Monday, September 26, 2011

Are You Afraid to Say You Are A Writer?

            Last week I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference with over 600 published and unpublished writers. There were classes about writing, publishing and marketing. We laughed, cried, talked and talked some more into the wee hours of the mornings, about our writing.
            But, in the regular course of my day, when someone asks me who I am and what I do, I sometimes hesitate, and then tell them that I work at a public library (my part-time day job). Afterwards, if my husband is with me, he will ask me: “Why don’t you tell people you are a writer?”
            So, I thought about that question and these are my conclusions:
1.  It is too difficult to explain and I get funny looks. When I first started freelance writing, I was working at home. When people asked me what I did and I told them, of course they asked: “What do you write?” When I tried to explain that I wrote daily devotionals and articles for Sunday school take-home papers they would say: “What are those?” I tried to explain and then they said: “Do you make a living at that?” Of course, I had to answer: “Well, no,” and then they smiled and I believed they were thinking: “She’s not a real writer.”

2.  I doubt my writing skills. Even though I have a degree in Journalism, been an editor for a weekly newspaper and have published articles, I do doubt my skills. I think because grammar is not my strong suite, I have always felt inadequate.

3.  It sounds presumptuous. Me, a writer? I’m not a bestselling author nor do I have articles in major magazines.

4.  I’m afraid I will fail. If I say I am a writer, I fear I will hear: “Hey I have this writing project.” I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it.


            Well, I have said it. These are some of the reasons I won’t say who I am or say it so quietly no one can hear. Most of my fears deal with how other people perceive me, which I just simply need to get over! If I feel a lack of skills, those can be learned, and people don’t become bestselling authors overnight.
           

            How about you? Do you find it hard to admit that you are a writer?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Are You Using Twitter Correctly?

THIS IS A GUEST POST BY CHERIE BURBACH. CHERIE IS AN AUTHOR, BLOGGER, POET, CROCHETER AND GEEK.  





Is Twitter working for you? If the answer is no, you might want to address some of these common mistakes that people make when using Twitter. If you use the site correctly, it can be a wonderful source for information, networking, and promotion. Here are some tips to make sure your Twitter experience is as positive as it can be.


Banish the Egg

You look like a creepy spammer if you don’t put up your photo. Twitter is about conversation, so if you don’t put up a (real) picture you won’t be as successful in engaging people.


Post Often Enough

If you post once every couple of weeks (or longer) with a link to something you want to promote and that's it, you won't have a positive experience. The benefit of Twitter is that it's a dynamic community. Popping in once every few weeks just to promote yourself is like entering a football stadium with a piece of paper that says: "Look at me."


Don’t Just Post Links

While Twitter can be a good source of promotion, don't go into trying only to promote. Instead, engage in conversation. Get to know people. Retweet other people's links, and aim to connect people with resources rather than sell them something.


Fill Out Your Profile

If you want people to find you, you need to fill out your Twitter profile. Update your bio, put in your website, and make sure your background is pleasing. All of these pieces can make your Twitter profile something of interest rather than something people ignore.


Think "Search" Rather Than "Inbox"

One of the best things about Twitter is that it is a massive search resource. You don't need to follow people in order to see tweets (nor do they need to follow you) because you can search for the terms you want to chat about. Do you want to know what's happening in your hometown? Enter the city name in the search box. Looking for what's news on your favorite TV show? Enter the name and you'll get a list of tweeters who are talking about it.


Use Hashtags

People can find the things you post easier when you use hashtags. So instead of saying, "Give money to diabetes research," say, "Give money to #diabetes research." When someone searches for diabetes, your tweet will come up whether they follow you or not.


Stop Following People to Get Followed

I've heard this from a bunch of people, and I'm not sure why they think they will get more followers if they follow others. Instead, follow the people you find interesting. They might follow you back. If you want more followers, get engaged in the community and be an interesting tweeter.


Cherie is an author, blogger, poet, crocheter and geek. She is the About.com Guide to Friendship and has penned eleven books and ebooks, including Internet Dating Is Not Like Ordering a Pizza and 21 Ways to Promote Your Book on Twitter. She has published over 500 articles on the subjects of health, sports, and lifestyle. For more info, visit her website, http://www.cherieburbach.com.




Monday, September 12, 2011

Writing Daily Devotionals, Part Two


 
Suzzane Wesley won the packet of sample devotionals. Congrats, Suzzane!




Welcome to Part Two (see Part One) and the conclusion of my tutorial on Writing Daily Devotionals. In the first installment I defined daily devotionals, compared assignment versus submission, and listed some possible markets.


