Showing posts with label Christian poet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian poet. Show all posts

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Interview with Christian poet and devotional writer Lisa DeVinney

Lisa, when did you know you wanted to write?

Funny thing is I never wanted to be a writer!

I was coasting comfortably along as a homemaker and mom of 6 when God stepped in and began a new thing in me. My college major was Mathematics, not Writing in any way, shape, or form. So when God began filling my head with poetry at the age of 45, it was a bit of a shock. I had no idea what to do with the stacks of poems that began filling my house, but over the past few years, God has been revealing ways in which I can minister primarily to fellow Christians through my writing.

Tell us about your published work.

I have four books that have been published by a friend I met while writing for Two are compilations of those Sunday School lessons. The other two are daily devotionals with a poem and Scripture verse for each day of the year - I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes and Rivers in the Desert. A few of my poems have also appeared in Power for Living.

Who or what inspires your writing?

Most of my poems have been directly inspired by the Bible or Bible study lessons. Others come from sermon illustrations, personal experience, and observations from nature. My Great Pyrenees has also been an occasional source of inspiration.

Does anything ever discourage you from writing?

When I take my eyes off of the Lord and begin to look at other more “successful” writers, I sometimes grow discouraged. I realize my poems are not as lyrical as most. So they don’t appeal to those who generally enjoy poetry for its depth and richness. And since my writing is poetry, it doesn’t appeal to those who shy away from the genre. But then the Lord reminds me that I’m not doing it for anyone other than Him, and I can trust Him to get it into the hands of those to whom it will be a blessing. He simply reminds me that His words never return void.

What do you hope to accomplish in your work?

I see my writing as mostly ministering to those who already know the Lord – encouraging them to draw closer to Him, bringing words of comfort based on Scripture. But I pray, too, that the Lord will also use it to draw those who are lost to Himself.

Have you found the Internet helpful in reaching others for Christ?

As a stay-at-home mom from a very small town with a very small church, I find the Internet to be an incredibly helpful tool in sharing my poems with others. It’s also the place where I met my publisher, along with many other writers who have been a great help and encouragement to me.

How can readers find your work online?

I'm on Twitter, but I spend the most visible time on Facebook where I try to check in daily. However, a large number of my poems are on my website, Lifting My Eyes, where they are arranged by topic. If readers are looking for my books, they are all available at with some listed on

What thoughts would you like to offer other Christian poets or writers?

The most helpful encouragement I can offer is something I learned at a writer’s conference this past fall. As Christian poets and writers, we’ve got to remember that we’re not only to be writing for the Lord, but we’re also to be writing with the Lord. If we’re doing it on our own, we’re missing the whole point. God gives us the gift of writing so we’ll spend more intimate time with Him, listening to His heart and following His lead. That’s what it’s all about – not the platforms or the deadlines. If those are what drive us, we are of all writers most miserable.


God wants it to be about Him, and our relationship with Him. He certainly deserves all of our focus and praise. For without Him, we wouldn’t even be able to lift a finger or form a single thought. And then He turns around and blesses us for our faithfulness. How incredible is that?!

Amazing and wonderful! Thank you so much, Lisa, for taking time to give us a glimpse of your writing life in Christ. May God continue to spill His insights into you and your work in Jesus’ Name.

© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, founder of the Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook, writes books in all genres for Christian, educational, and indie publishers. Her current calling is to write and post Praise Poems on the Internet.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Interview with Christian poet, writer, and songwriter Elaine Creasman

Elaine, I know you’re a prolific writer, maintain a website, and have contributed to many gift books, but tell us more about your published work.

I have a passion for helping couples stay married since God has done a miraculous healing in our marriage of 40 years. I have had over 20 articles about marriage published in magazines and newspapers. I also have had articles on parenting, spiritual growth and social issues such as racism published. I worked as a guest columnist having a monthly column, “Family Matters,” for over a year at my local weekly newspaper, The Largo Leader as well as writing features for that newspaper. The opportunity ended when the editor left, but I have also written several opinion pieces for the St. Petersburg Times and had multiple letters to the editor published.

I have written for over 30 Christian publications including Decision, Light and Life, Marriage Partnership, Today’s Christian Woman, and The Lookout. I have also written for teen publications such as Campus Life, Encounter, and Devozine. I have had many poems published in magazines and some as contributions to books.

I also write songs which I have performed or had others perform at Bible studies, women’s retreats, my church, and small church gatherings. My latest calling with music is to play at open mic nights and on Clearwater Beach to bring the good news with my songs and classic hymns to the tourists who come from all over the world. Much of my published work is writing about my personal experiences. I tell the what of my darkest night, but more importantly I tell Who was there to shine His light.

What has helped to prepare you for this work?

I took composition courses at the college level where I was first encouraged to become a professional writer. I also took continuing education courses at my college where local authors taught classes for no college credits and were willing to critique the work of the students. I received the most and the best education for writing at writers conferences.

I have attended the Write to Publish Conference in the Chicago area several times, a conference at Warner Pacific College in Oregon once, and I attended as well as taught at times at the Florida Christian Writers Conference. I attended FCWC 23 out of 25 times. There I met editors, took classes, and learned from fellow writers. I turned in manuscripts and learned so much by what editors and fellow writers wrote on them. Meeting with editors and having them review my writing projects made such a difference and opened the door for publication at many different magazines. I also read lots of books about writing as well as magazines such as Writers Digest and The Christian Communicator.

Do you see your writing as a gift or calling?

I see my writing as a gift that God has called me to use for His glory. My calling is to proclaim truth, and the verse that God gave me to go along with my writing is Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception [pseudo-intellectual babble], according to the tradition [and musings] of mere men, following the elementary principles of this world, rather than following [the truth—the teachings of] Christ,” Amplified Bible. Most of what I write urges readers to let go of the world’s ways and the lies received there and embrace Jesus and His truth and His ways.

I sense God is pleased when I write and pass along my writing to others—even if there is no payment involved. There is a danger even in the Christian world to measure our success by how much money we make at writing. God has given me a definition of success as a writer: Success = obedience. God has also called me to help other writers use their gift of writing. I have led the Suncoast Christian Writers Group in Largo, Florida since 1986.

Lately my ministry as a writer has been to help others be set free. I see how much bondage the Lord has set me free from, and I want to help others be set free. The theme verse for my previous radio show and my Hearts Set Free blog is Psalm 119:32, “I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free,” NIV, 1984. God has called me not just to enjoy my freedom, but to help others be set free.

Does anything ever discourage you from writing?

When I face tragedies in my life—dealing with prodigals, repeated crises in my marriage or with my children or grandchild, two suicides by siblings, new traumas that threaten to undo me, or my own battles with sin and weakness, I can think, “I’m not qualified to write; my life is such a mess.” But God has told me again and again something that another writer often proclaims: “God will bring a message out of your mess.” And He always has.

When I write despite difficulties and am transparent about what I’m going through, it seems people are touched in a deep way. I attend a secular writing group, and they have communicated to me when I write about my deep struggles and how God is intervening, “It is your struggles that invite us in.”

Writing a blog has helped me to write despite any hurt in my life. Because it’s a weekly post, I tell about what I’m going through and even discover truth as I write. I remember someone once told me that we learn to write, but we also write to learn. God has taught me so much as I sit down to write on a difficult subject. I start out saying, “I have no idea how to handle this crisis in my life,” but He gives the answer as I write. And I can pass that answer along.

Does the Bible influence your work as a writer?

The Bible is the number one research book for my writing. I want everything I write to be in line with the Word—to echo what it says. Most of what I write has Bible references, because I want people to turn to the Word. I don’t want them to think that what I have to say is what’s most important. I want them to hunger for what God has to say. If what I write increases a person’s love for me and my words but is not increasing a person’s love for God and His Word, then I feel I have failed.

Often a piece starts with a verse or passage of Scripture that touches me or is doing a transforming work on me. Sometimes I discover a concept in the Word that thrills my soul, and I want to pass it on. As a writer, I try to be in the Word daily. There is so much more to learn and discover there—especially about how much God loves us.

What helpful suggestions or encouragement would you like to offer other Christian poets or writers?

It is important to have a deep prayer life where you are communicating with God about what to write and how to write it. God does speak to us today. Often I sense that God is dictating the truth for an article or poem to me—that I’m not a writer but a receiver. I need to have an open and humble heart to receive from God. Discover from the Lord what kind of writing He wants you to do rather than trying to copy the type and style of writing that someone else is doing. He has specific instructions for each of us.

It’s also important to maintain your integrity in the writing world. Even Christians may encourage embellishment to make your story more exciting. Do not give in to that temptation.

It’s essential to meet with other writers who are an encouragement to you. Join a writing group. Attend writers conferences or workshops. Be humble enough to receive critiques and instruction. Always seek to improve at your craft. Avoid becoming discouraged by rejections or harsh comments from people who are hypercritical of your work. Care about and even love those who will be reading your work. Never see yourself as better than they are.

Good words, Elaine! Thank you. May God continue to bless you and your writing life in Christ.

© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, moderator of the Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook, writes books in all genres for Christian, educational, and indie publishers. Recently, she began writing and posting Praise Poems, which are almost ready for a book.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Christian writers on writing

QUESTION recently asked of the members in our Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook:In what ways do you need prayer and encouragement in your writing life?

Michael-Lori (I need prayer and encouragement) to write my lyrics with God leading me in the way to touch and help others.

Donna Rewrites! Although part of writing, I feel like (revisions) sap my creative energy and stifle me. I'd rather get it right the first time.

Mary The problem with getting it right the first time, Donna, is that puts you in two separate jobs at once: writing from the right brain and editing or revising from the left! Hopefully, you have a computer, which makes revisions much easier, so you might try letting the writing flow without censoring yourself. Then wait a day or two before going back and seeing what needs to be changed - if anything.

Cassie Sticking with it! I have limited time to write due to kids, so I'll get excited and start something, but then I don't have time again until later. Because of this, I start a lot of things I don't finish.

Mary Oh, I know the feeling, Cassie! I was a stay-at-home mom with my kids and am now a stay-at-home grandmom. However, my first published poems, articles, devotionals, and children's stories arose from these times.

Anointed To get a book published I sometimes wonder too much about who will like it and who won't! Will they give good or bad judgement?

Mary Your emphasis on being Anointed and chosen is the ideal faith and focus to have from start to finish! If God gives us something we're drawn to write, surely God can draw our readers too.

Barbara (I’m) physically unable to sit for long periods of time, and therefore, it's difficult for me to collect my works together, edit, and prepare a book. I so desire to publish. God willing, this too shall pass.

Mary I'm sorry to say I have that problem too. May God give us all the strength and energy we need to do what we've been given to do in Jesus' Name.

Eve Courage to step out…. I've spent 3 years writing and editing, and now it's about faith – to step out and allow God to bless others with this word He has given. I am not worried about selling copies; I just want to hear His voice say, "Well done."

Mary Yes! And every time I read where Jesus said, "It is finished," I get God-bumpy. May God en-courage us all.

Janet (I pray) that the book would honor God and only speak truth.

Mary Janet, yours is surely a God-blessed goal! Reading the Bible cover to cover again and again gives us the mind of Christ, praise God, but I try not to depend on my faulty memory. Isn't it wonderful to have so many translations on the Internet where we can easily check quotes and context?

Christine (I need) to step out and take risks, write what God wants when He wants, and in general, let Him lead and my heart follow, even when my head tells me differently.

Mary Tricky one, Christine! I kept fretting over that, too, and thinking I wasn't trusting myself to hear God even though I'd prayed and prayed. Then it dawned on me: I can trust God to speak loud enough for me to hear. May the Lord bless our minds and ears with God's Word to and through us in Jesus' Name.

Cherrilynn Time for prayer and steadfastness…. Praying for all….

Mary Thanks, Cherrilynn! We need it. And may God remind us each morning and throughout the day to pray for one another.

Shira For me it normally always is the same thing: How can what I write make a difference in the lives of others? What would you have me to say, Lord?

Cherrilynn Shira, what has changed your life or made a difference with you? Write about that. Many people will be blessed. My blog is all about how God changed me. It is raw and realistic.

Mary Shira, I find that whatever troubles or blesses me will most likely speak to others too. Then keeping it short, to the point, and honest will keep readers interested. But, from what I've seen of your work, no problem! You're doing it.

Shira I try my best to keep it real at all times. Thanks for the advice. God bless you all.

Cyn My devotions today were in 2 Corinthians12:8-9. I have chronic illness that causes episodes of nonproductivity, and I beat myself up over it. Add my distractibility, and nothing gets done. Here's where He is glorified: when I push through and do what I can.

Mary Oh, no, no, no, Cyn. No beating up allowed! Only upbeating.

Cherrilynn Cyn, I did not know you had chronic illness I will pray for you. I have chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. It is difficult to push through, but I do. May God breathe strength and life into us as He did with the bones in Ezekiel.

Shari I write Mystery Dinner Theater (scripts) with a twist – not only write them but cast, direct and produce them too! They're biblically based, and some of the general themes include God's timelessness. Each year, they sell out, and I know they are spirit-led because, when I sit down with each cast for the first time for the first rehearsal and read-through, I often find myself saying to myself in amazement, "I wrote that?" I pray for God's continued inspiration and that He continues to motivate and speak to me because there is no way without Him. I also pray that God will continue to guide our steps and encourage struggling writers, including myself, to keep stepping outside our comfort zones. (God) is with us always, and how abundant is His love for us!

Mary Interesting work, Shari! Have you approached Christian publishers who might be open to submissions of scripts? If you've found some whose work you like, they'll be apt to like yours too.

Mark I'm asking for God’s favor as I market my books.

Mary Welcome to the book world! It takes time, time, and more time, Mark, and I pray God guides us all who find ourselves having to spend more time marketing than writing!

Kelly (I need) the courage to step out – and to know what stepping out means.

Mary Your honesty eases the step out, Kelly. I guess it comes down to praying for God to guide then trusting the Lord to do just that.

Margaret (I pray) that my published book will reach those who need to hear its message. In God I trust.

Mary Amen! I suspect we all hope that, Margaret, so let's keep each other in prayer.

Beth No time to write! No funds to get a cover done! One book is (posted) on a forum of publishers, and all I got was, a “Pay me this, and I'll do it" kind of response. The other book that needs the cover also needs formatting for self-publication – frustrating!

Chanda Praying...

Mary Beth, sometimes it's about timing and using the wait-space to get to know your genre and potential publishers. May God bless and guide.

Marla I need to continue the process of editing my book, but I'm having a hard time right now focusing (as I’m) still grieving. I just pray that God will give me grace and gentle laughter in my spirit! Thanks.

Cherrilynn Praying!

Chanda Praying for grace....

Lisa Grace and gentle laughter… Such a sweet request that no doubt brings a smile to our Father's face.

Mary Amen! God bless you, Marla! Grieving is essential and, while it's fresh, it might help to journal, write notes to yourself or your loved one, and read Psalms. When it's time to edit your book, you'll know, and you'll be ready.

Nellie When I look and look at markets, and none of them seem to fit my need – that is the greatest downside to writing. I struggle with it constantly. Sometimes I take a stab in the dark, and get a big surprise of acceptance.

Lisa I know just what you mean, Nellie. I'm right there with you.

Mary I wish I could say it will get easier, but.... Prayer helps, of course, but sometimes I have to put a manuscript aside and work on the next one while I’m waiting for the next round of deadlines or the next editor or people’s interests to change or….

Judy Apart from Christ I can do nothing!

Mary Amen.

Beckie I need to stick to it! Also (I pray for) open doors for publishing a YA faith-based novel that deals with some tough girl issues and spiritual warfare.

Linda (I’m) trying to get money to publish a book that's not quite finished.

Beckie Praying.

Mary Linda, CreateSpace (print) and Kindle (e-book) are both free. Since they're on Amazon, they're also easy for you to list and for potential buyers to find.

Linda This book will touch and inspire Christians with addictions…. Writing a book…is for God's honor… and to realize you are obeying God to write your book.

Tonya (I need) to finish other written projects and find publishers or self-publish.

Mary Tonya, I pray God brings to mind the project you're to do first. Sometimes I get so many ideas, I don't know where to start! May God guide us always.

Tonya That's exactly how I feel. Bombarded with where do I start first?

Christine (I pray) to have the guts, transparency, and faith to let God lead with my new nonfiction book.

Marla If God be for you, who can be against you? Like Joshua – be brave and courageous. You can do this!

Christine Amen! I needed to read this today! What a blessing those words are. Thank you.

Jennifer I have been led to write a course and use it to teach my teenage daughter. It will be about who God is, who we are in and outside of Him and how to walk the journey when you are in the middle of a storm causing you to doubt. I need prayer since this is highly important to get right.

Shira (I’m) praying God's Divine Wisdom and Instruction for you in all your ways. Blessings to you and stay encouraged!

Jennifer Thanks so much.

Mary Jennifer, your daughter gives you an in-house editor! She'll help you get it right.

Okorie (I want) to bend and finish what may indeed be the corner and turning point of my life achievements to His glory. I have procrastinated for too long on the completion of my first fictional project.

Mary May God bless and guide.

Candy (I need prayer) to attempt to put my music out there as I have been told my whole life "you are not a musician.” I trust that God will lead me in that direction. Please pray for guidance (for me) to know how to put my poems and music out there. (I’m) thinking of a website just for my music. I would appreciate any feedback.

Shira Candy, starting out with the basics has always worked out best for me. Write your vision, make it plain. Blessings to you always.

Mary Wise words, Shira. Candy, in most bookstores or online bookshops, you can find the annual songwriter's guide published by Writer's Digest, which I highly recommend.

Glenys (Pray) that I write the words the Holy Spirit places on my heart, so that whatever I write, God may be given all the glory.

Marla Amen – yes, Jesus!

