A Writerly Blog
It never occurred to me that my desire to write middle-grade historical fiction would change. Nor, that my author’s bio must follow suit. But I was recently enlightened when I had to write a book proposal (much like a term paper, for those of you who are unfamiliar with them) and with it, include my bio. Seems simple, until you understand I am writing a non-fiction book on “aging confidently”, something I am struggling to do lately. Now, instead of writing for young people, I'm reaching my peers.
My Middle-grade Bio
This is what I created when I published The Heart Changer in 2019:
Jarm (‘J’ pronounced as a 'Y') Del Boccio finds her inspiration in everyday life, but in particular, when she travels the globe, observing the quirky things that happen along the way. Focusing on lives of characters from the past, Jarm is devoted to breathing new life into the pages of history, and offers her young readers hope, heart, and a real-life hero.
Jarm loves to travel, is passionate about visiting new places and determined never visit the same location twice. Unfortunately, sometimes she has to break her own rule. Having journeyed to six out of seven continents, she’s slowly checking off destinations on her bucket list. Jarm’s next dream destination is a stay in a Mongolian yurt with plenty of yak milk to drink!
Some interesting factoids about the author: Her first job was working in — no kidding — a Chinese laundromat! After meeting a bat head-on, Jarm had the distinct privilege of sporting black eyes for eighth grade graduation. Her secret desire? To get caught up in a flash mob singing a tune from a favorite musical.
Jarm taught Kindergarten and high school art/home economics, served as school librarian, and later, nannied a four year old girl. But her greatest challenge was educating three missionary children in an isolated bush village in Papua New Guinea, without the benefit of modern conveniences.
Jarm is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and American Christian Fiction Writers and Word Weavers, and has published three articles in The Old Schoolhouse magazine (2013/18/19). She finished her advanced course with the Institute of Children’s Literature, completing her third MG historical fiction.
Jarm Del Boccio is content with the journey God has placed her on, and lives with her husband, adult daughter and son (when he lands at home), in a tree-lined suburb of Chicago. Her debut middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer released with Ambassador International April 26th, and recently won the Illuminations Silver Medal Award in the Children’s/YA category, and honorable mention in The Purple Dragonfly Book Award’s spiritual/religious category.
You can connect on her website: Jarm Del Boccio, Author or social media platforms: Goodreads, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.
A New Genre, a New Bio—a New Identity!
Now that I am writing a non-fiction book on Aging Confidently, it's necessary to change my bio to reflect the current ‘me’ and to identify with my future readers—folks in their silver years and beyond. Below is my revised but tentative bio. I'd appreciate your feedback!
Jarm (‘J’ pronounced as a 'Y') Del Boccio has spent the last 10 years breathing new life into the pages of history offering middle-grade readers hope, heart, and a real-life hero. Now, well into her silver years, and maturing along with her peers, she is looking forward, and not back. Jarm sees a reluctance to let go of the past and its comforts to forge ahead into new territory that will enlighten, refresh and energize the spirit. What many peers fear is the very thing that will help them age with grace, confidence and faith, making their last years productive and meaningful.
Jarm scares off the aging bug with travel, and is passionate about visiting new places—she is determined never visit the same location twice. Unfortunately, sometimes she has to break her own rule. Having journeyed to six out of seven continents, she’s slowly checking off destinations on her bucket list. Her secret desire? To get caught up in a flash mob singing a tune from a favorite musical. Jarm feels like a 20-something when someone comments on her stunning silver hair. She tells them it's God’s gift to her (along with her stellar hairdresser of 30 years.)
Although Jarm taught elementary and High School students, served as school librarian, and later, nannied a young girl, her greatest challenge was educating three missionary children in an isolated bush village in Papua New Guinea, without the benefit of modern conveniences.
Jarm is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Word Weavers, and Hope*Writers. She has published articles in The Old Schoolhouse magazine and recently, her devotional on Nehemiah was accepted for Unlocked Teen Devotional.
Having sold her home in a tree-lined Chicago suburb, Jarm has moved 11 times in four months. Although it's an adventure she wasn't asking for, Jarm is content with the journey God has placed her on, and plans to move with her husband to North Carolina coast. With this move, she has become an avid declutterer and minimalist, since discovering it fogs her aging brain.
