Saturday, June 9, 2012

Call to Writers - Samaritan's Purse

Work With Us

Senior Writer/Communications (1180)

Boone, NC - We’re looking for a top-notch Senior Writer to work on a dynamic team in a fast-paced environment. The ideal candidate must possess excellent writing and editing skills, with attention to organization, readability, clarity, syntax, accuracy, consistency, grammar, etc. The Senior Writer will produce creative, compelling copy for a wide range of publications, including newsletters, magazines, Web stories, ads, brochures, handbooks, forms, and correspondence. Responsibilities include working closely with graphic artists and photo librarians to achieve best design and layout of publications. Requires at least a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, communications, marketing, or related field, and 5-10 years of relevant experience. Non-profit experience a plus. Candidate must have a solid Christian commitment, consistent witness for Jesus Christ, and be able to manage multiple assignments, take direction willingly, meet deadlines, and work well in a team environment. Please provide samples of your work via website link within your resume, or email samples to after completing application.

Mission Statement:
Samaritan's Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan's Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God's love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the Church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Distinct Objectives:
The work of Samaritan’s Purse is marked by five distinct objectives, grounded in Scripture and biblical principles:
PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL - EXALT Christ and share the Gospel while working in His Name around the world
SERVE WITH EXCELLENCE - EXCEED the world’s standard while serving the purposes of God’s kingdom
RESPOND WITH COMPASSIONATE ACTION - EXPEDITE our response to needs as the Lord reveals opportunities to minister
DEMONSTRATE BIBLICAL INTEGRITY - EXHIBIT character and integrity personally, at home and work
WALK IN BOLD FAITH - EXPECT God to do the impossible-- “God Room”

Here is a link to the page where you will find this information and more.

Don't forget to let fellow bootcampers know if you are the one who got the job!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Writing for Lifeway

Becky Hillman

Have you ever wondered how Lifeway gets thier many publications filled? Beth Moore is good, but she can't write everything they publish. That's where we as freelance Christian writers come in. They have several categories that they need and use freelance writers for including:

  • Curriculum Study Materials and Personal Growth Materials
  • Ministry Periodicals
  • Devotional, Christian Living, and Life Enrichment Resources
  • Books

Most of what they do is on assignment, which means that once you have established a relationship with the right person for the periodical or department you are interested in, they send you an assignment. But remember, for Lifeway is not just another freelance job, it's a calling from God. They take that seriously at Lifeway, and so should you. So start your search with prayer.

Here is a great starting place. It's a link to the different categories where they use writers like us and the best ways to get started with them.

Below is a list of the different categories from the website and publications for each:

Curriculum Study Materials and Personal Growth Materials
There are many publications that fall under this category. Most of the writers they use attend a Southern Baptist Church and are involved in the type of study they are writing. If you are interested in writing this types of material, you will find a hyperklink in the above web address for a form to fill out.

Ministry Periodicals
The following periodicals are non-study activities, and are for specific ministry avenues.

The Deacon provides tips and devotions for deacons in the Southern Baptist church.

Let's Worship  is a handy resource for the worship arts ministry staff.  It includes music, dramas, sermons, ministry ideas, and more.

Special Education Today is a magazine dedicatd to helping churches improve thier outreach to families with children with special needs.

Devotional, Christian Living, and Life Enrichment Resources
The following provide Bible reading and devotional features:
  • Open Windows (for adults)
  • Quietud (Spanish devotional guide)
  • Journey (for women)
  • Stand Firm (for men)
  • Bible Express (for children)
  • More (for younger children)
  • Adventure (for older children)
  • Essential connection (for youth)

If you are interested in submitting work to these titles, start by requesting writers' guidelines from the editor of the periodical(s) for which you desire to write. Send requests for guidelines to:

Editor, (name of periodical)
One LifeWay Plaza
Nashville, TN 37234

If you have a book that you would like to submit to Lifeway, you can request writer's guidelines by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
Broadman & Holman Publishers
127 Ninth Avenue, North
Nashville, TN 37234-0115

  1. I know this is a lot of information, but it's a start. Visit the website listed above to get more information on the different categories you may be interested in. Do some of your own research by browsing magazines and Bible studies at the Lifeway store. This will help you focus in the right direction and eliminate some things as well. Once you've written something for Lifeway, don't forget to share your experience with your fellow bootcampers. Remember, we're all in this together and want to cheer you on!

Monday, May 28, 2012


Mary Edwards

Zip a dee doo dah,
Zip a dee ay,
I got a rejection letter today!
Plenty of others heading my way,
Picking my pen back up
And writing away!

Several of my writer peers received rejection letters. We wanted to enjoy acceptance letters. Rather than basking in the sadness, we tried to see the lighter side of rejection. We penned these words to a jingle that made us smile. It reminded us to be patient in our work and not give up. The song became a catchy little reminder tune. We laughed when we sang it. I loved the joy it brought. 

It wasn't easy to be patient, though. Through encouragement we found the joy God promised.
I looked up the word patience in the dictionary. It read, “to be able to be calm, tolerant, and understanding”. The word calm means being in control of your emotions. The word tolerant is to be kind and show consideration to people who are different than you. Understanding means being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes.

I find myself struggling with all of these, especially when I write and want things to happen now.  I want others to like my work just like I wrote it.  Constructive criticism is often difficult to take, even when I ask for it. However, it is a form of education and education brings knowledge. The Holy Spirit helps you find wisdom, and the friends God places in our lives help us find and learn patience.

I am grateful to my Christian writer's group of encouragers who remind me of God's word. I would be even more impatient if it weren't for His words. The encouragers’ embrace this doubting, intolerant writer with the love of the Lord, and they show me that there are rewards in being patient and waiting upon the Lord. He is so good to us and is our perfect example of patience. I wonder if He ever sings Zip a dee do da when He gets rejected?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Steps to Protect Yourself from Online Hackers

Edie Melson
Last week I shared What to do if You’ve been Hacked. This week I want to give you some tips to help prevent it from happening. Unfortunately, nothing is foolproof. Inevitably, the more wise we become at protecting ourselves, the more cunning those wishing us harm become.

