Welcome to the blog of author Tricia Goyer!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Advice for Novelists (Part 43)

C.J. Darlington, co-founder of TitleTrakk, is running a great series on her blog: She started a series of blog posts in which industry professionals (editors, agents, publicists, authors, etc.) share their responses to this question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

We have an agent's perspective today in the series, Kelly Mortimer: Everyone hears, "Follow your dream and never give up." I'm a firm believer in dreams, and I don't give up, but my advice would be to make sure you know how to write BEFORE you submit to every agent/editor on the planet.

I get so many submissions that have a great concept for the story, but the writing is too weak. Get a few recommended books on writing, go to workshops, take reputable online classes, get constructive feedback from a contest or two, try to get a published author to read your first chapter and give you some direction.

This is not an "I want it now" kinda business. Wait as long as is necessary and send your best work out. You get one shot, and if ya fire too soon, bang! you're dead...

--Kelly Mortimer, Mortimer Literary Agency - Diabolically Diligent. http://www.mortimerliterary.com/

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Family and Writing

Keeping "Family First" is tough when it comes to writing. The hardest part is not getting frustrated trying to do it all! Sometimes I get impatient with my family when I have a deadline. Other times, I’m sluggish because I have to work when I want to be having fun with my family. It’s a tough balancing act.

Of course, my dedication to writing isn't all bad. When I first wrote, I did it while my kids were napping or after they went to bed. It was “my time” away from the cooking, cleaning, and diapers.

Once the kids got older they had to learn that “mom had work too.” I wasn’t always there to entertain them. This actually turned out to be a good thing. As the kids got older, they knew how to entertain themselves. And since all three of them were home together every day, they were always busy creating forts or producing skits. They became best pals!

Having kids who know how to keep themselves occupied is huge. I have a lot of friends whose kids need to be entertained. They have to have mom there, providing them with things to do or shuffling them from one activity to another. So in the end, my writing time has become a great benefit to my family.

I also feel it's beneficial for my kids to see Mom doing big things. It gives them confidence in their own interests. If mom can think up an idea, work hard, and produce a book . . . why can't they follow their dreams?
My writing also expands my kids' vision. For instance, my kids hear me talk about my travels and/or the people I interview. Expanding our horizons and connecting with others become common place.

Then again, there is another person effected by my writing. My husband John has always been my biggest cheerleader. He believed in me long before anyone else. Even today he listens to my ideas and gives me great feedback. He’s put up with my trips (to writing conferences, speaking events, book conventions), and he understands when I sometimes get too carried away at the bookstore ($$$!). Also, as I grow as a writer, I also grow in all areas of my life. I honestly feel I'm a better wife due to the lessons I've learned on this writing path.

And personally, I feel I'm also a stronger person because of my path to publication. Writing has opened new doors for me, and it has helped me become more confident. Writing makes me happy . . . and a happy wife is a good wife and mom.

Also, I feel this career is in line with the Proverbs 31 woman. (Who can forget her?) Whether she was reality, or a mere symbol, who this woman was in Christ made the difference in all areas of her life. The Proverbs 31 woman not only focused on her family, she also used her creative talents for God’s glory . . . and her husband and children rose to call her blessed!

Also, as children of God, we NEED to feel like what we do fulfills our God-given dreams. These dreams matter. In my opinion, too many women pour so much into their families that they no longer feel there is any of “them” left. Even taking one small step, followed by another, helps us to feel like we're making progress in following God's dreams.

Of course, balance is everything. I’ve really had to learn when to stop for the day. I usually keep my writing to afternoons. My kids get my mornings (through homeschool) and my husband and family get my evenings. Once my husband’s home for the day, I’m around. I cook dinner and spend time in the evenings with him. I’m sure I could get a lot more accomplishing (writing-wise) if I turned everything over to him and ran upstairs for free writing time, but my marriage is too important for that.

I've also had to come up with "management tips" for life.

