Friday, August 30, 2013

Give Your Hope a Voice by Melissa Tagg

Melissa Tagg

A favorite song of mine focuses on knowing that “hope changes everything.” It’s certainly one of the reasons I write—to give hope. But what about us as writers? Ever have a day when you feel discouraged and want to give up? Take heart! Author Melissa Tagg shares part of her personal journey to publication and offers encouraging words. ~ Dawn

Give Your Hope a Voice
by Melissa Tagg

Summer 2012 will go down as one of my favorites of all time. It started with car-shopping.

Now, I am not a car person. Give me four doors and moonroof and I’m set. At the start of June 2012, I really just wanted to avoid actually having to do the “shopping” part of “car-shopping.” I sorta hoped a car would land in my lap.

It sorta did.

But here’s the fun part: When I made the decision to buy my car, I said to my parents, “Hey, maybe later on this summer I’ll land a book contract—maybe even a two-book contract!—and then I won’t feel bad about spending this money on a pretty car.”

Two weeks after I bought the car, I signed with my agent. Less than a month after that, we received the two-book contract offer from Bethany House.

Now let me be clear: I don’t believe in magic words. I don’t believe that hopeful “maybe” I threw out was the key to unlocking my dream-turned-reality. Oh no, that was all God opening the right doors at the right time.

BUT…I love this personal story because when I look back on that summer, I realize that my joy over getting that book contract was extra-big because of the hope that preceded it.

Does that make sense?

It was exciting enough receiving that phone call, hearing from my agent that a publisher was willing to take a chance on me. But there was an extra thrill attached to that excitement. A hope I’d given voice to now sang with fulfillment.

And I guess I write this because I so often hear writers say, “I don’t want to get my hopes up…because I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t happen.”

But you know what? Your dream deserves to have some emotion attached to it—ups and downs and all. Goodness, if a dream is that important to us, why wouldn’t we be disappointed when we encounter a bump in the road? I’m not saying we should go all crazy emotional roller coastery. But I do think sometimes we get so busy trying to stay even-keeled and “realistic” that we become a little shielded and stoic…and our dreams, a little dispassionate.

But if we want to talk “reality,” let’s try this on for size:

God is faithful to finish what He’s started in us. He doesn’t give us creative spark and passion and talent for no reason. He doesn’t give us a dream only to say, “Don’t hope too much, kid.” 

I say, let yourself hope. Yeah, there are going to be disappointments along the way.  Goodness knows I’ve had mine. And maybe sometimes a dream doesn’t pan out exactly the way we’d planned. But the unexpected twists and even the disappointments hold so much less power over us when we’ve nurtured a hopeful, expectant outlook.

Let’s hope. And let’s give our hope a voice. Our God-given dreams deserve it.

So…what are you hoping for?


God doesn’t give us creative spark and passion and talent for no reason. Click to tweet.

Let’s give our hope a voice. Our God-given dreams deserve it. Click to tweet.

Your dream deserves to have some emotion attached to it—ups and downs and all. Click to tweet.

Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that's how it looks when she's starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show--even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiancé who ran out on her three years ago.

When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda's every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth--and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she's built come crashing down just as she's found a love to last?  

Melissa Tagg is a former newspaper reporter and total Iowa girl. Her first novel, Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in September 2013. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, Melissa is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies and daydreaming about her next book. She’s passionate about humor, grace and happy endings. Melissa blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at

You can find Melissa . . .


Thursday, August 29, 2013

5 Keys to a Successful Editor/Agent Appointment by Elizabeth Ludwig ~ Conclusion

Elizabeth Ludwig
Last week, Elizabeth Ludwig offered two keys to a successful editor/agent appointment. If you missed it, you can read it here. This week she's wrapping up with three final tips, just in time for the ACFW Conference in September. Enjoy! ~Dora

To recap: So, what can you expect from a successful appointment with an editor or agent? Well, it can mean the beginning to a long and wonderful professional relationship if your appointment leads to a request for a manuscript. It can also provide valuable insight into what the industry is acquiring, and finally, it can present you with a powerful network of contacts. With those goals in mind, I have created five keys to conducting a successful editor/agent appointment:

Key #1 to a successful editor/agent appointment? Take charge. You have a product you believe in, so conduct your appointment with confidence.

Key #2 to a successful editor/agent appointment? Do like your momma told you and study!