The majority of times we get hacked it’s because we clicked a link that uploaded a virus which opened us up to hackers.

This is the bad news, but there’s also good news. This kind of hacking is preventable, and here are some steps to take to stay safe online.

  • Be wise. This seems basic, but so many times we just ignore our better judgement. How many of us have been sucked in by direct messages like these? “Have you heard the rumors your friend is spreading about you?” or “This is a hilarious video just uploaded about you.” Stop. Think. Then DON’T click that link!
  • Assume it’s a lie. About six months ago I got an email from an online company confirming a large purchase with my credit card. I knew I hadn’t made any purchases, but still had to fight the urge to panic. I took a step back and looked more closely at the email. I noticed several things that made me suspicious. I immediately did an online search for scams involving that company and came up with pages of recent victims. I contacted the company directly (not through the info in their email) and confirmed the email was a ruse.
  • Never give out sensitive information. Let me repeat, NEVER GIVE OUT SENSITIVE INFORMATION! Companies don’t ask for bank account info, passwords or other information over the internet. First, if you’re a customer, they already have all of your information they need. Keeping up with personal passwords is a liability for companies. 

Now, a quick word about passwords. I know you don’t want to hear it, but your password should be different for every account you have. If you’re like me you probably have dozens of accounts, so how can you keep up with all those passwords? Trust me, it’s not with sticky notes or a file on your computer.

Instead, take advantage of some wonderful programs. Some charge a small fee, others are free—all have the highest security rating available. 

Keepass X (for Mac) and Keepass (for PC)

There are also blank booklets available for those of you who are old school and want something you can hold in your hand. I’ve seen them at local discount stores, as well as high end specialty stores.

Now it’s your turn, what are some tricks you use to stay safe online? 

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Help, I've Been Hacked, Now What?

A Guest post by Edie Melson

Many of us have experienced the sinking feeling that comes with the realization that one (or more) of our social media profiles have been hacked. It's nothing to be ashamed of, but it can sure wreck an otherwise blissful day. 

The easiest way to get hacked is to click on a link that contains a virus allowing hackers access to your accounts. When you click on the link, you may see a message telling you the link is broken. That doesn’t mean you’ve dodged the bullet. If your firewall or virus software doesn’t catch it, you’ll still be infected. 

Some of the most common messages that spread viruses and allow hackers access are:
“Did you know your friends are spreading nasty rumors about you?” 
“This is a hilarious video of you.”

So what’s a social media professional to do, cancel all accounts and slink away in shame?


In this post I'll give you the steps to repair the damage. In the next post I'll give you some tips to keep it from happening again.

First, change your password for the social media profile that’s been compromised. 

  • Go to your home page and click on VIEW MY PROFILE PAGE under your name in the top left of the screen.
  • Then click on PASSWORD and follow the directions to change your password.

  • Go to your home page and click on the arrow to the right of your profile name in the solid blue header.
  • You should land on General Account Settings. From here click PASSWORD and change your password.

Next, you need to check and make certain the damage hasn't spread. Changing your password is just the first step. For this, you’ll need to visit the app section for Twitter and Facebook. Here’s how:

  • Go to your home page and click on VIEW MY PROFILE PAGE under your name in the top left of the screen.
  • Then click on APPS. Here you’ll see a list of apps that have access to your Twitter account. I recommend you revoke access to any you don’t recognize or haven’t used in a while.

  • Go to your home page and click on the arrow to the right of your profile name in the solid blue header.
  • Click on APPS. Here, too, you’ll see a list of apps that have access to your Facebook account. Again, I recommend you revoke access to any you don’t recognize or haven’t used in a while.

The fear of getting hacked shouldn't keep us from exploring social networking, anymore than the fear of identity theft should keep us from using a debit or credit card. But we all need to play smart. 

How about you, have you ever been hacked? 
Don't forget to join the conversation at

Monday, May 7, 2012

Self-Editing Your Article

By Becky Hillman

Your article is finally finished and you’re ready to send it off to be published. But is the article ready? Have you taken the necessary steps to make sure it’s all it can be? You’ve worked hard to get to this point, don’t slack off now. Besides, your name is going to be attached to this piece, you want it to be something you can be proud of. Here are some self-editing tips from a 2012 Writers Advance! Boot Camp class taught by Ann Tatlock to help you out.

Once your article is finished, Ann suggests “giving it a cooling-off period. Come back later with fresh eyes. In the meantime, let a critique partner read the material.” I like to ask my husband to read things I’ve written because I know he will be honest about it. He is good at letting me know when he doesn’t understand the point I’m trying to make, or when a sentence seems a bit wordy.

Once it’s back in my hands, the fun begins. Here are some questions Ann says to ask yourself:

Do I have an effective lead?
An effective lead is probably one of the most important parts of an article, or any piece or writing for that matter. If you don’t hook the reader in, they will put down what they are reading and move on to something else.

Have I stuck to the point or gotten off on rabbit trails?
Sticking to the point is difficult at best, so you must be careful with this one. A critique partner or an honest friend is most helpful here. They can easily see where you have gone bird walking and will help pull you back in.

Have I left gaps in information?
Right tight! We all heard it more than once at the 2012 Writers Advance! Boot Camp, but not at the expense of leaving the reader guessing at what you really mean. You want to leave some things to their imagination, but not so much they are left in the dark.

Do I have a good balance of narrative and dialogue?
If your article includes dialogue, keep it balanced with the narrative. Maintaining this balance keeps readers on their toes. Too much of either one can be awkward and boring.

