Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Christmas Newsletters Count!


I don’t know about you, but every word I write applies toward my word count goal for the month.

Perhaps, you don’t make that particular goal for yourself. Too much pressure. I agree. If all I did was count words toward my work-in-progress, I could really get down on myself for the “weak” effort.

But we write lots of things. Blog posts, newspaper articles, personal letters, newsletters for our email lists, and business letters. They all take creativity. They all demand focus, stringing words into coherent sentences to form a specific kind of communication.

You know what’s coming up next? CHRISTMAS! Life will get in the way of writing. I will bake the cookies, do the shopping, wrap the gifts, decorate the house, and travel to see loved ones. AND I will write a Christmas newsletter. I can add another three hundred words, give or take.

Holiday newsletters for family and friends require a special brand of creativity.

One acquaintance of mine writes a single-spaced, front-and-back regurgitation of her complete year's calendar. It’s mind-numbing, especially since I don’t know a single niece or nephew on the list, just her and her husband. (And yes, I have used the correct pronouns.) However, when another friend’s holiday letter appears in my mailbox, I can’t wait to open it. I’ll give her a shout-out here—our own Beth Steury. She chooses a few highlights and uses the clever device of writing the family news from her grandson’s point of view. It’s funny and original. Entertaining. I love it.

That’s the key. Entertainment. We need to choose some memorable events and create a couple of entertaining short stories to share with friends and family.

If you’ve endured tragedy this year, your friends will know. They sympathize. They’ve surrounded you with love. But they might not know about tidbits of joy that God provided for you. Or, this could have been a year when wonderful things happened. Weddings. New babies. Again, most people who receive a Christmas letter from you may already know, but did they hear the funny story of what happened during summer vacation?

What if some recipients of your holiday letter aren’t aware of big news, positive or negative?

You still want to provide seasonal cheer and entertainment without dragging the reader through a list  of highlights or dwelling on the sorrow. It’s possible to combine a short list and punctuate it with your favorite stories. For example, this year, I’ll do a quick rundown of where each of my sons are, but I won’t give details on all eight grandchildren. However, I have a couple of cute stories from our beach reunion that I’ll include. If only I could be so entertaining as to tell the stories from the family cat's point of view. Except we don't own a cat.

Have I sparked any ideas for you? 


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, and grandmother to eight, 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:







Thursday, November 11, 2021

 What Tools are in Your Writer's Toolbox? 

Writers helping writers. Encouraging, inspiring, and assisting each other in navigating the often-overwhelming world of putting our words to paper and then sharing the labored-over results with the world. I’d have thrown in the towel long ago without the prodding and nudging of fellow writers who so willingly share their experiences and wealth of knowledge. So, as promised, I’ve compiled a list of my fave writing support resources.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

  • America’s Mad Professor of Fiction Writing, a.k.a. Randy Ingermanson, “The Snowflake Guy,” shares an incredible array of resources at AdvancedFiction Writing.
Says the Professor, “I’m a teacher. Teachers teach. We just can’t help ourselves. My mission is to create great fiction writers. I’ve been teaching for a long time, but I don’t love traveling. A web site lets me teach from home." 
  • Author, editor, speaker Kathrese McKee publishes the fabulously helpful and insightful “Word Marker Tips for Authors” newsletter. Sign-up to receive timely tips, news, and resources on a plethora of topics from marketing to self-editing to dealing with writer’s block, here. Check out her newly-launched Writing Pursuits podcast and her Facebook page.
McKee reminds us, “Nobody writes more than one word at a time. It’s one book at a time, written one word at a time.”
  • The Christian Indie Authors (CIA) Facebook group, where experienced indie and hybrid authors continue to learn, and where they share their wealth of knowledge with writers at every level. In the private group, authors discuss writing, publishing, and marketing.

“We are that corner cafe where you can talk shop and discuss the nuts-and-bolts of indie publishing. The CIA is singularly focused on providing the best resources and discussions for Christian indie book production, publishing, and promotion.

What tools are in your writer's toolbox? In the comments, please share your favorite resources. Because we’re all in this pursuit of authorship together.

 Beth’s combined experiences teaching the high school Sunday School class, substitute teaching in the public school, and connecting with the teenage staff at the fast-food joint where she claimed a “back booth office” helped inspire her young adult “Choices Matter” fiction series. She's a "cheerleader" for saving sex for marriage and for "renewed waiting" because it's never too late to make wiser choices. Her “Waiting Matters … Because YOU Matter” blog helps people of all ages navigate the choppy waters of saving sex for marriage while her “Slices of Real Life” posts find GOD in the day-to-day moments of real life.

 As a genetic genealogy enthusiast, she writes and speaks about her experiences as a "foundling" who located her birth parents. Her journey to find and connect with her biological family is chronicled in the blog series “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers.” All of her writing endeavors can be found on her website, https://bethsteury.com

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

In Search of "Clean Reads" - Part 2

 Last month, I outlined the growing concern about Christian novels that push the envelope of propriety. Profanity, sexual innuendo, and questionable ethics increasingly mark the lives of characters who purport to be Christian, so that readers of Christian fiction wonder where they can find books that are truly inspiring and uplifting. How do we find “clean reads” in a marketplace that seems to favor irreverent, prurient stories instead of challenging us to live like Christ?

We authors have a couple of more fundamental questions: What standards of language and behavior do our intended readers have, and what standards do their gatekeepers, Christian publishers, have? 

Peter Nikolai, publisher of Westbow Press, sounds a note that most evangelical publishers would echo. “Titles should challenge people to lead lives of moral excellence and virtue through content that is fair and encourages righteousness,” he says. Essentially, Christian fiction should “raise us up and make us more like Jesus Christ.” He then lists several story features that would run contrary to this purpose and cause Westbow to reject the book outright.[1]

Most Christian publishers are forthright in stating the standards for their books. If you can’t find those standards on a publisher’s website, ask for them. A publishing house may say that they give an author considerable freedom in deciding what to include in the book. In that case, ask what purpose the publisher hopes to achieve by publishing these books. This should bring into clear focus what is permissible and what isn’t.

Back to the question at hand: How do we find “clean reads” that are entertaining and inspiring, while lifting up worthy models for Christian readers to imitate?

Seasonal Reading Lists. Evangelical Christian magazines such as Christianity Today (https://www.christianitytoday.com) and World (https://wng.org) publish lists of new books for Spring and Fall each year. These brief reviews of fiction and nonfiction books help you identify authors and topics you would enjoy.

ECLA Website. The Evangelical Church Library Association (https://eclalibraries.org) serves librarians of evangelical churches in the USA and Canada. Its website features reviews of current and forthcoming books that most of us would consider “clean reads.”

 Goodreads.com Christian Reviewers’ Group. Thousands of readers share their book reviews on goodreads.com, and a group of 2,100 reviewers specialize in Christian books (https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/193829-christian-book-reviews). Not all of these are current books and not all of the reviews are favorable; but if you’re patient to screen the posts, you can find innovative fiction that has not yet been recognized by the mainline media.


Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. His most recent book is Hard Times (Warner Press: 2019). He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth.


[1] “Westbow Press Editorial Standards,” https://www.westbowpress.com/en/why-westbow-press/editorial-standards, accessed October 30, 2021.