Monday, June 25, 2018

Getting Serious About the Craft: How ACFW Indiana Helps Me

I've been trying my hand at writing novels for eight years. For the first three of those years, I explored and played and enjoyed the world of writers and writing. I met people who were published, I met others who were unpublished. Some were weird. Some were practical. I learned from them all.

Number One Lesson: if I wanted to get published, I'd better get serious about the craft.

I joined ACFW, learned about the critique loop, and joined that. A small critique group specializing in YA asked me to join them after I offered a sample of my writing. When I attended my first ACFW conference,  the YA critique group covered this terrified baby chick with their wings and helped her survive her first pitch session. My forever gratitude, dear Scriblerians.

As I practiced, entered contests, and submitted to the critique loops faithfully, a family of authors continued to encourage me, mostly online. By joining the state chapter of ACFW, I was able to meet other writers in person a few times a year.Not only did those meetings further educate me, they were fun! Sharing experiences of the writing life let me know I wasn’t alone in the struggle to carve time to write. People shared how they handle interruptions during their writing hours. Speakers taught me about the business of writing and the pros and cons of self-publishing as well as traditional publishing.

I'm not alone in my gratitude. Here's a quote from a note I received recently from a first-year ACFW Indiana member:

"I really appreciate being able to fellowship with other writers since I am so new to the game. The one-on-one time is great. I enjoy asking questions and meeting others who are on the journey with me. I am looking forward to August."

While I love attending the national conference, distance and finances come into play so it's not always possible. But the Indiana meetings are less than a half day's drive away, and cost me nothing more than the $15 annual dues and my lunch. Those three or four days each year are inked on my calendar (yes, I use a hard copy calendar). I eagerly look forward to the fellowship and the opportunity for "writing talk." Only a funeral, a wedding, or the birth of a grandchild can keep me away.

Earlier this month we enjoyed a meeting in Fort Wayne with Jim Watkins as our featured speaker. He had a great message on allowing God to manage our dreams of writing, as well as our dreams in life. We also presented member Abbey Downey with a check for winning our Masterpiece in  a Day Contest held in March. She's published two books under the name Mollie Campbell. The second, Orphan Train Sweetheart, released a couple weeks ago (

I am so thankful for the more experienced writers who take time to travel across the state on a quarterly basis to share their expertise and cheer new writers to greater and greater endeavors. Their generosity inspired me to accept the role of secretary for the Indiana chapter. Even though I don't have a lot of experience to draw upon, I want to give back in some way.

The frenetic pace of our society has contributed to a loss of members, most of whom are the experienced pros that new writers need to come alongside and help them climb the steep learning curve called "Writing to Publish."

Thank you, thank you, to all those who have assisted us newbies along the path toward publication. I only hope I can be as helpful to others some day.

If you'd like to give a shout-out to any ACFW Indiana member who helped you on your way to publishing, this would be the place to do it. I can think of several who have helped me, but I'll limit my kudos to the first person who came to mind. Rachael Phillips made me feel so welcome at my first meeting, and it was  easy to ask for writing tips from her.

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:

Friday, June 22, 2018

Please leave a review.

I have such mixed feelings saying those words. 

Here’s why…

I know reviews can help build my platform. The more reviews, the more exposure a book will receive, which in turn will jumpstart readership. And since social media is a prevalent source of advertising, asking for a review on those platforms is the most effective way to get a response...But asking anyone, especially friends, to give an opinion of one of my books is uncomfortable.

Of course, most people buy books other people recommend, which is why reviews found on social media will carry the most weight. A good review can and will positively influence someone who is considering your book for purchase.  

Outside of a friend’s recommendation, reviews guide my reading selections.

After reading a book’s description, I usually scroll down to read the perspective of other readers. Though some may only mention whether they enjoyed the book or not, others give guidance on what to expect—relevant, but difficult social issues are presented—it contains language or graphic material—the book touched the reader on a deeper level.

As an author, I can tell you I’m looking for constructive criticism when I read a review on something I wrote, but honestly, I’m looking for the third thing I mentioned—I’m hoping it touched them. 

Another author once told me she didn’t read reviews anymore. She didn’t say why, but I think it might be something we all have to guard against—not tying our work, perhaps even our worth, to another person’s opinion, which is why we must remember reviews are just that—a personal opinion.

Another reason I struggle asking for a review is though we can ask, many people won’t actually take the time to write a review, even well-meaning friends so why bother? Even I have trouble writing a review unless I can praise the book with four or five stars. But opinions widely vary. We don’t enjoy the same genre—the same style of writing—even the story’s point of view will matter to some readers. I read a review that said they connected to the main character, while another reviewer said they didn’t like the main character at all, which simply supports we're drawn to different stories for different reasons. A story with realistic circumstances, dialogue, and a spiritual takeaway are usually motivators for my next purchase. 

Lastly, and the most awkward reason asking for a review is the how I feel about reviewing fellow authors. Their opinions feels weightier, and on the flip side, leaving an honest, yet encouraging review if I didn’t enjoy the book the way other reviewers have isn’t fun. 

I know writers more seasoned than I have advice they can offer, and I hope they will. 

Until next time, keep writing, because your voice matters!

Penelope grew up in Tennessee, but has lived in various states and a few countries outside the United States. She holds a BS in Business/Political Science and a MS in Multinational Commerce from Boston University. 

After working in the field of banking and finance, she left to invest her time with her children at home, and occasionally worked as a substitute teacher. Today, she resides in Indiana with her family where she serves in her church, and occasionally teaches a Bible study or Precepts.

An avid reader of fiction and perpetual student of Biblical truth, she is pursing the life of a writer. She believes her roots, faith, and her experience with other places and cultures, all meld into the voice that splashes onto the pages of her novels.

A Powerful Voice and A Furrow So Deep are Christian Romances published through Anaiah Press, LLC. And her Christmas novella, My Christmas Hope, will be released November 16, 2018.

To follow Penelope on social media:
Facebook: PenelopePowellAuthor
Twitter: @penpowell89