Linda Even though I have every confidence that the Lord will continue to honor His promise to be my partner and executive director in my writing ministry, I find myself needy for human encouragement. It's so invigorating when someone is touched by a piece I wrote or (when) a church uses one of my hymns and is blessed by it. Knowing that human friends are praying for me and my work helps me through long dry spells between acceptances by publishers.

Shari Beautifully said!

Linda See, there's that human encouragement right there! Thanks, Shari.

Shira Amen. Linda, the Word of God tells us to prefer others above ourselves – to edify and build up. This brings about peace, assurance, and confidence toward others, thus releasing a person's motivation to continue, persevere, endure, and finish the race. Stay encouraged! God is with you.

Linda Thank you, Shira!

Robin (I pray) that I would have the physical strength and mental clarity to focus and concentrate on my projects and get something done when I sit down to write.

Beckie Praying!

Ruby (I need prayer for) motivation, inspiration, and a cure for procrastination. I need to finish editing my devotional too.

Mary Ruby, the word "enthusiasm" comes from "en theos," which means "in God." May God give you the enthusiasm you need to write what you've been given.

Ruby Thank you! I receive that.

Sue (I’m) trying to build a platform through my blog and Facebook writer’s page. It is going much slower than I would like. Pray I continue to be faithful in the small stuff.

Beckie I'm with you, Sue! Praying for you.

Shira Stay Encouraged. It will come with diligence.

Sue Thank you, Beckie and Shira. Blessings to both of you.

Jason Writing is easy but trying to sell is very tough, and l’m out of ideas.

Beckie Praying that doors open for you….

Lisa I sometimes wonder why God gives words to share to those of us who struggle so with marketing. It's so hard! But perhaps that's just why He does it – so we'll have to rely more on Him to lead the way. I'm praying for you, too. And for all of us who struggle mightily in this area.

Mary Jason, you might notice publishers of manuscripts similar to yours, then visit their websites, and see if they've posted writer's guidelines to follow.

Lillian (Pray) that I write the story He wants me to write and keep focused on the story and not the sales.

Mary Amen!

Maxine (I’m praying) to be faithful to write as the Holy Spirit leads me and not worry about days when nothing seems to appear.

Mark Amen. The joy of writing is that God has gifted you with the ability to put together a book to glorify Him. (Sometimes) I get away or put on some worship music, and it calms me and brings peace to my mind

Joan (I need) discipline, direction, devotion to God, reliance on Him…. (And I want to) give Him the glory.

Mary Amen!

Kathryn (Please pray for me to) overcome a foggy mind with clarity and focus. So much on the publishing and project plate….

Mary I relate, Kathryn! The more overwhelmed I am, the less focused I get. May God help us to see clearly and think sharp!

Judy (I pray for) ideas, concepts and insights into God's plan and His anointing!

Mary When I'm too busy, Judy, or need a break from routine, poems don't come to me, but if we take a drive – yeah, with me as the passenger – or go somewhere with fresh surroundings, I start looking around for a pencil and paper!

Jeanne (I pray to) be diligent without self-reliance, and (I pray for) discipline to see the goal and work toward it. (I’d also like) feedback from others to sharpen me and the project.

Mary Jeanne, you've well described how most of us feel! May God help us to encourage one another in Jesus' Name.

Marcia I'm working on two plays at once and editing book three of my fantasy series. Prayer greatly appreciated!

Shira Praying!

Terry Mostly I just (need) to start.

Jonathan (I pray to) form everything into words that lift up God, encourage others, and draw people to Him.

Mary Yes.

Carla My muse is MIA.

Mary Sometimes that means it's time for a break, Carla, like a mini-vacation – a walk in the woods, a trip to a museum, almost anything different with everything soaked in prayer.

Brenda I need motivation and inspiration – and direction. Where do I fit in this industry, anyway?

Kelly I think as you do. In fact, I'm not sure I want to be "in the industry," yet I want my work seen by those who need it!
Mary My first writing projects were for the publishing headquarters of my church denomination, which gave me a good fit and good place to start – until we moved, and I changed churches! Then I wrote Bible stories for an interdenominational press.

Brenda Thank you, Mary. How can we, in turn, pray for your writing life?

Mary Oh, thank you, Brenda! I'm also looking for a place to fit again – Bible-based poems in a non-poetry-reading society.

Shira Be of good cheer. The Word of God reassures us that God wins. As we move forward, we can put our confidence in the Holy Spirit that guides us into all truth. One thing that I have realized in my faith walk is, as long as I keep seeking God's face for direction, He shows me the right way.

Dolores (I pray) to have insight as to how to complete my manuscript. I know that when God connects the dots for me, the word picture I see will cause me to say, "Ahh! Of course, it was before me all along!"

Marla I say God connects the dots too! All it takes is faith in Him and being faithful to what we need to do. God bless you in all you do.

Patti I pray the Holy Spirit provides me the words to touch the hearts and minds of readers, inspiring them to establish or strengthen their relationship with God.

Joe I'd say direction. I need to know how to move into monetizing and growing the business.

Mary Joe, it's funny that you wrote this while God was bringing you to mind for a project! Placing a book with a traditional aka established Christian publisher will usually bring an advance and periodical royalty payments. The downside is that it might take months to see a cent! However, I believe you have what it takes to be a leader of leaders in what you write. May God guide.

Chris I pray to be worthy of Christ's message.

Mary Chris, if you love the Lord, you are worth Christ's resurrection power! May God help each of us to see ourselves as God sees us and find our worth in Him.

Sherrie (I pray) that God will show me how to be confident to speak the words He has given around leaders with "titles." I feel like some try to discredit the words given because I don't carry a title (such as) Pastor or Minister.

Mary Sherrie, I know exactly what you mean! Yes, the lack of a degree in Bible studies or theology can hinder us, but since that wasn't a possibility for me, I turned to the Bible for ever-increasing degrees of understanding. I read almost every translation, asking the Lord to help me. Eventually, the words in The Word make their way into poems, novels, articles – whatever and wherever God leads. I believe our part is to trust God to give us what's needed to do the work He wants us to do.

Dolores If I might humbly suggest: pray for passion and excitement for the word He gives you that will take you past any insecurity. I believe the Word says that a person's gift can take him or her before kings and leaders. May His Word, His truth be like fire shut up in your bones so that what He speaks to you in private can be shouted upon the housetop as He gives you the unction to do so.

Sherrie This made tears come. I will pray that. May the fire and passion for the words God has given me surpass or outweigh or eradicate all insecurity.

Dolores Amen! "So it is written, so let it be done!"

Theresa I am in need of uninterrupted time to write. Some circumstances in my life have taken that time away and are beyond my control. I am believing that God will give me several days before the year ends to just be and write.

Lisa As a mom of 6 within 8.5 years, I found there were long seasons where alone time seemed far out of reach. But I also found that when God had something to share with me, He found a way to get me alone. Many lines came in the shower. If only someone would invent a water-proof voice recorder! (I’m) praying right now that God will make a way for that precious time away for you.

Marla I'm on the other end of the spectrum – retired, and living away from my family. My husband is away at work all day, so I have lots and lots of time. It has been difficult being completely alone – just me and of course God! My neighbors all work, so I have found it to be quite isolating. My mom's illness kept us on the road most weekends – back and forth 4.5 hours. Now she's gone, and here I am. Yesterday at our Bible study I realized God has given me a great gift – time to spend with Him. I'm learning no matter how much we beg for what we don't have, we’re to be grateful for what we do have. It seems difficult either way, but I know God does make a way! And when He is leading and guiding us, He will make the way for us to accomplish what it is He wants from us. God hears your cry!

Mary Amen

David Thanks, Mary, for this discussion. I am new to this group, and yours was the first post I read. I must admit that it goes right to the heart of what brought me to this group. For the past twelve years, I have worked on my book, and like many writers, I’ve had a hard time trying to get it traditionally published. Eventually, I yielded to the promises of Amazon and decided to publish the manuscript as a trilogy. The first book was released (recently) in both e-book and paperback, and now I am in a season that much has been written and said about – promotion. I need the Lord's favor in this regard. I must say that I am really glad the message is finally out for people, but as the Lord actually stated, the laborer is worthy of his wages. So much has gone into the work – finance, effort, time, prayer, and more – and now I need your prayers for the Lord's favor on this work in the "marketplace," as well as encouragement and advice from fellow writers here. This is especially so considering my present location in Africa, my hearing challenge, and the limited funds available to me for promotion. The book has attracted several exceptional reviews from around the world, but it would take the Lord's favor to make a success of it in every way possible.

Lisa David, I'm learning that writing, and especially the marketing and promotion, can be overwhelming and frustrating at times. That's when having the support of others who have been there is so important. (I’m) praying we will be that for you.

David Thanks, Lisa.

Beckie Praying for you too, David, and for God's favor to rest upon you and the rest of these authors who write in His mighty name!

David Amen! Thank you very much, Beckie.