1. I plan all my errands for one or two days. Running to the store, post office, etc. everyday would be a BIG time killer.

2. I’ve trained my kids to take part in household chores. My oldest son does all the floors and trash removal. My youngest son sets and clears the table and puts the food away. He also cares for our pets and gathers all the dirty laundry. My daughter does all the dishes and keeps the kitchen clean. It’s great training and a big help for mom!

3. I hire someone to come in a clean for four or five hours every few weeks. It’s been so worth the cost—both for writing time and my peace of mind.

Balancing family and writing is never easy, but I try to keep my priorities straight. They old saying goes, “You’ll never get to the end of your life and say, I wish I would have worked more.”

Finally, my writing benefits from these priorities too. When it comes to putting words on the page, I just do it. Since I have kids I have to sit down and produce. There’s no letting my mind wander, no playing around on the computer. And I actually think that because of this I get a lot more done than others I know who have all day to write.

My family is also my inspiration. They have shown me how to love, how to cry, how to rejoice. My writing would be flat and lifeless without those I love most.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vote for your favorite book cover!

Stepping Stones Magazine is launching a new contest for the Autumn Season!

Please vote for your favorite book cover and send it to me at this email address. rpkg@comcast.net

Write in the subject line 'SSMW Book Cover Contest'.

The cover that receives the greatest number of votes will be featured in a fall issue, along with a photo of the author, a brief interview of how the cover came about, a link to the author's website, and a link to an online bookstore where the book is available for purchase.

~~a note from the website says: Runners Up will also be featured with a link to the authors' websites. Authors, you cannot vote for your own book, but you can encourage your readers to vote for you. :)

Please place in the body of the email...
Book Title
Author's Name

Deadline is August 30. Go here for more info!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Advice for Novelists (Part 42)

C.J. Darlington, co-founder of TitleTrakk, is running a great series on her blog: She started a series of blog posts in which industry professionals (editors, agents, publicists, authors, etc.) share their responses to this question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

...continues today with Steven James!

Stories are driven by tension, not events. Just because you write a list of things that have happened doesn’t mean you have a story. To have a story something must go wrong. So, as you work on developing the plot or movement of your novel don’t think in terms of what happens, think in terms of what goes wrong.

Then, with the progression of your story, continually make things worse for your main character. Keep tightening the tension, keep ratcheting up the action, keep heightening the suspense. It may seem strange to say this, but readers want the main characters of the story to struggle. We want to worry about them, about whether the guy will live happily ever after, or if he’ll get the girl, or how he’ll escape from being chained to the shipwreck fifty feet below the surface in shark-infested waters. We want them to suffer until the very end, when we want to see some type of satisfying resolution.
So, start with an intriguing struggle and then look for believable ways to make it worse and you’ll move to the top of the stacks of other novel submissions that only include meaningless, although eloquent, descriptions of events.

--Steven James, author of the novels The Pawn & The Rook as well as other nonfiction titles. Visit his website here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Click here, Mommy!

I’d like to introduce today’s guest blogger Jeannette Hanscome. Jeannette is a friend I met at Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference. She’s also a great writer, publishing three books for Focus on the Family. Check out her website here: http://www.jeanettehanscome.com/

Jeanette offers a lot of wisdom on her post. I can TOTALLY relate, and it gave me a lot to think about. Also, be sure to check out Jeanette's post on my blog for Gen X Parents.

by Jeanette Hanscome

My almost-four-year-old son Nathan has a subtle way of telling me when I’ve been working at the computer too long. He enters my office, usually clutching one of his favorite books, stands beside me, watches me type away for a few minutes, then points to the top left-hand corner of my monitor—the corner where he has often seen me double click to close Word or exit the Internet.

“Click here, Mommy,” he says, sweetly at first, like it’s just a suggestion.

I am embarrassed to say that my typical response is, “Just a minute, Nathan.” That minute stretches into ten. So Nathan makes another attempt.

“Mommy, click here.” He leaves a fingerprint on the corner of my screen. Grrr! I just cleaned it!