Please leave a comment as I will be giving away a sampling of some daily devotional booklets. They will not all be current, but you will be able to go to a website to get new guidelines.


That’s a Devotional!
The longer I write devotionals, the more they have become a part of my thought process. Ideas come to me as I go through my daily routine and I find myself saying: “That’s a devotional!” I keep a list of ideas in a small journal that I refer to when I do assignments or submit to a publication.
Key Elements
The following are usually the key elements of a devotional:
            Part One:  Title – usually two to four words
Part Two:  Scripture - the scripture you have chosen or are assigned
Part Three:  Anecdote – an event in life that helps to explain the scripture
Part Four:  Application – how the anecdote applies specifically to the reader, a take-away, something the reader can actually apply
Sometimes you might be asked to give a summary statement of 5-10 words that the reader can remember throughout their day or a short prayer a person can say at the end of their devotional time.
Actual Devotional
            I will take the key elements and step you through an incident that happened to me last week that helped me write a devotional.
As I was taking a walk, I greeted a woman who was getting her mail, and she complimented me for walking (I will insert her dialogue into the following sample). As I thanked her and walked on, I began to think about this post and what the woman had said to me, and “Aha, that’s a devotional.”
            Title: Cheer on the Family
            VERSE:
            Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
            My first paragraph with the anecdote:
            As I walked in my neighborhood, I saw a woman, getting her mail out of her box. She looked at me, smiled and said to me: “You look good. Keep at it. You know I lost twenty pounds walking. It is such a great thing to do.” I agreed with her and thanked her for her encouragement.
Then I followed with another paragraph for my application:
Life can sometimes be discouraging, even if we are believers. Everyone needs a cheerleader.  Whenever we take on a new project, lose a job, need advice, the encouragement we give to each other is priceless. Our words can spur others on and remind us that this life is temporal and our destination is heaven.  
Some devotionals also include a summary statement:
Let us not forget to encourage our fellow believers.
And then we finish with our name or byline:
Tammie Edington Shaw
Additional Tips
            Remember, these are general guidelines as every publication will have their own formula. They may also let you know whether to write in the first or third person and if to include anecdotes or to use a different form to explain a biblical truth, such as expository, etc.
I also usually begin an assignment by reading the scripture and using a Bible dictionary and/or commentary to understand the context. I also write my assigned verses on index cards and carry them with me when I walk, take a trip and also keep them in my Bible when I have a quiet time.
Leave a comment or question and I will be giving away a sampling of some daily devotional booklets. This will run through next Sunday, September 18.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

REMEMBER

            Today we remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. We also pray for those who lost loved ones and those who survived, whose lives will never be the same.
            I believe the most important thing we can do, as Christians, is pray for our country and that God would give us a love for others. Don’t just pray today, but let’s make it a daily habit, asking God to change our hearts so that we will become more like Christ.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Cynthia Ruchti Interview and Free Book

Congrats to SUSAN, winner of an autographed copy of THEY ALMOST ALWAYS COME HOME.

NOTE: I was planning to post Devotional Writing Part 2 today, but then I had the opportunity to interview author Cynthia Ruchti who is joining us today. I will post Part 2 next week.


I am giving away an autographed copy of Cynthia's book, They Almost Always Come Home, which is nominated for ACFW's 2011 Carol Award for Women's Fiction. Please leave a comment to be entered in the drawing, which will run from Friday, September 2 thru Saturday, September 10. The winner of the book will have seven days to respond after I contact them or I will draw again.



I would like to welcome Cynthia Ruchti to my blog today. I have come to know Cynthia from serving with her on the staff of the Write-to-Publish Conference. She has also served as president of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) for the 2009-2010 term and now serves as ACFW’s Professional Relations Liaison.
Her debut novel, They Almost Always Come Home, released in spring 2010 from Abingdon Press and has been nominated for a 2011 Carol Award for Women’s Fiction. Her novella–”The Heart’s Harbor”–released September 1, 2010 in the novella collection, A Door County Christmas from Barbour Publishing.
She and three other authors have a devotional book releasing in November from Summerside Press called His Grace is Sufficient...Decaf is Not. She is represented by Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Agency.

I know the biggest news right now, Cynthia, is the Carol Award nomination, which will be awarded September 24 in St. Louis at the AFCW Conference. Congratulations! How do you feel?
I feel deeply honored, especially because the Carol Award is one I so highly respect in the Christian fiction industry. It's an exceptional blessing to be listed among authors I've long admired.


