fail. Maybe we think we’ll always succeed, forgetting we’re human.

In those times, help us remember You’ll give us rest when we need it. You’ll give us a push when we need it. You’ll straighten our path if we let You. You'll be the light in a moment of regret warranted or not. And You’ll love us no matter what, because You are a loving God..

Thank You, Lord. That’s what we need more than accomplishment. We always do.


Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries (Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with more than thirty years of experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she has posted articles about the writing life. She is also a regular contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, live in central Indiana. They have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren.

photo credit:

Saturday, October 6, 2018

How Do You See the World?

Fifty years ago, the evangelical Christian philosopher Francis A. Schaeffer made us mindful of this question. He taught that we not only communicate how we see the world, but we try to sharpen our readers' perceptions of the world, transforming their sight to insight.

I invite you to review your work in progress, giving particular attention to the worldview you convey through it. See if you describe the world as a Bible-believing Christian understands it or as a cynical, fatalistic writer would.

Here are a few characteristics of a faithful Christian worldview. Under each one, I quote a passage from Indiana ACFW member Colleen Coble’s 2016 novel, Mermaid Moon.

A Christian worldview is one in which…

1. Evil is a genuine, destructive force that we must guard against.

Mallory sighed and followed. Her daughter had no idea just how unsafe the world could be, how quickly life could go from perfect to shattered beyond repair. One mistake and the world could change. She knew that only too well.

She turned and stared after the van. Something bad could’ve happened because she’d been late. She had to be extra vigilant

2. Christians suffer genuine loss.

Her father never locked the house, and she opened the weathered red door. The familiar scent of pipe tobacco wafted up her nose as stepped into the foyer. It had been so long since she’d been here, too long. The pale-yellow walls showed a few more chips in the plaster, and she stepped into the living room. The plaid sofa her parents had bought in the seventies still held its spot to the left of the fireplace. Her gaze went to the green leather recliner facing the fireplace. The indentation of her father’s body remained in the cushion, and she resisted the impulse to step over and put her hand on the seat.

3.  Christians sometimes do wrong--and admit it.

Mallory gave a jerky nod as she settled into the chair on the other side of the table. The elephant in the room wasn’t going away without talking about it. “Look, we might as well get it all out in the open. I didn’t treat you very well. I’m sorry.”

Even now, the apology seemed too little too late, and her guilt over the way she’d treated all of them only added to the blood on her hands.

4. Christians seek the forgiveness of those they've wronged.

Sadie turned her face toward DeAnn.“Why did you go away, Mommy?”

That made DeAnn flinch. Surely she must have known that would be the first question Sadie asked…If she lied to Sadie, this experiment was over.

“I’m sorry I left. I have no good excuse. You’re a wonderful little girl, and any mommy would be proud to have you for her little girl. I hope you can forgive me.”

God is aware of what we do.

Aunt Blanche shook her finger in her face. “Mallory Blanchard, you stop that right now. Do you think any of this took God by surprise? Do you think you have the power to change what he’s ordained and set in motion? We all do things we wish we hadn’t, but God doesn’t strike us dead for it. Nor does he exact a dreadful retribution. Have you been walking around all these years thinking this was all your fault?”

6.  Yet God does not abandon us because of what we've done.

"Don't do what I did and ruin your life because you think that's all you deserve...All we can do is learn from our mistakes. We can't go back and change them. God isn't holding it over your head, you know. You're the only one doing that."

7. So we can seek God's wisdom for the decisions we face.

 ...Mallory let her thoughts wander as she drove to her aunt's. She had to make a decision soon. Haylie would be out of school in another few weeks, and if they were going back to Bangor, that would be the time to make a move.

What was the right thing to do? She'd prayed for wisdom, but she had no clear sense of direction yet.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it illustrates what I mean by writing with a Christian worldview: Christian fiction writers see the same world that fatalists see, but we see it as God’s world. For this reason, we focus the lens of our narratives on God’s compassion and providence within the world.

Theologian Georgia Harkness observes that "so many people believe life to be meaningless and the hope set forth by Christian faith to be illusory that [fatalists] 'speak to their condition.' There are moments of humor and of brightness and pleasure in such writing, as in life, but for the most part the impression left is that fate condemns man to suffering and sordidness in a meaningless world" (The Providence of God, 53).

We are called, not just to "speak to the condition" of fallen humanity, but to speak of the hope that is ours through the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of our world. Thanks, Colleen, for these skillful examples of how to do it.

Joe Allison has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth and daughter Heather. His non-fiction books include Setting Goals That Count and Swords and Whetstones.