I point to the small selection of toys in the corner of my office (like every good writer/mom my office doubles as a playroom). “Why don’t you build me a tower?”

I explain that Mommy has a deadline, as if her cares or knows the definition of deadline.

Desperate, he lays the book over my hands on the keyboard. Again he points, more insistent now, his tiny finger tapping the corner of the screen. “No. Click here. Here.”

Instead of the stereotypical devil on one shoulder and angel on the other, I hear a debate between two conflicting child psychologists, one chastising me for putting my career above the needs of my child and the other reminding me that Nathan is old enough to learn patience and respect for Mommy’s craft.

Finally, I call it quits for awhile, not because I want to, but because A) I feel guilty and B) I’m tired of having a Little Critter book shoved between my face and the screen.

It’s an endless battle.

The week before the Mount Hermon Writers Conference Nathan I went through several rounds of the “Click here” routine. Mount Hermon has been a highlight of my year since 1995. This time around, in addition to attending, I was teaching a workshop and had co-coordinated a “Buddy System” program for first-time registrants. My new devotional book, Want More? Joy came out that same week and I had to spread the news to all my friends and relatives. I knew that I was neglecting my family, Nathan especially, but it seemed justified at the time.

“After the conference Mom won’t be so overloaded,” my husband Norm reminded the kids and himself. I knew it wasn’t true. I would only get caught up in new deadlines and projects that I’d put off in order to prepare for Mount Hermon. I didn’t have it in me to admit that to them.

Two nights before I left for the conference, I sat on the couch with Nathan, a stack of Little Critter books on my lap. As soon as I finished reading All by Myself Nathan handed me I Was So Mad. I caught a glimpse of his face—total satisfaction. Whenever I moved, he snuggled closer to me, probably to prevent me from escaping. For the first time all week, I didn’t want our “Mommy and me” moment to end.

It hit me then that Nathan could care less if I ever wrote another article, devotional, or book. Why should he give a second thought to stories written for teen girls and adults? All he wanted was for me to stop long enough to read all five of his current favorite stories.

I thought back to the beginning of my writing journey, when I shared that typical new writer’s struggle—finding time to write and disciplining myself to work when I did have time. Now I have the opposite problem. I need to recognize when it’s time to discipline myself NOT to write.

It’s such a privilege to communicate what God has taught me, through stories, articles and devotions. But it is also an honor to have two amazing boys and a husband who loves me. So right now, God is teaching me how to properly balance the two, knowing that writing will always be here. Nathan, on the other hand, won’t always be around to say, “Click here, Mommy.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

How to do Suspense! Part 3 Tricks or Treats

Taken from Susan May Warren's and Rachel Hauck's My Book Therapy!


Part 2: The Big Event

Tricks or Treats

So you’ve figured out your BIG EVENT, and made it believeable and compelling and immediate and threatening. But to really create a great suspense, you new a few TRICKS!

Here’s the first one:

Grab ‘em with a HOOK from the first line. The suspense Hook is essential for a great story. Your hook should, set the tone, start with your hero/heroine in action, hint at the stakes and raise a story question. However, there is one key that every suspense hook needs to have:

Intrigue. Why? How? What? It needs to raise one of these questions right at the beginning.

Here are some of my hooks:

The past had picked the worst time to find her. (What?) from Flee the Night

Out of all FSB Agent Yanna Andrevka’s bright ideas, masquerading as a mail-order bride ranked among the most stupid. (Why?) from Wiser than Serpents

Stirling McRae should have known he couldn’t escape his duty, even deep inside the forests of northeastern Alaska, a hundred miles from civilization. (How?) From Expect the Sunrise

Today, more than any other, reporter Will Masterson prayed his lies would save lives. (How?) from Escape to Morning

If the train trudged any slower into the station, American missionary Gracie Benson would be dead by sunset. (Why?) from In Sheep’s Clothing.

