The Four Types of Facebook Friends . . .
After being on Facebook for a number of years, I’ve realized there are four types of ‘friends’. Do you see yourself among them?
Did you know that there are over 130 million orphans in the world or that November is National Adoption month? Adoption is a beautiful reflection of God’s love, and for this very reason we want to celebrate it. Join us November 4 through the 10th in our online Facebook party as we celebrate adoption! Each of the featured authors has a connection to adoption somehow—whether it’s through personal adoption or it’s a topic in their book, and each is making it their goal for there to be one less orphan in this world.
Leading up to the party, we will be posting introductions of each author and some fun activities. Join in, and invite your friends! And to thank you all for celebrating with us, we’re offering a $50 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner that will be awarded at the end of the party. Participate and have a chance to win!
Join us, and let’s celebrate adoption together November 4th through the 10th as we prepare our hearts for Orphan Sunday on November 11th. RSVP HERE.
These are the crazy dreams on my own bucket list. And they are all legit. Meaning, in the future, they are doable.
For years, I’ve heard the term, but never really knew where it originated from. I imagined it was a place to keep all your hopes and dreams safe— in a bucket.
Then I heard a few months back that such a checklist was to be accomplished before you, well— kicked the bucket.
I think I prefer my own definition.
So, I got to pondering (which I do quite often): why even have a bucket list? I thought of four reasons, but I’m sure there’s at least one more.
Last year I read The Brontë Sisters: the Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily and Anne by Catherine Reef. It was recommended by a fellow children's picture book writer, but, for the life of me, I can't remember whom. But, thank you. It was a good read. So, I thought I would share my writer's POV on this classic, along with quotes from Reef's book.
Although it is a YA book, the content is meaty enough to get a glimpse of the cloistered and dark lives of these three authors, and sense the similarity of their environment to their best-selling books as follows: "Jane Eyre", "Wuthering Heights" and "Agnes Grey" respectively.
I could feel the wind blowing across the moors, and sense the weight of their depressing lives. Since writing was not the proper vocation for women in those days, these girls took on pen names. Charlotte was Currier, Emily chose Ellis, and Anne, Acton. . . and all with the surname of Bell. Escaping their mundane existence, the three invented and imagined a host of characters and kingdoms. They lived and breathed life into them as they put pen to paper.
A couple of years back, like many, I was glued to my TV screen with a cuppa and a scone. As the credits rolled, so did the tears. I was a fairly new writer, and understood the power the written word posessed. I had just finished watching the last episode of Season Three in the saga of "Downton Abbey", the wildly popular BBC series focusing on the privileged and not-so-privileged.
What we learned throughout the ongoing story was this: when it comes to disasters, it doesn't matter who you are or how much money you make — they happen to everyone, regardless of status.
Even though we were reminded of that truth during each episode, it wasn't until I viewed the final scene that it hit me like a monsoon. It was almost too much to bear. Just when I was reveling in the "happily ever after" scene, it happened. I couldn't believe it! I felt cheated. And slightly depressed.
Those of you who have seen it know what I mean. Did the writer want to add a wicked twist to the plot? Did the actor want out? If so, could I have obliged? For whatever reason, the results did not sit well with me.
Then, almost immediately, I began to think of myself and my role as a writer. I, too, have that power. The power to write in or write out characters at will. I realized I would have found difficulty in writing a scene so tragic. So unpredictable. So unwanted.
But that is the beauty of being a writer. I don't have to write scenes that lead to despair. And if I did, one thing is for sure — they would lead eventually to good. There would be a reason. All would work out in the end. It would give my readers hope. Because we all need hope in these days of uncertainty. And I know that my hope is in God, who does work all things together for good.
Those of you who are avid fans, what do you think? Did all things work out for good in the final season of "Downton Abbey"? That was Julian Fellowes prerogative. He held the pen.
How would you have written the ending?
I've been struggling these past few months. Struggling to put words on paper. Is that you, too? Funny thing is, I have no problems with posts on Facebook. They flow like water. So, what's the deal? What I thought was writer's block is probably better named as procrastination. I know I need to write, but what do I do instead?
- The laundry (I have nothing to wear. . .)
- Dishes (really?)