Robin In addition to my earlier comment, I need prayer for a clean house because I am constantly picking up and cleaning up and cannot settle my mind unless the mess is cleaned up. I can't stand dirty dishes in the sink and dried eggs on the stove top! By the time I get through with the 24/7 cleanup, I have no strength to do anything else – especially writing. I’m trusting God to open the door for me to find a person to help me with heavy, deep cleaning, so I can stress less and write more. But for now, I am not able, physically, to sit still long enough to write, and I cannot write with a messy environment. Even if I go into another room or the patio, the mess is still there and my mind, spirit, and body know it! So, please pray for the "right" help to come along at the right time, or (pray) for me to gain physical strength and a sustainable routine to keep the house clean. Sorry for the long-winded post, but this is what I am struggling with and you did ask how I needed prayer/encouragement.

Shira I can't function period, Robin, in an environment that's not clean. I can identify with you on that!

Lisa Praying for you now, Robin, that God will send the help you need, give you the strength to do it yourself, or give you blinders to help you focus, regardless of the circumstances. I hope you don't mind my adding that third option. It was all I had when my kids were little.

Cyn My husband knows I have a limited amount of energy, due to (health issues) and there’s only so much I can get done. If I have to mop the floor or clean up dirty dishes on the counter or cook dinner, I can't get artwork and writing done too. Throw in a day with a doctor’s appointment, and I'm about done! So I hold onto Judges 6:14, "Go in the strength you have…. Am I not sending you?"

Anne (I need prayer) to trust God to open doors. (When) I had a speaking opportunity a couple of days ago, I enjoyed being able to share God's goodness no matter what goes on in our lives, and I felt alive as I spoke. I want prayer that I can wait on God's timing for my writing (and) speaking. I want to trust Him and not my own thoughts. And if God wants me to pursue something, I want to follow His lead.

Shira Amen to that!

Reese I believe there are such men and women of God, that you don't even have to tell them of the issues or situations you need prayer for, because the spirit of God in them will lead them into all truth, even the truth of why I need prayer.

Jeff I need prayers for wisdom in finding a good critique group – preferably one that meets in person, but a good online one could help. Also, (I need) wisdom in deciding if, when, and where to submit my writings, and whether or where to find my own website to post my writings and experiences as a writer.

Mary Other members in our group might be willing to do a manuscript swap, so look for those who are also starting out and writing in your genre. If you post your writings on the Internet, paying publishers will seldom accept the same manuscripts, so I don’t recommend that as a first choice. Instead, notice who’s publishing what. If you read a book you like, notice who published it, and check out their guidelines on their websites. Or, if you enjoy a particular magazine, consider where your work might fit. Each publisher has specific needs and reading audiences, so it’s a good idea to look for ones you like a lot first. Then consider what you need to revise to fit their guidelines. Or write something with that company in mind. In any case, pray for God’s guidance, and be on the alert for anything related to writing and publishing.

Mamie I need prayer like I need water. I don't get far without going before the Lord in prayer.

Mary Amen! Praise the Lord, and thank you all for this good discussion.

© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, moderator, is a poet-writer for traditional publishers and poet-author of 3 Kindle e-books on poetry and Christian writing.


Friday, April 10, 2015

How do you juggle writing projects in the works?

QUESTION: Do you have more than one writing project going at a time? If so, how do you know what to write next?

John Yes, I have more than one project at a time. I am not organized. I have tried to shoehorn myself into some semblance of organization, and it just does not work for me. I hold down two part-time jobs, manage my own (online) store, treasure hunt, and, of course, write. I find myself bouncing among projects like a run-away ping pong ball.

Lynn I always have more than one project going, often way too many. This can impact my efficiency negatively because sometimes it takes me a while to get back into a project when I've been working on a different one. I've tried to commit to finishing some projects before beginning yet another one, and sometimes listing how many things I'm halfway done with helps me do that. On the other hand, just as I've been working on multiple projects at once, I'll often finish multiple projects all around the same time.

Mary I also have several books going, but if I outline each, it’s much easier to get my head back into wherever I left off.

Samuel I’m planning to write two books at a go, but I haven't started. The question is how do you separate your mind between two books with two different ideas -- one for high school youth and the other for those preparing for ministry? Is it possible to write many projects at a go and still have the expected results?

Mary Samuel, if you write down your theme, purpose, intended readers, summary, and a chapter outline for each nonfiction book, that will help you to keep each one on track and be able to work back and forth without confusing the two. This same information, along with a couple of chapters, is also what writers need for a book proposal to send to the editor of a traditional or indie publishing company.

Dianne I just finished an heirloom gift book for granddaughters of all ages, and the same day I mailed it out, I worked diligently on an inspirational book I have pondered all winter for tweens. As well, I'm always writing greeting card lines. To answer your question about how I know what to write next: I just look around at all the amazing resources life has to offer!

Keren Yes, I currently have about 18 ideas on the boil, of which about 5 get regular attention and the others get added to now and again. It is strange but seems to work for me. I only started writing with real intent 4 years ago and have 8 completed works. Whether they are any good or not is another matter! I hope they are. I pay close attention in prayer as to what the Lord is guiding me to write, but I also have some less serious stuff on the go.

Deborah Yes, I have a work in the writing process and a work in the publishing process going at all times. I also have other projects I do in between. If I come up with an idea, I put enough information down to know where to pick up when I get back to it.

Alan Out and about I see potential pics, but it can be months before the full poem emerges.

Vicky I always have several (projects going.) I am usually in the edit of one while working on another. And most of the time, there is a third or fourth in the beginning stages. I find this helps prevent writer's block.

Wanda 1. Sometimes, but not currently. 2. It might sound cliché, but it is the truth. The Holy Spirit tells me what to write.

Dorothy I write so many books at once and I get so many requests, my poetry is always there (when) any poem (is) needed. I rely on Jesus to provide.

Brenda (I) always have several (projects) going. I write on whichever one comes to the surface at the moment. I work on one for several months, then often put it aside to work on another, unless, of course, I have a deadline. Then I stick to it until it's finished. Deadlines make all the difference. And yes, prayer is a big factor.

Anne Yes, because some (manuscripts) just scream till they are written, and others patiently wait their turn. The squeaky wheel often does get the grease. And the truth is, some need time to simmer, so the words get in their rightful place.

Cherrilynn Wow! I was just praying about what to write or continue writing. I have 5 books in the works, all nonfiction – acrostic Bible study (and) life application books. The Bible verse God gave me (is) 2 Corinthians 8:11, “Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.”

Marcie Prayer is definitely the biggest process of my writings. I do have several things in the works. It really depends on how my creative juices are flowing and what I believe God is asking me to do right now.

Lesley I have several going now, and I'm working on understanding how to prioritize.

Glynn Almost always (I have more than one project going.) Right now, (I have) a couple of writing projects for The High Calling, my blog, a poetry manuscript, and ongoing work on a novel. I usually "write by deadline" – work on that most imminently due.

Jeff I am a one-and-done kind of guy.

Bobbie Yep, but I can only actually focus on one.

Patti I usually have two or three going at one time, different genres. I find it helps to leave one project for a while then work on another. Going back and forth gives me a fresh perspective on the work I've done. As far as how I know what to write next – whenever an idea pops in my head I put it on a list (a mini-synopsis, so to speak) and after one project ends, I go to that list.

John I have a few. I write until I decide to continue on a different one. Since I produce one article a week, I have to stop certain projects to continue on bigger ones before I can get back to my original project.

Dorothy I work (on) lots of books at the same time. I have so many projects going, I have 128 written and am working on (many) others, (but I) usually try to work on different (ones at the) same time. They are all genres, and people ask me to do tributes.

Joan I am a journalist, poet, and author, so I have projects in each category and am always thinking of new ones.

Joyce Yes, I have devotions, conference topics, and fiction floating around my computer at all times. I prioritize in order of deadlines – either my own or mandated – and that is how I do it.

Linda (I have a) nonfiction book completed and edited, ready to pitch when the Holy Spirit drops the green flag. (I’m) counting 16 hymn texts in the works (tracked in a spreadsheet); various poems, devotions, and design/editing projects besides my "regular" bookkeeping work and other obligations. If there's a submission deadline, that's a factor, but otherwise I rely on my Holy Ghost Writer to direct me with an irresistible (urge) to work on a certain thing. And, of course, if a hymn lyric or poem line or devotional premise jumps into my head, I grab the moment to record it. I finish it before moving to something else if it flows reasonably well, but often I get so far and need to let it marinate before finishing.

Karin Yes, I have two book projects going. I can sometimes tell when to focus on something when one writing project progresses faster than another.

Yolanda I’m truly relying on God. For one of the books I am currently writing, God gave me the title at the end of the first. It now makes sense over 7 years later!

Cate I can't split myself in two, but that's just me.

Kathryn I am never at a loss for writing projects. I have them in various states of disarray or completion. Currently, I have a list of previously (performed) plays and dramas I need to put in a print-publish condition…. Then, (I’m also working on) the second book in the Fable Springs Parables series, a chapter book series of performance storytelling I am doing with my husband, a woman's devotional or two, and somewhere in there, I have two blogs to write. (I’m) trusting God to pay the bills as I do what He put me on this earth to do – write!

Mamie I have two book projects I'm writing. I often wonder how am I going to complete them, but I will. When I'm into the core of anything, it just comes (down) to what to write and how to organize it.