3. Do you remember that old Brady Bunch episode where Mike Brady gives sage advice to Marcia and Jan regarding their upcoming driver’s test and public speaking event? He told them to picture their audience in their underwear! Now, obviously, Mr. Brady never saw a Victoria’s Secret commercial, or I’m sure his advice would have been much different. The point, however, was simply to realize that the audience was human. The same can be said for sitting down with an editor or agent. Don’t view the appointment as a job interview. View it as an opportunity to get to know the person you’re talking to and open yourself up to chat. You’ll be more relaxed, and so will they!

Key #3 to a successful editor/agent appointment? Talk to the person sitting across from you. They’re human. They like that.

4. Have fun! You heard me. If you’re at a conference to meet with an editor or agent, you paid money to be sitting where you are, right? So why not look at it as a fun, learning opportunity rather than a life and death struggle to get your manuscript into the hands of a professional? After all, what are the odds that the words you speak in a 15 minute interval will actually determine whether or not your book is published? The fact of the matter is, the most that appointment can do is garner a request to see more. So get that part out of the way by telling the editor or agent what you have, and then enjoy the rest of the time. Chat about some funny thing that happened while you were at the conference, or how you’re looking forward to a particular class. You’ll become human in their eyes, and much more memorable than if you stumbled through a rehearsed pitch.

Key #4 to a successful editor/agent appointment? Enjoy your appointment and let yourself have fun.

5. Remember who you are. I wish I could say I was kidding about this one, but the most embarrassing moment I ever experienced was when I had to look at my badge in order to remember who I am! Now, in my own defense, I publish under my legal name, which is different from the name my friends know me by. So when the editor called me by my legal name, I was temporarily thrown for a loop (chalk it up to nerves). LOL! Funny as that is now, the point isn’t about who we are to others. Ultimately, what matters is who we are to God. I’m pretty sure He’s never been confused by my legal name versus my nickname, which means when He called me to write, He knew exactly who He was speaking to. My career, my future, everything I am and ever will do is in His hands. Reminding myself of this truth has been the most beneficial thing I’ve ever done when sitting down to talk with an editor or agent.

Key #5 to a successful editor/agent appointment? Remember who you are…and whose.

Dora here. Have you pitched to an agent or editor either at conference or online? 
What tips would you share to help writers release their anxiety?
Purchase Link
Ana Kavanagh's only memories of home are of fire and pain. As a girl she was the only survivor of a terrible blaze, and years later she still struggles with her anger at God for letting it happen. 

At a nearby parish she meets and finds a kindred spirit in Eoghan Hamilton, who is struggling with his own anger--his sister, Cara, betrayed him by falling in love with one of his enemies. Cast aside by everyone, Eoghan longs to rejoin the Fenians, a shadowy organization pushing for change back in Ireland. But gaining their trust requires doing some favors--all of which seem to lead back to Ana. Who is she and who is searching for her? As dark secrets from Ana's past begin to come to light, Eoghan must choose which road to follow--and where to finally place his trust.

Elizabeth Ludwig is the award-winning author of No Safe Harbor, Book One in the Edge of Freedom series. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoys a wide readership. Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Writer YIELDs by Jane Kirkpatrick

I read an interesting and encouraging post by author Jane Kirkpatrick and asked her to share of version of it here. (Don't you love her friends Bo and Caesar?) -- Sandy

Jane: My friend author maryanne radmacher has a saying: "In all seasons, harvest." Another word for harvest is "YIELD." As writers we can't wait for publication to be our harvest; we need to find that yield in the every day. Here's how I define it...

Y = "Yes!" A writer's passion and enthusiasm must come first. I get vexed with writing sometimes. All  I have to do to get out of it is to read the want ads and then my Yes! is loud and clear. Get back to doing what you're privileged to do and find a Yes! in every day.

"I" stands for Incarn, an old medical term that means "to grow new flesh." From the disappointments of a manuscript rejection to those terrible reviews, writers can't allow ourselves to be defined by the wounds.  I grow new flesh by remembering why I write in the first place: I want to bring healing and hope to a troubled world; I want to memorialize a particular period in history or one of my characters based on a real person; I feel called to do this work.  Hurt feelings  is evidence of our compassion. Writer's need that compassion to help readers feel.