Her award-winning debut middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer released with Ambassador International in 2019, and still has two more kidlit novels to submit when the time is right.
You can connect on her website: Jarm Del Boccio, Author or social media platforms: Goodreads, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.
What do you think of my new identity? Would you add anything to my bio that would represent my ‘silver self” better? Anything you would remove that is not necessary? Please tell me in the comments below. . .
Since my husband and I are without a home at this time (our townhome construction in North Carolina has been delayed until spring), we are wanderers and sojourners, traveling across country, visiting friends, house-sitting and staying with very generous church family members a few weeks at a time. Above, you see me in a "here's proof I was at one of the most popular spots in the US" pose.
I'm the Happy Sojourner. . .
. . .and he is not. Dan is a home-body who can spend his vacations in his workshop or music studio, and not leave the house. He loves ritual and hates change. I, on the other hand, love variety and crave changes. It inspires me and tickles my little grey cells (as Poirot often says).
So, I must applaud my hubby for his bravery. I am coming very quickly to the conclusion that it's the thing we dread that keep our minds sharp. Getting adjusted to a new lodging and routine every couple of weeks (not to mention moving our belongings), jiggles our thought processes and comfort zones. Last month, we spent four weeks at Conference Point Camp in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. We volunteered three weeks, and attended our annual family Bible camp the fourth week. Working in the kitchen was exhausting, and ramped up our appreciation for restaurant and camp meals.
During our last week of volunteering, I was asked to manage the snack shop for a friend who flew out west with her husband to visit their daughter and family. The first part of the week, I worked alongside my friend as she showed me the ropes. But come Thursday, I was on my own with two well-trained and capable (thankfully) teens. Occasionally, my husband, Dan, would help out, but he was even more of a novice than me.
I was amazed at how my multi-tasking abilities returned (thank you, Jesus!) as we served a hoard of 107 band kids who literally swarmed in for their ice cream, smoothies and slushies. Whew! It confirmed my hope that I was not ripe for assisted living just yet.
So, What Does Sojourning Have to Do with Writing?
Ready for a surprise? I am moving my focus from Middle-Grade Historical Fiction to Memoir and nonfiction, specifically addressing aging and its many facets. Of course, I will offer ways to grow older gracefully, and point out the issues we silver-haired folks face daily. Does that sound like something you resonate with? I would love to have you comment below, if that is the case. What is your biggest roadblock to moving forward as you age? What are your fears?
If you receive this blogpost via email, click on the title of the post, and it should bring you to the blog itself, where you can comment below. I truly want and need to hear from you! Even if you are in your 40s and 50s, I want to know what concerns you about the future.
The Serious and the Silly
Looking forward to your comments. And I guarantee some of them will show up in my next book!
I am honored today to interview a fellow author at Ambassador International. Her soon-to-be-released picture book, “Guess How Much God Loves You?” is sure to warm the hearts of young readers. Below, you will find heart and hope in her author’s journey, and discover insights into the process and plan behind her new publication.
Lots of research and understanding of young children’s character and development goes into writing a picture book. Did you unearth a particularly interesting tidbit, fun character or spiritual truth you just knew had to be included in the story?
As a mom, and now grandmom, with a background in K-8 education I’ve had enough experience with children to know three things that would be important for this book. I knew it had to be simple enough for kids to understand and relate to, creative enough to capture and hold their attention, and I knew it had to address two of the greatest needs common to us all, and especially important to a child’s development: the need to be loved and to belong.
Describe your ideal young reader for your story. . .
Guess How Much God Loves You is a picture book that will appeal to kids ages 4-8. Although it's intended to capture the attention of Christian parents looking for biblical (and fun) resources to disciple their children, my hope is that it will get into the hands of many, many children who do not come from Christian homes. I want every child to know that they have been created by God on purpose and for a purpose, which means their life matters.
This book is the first in a series (I have 5 other books in mind :-) that will focus on teaching key Bible accounts that are foundational to understanding the Word of God and growing a solid faith in God.
The Birth of a Faith-based Picture Book
How did you come up with the idea for ‘Guess How Much God Loves You”?
One of my favorite books to read to my girls when they were very young was Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, and I got to thinking that while it’s important for children to know that the special adults in their lives love them, how much more important for them to know that God loves them. So, this is where the title twist came in.