- Bake (it's an escape)
- Mend clothes (I hate looking at the growing pile)
- Purchase mentor texts on Amazon
- Continue one of my writer's courses
- Submit a manuscript.
I tell myself that these things really do need to get done. And, c'mon, the last three apply to writing. Am I not correct?
Correct, but wrong. Huh?
The point is, I'm NOT WRITING.
I sure do. Challenges ALWAYS get me going. I wouldn't have much written if I didn't accept the challenges:
And the list could go on. Some months, I go from one challenge to another. My first drafts are nothing to write home about, but hey, I have something on paper to edit when the time comes. But, as I push ahead, I have found a few other resources to entice and inspire me. Even when I am not writing. Even when it's true writer's block, and not procrastination. Maybe these will help you, too:
A Writer's Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld (good help with focus for the writing life)
Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising & Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl B. Klein (she's given me super editing and revising hints when I’m stuck with character and plot)
Children's Book-A-Day Almanac by Anita Silvey (helpful for story ideas)
The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron (great for motivation)
Award-winning author Candace Fleming (I consider her a friend) has advice for getting 'unstuck':
- Write one to three pages of anything on your mind. It could be thoughts on your manuscript, or just fleshing out the events of the day. Julia Cameron calls them "morning pages" because they are written first thing in the morning to get you writing.
- Any time you get stuck as you are writing a story, whether it's with a name, location, descriptive word, etc, just fill the space with a "—", and decide what to use later. Then your writing will not come to a halt, as it has for me many times!
Here’s help from Writer’s Digest: A 12 Day Plan of Simple Writing Exercises
The Character Traits Thesaurus is a helpful tool when you are stuck with ideas. Check it out HERE.
Don’t know how to begin a story? This blogpost gives you some ideas.
Ever thought of writing a Fractured Fairytale? Tara Lazar shows you how. Her how-to video is a riot!
THE ANTI-PROCRASTINATION PLAN
Now that I'm an empty nester, I find I have more time to write, but less self-control. As I've mentioned above, I find tons of things to do instead of writing. So, I schedule myself. I carve out a piece of the day that is totally free, and I concentrate on writing or revising. I also take time to read books on writing, look for agents or publishers to submit to, or take a class online. At one point, I thought of choosing one writing 'task' each day. For instance, Monday would be my submission day, Tuesday, revision day, Wednesday . . .well, you get my meaning. But so far, that hasn't worked.
A good app that reminds me of my tasks for the day/week/month is Any.do. They have updated it, and I highly recommend it for reminding yourself of the contest or pitchfest you are going to take part in, or any other writerly tasks you need to accomplish. Make sure you include the name and location of the event as well, so you can find the details when you need them. The app is available for laptops, iPhones and iPads.
Julie Cameron also suggested 'Walks' and 'Artist's Dates' with yourself. Go for a walk in the neighborhood. Or choose a safe forest preserve or park on your way to the shopping mall. And take yourself out on a date to a museum, unexplored neighborhood, or bookshop that is new to you. You'd be amazed at how refreshed and more creative you feel!
SOMETIMES ALL YOU NEED IS A PROMPT: NO EXCUSE FOR WRITER’S BLOCK
If all of the above fails, just sit yourself down in a quiet, distraction free place, open your notebook or computer program/app of your choice and WRITE!
- Your favorite childhood experience
- Your worst childhood experience
- A day in the life of your dog/cat or other pet
- Your life on a deserted island: what would you take?
- If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?
- If you could make up any world, what would it be like?
- Pick a color and write about what it means to you. What word pictures does it bring to mind?
- If you have a list of titles/ideas for a picture/chapter book, pick one and just start writing.
- Get your thinking cap on and write a pitch or jacket flap text for a WIP (that’s a Work In Progress). It's amazing how that assignment will clarify the plot and characters of your story.
Well, I hope I have given you some ideas to jump start your writing and get the creative juices flowing. So. . .WRITE ON!!
What excuses do you use for procrastinating?? Share your comments below. . . I’d love to hear from you!
My debut MG historical novel, The Heart Changer will release in Spring of 2019. But, there are so many things to accomplish before then. One thing heavily weighing on my mind, is the task of requesting book endorsements from known authors in my genre. How does one go about asking for an endorsement if she doesn’t know the author personally? Good question. And one I’ve been pondering all week.
