Thursday, January 17, 2019

Promises Yet to Be Kept

Some days I wonder if God will see me all the way through to publishing a novel. I’m sure He started me on this journey. He’s gifted me with joy in creating the story, joy in writing it down, joy in learning how to make my writing better and revising it as I learn. And yet…no promised reward.

The situation reminds me of a parallel in the lives of my little granddaughters.

The Christmas presents had all been opened. The debris of empty boxes, crumpled wrapping paper, and ribbons had been cleared away. The granddaughters had walked their baby dolls in the stroller, put together some puzzles, played catch with the giant ball, cooked dinner in their miniature kitchen, and scanned groceries into their cash register. Nona (me) was exhausted. The girls showed no signs of slowing down
“Nona, will you read this to us?”

The three-year-old slapped a book into my lap. Her two-year-old sister stood next to her with another selection of reading material.

I stared at a hundred puzzle pieces strewn across the carpet, the other toys scattered in various corners of the room.

“Okay. And after I read the stories, we’re going to clean up the puzzle pieces.”

By the end of both books, they seemed to have forgotten the agreement. “Play ‘Ashes Fall Down?’” the younger girl asked.

“When you clean up the puzzle pieces, we can play ‘Ashes Fall Down,’” I promised.

The girls stared at the daunting task before them. They knew their Nona kept her promises. After all, the promised Christmas presents showed up under the tree at just the right time. But my latest promise was conditional upon a given task, and they didn’t know where to begin.

I gave them a nudge. Picking up the empty bag that was supposed to hold the pieces, I directed them to pick up a few at a time and drop them in. They could do that. After several trips around the room, every puzzle piece arrived at its home in the bag.

Notice the order: 1) the girls made a request. 2) I answered with a promise conditional upon specific behaviors. 3) The girls completed their end of the bargain with a little assistance from me, BUT I did not do their work. 4) I kept my promise.

Doesn’t God do the same with us? We make a request. He answers with a promise, sometimes conditional, sometimes not. We have to follow through. He follows through.

As I make messes in my writing attempts, there are moments when I don’t know what to do to clean it up. I’m juggling so many tasks—writing, queries, proposals, conferences, writing courses, study materials—where do I start?

God gives me a nudge. He shows me the first step in the first task, and I think, “I can do that much.” And I do.

Once the girls accomplished their chore, we played  the promised “Ring Around the Rosy,” that age-old song-game that 21st century preschoolers still love to play. And once I accomplish the chores God has for me in writing, He will come through with His promise, too.

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 12, 2019

Writers Nurturing Writers

by Jean Kavich Bloom

My husband and I didn’t plan or push for our children to be writers, yet they are. Apparently we watered the right garden.

Our two sons write professionally. One is a screenwriter and the other is a copywriter, and they’ve both written books. After working for a time in the publishing field, our daughter, who has a master’s degree in comparative literature, is now a dedicated homeschooling mom who teaches her children writing as they move through each grade level.

We nurtured writers without even realizing it. That nurturing doesn’t have to come from family, of course, but our accidental nurturing might demonstrate some ways we can all nurture other writers intentionally, no matter their age or where they are in their writing journey.

Encourage Reading 
My husband and I are daily readers. As I grew up, trips to the library were exciting, and discovering a friend had every single Nancy Drew book for me to borrow was glorious. Oh, how I wanted my children to be readers, too, and they were. They are. Introducing my daughter to my favorite book to this day, Anne of Green Gables, was fun, and today she reads both fiction and nonfiction every chance she gets. Like a lot of boys, my sons read comic books, but they soon moved on, and today some of their heavy-duty reading choices just about put me to shame. Reading words informs their writing words.

How can you inspire aspiring writers to read?

Encourage “Viewing” 
Although our screenwriter son takes first place, we all like movies in our family. The earliest live-action film I can remember my kids adoring was The NeverEnding Story, which hooked them on story forevermore. Story in film is delivered with dialogue as well as image. I’m intrigued by how the dialogue can be honed until it shines and communicates exactly what the filmmakers want for their audiences. And who can’t repeat a favorite line from a favorite movie? Stellar film dialogue can inform stellar dialogue in any writing, and I think the magic of movies nurtured my children’s love of words. Live theater works too!

What films or theater productions with stellar dialogue can you recommend to other writers?

Encourage Discussing 
One day my older son said, “Other families sit around the table and talk about sports or politics. Our family debates word choices.” (This is the same son who now routinely defeats me at Scrabble.) Of course, to the degree our three were interested in other topics, we discussed those, too, but our being a wordy-nerdy family is what struck him as unique. I’m not sure how we got that way, but there we were. Today their vocabularies far exceed mine. Really. They do.

When and where can you discuss the creative process of writing with other writers?

Not every writer comes from a breeding-ground-for-writers family, whether that ground was watered intentionally or not. And families can't take all the credit anyway; God hands out gifts, and their recipients must develop them. But ask yourself, Where has my writing been nurtured by others? In a family of relatives, perhaps before I even realized I had the writing bug? In a family of friends, encouragers, teachers, or mentors? And how did they nurture my writing?

