Monday, September 16, 2019

Not Me, God. Not Me

By Kim M. Clark, Author of Amazon Best-Selling & Multiple Award-Winning book Deep Waters: Lift Your Gaze

Some people are born with the gift of writing. Their words seem to leap onto their laptops like gazelles bounding up steep ravines. I’m not one of those people. Writing has always been an arduous process; I even have my husband proofread my emails.

As I wrestled with God over writing my book, I informed the Creator, “Not me, God, not me. You’ve called the wrong person, Lord. You know I can’t write.”

I added, “Lord, you created me in my mother’s womb. You formed me to swim like a duck to speak and teach, not to climb trees like a squirrel or write a book. You’ve called the wrong person.”

God was silent.

My lament continued. “God, you’re asking me to do the impossible, like having a duck climb a tree.”

Dejected and full of self-pity, I prayed. I saw a vision in my mind of a flourishing coconut tree with large, deep-green, palm leaves. The tree had grown parallel to the ground and a quacking duck happily waddled up the trunk.

The Lord spoke to my heart, “See, I can even make trees grow crooked to accomplish my will.”

Apparently, you can’t argue with an all-powerful God.

So, in my late forties, I forced myself to write.

If you also feel that not-so-gentle tug on your heart to write—just do it. Stop second-guessing yourself. Trust God. He never leaves us or forsakes us.

Here are three tips to help you:

Obey: Write every day, even when you don’t feel like it. For the heart is deceitful, who can trust it? (Jerimiah 17:9 ESV) Don’t listen to the voice of the enemy. Submit and obey God. If it is God who is leading you to write, he will provide all things for you including the material, editors, publishers, platforms, etc.

Absorb: Become a sponge and put aside your pride. Glean from other writers, authors, editors, agents, and publishers. Friend them on social media and do what you said you were going to do. If you committed to send your manuscript to a publisher—send it. Also, attend writer’s conferences and join a solid critique group. Lastly, seek out better writers than yourself, because you become the top five people you surround yourself with.

Pray, pray, and pray again: Remember, you are the scribe, God is the writer. Allow him to use you to bring glory to his name through your writing. Ask him to bless it and speak through you. Invite others to pray for you and your writing. Pray for direction, divine connections, and provision as you take each step-in faith, not knowing what the future will hold, but knowing who holds your future.

If God can mold me to write a multiple award-winning book—then be encouraged! He can help you, too. It seems God uses those who have gone through the flames of affliction to go back and pour water on those still in the fire. Be blessed and write for God.
Kim M. Clark wrote the Amazon best-selling, award-winning non-fiction book, Deep Waters:  Lift Your Gaze, to provide hope to others during difficult times.  This book provides a unique approach to suffering as it combines solid biblical teaching, prophetic words, and intercessory prayers. Also included are soul-seeking application questions and a prayer journal which tops the redemptive healing flowing from this book. She is currently polishing her supporting 30-day devotional which is scheduled to publish in the Fall of 2019. Kim and her family live in the sunshine state, Florida, and enjoy outdoor sports, such as swimming with their overly active yellow lab. Kim recently started a non-profit, Lift Your Gaze, to share her message of hope with those in the prison system. Kim and her husband Ron have owned several businesses and have earned numerous awards in multiple industries. She enjoys public speaking, teaching, writing, marketing, and helping others succeed. She has worked with Fortune 1000 companies like Neiman Marcus, Merck Pharmaceuticals, and Digital Equipment Corp. as well as expanding startups and mission-based organizations. She has run two marathons despite the angry protests from her knees. Kim also teaches Bible Studies, trains church leaders and has served on a mission board which provides funding for over 60 global organizations and missionaries.  Additionally, Kim was an Adjunct Marketing Instructor at Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, DE. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communications from Towson State University and a Master of Science Degree in Business in Marketing from The Johns Hopkins University. Kim enjoys putting her expertise to good use as she trains thousands sharing God’s message of hope and redemption to intimate groups as well as large conference venues.
E-mail to schedule speaking engagements or to request information about Lift Your Gaze.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Why Reading May Be the Best Writing Course You’ll Ever Take

By Amanda Barratt  

It’s always a delight to chat with aspiring authors. With a smile, I always ask what kind of stories they love to write, and listen attentively as they share their ideas. Invariably, the conversation leads to me asking another question. “Are you familiar with the work of authors who write in your genre?”