Christine Too many!

Andrea Three projects going at any stage at once is about my limit.

Angela Yes, I am writing and editing my next collection of poetry and trying to write my memoir. The memoir is going slow because it requires more thought. The poetry is inspired by God, so to write it is easy, but organizing takes time…. I want to set a theme for this group.

Beth I have twenty! What do I work on first? The one with the most notes in its folder…. (Then I) turn the notes into outlines, scenes, and/or chapters, flesh out the work, then edit. But I do work on several at a time in different genres, because I like variety – though it takes longer to get a book finished that way!

Gary Post, compile, and edit......I have no explanation of my madness. I just know that the first part is always fun, but becomes a drudgery. Motivation must be applied to have a "vision" for the finished product, or it just sits on a memory chip collecting cyber dust. Faith must come alive, I pray, in God's time.

Eileen Typically, I like to focus my writing efforts on one project at a time, but once in a while I have two going. Right now I'm working on my Savvy Sisters series and a Missionary Kid series. I get ideas from quieting my heart, seeking the Lord, and doing something else creative after I've finished a project. It refreshes my brain to give myself time to reflect, regroup, and relax between projects.

Yahshuah's Tabernacle As I experience "writer's block" on one book, I transition to another. Creativity continues to flow; productivity is also in effect, and God will continue to inspire along the way. …I have always multi-tasked for many years, so it helps me to transition to something else but maximize my potential on timelines I have established for myself. Many blessings from the Lord on your journey to success!

Mary Thank you for that blessing! And thanks to all of you for responding. I hope it helps you, as it does me, to see how most of us have so many ideas, we can hardly get to them all! God surely provides those ideas and our writing gifts, so I pray we readily discern when and what to write in Jesus' Name.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, the founder of the Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook, posed the above question as she, too, has been juggling poems, devotionals, blogs, and book manuscripts for many years. Besides having 27 books in all genres published by traditional and indie publishers, Mary has self-published 3 Kindle e-books for poets and writers, including the Christian Writer’s Guide. For a minimal fee, she also provides one-on-one feedback on poems, devotionals, children’s picture books, and book proposals through her blog.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Interview with Christian poet and writer Carol Castagna

Welcome, Carol! As one of our administrators for the Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook, many of our members will be eager to know more about you and your writing life. Tell us what writing projects you’re working on now.

I am working on my first book of poetry and prose, and I’m hoping the next step will be publication at long last. Perhaps this is common among writers, perhaps not, but my book has been “almost ready” to be published for quite a few years. There always seems to be a little tweaking that I could do. Some of my poems were written close to 50 years ago and some, a few months ago. I publish weekly on my website, Joy Psalms.

Tell us about your publishing credits.

I would be happy to – thank you. My first poem was published in the Connecticut Nursing News, and Nursing Spectrum published my second work of prose. The next few poems placed in anthologies and almost a dozen were accepted as a result of a juried contest. Most recently, Poetry Pacific accepted poems for their autumn and winter editions, and Penned from the Heart published several of my poems too. I’ve also placed poems or received honorable mentions in various writing competitions.

Good work! What experiences or education helped to prepare you?

Accelerated English courses in high school and college, the Writer’s Workshop at Gordon-Conwell Bible College, and Christian Writer’s Workshops have been an enormous contribution to my writing skills. When I was a child, I read the Psalms before I fell asleep. As years passed, I often read the Bible for it was an education in itself! I‘ve always loved words, and I love to use them as well. So, with a contemplative mind and a love for the language, I moved toward creative writing.

Do you see your writing as a gift or calling?

Yes, I truly see my writing as a gift and calling. I have always had a passion for souls. At age 14, I felt the Lord’s call on my life to serve Him in speaking of His love. Circumstances prevented me from attending a Bible college in another state. So, I thought of Jesus’ saying: “If you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto Me.” I became an R.N. and worked with the underprivileged populations in public health and mental health, but my passion for souls never dimmed. Today in the autumn of my life, the Lord has offered me the opportunity to reach people over the Internet through my writings and music. After all these years, He presented a way that would fit! I love Him; I love writing, and He loves me, which gives me Joy Psalms of prose, poetry, and music.

Wonderful! Now that you have a writing outlet, what do you hope to accomplish?

I could never have imagined that this was His plan: that I would be a missionary, not physically in a foreign field during the 1960s, but from 2014 to whatever time remains! God has allowed me to write His words of love on my website and blogs and eventually perhaps publish in print!!

The Lord has blessed me with the desire since I was a child to have everyone come to know Him – His life, death, resurrection, promises, teachings, love for mankind, and hope of eternity. And I believe He has gifted me with the ability to convey the love of Christ through the blessings He has bestowed upon me: the ability to write poetry, prose, music, lyrics and play the piano. I am so overwhelmingly blessed, I feel I must share! It is astounding to me to be able to share all of this on the internet where many can read and listen!

I also hope to accomplish two other things through my writing as I believe some issues for Christian women need to be discussed further:

1.) Often, Christian women tend to remain in abusive relationships or marriages long after they need to leave.

2.) Often, Christian women tend to avoid medication and counseling for depression due to an unwarranted fear that this may not be ‘the Christian thing to do.’

Since, I have researched and worked with the afore-mentioned issues as well as lived some of the angst associated with these situations, I would like to begin a blog or two about these troubling matters.

Surely that will be a tremendous blessing and encouragement to your readers, Carol! Who or what encouraged you to write?

I have been influenced to write by the Bible (especially Psalms) and by my Christian heritage. My mom and dad each wrote the following words on the rough draft of my first manuscript close to 20 years ago: Mom wrote, “I see your heart on every page.” Dad wrote, “You take words, write them down on paper, and make them smile.”

My husband offers constant support through prayer and a patient and understanding heart. My children and grandchildren stand by me in my efforts and accomplishments, too, as well as dear friends who have continued to cheer me on over the years.

Tell us a little more about the influences that moved you to write on behalf of the Lord.

Dad read the Bible early in the morning and sang hymns most of the day. He believed in me and was greatly moved by my writing. He believed in everything about me and encouraged me to further my education, which I did.

My dad's mom was a saintly woman with a holy countenance. She was poor in the world's eyes but rich in God's love and kindness. She quietly praised the Lord in church and sang hymns as though Jesus and she were the only two in the room. She smiled and greeted the others with peace and a sense of reverence about her but also joy.

My mom’s mother and I had so much fun together, and she was my mentor too. She taught me from the Bible, and I saw how she emulated the love of her Lord – as a woman of prayer and a woman who lived near the heart of God.

I sat with both grandmothers in church, and I felt the Lord’s presence and power in that little church too.

What a blessed inheritance, Carol! And now you’re passing it on to your family and readers. Before we close, do you have a helpful suggestion or word of encouragement to offer other Christian poets or writers?

I encourage writers and poets to be prayerful before writing. If we are quiet before God, His Word shines through. I pray that readers will be touched by the Holy Spirit, nudged to open their eyes to the Word of God and their hearts to the person of Jesus Christ, and write from their hearts and their own experiences.

Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your Christian writing life, Carol. May God continue to bless you and all you do in Jesus’ Name.

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, interviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church. Besides being an active poet, writer, and author, she critiques poems, devotionals, children's picture book texts, and book proposals for a small fee.

Friday, January 16, 2015

BIOs of Christian Poets and Writers

Presented alphabetically by last name, the following members of the Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook have blogs, books, and/or websites for you to visit and enjoy:

Kofi Asokwa-Nkansah is a creative artist whose work includes poems, quotes, inspirational notes, and digital art. Being a Christian is his only true guide. Visit and follow his Words & Pitches blog.

Judy Davis has been writing for Christian publications for 30 years. Some of her articles and devotionals have been published in The Upper Room, Devo-zine, Light & Life, Pentecostal Evangel, God's Word for Today, and Pathways to God. She has written thirteen books and her most recent Happy New You, reading the Bible through is a 365 day devotional. Judy also writes a blog about Christian living.

Jeanne Doyon has a ministry, Pausing to See God Clearly, that encourages others to draw nearer to the Lover of their souls. She connects the Truths in Scripture to the ordinary events of life and shares her reflections on her blog, The Stream’s Edge. She enjoys writing, photography, tea with friends, and creating with beads. She and her husband John live in Connecticut.

Donna Goodrich, the author of 24 books and over 700 published manuscripts, is a freelance proofreader/ editor and speaker, who lives in Mesa, Arizona, with her husband of 54 years, Gary. Her latest books are A Step in the Write Direction—the Complete How-to Book for Christian Writers, The Freedom of Letting Go, and a joke book, The Little Book of Big Laughs. Contact her on her website or blog.

Brenda Hendricks, an author/illustrator, has published three children’s picture books: What’s the Buzz, Bumbly Bee?, What’s Better than That, Seren Dippity? and Much More to Christmas. She also published a tween novel Trouble at Camp Turnabout Creek. Some of her short stories and devotions have been published in compilations as well as in periodicals. She has a blog and has also written children’s short stories for Focus on the Family’s Club House Jr. Her books are available on Amazon.