(BTW, Where and Who are also questions, although they’re not as compelling, unless of course you’re a thousand miles under the ocean, or a space invader. Mostly, people connect with whys and hows, and then whats.)

To create that Intriguing Hook, ask: What statement can you make about your character or story that leaves a question in the reader’s mind?

Second Suspense Trick:

Leave them Hanging – You know how you’re with the character as she opens the door, and she sees a form diving for her and –

That’s when you want to leave a scene. Don’t leave the scene with all the threads tied up. Leave just when they’re about to hear some truth, or at the point of victory, or right before an attack or defeat. You want to leave it at the height of action or tension so that the reader will turn the page. And here’s another trick – don’t take up the scene again in the next POV – jump to another POV if you can, and then pick it up with yet another POV in the next scene. Or, jump ahead in time, and show the aftermath, and then flashback to the scene.

Your pacing in a story is really key here – if you are in a high action scene followed by another high action scene, it gets tiring for the reader. Let them breathe, and cutting off the action to a slower scene helps them breathe and prepare for the next high action scene.

You know those scenes where the hero and heroine hide behind something and reload their guns and say something deep and poignant – that’s a breather. Put breathers in, leaving them hanging helps you do this.

Start with a HOOK, and Leave them Hanging…and you’ll have readers caught in your book, breathlessly turning pages (or at least, we hope so!)

Next week we’re talking about: Emotional Layering – which is a sort of preview of the class I’m teaching at ACFW….so you all get to be my guinea pigs. How do you, uh, FEEL about that? *g*

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Advice for Novelists (Part 41)

C.J. Darlington, co-founder of TitleTrakk, is running a great series on her blog: She started a series of blog posts in which industry professionals (editors, agents, publicists, authors, etc.) share their responses to this question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

Take it away, Tracie Peterson!

One of the most important things I ever learned was to ask and truthfully answer the question, "If you knew you would never be published, never be paid, never have a single person read what you were writing, would you still write?"

I think it's a critical question and ties in with the things already posted on the website by so many others. It's important to know why you write and not get bogged down in reviews, rejections, critiques, fads, how many conferences you've attended or awards you've won, or whether or not you've even sold a single word.

This question was posed to me long ago and it truly impacted my writing life. When facing a harsh review or praise-filled fan letter, I have to take it back to this question. God always brings me back to Him and the fact that writing is a gift and a passion that He has given me, and what is done with that gift and passion is also in His hands. I have to be open to where He is leading and if that means I write books, I write books. If I'm supposed to write magazine articles, poetry, trade manuals or journal entries, then that's what I need to be ready to do.

Why I write has never been based on the money I could make. I pray it never is. I want the focus of my work to be on what the Lord wants it to be. If it's for nothing but personal reflection, then so be it. If it's to offer encouragement through a letter to a friend, then let it be to His glory. If it's to write the next mega-best-seller that will be made into a hit movie, great. So long as it's got God's fingerprints all over it, I can know that I am writing for the right reason and there is great liberty in that--liberty that allows my creativity and delight in what I do to not only bless me, but hopefully bless others and bring glory to God.

Ask yourself the question I posed and see where it takes you. You might be surprised and relieved by the answer.

--Tracie Peterson, multi-published author of many, many novels including The Ladies of Liberty series, Alaskan Quest series, and The Broadmoor Legacy series. Visit her website here to learn more.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How to do Suspense! Part 2 The Big Event

Taken from Susan May Warren's and Rachel Hauck's My Book Therapy!


The Big Event

Okay, so you’ve introduced your hero and heroine, and the stakes of the story, even hinted at their fears at the outset of the book…now, how do you weave in the SUSPENSE.

First, let’s take a look at the defition of a suspense:

An everyday hero or heroine confronts a believable, compelling, immediate and terrifying threat, and using their unique abilities, learning more, confronting their own lies and eventually finding a new strength, they overcome and win the day.