But I knew this book would have to be longer and more complex to cover the deep truths of the Bible, presented in a simple way. Something young readers could grow with, both spiritually and in their reading skills.
My mission was to teach Biblical principles in a creative, dynamic way, because I was disappointed with a lot of what I was seeing on bookshelves and frustrated with what seemed to be a rise in anti-Christian content.
Since this book is the beginning of a series, I figured I’d start at the beginning and cover the Creation account.
What spiritual truths do you want your young readers to understand after reading your picture book?
Three simple but powerful truths: God is the Creator of the world, God created them in His image, and God loves them. These are essential truths that will help carry children through the ups and downs, and twists and turns, of life as they grow into young adults. And I believe it’s what will strengthen their resolve to resist the worldly messages that so often present truth as relative and life meaningless.
I’ve also included a page at the end that introduces young readers to Jesus, which will be covered in more depth in another book.
Which part of your story was the most difficult to develop?
Building the characters and their backstory. Being a picture book, I could only use so many words, and I wanted this book to be more than a regurgitation of the Creation account. I wanted to introduce the reader to this new, colorful main character, Lucy Lu; and I wanted to provide a snippet of her backstory that readers could relate to, and that would explain why this topic of God’s love was so important for her. You can read all about it when it’s released. ;-)
How has God prepared you to be a writer?
Through years and years of reading and writing. I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and I learned how to read on my own at a very young age. But writing was another story. While I had a secret desire to be an official “writer” since middle school, I struggled with insecurity until college. I just didn’t think I had what it took to be a real writer. In college my mindset changed, fortunately, in large part due to the positive feedback and generous encouragement I received from my professors. I’ve been writing in many forms ever since, both professionally and for pleasure. It’s how I process life, and I really can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.
An Author’s Journey Begins
When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?
In 2010 when I had what you might call a career crisis. I had a diverse professional background, working in several different industries, but had grown burnt out from the traditional 9-5 scene. After being laid off from my job due to the recession, I went deep with God to see if there was another path He had for me. Something that would be a better fit. Something that I would find more fulfilling. And I kept coming back to writing. It’s a long story that you can read more about on my BLOG, but basically, I put out the fleece and God answered in a big way. It was then I knew that I wanted to be a published author. In fact, I believed it was a calling from Him.
Quite a few years passed before this came to pass when I self-published my first book, a 21-day wellness devotional, and now I’m signed on with Ambassador International for my first children’s book, which is to be released in July.
What sparks your creativity when you’re feeling drained?
Music. Worship music, primarily. Also getting outside to take a walk. There is something rejuvenating about getting out into greenspace and fresh air that is so good for my brain and body. It clears the clutter in my head and silences that inner critic that can distract and discourage. Add worship music into the mix, and my heart and mind are ready for new ideas.
What is your secret to getting your word count in with many distractions?
This has always been a challenge for me. The main reason why I’m not as far as I would like to be in my writing career is that I tend to put it last. Whenever I start to wonder how some writers can be so prolific, I remind myself that it’s all about commitment and consistency. It’s about getting those words onto the page, something I haven’t always been great about doing. For me, I tend to go through seasons where I write more consistently. There have been some legitimate reasons why I’ve written much less in some seasons - work and family responsibilities take up a lot of time and energy - and I want to keep my priorities straight as best I can. I want to put people over personal projects. I’m also protective of my time after struggling with some health issues caused by stress, so I try not to overdo it. But I also realize it can be too easy to let legitimate reasons turn into excuses. I’m working on that.
Where would be your ideal writing space? Why? Describe your present ‘office.’ What—if anything—would you change?
A beach house in Hawaii, with floor to ceiling windows and a view of the ocean. I love the sun and sand, and I love watching the waves. I find it both peaceful and powerful, and when I watch those waves ebb and flow, I’m reminded of God’s greatness, which inspires me.
I don’t have an office right now. We recently moved from Washington State to Tennessee, into a smaller house. With more family members living with us until they find a house of their own, I don’t have my own space, so I set up camp in a small corner of our bedroom. It’s not ideal, but it works.
What would I change? I’d like an office of my own, with a built-in library and a window seat book nook.
The Writer’s Process
Favorite books as a child? Adult?