I am thrilled and honored to be a part of award-winning author, Lynn Austin’s Book Launch team as preparation for my own MG Biblical fiction debuting in Spring of 2019 with Ambassador International!
I love historical fiction, especially when it relates to my hometown of Chicago— and includes a bit of history and mystery. Her latest in the "Legacy" series features both, along with a peek into Dutch heritage. Lynn has graciously answered a few questions so we can discover what goes into the creation of a historical novel like "Legacy of Mercy."
So, without further comment, let’s go!
Legacy of Mercy is a sequel to your novel Waves of Mercy. How does this new book build on that story?
At the end of “Waves of Mercy,” one of the main characters, Anna Nicholson, returns to Chicago to marry her fiancé and continue her life as a wealthy, young socialite. She has discovered, over the summer, who her birth mother was, and she is naturally curious to learn more about her. She also has no idea who her birth father was and longs to solve that mystery, too. Most of all, she is eager to learn how to grow in her new Christian faith. In “Legacy of Mercy,” she explores all of these questions, which creates a host of new problems in her life.
The other main character from “Waves of Mercy”, Geesje DeJonge, is contented with her walk with God and her life in Holland, Michigan after enduring many trials as an immigrant from the Netherlands. At age 67, she isn’t seeking a new adventure. But when she offers to help Cornelia, a young Dutch immigrant, she’ll discover that she still has many things to learn about God and about herself.
Don’t we all. Tell us about Anna Nicholson - what made you want to return to her story?
After “Waves of Mercy” was published, I started receiving letters from readers who all wanted to know what happens next in Anna’s life. She is only 23 years old, and a brand-new Christian, so there had to be a lot more to tell about her—or so my readers insisted. They were also concerned about Derk VanderVeen—would he ever find true love? The more I thought about it, the more curious I was to discover the answers, too. I loved all of the characters from “Waves of Mercy” so it was a pleasure to bring them back to life and find out what happens next.
Wow. What a thought that we as readers can have an impact on what you write!
Anna's grandmother is helping Dutch immigrants adjust to America. So, what inspired you to explore the story of Dutch immigration to America?
I live in Holland, Michigan, a town that was settled by Dutch immigrants in 1847. When my husband and I moved here four years ago, I was curious to learn more about the town’s past. It has been a haven for Dutch immigrants leaving the Netherlands for a variety of reasons, including religious persecution, famine, and the poverty and hardship following World War II. The more I read about their courage, perseverance, and faith, the more I knew I wanted to tell their stories.
Being a historical fiction author myself, I want to know what inspired you to write about characters in this period and place?
I lived in the Chicago area for more than twenty years and I find its history fascinating. In a way, it’s a new city—almost completely rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1871. It doesn’t have the long history of places like New York City or New Orleans, and any newcomer can start with nothing and become a millionaire in Chicago. I also love the “Gilded Age” when houses were ostentatious, and women wore elegant gowns, and the wealthy had scores of servants. It looks so wonderful from the outside, but women of that era faced so many limitations. I’ve always wondered if I would really enjoy all of that wealth and elegance if my only role in life was to be a pretty ornament on my husband’s arm. That’s what fascinates me most about this era—how does a woman find a sense of purpose in a frivolous age?
Oooh. Good question! Now, when setting out to write a novel, which comes to you first - the time, the place, or the characters?
I usually begin my novels with a certain time period or historical event in mind. As I delve into the research (including travel to the book’s setting, whenever possible) I figure out the setting for the novel. In the process, I find that my characters start forming in my mind, and I flesh them out by creating resumes for them with all sorts of background information. When the characters begin to “speak” to me and I hear their “voices,” I know I’m ready to start writing. At this point, I don’t have a clear outline of the plot in mind. I simply begin writing and see what happens next.
What kind of research did you do to get the details in Legacy of Mercy right?
I spent a lot of time reading about manners and customs among the wealthy during the Gilded Age, when the story takes place. Society demanded strict adherence to rituals, such as afternoon teas and calling cards. I had explored these details in earlier novels, such as “A Proper Pursuit,” and more recently in “Where We Belong,” so it was fun for me to revisit them. Mind you, I would have gone bonkers if I had to live with so many restrictions—especially the rules that say a married woman must turn over all of the decision-making to her husband.
