Category Archives: motivation

The Call to Serve—A Christian Writer’s Testimony

“TESTIMONY”
evidence or proof provided by
the existence or appearance of something

I last posted here in February, six months ago. Since then, my schedule has overflowed with writing assignments and deadlines, and blogging fell to the bottom of my to-do list. But it’s time, past time, for me to write this post giving credit to the One who makes all things possible.

A children’s picture book I wrote on assignment in 2015 had, a while ago, passed more than 300,000 copies sold and is consistently on Amazon’s best-seller list in several categories. A friend noticed and said to me recently, “Congratulations! I’m proud of you.” How I responded somewhat surprised me, but it was a testament to how my faith in the Lord has grown in the past almost forty years since I accepted Him into my heart as my Lord and Savior.  

Everyone has a story. God has a plan for each of us. Without us being aware, He assembles His plan’s pieces perfectly and systematically. As I’ve grown in experience, and yes in age, I’m able to see more clearly now how the pieces of His plan for me have come together. This is my testimony:

In college I majored in education. I imagined myself teaching in the classroom. But then, one required class in the last semester of my senior year changed everything: “Introduction to Children’s Literature”. It turned me into a children’s book fanatic! I read all the best sellers present and past. I immersed myself in words that flowed in lyrical patterns taking children wherever their imaginations led. Teaching was no longer my goal. I set my sights then on grad school, library science/children’s literature, eyeing a future as a children’s librarian. I was writing then, too, (just for fun.) Writing was something I’d always enjoyed. As a teenager I explored writing’s many forms: poetry, prose, fiction, nonfiction. My high school English teacher recognized my talent and encouraged me to pursue a career in journalism. But I had other plans. In college, I took elective writing classes (just for fun), and as I wrote God grew my passion to write even more. In grad school, I shared some writing samples with my faculty advisor and she said, “You should be writing for publication.” So, I wrote. My first official published piece was my master’s thesis, a study of social changes in the contemporary children’s literature, published by the university’s press.

I graduated with a master’s degree in library science/children’s literature and with a new goal—to be a children’s book writer.

God’s plan unfolded then, at record speed. He led me into a job working as an editor for a leading children’s book publisher. There I learned not only creative product development but also how books are marketed and sold. I even did press checks—going to where the books were printed and providing an editorial sign-off at the printing press. My job required me to write and edit, but apart from my job I felt the Lord encouraging me to write even more. Submitting manuscripts to other publishers was a conflict of interest, so I wrote just for the fun of writing. I enjoyed my job at the publishing house, but it wasn’t as fulfilling as it had been. I wanted and needed more. I remember being at work one day, sitting at my desk in my office during a lunch break. I’d set aside a manuscript I was editing to jot down a few haiku poems I’d had swirling in my thoughts and I silently prayed, “God, I really want to write exclusively for You.”

And then it happened.

A few weeks later, the company I worked for was acquired by a publisher who decided to move it to another state. We were all given termination notices. I lost my job. This was the new beginning God had planned for me, the start of a lifelong ministry of writing for Him. This year, I’m celebrating twenty-five years as a freelance writer of Christian literature. God most often leads me to nonfiction where He combines my writing talent with my teaching skills to teach others about Him. He uses my training in publishing as a help when working with editors. Because I understand the process from concept through print production, it saves my editors time and effort when I provide them with well-formatted manuscripts that are clean of errors and delivered on time.

When my friend said, “I’m proud of you for 300,000 copies sold,” my spontaneous reaction was, “No! Don’t be proud of me. Be happy that the Lord is using me to share His words with 300,000 kids . . . their moms, dads, siblings, grandparents . . . “

That’s what it’s all about for me. My faith has grown so strong in the decades since I accepted Jesus that it’s enough just to serve Him. He uses me for His purposes, and I’m grateful. I’m so blessed to share His Word with others and to lead them nearer to Him. I’m content being a humble servant. I appreciate the well-meaning praises for my work, but I don’t desire or even like accolades for anything God accomplishes. There’s a quiet, soul-filling, and perfect satisfaction that comes with the assurance God is working through me. When I sit down to write He leads me, often changing the direction I’ve planned for my words to take. The words come easily when He directs my thoughts. He is worthy of all the praise.

So, that’s my testimony, my evidence of God’s existence and proof that He has a plan for each of us.

If you feel yourself drifting somewhere other than where your own hopes and dreams lie, be willing to change. You were born with skills and talents that God wants to use for His glory. If you want to serve Him, ask Him to use you. Then, when you feel pulled in a specific direction keep moving forward. You can’t see yet where the Lord is leading you, but He knows where you’re going. Be patient, follow Him, and don’t give up.

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The Best Stories You Never Told

WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY: five essential questions writers ask to get the full scope of a story. Like most kids, I learned about the 5W’s in elementary school. I wish I had the wisdom back then to apply them, because I missed out on some really great stories.

I was an only child surrounded by old people—grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles, neighbors, family friends. They loved to gossip, and I was good at eavesdropping on their adult conversations.

I found out WHO in the neighborhood had come home drunk and WHAT happened when his wife caught him with another woman, WHEN she caught him and WHERE. And I wondered along with the gossipers WHY she stayed with that drunken man after he cheated on her. Those were the stories that my little ears shouldn’t have heard. The best stories, though, might have been those the old people held tightly locked in their hearts.