When I read it aloud, does if flow? (Vary sentence length.)
Speaking of awkward, read your article out loud. This feels a bit strange, but allows you to check the flow. Are your sentences too short and choppy? Or maybe you have long run-on sentences. A good flow will hold a reader’s attention and keep them looking for more.

Is the ending satisfying and does it give the reader something to take away and think about?
Satisfy your audience with a challenging ending. Give them something useful, something they can think about long after they have put your article down.

As you read through each paragraph, Ann points out the following items to make your work shine:
  •  Cut out the deadwood. Get rid of the words that aren’t necessary, especially overused adverbs or adjectives. Look for repetitive words and delete them.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this the right word to use?” Words that are similar may still have different shades of meaning. Use a thesaurus or synonym finder.
  • Circle passive verbs (is, was, were, etc.) and use active verbs instead.
  • Look for end-of-sentence prepositions and see if you can rework the sentence.
  • Avoid clichés. Strive for originality.
  • Check for incorrect grammar, misspelled words and typos.
Remember, your name will be attached to your work and people will read it. If it gets into the hands of an editor, you want them to see your best. Do what you can to polish it so what they read is worth remembering.

Like me, I’m sure you are grateful to Ann for taking the time and effort to share her wisdom. Now, let’s pick up our marching orders and use her advice to write the best articles the world has ever seen. And share those articles with your fellow boot campers. Remember, we are all in this together!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Got Nothing. Aurrghh!

By Nan Trammell Jones

I was stumped. The freshly written devotion was powerful, poignant - even unique. But I had no idea how to bring it full circle and end it with a life-changing punch. I clicked my fingertips against the computer keys. Nothing. Moments later, I clasped my hands, rolled them forward and stretched them high above my head, bobbing my neck from side to side, willing the muscles to relax. Still nothing. I lost myself in the candle’s flickering flame teasing me with its fresh apple scent and, you guessed it. Nothing.

And then I remembered.

When I decided to get serious about my writing, the first book I read was Marlene Bagnull’s, Write His Answer. In this fabulous bible study for writers, Marlene instructs the writer to learn to sit quietly before the Lord and listen to His gentle whisper. Ask Him, “Lord, what is Your answer here? What do you want my words to say?” This is a simple solution. It requires discipline, but the results can be stunning.

I have applied Marlene’s instruction many times. When I sat at the keyboard and stared at a blank screen, I sat quietly for a moment, then asked those very questions, “Lord, what is Your answer? What do you want me to write?” Oftentimes, I only hear one word deep in my spirit. If I am willing to type that one word – and trust that I have heard from the Lord – the sentences begin to unfold. It is a matter of intentionally seeking His guidance and listening for His sweet voice. No one is more surprised at His answers than me.

He amazes me every time.

You may visit Nan at her website: or stop by Morning Glory:

If you are interested int the book Nan mentioned, Write His Answer by Marlene Bagnull, use the following link to check it out and possibly purchase it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Call to Writers - OakTara Publishers

To all writers and writers’ group leaders:

Want to get your foot in the door in publishing? Or to expand your current publishing credits? OakTara Publishers (see and attached About OakTara.pdf) is looking for new authors and growing authors like you who have a great story to tell!

Do you have a great falling-in-love story? Or know someone who does who would be willing for you to write it on their behalf? We want to hear it! OakTara is looking for short stories—real-life love stories—for our upcoming anthology, to be published in fall 2012. If your story is chosen, you’ll receive either a cash award or a royalty percentage of net retail sales, plus complimentary copies of the book. And you’ll be a published author, with a credit to add to your growing publishing résumé!

For more information, visit

The deadline for submissions is June 15th, 2012. Send all questions and submissions to
We anticipate hearing from you!

Jennifer Wessner
Social Networking Director
A place to call home

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Copyright 101 for Bloggers, Part Two

Edie Melson
Today I want to finish up my series on copyright.

First, I want to state right up front that I am NOT a lawyer and none of what I’ve said or will say constitutes any kind of legal advice. All I’m trying to do is learn how to be responsible online and share that knowledge with you.

That said, at the end of this post I’m going to give you some links to the places where I found my information so you can go check out the specifics for yourself.
Now, onto the remaining answer of the quiz.

More Copyright Information
Number Seven—FALSE—Fair Use. We are all used to being able to quote passages from books and not get into any kind of copyright infringement. I am here to tell you, that is NOT the case with a song. The only part of a song you may quote is the title.

If you’ve seen songs quoted in published books either someone paid a use fee or the author wrote the song himself. I’ve known of two authors who self-published books and had to pull the books because of songs quoted without permission.

Number Eight—FALSE—Copyright Symbol (c). Copyright symbols are visual REMINDERS that what you’re reading belongs to someone. Just because there isn’t one doesn’t affect the status of what you see in print or online. If someone wrote it, it’s copyrighted.

SPECIAL NOTE: You do not have to apply for a copyright for your work...EVER. You can register your copyright, but it’s expensive and cumbersome to do. And it’s rarely necessary.

Number Nine—TRUE—Facebook Use. This is another trick question I snuck in. Because of the user agreement you signed when you registered for a Facebook account you agreed that your photos were able to be used by them for different online purposes. This makes it VERY difficult to prove in a court of law that you don’t mean that permission for everyone else on Facebook. So, if I post my Niagara Falls vacation photos on Facebook, I can’t complain if you borrow them.
Now, it’s always good manners to ask permission, but it’s probably not going to get you in any legal trouble.

ANOTHER SPECIAL NOTE: If the person posting the photo did so illegally, and you repost it, then you are just as guilty and can also be charged with copyright infringement.