Usually, the answer is yes. But sometimes, I receive a blank look. “No. Not really. I’m not much of a reader.”

The first time this happened, I was left fumbling for words.  A writer who’s not a reader? To me, that’s equivalent to a director who never watches movies, or a chef who never visits restaurants.
Writing workshops are amazing. Books on the craft of writing are wonderful. But there’s no better way to learn the delicate balance of plot and character, the subtleties of emotional resonance, the rapid-fire play of wit-laced dialogue, than by reading the work of authors who are masters of the craft.

Since the beginning stages of my writing journey, I’ve spent twice as much time reading as I have attending workshops, studying how-to books, and reading writing blogs. And I’ve gleaned twice as much insight into the nuances of the craft. Not only do I read, I study. Usually, I begin by reading a novel or work of nonfiction like any ordinary reader, pausing now and then to study sentence structure, consider why that paragraph stirred my heart. If, after finishing the last page, I know I’ve found a book that raises the bar on craft, characters, and storytelling, I re-read it. This time, I pay close attention to every scene, taking mental or sometimes actual notes on what worked and what didn’t. Even in the best stories, there are weak links. A line of dialogue that feels off, or a scene that doesn’t quite flow. I pause and consider what the author could have done differently. 

This critical thinking is especially helpful to cultivate, and then utilize when I’m editing my own work. Mostly, though, I focus on the positive. That unforgettable character or memorable line of dialogue, a seamlessly woven theme that will forever linger in my thoughts. The best books are experiences, and when I discover a story that draws me in and paints a landscape of people and places in vivid color, I know I’ve found one for my keeper shelf.

Our minds are like sponges as we read, growing and absorbing. As we take the time to study the craft of writing through the works of others, our own stories will become all the richer. 

The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Charles Spurgeon
ECPA best-selling author Amanda Barratt  fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story—a spinoff of Jane Eyre. Now, Amanda writes romantic, historical fiction, penning stories of beauty and brokenness set against the backdrop of bygone eras not so very different from our own. Her novel My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love released from Kregel Publications in June 2019. She’s also the author of My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York: Adele’s Journey, as well as seven novellas with Barbour Publishing. Two of her novellas have been finalists in the FHL Reader’s Choice Awards. Amanda lives in the woods of Michigan with her fabulous family, where she can be found reading way too many books, plotting her next novel, and jotting down imaginary travel itineraries for her dream vacation to Europe. Connect with her on Facebook and visit her online at Social Media Links: Website: Facebook:   Twitter:

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Alphabet Writing Exercise Gets The Juices Flowing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

At writer’s group our moderator suggested we do a new writing exercise to get our creative juices flowing called simple, alphabet writing. It will make for a very challenging writing exercise, and I recommend having a dictionary and thesaurus near at hand.

Here’s how it goes. Begin writing by starting each sentence with a different letter of the alphabet. You must go in order, and remember it has to link from sentence to sentence to create a story. All 26 letters, from A to Z, must begin the first word in each of the first 26 sentences.

Talk about a challenge!

My friend and author, Michael Hicks Thompson, emailed me while I was writing this blog post and this was his story using the ABC Writing Exercise. You too can be creative, just like Michael.

“The Alphabet from A to Z in Cajun Country"

By Michael Hicks Thompson, author of The Rector and The Actress

“Abacus was his name. Because his parents, Pappy and Zita, were likely insane,” said Jewel, Zita’s sister. “Cajuns can’t hit a lick at naming a baby if theys life depended on it.