Vicky Kaseorg is the bestselling author of 13 books. At the root of all her work is a deep faith and spiritual quest, though many of her works are not explicitly religious. “I may not mention God by name, but His fingerprints are all over the place,” Kaseorg explains. Since she’s actively involved in dog rescue and right-to-life groups, many of her books explore the plight of homeless dogs and the sacredness of life, particularly human life. She also blogs, and her works appeal to a wide audience and age group.

Julie Miller is an author, speaker, teacher and mentor. She was the Director of the Women's Bible Studies at Eagle Brook Church and is a certified Spiritual Director and owner of Heart Matters Publishing Company. Julie’s writing, speaking and teaching spring from a wide range of life experiences, humor and her love of God's Word and His creation. Her devotionals and Bible Study Curriculum are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Her latest devotional, Journeying Mercies, is also available on Nook and Kindle.

Songaye Novell has spent her life learning to frame life’s stories in prose, poetry, and photography. She has studied tropical ecosystems and continues to care for them, noting that God’s creation finds special expression there. She sees God’s hand-print on everything and takes on charitable endeavors to champion the cause of saving God’s creation. Songaye blogs and enjoys exploring the natural beauty of Florida and the Caribbean with her husband and four children.

Ava Pennington is an author, Bible teacher, and speaker. Her most recent book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries. Ava has also published numerous magazine articles as well as short stories in anthologies, including nineteen Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Ava is a passionate speaker and teacher, who blogs and delights in encouraging audiences with relevant, enjoyable presentations.

Helen Marie Quick, the author of Poetry Quick's Blog, is a Sunday School Teacher for ages 3-7, a helper at the CA Food Pantry, and meal team captain, who has also worked as a Coordinator for teachers for Vacation Bible School. She lives in Durham, North Carolina and has facilitated a women's bible study group which focuses on the model found in Titus 2.

Devonne Belle Ramer is a Christian homemaker and mother of two small boys. Writing is her passion, which she wants to use for God. Her blog is Musings of a Christian Housewife, and her heart’s desire is to publish a devotion, and a book on recovering from anorexia and depression. You can contact her by email.

Kathryn Ross is a writer, speaker, and enrichment artist, who aims to inspire a love of God through the power of story. She ministers literacy and Christian living principles in schools, churches, women’s groups, community events, retreats, and conferences. Trained in Principle Approach Education, Miss Kathy has taught in Christian and home school settings. She blogs and is an independent publisher at Pageant Wagon Publishing where she puts a host of her original stories, devotional works, teaching materials, and theatrical plays into print.

Mary Harwell Sayler is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church. As a freelance and assignment writer for Christian and educational markets for many years, she has 27 traditionally published books in all genres, 3 Kindle e-books for poets and writers, and about 1500 poems, articles, devotionals, or children’s stories. Mary blogs on Bible topics, the Christian writing life, and poetry and provides a number of writing resources on her website and the Christian Poets & Writers blog.

Nells Wasilewski lives in a small southern town southeast of Nashville, Tennessee. After retiring, she began pursuing her lifelong dream of writing. Her writing has been greatly influenced by her faith in Jesus Christ, personal experience, and nature, and her work has appeared in Haiku Journal, Barefoot Review, Three Line Poetry, Poetry Quarterly, 50 Haikus, Dual Coast Magazine, High Coupe Journal, Ancient Paths, Tanka Journal, Hedgerow, and Penned from the Heart. Recently Nells also started writing devotionals for her blog.

Glynn Young, an award-winning speechwriter with a four-decade career in corporate communications, is the author of two novels, Dancing Priest and A Light Shining, and the non-fiction book Poetry at Work. He is a weekly columnist for Tweetspeak Poetry and a contributing editor for The High Calling. He blogs at Faith, Fiction, Friends.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christian Poets and Writers talk about revising

QUESTION: Several of you in our Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook have mentioned how revising your work is hard for you, so let's talk about what helps you during the revision process. For example, how do you keep from over-editing or cutting your manuscript to the quick as you revise?

Theresa Wow. This is exactly where I am right now. I have two books I am revising – mostly because I have grown so much spiritually since I wrote the first two. In my case, both books are on instructional and spiritual wisdom. I’m looking to see what others will share. Thank you for this discussion.

Kathryn I think it's important to keep focused on the sincere purpose/point of the story/post, and trim bunny trails as much as possible. Sometimes, a little bunny trail rest by the side of the reading road is useful in preparing the audience for the next leg of the story journey. Sometimes, it just adds confusion. I'll extract a section like that onto another document and save it since it could become another story in itself. I also like to be sure that tightening my prose does not take away from my voice. If I'm editing to the point of skin and bones prose, empty of poetry, I stop. Once my copy editor gets hold of it, there will be fresh vistas of cut and modify. But, protecting the integrity of what I want to say should be the aim of writing and revision.

Gary (Someone) who knows me well and proofreads my book told me I have a tendency to over-analyze, so I am learning to stick with my first write – at least the idea of it – and only change the wording if needed.

Mary Being clear in my own mind about what I want to say then saying it as clearly and concisely as possible is my goal in revising my books, blogs, and articles. Being precise and concise works especially well for poetry too.

Kathleen I just released my third book to the publisher. Final edit time! It is already in pre-sales, and I am longing to reread a chapter or two with a pencil in hand. So, I have to pray to let go! Releasing prayer is needed.

Vicky I always let a good length of time go by before revision then look with fresh eyes and clarity.

DiVoran Reading out loud makes the most significant difference to me in revising.

Barbara Me too.

Dawn I concur about the necessity to take a step back and look at my work with fresh eyes. I keep the story line in tact while tightening up unnecessary language.

Philip In my poetry I try to meter to classic forms, or I try to meter stanzas into tercets, quatrains, etc., while maintaining identical syllable count per line. That leaves maintaining the rhyme scheme and topic throughout the piece in editing.

Mary Yes, that’s how I approach traditional poetry too. Then if nothing “pops” or seems new in the poem, I consider my options in synonyms, looking for words with the syllabic count and accent I want but also words that add sound echoes to the line.

Laurie Helpful comments and suggestions…. Although I already do some of these things, I feel like I vacillate between under and over editing and could use some help. I'm praying I'll find kind yet helpful proofreading friends.

Mary Most poets and writers have similar concerns -- or, worse, go from thinking a manuscript is wonderful to thinking it totally sucks! We do well to study, read, observe, and become our own best editors, but if we need an objective perspective, it's important to seek that help from another poet or writer. Some of us critique manuscripts for a fee, but you might also notice members in our group whose work seems akin to yours, then message that person privately and ask to swap manuscripts.

Nellie I believe writing haiku has helped me with being concise. I know this is probably a "no-no," but I revise a lot as I write. It helps me somehow to know that the rest will be minor tightening, when I come back to it several days or weeks later. Prayer for guidance helps too.

Mary Yes – always! Praying for guidance is an ongoing must! Since I like to “write tight,” writing micropoetry, writing for children, and writing to a publisher's specific length requirements have helped me to be more concise. Also, it's important to know that most Internet readers want a quick word or a post with bullet points to speed their reading, so blog-writing helps me to focus on maybe 3 points I want to make in as few words as possible.

Cynthia I start each sitting by rereading what I have written. I always keep yesterday’s copy in case I hack too much.

Mary Glad you mentioned that! I encourage poets and writers to save their first drafts for that very reason.

Diana Good critique partners keep me in check.

Chanda I have a critique group and a writing buddy who helps me to tighten my writing. I don't think I run much of a risk of cutting too much. I just have a hard time letting go of the words I put on the paper even if it makes sense to cut them.

Joey In my first twenty years of writing and twenty books later, I am now only appreciating the importance of really drastic edits. The fourth draft of our screenplay looks incredibly different than our first. I think there is a difference between over-editing for the perfectionist who never finishes a book or screenplay versus someone committed to their craft to make the story stronger than ever imagined. For me, it's all about trusting the process that there is more to learn and more to emerge as I get deeper into the story. Early drafts are the shallower end of the pool; later drafts, the deeper end.

Benjamin I mostly proofread myself. If proofreaders don't account for dramatic expression or slang or vernacular a character may be using, your personality can be cut out of a manuscript. When I do get someone to proofread, I tell them to highlight and make a suggestion for my consideration, but I don't let them change my manuscript. That way I can look at it and change if I feel they are right.

Mary That’s an important quality to find in anyone you hire to review your work. Those who edit or critique should keep their voices quiet when the writer and characters are speaking!

Gary I wrote a piece entitled "Characters" and used word suggestions in place of commandments – as directed toward the unbeliever – and only let one frame go with the word suggestions. In my upcoming book I argued with myself for more than a year before the "edit" – out of fear of misleading an unbeliever.

Estella I tend to go with gut instincts and am quite reluctant to cut manuscripts in view of the time and energy involved to write them in the first place. I suffer from M.E. so I have little energy to spare which may help with in the whole process. I find that I concentrate a lot on the main structure first, write out a draft which goes from start to finish in no more than 30,000 words, and then keep going back and adding more detail where appropriate. It works very well as there is never a danger of writing too much. Also it is possible to add new ideas across any of the chapters at any point so that it feels as though I am in control in an omniscient way. On the other hand, when I write more than 30,000 words, I simply write instinctively and see what feels right as I know that the major structure is always there regardless and will hold the novel together. When I proofread, I am looking more for inconsistencies and spelling errors than sections to chop.

