Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What God Did

He took me by surprise. That's what He did.

Several weeks ago, an idea began noodling around in my head. Create a blog especially for kids, those middle-graders who will be my readers if I ever get pubbed. I gave a lot of thought to the blog title, settling on Quirky Quill, and came up with the logo. That was it. I slammed it into "Park" and did nothing else. Then.

This past Saturday morning, as I checked email and waited for Says You on NPR, an idea dropped through the ceiling of my room and landed smack-dab on top of my noggin. My eyebrows slammed into my hairline. An index finger shot into the air. And I hollered out (very quietly, since others were still sleeping), "THAT'S IT!

You see, before that moment, Quirky Quill had been a generic concept: do a blog for kids. But after the near-fatal collision with the IDEA I knew exactly what the site would be like. It would be for kids, 'tweens who love books--reading them and writing them. Okay, so they may not be actually writing whole novels (though I was surprised at how many do), but they are crafting stories, baby-stepping toward longer works.

The site includes writing hints, book reviews, author interviews; a page I call "Bookshelf," where I feature fiction that doesn't violate the Christian world view; a "Writer's Nudge" feature, and a "Dear Miz Sharon" page where readers can ask me questions.

I've included below an article that is Part One of a series I call "Fiction in Baby Bites"


Hook 'em! Hook 'em good!

Your BFF loves your story idea. Your dad's convinced you're a literary protégé. Grandma's boring her friends at the senior center with stories of your prowess with a pen. You have a plot. You know what's going to happen in the story--kinda, sorta. Now it's time to put that golden pen to the paper (or, more likely, those pink little fingertips to the pc keyboard) and write.

Where to begin. That's the real question. Some smart aleck might say, "At the beginning." That's not the best answer, Mr. Aleck. The beginning can be really boring, full of back-story explanation and description. You can work that in bit by bit later on, but first  hook that reader. Make 'em care. Propel them to read on.

One way to get the job done
 is to plunk them down smack-dab in the middle of the action. (The fancy, writerly term for that is in medias res. That means "in the middle of things. It's Latin.) In other words, something important already has happened. Something so big, the life of the main character (MC) will never be the same.

"How do I write something like that?" you ask. I heard you. Check out first lines and first paragraphs of good books, books that have won awards, books that you really like.

Consider these:

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Now, that one's from my all-time favorite author: God, a.k.a. Yahweh, etc. Doesn't that line just grab you by the throat? It's simple, easy to understand, and to the point. It makes readers ask, "Then what?" He goes on to tell the then what. The Book is hundreds of pages long, but it's so captivating that we have to read on. What big thing happens? Everything is created by the Book's MC, and nothing will ever be...nothing again.

Here's another:

"Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids." In medias res. The world's at war. The children are in danger from air-borne bombs, and they have to leave all they've ever known, all that's familiar. 

And another:

"That morning, after he discovered the tiger, Rob went and stood under the Kentucky Star Motel sign and waited for the school bus just like it was any other day." We guess that Rob is the MC, and though the line is delivered in a mundane way, a boy's discovering a tiger somewhere near a school bus stop is extraordinary. So then what happens? As a reader, that line hooked me--hooked me good. The book lived up to the promise delivered in that first line. BTW, the author's work has won many awards. 


"'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,' grumbled Jo, lying on the rug." What has happened? We don't know yet, except that this Jo is facing a giftless Christmas. (Can she ever endure such horror?)


"My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog." Is there a big change in the MC's life? Oh, yeah! Will anything ever be the same? Probably not. Is it a good hook line? Uh-huh. Good enough to entice some film producers to turn the award-winning book into one of my favorite movies. Do you know what it is?

It's your turn. 
  • Check out the hook lines of some of your favorite books. Choose the three you like the best, click "Comments," and tell us all.
  • You know the first Book I've mentioned above is the Bible. The others are from what books? If you think you know, click "Comments," and show how brilliant you are.