The key to that definition is the word: EVENT

E - Event – The EVENT in a suspense is the bad thing that will happen if the hero/heroine don’t stop it. It’s what is at STAKE in the story that propels our h/hn to face their darkest fears, summon their courage and defeat the bad guy.

The EVENT is the key to a great suspense and needs to present a Believable, Compelling, Immediate, & Terrifying Threat

Whether the event that is/will happen is caused by natural elements (ie, a storm (The Perfect Storm), or a volcano (Dante’s Peak) or a villain – it needs to have four components.

It must be:

1. Believable – We need to believe that this COULD happen. We need to believe that the threat is real, and deadly. We need to believe that the bad guy WILL pull the trigger, or detonate the bomb, or that the volcano will erupt.

One way to increase the believability is to show the event happening at the beginning of the book, in another time or place. ie, in Dante’s Peak the first scenes show the volcano erupting in another country and causing the death of the hero’s girlfriend. In one of my favorite Romantic Suspense movies – Bird on a Wire, we see the bad guy getting out of jail, and we know he’s a bad dude…mostly because of his threats and he’s clearly done time for a previous conviction and hasn’t changed his ways. Not only that, but he attacks Mel and blows up the garage where Mel is hiding out, and kills his boss…he’s serious about his threat.

Make your event BELEIVABLE.

2. Compelling – A compelling Event is one that is personal, and affects the life of the her or heroine. At some point in the story – preferably near the beginning, it needs to get personal. Either they walk in on the situation/crime, or they are the targets, or they are caught up in it. This compelling aspect can be peripheral – meaning it can affect loved ones — (this is why romantic suspense works so well) or it can be direct. But they need to care about stopping it, and in order to make them (and us) care, make it personal.

Along that line, it also needs to be reasonable. You’re not going to be afraid of a volcano erupting on your mother if she lives in North Dakota. If she lives in Hawaii…different story. In Dante’s Peak, the story turns personal when the children go after their grandmother on the mountain and get caught in the lava flow. In Bird on a Wire, of course it gets personal for Goldie when she finds the man she’s always loved and discovers he’s in danger.

Make it COMPELLING – Personal and Reasonable

3. The Event needs to also be Immediate – There must be a deadline. The reader (and the hero/heroine) have to believe that the threat will happen, and happen soon. In Dante’s Peak, it’s the boiling gasses in the hot springs, and the fact that the volcano guys know it’s going to happen soon. In Bird on a Wire, clearly someone is hot on their trail, and they need to get to the one guy who can help before he is killed.

Somewhere in the middle of the book you need to start a ticking clock or countdown to the big bang. Whether it’s the mounting pressure inside the volcano, or the harried hostage taker losing his patience, or the plane running out of fuel, there needs to be an increasing immediacy.

Sometimes even the hero/heroine don’t know how immediate this threat is – but make sure the reader does (and even better if they’re yelling at the character in the quiet of their own room!)

Start the Clock – and make it IMMEDIATE


4. Terrifying – We need to believe that this event is a horrible thing. This is different from believing it can happen. It’s answering the questions — so what? If it happens, how does it affect me?

You make it terrifying by looking at two different perspectives – personal and public fears.

Personal fears are all about losing someone we love – a family member – a wife, child, something we all fear. In Bird on a Wire, the fear is that they won’t get to live happily ever after, that their one true love will die.

The Public fear is about how devastating the event is, and who is affected. (And if you can throw in someone in the personal circle, that ups the effect). Ie – in Dante’s Peak – the grandmother is burned to death (basically) and now we know how horrible it would be for someone – anyone to die this way.

In one of my favorite suspense, Air Force One, Glenn Close explains the terror when she says, “if we give into this threat, we’ll have terrorists crawling out of the woodwork.”

The reader needs to understand why this threat is scary – threaten the children, take out a government, kill a granny, give an entire town a contagious disease, and then wipe it out. Make dinosaurs eat people. Show us why it would be horrible if it happened.


Creating that four part event will cause your reader (and your hero/heroine) to stay in the story until the bitter (and hopefully Event-Less!) end.