I Pinterest, do you?
Number Ten—FALSE—Pinterest. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE Pinterest! I guess I’m just a visual kind of girl. But there are a lot of folks getting into trouble on Pinterest right now. We have to follow ALL the copyright rules when we’re pinning, just like when we’re posting on our blogs. And, if you violate a copyright with one of your Pinterest boards you, and you ONLY, are liable for any fines or charges. You agreed to this when you opened your Pinterest account and accepted their terms of use. If you want to read them again, here is the direct link:

But there is one slight loophole. If someone or some business has a Pinterest button on their website, you can assume they want their stuff to be pinned and you should be okay.

Number Eleven—TRUE—Book Reviews/Recommendations. This is an instance of Fair Use. As long as you’re not saying the book in question is written by you (if it’s not) you can legally post a review and use the cover.

Number Twelve—FALSE—Copyright Expiration. A lot of folks have heard that copyrights expire after 70 years. In some cases that’s true...but not all. There are some instances when copyright expires 70 years after the author/creators death. There are also times when copyrights are renewed. Beyond that, there are other exceptions, so while the 70 year rule is a good place to start—it’s not the place to end.

No need to Fear
This series of posts was NOT generated to scare you, but to give you confidence in what you’re doing and doing well. Being a writer would give me a reason to be passionate about this, but I also come from a creative family. My mother is Monita Mahoney, an internationally known artist and my dad is a classical musician, as well as a landscape photographer. Believe me when I say, I cut my teeth on this stuff. Back in the day, I’ve known my mother to correct complete strangers standing in front of copying machines with art books.

Now it’s your turn, feel free to use the comments section to let me clarify any thing that wasn’t clear or anything I didn’t cover.
Don’t forget to join the Conversation!

You can check out Edie's blog at

Resources (thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you!)
Good explanations of copyright
Public Domain Info
YouTube Info:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Copyright 101 for Bloggers-the Basics About What You Can and Can't LEGALLY Post Online

Edie Melson
There is so much information I want to share with you I’m going to divide this up into two posts. The first today, and the second next Monday.

So I’m reprinting the quiz here—with the answers—to get us started. Then I’ll go through the issues question by question, giving you the pertinent information.

True or False:
1.I can legally post any picture on my blog if I link back to the place I got it. FALSE
2.I can legally use a song’s title in a post, article or book. TRUE
3.I can legally use someone’s blog post as long as I give them credit and don’t change anything. FALSE
4.I can legally use music or a song as background for an original video as long as I credit the source. FALSE
5.I can legally post YouTube videos on my blog or website. TRUE
6.If I don’t make money off of it, it’s legal for me to use. FALSE
7.I can legally quote a small percentage of the words to a song in a post, article or book. FALSE
8.If I don’t have a copyright symbol on my work it’s not covered by copyright law. FALSE
9.I can legally download photos from Facebook to use on my own site. TRUE (fooled you!)
10.I can legally pin anything to one of my Pinterest Boards. FALSE
11.I can legally post a picture of a book cover I recommend or am reviewing. TRUE
12.Copyright on written works expires 70 years after it was first published. FALSE

Art, ALL art, is copyrighted

Number One: Pictures—photos, sketches, graphics, any kind—are covered by the same copyright law as our written words.

Unfortunately, there is lots of sharing going on over the Internet and it’s not legal. When we borrow photos without permission, even when we acknowledge where we got it, we are stealing. I truly believe that’s not the intent, but we need to educate ourselves on what’s right and what’s not and then lead by example.

Number Two: Song Titles. Song titles are the ONLY part of a song we may use legally. There is something in the copyright law called fair use. Without boring you by quoting the law, it means that you can refer to part of a work without being sued. Contrary to what some think, there is no set number of words or percentage that makes up fair use. Instead, there are four factors used to define it.

 the purpose and character of your use.
 the nature of the copyrighted work.
 what amount and proportion of the whole work was taken.
 the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Because of the small size of a song, say compared to a book, the courts have decided that quoting ANY portion of a song, except the title is a copyright infringement. The reason you can quote a title? Titles cannot be copyrighted.

Number Three—Blog Posts. You cannot legally borrow someone’s blog post without their permission, even if you give them credit or link back to it. Now, there are some sites that post guidelines for you to follow to be able to use their posts. But this doesn’t mean it’s legal to do so for another site.

Number Four—Music or Songs. I imagine many of you got this one correct. There has been so much written and so many fines leveed in regard to stolen music, it’s almost common knowledge that you cannot borrow a song or music for your own purposes.

Number Five—YouTube Videos. This one was a little tricky. You can legally post YouTube videos on your site, because what you’re doing is linking, not reposting. Even when you embed videos, they are still linked to YouTube.

Number Six—Profit. Whether you profit from borrowing someone else’s work has no bearing on the legality.

Bloggers are a Fault
I have an opinion about all the borrowing that is happening around the Internet. I may be an optimist, but this is my personal opinion.

I think a lot of bloggers are generous a fault. They frequently offer their own work to others for free. With this mindset as a foundation, it doesn’t always occur to them to think of what they’re doing as stealing—they don’t see other’s borrowing as stealing, after all.

That said, I applaud the generosity with our own work. But, we should also be willing to guard the uniqueness and value of the work of others.

Now it’s your turn to weigh in. Do you have any thoughts—or questions—about copyright issues?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