Write on!
Because of Christ,

Friday, March 23, 2012

Theology 101 For Novelists: How :"Boring" and "Divisive" Doctrine Can Make Your Story More Interesting

Angelology and eschatology can produce a best seller, but a study on harmatiology can create a deep and thrilling novel.

No, I'm not cursing at you and I'm not speaking in tongues either. And no, you don't need to grab your dictionary – I have some long words you may not be familiar with, but I'll define them.

Raise your hands if you think theology is something that can enhance your novel. I see one hand. Wait, that's my hand I see!

Some may think theology is boring. It can be but not if it's taught right. Others will say that theology is divisive. Technically, it's the differences in theology that divides.

Let me surprise you. All of you have a theology. In fact, if you're a Christian you have a belief in the ten major fields of theology and if you're not you still have views in the vast majority. You may not have it written out with notes indicating the Scriptures you appeal to for that belief or even be aware of it, but you still have a theology.

Is that enough of a shocker? Let me go a step further: Each of your characters has a theology in the ten fields I'll introduce you to. The characters might have varying theologies and these might bring about the conflict.

As I said, theology in and of itself isn't divisive. We may disagree on some of the aspects of these ten fields, but I'm sure we agree about that we have beliefs that fit in these categories. I'll be sharing these theological divisions in the order that my college curriculum covered them.

  1. BIBLIOLOGY: Doctrine of Scripture. Is it inspired? How was it inspired? Does it contain errors?

  2. THEOLOGY PROPER: Doctrine of God. What are His attributes? Is the Trinity fact or fiction?

  3. CHRISTOLOGY: Doctrine of Christ. (That was a tough one to figure out, wasn't it?!) Is Jesus Christ God in the flesh? If so, was he fully God and fully man? Was He sinless and could He have fallen into temptation?

  4. PNUEMATOLOGY: Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. What is the nature of the baptism, indwelling, and filling of the Spirit? Spiritual gifts falls into this category as well.

  5. ANTHROPOLOGY: Doctrine of man. A term not limited to Christianity. Was man created in God's image? What was the nature of the fall?

  6. HARMATIOLOGY: Doctrine of sin. What is sin and how does it affect our relationship with God and with each other?

  7. ANGELOLOGY: Doctrine of angels. (Another one that you wouldn't have guessed without help, right?!) What is the nature of angels? This field also deals with Satan and demons. Frank Peretti's Darkness series deals with this field.

  8. SOTEROLOGY: Doctrine of salvation. Are we saved by grace alone, by our good deeds, or some combination? Are we elect or do we have free will? Can we lose our salvation?

  9. ECCLESIOLOGY: Doctrine of the church. What is the nature and authority of the church? Is the local church autonomous?

  10. ESCHATOLOGY: Doctrine of last things. Is there a coming, thousand-year long Kingdom? If so, will Christ return to set it up or will the church establish it with Christ coming to claim it? Is there a coming time of testing? Will the church be there for all of it, none of it, or part of it? By the way, has anyone heard of a series which started with the book Left Behind?

As I have on my tagline, who says theology can't be thrilling? Hopefully, you no longer see theology as boring or a field that distracts from the action. And maybe you don't see it as much divisive as a great source for page turning conflict.

By the way, I am an ordained minister. I've graduated from Southwestern Conservative Baptist Bible College (now known as Arizona Christian University) in Phoenix, Arizona.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Magazine Rights, Part I

Many Christian writers aspire to be published in Guideposts. I'm not one of them.

Guideposts is a fine publication and a good choice for many writers. But it is a choice, and it isn't mine. That's because it buys all rights.

If a periodical buys all rights, it has complete control over what happens to that article or story or poem for years to come. You cannot sell it again, and you can't even post it on your website without the magazine's permission.

Selling all rights doesn't bar you from publishing another article about Aunt Maud's hat, but it must be a new article with different wording and a fresh approach. Modifying the existing article is not enough. In other words (pun intended), you may have to start all over.

Guideposts pays well and is a prestigious name to have among your credits, so some writers are happy to sell it all rights. But there are other options.