Tomorrow, I’m going to share with you a few TRICKS to writing suspense….

Thanks for all the submissions last week on your favorite suspense novel/book! Keep them coming – we’ll compile them on Friday!

Rachel here: These are amazing writing tips. Some of you might be saying, “Hm, I don’t write suspense.” All of these tips work. Don’t tune out and think this doesn’t apply to you. Think about your romance, your women’s fiction, your family saga. You need the EVENT, the believable, the immediate, the compelling and the terrifying, or perhaps better said, the devastating element bearing down on your hero and heroine.

Stakes always need to be high and continually raised in our stories. What can force your protagonist to the edge? What will bring them back?

Happy writing!

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Czech, an American, and a romance...

This is a cute story from the Olympic games. It involves a gold medal, a Czech, an American, and a romance. Who can beat that?


Friday, August 15, 2008

How to do Suspense!

Taken from Susan May Warren's and Rachel Hauck's My Book Therapy!


I taught this class for the first time last week – and, as I was thinking about how to talk about suspense had, of course, to tell the story of Nikki Anderson’s haunted house.

Twelve years old. Halloween. Me and the neighbor boy. We stood outside my friend Nikki’s house from which oozed eerie cackling laughter and fake smoke and trembled. We’d heard her father was transforming the house for our yearly trick and treat around the neighborhood, but for the first time, I feared entering the one-story 1970’s rambler. My little heart thundered in my chest…what if something, you know, GOT me?

We got left our bags of treats in the entry and began our adventure through the house – going through the standard rooms – the “mad scientist” room where we dutifully stuck our fingers in jello and spaghetti. The “creepy tunnel” room where we crawled through cardboard boxes with dangling “spider webs.” The “grabby” room where people stood behind bars and lunged out at us. No problem. I wasn’t scared. Until, of course, the final room. I stood at the threshold and fear had me by the throat.

Nikki’s father had laid down electric lights that fizzled and sparked (not sure where he got those). They would flicker on randomly, then off again, pitching the room in blackness. But in that flash of light, we’d see it – a figure, moving about the room, a shadow of doom and horror. And, every flash, HE WAS SOMEWHERE ELSE.

I knew we were doomed. My legs cemented to the floor. I wasn’t moving. The line bumped up behind us. I couldn’t draw breath. Until, of course, the neighbor boy took my greasy hand. He fairly PULLED me, terrified, through the room until I managed a final spurt to the far side under my own power.

We’d made it. Without death, or maiming. And then proceeded to talk about our bravery for the rest of the night.

This, in short, is the three-act synopsis of a romantic suspense novel. The set-up, the action, and the rush of joy. If you’re writing a suspense, you’ve already set up your characters and the goal of the story. But how do you add in the suspense, the “room by room” tension of the story?

For the rest of the week I’m going to back talking about building suspense….the four components of creating that scary final event that our characters (and readers, and small twelve year old girls) fear.

Wow...great illustration. I'll be posting more on their suspense series next week.

Enjoy these last days of summer.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Advice for Novelists (Part 39)

C.J. Darlington, co-founder of TitleTrakk, is running a great series on her blog: She started a series of blog posts in which industry professionals (editors, agents, publicists, authors, etc.) share their responses to this question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

Today lend you ear to the advice of crime/mystery novelist Chris Well and his response to the question: Good fiction is not a product of writing -- it is a product of rewriting. Write your first draft in secret, set it aside, and come back later with fresh eyes. Go through and cut what isn't supposed to be there, add what you thought was already in there, and repair all the wonky transitions that made so much sense when you wrote it. Rinse. Repeat.

(Rule of thumb: If you have a target word count, make sure your first draft is a good ten- or twenty-percent above that count; as you go through and cut unnecessary words, your manuscript will shrink.)

--Chris Well, author of the novels Forgiving Solomon Long, Deliver Us From Evelyn & Tribulation House. Visit him online at his website here and his informative blog here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friend of my friend...