"E" means Engagement. I struggle to engage. I'd rather be in the 1850s, writing. But my writing is more authentic when I tumble myself into the daily needs of living. How can we as writers do what Kafka suggests a story does, "be an ax to the frozen sea within us" if we live disconnected from the world? Our harvest will be ice.

"L" stands for Letting go. If I write all day long and enjoy it, then I feel guilty for neglecting my family, the dogs, cooking meals. If I don’t write all day long, I feel guilty for neglecting a gift, my passion for storytelling. I have to learn to let go and be wherever I am: writing or connected to others.

"D" stands for Donation. A group of colonists I wrote about had a "Diamond Rule" that urged followers to each day make someone's life better than their own. Dr. Karl Menninger the famous psychiatrist noted that generosity was the single most important indicator of a person's mental health. "Generous people," he wrote "Are rarely mentally ill." So to have a great yield, finding time to give to someone else promises a mighty harvest down the road.

As ranchers, we kept diversifying to find the right harvest. But every day we found a reason to be grateful, even the years the harvests were lean. I'm not wealthy as a writer; we weren't as ranchers either. But we have a privileged life being able to do the things we love and we learn something new from each endeavor. On this journey called life we will often have to yield, let others go before us; and we can still find the harvest in every season.

Have you allowed yourself to YIELD as a writer? What has your harvest looked like? 


Jane Kirkpatrick is a New York Times Bestselling author of 25 books including Where Lilacs Still Bloom (a
Carol Finalist) and her latest One Glorious Ambition, The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix. For 27 years, Jane and her husband lived on a remote Oregon ranch seven miles from their mailbox on a road called Starvation Lane. They raised watermelons and grapes, alfalfa and cattle and learned much about harvests and yields. You can receive her Story  Sparks newsletter by visiting

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Best Writing Advice I’ve Learned So Far by Michele Poydence

Michele Poydence
My illustrious writing career began in second grade. I won a tri-state poetry contest on “What My Flag Means to Me” for a $50 savings bond. Rich! Rich! I was rich! I was on Easy Street and would surely be a famous, millionaire writer some day soon. Maybe even before puberty at this rate.

Let’s fast-forward through the years on what ended up being more like Real Life Street, shall we?

Although I could ace written assignments through my school years, I learned that talking was much easier than writing. So I decided instead to stake my career in public speaking. Then, in my final semester at Duquesne University, I began losing much of my ability to speak because of an illness called spastic dysphonia.

So back to that simple process of sweating blood over a blank page – what we fondly call writing. I became a “hired gun” for a wide variety of venues - from inspirational television to advertising to writing jokes for AT&T’s educational video scripts. On the side, I started a theater company called We Quit Our Day Jobs, although I didn’t quit my day job, since I had grown oddly attached to eating and having a roof over my head.

I wrote movies and landed a couple agents. Then I decided to write my first book, I Want a New Life, a humorous inspirational novel that immediately shot to #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Oh, wait. That’s still a visualization/dream/affirmation I’m trying to bring into reality. But you have to admire my belief.

Which brings us to the deep key of writing and my novel’s theme, actually:


You must believe in yourself and your writing. God gave you this gift. It’s for a reason. Use it with everything in you.

And here’s some of the best advice I’ve learned so far on how

Write what you’d love to read yourself.

Stick your pantaloons to the chair in front of your computer and put in the time every day with few exceptions.

Go with your heart as the final vote in what you write and then write your heart out.

Try to work on one main thing to completion.

Make sure you are moved over something you’ve written or no one else will be.

Get honest, sensitive input from others, preferably writers or editors who are encouraging but frank.

Rewrite until you’re sick to near-death of it and then rewrite some more.

Reward yourself for work accomplished and goals met.

Write something that could change the world.


Click to Tweet
Rewrite until you’re sick to near-death of it and then rewrite some more. Click to Tweet
Write what you’d love to read yourself. Click to Tweet
God gave you this gift. It’s for a reason. Use it with everything in you. Click to Tweet
About the Author
Michele Poydence wrote and produced the inspirational television magazine program, A New Beginning, which has spanned the globe in over 130 countries and U.S. territories. Along with Bill Cosby, Randy Travis and other notables, her television program won the Angel Award for outstanding positive-value entertainment. She has worked with CBS Television, and with film and TV studios as a writer, producer and director, and has been published in a variety of inspirational magazines. Michele has produced, directed and written comedic plays. Her feature film, Anything’s Possible, has been optioned by a William Morris Agency director. She resides in Oakmont, PA.