You can check out Edie's blog at

Friday, April 13, 2012

Call Out for Writers - Chicken Soup Books

Here is the latest story callout from Chicken Soup. —Tracy Is this email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angel Encounters or Angels Among Us (tentative title ideas) Celestial, otherworldly, heavenly. Whatever the term, sometimes there is no Earthly explanation for what we experience and a higher power is clearly at work. People see angels in various forms: heavenly, human, animal, and others. If you have had a personal experience with an angel, please submit your story. We are looking for stories of true wonder and awe from people who have directly encountered or received help from angels. How did your angel protect you or someone you know? How did your angel help you or someone you know? How did your angel manifest himself or herself? This book is for everyone who has a story, whether religious or non-religious. Please note that we are not looking for stories about people who are "angels" because they do nice things, and also please do not submit eulogies about a loved one who has died and is now an "angel." Here are some possible story topics, but we know you can think of more: Angel visitations Divine protection and guardian angels Miraculous recoveries Messages from an angel Prayers answered by an angel Receiving support from angels or spirits Angel intervention Receiving guidance or lessons from angels Interactions with angels Receiving news or warnings from angels Please remember, we do not like "as told to" stories. Please write in the first person about yourself or someone close to you. If you ghostwrite a story for someone else we will list their name as the author. If a story was previously published, we will probably not use it unless it ran in a small circulation venue. Let us know where the story was previously published in the "Comments" section of the submission form. If the story was published in a past Chicken Soup for the Soul book, please do not submit it. If your story is chosen, you will be a published author and your bio will be printed in the book if you so choose. You will also receive a check for $200 and 10 free copies of your book, worth more than $100. You will retain the copyright for your story and you will retain the right to resell it. SUBMISSIONS GO TO Select the Submit Your Story link on the left tool bar and follow the directions. The deadline date for story and poem submissions is July 31, 2012. CONTACT US Please do not reply or send questions to this address. For any further questions or correspondence, contact or visit our website at Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC P.O. Box 700 Cos Cob, CT 06807-0700

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The 20-30 Challenge

Marietta Taylor

I've said “I don't have time today to write” more than I've actually sat down to write. It's not that I don't want to, I just get overwhelmed by life and responsibilities and then do nothing with my writing. But last month I found a solution I call the 20-30 challenge to get my behind in the chair and words on the page every day. If you are in need of a writing nudge, would you be willing try it for the next thirty days?

The solution is to write for just twenty minutes a day for the next thirty days. Now don't go off like Naaman did in 2 Kings and get mad because it's not something elaborate. It's simple and it works. I did it as part of a 30-day challenge to discover and spark your passion. I already knew writing was what I was devoted to, so I just needed a spark to get going again. When I first agreed on day seven of the challenge to spend twenty minutes a day on my passion, I didn't think I'd accomplish much. I was wrong. Each day I spent those twenty minutes, I was able to complete or almost complete a devotion using the Hook, Book, Look and Took method. After 23 days, I had written 15 devotions. I think that's a decent return on my investment.

Reflecting on it now, I realize that before this, I thought I needed an hour or more to be productive. Now I know that's not true. My schedule is packed, but finding twenty minutes was easier than I thought. It was definitely simpler than finding an hour. After I saw what could be done in such a small time period, I looked forward to that time each night. I think you will find the same to be true. I'm done with my 30-day challenge but I'm going to commit to the 20-30 challenge every month. Don't get left behind. Mark your calendar and begin your own today.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Small Steps…Giant Gain! Blog Follower or Blog Subscriber—What is the Difference and Does it Matter?

It’s time for another, Small Steps…Giant Gain! post.

Today I want to clear up an issue many are confused about—the difference between a blog Follower and a blog Subscriber.

Often times the two are used interchangeably. They are NOT the same, and beyond that, one is extremely valuable and the other less so. It's also likely that the two numbers differ greatly. For example, I have 137 followers on Google Friend Connect and well over 400 subscribers. But before we go any further, here are the definitions.

A Follower
This is unique to Blogger sites and looks like this:

If you wanted to become one of my followers, you'd click the join this site icon. Then, if you have a Google account with a picture, your face shows up on my blog. It’s nice to see that people like my blog and this is a way to see that others like my blog.

Also, if you’re familiar with your Google Reader, my blog shows up there. But, and this is critical, those who follow my blog this way do NOT receive any kind of email notification when I post something new on my site.

A Subscriber
These are people who sign up to get notification of new posts on my blog through their email account or through RSS. The most common way of doing this is through FeedBurner. This type of sign-up looks like this:

These people are infinitely more likely to visit my blog on a regular basis. And beyond that, they're willing to have my notifications clutter up their inbox. In these days of email overload this is a BIG commitment.

Bottom Line
While there’s nothing wrong with Google Friend Connect, I still have it on my blog, it’s important to make certain you also have a place for people to receive notifications through email and RSS. These are your subscribers and, when a publisher is looking at your platform, these will be the numbers they’re interested in.

Now it’s your turn to share your experiences with following and/or subscribing to a blog. Do you have any criteria to decide your level of commitment?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Edie Melson

Subscribe to Writers ADVANCE! Boot Camp Blog in the upper right side bar.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Writing Opportunity

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers
101 Motivational Stories for Writers, Budding or Bestselling,
from Books to Blogs

William Wordsworth once instructed writers to "fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." Sounds simple, doesn't it? But putting the feelings in our hearts onto paper in a way that will truly inspire others is not as easy as it sounds. So, how do you persevere when the words won't come, the story fails to unfold, or the rejection letters pour in? As Nathaniel Hawthorne reminds us: "Easy reading is damn hard writing."

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, books or magazine articles, paranormal or romance, the process is equally challenging. For this reason, it's important to learn from others who have hung in there and successfully made the transition from dreaming about writing to being a writer.

For Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers, we want to hear about your setbacks, mentors, breakthroughs, and successes. How did you overcome writer's block? Who kept you on the right path when you were ready to give up? When did you realize that the story in your heart was ready to be shared with the world? We are NOT looking for promotional pieces. We want to know about your journey to publication, including self-publishing and blogging. This is your opportunity to help other writers -- published and unpublished -- draw inspiration and learn from your experiences.

If your story is chosen, you will be a published author (if you're not already!) and your bio will be printed in the book if you so choose. You will also receive a check for $200 and 10 free copies of your book, worth more than $100. You will retain the copyright for your story and you will retain the right to resell it.

Please remember, we no longer accept "as told to" stories. Please write in the first person about yourself or someone close to you. If you ghost write a story for someone else, that person will be credited as the author. If a story was previously published, we will probably not use it unless it ran in a small circulation venue. Let us know where the story was previously published in the "Comments" section of the submission form.

