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 This is your opportunity to help other writers -- published and unpublished -- draw inspiration and learn from your experiences.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!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Compelled to Write

I'd driven the 100 miles. Driven straight into the storm. The sky darkened with each mile that passed behind me. But I drove anyway; my family home and me alone. The wind yanked at my car...tugging at the doors and windows like a monster wanting inside.

The rage of bellowing black clouds boiled along the ridge. Safety, Father. Safety please. Then the rain came. Sheets of water pelted across my windows and the wheels of the car slipped and slid. Lord, safety.

I focused on the white line stretched long the road, depending on that to guide me...the path I needed to follow - to see what was invisible ahead. That's when it happened. My fingers tightened on the steering wheel and I leaned forward. The writer in me burned.

What a scene, I thought. And without a hestationI began to craft what lay before me into a scene for my novel. The elements were there, I only needed my imagination to make the perfect storm.

This is how a writer is compelled to write. Our eyes focus on our situation and the imagination from deep within, the creativity we are gifted, begins to mesh.

I've often sat and stared at the computer screen, my fingers tap gingerly against the keys but no words form. Some call it writers block, I call it lack of attention. It's easy to blame our inability to focus on our work, writers block when the fact is...the very moment we are in presents itself as a scene. Oh, occasionally we write ourselves into a corner and can't find a way out. The words we've crafted are good words but they take us no where. Blocked. Stopped cold - a sure sign we take the words we've written, toss them in a tumbler and shake them up.

As a writer, we are gifted with creativity. Every movement around us holds the possibility to become scene. Even the most mundane moments can offer us a tense situation in our story. Our life, the world around us is a plethora  of material.

Carry a pad wherever you go. Jot down moments of your day. Learn to ask yourself the question, "What do I see in this moment?" Look at every situation as a possible scene.

Writers see and are compelled to write and they write what they see. So look. The storm I drove into offered me a perfect scene in my Appalachian Mountain story. The emotion I felt as I gazed into the dark sky moved me to know something, feel something I'd not felt earlier. It was a scene.

When your page is blank, look up and look around. What do you see that can become your scene? Be compelled to write.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Where is Your Treasure? Where is Your Heart?

There is nothing more perfect than the Word of God. Even for the non-believer...even when they don't know it. We are called by Christ to step up, go into the world and make disciples, baptize and teach but that seems easier said than done.

Are you called to write and if you are how can that possibly be a way to spread the gospel? Well, it is. Writing as a calling from God doesn't mean you fill every page with scripture and preaching. It means you write for Him in a Godly manner. Clean, fresh, as an example of Christ.

But what if I want to be paid to write? Doesn't that go against writing for God? Absolutely not. We are worth our wage but at the same time our wage shouldn't be what rules our heart. Whether a writer or a corporate employee, wage should not rule the story we tell with our lives. Remember, where your treasure is, there is your heart.

Be a shining example. When others look at your life, allow them to be swallowed up by the love of Christ in all you do, in all you all you write. Exemplify God.

Perhaps you write humor. Write it in a wholesome manner. God has a pretty good funny bone...after all, He created us and we're all class clowns. Or maybe you write romance. Show the love of Christ and the value in the sanctity of marriage.

We are called and He has equipped you to do His will. Write His words. Share His treasure. There you will find the heart of a Christian writer.