Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Writer's Guide to the First Amendment: Private Entities Need Not Apply

The First Amendment does not apply to private individuals or entities.* This means that it does not prohibit A&E from suspending Phil Robinson of Duck Dynasty based on his comments that homosexuality is a sin. It also doesn’t prescribe how commercial businesses celebrate Christmas in their store displays and the music they play in the background. The private entity’s own beliefs or its concerns about public relations—or sometimes a contract—may govern how it treats these issues, but it isn’t bound by the First Amendment.

That’s because the amendment begins with “Congress shall make no law . . . .” It only applies to the federal government.

But wait, you say, what about states and cities and public schools? Doesn’t it cover them, too?

Technically, no. Practically, yes. It’s a convoluted path that begins with the 14th Amendment, which says in part:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

A long line of U.S. Supreme Court cases, beginning in 1925 with Gitlow v. New York, have assumed that the First Amendment is incorporated into the 14th Amendment’s due process clause. In other words, conduct which violates the First Amendment (when done by Congress) also violates the 14th Amendment (when done by a state or local governmental body). So even though conduct by a state or local government is technically governed by the 14th Amendment, it’s just easier to talk about it as a violation of the First Amendment.

If a public library bans your book because of the subject matter or the position it takes on a particular issue, you may have an argument under the First Amendment as incorporated into the 14th. If a private bookstore refuses to carry the book for the same reason, you don’t.

But you may not be able to force the library to stock it, either. Although a public library is a governmental entity, it may have a perfectly valid reason to refuse to place the book on its shelves. Freedom of speech is not an unqualified right, as we will see in future posts.  

Next week we’ll start exploring those qualifications by looking at where speech is—or is not—free.


*There are two exceptions: (1) when private individuals or entities engage in uniquely governmental functions, and (2) when government is heavily involved in the conduct of a private individual or entity. The details of these exceptions are beyond the scope of this post.

* * * * *

Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is available from and other retailers. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Friday, February 21, 2014

Surprised by Crazy, Fierce Love by Dawn Crandall

I thought I knew what I wanted. I really did.  

I was in my mid-thirties, had a terrific husband (of eight years), a cute house in a town not far from my hometown and family, the ability to write from home, a respected literary agent and a three book historical romantic suspense series making the rounds with the top Christian publishers in the industry. I was set. And completely convinced that I had everything I could ask for. Well, everything but the finalized book contract with a publisher, that is.

And then I went on vacation last summer. It was a good vacation. Planned at the last moment—like usual—but to generally the same location my husband and I visit every summer: a rustic cabin built by my husband’s grand-father and great-grandfather in 1948. This pine tree-surrounded cabin sits on a lake in Northern (as in WAY north) Maine. We drive up simply because my husband has the vacation time to spare, and we like to stop along the way and visit places like Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts and Moosehead Lake in Central Maine (where my third book is set). 

But for some strange reason, this vacation felt different. It was our eighth summer staying there and visiting extended family who are closer to me than my own cousins, aunts and uncles... but I was getting restless. I’d heard snippets of interest from a publisher earlier that summer, and my third manuscript was a finalist in a very prestigious writing contest. I was becoming a little obsessive in my thoughts about what was EVER going to happen with these books I’d poured the last four years of my life into. 

One night while staying at the cabin, my husband (being the Mainer that he is) asked to take me out for a moonlit canoe ride. We didn’t have to go far to be surrounded by the moon and a multitude of brightly shining stars. Usually, when I get to such a place all I can think about are my stories and how to make them real for readers... but this time, as we sat there silently staring at the sky I felt a question resound through me, to my heart. 

What do you want more than anything, Dawn?

My quick answer: 

I want my books to be published.

Does that seem like a silly answer to you? It didn’t to me. When I’d begun my first book (the one the publishers had in their hands), I’d written it for myself. Not to be published, but for something to do... because I wasn’t having babies. I’d always wanted to write a book. I just thought I’d do it after I got married (right out of college, of course—haha!), had my children, and they went off to school… much like the time-line of many of my writer-friends who are also my age.