Select the Submit Your Story link on the left tool bar and follow the directions.

The deadline date for story submissions is June 30, 2012.

Please do not reply or send questions to this address. For any further questions or correspondence, contact or visit our website at

Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
P.O. Box 700
Cos Cob, CT 06807-0700

Monday, March 19, 2012

Writing For Him

Phyllis Qualls Freeman

My first official writing assignment was to compose thirteen devotions for Pathway Press. I was ecstatic with the opportunity. Then, it was time to begin writing. I sat at my kitchen table in front of my old Underwood typewriter and stared at the blank white paper curled around the cylinder. Words would not come. No words seemed sufficient to bring to life the Scripture references.

I bowed my head and let the tears flow freely. God, who do I think I am? How dare I speak for You to these people? I’m a simple housewife.

After crying and praying, I wiped my tears and began to write. I could do it because I came to realize God chooses the weak and the lowly so that no one may boast before Him 1 Corinthians 1:29 (NIV). He does not give assignments to angels to write for Him. He gives us a challenge and an opportunity to represent Him to the world through our words. Because of our weakness, God’s power can be seen.

Here are a few suggestions for fulfilling the Call to write:

1. Pray before you begin, asking the Holy Spirit to give you a fresh comprehension of truth and wisdom for the readers of that particular publication. We cannot see what the Holy Spirit perceives in the lives of the readers. Allow Him to guide your thoughts and your writing to those readers.

2. Be sensitive to the voice of God within you for the theme and the spiritual lesson to come through your article or devotion. Re-read your material to check for religious or strong personal bias. Allow the Spirit of God to reveal truth to you and express that truth to the reader. If your heart says, that sounds harsh, take a deep breath and re-write it in love.

3. Write purely. Let every illustration and each word you write reflect integrity and appropriateness. This way, we allow our audience to read what we’ve written with a pure mind as we enhance their commitment to purity.

4. Creatively challenge the reader to consider a particular spiritual truth. Wrap truth in a curious but honest package. Ask God to give you a fresh way to speak about a common issue. We are not only word-weavers, we plant and water truth issues.

5. Reach beyond their eyes to their spirit. Inside each of us is a spiritual, God-sized, emptiness until we come to know Christ. Many do not know or perhaps don’t comprehend what some of us well understand about God. Our writing can lead them toward enlightenment of the joys available in Christ. We present truth issues which speak answers to their own void and allow the Holy Spirit to develop the seeds toward harvest.

6. Offer hope. Their world may be full of strife, pain, or devastation. People often live day-to-day with inadequate paychecks and may attend churches which present rigid restrictions instead of spiritual restoration. People long to breathe in refreshing life, they need a gentle wind which blows away the cobwebs of confusion and offers renewal of hope in Jesus Christ. “As writers, we echo God’s voice answering the cries, telling men and women to hold fast because there’s hope.” Author, Ann Tatlock.

Twenty-five years later, I still write for the above publication and others. Let me correct that -- I’m working together with God to stir a spiritual breeze of renewal in the reader.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Touching Your Readers Through Devotionals

Jo Huddleston

Successful writers strive to touch their readers and prompt them to action or reaction. An effective way to do this is through writing devotionals. When a particular subject has influenced you, you have a passion you can share through a devotional.

 However, the devotional is not your avenue to preach to your reader or to be judgmental. If this is your agenda when you write a devotional, you will likely lose the reader’s attention soon after she begins reading your article.

Writing devotionals will give you opportunities to offer your reader hope, not a sermon. Avoid using words like must, should, and ought. Also avoid lofty and theological vocabulary. The devotional is not a formal paper. Write clear and precise prose from an ordinary person’s viewpoint.
Devotionals, sometimes called meditations, fall into the category of a quick read. Don’t be misled, however, into thinking that short on length endorses the absence of quality writing. Devotionals should meet the same requirements of good writing as any other manuscript worthy of publication.

The format of your devotional may vary from magazine to magazine. Word length may also vary but not to a great extent. Meditations known as daily devotionals usually contain about 250 words and have similar format. Meditations other than daily devotionals can range upwards to 600 words.
 Most devotionals begin with a Bible verse, followed by the story narration and application and usually end with a one- or two-line prayer that summarizes the entire devotional. Before you start writing your devotional know your target publication’s specific format and word length requirements as stated in their guidelines.

 Passion and Emotion
Devotionals that impact your reader are ones you write from your heart, not your head. Yes, your ideas begin in your head but if you don’t have passion for that idea in your heart, you won’t touch your reader as well as you can when the passion is present. Devotional writing must be sincere and honest; don’t try to fake the passion. You can’t. Readers can spot a phony.

When you begin your devotional, you will have your idea first but you already will have experienced a compelling emotion about this idea. And the idea, combined with your compelling emotion about it, forms a powerful devotional.

In your devotional, write about common things that are known to most people. Don’t use an example unfamiliar to a general audience.

Through a devotional, you can give your reader meaningful insight into commonplace situations. Be attentive to what’s happening around you and discover how stories in the Bible pertain to your activities.

The focus of a devotional is narrow. With its length restrictions, the devotional can’t take your reader through the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. You don’t have time to tell what Adam, Moses, David, and the twelve disciples thought about your topic. To focus in your devotional is like looking through a telescope. You can’t see an entire galaxy, but look at one star at a time. Each devotional should focus on only one point.

The Take-away
A well-written devotional can offer your reader encouragement in his circumstances. Give him a “take-away,” something beneficial in your story that he can use in his everyday living. Through your devotionals, you can touch your reader on an emotional level, an experience he won’t soon forget.
Everyday incidents can remind us of how God works in lives. Perhaps you have discovered a special meaning from a Bible verse you’ve studied. Maybe God has become real to you while working through a difficult situation.
Your readers so they may apply what you’ve experienced to their lives. An impressive devotional has a take-away value for your readers that is meaningful not only immediately, but for days and weeks to come.

