Friday, January 26, 2018

Balancing the Gift

If you’re looking for great writing tips, you won’t find any here. I may repeat something I’ve heard, or read, but there are experts, and enough seasoned writers around able to give good advice. I’m still learning the craft—the rules—how-to’s—and generally the art of balancing it all. For me, the last one is the most challenging. 

I’ve struggled with validation, social media, and a myriad of expectations. Then I remember why I write. 

Deuteronomy 4:19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.

The gift became an object of worship.

So if writing, singing, or any other talent is given by God, we must strive to find the balance of enjoying the gift, learn how to hone it, but never let it become greater than its purpose—honoring God with it. For writers that means letting God decide whether a manuscript is published, or sits in a drawer that never sees the light of day, with the realization that God is the one glorified either way.

Hang in for the long ride and blessings on your journey.

Penelope makes her home in Indiana, where she lives with her family and serves in her church. A student of the Word, she occasionally teaches Bible studies or Precepts. She holds a BS from Methodist College and a MS from Boston University, but is pursuing the life of a writer.

A Powerful Voice and A Furrow So Deep are Christian Romances published through Anaiah Press, LLC.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Ah, January. As Hoosiers know, that’s the month of heavy clouds, short days, and cold that takes your breath away. And you can’t forget all those flagging good intentions regarding resolutions for the new year.

I try to make a few small goals instead of life-altering resolutions and here’s one for this year that I’m sure isn’t typical: I’m making an effort to water our houseplants more frequently. Yes, you read that right. I’m the worst at houseplants. I love them, but I can’t keep them alive for anything. My husband will walk by one and mention how sad or droopy or crunchy it looks. And that’s when I realize it’s probably been a few weeks since I last watered. Oops!

Just like those droopy plants, our writing spirits can get dry and crispy if we don’t take care of them. I’ve been going through a time like that, myself. I felt uncreative and unmotivated, which made me doubt myself and my writing. So, I didn’t write.

When the well of creativity dries up like that, what’s a writer to do?

Seek nourishment. Just like my sad little houseplants, we all need it from time to time. Even when things are going well, our spirits can get tired and dry.

Here are a few things I’m sure we all know will help, but can sometimes forget:

1.      Take a break
If you aren’t working on a tight deadline, a few days off can help refocus your mind on what you need to write. I know myself well enough to realize that the pressure to keep going will drain me if I try to push through without a day off here and there. And it provides the perfect chance to catch up on that reading writers need to do but have trouble fitting in!

2.      Get a change of scenery (or just pace)
Maybe you always write at home, at your desk. Try getting out and writing at a quiet coffee shop or the library. Maybe take a notebook and brainstorm while people-watching at the mall. It might just take moving to a different room or handwriting instead of typing for a while.

Sometimes I’ll stop writing and work up a few ideas for my next project to get the creativity flowing again. After my last deadline, I took a few weeks to try my hand at a short story in a completely different genre. Big or small, a change can help get you excited about writing again.

3.      Refresh your spiritual life
I love that God used words to reveal Himself to us in the Bible and that we can point others to Him with the words He gives us. But it only works if we stay connected to Him. Even for those who are faithful in Bible reading and prayer time, the daily practice can get routine at times. Try writing out your prayers in a notebook. Maybe you always follow a certain Bible reading plan. Add a journal to write a verse that stands out from the day’s passage. Or change to a devotional or Bible study to cover a book of the Bible.

Next time you’re feeling a slump coming on, don’t despair! And don’t be afraid to try something different.

I’d love to know, what’s your favorite way to reignite the creativity?

Abbey Downey never expected her love for writing to turn into a career, but she’s thankful for the chance to write inspirational romance as Mollie Campbell. A life-long Midwestern girl, Abbey lives in Central Indiana, where her family has roots back to the 1840s. She couldn’t be happier spending her days putting words on paper and hanging out with her husband, two kids, and a rather enthusiastic beagle.

You can check out Abbey’s books at

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Steak or Pasta?

Do you ever go out to dinner with your spouse or other loved ones and try to decide which restaurant? My husband and I go through this decision-making process every time. 

Occasionally, one of us has a specific desire. “I am definitely in the mood for meat and potatoes.”
Most times, the conversation goes like this.