Most magazines buy first rights. This is the right to be the first to publish the article or story or poem. Similarly, first North American rights give the publication the right to be the first publisher in North America. Once the magazine has published the piece, control reverts to you and you are free to post it on your website, include it in a compilation, or resell it.

The biggest advantage of first rights is second rights--also called reprint rights. Once the first rights holder has published your article, story, or poem, you can sell it over and over again. Because a reprint isn't the public's first chance to view the piece, second rights don't usually pay as well, and some magazines won't buy them at all. But considering they are paying for work you already did, any size check is good. You can also sell the item a third time, and a fourth, and . . . . These additional sales are also second or reprint rights.

Since you can only sell first rights once, you do not want to mislead a later purchaser. When submitting the piece for subsequent publication, you should explain where and when the article previously appeared. Also, you will want to target magazines that do not compete with each other or have an overlapping audience. Denominational publications are good because Baptists don't usually read magazines aimed at Presbyterians, and Methodists rarely subscribe to periodicals meant for Roman Catholics.

One word of caution. Don't try to sell second rights while you are waiting for the first magazine to print your article, story, or poem. Even if the second periodical agrees to hold the piece until a reasonable time after the first publication, mistakes happen. And if the first magazine discovers that it didn't get the first rights it paid for, it isn't likely to give you another chance.

All rights, first rights, and reprint rights are the big three, but there are others. I'll cover the common ones next month.

Because you should know your rights before you sell that article or story or poem.

Kathryn Page Camp

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March Madness and Me

by Rachael Phillips

Pursuing a tight deadline this past February wasn't so tough. The crappy Hoosier weather encouraged long hours of writing at a computer. The gray boredom of Indiana mid-winter also contributed to my prolific outputs. Only Valentine's Day, when the love of my life offered me a tacky plastic rose that lit up like a clown's nose, interrupted my concentration.

But March weather, which usually cooperates with the worst combination of drizzle, sleet, blizzards and tornadoes, has turned traitor, tempting me outside with seductive warm temperatures, daffodils and trips to Ivanhoe's for ice cream. Even if I do my writing duty and remain inside, echoes of slamma jamma dunks, referee whistles and the drama of crowd agonies and ecstasies drift throught the cracks under my closed door, creep through the ventilating system into my office--and I salivate as if I actually sneaked off to Ivanhoe's. When I wait too long for a basketball fix, I get the shakes.

I am a basketball tourney junkie. I blame this, of course, on my childhood. I grew up with small-town Hoosier basketball: the hats-off-hands-over-hearts moment of thin civility during the playing of the national anthem. The gym-compressed Coliseum roar of a crowd segregated by school colors. The stunning, wild choreography of young bodies in and out of sync, driving, diving, shooting the basketball. The blast of songs by a slightly off-key, bobble-headed band. The joyous aboriginal screams of the winners, accompanied by tons of popcorn confetti as fans stormed the court to lift teams high above our heads, and the all-night celebrations around bonfires down by the fire station.

March Madness, with its tsunami of basketball games, messes with me, with my strict writing schedule. Even the impossible-odds games lure me to the television--what if I miss the one game in NCAA history in which the number 16 seed defeats the number one? (Or what if number one defeats number 16?)

Strangely, my passion for basketball does not translate to reporting it. I really do like writing novels, and I have figured out how to make my May deadline and still watch all the basketball I want in March.

I simply won't sleep during April.

Any other basketball/writing addicts out there? Or do you struggle with some other time/energy-sucking pastimes? If so, how do you make your daily word counts?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Confession of a Freelance Writer

A cold, blustery wind blew from the west, sneaking its way through the crevices in my hundred year old farmhouse. Earlier that day I’d bustled the children off to school and hubby off to work. A rare day with no call from the school to substitute and no place to go until that evening, I was home alone. With just the dog and a steaming cup of coffee to keep me company and keep me warm, I snuggled on the couch with my laptop and wrote. And wrote some more.