But that night, as I sat there in that canoe, I realized I’d given up on all that. Nothing was happening. Not that I was jumping through hoops, popping pills, or getting fertility shots. I’d simply been told that there was NOTHING wrong with me. I’d spent too many years thinking, “Where are my babies?” that I just needed to stop. So I did. I pretended not to care. I forced myself into a submissive attitude, telling myself that it didn’t matter. If God wanted me to have babies, then I would have babies. If He didn’t, I wouldn’t. It was that simple.

However, my books… now there was something happening. They were SO CLOSE to publication and had gotten there relatively easily. I figured that was what I was meant to do. WRITE. And why not? There’s nothing I’ve enjoyed more than creating and writing an intensely complex love story to thrill my friends with. So yes, my answer made complete sense to me. It was what I’d come to want more than anything else. 

Until I got home from vacation and couldn’t write. I had my rough draft of the third manuscript finished, but there were so many things I needed to polish and add to the end of the story before it came time to go to the ACFW conference to find out the winners of the Genesis Contest in September. There I sat with the desire to write, yet I was suddenly too exhausted to think! I thought it was the fact that we’d been gone for over two weeks, which was longer than usual... but a few weeks later I had another, very odd suspicion that it was something more than that. 

My brain was in a constant fog, and I was too tired to really do anything—more tired than I’d EVER been in my entire life. And suddenly the idea of eating anything sounded disgusting?

I couldn’t fathom the truth. How could it be? It was a fact I knew all too well: Dawn couldn’t get pregnant. But slowly, cautiously, I began to really believe it. My husband took me to the grocery store that week (because I couldn’t make it on my own!) and at the end of the bread aisle I told him, “I think we need to buy a pregnancy test.”

The remembrance of the huge smile on his face when he held those two pink lines up for me to see later that evening still breaks my heart. He’d been praying and praying all those years, even after I’d given up. And suddenly, with the answer of his faithful prayers, it didn’t matter so much if my books ever got published. 

And yeah, I’d thought I knew what I wanted a month before... that week when I'd been asked, and God went into action to immediately prove me wrong.

Photo by A Portrait of a Lady Photography
I was wrong. So wrong.

I’m now six and a half weeks from my baby’s due date... AND I was finally blessed with a three-book contract with Whitaker House Books earlier this winter. I still want both—don’t get me wrong—but nothing compares to feeling the surprising, crazy, fierce love I have for this baby wiggling inside as it grows bigger and stronger.... Not even the joy of completing a 90K manuscript that a publisher actually finds worthy of publishing under their name.

Throughout this pregnancy, although I am quite nervous about the strange mixture of having a newborn baby and a three book contract to deal with at the same time, I can’t help but constantly think back to the two verses that I long ago picked out as the themes for my first book and how they ended up being not just for my heroine, Amaryllis Brigham, but for me too. 

Ephesians 3:20 ~ Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us...”

James 1:17 ~Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change...”


Dawn Crandall writes long inspirational historical romantic suspense from first person point of view and is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency. Her debut series will release in 2014 through Whitaker House Books. 

Photo by A Portrait of a Lady Photography
She is the Secretary for
the Indiana ACFW Chapter as well as an associate member of The Great Lakes ACFW Chapter. She has a Bachelor Degree in Christian Education from Taylor University. 
Dawn's first completed manuscript, Amaryllis Brigham, was a 2013 ACFW Genesis Contest Semi-Finalists as well as a 2012 Clash of the Titles Olympia Contest Semi-Finalist, her second, Meredyth Summercourt, was a 2012 ACFW Genesis Contest Semi-Finalist, and her third, Estella Everstone, was a 2013 ACFW Genesis Contest Finalist. All three are part of her debut series which will release from Whitaker House Books starting in 2014.