I remember pouring over Archie Comics and Charlie Brown books after school when I was young, with perhaps my favorite book at that time being Charlotte’s Web. As an adult, it’s hard to choose. Honestly, I’ve read so many over the years, they all start to meld together. But I will say my favorite Christian author for the last 10 years has been Ted Dekker. I love reading suspense, and the way he writes really keeps me on the edge of my seat. Some of his books have dark themes, touching on heavy subjects, but it’s done in a tasteful way, always with the light of Christ shining through in some way. One of his more recent works that I consider a favorite is Eyes Wide Open. The plot is a real brain bender. I stayed up into the early hours of the morning with this one, which is unusual for me, because I like my sleep. ;-)
Any tips for writing faith-based picture books? Do you plan ahead, or let the story take you where it will?
This is my first picture book, so I’ve been on a learning curve this whole process.
I will say when it comes to adult fiction and non-fiction, I’ve considered myself more of a ‘pantser’ than a ‘plotter.’ Meaning I would get an idea and just start writing to see where it ends. In some ways, I believed this was the more ‘creative’ approach, not liking to be hemmed in too early in the story.
But I’ve noticed a shift over the last year, as I crave more organization in my writing. Perhaps it’s my age. ;-)
I started a novel this past year and planned ahead for the first time, starting with an outline and mapping out scenes in an Excel spreadsheet. What a world of difference! Now I recommend this approach to any writer, as it makes for a lot less clean up during that first edit.
For Guess How Much God Loves You, it went like this:
• I had a vision for the theme of the book: God’s love for people as shown in the Creation account.
• I bounced the idea off friends and family for feedback.
• I went to a writer’s conference and shared my ideas with a fantastic group of writers. I walked away with an outline and the idea for an entire series.
• I researched the children’s book market to see what was already out there on the topic of Creation.
• I read many best-selling children’s books to get an idea for the type of writing that works for young children.
• I further developed my characters and created the backstory that would make this more than a book of facts, but a real story kids can relate to.
• I sent in my manuscript and signed on with Ambassador International!
• I requested feedback from a biologist and apologist to make sure the final draft was the best it could be and, most importantly, that it stayed in line with Scripture.
The Word of God Meets the Martial Arts
Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you . . .
Hmmmmm, perhaps that I used to study martial arts. Passionately! It was a Christian martial arts school that was grounded in the Word of God, while focused on traditional self-defense techniques. Our whole family was enrolled at one point, which made the experience extra special. Although my life priorities changed, and I’m no longer a part of the school, I will always have fond memories of those years. It was a time when I went deeper into God’s Word more than I ever had up to that point. I learned to stand on His Word as a true weapon of offense, like the Bible talks about in Ephesians 6. In addition, my physical fitness improved, my mental focus increased, and I developed a lot of courage as I stepped out of my comfort zone just about every week on the dojo floor.
At the time, not everyone in my life understood how a martial arts school could be ‘Christian,’ but so long as something does not contradict God’s Word, I find it interesting how God can use anything and anyone to grow us up in Him, when we seek Him with a sincere heart.
Thanks so much, Karen, for bringing us along on your publishing journey. We pray your book touches many young lives and leads them to Christ. . .
Karen Ferguson is a freelance writer and small business owner with a background in K-8 education. A grateful wife, mom, and grandmom, she loves words and the Word of God and is passionate about writing stories that grab and hold young readers’ attention, while teaching them all about God’s unchangeable truths, and His unchanging love for them. She wants every child to know their life matters.
The first book in the Guess How Much God Loves You picture book series is scheduled for release in July.
You can connect with her on her website or on social media at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.
Fear rises up in the pit of my gut. I'm signing away my home with no place to go. Is that wise? At least nine long months stretch out to the end of 2022 before my hubby and I will lay our heads on our own pillows in our own bed within our own new townhome. But until then?
I am thankful for friends and family who are willing to give us a place to lay our tired bodies for a short time as we wait for the construction crew to break ground, build a foundation for our new abode, and finally the home itself. Some weeks, we will travel, other times, we maybe rent an AirBnb. Or live in a tiny house—yay!
The Ukrainian Refugees: Fleeing Home
My thoughts immediately turned towards the heartbreakingly tragic situation in Ukraine. Now, I can't profess to know much about the situation. For more on that, click HERE for a newsletter from an author friend who lived among them and wrote two historical novels based on her research.
But, I can imagine what it would be like to leave the home you loved in exchange for the unknown. Of course, I am not being driven from my home. Nor are we fleeing. Well, maybe. Taxes and the political trajectory of our state is motivating us. Not to mention the weather. But the Ukranians have no choice. Not only when to leave or how to leave, but the choice what to take, keep or store. I'm sure they had little time to think about what to pack. Only the necessities: food, clothing, a bit of money, maybe a pet or toy for the children? Speaking of which, did you see the photo of a bridge into Poland lined with stuffed animals from the local community for the bereft children crossing the bridge to safety with their parents? If you haven't seen it, take a LOOK.
I on the other hand, have been clearing out the clutter and giving tons away. Later, we will have an estate sale. And frankly, it's a relief. The less you have, the less to lose. Less to get attached to. Less to care for. But it was my choice. The Ukranian people have no choice. Maybe owning less is a good idea?
Luke 12:22-24 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” And from what I'm hearing from refugees’ stories, God is providing in so many ways. So why am I worried about this temporary transition to our new home? He has so many ways to provide.
Something to Ponder
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)
Jesus was talking about Himself! He had no place to call home. But His friends and disciples where happy to host Him. Can you imagine showing hospitality to the Son of God? Wow.
So, in a small way, I will be able to relate to Jesus in His homelessness. How much more will the Ukrainian refugees? Thankfully, there are ways to help them. If you have a desire to aid the Ukrainian church, click on this link for Christian Ministries doing so.
What am I learning in this time of year, homeless transition?
What about you? Have you made a move recently? I'd love some tips on surviving during that time of upheaval. Do you have a heart for the Ukrainian people? Have you found a way to help? Let me know below!
Since we just celebrated Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to do something out of the ordinary this month—post my favorite heart images. I see them everywhere! In shops, out in nature, on signs and quirky places Below are some of my favs. . .
This display above is on my kitchen shelf above the stairs. Don’t you just love the saying? It reminds me of the musical “Annie.”
Stores are full of heart shaped items in February. . .
The one above is from Starbucks. . .
This tiny sign was a gift from a friend. . .
I couldn’t resist arranging the ingredients for our Valentine’s dinner in this manner!
Even in historic neighborhoods you’ll find hearts! This one I found in Charleston, SC
Nature loves hearts, too. . .
My hubby and I took a quick cruise around Sanibel Island and stopped at a beach for some shadow play.
A lone leaf served as another natural heart image as it hung on for dear life!
And, of course, even though there is not an image of a heart on my book’s cover, there is heart in the title AND between the pages. Along with a ton of hope and a stubborn young heroine who changes hearts when she yields her heart to the one who loves her most—Father God. For a peek into my author’s heart, check out my interview on Write2Ignite this month. And consider gifting The Heart Changer to a middle grade reader who loves adventure, history and stories that they will remember many years up the road.
Tell me in the comments below which of my images you liked best. I’d love to know!
After a year of surrendering my will for God's (I can honestly say I was not 100% successful), I've moved on to REST in 2022. Since God is the one who knows and loves me best, if I truly trust Him, I can REST in the events He allows into my life. I’m slowing down, taking things easier. Moving into my silver years, I find (being a visual learner) that too much visual clutter stresses me out. A clean desk, a made-up bed, toiletries in order beside the bathroom sink help me to stay calm and breathe more peacefully.
Since we plan to move in the fall, I am decluttering in warp speed. As our Christmas decorations were carefully boxed up, I determined which things I would not take to our costal home. They went into a separate box awaiting our summer estate sale. The same goes for scrapbooking supplies, photos and thank you cards from friends who have enjoyed our hospitality. Keep what I know I will use, and let go of things I will not. I feel lighter, and somehow, more joyful. Marie Kondo was right!
Applying REST to my Writing World
I have cut down my emails, unsubscribing from anything that does not serve my focus this year: Memoir. You won't find me on social media as often, but you will see me reading at my bedside or in a corner of our Victorian sitting room, and less running around on shopping errands. But when I am out and about, you can be sure I'm taking in every word of an audiobook. No wasted time.
I make do with what I have: no more clothing sitting in my closet unworn, no new appliances (unless one breaks down) or unwanted clutter on my counter. How does this apply to my writing world, you ask? Well, the more I own, the more I have to care for, and that caring can distract from my career—less time to write and reflect.