The audience for devotionals is widespread when published in some daily devotionals. A popular daily devotional guide, The Upper Room, is read or listened to by eight to ten million people in forty different languages.

Marketing Your Devotional
When you look in market guides you will find an extensive listing of religious magazines. Some of them state a need for “inspirational” articles, which sometimes can be interpreted to mean devotional-type articles. Read the information given for each magazine and request writers’ guidelines from those periodicals that interest you. Be sure to enclose your SASE for a reply if you request by mail.

Many selections for daily devotionals are written on assignment only. When you choose a daily devotional you want to write for, send a brief letter stating your interest in writing for them. Ask how you can gain an assignment. Some use only writers from their denomination, and aren’t easily deceived if you try to write like you are one of them when you aren’t.
 Many daily devotionals use first-time writers. They publish 365 meditations each year, making this market more open to writers than some.

Rights Offered
Appearing in several publications lessens the impact of the short but widely distributed daily devotional. For that reason, when you write on assignment for daily devotional publications, expect them to ask for all rights to your manuscript. When deciding whether you want to relinquish your rights, weigh the value to you of the vast audience you will touch and the reach of your story to affect people’s lives.

Getting Paid
Although great monetary wealth is unusual when selling your devotionals, the opportunities for Christian ministry are great. Because of circulation into the hundreds of thousands, a writer of devotionals can reach far more readers and touch many more lives than a first printing of a book that is usually 5,000-20,000 copies. Your story in the Billy Graham Association’s Decision magazine will reach almost 2 million people and The Lookout magazine’s circulation exceeds 100,000.
Why write devotionals? Through a good devotional, you can give your readers hope and encouragement to help them in their daily lives. After reading your devotional, readers can identify with your main idea and perhaps say, “I never knew anyone else felt like this.”
Write your devotional well, and it will touch your reader and help him to deal with life’s situations.

  Jo Huddleston is an author and inspirational writer. Visit her at                               

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Laying Down the Pen - Janey Goude

One of my most effective writing tools is the two-letter word, “No.” Simple, but maddeningly difficult. Mostly, because I enjoy saying, “Yes.” I love to write. God gifted me to write. I know it’s my calling, and often that knowledge is exactly what clouds my ability to clearly see His plan.

Sometimes I start off with His plan and then it becomes my plan. I want to continue long after He is finished. I am having fun with the plan. I may even be making nice money with the plan. I hear Him tell me that my part in the plan is done, but I’m not convinced. It's enjoyable and comfortable. Why would He tell me to stop?

Sometimes, I start off on my own idea from the beginning. The offer comes, and the job requires skills that fit squarely within my gifting. I don’t even think to consult Him to see if it is part of His desire for me. I mean, it’s a no-brainer. One day my grand scheme begins to crumble and I ask why His project is failing.

Sometimes He presents His plan, but I fail to join Him. I’m either too busy with my own agenda or too scared to step out of my comfort zone.

God reminded me why it’s important to be obedient when He tells me to lay down my pen for either a project or a season.

I read a blog post about a writer who laid down her dream of writing for a season. Her writing project was publication ready, but she strongly felt the Lord tell her to stop. So she laid it to the side. A short time later her life turned upside down and remained filled with overwhelming situations for an entire year. She realized God was protecting her. If she had secured a publishing contract, she never would have had the energy to complete the editing and marketing tasks. God knew her attention was going to be needed in other areas. Once that season had passed, God prompted her to pursue her writing again. In short order she had a publishing deal.

I reconnected with a friend. The last time I’d seen her she was heading up a successful ministry that impacted hundreds of children. She shared how dramatically her life had changed. Months earlier she felt God telling her to step down from the ministry at the same time He began stirring her creativity to begin a new enterprise. Since no one else knew how to carry out the ministry, she knew it would flounder without her involvement. So, she pressed on, sure she was doing God’s Kingdom a favor. Right up until she was admitted for the emergency removal of a ruptured cancerous tumor. As she was being discharged, she shared her work dilemma with a nurse she had never seen before. The nurse boldly asked, “Is it your ministry or God’s ministry?” With that challenge, my friend went to the pastor and resigned. A short time later, a relative came to live with her who can not be left alone. Now she spends her days caring for her relative and being obedient to God’s new plan for her life: a creative enterprise which He designed to be done from the comfort of her home.

These stories stirred a personal memory of God’s plans and provision. After my second child was born, God completely reorganized my life. He saw fit to end a lucrative career in health management and began opening doors for writing. I wasn’t making much money; but with no formal training, I was amazed anyone was paying me at all. Over the next four years God arranged for a small, but steady income stream from this gift of writing. Then, when our third child was born, I heard Him say, “Stop.” No reason, just, “Stop.” My, how I labored over that decision and grieved the loss of something I loved. But I couldn’t get away from His voice, so eventually I surrendered.

Saying “No” to a project I believe in or ceasing work I truly enjoy is difficult, even when I know God is the One making the request. At the point where He asks me to stop and I keep going, I am no longer a part of His plan. I am now working my own plan. I’ve realized that He can’t entrust me with the next phase of His plan until I am ready and willing to lay down my plan. Letting go can be painful. Yet, there is good news: the next step of God’s journey is far better than I could ask or imagine.

Janey Goude and her husband of twenty years homeschool their four children, ranging from elementary school to high school. She enjoys exploring God’s open doors in writing, editing, and collaboration. You can read her blog at

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Nautical Course - How to Navigate the Children's Writing Seas

Becky Hillman
Children’s stories may be simple to read, but can be complicated to write. Here are a few tips we learned in Terri Kelly’s class to help navigate the children’s writing seas.