Him: Where do you want to go?
Me: I don’t know. Where do you want to go?
Him: I’ll go wherever you want to go.
Me: Well, steak or pasta?
Him: Whatever you want.
Me: You don’t have a preference?
Him: No. You decide.

I could switch the conversation and start with me, and the conversation would be identical! Whether we choose steak or pasta, is there a wrong decision?
Of course not.

Too often, those of us who truly want to please the Lord, end up in a similar conversation with Him. We ask Him what His will is for a particular situation. Sometimes, we get a specific answer. Other times, He seems silent. There’s a fork in the road, we don’t know which way to go, and He says…nothing.

When those times happen, I assume He’s leaving it up to me. I’ve prayed earnestly, sought His advice, and the choice remains before me. Whether I choose the left fork or the right, He’s okay with it, and it doesn’t change His overall plan for me one iota. There is no wrong decision.

As writers, we agonize over which story idea we should pursue. Sometimes, we pray and ask for direction, and God leads us definitely toward one of the ideas. Other times, we receive no guidance in response to our request.

 Let’s accept that lack of response as God saying, “Whatever you want.”

Go for the idea that appeals to you the most. God is behind you! He’ll give you inspiration. Ideas will overflow. Dialogue will come alive. Is there a wrong decision?
Of course not.

 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, January 13, 2018

Flavoring—The Difference Word Choice Can Make

Flowery prose fell out of favor long ago; it's way too sweet. And what are commonly called ten-dollar words are often inadvisable; they're way too heavy. Attempting to capture the attention of readers today with either ploy is more likely to yank them from a story before it’s hardly begun.

Spice It Up a Little—The Difference Word Choice Can Make
Ensuring word choices have enough flavor, however, makes sense. And one more round of self-editing to add more flavor to words or phrases more bland than they need to be can do the trick. 

Does Anise give her seat to an elderly woman on the bus? Maybe she can relinquish the space instead, if she'd been inclined to hold on to it at first.

Does Dunkin’s date walk across a room when she spots him waiting for her? Perhaps she glides or sashays—depending on her grace or attitude, of course.

Do the children in the church choir know the words of their song? Maybe they’ve memorized the lyrics.

Did the boss tell everyone at the office he was retiring? Or did he announce his intention?

Those alternative words and phrases still might not be the best choices, but you get the point.

Here’s an exercise for you: Open the book you’re currently reading and peruse the first few paragraphs. Do any words or phrases seem too bland or downright flat to you than necessary? If so, what words or phrases would you substitute?

This idea is not meant to criticize any author, and often the more straightforward and simple word choice is best. But sometimes a little more flavoring in the words chosen can push a book’s interest factor up a notch, right from the beginning.

Now, what word or phrase substitutions would you suggest for what I just wrote? Go ahead. Tell us. I won’t be offended!

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries 
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with thirty years of experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts 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, have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren, with foster grandchildren in their lives on a regular basis.

photo credit:

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Authentic Contradictions

Michael Hauge is a Hollywood script consultant whose plot workshop several of us attended at the ACFW conference in Indy a few years ago. He's a keen observer of what animates characters in books and movies, as well as real life, and he made this comment in his Christmas e-mail greeting:
...All those people cramming the malls and clogging the freeways and jostling onto airplanes and enduring long lines so their kids can talk to Santa are doing so in order to bring a bit of happiness to others...Their actions are all driven by a desire to offer someone else a sign of their love or affection or gratitude.
As Michael notes, our holiday actions speak more ardently than our words. We tell our friends and family how much we love them, but we make it even clearer when we brave those crowds at the mall.

On the other hand, holiday stress may cause us to act contrary to our motives. While we want to do something special for those we love, we groan at the thought of elbowing through crowds to buy gifts for them. Nerves fray. Patience fails. Emotional outbursts flare.

Just before Christmas, I overheard a woman criticizing her husband with venomous sarcasm because they had waited so long in a supermarket checkout lane. She stormed out in a fit of pique, her partner following meekly behind, and they abandoned a cart full of groceries selected for their holiday feast. Her actions contradicted her motives.

"Contradiction is character," says New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik. Be mindful of such contradictions as you write. Complex persons (i.e., authentic ones) often do just the opposite of what they intend.

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