Our potential move to the Southeast coast forces me to declutter, for which I am grateful. No more tchotchkes and lace doilies. No more tables with extenders. And heavy Victorian curtains are out. In comes the coastal look—fresh, light and airy.
As I get older, noise stresses me. I want quiet. Peace. REST. I look forward to the beach and its soothing motion and refreshing breezes. I've purchased a stunning sterling silver bracelet with serene blue beads to remind me of my goal in 2022. And, a bonus: it's a coastal color!
What is your word for 2022? Do you have a new focus this year? I'd love to hear what it is. Let me know in the comments below. I want to celebrate with you! Let's all determine to rest in God’s love and delight in His love letter to us: the Bible. They are soothing, insightful, living words for our hearts.
For those of you looking for a short, nostalgic Christmas read before the busyness of the holidays begins, I have a treat for you. Especially if you love Lynn Austin’s historical fiction, and in particular, “If I Were You” set in World War II. Her latest, a Christmas novella, is a charming continuation of Audrey and Eve’s saga, now to include their sons, who have the ‘gimmes’ after pouring over the Christmas Wish Book, reminiscent of the Sears Christmas Catalogue from years past.
Well, settle in and enjoy this interview, compliments of Austin’s publisher, Tyndale.
What prompted you to write a Christmas novella?
I love Christmas stories, and the Christmas movies that our family watches year after year. (My favorite is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”) I have always wanted to write a Christmas-themed book but never had time—until the pandemic struck and all of our travel plans, family get-togethers, church events and other fun activities were cancelled, giving me plenty of extra time. My idea was to write a Christmas novella that was a mini-sequel to one of my full-length novels, giving readers an enjoyable update on some of their favorite characters. “The Wish Book Christmas” brings readers back to the people and setting they first met in my novel “If I Were You.”
In “The Wish Book Christmas,” what message do you hope to convey about Christmas?
Christmas is about the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ, given to us in love by our Heavenly Father. He should be the focus of all that we do to celebrate. Christmas shouldn’t be just a spending spree with long lists of all the presents we need to buy and the gifts we hope to receive. Instead, it’s a time to return God’s love by freely giving ourselves, our time, and our talents to others, expecting nothing in return. This is the best way to glorify God and celebrate His Son’s birth at Christmas.
Please tell us a bit about the setting of your novella.
“The Wish Book Christmas” takes place in a small Connecticut town in December of 1951. Christmas is one month away, World War II is in the rearview mirror, and Americans are enjoying renewed prosperity along with a “baby boom.” The main characters, Eve Dawson and Audrey Barrett, are British war brides who are struggling to raise their fatherless sons in the post-war bungalow they share. Readers first met Eve and Audrey and their five-year-old sons, Robbie and Harry, in my novel “If I Were You,” but this novella also reads very well as a stand-alone story.
Can you provide a brief backstory of your characters?
Eve Dawson and Audrey Clarkson Barrett were childhood friends in England, where they grew up. Audrey and her wealthy family owned Wellingford Hall, a huge estate where Eve and her mother worked as servants. Their friendship flourishes in spite of their differences, and when World War II begins, the women enlist in the British Army together, driving ambulances. They each fall in love with an American soldier and give birth to a son. But Audrey marries her son’s father and Eve does not. Audrey prepares to join her husband in America but her plans end in tragedy when her husband dies suddenly. She decides to remain in England. Eve, who has no way to support her son and herself, decides to steal Audrey’s identity and move to America in her place. Eve’s deception is uncovered four years later when Audrey and her son arrive in America unannounced. Unscrambling the mess and restoring the friendship provides the plot for “If I Were You.”
Your novella is set in 1951. Why do you feel the themes of this story are so relevant, both then and now?
I think 1951 and 2021 are both times of great change and also prosperity. In both eras, the values and traditions of the past are being questioned and, in many cases, discarded for something new and modern. This is especially true of biblical values. As suburban life becomes busier and more secular in both time periods, the true meaning of Christmas as Christ’s birth is lost as the holiday becomes commercialized. In both 1951 and 2021, we long to recover the simple beauty and meaning of the holiday.
This story is a nostalgic harkening back to the iconic Sears Wish Book catalogue. Was this catalogue part of your childhood Christmases? Please explain.