Why ask yourself these questions? Because realizing how our writing has been nurtured can help us know how to intentionally nurture other writers.

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. She is a regular contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. An aspiring novelist, 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:

Friday, January 4, 2019

Writer's Boot Camp

I seldom make extreme statements, but here’s one I can make without fear of contradiction: I never keep New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve made them, of course—lots of them—with good intentions and firm resolve, but I’ve never kept at them very long. Yes, I’ve tried starting over. And over. And over. Yet none of those brave restarts have resulted in a permanent change of my life. If you’ve had better success with your resolutions, more power to you (as if you need it), but I confess that I haven’t. Never have.

This is why writing coach Rachel Federman believes we’re not likely to become productive writers through resolutions. It's too easy to be distracted by other important things. Instead we need to go full-bore into writing every day, day after day, like Army recruits in boot camp.

Soldiers in boot camp don’t expect to begin their training when conditions are just right. Conditions in boot camp are far from “just right.” The weather is hot and wet, the mosquitoes and deer flies bite voraciously, and the latrines are better left to your imagination!

These soldiers learn combat skills by engaging in combat all day long. ­­They have no higher priority, though they certainly have plenty of distractions, and we can count on the same. Federman says:

Count on writing when someone’s asking what’s for dinner and jackhammers are pounding away out your window. Count on writing on the back of a stained notepad with a pencil that really needs to be sharpened and is barely showing up. Count on writing when you have company. Counting on writing when you desperately want to crawl under the covers. Count on writing when you are getting nauseous on a bus to Boston. Writing is the way you keep yourself on the path. And that path is more writing…[1]

You may be tempted to say, I’ll buy a copy of Federman’s book and learn more about this“boot camp” idea. Beware: Federman’s book is nearly impossible to find in the USA because it was published in England. 

That’s OK. It’s not the book you need, but the experience of writing. Every day. Every night. For a month. And when you reach the end of that month, you’ll wake the next day hankering to write more. That’s why you go to boot camp.

[1]Rachel Federman, Writer’s Boot Camp (London: HarperCollins, 2016), 19.

Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and 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.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

God's Gift of Passion

As we prepare for Christmas—the family get-togethers, the baking, the decorating the shopping for everyone on our gift list—the topic of God’s gifts to us is a natural extension of the Reason for the Season. Yes, Jesus is the greatest gift God gave us, but He is generous with a million other tokens of His affection. And for this particular blog site, the most appropriate gift to discuss is the gift of passion, the passion  to write, in particular.

God gives every one of his human creations a passion for something. Often more than one something. And over time, He blesses us with additional passions. 

As a child, I enjoyed writing stories. I liked to sing. But above all else, at the age of four, I knew I would be a teacher. I taught my own nursery school the summer before I entered junior high. I taught Sunday school to fifth-graders when I was sixteen. My greatest joys in college were the days I could go to schools and teach a lesson plan developed in one of my courses. The idea of grading papers every evening was intoxicating (after forty years of the task, not so much). Although I didn’t teach full time while my children were young, I indulged my passion through subbing, tutoring, and part time teaching.

During my teen years, I assumed music was also a passion, but as I matured I realized there’s a difference between talent and passion. God had gifted me with musical talent. I chose a double major of music education and special education just so I could develop my musical abilities. Professionally, I would have made a mediocre musician, at best. The voice was good, but the passion was missing. No spark, no sense of “If I can’t sing and share music with the whole world, life will be a disappointment.” I was content to sing in church, choirs or solos, but to make a career of it? No. I didn’t even like teaching music to kids who had no love for it, much less a passion.

As I approached retirement years, God renewed my love of writing. He gets total credit since writing a novel would never have occurred to me, considering my focus on teaching. He didn’t send a thunderbolt to ignite my passion. It kind of crept up on me. He used my empty nest, allowing me a little more time to write without sports events to attend spring, summer, winter, and fall.

The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. My passion to teach had gained a rival. Each year, the passion to write intensified, and the love of teaching dwindled.

Writing qualifies as my main passion now. Unlike singing, it’s not simply an enjoyable pastime. If I can’t write something daily, even a paragraph in my journal, I feel I missed out on an exciting experience. I want to make stories from my imagination come alive to readers, and I want to share insights I’ve gained from a lifetime with the Lord. I only hope my words are inspirational to others and pleasing to Jesus.

I still do a little teaching via small groups in my church. And it dawns on me—writing IS a form of teaching. Instead of a classroom, my students sit with a cup of coffee at home reading my little essays or my inspirational stories.

Rather than asking for comments regarding God's writing pathway for you, I have a question for you instead.

Would you be willing to share your writing passion story in our quarterly newsletter?

I can picture us inspiring one another, each with a unique tale of God’s goodness in our lives. My first thought is to title it “Publish the Passion.” The idea did hit me like a thunderbolt, and since thunderbolts are notoriously unstable, I would want a good deal of feedback before initiating our personal testimonials as a regular feature.

So let me know. I look forward to hearing from you!

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: