Monday, January 31, 2022

From the Archives: A New Prayer

 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;

establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.
Psalm 90:17

When I first started writing, I certainly prayed. I prayed that God would help me write the story. That I’d hear back from an editor quickly. That someone would want to publish the book I’d worked so hard on.

But I rarely considered praying over each writing session, or for the people who would read my stories. I only realized that after connecting with other writers and seeing their passion for praying for readers. These writers love knowing that their words can stir not only the heart but also the spirit.

And, as Christians, isn’t that a large part of the reason we write? To point others to God, either directly or subtly?

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the process. Plan, write, submit, get a response, repeat. But I don’t want my writing to be about me, or the process, or the business of it. I hope God will use my writing to advance His purposes. As the verse above says, my work isn’t for me, it’s His to establish.

So, my new goal is to pray over the words I write and for those that will read them. I’ve started trying to pray when I first sit down to write every day. As I prepare for my second book to come out, I pray for those who are working with me on editing, formatting, cover design, every part of it. And when it finally goes out into the world next year, I'll pray that there’s something in what I’ve written that will draw each reader closer to God.

How about you? How do you pray for your writing and/or readers!

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.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Divine Appointments: AKA Interruptions


Piggybacking on Beth’s post from last week, let’s explore the ramifications of those times when your best intentions get splattered across your day like a dropped jar of spaghetti sauce. What a mess.

First, you had planned to organize your emails, then write a new chapter, then make sure you posted something on social media—just to keep your name out there, you know—and finally, delve into historical research related to your main character’s search for copper ore in Nevada.


Your elderly next door neighbor calls. In tears. She just received news that her older sister died.

So, you walk away from your email, sit on the sofa, and let her vent and cry. You tell her how sorry you are. You agree that this Christian lady is far better off now than she was yesterday. You pray together. Once you hang up the phone, you ask yourself, “How will I handle it if I outlive my sister?” 

The divine appointment light bulb blinks on. Journal your feelings regarding that scenario.

Back to work. You clear out all extraneous materials from your inbox. On to that next chapter. You’re excited. You know exactly how you want it to go.


Your mother’s long-term care insurance company calls to inform you they’re missing a necessary piece of paperwork. Would you track it down, please, so claim reimbursements can continue unheeded? You might as well do that while it’s fresh in your mind. Otherwise, it probably won’t get done. One hour later, you’ve found what is needed, filled out the necessary info, and emailed it to the correct recipient.  Great! That divine appointment has taught you something new. Jot it down in a new file:  "How to Handle the Health Care Maze.” Now you can write that chapter.


An hour later while you’re really into it and your protagonist’s heart is breaking, the phone rings again. Caller ID says it’s a writer friend.

Answer it. 

“Would you be able to meet with me today or tomorrow?” she asks. “I am completely stuck on this manuscript. I need to talk about it with someone else.”

Tomorrow is already over-scheduled, and none of it with writing tasks. But your friend has been through a lot during these two years of covid. “Sure,” you say. “Coffee shop in twenty minutes?”

By the time you get home, it’s close to the dinner hour. What more can you do on your writing timeline?

Acknowledge the divine appointment.

Take some notes.  While you brainstormed with your friend, what did you discuss that might pertain to your own writing? File those ideas in the proper place.

Like Beth said last week, we need to be intentional about our writing plan, but she knows life happens. So when it does, live your moment, love your neighbor, and allow that interruption to become a divine appointment.

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, January 13, 2022

When the Best of Intentions Isn't Enough

 I always thought that it made much more sense to host NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in January rather than November. Who has time in NOVEMBER to write 50,000 words? Wouldn’t JANUARY be a much better month to set aside for writing a book? For much of the country, the first month of the year brings the kind of wind and cold that encourages folks to huddle under blankets by the fire. But November finds us scurrying about with Thanksgiving and Christmas to-do lists as long as our arm. Not a very conducive atmosphere for hunkering down with a commitment to churn out a book-length manuscript in thirty days’ time.

Well, apparently many writers make it work. According to stats posted on the official NaNoWriMo site, more than 798,000 novelists have completed nearly 368,000 novels since the first month-long challenge took place in July of 1999. In 2000 NaNoWriMo moved from to November “to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather.” While I agree with the sentiment, I still think January is a better option.