I Want a New Life
I Want A New Life
by Michele Poydence
Three women at turning points.
One week to get a new life.
Are all things really possible with God?
Can we have some fun along the way?

Housewife and mom Casey Swanson hears an inner voice for the first time in her life: This is the day. Is this the day she leaves? Amana Anne Moore gets one last chance to become the
inspirational speaker she’s always dreamed of becoming. Is the disarming Jake Sandstone a key to her dreams, and to unlocking her heart to love again? Eliz “Wild Thing” Wilding loses her job, her fiancĂ©e - and almost her life - in a day. Can she turn it around in a week and get a fabulous new life?

I Want a New Life is available on Amazon and

Connect with Michele:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Listening for Your Story's Theme by Naomi Musch

Naomi Musch
Hey, writers! Do you use your writer's ear as you write? Naomi Musch tells us how listening and story theme go together. Read on!

Listening for Your Story's Theme 
by Naomi Musch
How well do you tune your writer's ear to hear your story's themes trying to emerge as your write? Novelists who pay attention while writing their stories notice wisps that float by their consciences as emerging themes. When I begin to write a book, I set out knowing something of its main theme. That theme depends upon the larger story question—mostly. If the story is about someone who's been betrayed, the theme may be one of loyalty. If the story is about someone unable to adjust to change, the theme may be about spontaneity coupled with wisdom. But further themes deepen with the writing if I don't let them escape my notice.

In my new release Paint Me Althena I wanted to know, "If a woman abandons her family to figure out who she is, and if she even lands in another relationship but lives to regret it, will her husband's trust be broken too deeply for her to ever go back again? Would it just be better for him and the kids to move on rather than handle the wreckage she created?"

The theme became one of grace and of the possibility for second chances in the face of deepest rejection. But that's not all. In the search for the larger story, I had to ask why she left in the first place, and that took me to another theme, one of her poor self-image. What kind of things might a young woman resort to doing in order to flee the person she thinks she is, without knowing whom she wants to be? Self-image, hope, rebirth, forgiveness—all these and more became smaller themes woven into the big picture.

But we don't just arrive at theme by asking story questions. Sometimes God speaks to us of themes He wants us to explore. That means we have to train our writers' ear to hear Him. We might be counseling a friend or family member when God reveals a theme, because when it comes down to it, themes are really those big life issues that we all deal with. They usually emerge when we come face to face with them in a crisis. 
Themes might tinkle on our ears during our Bible reading or while listening to a sermon. This happens to me a lot. Every great story in the Bible is full of themes meant for our instruction. How might some of those themes apply to our works-in-progress?

Just today I was reading a blog post about being single when suddenly I realized one of the article’s themes would work for my current WIP. Good thing I had my writer's ear tuned, because some of the responses to the post stated exactly what I wanted my character to learn.

We are surrounded by themes. Someone is struggling in their relationship with their grown child. Someone is suffering from a secret addiction. Someone fears losing their home or livelihood. There are story questions and themes in all these situations. 

Universal themes unfold in thousands of stories. Most Christian fiction, for example, is about redemption. Yet the story never grows old, and there are a billion ways to tell it. So listen with your writer's ear and you'll hear your stories' themes speak. 

Paint Me Althena

When still life artist Ethan Day discovers a fantasy painting by Althena Bell in a consignment shop, he's sure he's found Ava, his wife who abandoned him and their two little girls three years ago. Finding and rescuing her are one thing, but forgiveness and second chances are impeded by outsiders, and conflict between Ava's search for identity and Ethan's new faith might break the safety net he offers. 

Naomi Musch writes from the pristine north woods of Wisconsin. She spent five years on the editorial board of the EPA award-winning, Midwestern Christian newspaper, Living Stones News, writing true accounts of changed lives. While pursuing her fiction-writing endeavors, she spent a year as an editor with Port Yonder Press. She continues to enjoy writing for magazines and other non-fiction venues that encourage homeschooling families and young writers, and loves connecting with new friends via:

Twitter: NMusch
Goodreads: Naomi Dawn Musch
Naomi's site and blogs: 

Find the book at Desert Breeze Publishing.