Linda My nonfiction tends to start with a lot of pedantic over-explaining. After revising for content, I have to revise my language for tone by asking how would I have explained that to a friend in conversation? Ah, much better! But my drama and short fiction go the other way, and I have to rein in my humor and colloquialisms. Bottom line is keeping sight of the main purpose of this piece and making sure everything contributes to it.

Susanne Getting a professional critique can help you to see how to do this well for your genre and style of writing.

Dorothy I have found our greatest resources are a thesaurus, dictionary, and rhyming dictionary. Also, I use Microsoft Publisher to make my books, and it has grammar checker and a thesaurus too!

Vicky I make a new copy each day. Then if I revise, and it feels like too much on rereading, I go back to the earlier version. I also run it by willing victims as often as they will read it to let me know if it is too draconian or if the cuts make it better. They almost always do.

Dorothy Once you make a poem, go to the next. Don't dwell on one poem, or you may change it forever.

Mary Yes, going on to the next poem or manuscript keeps us writing whatever God puts on our minds next. If my writing hasn’t “clicked” though, I’ll eventually return to that poem or outline or article or whatever and reread the work as though someone else had written it. If I sense that something is “off,” I’ve learned to believe that and revise accordingly. Reading aloud helps, too, whether I’m writing a poem or a book. Then, if the writing sounds flat or offers nothing people haven’t heard or read before, I reconsider my word choices, metaphors, or anecdotes until a fresh phrase or new view appears. Given time, that will happen! God gives us ideas, experiences, and the desire to write, but in return, we can give these gifts our closest attention and unique creativity to make our unique work the best we can offer in Jesus’ Name.

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church. Besides being an active poet, writer, and author, she offers one-on-one feedback in a critique.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Must Christian poets and writers study?

Recently I asked our Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook their thoughts on preparing to write.

QUESTION: God calls us to write. God gives us the talent and/or ministry gift. Besides choosing to respond to this call, do you believe you need to study your writing genre, your potential readers, and the possibilities in publishing? Why or why not?

Soldierone As we were formed in the womb, He placed in us talent and made us stewards as to how it shall be nurtured and to what purpose it shall be put. If we do not care for it, it will perish. If we nurture it, then we give honor to Him. He does not leave us to walk alone, but the greater the challenge we overcome in His name, the more we demonstrate our love and passion for Him. If we put our talent to worldly pursuits, it will yield only worldly fruit, but if we put it to His purpose, we become participants in sowing the fruits of His kingdom.

Nellie Some of us come into our own talents and gifts later than others. A few days before I retired, the idea to have a try at publishing my work popped into my head. With the help of a dear friend, I was able to pursue that path. I would answer yes to all your questions because I believe God has given me things to say that will help others in their faith journey. Praise The Lord for giving me the gift of thoughts to share through my writing.

Katharine We are to study to show ourselves approved. However, sometimes God takes us, as in the case of Moses, into areas where we are not strong, and He supplies our need. There is something awe-inspiring about a worker who is not skilled, and yet draws more to Christ than others, simply because God chooses to work with that one. The best preparation happens in the heart, I think, but it's good to be as strong as possible too. It's a lot according to who says "yes" to God. There is that saying that God does not always call the equipped, but He always equips the called.

Antoinette Studying to sharpen your skills is always best. You can also do this in the process of writing vs. always waiting until the perfect time. God meets us where we are. If you're called to write, then write and learn along the way. If you strongly feel like you immediately need additional guidance, heed that nudging/prompting. Iron sharpens iron, and always seeking wisdom is key – also, having faith that our prayers are answered and moving our feet!

Adeline Good challenge for those who think the gift will do all the work! I believe writing is like any other gift we're given: 10% gift – 90 % sweat in the form of prayers, network, education, courses, audience research. I was told successful bloggers who believes they have a passionate message to share spend as much time or more evaluating and getting the message out there as the time it took to write the article. Whitfield revivals harvested many souls, and John Wesley's structural and organizational wisdom founded the Methodist church which stands to this day. Can't get around the homework. I'm still pregnant with my first book though. So appreciate all the learnings from others.

Antoinette BRAVO at being pregnant with your first book! I'm publishing my 3rd collaboration book this year. In fact, I just did a call for submissions. I'm totally humbled as it's the first of its kind – a business devotional book for leaders and business owners.

Stan All I can say, for myself, is that God puts upon my heart what to write. Sometimes, in Dream/Visions, He tells me, and I will wake up, no matter what time of night, and write. These are the kinds of poems that seemingly flow though my fingertips. I have been on a "writing tear," these last 3 months, writing about 60 poems, (25 so far this month). Enlarging my audience and getting access to as many people as possible is the biggest challenge. I find inspiration from the Bible, Sunday School Bible Studies, a phrase I hear, practically anything. As far as learning how to write poems, I have been writing poetry for almost 40 years, so I have my own style, and since it works for me, I don't plan on changing it. I have been praying on how to use my poems in my Church. After all, this is One of my Spiritual Gifts, so using it for my home Church just makes sense.

Karin I think it's important to read articles and books or take classes about the kind of writing you are engaged in. I think doing this fans the flames so to speak. It's also important to study potential readers because if there isn't an audience, there is no point in writing in that genre. I personally haven't researched publishing possibilities because I self-publish.

Ashley For all who think the gift will do the work…. Yes, we have to work at it too.

Patti Everyone has valid points. I am sad when embarrassed by poor writing quality, sentence structure, spelling, grammar, etc.! It's like I want to holler, "Come on, people! This is for JESUS! Let's do it well and better than the world!" But sometimes writers’ egos get rather large, and they won't listen or even try.

Edie I concede that there may, indeed, be situations in which a person has a story that demands telling before that person has acquired the skills, and God may provide the skilled ghostwriter to help achieve the dissemination of that story. Beyond that, I think it would be ludicrous to imagine that God would not want us to use every tool at our disposal to make the best possible use of the gift he has given us. I can't imagine that the carpenter Jesus used a dull saw and didn't take the time to sharpen or hammer in bent nails without straightening them first.

Mary I'm with you all on honoring our God-given gifts and treating our work with respect by studying, practicing, and learning all we can to improve our writings. That used to be the standard for all poets and writers until the ease of self-publishing changed that, but I believe in bringing our best for THE Best.

Marcie I've always loved to sing and I grew up singing in church and doing solos. I never felt the need to get vocal lessons because I felt my voice was good and people never complained about what they heard. Besides, didn't the Psalmist write to play an instrument skillfully? As an adult I was told I had pitch problems and needed some lessons. It wasn't until I began taking lessons that my teacher explained to me how my voice is an instrument, and, if not used properly, I could damage it. Well, that put a different spin on the Psalmist words!

How does this apply to writing? In 1 Corinthians Paul writes whatever we do, we need to do it to the glory of God. So my question then becomes, how do I glorify God and make my writing the best it can be if I don't learn to use it correctly? And just because we are poets and not novelist does not mean we should just run with it. I've learned a lot about the world of poetry the last few years being back in school and not only should we make sure the grammar and punctuation is done well, we should also learn how the craft of poetry really works, so we can put the best possible poems out there to reach the world for Christ. I also believe we should pray about what we write, how we write, and to whom we are writing, and ask for God to speak through us.

Katharine I was remembering the head elder at our church, who barely reads, yet creates PowerPoint Bible studies for us every week. He cannot do this, but he does. In history there have been men called to preach who could not read, but when they opened the Bible, they could read it and not any other book. Moses was not a good speaker, but I think God sometimes chooses the one who is not naturally gifted because that person will be on his knees, convinced he cannot do this unless God intervenes.

And there was the time I was coerced into singing when I had a bad cold, and someone in the congregation was so totally touched – not by my croaking, but by God. She broke into tears and received a huge blessing. It wasn't me. Sometimes that is the way God prefers it. No one can boast! Although I do totally believe in being ready and waiting for God to give us work, I also believe He chooses to work outside the box and I love that.

Karin I cringe when I see misspelled words on advertisements around the city or anywhere else for that fact. Christians should strive for excellence in all they do. Poor grammar, misspelled words are a poor reflection.

Wanda I simply write what God lays upon my heart to write. I send it to whomever He directs me to, and I leave the rest up to God. However, I do study the scriptures and apply them to my writings. I have even supplied where scriptures can be found to support my poems in my Christian children's books.

Lynda The gift to be a writer is a gift God formed at the moment of conception. It is a blessing from God. We need to acknowledge this gift and follow through. We need to use this gift to spread God's love and salvation by using this blessing God has given us.

Wanda Am I missing something here? Are you referring to grammar and spelling?