The blowing wind and the hum of my computer masked the crunch of tires on gravel. Suddenly the hair on the dog’s back went up and then came a thundering knock on the back door. My heart hammered with panic and I shushed the dog, remaining completely still. He’ll go away if he thinks no one is home. There was no way I was answering that door. I was still in my pajamas…and it was 2 o’clock. In. The. Afternoon.
There’s a dirty little confession for you. Sometimes when I’m home alone and the day looms gray and drab and my calendar is blessedly empty, I get involved in my writing and just don’t bother to change into something more professional. It appears I’m not the only one.

At the same time that clothing companies are catering to teenagers and adults who like to wear their jammies every day, all day long, some opponents are raising an outcry. Some rail against the public wearing of pajamas calling it everything from slovenly (saying if you’re dressed for bed you won’t be at your best) to a health hazard (because people usually don’t shower before they put on nightclothes and bacterial infections could lead to death—seriously, this is what someone argued!). They wonder what will become of our nation if we permit people to wear their pj's in public. Will underwear be acceptable next? Maybe we’ll become so lazy as to not wear clothing at all? I think not. (And for the record, when my kids were little and we had “Pajama Day”, they always took a bath that night and changed into clean jammers. Take that, Commissioner Williams!)

Michael Williams (see health hazard reference above), a Louisiana parish commissioner ,even went so far as to negate the wearing of nightclothes in public by proposing a law. (At this writing it has been put to bed for the time-being.) How would you like that job added to your list of duties if you were a Louisiana police officer? Upholding the peace, responding to emergencies, risking your life, and barring the wearing of bedclothes.

I won’t be sporting my sleepwear to the grocery, the bank, or my child’s sporting event. But to say that people who don’t change out of their nightshirts into neckties are lazy or unproductive? To this I say, “Hogwash!” If I can get an entire day’s worth of work or writing done, not dirty more laundry, and stay comfy in my flannels that’s a win-win-win. The only thing I can’t do is answer the door to the UPS guy.

Nikki Studebaker Barcus

Friday, March 16, 2012

Let's hear it for the boy ( ... man, actually ...)

Today is my 21st wedding anniversary to my cute, funny Christian husband.

Although I started out looking for a Christian man who liked children and animals many years before I met him, I never imagined Mr. Wonderful was kind of looking for a writer, as well as a red-head who was interested in farming.

My mom, of course, hoped I would find a Christian man who liked children and animals AND someone who came from a German farm family. I started to be amused during my single years how Mom would repeat the last name of current Mr. Wonderful and ask, "Now, is that a German name ...?"

Back to writing ... when we met and during our early years, I was a news reporter. Then when we started our family, I was a stay-at-home mom and farm wife.

All along, I kept writing and my dear husband kept being supportive. Next to my mom, he was the most sure I would be published someday.

We bought computers and printers and ink and piles of paper. (Let's not talk about the 400-page manuscript which I sent, unsolicited, in its entirety, to a very large Christian publisher.) He gave me a guy's perspective on many issues. He read summaries and excerpts. I did not subject him to whole manuscripts because dairy farmers' lives take place between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., or between rounds of milking and chores. He barely had time for news, weather and commodity prices. He even helped work out how an 1850s farmer would make hay in Indiana -- what equipment they would use and how many days a cutting would take to get in the barn.

He took care of the kids (and at various times, cows, horses and poultry) while I went to cluster meetings and writers' conferences. He kept everything running while I went on a research trip.

Turns out his love language is gifts of service.

Without quiet support like that, I would never have had a chance to pursue my lifelong dream of being a writer (and marrying a nice German farmboy.)
I can't wait to show him what just arrived on our porch: a box containing author's copies of the novella collection "Quakers of New Garden" that includes my story!

Who else supports us in our writing? We should give them a big thank you!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

7 Questions to Ask When Finding Your Genre

Early Spring for a Writer Doesn't Always Mean You're in Full Bloom! (Had to get my photo of my crocus in here somewhere...)
 It's not always easy to know where to begin when a person starts writing. Most start off writing what they like to read, but then, get stuck in the process, realizing that they are missing something. 

And it's true that just because you love reading historical romances, maybe your voice, your time that it takes to research a time period or just you, writing in the historical genre, doesn't click. Plenty of authors have come to this place, and at least one author I know was getting rejected miserably in romantic suspense so much, it was by accident that she discovered her voice in romantic comedy. (And went on to be a New York Times Bestseller.)

So, what can you do to find that sweet spot where you write best? Here are some questions to think and pray about so you can perhaps get there faster. Or if you're being rejected over and over, do consider these questions--before quitting or hiring someone to work over your manuscripts.

  •  What are you passionate about?
  • What gives you energy and motivates you?
  • What shows up over and over in your stories--or in the stories you love to read?(What is the true thread in your writing?)
  • What is important to you creatively? (Educate, scare, entertain, enlighten, explore...)
  • Do you have a personal cause or agenda that defines you? (Already established a platform?)
  • What stories did you love as a child? (And if you've read any of the When I Was Just a Kid interviews that I do, you'll often see a thread that connects the child with the writer she grows up to be. Be sure to email me if you'd like to be featured in a When I Was Just a Kid interview. I have one planned soon, but will start taking more soon.)
  • What genre truly is best for your writing style and for your interests?

I've struggled over some of these very things and have come to some surprising answers, and still am discovering some. Maybe these will help you, or maybe you have a few other questions to ask that we could learn from in our journeys. 

Crystal Laine Miller

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What a Writer Might Give Up for Lent

Ash Wednesday came and went more than two weeks ago. That evening my sons and I chuckled over what people give up for Lent--chocolate, French fries, sodas, TV--in the forty days of preparing for Easter.

The Youngest said, "Why not sin?"

A great idea! Giving up a good gift gives us a taste of the sufferings of Christ, but releasing the grip on favorite vices can be a sign of real repentance.

This is my first time to ponder this enigmatic season. It requires grasping two concurrent truths: my wretchedness sent my Beloved to an excruciating, humiliating death and that excruciating, humiliating death revealed my Beloved's incomparable glory. What's more, because death was powerless to hold Him, death is powerless to hold me.

So this season demands sober reflection on writerly sins:

        jealousy: Why don't I succeed like her?

        fear of man: What's the market? What do people want to 

        sloth: The writing will just work itself out.

        pity: Why does writing have to be so hard?

        comparison: Your work is okay, but mine is great.

        pride: I am all that.

They aren't just bad. They are death.

Oh, that this season would birth new life through believing God's words.

        As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in 
        whom is all my delight.

        I know that it will be well with those who fear God.

        Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and    
        befriend faithfulness.
        Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the 
        desires of your heart.
        Commit your way to the LORD; trust also in him, 
        and he will act.

        Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on 
        earth that I desire besides you.
        My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength 
        of my heart and my portion forever.

        Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some 
        of those who are commending themselves. But when they 
        measure themselves by one another and compare themselves
        with one another, they are without understanding.

        Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his 
        wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not 
        the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts 
        boast in this, that he understands and knows me, 
        that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice,    
        and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, 
        declares. the LORD."

        "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

He sears like an iron and pours balm on the wounds. Next year, this season, may you and I join the psalmist in this invitation:

        Come and hear, all you who fear God, 
        and I will tell you what he has done for my soul.

        (Scripture taken from Ps 16:3; Ecc 8:12; Ps 37:3-5;  
         Ps 73:25-26; 2 Cor 10:12; Jer 9:23; Jas 4:6; Ps 66:16,


Friday, March 9, 2012

Writing AND Speaking

Thanks, Hoosier Inkers, for your recent blogs! They've been great! I didn't leave any comments for several weeks, but I did send good vibes your way/s. . . hope you sensed them!

Recently, I've been focusing on my speaking for this year. I rarely seek speaking engagements, but fortunately, they find me. As much as I enjoy writing, I enjoy even more sharing with an interested audience the topics God has led me to in my writing. And a plus for me (and I pray for my readers, too), after I speak is when I sell lots of books.

At the beginning of each new year, I pray about my speaking focus for the year. Of course, it's natural for me to speak about the topics of my novels, especially the overseas settings: China or Taiwan or Sweden or the Holy Land. But I don't want my sharing just to inform and entertain. I also want to inspire, especially spiritually. So that's the focus I pray about.

This year my focus is STORY. But not just my story! Using a few examples from my books, this year I'm challenging my audiences to record and share often with their family and others at least ONE important story (memoir) from their own lives. At two speaking events this past week, I was surprised that only two individuals had already done so. On the other hand, everyone liked the idea of doing ONE story. That's so manageable!

I'm not positive, but I think I sold more books than usual this week. Maybe because I involved my audiences to a higher degree? (Or maybe because both audiences were repeats and eager for my Hungry River sequel, Dragon Wall?)

I would appreciate hearing about your speaking focuses, especially those you feel are God-inspired. And I'm sure the readers of this blog would, too. So how about taking a moment to "speak" to us via a comment?

Writing AND speaking blessings,
Millie Samuelson
Yesterday's Stories for Today's Inspiration

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Winds of Change on Social Networking

I've been waiting to see which way the wind blows when it comes to social networking. The wait-and-see attitude has worked pretty well for me in the past. I've never seen a movie the first day of release. After trusted reviews I invest only in those I'm sure to enjoy. I've never been eager to get the newest, latest, greatest version of computers, but then I didn't get stuck with a version of Windows that had more bugs than a patio in summer.

I've also been dragging my feet on the social media frontier. I've been hoping that the whirlwind of offerings would settle to a Best of the Best that I would implement. I don't think that is going to happen for a few years as Pinterest and others continue to be added to the Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube that already exist. Who knows where it will end?

Mashable predicts social media use will continue to rise, but sharing will decrease, except in regard to personal achievement. I think we've already seen this. Hoosier Ink blogs average 80 hits, yet comments may be two or three. Has blogging become the equivalent of newsprint in that what's read will be shared with people in real time, but a letter to the editor is rarely posted?

Online offerings are overwhelming, but as with hard print, those products that have both quality and keen promotion will survive. That's hard reality for those hoping to garner an audience. Why bother?

We are social beings and social media connects us with those we know and with those of similar interests whom we would never have known in real life. It provides a platform to announce our achievements and a way to track responses to what we do. Its profound impact is that we can more immediately relate to a wider range of people.

Social media is here to stay and may soon be as standard as electricity or running water. Waiting to engage can be detrimental to a writing career. Like it or not, it's time. I feel like Hansel and Gretel entering the woods knowing breadcrumbs aren't going to lead me home. So I appeal to you. Which social media platforms have helped you? What experiences do you regret? What would you do differently? What do you wish it could do for you that it doesn't already?

Do you suppose if instead of good morning or good night the standard greeting will ever be, "How many hits have you had today?"

Monday, March 5, 2012

What inspires you?

Source: Wikimedia Commons
As imaginative writers, many things inspire us: sunsets, mountains, romantic candlelight. Maybe it’s a memory of our childhood, a nightmare, or our latest trip to the mall. We're constantly people watching, thinking up new plot lines, creating “what if” scenarios in our minds.

We go to conferences to learn the logistics of fashioning a book,meeting agents or networking with publishers. We spend valuable time on group emails, building an online platform, and gathering friends on Facebook. There’s nothing wrong with doing these things. It’s part of the job. We need to be the best that we can be and  fellowship with other writers to feel inspired, encouraged or validated.

Sometimes, though, we look too hard for inspiration, when as Christians, we have it inside of us. Sadly, we may forget it’s there, or worse, ignore it.

Job was someone in the Bible who got a lot of advice. He was surrounded by “encouraging” nay sayers who shared their expert opinions: “Quit! Give up! Die!” 

But Job knew where to look for inspiration. He knew Who to listen to:

“But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment” (Job 8 & 9, KJV).

As writers in these last days, we need to work smart, not hard. It’s tempting to take the hard road of going to and fro picking up tidbits here and there. We can wear ourselves out being afraid we might miss some morsel of a publishing secret or writing trend, when all we need to do is get quiet and listen.

To Him.

“What is it you want to say today, Lord? What words do you want on this page?”

I wonder sometimes—do we hurt the Holy Spirit’s tender feelings when we ignore His ideas? His inspiration? How would we feel if we were telling someone the perfect way to succeed but they never took our advice? What makes us think we have better ideas than God?

I am often inspired by thoughtfulness, grief, and the spirit of the overcoming soul. Courageous athletes, cancer survivors, pianists playing Rachmaninoff—these folks receive my awe and attention. But I must remember that my most powerful inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit. He knows better than anyone what needs to be written. He knows better than anyone Who needs a message that God has put me on this planet to write.

He longs to inspire us. He patiently waits for us to listen. All we need do is follow Job’s example, and obey. Obeying His voice is much better than all the sacrifices we make going hither and yon for inspiration. For it is written: “…to obey is better than sacrifice…”(1 Samuel 15:22).

Karla Akins is a pastor's wife, mother of five, grandma to five beautiful little girls and author of O Canada! Her Story. She lives in North Manchester with her husband, twin teenage boys with autism, and three silly dogs. Her favorite color is purple, favorite hobby is book-hoarding, and favorite food group is cupcakes.

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Peter Pan Syndrome

Suzanne & her daughters
True confession: I don't think I'll ever grow up. Oh, I'm technically a grown up. I've got all the headaches of a grown up - bills to pay, children to raise, all the usual stuff. BUT, I think there is a big part of me that somewhere along the way refused to stop 'playing pretend'.

When I was little I was more like my children. I remember donning my mother's or even my grandmother's clothes to play 'dress up' - including shoes, jewelry and the like. As a writer, I don't usually go to the extreme of dressing up like my characters, but I had the opportunity this summer to visit a local treasure called Conner Prairie up near Fishers, Indiana. If you are at all interested in history it is worth the trip.

While walking through the Conner homestead (resembling an 1836 prairie town) it hit me how awesome imagination can be. Around every corner was a new opportunity to pretend you lived there and fill the town with crazy neighbors, rugged heroes, and every day challenges. My daughters loved it when I jumped in and dressed up with them in some provided costumes for the photo above, but I realized the truth to be that nothing provided came close to the costuming and conversations I was picturing in my head.

Even in more modern settings, a snatch of conversation can stimulate my mind to manufacture an entire back story for the people I've overheard. And I love it! Even if the stories I make up aren't their 'real' story, I feel this ability makes me more understanding of others ... more compassionate. How can that be a bad thing?

So I don't think I'll ever be done 'playing pretend' - even if I mostly do it in my mind, or on my computer screen via keyboard. And I know that amongst fiction writers I have many kindred spirits. How about it everyone, off to Neverland?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Which Stories Affected You?

When I was in seventh grade, our family visited relatives in Detroit. In the course of the evening, someone turned on a TV and flipped channels to a movie titled The Great Escape. I started watching. Understand that I had no special interest in war or movies about wars. It was just a story. However, as I sat watching this film, which was adapted from a non-fiction book by the same name, my horizons rapidly widened.
In case you're not familiar with the actual events, in World War II the Germans created Stalag Luft III, a prison camp for captured Allied airmen. Even though they were prisoners, these men considered it their patriotic duty to attempt escape. By escaping, they could either make their way back to England, or else they would confuse and harass German troops, who would waste time tracking them down instead of actually fighting on the front. In the end, 76 men escaped in one night. Only 3 made it home, and the Germans machine-gunned the majority of those they captured as a warning against future escapes.

The film captivated me so much that later I read the actual book by Paul Brickhill, who had been a prisoner in the Stalag Luft III. This one story ignited my interest in the far-flung experiences that so many endured during World War II. They have stories worth hearing.

Your turn: Think back. Has there ever been one particular story (whether a movie, a book, or one told verbally) that especially caught your interest and made a long-lasting impact? What was it? Why did it grip you? Please share your comments below.