When writing historical fiction, what are the challenges (or joys) of balancing historical facts with filling in the blanks with your imagination?
One of the joys of writing historical fiction is that as I research past history, I get scores of great ideas for plots and stories! I once read a true account of how women dressed up like men and fought in the Civil War—and it led me to write the novel “Fire by Night.” The true story of the Packhorse Librarians during the Great Depression led to my novel “Wonderland Creek.” In all of those instances, the historical facts fed my imagination. The challenge comes, when I have to fit my plot ideas into a historical framework. Sometimes I wish I could change the facts and the dates to fit my story! And often, by the time I finish a novel, I have trouble remembering which ideas were true facts and which ones I made up.
There you go— fact is sometimes stranger than fiction! Lynn, what do you hope readers takeaway after reading Legacy of Mercy?
One of the themes is about gossip, and how lives can be destroyed by the power of our unbridled tongues. Another is the difficult struggle that young people often face when they seek to stay true to their faith and to who God created them to be. I think there’s also a message for the older generation—that God doesn’t believe in retirement! I would be thrilled if readers found themselves pondering these themes after finishing “Legacy of Mercy,” but my primary goal is always to simply tell a good story.
Those are powerful lessons to learn. And I’m not planning to retire either! So here’s the most important question: Does your faith impact how you approach writing stories?
Every author writes from his or her own worldview, whether they are a Christian, an atheist or some other religion. Our worldview is the way we make sense of life and put all of the puzzle pieces together to answer life’s questions. I don’t have a spiritual theme in mind when I begin a story—I simply want to tell a tale about people in a certain time and place, facing a difficult dilemma. It’s not my goal to preach the Gospel message in every book I write. But because I’m a Christian, my worldview seeps through the pages of my book as the characters wrestle with the big questions in life. And it’s natural for them to find the answers to those questions from my own Christian worldview.
That's so true, Lynn. Lastly, what are your favorite ways for readers to support their favorite authors?
I think it’s wonderful when readers are so excited about an author that they want to share her books with all of their friends. Word-of-mouth is still the number one way that books are sold. Book clubs are very popular, and I love it when a reader tells me that no one in her club had read one of my books until she suggested it for their monthly selection—and then all of those new readers told their family and friends about it! It’s so helpful when readers post blogs about an author’s books and post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, but when they share their copy of a book until it falls apart, that’s the best advertising ever!
Absolutely! That's the main reason I am involved in your book launch, Lynn. I love your writing and your worldview. My favorites are "Where We Belong" and "A Proper Pursuit." It's encouraging to know what I read will strengthen my faith.
I trust when my MG Biblical fiction debuts in Spring of 2019, I will also inspire others, and have a faithful team to help pass the word! If anyone is interested to follow my journey to publication, please sign up for my email list at the top of the page. It would be an honor!
I am honored to host an author’s interview with Tina Cho, a kidlit friend of mine. Although we’ve never met, I feel we are kindred spirits, as we share a common faith and educational background. Her latest book “Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans” was released August 14th, and inspired by true life events.
What a blessing Tina could not only participate in such a mission, but write about it to make others aware of the heartbreaking situation in North Korea. Most children have no idea how difficult life can be in other parts of the world. I’m sure they will be surprised, even as I was, at the full extent of their difficulties. Those of us living in developed countries have so much compared to the citizens of North Korea.
I love the storyline! The message is clear— a little bit of compassion goes a long way to ease the hardships of those less fortunate. Even one child can make a difference. The text draws children in from the start:
“Out in the countryside, across a bridge, to an island blanketed with rice fields, Appa and I ride. We reach a place where mountains become a wall. A wall so high, no one dares to climb.”
And the illustrations are charming and colorful, just like the story. Take a look!
Well, without further ado, let’s move on . . .
-Thanks, Tina, for taking the time to answer a few questions. The life of a published author (and one who teaches full time, too) is very full, I’m sure. So, tell us what inspired you to write the story.
Since moving to Korea in 2010, I heard about the plight of North Korean refugees, especially at church. I had never heard about them before. My colleague tutored some of these refugees English and told me about the rice balloon launch. I accompanied and helped with this event. I knew I would write something about it.