Annie My initial call is to preach the Gospel, Luke 4:18-19. The writing is a talent that God has given for His glory and purpose as He directs. If the Holy Spirit directs me to study genre, look at my potential readers, and look at my possibilities of publishing, I would trust Him to do this by guiding me to the right individuals or places to do so. To this day, the only thing I have looked at is my publishing options. Now if God has something to say/write through me, He has the genre and the readers prepared already. By faith I trust Him to do this and enable me to do my part with ALL His grace and help. I have days and moments where the Spirit of God is working in me to write, and so I yield. Other times when I am asked to write something for an occasion, I will pray and ask The Father in Jesus' name to enable me to write something that will minister to the spirits that will read it or hear it. If my writing entails various scriptures from the Word of God, I will add them at the bottom of the writing. Or I may not add any scriptures. It just depends on how I am being led by the Holy Spirit.

Katharine You know, we've been posting a lot about sharpening writing skills, but the question pointed to analyzing our audience, genre, and marketing. I cannot believe I missed that, but I did.

I do believe we should make an attempt at it, although I also believe in listening to God for guidance during this analysis is of prime importance. For instance, I am writing a Bible study for emotionally hurting women. These women often do not have money, do not have self-control, do not have support. I believe if I reflect on my real audience, I will discover that, although I should market to women as a group and although someone might find life in Christ reading my study, my main market is with leaders, with pastors, with event planners. In this way, more attention and more access will be created for the truth these women need. I have been marketing to women all along but need to add at least an alternative market: pastors of women.

Annie Amen!

Mary To respond to an earlier question, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and syntax are our tools for writing in English, and it's up to us to develop our skill in using these language tools. In the original question though, I was thinking more in terms of reading books in our writing genre, studying, and learning what works and what does not in writing a manuscript or poem. It's like in the beginning before sin: God created a gorgeous garden then involved humankind in gardening to "subdue" or bring peace to any potential havoc. The more we know about writing well, the less havoc our writing wreaks.

Judy When God calls us He equips us to move forward in this calling. He directs us on what we need to fulfill this calling. I know from experience, I had to go college, get a degree in Theology, attend writer conferences each year for many years, and endure much criticism and rejections. But after 30 years of writing ministry, many articles and devotionals published and 12 books, it was worth it all! God is so good!

Toni Absolutely we need to study. Why would writing be any different than any other thing we seek to do with excellence? It is hard for me as a Christian writer to think about my "spiritual" writing in terms of marketing. It all sounds so "fleshly," but then I realized that if I have a God-given message and no one reads it, what good has it done? If you want the message to "hit home" you have to not only know the heart of your reader, but what you hope they will take away from what they've read.

Every year for the past 3 years I have attended a Christian writer's conference. They cover fiction, non-fiction, blogging, poetry, and lyric writing. They teach you how to develop your writing to be more concise, engaging, and powerful. You meet other writers, as well as editors, publishers, agents. You hear about their struggles and triumphs, you learn you are not alone in your doubts, but you also learn how to overcome them or how to discern if this is indeed your calling. Can you tell I feel strongly that we need to study our craft?

Anita Interesting. When I am over my head in busyness, I just write. When I have time (which is usually) I read critically. At the moment, I am in a writing season, writing a book, but when I finish, yes, I will explore the publishing scene, asking God to guide me to do so effectively.

Wendy I truly think we need to study. I prayed on what to do and God sent me back to college. I am amazed at all I have learned over the summer in regards to His word as well as writing and research. It’s been a lot, but its been a lot of fun as well!

Deborah I am constantly in a state of studying and learning. Besides studying God's Word and sharing it daily on my blog, I also am consistently studying how to be a better writer, how to work more efficiently online, and how to get the word out about my books and many other things. I think life is a constant state of learning. When we stop learning, we stop growing, spiritually and mentally.

Mary Excellent comments from you all. Deborah, your statement "When we stop learning, we stop growing, spiritually and mentally" made me think about what happens next – basically, stagnation!

Linda In my experience, being inspired by the Lord to write and design does not mean holding a quill pen over a sheet of parchment while the Holy Spirit moves it to inscribe perfect prose, poetry, and art. God gives me the ideas, the unrelenting itch to develop them, and the means to complete the job. He opens doors to bring the piece to His intended audience, which may or may not include publication. For my part, I have to act upon the ideas, do the hard work of writing and editing and marketing. Studying craft and marketing techniques is essential to that.

However, you can easily spend so much time reading and studying that you fail to write what He wants written or live the life He wants you to live. So listening to the Holy Spirit's guidance in all those matters is essential too.

Mamie Even though you may perceive writing as your special talent, you are still obliged to study the writing genre, industry, etc.. Prayer is a powerful tool, so pray and get direction.

Mary Thank you all for your insightful responses. May God continue to guide us and our writing in Jesus’ Name.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, interviewer, wrote 26 traditionally published books then self-published 3 Kindle e-books for other poets and writers: the Christian Writers’ Guide e-book, the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry e-book, and the Poetry Dictionary For Children & For Fun.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Interview with poet, writer, lay minister Tim Good aka Tiwago aka The Naked Alien

Tim, I enjoy seeing your posts on the Christian Poets & Writers group page on Facebook and notice other members “Like” your poems and postings too. Tell us about your work.

A couple of years ago, I joined a Facebook Group called Agalliao where people share their spiritual poetry. Periodically, an anthology is created and publishes of some of those works, and I have been blessed to have had three poems published in each of the first four volumes. Volume 4 is currently available at Amazon.

It has also been an honor to see some of my work highlighted on this blog, and my Naked Alien faith blog is sometimes re-blogged in Methoblog. Besides my blog, Photography by Tiwago, some of my nature photographs have been published in online magazines or print. It is a special joy to see something that came from within you out there for the world to see.

Who or what inspires your writing?

Much of my poetry (especially the haiku) is inspired by nature and often complements my nature photography. I am a professional conservationist, yet nature also touches my soul and brings me into a closer relationship with God. It gives me a better understanding of the concepts of stewardship and environmental justice. Sometimes, an event is so painful that I grab a pen to let it bleed for me.

My religious writing is inspired by the humanity of the Bible and the events in the daily news - and how the two relate to each other. I am strongly moved by the pathos of the Psalms and strive for that same realism and honesty in a modern context.

You achieve that too! So tell us: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I have always enjoyed reading and playing with words. I was a sarcastic clown as a child who loved puns and one-liners. I enjoyed writing essays in school, but after years of working in the government where creative writing is frowned upon, I lost that joy. It was not until I started blogging that I had an outlet. I no longer cared if anybody wanted to read it. I could just send it out on the Internet and feel a release.

For me, writing is a meditative spiritual discipline. My words are written with my tears as prayers of joy and pain. When I was young, words were a sharp sword. Now, words are my fleet shoes.

Do you see your writing as a gift or calling?

I feel called to preach and help pastors take sabbaticals or take time to rest and heal, but I feel I have a gift for the communication of truths that can't be told by facts. Ironically, I have a hard time interacting with people one-on-one. When I preach, I sometimes don't remember what I said. I am called to serve congregations, but I have a gift to tell stories to the world.

I have done several spiritual gift inventories where prophesy and teaching were high scores for me. I am a Certified United Methodist Lay Servant and do pulpit supply preaching at numerous churches. Preaching, writing, and taking photographs help me share some of the many thoughts and visions that flow through me via the Spirit. I feel that, as we are all made in the image of a creating God, there is a creative impulse in us all. The secret is to find the appropriate channel.

What do you hope to accomplish in your writing?

Sometimes when I am depressed, my writing has a cathartic effect, like the blues. I call myself The Naked Alien, because that is how I felt as a geeky, awkward kid – exposed, vulnerable, and an outsider. I want people to realize that, throughout the Bible, it is the loser who is often called to serve for God's glory rather than the jocks and beauty queens! I want people to know it is okay to question God or yell at Him. It is better to have doubts than to think you have all the answers! I want people to stop being afraid of a vengeful God and become comfortable with Him. I love to challenge our inherited beliefs and preconceptions: to force us to think; to let God out of the box we built for Him.

Today’s blog post on “The New 10” certainly brings new light to the old ten! I mention this now to encourage our readers to check out the page but also to remind me, after posting this, to go back and leave a comment.

Thanks. Lately, people on Facebook have commented on some of my writings too. For some, they are grateful for a light that allowed them to see God in a new way which was helpful to them. Others have mentioned that they had thought they were alone and strange, and it was reassuring to hear someone put their thoughts on paper (digitally speaking!). This is something new for me, but the idea of being graced with the ability to give utterance to the fears and pains of those who do not have a gift for words is both humbling and mind-blowing.

Yes! That’s the larger vision we receive as we seek God’s guidance for our writing. Reading is part of that writing life too. What do you most like to read?

I used to be a chain-reader, consuming mass quantities of Fantasy and Science Fiction books. But now my greatest joy is reading books to my granddaughter!

I know the feeling! Lord willing, Kelsay Books will soon publish my book of nature poems for children that you both might like, hint, hint! May God and your granddaughter continue to inspire you, Tim. Thanks and blessings for taking time to chat with us.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, interviewer and poet-author of the Christian Writers’ Guide e-book and Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry e-book