What do you know now, as a published novelist, that you wish you had known before? 
I'd had hints of this before, from keeping my ear to the ACFW loop and other writers' counsel, but it's all the more real to me now that publication is not a destination. It is the beginning of a journey, one that challenges the author to be all the more vigilant, all the more creative, all the more dedicated. Publication is the beginning of the hard work, not its end.


In They Almost Always Come Home, a husband doesn’t return from a trip when expected. Give some background on how you came up with the idea for this book.
 My own husband nearly died in the Canadian wilderness in 1999. At the time, he had no way to get word out to the authorities or to me to let someone know that he was deathly ill. We're grateful that rescue reached him in time to save his life (with only about an hour to spare, the doctors told us). But the emotions connected to that time in our lives sparked my writer curiosity. What if the husband didn't come home? And what if a wife character wasn't sure she wanted him to? What would make them disconnected and desperate? And what would it cost the wife to find out? That led to the fictional story of Libby and Greg and Libby's journey to discover what happened to her marriage, her faith, and her hope.




How would you encourage writers who have received only rejection letters?
I remain empathetic about writers who receive rejection letters or emails because I still do. I believe all authors still receive rejection letters. But in response to your wording about receiving "only" rejection letters, I want to say, "Bravo! You're getting your work out there. You're being persistent. You're brushing yourself off and trying again. That sets you apart among other writers who keep their stories to themselves or who stop trying." I dislike the word "rejection," but know it's standard practice. Rejection is like dandelions in a yard in spring. The rarity is if there isn't one. And then all the neighbors clamor to know, "What did you use?" Receiving a rejection is a horrible feeling. But the savvy writer is the one who only allows it to sting a little while, like ripping off a band aid, then immediately looks for someplace else where the book might find a home or looks for areas of weakness that need shoring up.

How do you keep the creative well fresh, and in tune spiritually, with all the deadlines and busyness of the writing life?
God gifted me with hyperactive powers of observation, so the ideas exceed the time to write them down. Spiritually, the Lord often gives me reminders--some of them painful--that I need Him far more than I need a few minutes to write. But the remarkable thing is that He really does make time stand still when I take time to be with Him, time to read His Word, time to reflect. I haven't always valued that reflecting time as much as I do now, but I know it is key to writing well and staying sane and grace-filled in the process!


You are the past-president of the American Christian Fiction Writers. How does ACFW benefit those looking to publish in the Christian fiction market?
 I can't say enough about the importance of a writing community and educational provision like ACFW. It has been instrumental in my own career in the training in the craft of writing fiction, in priceless friendships, in writing partners and critique partners, online classes, networking... ACFW continues to teach me how to write and what to do with what I've written. Too many writers write in isolation, without the benefits of ACFW, so they stab in the dark in their stories and in their efforts to get them published. ACFW helps writers see what they're aiming for, and aim well!

You have collaborated with three other authors to write A Door County Christmas, A Four-In-One-Collection (Barbour) and are in the process of writing another one with the same group of writers. Describe the benefits of collaboration.
Writing a novella collection with other authors, especially these other authors--Rachael Phillips, Eileen Key, and Becky Melby--has brought laughter and joy and also challenged us to write distinctively without tripping over each other's words or turns of phrases. We love researching together, taking in the sights and sounds and smells and tastes of the area we're writing about. We have fun and enjoy one another. But by far the greatest benefit is the way we hone each other. We critique each other's work as we go along and find ourselves growing as we work together. 

The publishing industry has changed in the past decade, with authors now having to do most of their own marketing of their books. What advice do you have for unpublished writers on how to prepare them, beyond writing a great book, and being involved in social networking?
Others have said it before me, but I believe it is a freeing concept to consider what you do well and do it very well. Few authors can excel at all areas of marketing. If I find what works best for me and do it with excellence, I need to be content with that, rather than beating myself up for all the marketing ideas I haven't found time to try, or the ones that have worked for others but aren't a good fit for me. One practical tip is to look for all the hidden gems of human interest links to your story and capitalizing on them. Is there an animal shelter in the story? Connect with animal shelters. Partner with them for a fund-raising event or have a book signing at the shelter. Then think larger. Would you story be of interest to a national organization of animal shelters?

Anything else you would like to share?
It's been a joy to chat with you a bit, Tammie. You've always been a blessing. I'm looking forward to connecting with your blog followers. We can carry that conversation further, too, if they want to stop by my website: cynthiaruchti.com, or look me up on Facebook or Twitter. Whether fiction or non-fiction, I write stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark.
Thanks, Cynthia, it is always a pleasure.
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT TO BE INCLUDED IN THE DRAWING FOR THE AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF CYNTHIA'S BOOK: THEY ALMOST ALWAYS COME HOME.