Oh, yes! The Sears Wish Book was something my two sisters and I looked forward to every season. I remember the three of us poring over it together the way the two boys in my novella do, choosing among page after page of toys and dreaming of finding them all beneath the tree on Christmas morning. Like the mothers in the novella, our mother also made us limit our choices—which was often difficult to do! The catalogue would be limp and dog-eared by the time we gave Santa our final lists.
When I was researching this novella, I was surprised and pleased to find back issues of the original Sears Wish Book online, dating back to the 1940’s and 50’s. It was great fun to be reminded of all the toys from my childhood. And although the prices seemed ridiculously cheap by today’s standards, parents probably found them costly at the time.
If someone is standing in a bookstore considering your novella, what might you say to them to encourage them to read it?
We all need a reminder now and then that Christmas isn’t about creating the perfect “Hallmark Christmas” with all the trappings and trimmings—and exhausting ourselves and our credit card limits in the process. “The Wish Book Christmas” offers inspiration for keeping the true meaning of Christmas at the forefront as we celebrate Christ’s birth. Readers with children and grandchildren will find some ideas for managing their kids’ expectations and teaching them to give.
What is your hope for this novella?
My hope is that “The Wish Book Christmas” will rekindle the joy of giving and inspire creativity in shaping our Christmas traditions. The beauty of Jesus’s birth can be celebrated in simplicity and should be shared with neighbors who don’t know Him. I think most children are naturally generous, and I hope the story inspires parents to teach their children new ways to give at Christmas.
What lessons from this story do you hope will resonate with your readers?
One of the characters in the novella, Eve Dawson, has a difficult time accepting God’s forgiveness for her past mistakes, feeling that she has to do something to earn it. I hope the message is clear that Jesus is God’s gift of grace to us so that our past can be forgiven. Like Eve, we can have a new life and a new beginning in Christ.
How did writing this story change you and your own perspective of Christmas?
I love to lavish presents on my children and grandchildren, but writing this story reminded me that it’s more important to teach them, by my example, how to give generously to others. I want to reach out to my neighbors in new ways this Christmas, and pare down all the expectations of what makes a “perfect” holiday.
I hope you have enjoyed this peek into the creation of “The Wish Book Christmas” which will make a nice little stocking stuffer for your favorite reader. For other interviews with Lynn, click Legacy of Mercy.
Speaking of readership, if you know of a middle grader who is looking for a new historical fiction, consider The Heart Changer. May the Lord bless you and fill your hearts with hope this Christmas season!
I had come to the point of exhaustion. I'd worked diligently to write, submit and connect. But nothing was moving. Was I truly meant to be a writer, or did I imagine it? I needed to get my head together — a clear vision for the road ahead. Was I only spinning my wheels?
Then, the opportunity to join the team for the first ever writer’s retreat at Mount Hermon Conference Center near San Jose, CA, presented itself. For years a stellar writing conference was held at that lovely wooded venue, but it was time to forge another path. Writers attend conferences often. It's a place to learn new skills, be inspired, practice the craft, create new connections and meet with publishers and agents. But a retreat is none of that. No busyness. No running to the next workshop, feverishly writing down notes that will be sure to translate into a published book. No feeling of panic as we meet with an industry professional.
A Retreat means Rest and Refreshment
So what is a retreat? It's rest, refreshment, and time alone with God, finding your next right step in this sometimes frustrating journey towards authorship. And yes, it can be about connections—with fellow writers on the same path. But the main focus is to listen. What is God telling me about my next step? Your life? My relationship with Him? The great thing about the Mount Hermon Retreat was the freedom to choose where my focus would be. No pressure to attend any of the soul-care and craft sessions or gather with other like-minded writers. I could spend the entire weekend communing with my Creator on the many paths through the towering redwoods or pray along the labyrinth.
Listening to God’s Voice
So, I listened. In the labyrinth. In the chapel. On the forest path among the towering redwoods, feeling quite small. And I found answers to three questions:
In the mix was an Instagram Makover class, Author Accelerator Book Coaching Certification course, and my newly joined Hope*Writers community. I assumed, since I purchase them, I needed to continue with the instruction and connection.