“Don’t look down on Pappy and Zita, though,” she continued, “’cause they had twelve babies, and Abacus was the last, so they tried they best, but they just run outta names and chose his from an ancient counting game, strange as that seems.

“Even they neighbors said they was nice folks. Friendly. Grateful. Hard workin’ folks always holding down two jobs each. It was me who taught Abacus about the world he would eventually inherit.”

“Jewel,” he used to ax me, “tell me, what’s the meaning of life?”

“Kinda like a journey,” I’d say, “a short one where you have to make the right choices to have a second life.”

“Like when I was a little boy, got into trouble at school, and told the principal it was my fault?”

“Most definitely just like that, Abacus.”

“Nobody was more scared than me, Aunt Jewel, but I learnt it pays to be honest.”

Opening the door to Pappy’s crab shack was Butra McAlfie, ‘plastic man’ we called him, ‘cause of all the wet weather gear he wore everywhere, even in the hot summa.

“Pappy,” he announced, “Yous in for a big treat. “Queen conch, got plenty of ’em today.”

“Regular price?”

“Sure, ’course.”

“Then put ’em in the freezer out back.”

“Unless you want ’dem conchs to fill up yo whole freezer, you best tell me how many you want.”

“Very well, you musta’ hit the honey pot.”

“World record for me. Xena helped, too, I must admit. You know what a tough woman she is.”

“Zita,” Pappy yelled, “get in here and let’s crack some ’o these queens open and cook us up some conch.””

Y’all can meet Michael and thirteen other talented authors on 9-14-19. You are invited to a Southern Writers Magazine event: 12 SOUTHERN AUTHORS AT COLLIERVILLE BURCH LIBRARY SEPTEMBER 14, 2:00-4:00 pm in Collierville, TN.

Have you tried your hand at Alphabet Writing? Ready, set, go!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My Woman’s World Magazine Writing

By Jessica Ferguson

My goal for many years was to be published in Woman’s World Magazine. Not because they pay $800 for an 800-word romance, though I admit that’s more than wonderful. Not because they have a readership of 5.7 million, but what a heady experience to think so many people might read my words. My story! My name!

The real reason I’ve always wanted to be published in Woman’s World is because I like the magazine, I enjoy their positive stories—and I love a challenge. Think about it: WW writers have only 800 words to write a satisfying story with just the right touch of chemistry between the hero and heroine, including a witty banter or flirtation within a short beginning, middle and end. How hard can it be to leave the reader smiling? How hard, indeed.

I’ve read hundreds of WW romances. I’ve written and submitted dozens of stories. Since the editors don’t respond or send rejection slips, I never know how I’ve missed the mark. Am I making the same mistakes repeatedly?

Often, I try to be too different. My stories don’t have a logic to them. My characters don’t seem real. Can two strangers really fall in love within minutes of meeting? The answer is HOPE.

Here are a few things I’ve done to educate myself: 

I’ve studied each published story.
I’ve analyzed each sentence and paragraph.
I’ve examined every verb.
I’ve marked sentences that describe emotions.
I’ve color-coded setting. How much is too much?
I’ve even typed out several published stories to get a feel for the flow and the amount of dialogue.

I still can’t tell you how to write one of these deceptively simple reads, but here are my three best tips:

Years ago, I stumbled across Kate Willoughby’s blog, Writing for Woman’s World Magazine. Kate, a bestselling author, reads every published story, blogs about it, and offers an analysis. She also teaches a course on writing for WW. I recommend it to anyone who’s serious about writing short romance.

Another excellent course is offered by award winning, multi-published author Tina Radcliff who has sold over three dozen short stories to WW. If you subscribe to her once a month newsletter for writers, you’ll get valuable writer info, as well as dates for her next class.

Last, join WW Writers on Facebook. Those of us who submit to Woman’s World—whether we get published or not—enjoy an encouraging fellowship. We’re friends who have a love for the magazine and a common goal. We celebrate each other’s success.

