Saturday, November 24, 2012

I've been negligent, I know. It's been several weeks since I posted here. I started with real determination to post twice weekly here.

But LIFE keeps getting in the way of blogging.

So, I'm stepping back for a few months. I am struggling at this time with hard decisions regarding the use of my time - those 24 wee hours that God gives me every day. I want to use those hours doing the work He has called me to do, becoming the person He has called me to become.

I won't be posting here again for several months - probably April. By then "Encouraging Words" will be a distant memory for you. But I trust that you'll welcome me back into the Blogosphere when the time is right for me to return.

Before I leave you, a word about PiBoIdMo, please:

Today is Nov. 24 and I have 19 picture book ideas recorded. I have some catching up to do, but I'm doing much better than I did last year.

It's been a vastly productive use of my time.

I must admit that it is liberating to simply "come up with ideas" that might make great picture books. It takes a lot of pressure off me.

But I'm also surprised that some of the ideas are already sprouting in my head. Some of them already have compelling main characters. Some of them already have plots complete with conflict and resolution.

Most already have a theme on which to float their plots.

Thanks, Tara! PiBoIdMo is a wonderful idea for me. I intend to record 30 ideas or die trying! [LOL]

And, I plan to be back next November with my imagination in battle formation.

I pray, Dear Reader, that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, that you celebrated God's rich blessings with family and friends and lots of delicious food. Is there a better way to celebrate the extravagant bounty God has given us?

I also pray you'll have a Christmas filled with the people you love, the traditions you enjoy, and the Savior you adore.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I've done it.

I've registered for PiBoIdMo 2012.

November is the official Picture Book Idea Month - PiBoIdMo!

Yep. I'm joining a few hundred other followers of Tara Lazar's blog Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) in her challenge to come up with 30 picture book ideas in the 30 days of November. Sort of an autumn brain-storming for those of us who love picture books and aspire to see our names on a lulscious book jacket one day.

I registered last year and started out with a BANG! But soon fizzled out. I really want to be more dedicated to it this year. 30 ideas in 30 days might not be 30 great ideas, but I'm bound to generate 3 or 4 great ones, right?

[Here's where you respond with an enthusiastic, "YES!"]

So, I'm keeping a PiBoIdMo 2012 Journal for my 30 brilliant (or at least glimmering) ideas in November.

I'm even holding myself accountable to post here each week about my ideas. (I'm really going public with this thing! Somebody hold me accountable, PLEASE)

If you are interested in throwing a few shovels of fertilizer on your imagination join us.

Register at Writing for Kids (While Raising Them). But hurry! Registration closes on November 4, 2012. You don't want to miss the fun.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Gift to You, Dear Reader/Writer


I Prayed Especially For You


 by Jean Matthew Hall

I prayed especially for you today

Not just one of those “lay me down to sleep” prayers

But a heart-felt, yearning prayer.

My heart stretched up toward heaven.

It strained to touch the Throne of Grace,

To see a wisp of God’s answer in your life.

 

I prayed especially for you today

Not a quick “Lord, bless them” kind of prayer

But a hope-filled, pleading prayer.

My heart cried for your future

Then softly laid it at the Feet of Grace

To trust God’s heaped up answer in your life.


I pray the vibrant beauty of this season will be a reflection of God's beautiful work within you, my friends.

 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What I'm Writing

I'm not a huge fan of the World Olympics. I may watch a few minutes here or there of the televised Summer or Winter Olympics. But I'm not enamored with them.

I admire the commitment, the focus, the personal discipline of Olympians, however. They all seem to live their lives from childhood into young adulthood dedicated to the single purpose of becoming Olympians - of earning the coveted medals.

Brigetta Barrett - Twitter
In Decision (the publication of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association) this month I read an article about Brigetta Barrett, a track and field Olympian from the USA.

In the article she is quoted as saying, "It's not about what I do, but it's about what God can do through what I'm doing."


That got me to thinking about the things I do, one of which is write. I love writing. I enjoy finding the perfect word for a sentence. I enjoy creating stories or articles that evoke certain emotions from readers. I enjoy the music of words when they fit together beautifully.

I say I write to please the Lord. And I do. But I still get caught up in the emotions of writing. I'm thrilled and proud when I open the cover of a book or magazine and see MY name in the byline. I still feel the frustration of trying to SHOW my readers exactly what I mean without TELLING them what I mean.

I still feel butterflies when I hear my words read aloud to a group. I still feel humbled when a reader tells me the words I penned inspired or comforted her.

And I still feel disgusted and depressed and inadequate each time I get a rejection, or, worse yet, each month I wait and wait and wait for a response from an editor, and I hear that big, fat NOTHING.

Brigetta's words went straight to my heart when I read them" "It's not about what I do, but it's about what God can do through what I'm doing."

Can I say, "It's not about what I write, but it's about what God can say through what I'm writing?"

...what God can say through what I'm writing.

A hermaneutics' thesis
A biography
A "Chicken Soup" story
A devotional
An article or feature in a newspaper
A column
An apologetics essay
A blog post
A "how to" book
A picture book
A sermon
A mystery
A romance
A historical fiction
A non-fiction book for kids
A story or activity for a take-home Sunday School paper
A recipe book for my family
A letter of encouragement
A YA
An early chapter book
An apology
A rebus
A poem
A literary novel

Have I left anything out?

What can God say through what I am writing?

If I give it to Him BEFORE I click one key, or make one scribble the potential for my words is...

LIMITLESS.

Because He is limitless.

That encourages me a lot!