Do you have a friend who has a friend that soon becomes your friend?

Tricia Crisafulli is a friend of my friend Margaret. When Tricia and I met we hit it off and Tricia told me she wanted to interview me for her e-zine Faith, Hope and Fiction. It was an AWESOME interview. If I say so myself. Here's the link to enjoy the Tricia and Tricia chat!


And check out some of the other interviews too!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Czech update!

You can read previous updates and see pictures from our trip here!

Things have been going very good here. We've had more contacts with people. One of our young men, Isaac, had lunch with the unbelieving family of one of the teens and it went very well. Other members have gone to coffee with other people we've met--all unbelievers with many questions. Also, there were 15 unbelievers at our mini-concert and farewell party. The Czech church was SO excited. Their whole church is 40 adults and they have a very hard time connecting with new people. Additional people came to church on Sunday who we connected with at the camp. God is good!

Then, last night at a family seminar I taught, another young couple from camp came. That's the first time they've been to church. EVERYONE keeps asking us if we'll come back, including them. So keep praying!!! It's amazing really the relationships we've built in such a short time ... and we'll continue to pray that these people will continue the connection with the church body even after we're gone.

Pray for encouragement for the team too. Yesterday we went to an amazing Bethlehem model (it was very cool) and a castle. (They Czech people had planned this surprise for us.) But during this mini-trip, I heard more than one person (teens) mention that this last week has seemed uneventful. Both John and I talked to them about all the unbelievers who have connected with the Czech Church. I don't think they realize what a HUGE thing this is!!!

So pray that God will encourage their hearts and they will see that these relationships we're building are the main point of the trip. The fact that one young man has given his heart to Christ is unbelievable, as the missionary had only had three commitments in seven years.

Also pray for us today. (Thursday) We are going to a large neighboring town to pass out Bibles, do 5-minute English lessons, and encourage people to sign up for longer English lessons they'll be doing. (It's the same town my friend Robin Jones Gunn smuggled Bibles into in the 1970s ... and we'll be passing them out on the streets!) Pray that we'll connect with people and be encouraged as a team.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Advice for Novelists (Part 38)

C.J. Darlington, co-founder of TitleTrakk, is running a great series on her blog: She started a series of blog posts in which industry professionals (editors, agents, publicists, authors, etc.) share their responses to this question:

"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"

Allen Arnold's response...

The Top Ten Reasons – NOT – to Write a Novel:

If you first and foremost want to preach a sermon

If you first and foremost want to teach a lesson

If your biggest and only fan is your mom or spouse (critiques from honest writing groups are like gold!)

If you’re following the latest trend or the style of a writer (I’m the next ______) rather than charting your own path. The next John Grisham phenomena will not be a John Grisham clone.

If you’re not open to re-working the story countless times until others confirm that it shines

If you’re not willing for a seasoned book agent to challenge and sharpen your proposal / novel

If you’re not willing to invest as much time – sometimes more - than a publishing partner in promoting the novel tirelessly

If you see it as a way to get rich

If you aren’t willing to take equal ownership of the novel’s success or failure

If you aren’t able to remain humble with success and hopeful with failure

The Top Reason TO Write a Novel

Because you feel God’s pleasure when you write Fiction (my nod to Chariots of Fire)…and hunger to become a master at the craft for the sake of the story more than the deal. When the story must be birthed, everything beyond that is gravy and, ultimately, in God’s hands.

--Allen Arnold, Senior Vice President & Publisher, Fiction, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Visit Thomas Nelson's website here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Meet Beth Pattillo!

Beth Pattillo (Heavens to Betsy and Earth to Betsy) knows how to follow a dream—even with a pile of publishing industry rejection slips to her name. She spent seven years on the path to her first publishing contract, and the characters in her newnovel, The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society, embrace Pattillo’s persistence.