Flotation Devices: How to Write
In order to write a good children’s story, you must learn to read
like a writer. Count your words. Use strong verbs. What’s true about other writing remains true in children’s stories: show don’t tell, and write tight.

There are a number of techniques that can be used when writing for children. For instance, structure your story around the days of the week, months of the year, the alphabet or numbers. Children like seeing something familiar and parents and teachers like strengthening particular skills. Another technique that is both effective and popular is using repetitive phrases. This one can be tricky, so be careful not to overdo it. One technique that gets children thinking is question and answer. This gets them engaged in the story and makes them excited to turn the page.

Deciding which style best suits you can be overwhelming. One way to figure this out is to pick up your favorite children’s book. Study it and ask yourself the following questions:

Why am I drawn to this book?
What kind of text is used?
Is this the style of writing I want to use?

Knots and Life Jackets: Essential Tips
First of all, write, write, write! Ann Whitford Paul said, “Don’t be a nervous swimmer; test your story waters with your toe. Dive right in.” Here are some things to remember as you take the plunge. You don’t have much time to keep a reader’s attention, so start with a strong opening. Use strong verbs and have an active voice. Check your characters. Kids relate to kids, so for the most part you have to lose the adults.

Once you’ve gotten something on paper, read it out loud. Read it to yourself, read it to your family, and any kids that will let you. Also let other adults read it, those who either have children or work with children. They can offer treasured feedback. Another valuable resource is a critique group. Individuals in these groups can provide not only feedback but advice as well. In a good group, they will allow you to learn from their mistakes. Sharing tips is a good way to help each other navigate these sometimes treacherous waters.

The Crew: Who to Write for in the Children’s Market
There are many publications to choose from. A must have in any writer’s world is the 2012 Christian Writer’s Market Guide, formerly written by Sally Stuart, now owned by Jerry Jenkins. Once you’ve chosen a publication, study them before you write for them. Knowing what they want will save you time later. Then go back to picking up your favorite children’s book and study the style the author used. If it’s a style you might want to use, study the market guides, target a publisher and write a manuscript for them.

Have a plan. Decide how long it will take you to finish your manuscript and set a target date. Then tell someone your target date. Ideally you could tell those in your critique group. If you are not a part of one yet, find one and join it. If you can’t find one, start one. There must be plenty of people you know who write. This is where social networking comes in handy. But be careful to include only those you know well and trust. Starting your own group can be risky in many ways.

Captain’s Advice: What the experts say
Use verbs. Let the kids fill in the adjectives...” Our expert here is Dr. Seuss.
The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Our expert here is Mark Twain.

Tips From Our Shipmates
1. Familiarize yourself with good children’s literature.

2. Hang out with children. Know your audience.

3. Love child’s play.

4. Teach without them knowing they’re being taught.

5. Become again who you want to entertain and teach. You can be child-like without being childish. Enjoy being young.

6. See with child’s point of view.

7. Write with words children understand, but do not talk down to them.

8. Get on your knees or sit on the ground and view life from the child’s world.

9. See it. Hear it. Say it...from your own childhood!

10. Get ideas from your kids and let them help you.

11. Keep a journal of things your kids say and do, then use it for your stories.

Bon Voyage!
As you consider all of the wonderful information Terri provided us with, decide what your next voyage will be. Find something or somewhere you can land to educate yourself as a writer. Perhaps it will be a book like Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul, or a CD recommended by a writing buddy. Conferences can be invaluable to writers of all stages. A trustworthy conference such as the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference has a number of classes and individuals that can set the scene for your next landing place. Thanks, Terri Kelly for a lighthouse of a class!

Don't forget to send devotions for our kids. Sorry, I had the wrong submission address! Please send them to

What's Next? Getting Organized After a Writers Conference

Edie Melson
Writers ADVANCE! Writers Boot Camp is now just a memory (hopefully a really GOOD memory) and the euphoria of being with other writers has dissipated. You may have noticed a correlation between the excitement waning and the doubts returning. It’s not uncommon to come away from a conference with enthusiasm, only to have it replaced with insecurity after a few days at home.
My suggestion—don’t let that insecurity dig in and take root—get organized and get busy. Here are a few things you can do to capitalize on the connections you made and the things you learned while in the mountains.
  • Make a list. Actually, make several. Start by writing down every one you talked with who asked you to submit something. Then list everything you learned that you want to immediately incorporate into your writing life. For example, if you’re a novelist you make have learned the difference between showing and telling and want to go back and incorporate it into your current manuscript. Finally, make a list of all the confirmations and positive things you heard during the week.
  • Set your priorities. Obviously you can’t do everything at once. I recommend you pick a couple of things to start on immediately. Pick one short thing and one longer. 
  • Commit to a due date. Even if you haven’t been given a date by someone else, set your own. Otherwise you’ll find the days become weeks, the weeks become months, and next year you’re right back where you started.
  • Find an accountability partner or group. For me, it’s easier if that person’s also a writer. Other writers seem to instinctively know when I need a kick in the pants or a shoulder to cry on. Here are a couple of ways to find one if you don’t already have one.
    • Look at the contacts you made at Blue Ridge and start sending emails. It doesn’t matter if the writers you connect with are near or far—with the Internet we’re all just a click away.
    • Look for a local writers group and visit. 
  • Come up with a schedule. Look at your lifestyle and carve out some regular time to write. It doesn’t have to be a normal time—but it does need to be consistent. When I first started out my kids were little, so my writing time was unconventional. I waited until my kids and my husband were asleep and then I wrote from about midnight until three or four in the morning. My husband would get the kids up and off to school and I would sleep in. Then I’d do my household stuff and be fresh when the kids got home from school. We’d have family/couple time in the evenings and then I’d be back to writing. Like I said, unconventional, but it worked for us. That’s the key—find what works for you.
Hopefully these tips will help keep your writing on track. If you’ve come up with other ways to get on track after the conference, leave a comment and share them with us!