What have you seen God do with YOUR words? Will you please share with us?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Another Great Writing Workshop


A couple of weeks back my writing buddy, Carol Baldwin, and I headed south to Greenville, SC, for a one day writers' workshop "Show, Don't Tell," sponsored by the Greenville Emyrs Foundation. Author Hester Bass led us through techniques used by actors to create their characters - techniques that are equally useful to writers.


It was great fun and we both gained some insight into improving the characters in our WIPs. Gathering with other children's writers, people focused on the same learning goals as we, is always fun and interesting to me.


How about  you? Do you enjoy gathering with a group of strangers to study or discuss a common topic?

Do you enjoy the adventure of going someplace new, meeting new people, learning new things about your work and yourself?

Or are you on the timid side? Your favorite place to be is ALONE in front of your computer, absorbed in the world of your story?

I was a timid child. But, since the age of about 20 no one has since accused me of being timid! I sometimes err on the other end of that spectrum with hilarious, or disastrous, results.

It takes both kinds to create the amazing patchwork quilt of children's literature. People who write from all types of philosophies, people who write for a myriad of reasons, people who write to different age groups, different sexes, different ethnicities, different cultures and in different genre.

One of the fun things about mixing with new people for me is hearing their side of the dialogue. Observing the spectrum of differences in the group. Some I can agree with, some I can't. But I can listen to all of them, observe all of them, gain a better understanding of what makes people different from me tick.

Sometimes I even discover new things about myself when I'm plopped in the middle of a room full of strangers. Sometimes I grow from the experience - if I don't shrink back, don't pull myself inside a safe and comfy shell.

When I participate in discussions with people who are new and possibly quite different from me, I get a bonus from the encounter -- story ideas!

I try to notice people's quirks, accents, facial expressions, body language and use those in my stories.

There are times I meet someone noticeably quirky. Terrific! I can build a whole story around that person's quirks.

I eaves drop on conversations at such gatherings. I might get a spark of a story idea, or a trait to apply to a character I'm working on, or a moment that causes a reaction inside myself. A reaction that I need to pull out of one of my book characters.

Nothing like facing such a reaction in the mirror to help me SHOW it in one of my characters.

"Show, Don't Tell" was a great experience for me. The group was small enough to draw everyone into the conversation. The lunch was yummy. Hester Bass was insightful and innovative. My thanks to the sponsors, and to my good buddy, Carol Baldwin, for inviting me to join the fun.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sometimes God tells me to do some little something, or become involved with something, that sounds small enough.


You know, small enough that I can handle it myself.

Or small enough that I can squeeze it into my busy schedule.

Or small enough that it won't require too much of my energy, intellect or emotion.



But somehow, someway, those things seem to grow, and grow, until they become God-sized. Until I look over my shoulder and am amazed that God entrusted me with something that seemed so harmlessly small, but that He has blessed into something amazing.


Things like a little 250 word devotional I wrote for a quarterly magazine. A year and  a  half  later (when it was published) eight or ten emails hit my inbox from weary Christians thanking me for those words of encouragement. Those kind emails arrived at exactly the right time to encourage me when I desperately needed it.

Things like a Christian school with thirty-something children and five staff members growing to an enrollment of more than 800 and a staff of more than 100 - even in a bad economy.


Things like a little prayer asking God to use that school to spread the Gospel around the globe, then watching Him produce students and staff who teach, preach and love in Africa, Europe and Asia, and around the USA.

Things like planning a little conference offering Christians who write for children an opportunity to fellowship and learn together, then watching it grow to include a constituency of hundreds and an influence that is stretching north, south, east and west across the USA.

Things like small prayers asking God to meet great needs, then watching in amazement as He provides.



I keep this quote taped  above my computer monitor:

"God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity when we plan only the things we can do by ourselves."

My personal experiences with God make me shout "Amen!"

Has God every called YOU to be part of something impossible, dear reader-writer?

Can you share the story here with us? We would love to read it.


BTW - Though many online sources attribute this quote to A. W. Tozer I can't locate the original reference, book title, sermon, article or other attribution for it. If you know this information PLEASE leave it here in a comment. I would love to know exactly when, where or how these words were originally codified.  A sermon title, a book title and page number - anything to point me in the right direction. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Words Aflame


“Give me the Love that leads the way
The Faith that nothing can dismay
The Hope no disappointments tire
The Passion that'll burn like fire
Let me not sink to be a clod
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God” 
 Amy Wilson-Carmichael

 
Amy Carmichael is one of a handful of women who have had a powerful influence on me.

I never met Amy Carmichael, of course. Her influence on my life, like that of many others, has been through her writings – the words she left behind in various prayers, poems and manuscripts.

Her dedication to the Lord and to the work He called her to do puts my efforts to shame.

Her flaming love for the people of India convicts me of how flickering my love can be.

Her white-hot passion for rescuing the children of India exposes the luke-warmness of my own life.

Her writings show me that she loved Christ and the people He called her to serve, without restraint or pretense. She followed Him and surrendered her life with total and reckless abandon.

When I read the transparent words she left behind I am forced to stop and think about my own words:

What will come from the printed words I leave behind? When my children or grandchildren sift through all the stuff on my hard drive (or whatever storage device they find in my dusty file cabinets) will the words inspire those who read?

Will they amuse, inform or entertain others?

Will they become fuel for the Flame of God to ignite other hearts for Jesus?

Words have power - far more than we like to consider as we spit them out or fling them onto page or screen. 

What kind of influence will my words have after my body has returned to dust?

Whose words have had tremendous influence in your life? Will you share a few  of them with us here?