After my acceptance, my excitement became something akin to postpartum depression. My long-time dream had successfully come to an end. And then I realized that getting published once doesn’t mean automatic acceptance in the future. Selling to Woman’s World Magazine is difficult. The competition is fierce. There are many good writers still trying. I’m thrilled the challenge is still there because as crazy as it sounds, what’s fun about easy?
Jessica Ferguson is a former staff writer for Southern Writers Magazine, and the author of Save The Groom, The Last Daughter and The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes. Her work has appeared in a number of anthologies as well as magazines and newspapers in Louisiana and Texas. Summer Promise, her first short story to appear in Woman’s World Magazine, July 22, 2019. Hopefully, there will be more! Christmas in Love (three holiday stories) will release in late July. Keep up with Jess on Facebook, Instagram or by following her blog/website:

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Tired of Writing?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine   

Do you ever get tired of writing? I mean the type of tired you just don’t want to write another word.

It’s okay if you admit it. A lot of writers get to that point sometime in their writing career. Especially if juggling writing with a full-time job, family, home, community, church, promotions, and deadlines. Sooner or later, everyone gets tired.

Yes, a vacation would be nice. But sometimes, you can’t leave, you feel stuck.

One of the most important things a writer can do when tired of writing is to close the computer (or put away pen and pad) and quit for the rest of the day.

I find it helps if we do something for ourselves. What do we enjoy? Maybe a picture show, a bubble bath, or a walk.

Whatever it is, do it with the intention of being present in the moment. Look around, appreciate what we see. 

When we do go back to writing, schedule frequent breaks.

My office is upstairs, so I make a point of not bringing food with me and if I bring anything to drink, it is a small cup. Then when I want something, I must get up and go downstairs. This gives me a much-needed break because truth be told, I could sit at my computer all day and write.

Even when I go downstairs, if I feel tired, I will lay on the couch for twenty minutes and rest my eyes.

If I can’t get my mind to shut off, I turn the TV on and choose the game channel. That gets my mind off writing and I find myself trying to answer the questions. It’s a great break.

Sometimes when I am tired, I find my writing a tad dry. What that says to me is I need to fill my well. I do this by reading some of my favorite authors. Within a few days I find my well filling and I start wanting to get back to my writing.

I hope these ideas help you if you get tired.

Happy Writing!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Sometimes it’s Hard to Say Goodbye, Making the Case for Epilogues

By Dania Voss

“Goodbye is the hardest thing to say to someone who means the world to you, especially when goodbye isn’t what you want.” – Unknown

As authors we strive to bring our stories to a satisfying conclusion. We want the end to be rewarding for our readers.

But what if as writers, we’re not ready to say goodbye to our characters or the story? And what if our readers might not be ready either?

What if we don’t have to be? Quite yet. Enter the epilogue.

An epilogue is the section of your book or story that would come after you type The End. As a reader, I love books that include an epilogue. I personally enjoy including an epilogue in my novels. I’m a romance writer so I share a glimpse into my happy couple’s lives anywhere from a few months to a few years into the future after the main story ends.

What kinds of things can you include in an epilogue? Here are a few ideas for you to consider.

·         You can show how your main characters have grown, or how they have changed since the end of the main story. The epilogue is a wonderful way for your readers to experience your characters still successfully triumph over challenges or issues they may have faced during the main story.
·         If you intend on writing a sequel, your epilogue can include hints or teasers about what your readers can expect next.
·         The epilogue is a place where you can express your main character’s final thoughts on events that happened during the main story.
·         Is your book part of a series? The epilogue can prepare your readers for the next installment. Include a scene with the characters that will be featured in the next book.
·         Include one last (minor) plot twist or conflict that can easily and quickly be resolved.

How long should an epilogue be? In my humble opinion, I believe your story should dictate the length, as long as it doesn’t become tiring for your reader. An epilogue can be as short as two or three pages. I tend to write long chapters of about twenty pages, so my epilogues end up close to full chapter length.

