Thursday, August 15, 2019

Taking the Test Over and Over Again

I’ve been taking this course from Jesus titled “Dying to Self.” It’s one of those outcome-based classes (those of you with an education background will recognize the term). I can’t move on to the next lesson until I’ve passed the test. And I keep failing.

Death to self isn’t as gory as one might suppose. I’m not required to commit suicide or anything. How could I move on to the next lesson if that were the case?

For a long time I thought this dying-to-self thing required all kinds of sacrifices on my part. No indulgences, no activities that I liked--you know, legalism in the extreme. If I was having fun, I must not be dying to self.

No wonder I couldn’t pass the test. God didn’t want me to be a grim, walking, talking rules book. With some remedial work, He helped me figure things out.

Dying to self has almost nothing to do with self-discipline. It has everything to do with obedience.

When we think of obedience, we tend to think “don’t.” Don’t write on the walls with a crayon. Don’t stay out past curfew. Don’t drive over the speed limit. But obedience also involves “do.” Do visit a friend who needs a shoulder to cry on. Do clean the bathroom on a regular basis. Do eat all your vegetables.

As writers, our “don’t thoughts” might include: don’t waste writing time by going out to lunch with a friend or don’t follow rabbit trails on social media (clicking on one interesting item to another interesting item to another…).However, there are plenty of things we can do. Do spend time building your author platform via social media and blogging. Do attend conferences and other meetings where writers congregate. Do try your hand at writing short stories as well as books.

 credit to
Obedience should be easy if I want to do what God directs me to do, but too often it doesn’t work out that way. He might lead me to enter a contest, but I won’t make time to prepare for it. Maybe He’ll nudge me to query a publisher about a new idea, but I’ll be too timid to follow through. Or something as mundane as drinking more water or taking ten minutes to stretch after every hour of sitting at that computer. Yeah, that one requires self-discipline, being aware of my body’s needs, but if I truly want to obey, He’ll give me the ability to do it.

A few years ago God gave me the directive, “Go play.” How hard could that be? Jesus was telling me to relax, have fun. Take the Holy Spirit with me and enjoy my surroundings, my family, my friends. But I had trouble obeying. I worried and fussed over the problems of those close to me. I wanted to stick around and tell Jesus how I thought He should fix them. Like I knew better than God?

It’s been an ongoing lesson. I know the right answers to “go play” in my head. I have even succeeded in several exercises, but when He puts me in a big test situation, I try to take control as the problem-solver. God wants me to leave my loved ones in His capable hands, and prove my trust by exploring new vistas with the Holy Spirit.

Those vistas have included joining the wonderful community of writers in ACFW and traveling to spend time with these new friends. We have so much in common! When I am able to fully obey His directive, I will have passed one more test in the coursework of dying to self.

Think about the tests God gives you. Have you been able to obey his orders? To die to yourself and live to please Him? To trust Him with your loved ones, your writing, your life?

I sure hope you’re a faster learner than I am!

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.
A wife, mother of three, grandmother to seven, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!
Where Linda can be found on the web:

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Make Time for Your TRIBE

Earlier this month, I spent a glorious weekend with my "tribe." One of my tribes, that is, one that happens to hold a top spot on my current "tribe" list.

We all have "tribes." Our church family, the gals at the office, the school mates we've kept in touch with for years, the writers who share our passion for the written word, and the list goes on.

Years ago during my daughter's infant-toddler-preschooler-elementary-school years, my favorite "tribe" was comprised of the moms and families whose lives were intimately touched by cystic fibrosis. Every chance I got, I drank in the wisdom and shared experiences of these folks who daily walked the road of caring for a child with CF. I soaked up every possible moment in their company, these moms and dads who understood the realities of living with a chronically ill child. I rarely passed up an opportunity to be with my "tribe." Because, as I said often, "There's nothing like being with people who really understand what it's like."

My first writers' conference in 1988 introduced me to an arena where wordsmiths honed their craft together, shared common experiences, and generally basked in each others' company. I had driven three hours to an unfamiliar area to spend three days in the company of absolute strangers, in a setting extremely unfamiliar to me. More than once, I questioned what I had gotten myself into. I was sooooo unprepared for the question-of-the-day, "So, what do YOU write?" Why would these unknown-to-me folks care about that? But care they did. I marveled at the depth a conversation with a complete stranger could reach in mere moments when that person shared my passion for writing.

Life took a turn soon after that first conference in the form of a very sick infant. Hence the need for the "CF parents" tribe--a group that steadied this wearied, overwhelmed mother in a profound way.

 A couple of years later I sought out a local writers' group. Again, the folks were complete strangers, and I got lost and arrived very late to the first meeting. But since I'd already tasted the sweet nectar of spending time with other writers, I was not deterred. A smaller-scaled affair to be sure, but nonetheless my "tribe."

Now, many moons later, I have several sub-tribes that fall under the general heading of  my "writing nation." And each plays an important role in my writing life.

  • a local group of eclectic writers who meet monthly, whose company I sorely miss when I cannot attend 
  • the Scriblerians, writers spread across the U.S. and Canada, whose critiquing, support, encouragement, and prayers have truly been a God-send to my writing pursuits and who have become dear, dear friends
  • the folks in a number of online writing groups, many focused around a specific theme such as YA or Indie Publishing, who are quick to share experiences, insights, and wisdom 
  • any workshop/conference/class/gathering I can squeeze into my schedule that's themed around anything at all to do with writing

Linda and I (pictured above) once drove from Indianapolis to St. Louis to have dinner and spend the evening with  a portion of our Scriblerian "tribe." Our baffled husbands' incredulous gazes bounced alternately between Linda and I and each other at the preposterous-ness of our plan. We didn't expect them to understand. We spent the night in a college dorm room, shared breakfast with our dear Scribes and then headed back to Indy. It was incredibly awesome, and we'd do it again in a heartbeat. 

Just like during those early parenting days, when I rarely passed up an opportunity to be with my (CF) tribe, I can still, often, be heard exclaiming about my writing-tribe-turned-nation, "There's nothing like being with people who really understand what it's like." You know, to eat, breathe, sleep, and pray writing. To create and live in imaginary worlds. To pound away at a keyboard until the wee morning hours. To use words to paint a picture. 

An awesome "tribe" opportunity awaits at the ACFW Indiana "Race Towards Publication" event on Saturday, August 17, from 11:30 - 2:30 at the MCL Township Line in Indianapolis. RSVP to 

Beth Steury 

Beth immerses herself in the world of YA via substitute teaching, by connecting with the teenage staff and patrons at the fast food joint where she claims the back booth as her office, and by reading YA fiction. 
She's a "cheerleader" for saving sex for marriage and an even bigger supporter of "renewed waiting" because it's never too late to make wiser, healthier choices. She welcomes questions and topic suggestions for the “Waiting Matters … Because YOU Matter” blog that inspired the Waiting Matters series. 
Check out her Choices Matter series that follows Preston and Maggie as they navigate the choppy waters of high school, guy/girl relationships, and sex.
Beth is also active in the adoption community where she writes and speaks about her experiences as a "foundling" who located her birth parents and is enjoying making up for lost time with her biological family.
Connect with her at for all the news on upcoming releases. Find her on Facebook at BethSteury, Author; on Twitter @Beth_Steury; and on Instagram and Goodreads. She loves to hear from readers! Write to her at

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Brainstorming in "Full Imagination"

I don’t know about you, but as a writer, the only time I’m NOT brainstorming my next story idea (via multitasking while concentrating on my “day” job) is when I’m actually sitting in a theater watching a movie: Larger than life and right in front of me. At that point, all other processes are shut down and I am fully focused forward.

Earlier this year, I began adopting a brainstorming approach that involved “watching” my story possibilities unfold within the “theater of my mind.” On that screen, I can envision different actors portraying my characters, design the visuals of my environments, and work through different plot twists and turns…all geared towards developing each story element (and the many possibilities of) my work-in-progress. It’s the ultimate plug-n-play in story development. Adding some music to my writing time really completes the ensemble.

If you are a visual person, this type of brainstorming can really help you flesh out your story in such a way that you can change things on the fly. No typing, deleting, or pressing the “un-do” command. The next time you are brainstorming on your next great novel idea, let it play out in full surround-sound and in full-imagination within the theater of your mind. Should you ever decide to turn your story into a movie script, you will be one step ahead!

-Darren Kehrer