Thursday, February 21, 2019

Teen's Book Sells Millions (Because She Let the World Know)

The teenager from the above title took two years to write her book. Since publication, it has sold over thirty million copies in seventy or more languages. Yet she never received a penny of the profits.

How unfair! Was she robbed by unscrupulous agents? Greedy relatives? Crony capitalists?

She was robbed, all right, but not by any of the above. No one stole her money. Instead, she was robbed of life. She never lived to see her book’s publication. 

The author’s name? Anne Frank. I’m sure you’ve heard of her, maybe even studied her history. But for those who don’t know much about her…

Anne was a Jewish girl living in Holland, her parents having fled Nazi Germany a few years earlier. Once the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, the family had nowhere to go. They created a hiding place in a warehouse and relied on the help of trusted Christian friends.

Anne had received a diary for her thirteenth birthday in June of 1942. Like any other teen diary, she filled it with all the innocence and joy of a well-loved child, and she eventually shared the normal teen angst of young love and the struggle to gain independence as an adolescent. 

But time and Hitler were marching every Jew in Europe toward annihilation. The shadow of the Gestapo attacked Anne’s happy-go-lucky view of life. While she maintained a clownish exterior, on the inside, she was a deep thinker. She began to record her thoughts on a world at war, on life, on humanity. For the next two years, she grew into a serious young woman, determined to hold onto joy.

On August 4, 1944, Holland’s secret police force, deputized by the Nazis, captured Anne, her family, and all those known to have helped them. After ransacking the apartment, the thugs left her diary on the floor as part of the debris. Friends found it and kept it, hoping against hope they would return it to her one day.

But Anne’s father was the only one of the family to survive the Holocaust. Anne, her mother, and sister perished in the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen.

When Otto Frank read the diary, he agreed the world needed to know Anne’s story and her unsinkable, victorious spirit.

Other autobiographies have been written covering the atrocities of World War II. What makes Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl so special?

I think there are three reasons.

1.      Anne Frank really was an excellent writer. Who knows what novels or essays she might have written if she had been allowed to mature to adulthood? The words on the pages of her diary provide us with accurate, passionate, and heartrending pictures of what she and the others went through living in the Secret Annex.
2.      She wrote it in the “now.” Diary of a Young Girl is a real diary; it’s not a memoir. She recorded what happened on the very day the events occurred, or at least within the week.
3.      In spite of everything, Anne believed in the “good of man.” Her statement  smacks of secular humanism, but having read the book several times, I believe she could see God’s image in man. Every person has the potential of God’s goodness in them. Her worldview strikes a chord in all of us. We root for the triumph of the human spirit. 

As writers, may we join Anne in her courage and her optimism, may we be able to praise God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. This world still contains the evil that created the Holocaust. We are in the throes of violence all over the world as we hear of atrocities in Syria, Afghanistan, the Sudan, Nigeria, and a host of other nations hostile to anything but their own creed.

But be of good cheer. Jesus has overcome the world. And it’s our job to let the world know.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Changing Writing Direction

Here we are well into 2019, with new-year goals either set or still in the making. But some of us make or amend goals whenever they're needed, and that's what's happened for me. 

In the more than seven years I’ve devoted real time to personal (not business) writing, my focus has been on devotional writing. My involvement with ACFW has stemmed primarily from my work as a fiction editor, not a fiction writer.

But recently I've decided to move fiction writing from the back burner where it's been too long. The desire to write fiction has stayed with me. So I'm making a switch, focusing the time I devote to writing solely to fiction, at least for a season.

This is quite a change, and it wasn't an easy decision. What if I was making a mistake? What if in this case desire and calling weren't the same thing and I just didn't get it? What if I was going to let someone down? What if I was being selfish and veering away from what God wanted?

Here are some questions I asked myself—questions you might want to ask if you’re considering changing the focus of your writing (from one genre to another, from nonfiction to fiction or vice versa, from writing less to writing more or from writing more to writing less).

·       Do I think God is leading me to make a change? Why?
·       If for a time I put one calling aside for another one, does that mean I might never return to the first? Is it over? How do I feel about that?
·       Do I know what genre or genres I want to write now? How?
·       What will I have to do to make this transition successfully? Will I need to devote more time to it? Will I have to sacrifice other pursuits or demands? Which ones?
·       Do I have a specific, realistic goal? What is it?

Answering these questions and exploring other thoughts that came as a result of asking them helped me reach a decision.

Do you feel a pull to make a change with your writing? Have you pushed it away, trying not to think about it because you’re too busy, too skittish, too concerned about making a mistake? In the past, I did.

Ask yourself some of these questions—and ones more specific to your situation. And, of course, pray about what's going on in your mind and heart. Someone knows all about your life, all about your desires, all about his plans for you. One way or another, if you let him, he’ll lead you to the right conclusions, goals, and steps to take. I know it.

Photo credit:

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. 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.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

When to Let Your Child Go

My first book was going to be a work of perfection. I'd spent more than two years researching, writing, and rewriting it. That was the dawn of the personal computer age, so I did much of the work on index cards, handwritten notebooks, and typewritten pages that I cut apart, rearranged, and taped back together. (Can I get a witness?)

I was laboring over the typescript with correction fluid and transparent tape one day when I realized my late wife Judy was standing behind me. She peered over my shoulder and said, “Don’t you think it’s time to let this child go out and play in the street?”

She was right, of course. While it’s important to give readers our best work, if we insist on revising and polishing it to the nth degree, we'll never give it to them. As a panelist on the TV show “Shark Tank” recently said, “Perfection is the enemy of profitability.”

So how long have you been working on your work-in-progress? Check the computer’s date stamp on your earliest version of the manuscript (something I couldn’t do in the day of correction fluid and tape). Make your best guess about how much of the work you've completed. Now take a deep breath and honestly answer this question:

At the rate you’re going, when will you be ready to show your manuscript to an agent or publisher?

The answer may make you wince, but let me ask another: How many other books do you hope to write? Multiply that by the number of years you're taking to finish this one. That means you'll achieve your writing goals by what year? Hmmm.

Admittedly, it's difficult to know when your "child" is ready to go out and play in the street, but here are a few tests that might help you decide:

1. What do your critique partners say? Are they recommending major changes? Then your book probably isn't ready to release. Are they recommending minor tweaks? Then it's probably time to wrap it up. (This test assumes that you have objective, knowledgeable crit partners, of course.)

2. How do agents and editors respond to your pitch? Can they grasp the essence of your story? Are they able to discuss it intelligently with you? This indicates that the idea is well-formed in your mind, so you are likely to have well-focused manuscript.

3. Do you feel the book tells your story effectively? Notice I didn't say "flawlessly" because your editor will help you repair any flaws. But if the manuscript tells your story convincingly and with sufficient detail to convey your message, kiss it and send it into the big, wide world.

By the way, I heeded Judy’s comment. I stopped coddling my “baby” and sent it off to the publisher, who published it. The book is far from perfect, but it’s still in print 35 years later. If I had kept pursuing the elusive dream of perfection, I suspect it would still be that—just a dream.

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.