-And we are glad you did! I know your faith is a strong part of your life, as it is in mine. What part does it play in your writing?
My writing tends not to be strictly for the Christian market, go figure, but I’m able to allude to Christian elements through my writing. I discussed this more in detail at the Rate Your Story blog here. I want children to have wholesome stories and of course, come to know Jesus.
-So, was authorship always a goal of yours, or did it come unexpectedly?
When I became a writer, of course, my goal was to be an author of a book. But beforehand, I was only a teacher and wasn’t writing.
-Did anything about writing/publishing surprise or disappoint you?
I think the disappointments in writing are the wait time involved to hear back from publishers and of course, rejections. The surprising part of publishing is realizing someone wants to publish my stories! I can’t get over the fact that someone wants to pay me for my writing! I’m also surprised/happy with all the book love from kidlit friends like you!
-Awwww, thanks, Tina! So what inspires you most about writing for children?
Children are our future. The Bible says to tell the next generation the good things of the Lord. I want to leave a legacy for my children and future grandchildren. Our kids need to know about kindness, compassion, and the people who lived before them who were great examples of these principles.
-Amen to that! I agree wholeheartedly. On that note, tell us a bit about your childhood. . .
I grew up in Iowa with plenty of books. I remember my mom reading to me and also I enjoyed listening to books on record albums! (that shows my age)
-Ha! I remember that, too, Tina. Now that you are a full time school teacher, when do you find time to write?
Evenings and Saturdays
-And where is your favorite place to write?
I write in my tiny office off my bedroom. It’s really a tiny room between the bedroom and bathroom and has a vanity, but it’s big enough for a small table with my laptop and little floor shelf.
-Oooh. Sounds good to me . . . I’ve always wanted a tiny house!
All writers want to know— do you have a solution for writer’s block?
Take a shower! I don’t know what it is, but taking a shower always seems to help.
-Now that’s a unique solution . . . I think you win the prize for originality!
One tidbit of advice for aspiring writers?
Join critique groups! My writing is stronger because of all my writing friends.
-I definitely agree, Tina! Do you have a favorite go-to beverage while writing?
Water, Dr. Pepper if I’m sleepy, and I like a Japanese plum juice called maeshil here in Korea.
-Mmmmm. Japanese plum juice . . .sounds inspiring! So, pantser or planner?
-Pen or keyboard?
Both. I plan in my notebook with a pen, and then move to the keyboard.
-Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Flying home to the States! But a unique vacation we took last March was to a southern island of Korea called Jeju. It’s like the Hawaii of Korea. I did research for a story.
-Aaaahhhh. I can sense another book in the making. . . What were your favorite books as a child? As an adult?
One book I still have is Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth by Lucy Bate. I also read anything by Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and the Betsy Book Series by Carolyn Haywood.
As an adult, I’m mostly reading kids’ books so I can stay up on what’s out in the market. I’ve recently enjoyed Ruta Sepetys’ YA books, and I’m currently reading The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, written by a writing friend, Stacy McAnulty.
-Hmmmmm. I’ll put Stacy’s book on my reading list, too. And I do love Ruta’s books as well— especially “Salt to the Sea.” This might be obvious, but do you have a favorite genre to write?
-So, where do you get your ideas?
From my kids, my students, and from being in another country.
-Other than joining a critique group, do you have any last minute tips for kidlit writers?
Never give up! And join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).
-Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you . . .
I’m left-handed. I guess this is on my mind because it was Left-Handed Day recently, and I read an awesome article about how handedness is determined as early as 18 weeks in the womb.
That’s fascinating, Tina! Thanks so much for sharing a part of your writing life with us. I trust your new book will be read around the world!
For the whole story of how Tina was inspired to write, “Rice from Heaven,” click here.
You can find a copy here. And it’s selling out fast!
Connect with Tina:
Have you read Tina’s latest book? Were you aware of the situation in North Korea? We’d love to get your help input below!
Curious? My post is featured today on the Independent Writers of Chicago blog: http://www.iwoc.org/stet-blog/6050924
Come on over . . . I’d value your comments!
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuts Spring of 2019 with Ambassador International. Follow my journey by signing up above. I'll be looking for a book launch team soon, and you may be just the person to help out.