So when you reach The End of your next book or story, but you’re not ready to say goodbye because “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, I hope you’ll give serious consideration to the epilogue.
Born in Rome, Italy and settled in the Chicagoland area, Dania Voss became a romance junkie in her teens.  She is a lover of all things pink and a huge fan of 80's hair bands. After decades of voracious reading, she published her first romance novel On the Ropes, the prequel in her Windy City Nights series in March 2018. It was nominated as best Contemporary Romance in the 2018 Evernight Publishing Reader's Choice Awards. The Windy City Nights series takes place in and around Chicago which means - baseball, men in uniform, sexy Italians and steamy nights...She writes contemporary, steamy romance but at their core, her stories are about love, commitment, family, and friendship. She writes romance with heat and heart. Dania is a proud member of the Romance Writers of America and the Chicago Writers Association. She's been seen on affiliates of NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX. She's been featured in the Chicago Tribune, the Artist First Radio Network, and has been a guest speaker for the Red Hat Society. Website / Social Media Links: Website: Blog: Newsletter: Facebook page: Facebook profile: Twitter:  Instagram: Pinterest:  Bookbub: Amazon:

Friday, September 6, 2019

Racing the Deadline

By KAREN BARNETT, author of the Vintage National Parks novels

In a perfect world, we’d have unlimited time to let the creative juices flow with our writing, but sometimes the clock is ticking. How do you get great words on the page when you’re facing a tight deadline? Here are six tips to help you meet your goal.

  1. Write wherever 
    Most of us like to be at our quiet desk with a fragrant candle burning, but we don’t always have that luxury. So, take your work with you. Waiting at the doctor’s office? Mechanic? School pick up? Use the time. I’ve worked through all of these, plus dance competitions, the playground, and sitting in the back of workshops. It’s challenging to write in these situations, but it’s possible when you try. Set a small goal for yourself: 100 words, 50 words, two sentences. Every little bit counts.
  2. Write whenever
    Are you a morning writer, or do you prefer the dead of night? When you’re on a deadline, you might have to push yourself to write at other times. Force yourself to do a 30-minute writing sprint in the morning before your shower or a quick fifteen minutes as your kids tackle the dishes. They might not be your most productive sessions, but sometimes you must wring out your clock like a sponge.
  3. Write on whatever
    Don’t own a laptop—how about a pencil? J. K. Rowling wrote most of her first drafts on scraps of paper, including airsick bags. You might discover that writing longhand opens a different part of the creative mind. I’ve met at least two authors who have written novels on their phones. Their PHONES. No excuses!
  4. Get away 
    I’ve heard from many authors who find it hard to write in public spaces (see #1), but some of us struggle to write at home. Projects are calling out: laundry, dishes, e-mails. I sometimes find it easier to head to the library or coffee. Noise cancelling headphones can deaden nearby conversations and signal to others that you’re busy.
  5. Set a timer.
    There is something about knowing that I have four hours to write that encourages my brain to daydream. How do I fix this? Set a timer for 30 minutes and focus only on writing for this period. Race the clock. No snacks, no bathroom breaks, no phone calls, and especially no social media. At the end, take a five-minute break, get up, and move around. Then repeat. Try it!
  6. Turn off your internet. When I’m struggling with a scene, I’ll often dart over to FB to “clear my head.” BIG mistake. Forty-five minutes later, I’m watching videos about baby giraffes. I solve this by manually turning off the wi-fi on my computer and making sure my phone isn’t within arm’s reach. No distractions.

These are some of my methods of squeezing out a few more words while on deadline. What works best for you?
KAREN BARNETT, author of the Vintage National Parks novels, is a former park ranger. She worked as a ranger naturalist and outdoor educator at Mount Rainier National Park, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, and Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park. When not writing, Karen enjoys photography, hiking, and public speaking. She lives in Oregon with her family. Her newest novel, Ever Faithful, releases June 18, 2019. Learn more at Social Meda Links: Website/Blog: