Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Why Writing with Kids Isn't So Bad

By Abbey Downey

As a mom of two young kids (ages five and three), it’s safe to assume I’ll hear the same question every time I mention I’m also a writer. “How do you make time to write with kids at home?”
Honestly, it’s a reasonable question. Kids take a lot of our time and mental resources, don’t they? And, even if you can get them playing peacefully without you, a mom knows those minutes won’t last as long as she hopes.
“He hit me!”
“She took my toy!”
“Can I have a snack?”
“I have to go potty. Now!”

"Look, I deleted Mom's entire manuscript with one click!"

But here’s what most people don’t realize: having my kids around actually makes my writing better. In spite of the interruptions, the constant questions, and the frequent potty/refereeing/feeding breaks. 

Here’s what I mean:

   They make me more creative.
Have you ever just listened to a kid playing imaginary games? They’re hilarious! My oh-so-dramatic daughter frequently ends sessions of playing Barbies with someone getting hurt and going to the hospital. My son likes to make his superheroes face off against the bad guys. All of their games involve dramatic conflict. Also, since I write fiction, I can give young characters some of my kids’ funniest quirks!

They force me to use my time wisely.
I love the way another author recently responded to the question of how moms find time to write. She laughingly replied that nap time is her friend, but then went on to say that somehow, God always provides the time. Isn’t that just like our God? He calls us to write and He provides what we need to accomplish that. But this is where I struggle: I have to get off Twitter and use the snippets of time I do have, especially when there are kids around with all their various needs. If I want to get any writing in, I have to plan my day and stick to it.

They make me get out and experience the world.
I’m an introvert. Even if you aren’t, as people who work in a rather solitary profession, it’s easy for writers to get wrapped up in our words and forget that there’s a whole, real world right in front of us. And that world provides endless inspiration! My kids require things like being picked up from school, getting food to make into meals, trips to the library, and hours spent eavesdropping on—I mean, accidentally overhearing—conversations during sports practices. All wonderful places to gather ideas that I would miss if I holed up all the time in my house.
"Hmm....I think this story would be better with a few
random letters sprinkled in."

They remind me to always include God.
As they all do, my kids ask questions. So many questions. My five-year-old is very much trying to make sense of how things fit into the world and his questions usually revolve around how things work together. When we get into a line of questions, often it will circle around to how God fits into the subject. Where’s God when kids are at school? How does Jesus eat if He’s invisible? It’s a great reminder that God is in everything we do. No matter the market or genre, there’s always a way to include God in our words and in our writing process.

Have you faced a challenge in your writing that turned out to hide blessings? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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

Photos from

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Where Are the FUNCTIONAL Families ? by Linda Sammaritan

Remember those good old TV shows from the Fifties? Andy Griffith, Leave It to Beaver, The Lone Ranger, and a host of others? Today’s viewers say, “Boring. No conflict. Not enough action.”

Excuse me? While superheroes didn’t bounce out of the sky and smash a city to individual cinder blocks, the characters in those programs faced real problems and taught children how to solve them. In many family comedies, Dads led their wives and children through a jungle of moral decisions. The parents, as a team, guided their children toward wisdom, unlike many of the buffoons in today’s sitcoms.

Take Eddie Haskell, a problem that never stopped. Wally and the Beaver didn’t like him, but they treated him with grace. Their parents told them to, they obeyed, and further conflict was averted. At least, until Eddie tried something else, and the cycle repeated.

Or Opie Taylor, Andy Griffith’s son. I remember an episode where he had to choose: prepare to fight the bully for what was right, or join the crowd to do wrong. Thanks to his father’s consistent example, Opie chose to stand for righteousness.

Dennis the Menace entertained us with his inept efforts to be helpful, and his generous heart taught children like me to love our neighbors. His parents were often at a loss as to how to handle what Dennis might get into next, but they always explained to their son how he might have done things differently with less disastrous results.

Even westerns taught Judeo Christian morality. In The Rifleman, a father taught his son right and wrong and to use violence as a last resort to save other lives. The Lone Ranger never looked for credit for his good deeds. The rescued asked, “Who was that masked man?” as he rode into the sunset. Lessons in humility.

I want the same lessons of goodness in the books I read where characters solve problems in an honorable manner. It’s why I prefer the classics, books that contain intact families who love each other and face conflicts together. I get so tired of the dysfunctional families and missing parents in today’s literature. As an experiment, I went through the archives of my book reviews and checked the family situations in each of the books I’ve featured. I was dismayed by the results:

Dysfunctional Family/Missing Parent  22; Loving, Intact Family 11.

 Even if I discount the handful of books written past 1990, earlier authors also use the lack of a good parent as an integral part of the conflict for the child protagonist.  I love each one of these stories, but I’m saddened by that reality.

Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars is a case in point. Thirteen-year-old Sara lives with her snarky teenage sister, her little brother Charlie, and their aunt. Their mother died; their dad split. Charlie has unnamed developmental disabilities. Today we might say he’s on the autism spectrum. Sara loves Charlie; she hates his neediness. She hates herself as many young adolescents do. The novel is beautiful and character-driven with a flawed protagonist who finally realizes she loves her brother as he is.

Most of the events in the plot could have been accomplished with a mom and dad still around. Two parents could have struggled together in dealing with Charlie’s eccentricities, and teens in their struggle for independence get in grand funks even when they grow up in wonderful, loving homes.

Strong families are not exempt from ongoing crises. I’m currently writing a fictionalized memoir covering the first five years of my little sister’s life. Our parents enjoyed a solid marriage, and they had to cope with the uncertainties of raising a profoundly deaf child. Heartbreaking events occurred, and comical episodes still made life fun. We were strong. We were together.

This is what I feel called to do in my writing, to glorify God with stories of family who strive together to overcome the obstacles in their path as they journey through life, pilgrims on the way to the Promised Land.

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, August 12, 2017

5 Ways Authors Can Enhance Author/Editor Collaboration

by Jean Kavich Bloom

Most writers care about their readers, and editors do too. Editors also value authors' caring about collaboration with their editors. Here are five ways I think authors can enhance the author/editor relationship. (Next month I'll share what I think editors can do to enhance that collaboration.) 

1.     Acknowledge an editor's expertise. If an editor has a proven, positive record within the publishing and author communities, that reputation deserves recognition. Not as a pat on the back, but as a springboard for great collaboration with you. Professional editors aren’t (or should not be) out to change voice or make manuscripts their own. They’re commissioned to boost the effectiveness of authors' writing and help them connect with their readers, and they work hard to do that. 

2.     Consider every editing suggestion. One level of editing is strictly about correct spelling, grammar, and so on. Other editing levels—especially in macro or line editing—include what I call “suggestion” editing. In other words, the editor sees ways a writer can improve or enhance the work, and not just for the sake of change or in a willy-nilly fashion. I recommend taking those suggestions seriously, with careful consideration. Sometimes authors say, “At first that idea seemed like hogwash, and then I thought about it.” But…

3.    Be upfront and honest. If you don’t like the way an edit is going, don’t like a suggested edit, or have any other issue with an editor, say so. Sometimes a glitch reveals the editor is not a good match for you, but many times an editor will simply adjust how she or he is going about the edit or how suggestions are communicated, to (within reason) better accommodate your personality or preferences. Some flexibility is required on both sides of almost any relationship.

4.    Express appreciation—if warranted. Just as a writer values words of encouragement from editors, editors value words of encouragement from authors. A time or two, I’ve been surprised to be asked to edit a second work by an author because they were so silent about my first edit. I thought they probably weren’t too thrilled with my work for some reason and would want someone else next time. Even a simple, “Thanks. You did a good job,” makes a difference.

5.     Consider acknowledgment in the final product or a recommendation. I’ve written before about why I think acknowledgments pages in books are important, and that includes acknowledging all the editors involved, as long as the thanks are genuine. Now, some publishers might not allow mentioning all participating editors for one reason or another, but I can tell you this simple act can be meaningful for editors, both personally and professionally.

       A word about freelance editors: Most of us have professional websites with a Recommendations or Endorsements page. I try to bravely ask authors I think have appreciated my work for a blurb on my “Author Testimonies” page, but for me, it takes working up the courage to do so. If an author asked, “How can I recommend your work?” I’d be over the moon! And anytime an author endorses my work by word of mouth, that's wonderful too. If you work with a freelance editor you like, consider how you might give a boost to his or her business.

If you have a great collaborative relationship with a writer as an editor, or with an editor as a writer, what do you think makes the most difference? Please share!

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' 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 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 and five grandchildren.

Photo credit:

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Secular Markets for Christian Stories

If the short story is your forte, consider submitting your work to secular magazines that look for high-quality stories with wholesome values. While denominational magazines are disappearing, secular magazines (both print and electronic) are multiplying, so this is a growing opportunity. 

You’ll find detailed information in the Writer’s Marketplace and other sources, but here’s a sampling of secular  magazines you might try:

Adventure Cyclist
Adventure Cycling Association
P.O. Box 8308
Missoula MT 59807
Fax: (406)721-8754

Published 9 times a year, this magazine targets bicyclists who like to tour scenic places. They’re looking for inspirational stories of 1,000-3,000 words that spur interest in bicycling adventures. Payment ranges from $700 to $1,200 per story.

Country Woman
Trusted Media Brands, Inc.
1610 N. 2nd St. - Suite 102
Milwaukee WI 53212
Phone: (414)423-0100
This bi-monthly magazine looks for short-short stories (700-1,000 words) with “a positive, upbeat message” featuring country women as their heroines. The editor “would buy more fiction if stories suitable for our audience were sent our way.”

Friction Zone
44489 Town Center Way
Suite D497
Palm Desert CA 92260
Phone: (951)751-0442
With a circulation of 25,000, this monthly magazine for motorcyclists wants inspirational short stories featuring motorcycles. Ideal length is 1,000-2,000 words and payment is 20¢ per word.

Woman’s World
Bauer Publishing
270 Sylvan Ave.
Englewood Cliffs NJ 07632
Phone: (201)569-6699
Fax: (201)569-3584
You’re likely to find this weekly magazine at your local supermarket check-out lane. Each issue has a romance of 800 words that is “contemporary and realistic, handled with warmth and feeling.” Pays $1,000 upon acceptance. One successful freelancer hosts a blog that trains newcomers like to write for this market:

None of these periodicals want preachy stories, but you can include natural expressions of Christian faith (prayer, references to Christ, etc.), so secular magazines may provide a wider readership for your work.

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.