Several of my friends took up the challenge this past November, not deterred by the approaching holidays, jobs, family responsibilities, or sundry distractions. I determined in October that there was no reason I couldn’t participate as well. Why not take advantage of the energy surrounding the annual tradition to finish my resisting-completion young adult novel? Why not indeed.

I’m disappointed to report that my good intentions failed miserably. Why? Because those “good intentions” weren’t followed up with action. I wanted to do it. I reasoned that I could do it. But I didn’t approach it with an intentional mindset. My intentions were good, noble even, but not accompanied by an action plan.

Yesterday was a perfect example of how life can and will get in the way of the best intentions. An unexpected four-hour Zoom call sucked up the time I’d set aside to devote to the novel. Today is another day, offering another opportunity to devote time to my characters and their story. It will also present more opportunities for life to interrupt. Like the one hour and twenty-one minute phone call this morning with a friend experiencing a mega-sized medical, emotional, and mental crisis.

The reality is this, if I don’t become much more intentional about bringing this series to a close, it’s not going to happen. No matter that the cover and ISBN number are ready and waiting. No matter that an anxious teenage reader questions me weekly about the book’s progress.

In this case, being intentional will mean removing things from my schedule and replacing them with dedicated writing time. It will mean adopting a no excuses attitude. It will require an examination of the distractions that shoot flaming arrows at my good intentions. It will definitely mean being more intentional about praying for the words to string themselves together in the way that best tells the story.

NaNoWriMo works in November because of intentional action. It would work any month of the year for those committed enough to make it happen. 

Life won't stop so we can pursue our passion. People and things beyond our control will try to interfere. Only those who have wrangled with being intentional will win. Are you being intentional about your writing? What better time to assess our intentionality than at the beginning of new year. Drop your intentionality tips in the comments below.  

Beth's combined experiences teaching high school Sunday School, substitute teaching in the public school, and connecting with the teenage staff at the fast-food joint where (pre-COVID!) 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 series helps people of all ages navigate the choppy waters of saving sex for marriage and inspired the "Waiting Matters" non-fiction booklet series. 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:







Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Choosing the Best of Christian Books

I anticipate the “Best Books” lists released this time of year, not only for the books they bring to my attention but also for the criteria used to make these selections. What qualities do book reviewers think make an exceptional novel? That becomes clear in this year’s “Best Book” lists.

Christianity Today names its 2022 Book Awards in the January-February issue. The top fiction book (Revival Season, by Monica West) was chosen for “its overall mastery.” Judges cite its vivid description, vigorous pacing, and well-drawn characters among its stand-out characteristics. They don’t discount the importance of its plot, but they felt the story made a lasting impression because the author crafted it with genuine artistry. By the way, our own Cara Putman wrote the review for Sugar Birds, by Cheryl Gray Bostrom, which tied for CT’s Award of Merit.

World Magazine devotes its January 15 issue to landmarks of 2021, which identifies four novels from Christian publishers under the heading, “Family Dramas with Faithful Perspective.” At the top of the list is The Nature of Small Birds, by Susie Finkbeiner, the story of a Vietnamese refugee child in Operation Babylift. Reviewer Sandy Barwick writes, “Finkbeiner is a master of nostalgia and perfectly captures the nuances of the slang, clothes, and pop culture of each era.” Notice how she echoes CT’s praise of well-crafted fiction.

Some leading Christian periodicals, such as the Christian Century, do not compile “best book” lists each year. And some “best Christian book” lists, such as Barnes and Noble’s and the Gospel Coalition’s, included no novels this year. (If you’d like to see B&N’s list for 2021, click here. The Gospel Coalition’s list can be seen here.)

I’m curious to see the choices made by secular periodicals, too, so I was particularly interested to see “The 10 Most Heartwarming Books of 2021” in Book Page, the free distribution book review periodical that we find in most public libraries. Here's how they describe a heartwarming book:

Think about the way you feel after a delicious meal. Although you know there are dishes to wash and leftovers to put away and perhaps a long drive home or work in the morning, as you look around the table at the faces of the people you love, and for that one moment, your spirit feels full, safe, happy, loving and loved.

“Full, safe, happy, loving and loved.” If readers come away from my novels feeling that, I will have produced the best Christian books I could write, regardless of whether they appear on any annual list.

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.