Eugenie, Ruth, Esther, Merry, and Camille are not perfect women. They each struggle with love in their own way—unrequited love, forbidden love, overwhelming love, even lost love. Yet they battle on, meeting every month in the Pairs and Spares Sunday school room to knit, discuss that month’s book selection, and puzzle out their lives.

When Eugenie throws neglected and abused teenager Hannah Simmons into their midst, however, walls decades in the making come crashing down. With secrets thrown on the table amid the tangle of yarn, needles and books, one thing becomes certain: The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society will soon discover what’s most important in the complicated lives they lead.

About Beth Pattillo
Beth Pattillo is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and holds a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt University. She and her family make their home in Tennessee. Her novel, Heavens to Betsy, won the prestigious RITA award from the Romance Writers of America.

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society is her fourth novel.

To learn more, visit http://www.bethpattillo.com/

Q&A with Beth Pattillo, author of The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society

Q. What was your inspiration behind The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society?

The book was inspired by the knitting group at my church. I loved the way a group of diverse women, from their teens to retirement age, bonded over knitting and prayer. I think book clubs experience a similar phenomenon. Something about knitting or reading together really helps to create authentic community. One of the things I enjoyed most about writing this book was looking at the world from such different points of view. Each of the women in the novel is unique. And the variety of ages and life experiences kept things interesting.

Q. In the book, troubled teen Hannah Simmons has seen her share of neglect and abuse before meeting the ladies of the Knit Lit Society. Do you see many teens like Hannah in the course of your work as an ordained minister? If so, what is your philosophy in helping them find healing?

Unfortunately, I’ve met a number of teens over the years that were neglected by their parents. I’m a strong believer in youth ministry because I know it can provide guidance and care that’s often missing in a teenager’s home. In the novel, Hannah happens to be poor, but I’ve found that income level, however high or low, doesn’t always correlate to the quality of parenting. The love and attention of a youth minister and/or youth sponsor can often keep a teen from making bad choices with disastrous consequences. Teenagers need to feel competent and valued. A strong youth ministry provides an opportunity for young people to find their spiritual gifts and use them. It also makes God’s love tangible and powerful.

Q. Since not every town has a Knit Lit Society, what would your advice be to anyone who has a "Hannah" in their life or knows of a teen in a similar situation?

Most teens need someone to listen to them without judgment or agenda. Mentoring, serving as a youth sponsor, teaching Sunday school and Bible study – these are all great ways to reach out to teenagers. As a minister, in a particular situation, I have to assess whether a teenager needs the help of social services in addition to the love and care of a church family. All ministers are required by law to report suspected abuse. Neglect, though, can be a bit trickier. Ideally, a minister can reach out to the parents as well as the teen to try and help the family become more functional and caring. I always appreciated my church members letting me know if they thought a particular teenager needed help. I think it’s better to get involved and ultimately find that the situation wasn’t as serious as you thought than to ignore something until a crisis occurs.

Q. Do you knit in your spare time?

I love to knit! I’m into hand-tied yarn right now, taking eight or nine different yarns in a particular color palette and tying 2-3 yard sections end to end. The result is wonderfully shaggy scarves or shawls that have real depth of color and texture. (I was inspired by the owner of The Shaggy Sheep in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas – a terrific yarn store!) I’m afraid I have numerous unfinished projects around the house, but one day, I hope to finish them all.

Q. You spent seven years waiting to publish your first book and now The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society is your fourth book. What advice do you have for novice or aspiring writers?

Aspiring writers have to persevere. For that matter, so do published authors. The publishing industry is a rejection-based business. Work hard, acquire a thick skin, be open to good criticism, and revise, revise, revise. As writers, we take our work personally, but the publishing industry doesn’t. Rejection is a business decision, not a critique of our value as human beings!

My other piece of advice is to write every day, even if it’s only a small amount. I run an email loop called Club 100 For Writers. The challenge is to write 100 words a day for 100 days. I’ve seen this practice transform people’s lives. Instructions for joining the group are on my website, http://www.bethpattillo.com/

Friday, August 1, 2008