This season, summer, is the season of patriotic holidays, and I might have some good stories to tell had I thought to apply the 5W’s.

On a Decoration Day (Memorial Day) I went with my grandma to the cemetery to plant geraniums on the graves. We planted red geraniums in front of the big Dumke family stone, and then we planted a white geranium on each of the six graves where the Dumke children were buried. “Grandma,” I asked, “why do we put white geraniums on these?” Her answer was brief, almost harsh. “Because, it’s what we do.” Today, I look at that same headstone and the six smaller stones marking the graves of grandma’s young siblings and I have questions. So many questions.

On Independence Day, Grandma always hung a huge American flag between the front window of her upper flat and the big, old oak tree at the curb. Her husband, my grandfather, had died when Grandma was just thirty-nine. But someone (Grandpa?) had fixed a rope and pulley to make it easy to hang the flag. It was a 48-star flag, the flag soldiers and sailors fought for in WWII. It was a 48-star flag that the Marines raised over Iwo Jima. I remember that flag in front of her house every Fourth of July and how reverent and respectful grandma was when she fixed it onto the rope and sent it flying. Today, I have questions.

I remember my Great-Uncle Walter, too. He was an always-in-charge, short, bald little man who walked with a distinct limp. I laugh when I think of a Veteran’s Day when he sat in an old, 1950’s upholstered swivel rocking chair in his living room telling a battle story about the Spanish American War. As if re-enacting the experience he raised his arms, covered his head with his hands and ducked. “Bullets were flying to the right of me! Bullets to the left . . .” And then, just as the story was getting really good, the bottom of the swivel rocker gave way sending Walter’s backside to the floor. That, in itself, is a story. But still, I wonder. WHO was shooting those bullets? WHAT happened next? WHEN did it happen and WHERE? And WHY did Walter walk with a limp.

Five little questions I wish I had asked.

My advice to young writers, all writers, is to listen. Listen to that little voice inside that’s telling you, “There’s a story hidden here.” Then apply the 5W’s. Ask and keep asking until you get the full scope of the story.

If you don’t ask, you might miss writing the best stories you could have told.

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Filed under Encouragement, Independence Day, motivation, Uncategorized, Writing Tips

I Don’t Know What to Write!

“I don’t feel like writing anymore.”
“I’m not motivated.”
“I don’t know what to write!”

I’ve heard from so many writers lately that they’re in a slump. There’s not much to do. They’re stuck at home most of the time. You would think it’s the perfect time to write, but the lack of stimulation results in fewer ideas.

Here’s an idea! Use conversations with others as your motivator. Whether in person, a video call, a phone conversation or even messaging, this short list of people and conversation starters can add to your idea bank:

The Storytellers
We all know people who love talking about their own experiences. Encourage them. Be a good listener. Something they share just might spark an idea.

“What was your greatest adventure?”
“Have you met anyone famous?”
“Do you have a favorite memory about . . . (your childhood, your wedding, your first days on the job)?”
“Do you remember much about your grandparents?”

The “Professors”
These people study interesting topics and pay attention to the smallest details. Professors are great at supplying little-known facts, and one of them may just give you an idea for the theme of your next short story or novel.

“You know so much about ___________. What’s the most interesting thing you have learned?”
“What got you so interested in _______________?”
“Which sources provide the best informations about ___________?”
“What else do you hope to find out about_________?”

The movie buffs
Plots, genres, interesting characters—movie buffs can provide a wealth of information.

“What is your most favorite film? Why is it your favorite?”
“Which film genre do you prefer? Why do you like that genre more than others?”
“Who is the most interesting character you’ve seen in a movie? Why do you think so?”
“Movies are set in so many different places. Which film had the most interesting setting?”

You could ask similar questions to voracious readers.

The “Historians”
Talk with this group and you’re sure to unearth little known facts about the history of the world. Ask,”What period in history do you most enjoy studying?” Then encourage historians to talk with you about topics from that era:

Philosophy, Politics, Economics
Daily Life
Traditions and Customs
Science and Health
Arts, Entertainment, Sports
Religion

Another lead-in to talking with historians is to ask about the historic accuracy, or inaccuracy, of period films they have seen.

The news junkies
If you’re looking for an interesting angle or plot twists, the news junkie might be your go-to person. News junkies follow the winding paths of current events. Talk with them not only about stories in world and national news, but also about local news. Some of the best story ideas come from local newspapers.

“What’s the most intriguing human interest story you’ve recently read?”
“Are you following any unsolved mysteries in the news?”
“Have there been any funny, strange or odd stories lately?”
“Who’s been in the news?”

Children!
If you are looking for a fresh perspective on any topic, kids are the best resource. Ask a question, and then just sit back and listen. Most kids will tell you exactly what they think, unfiltered. No list of conversation starters is needed for this group. You’ve been there. You know how it works!

When talking with family and friends, weave some of these questions into your conversations. You just might find the motivation you need to start writing. If nothing else, it will make for interesting conversation.

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If you are on Facebook, Check out my page
where I post articles and inspiration for writers.

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*NOTE: Any ads appearing in this post were not put there by me nor do I endorse them. WordPress sometimes posts ads in exchange for hosting this free blog.

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Filed under Encouragement, Inspiration, motivation, Uncategorized