These are the answers I received:
I also had a pull (not totally surprising, since this is why I entered the writing field) towards memoir. I have lived an adventurous life, with ups and downs, challenges and disappointments. But God used those times to draw me to Himself.
He also made it clear as I contemplated my career in the chapel, that my words are like seeds sown in the world. Someday, they will grow to touch hearts with the truths of God's Word and eventually change lives. I can't do it, but He can—through me!
Have you taken time away for any reason to get your priorities in order? Or maybe you just needed a rest. Either way, we all need the opportunity to pull away from the busyness and listen. You'll be surprised what God will whisper in your ear.
I don't know about you, but as a writer, I look forward to a new writing guide when it comes along. Today I get to share the news that The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Vol. 1) has arrived!
The Conflict Thesaurus is their newest writing tool. . .
This guide is about that absolutely necessary ingredient our stories need: Conflict. It shows you exactly how to use conflict to raise tension, create a fresh story premise, and pull readers in. The guide also dives into over 100 conflict scenarios and how each can be endlessly adapted to challenge a character inside and out. Problems, Moral Dilemmas, Ticking Clocks, Obstacles, No-Win Scenarios. . . this book is plot brainstorming in overdrive!
I'm part of Angela & Becca's Street Team for this release, and we have an important question to ask you:
Can You Survive Danger as Well as Your Favorite Protagonist?
Sure, it's easy for you (or is it?) to use conflict to wound your characters and make them struggle, but what if it's you in the hot seat instead? Will you make good decisions, or bad ones?
Are you game for The Conflict Challenge?
It's time to find out by taking the Conflict Challenge! I dare you to become the protagonist in a special story Angela & Becca have created. And heads up, if you survive, you win some pretty cool stuff!
While you're at Writers Helping Writers taking the Conflict Challenge, make sure to enter The Conflict Thesaurus celebratory giveaway, too. But hurry - it's only on for a few days.
So, take the challenge. . . if you dare. I did, and it's super fun. And don't forget to come back and let me know how you did against Camp Deadwood!
While your at it, check out Becca and Angela’s other stellar tools:
Have you used any of the above thesauri? If so, which is your favorite? If you're looking for an incredible online tool that helps you craft your story, check out One Stop for Writers.
Are you a writer stuck in a genre that's tired? Do you want to branch out into something new? How about travel writing? If you love words, adventure and a desire to share your discoveries, with a possibility of free food, lodging and activities, travel writing is for you!
The How-tos of Travel Writing
Believe it or not, travel writing is much like creating a novel or magazine article. All good writing needs a hook, which is usually sentence or paragraph that draws you in, then follows with points or scenes that bring you though the piece in an orderly and engaging way, keeping the promises the title and hook offered.
But where do you begin? Your hometown, of course! There are numerous things to see and do where you live. Restaurants, shops, nature hikes, and museums are just the beginning. Ask your local chamber of commerce, library or historical society for ideas. And read this short article, 5 Tips for Travel Writing Success in Your Hometown.
Have a focus. “Three top places to enjoy the fall leaves in (your hometown)” "10 top restaurants that offer hygge atmosphere in (your hometown) this winter” are some suggestions. Everyone googles ‘best’ or ‘top 10’ when they are looking for places to go, so add yours!
Then pitch your idea to a local newspaper or magazine. Much advice for these steps and beyond are found at Great Escape Publishing If they agree to publish your article, that's when the fun begins.
Looking for more possibilities for publication? Try Midwest Living, GoNomad, Rovology, or Play, Stay, Eat. But here's the catch: before writing an article, reading well-written ones is a must. Subscribe to Afar's newsletter, check out Travel&Leisure from your local library, and any other popular travel magazine. Read voraciously, to get a feel for the voice and content of a great travel piece.
If you are looking for constant inspiration and mentorship, join ITWPA which offers classes, travel ideas, examples of travel writing, great photography and more. It's an organization which will give you guidance and credibility, along with a jounalist's pass all your own!
I've given you a quick introduction to travel writing, but it takes study and perseverance, Consider joining the groups above for support. One successful travel writer, Abi King, has a stellar website, Inside the Travel Lab and offers a newsletter that will give you a feel for the travel journalist's lifestyle. Be inspired!
Are you a travel journalist? If so, tell us your favorite location to write about. Have you considered travel writing? Let me know your thoughts below!
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.