Dawn hosts a book review blog called A Passion for Pages and tweet those reviews at @dawnwritesfirst. She also has a Facebook Author Page.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

If You Write Romantic Suspense….

A little over a week ago, Love Inspired Suspense announced a search for new authors.

There are four stages in this fantastic opportunity for writers, The Search for a Killer Voice.

Start with sending in your first page, due by March 14. Editors will announce who moves on by March 28.

Those who continue will next submit a synopsis, due by April 7.

If your synopsis passes muster, the next submission will be the first three chapters, due May 8.

Writers whose chapters wow the editors will be requested to send in the full manuscript. Those will be due by June 9.

Final results will be announced August 8 in a blog post that shares the thoughts of the editors, announces any sales, and gives result statistics.

What do you say to an opportunity like that except wow? And definitely thank you!

If you’d like to read the entire announcement, you can find it on the Harlequin community thread.

There, you can also find writing guidelines for the LIS line, submission guidelines, and a post about writing a killer first page.

If you think you have what it takes to write inspirational romantic suspense {and many of you do already!}, why not give it a go?

Happy writing!

Meghan Carver is a 2013 ACFW Genesis semi-finalist and the author of several articles and short stories. After achieving a Juris Doctorate from Indiana University and Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Millikin University and completing a brief stint in immigration law, Meghan heard God calling her to be at home. Now homeschooling her six children with her college professor husband, Meghan has returned to her first love of writing. She blogs about homeschooling and homemaking at

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Path to Writing

By Kelly Bridgewater

          I wanted to share my path to writing, as a way to introduce myself. 
      My father handed me a journal when I was eight years old and told me to write my thoughts and emotions, either good or bad. As a young girl, I only wrote in the journal when I felt I was treated wrong by my parents. As an immature little woman, I wrote in big, red letters about “hating my parents.” Being angry, I blanketed those pages with hurtful words and wasted space to write important things.
            When I turned thirteen years old, I received True Friends by Robin Jones Gunn. An avid reader of The Baby-sitters Club and Sweet Valley High, I never knew about Christian fiction. My father drove me to the closest Christian bookstore and introduced me to the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I was in love. I wanted to enter Narnia. This started my journey on becoming a writer.  
            My best friend, Robin Allgire, and I played for hours in her side yard, using our imaginations. We created houses and invisible lands out of nothing. After returning home, I recreated the action in my journals. I enjoyed remembering the movement of the games we played.
            During high school, I signed up to write for the school’s newspaper and took upper level creative writing classes. I couldn’t wait to write. Either fiction or non-fiction. I did not care. I just wanted my name on a piece of writing that I poured my heart and soul into.
            In college, I declared creative writing as my minor and English as my major. I loved taking classes and being assigned to read, discuss, and write about different writers.
            But my heart kept tugging toward fiction writing. I proceed to graduate school and earned my MA in Writing after completing a creative thesis in May 2012. Since high school, I wrote Christian fiction, which was not always received well by the secular instructors.
            In 2013, I took a chance and attended the ACFW conference. I had an appointment with Ronie Kendig who said, “I had the voice of a suspense writer with clear and concise writing.” My heart jumped for joy. The road to writing has not always been easy, but God keeps telling me to write.

What is your path to writing? How does God affirm your choice to be a writer?

  Kelly Bridgewater holds a B.S. in English and a M.A. in Writing from Indiana State University on the completion of a creative thesis titled Fleeting Impressions, which consisted of six original short stories. She has been published in the Indiana State University Literary Journal, Allusions, with her stories titled “Moving On” and “Life Changing Second.” In fall 2011, she presented her essay, Northanger Abbey: Structurally a Gothic Novel, at the Midwestern American Society of 18th Century Studies Conference. Kelly’s writing explores the ideas of good prevailing over evil in suspense. Kelly and her husband reside with their three boys and two dogs.