September 30, 2019

Writing from Experience

By Siri Zwemke

I suspect I am not that unusual in that as a writer, I am more comfortable at home in front of my computer than I am socializing in a room full of people. My most successful relationships tend to be forged on paper. As authors, we work to establish a relationship with every person who picks up our book, and it goes without saying we want that experience to be a good one. And just like in any relationship, one must build trust with each other for there to be a successful outcome. 

“Write about what you know, infuse it with how you’ve felt.” Great advice from an English teacher early on; for my first book, it has certainly been the ticket. Whether you choose fiction or non-fiction, incorporating your experiences and knowledge into your written work may, for many of us, seem an obvious path to take. As a voracious reader, I have been disappointed on more than one occasion when an author has developed great characters and a fantastic story line, only to drop the reader over a cliff with a faux pas. (In my life, I call these faux paws, but that’s another story….)

Not long ago I was deeply entrenched in a wonderful book set in present day about animals (what else) and I came to a part where a dog escapes out of a car window and gets lost. The author went on to detail a conversation amongst the family members about how they could track the dog from location to location by the microchip, so not to worry.  Unfortunately, microchips are not GPS trackable. While not every reader would have noticed this inaccuracy, for every book there will be readers with the background experience to evaluate what you write. From that point forward, I lost interest in what would otherwise have been a well written book. While it was a very small thing in the scheme of the entire book, my trust in the author had been lost; they clearly hadn’t done their research.

For the book Rescue Meez, I chose to write about what I knew – I took my experiences and wrote a part memoir, part documentary, and part a ‘how to do this’ type book. Fortunately, I had great material to draw from and the only hiccups I ran into were discrepancies in how my husband and I remembered things. Whether you choose to write from personal experience, or you are researching the information necessary to create your work of art, be sure to do your homework. Even in genres such as science fiction, where all manners of things can happen, if you aren’t providing the reader with some background understanding as to why, for example, the laws of physics don’t apply in a particular situation, you may have a tough sell. Maybe we should all write fantasy, where just about anything goes!
Siri Zwemke is the founder and Director of the Siamese Cat Rescue Center, a 20-year-old internet-based non-profit that spans the Eastern third of the United States and has helped 13,000 cats to date. Zwemke switched careers mid-stream when her love of Siamese cats turned her into a crazy cat lady, rescuing one too many cats and finding herself trying to fill a need she didn’t realize was out there. When the shelters kept calling and she kept saying yes to Siamese cats that were needing help, Zwemke left her job as a teacher of the hearing impaired and took on building a non-profit that eventually spanned 20 states and had 900 volunteers.   Zwemke has recently put pen to paper to document some of the hilarious situations she found herself in as she learned about cat rescue the hard way.  In her first book, Rescue Meez, Zwemke pokes fun at herself in a lighthearted manner as she grows the Rescue from the ground up. From handling rifle-wielding hillbillies in the mountains of Virginia to doing the Dance of the Dead Mouse, Zwemke takes us on a journey through the last 20 years as she shares information on the trials and tribulations of building a cat rescue organization. Currently residing in Virginia with her husband, Darrell (whom she met through the Rescue), several cats and a dog, Zwemke enjoys gardening, reading, and is working towards her black belt in Martial Arts. Zwemke can be reached at, and Instagram @Siri_Zwemke_Author.

September 27, 2019

Let Them Tell You No

By Mark Brady

One thing most people don’t like is “rejection”, but writers hate it.  What do you mean you are rejecting my submission?  It’s perfect.”  Being honest, I consider rejection letters a trophy, but why is another blog post.  “Fear of the “R” word can cripple one’s fingers, and keep someone from writing at all, or hinder them from submitting a completed project, or query letter.

In the last year, I have learned, and have lived by the simple phrase, “Let them tell you no.”  It works!  It takes the pressure off.  It can help in all areas of life too, and not just with writing.  It worked with my wife.  Okay, I didn’t use it there, but one could.  I have used it in restaurants, stores, the airlines, to name a few places.  It never hurts to ask. If it’s a problem, if they can’t, or if they don’t like it, they will tell you, “No”, but you won’t know unless you ask, or try.  This phrase is tied to hope, and I heard the other day, “hope” is the one thing greater than fear.  You hope your submission will be accepted, or you hope you will receive what you are asking for.

For example; last February, my fiancĂ©, at the time, asked me what I was working on.  “I’m writing a devotional, about God’s love, which if selected, will be published in a devotional book, and marketed toward woman.”  She looked at me funny, and not knowing all her looks yet, and what they mean, She said, “Don’t you think they only want women to submit?”  “Why?” I asked. “They didn’t say they only wanted women to submit, and besides, let them tell me no.”  Four and a half months later, they said, “Yes” to my submission.

When you learn to “let them tell you no”, you find yourself living and writing with an attitude of freedom.  Since writing is an art form, it is subject to one individual’s own taste.  Who reads your submission is out of your control.  So, when you’re writing, do your absolute best, which is in your control, and then send it out.
Mark Brady has been writing for five years.  He has had one devotion published at, Sep. 2018, and had an article published in Cadet Quest Magazine, Nov. 2018.  He has been posting a short, inspirational blog every week for five years at  He has also written three books, and one of them, a Christian novel, Kill the Preacher Man is currently being considered for publication.  Mark has two adult children, and two granddaughters.  He has just gotten re-married to a wonderful, God loving woman and is currently living with her in the Philippines.

September 26, 2019

Hallmark’s Mystery 101: Words Can Kill has Tips for Writers

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Mystery 101 is a Hallmark series, and “Words Can Kill” is the third in the movie series. The series protagonist is Amy Winslow, a professor of English literature who specializes in mystery fiction. Amy's father, Graham, is an author of a bestselling series of crime novels. Another character, Travis Burke is a new-to-town police detective. The series takes place in the fictional town of Garrison in the Pacific Northwest.

In one scene of Mystery 101: Words Can Kill, at fictional Elmstead College, Professor Amy Winslow has Detective Travis in a POV class discussion. The dialogue is:

Amy: “So you’re saying I’m wrong?”

Travis: “No, I’m just saying we view things differently.”

Amy: “Isn’t that the same thing as saying I’m wrong?”

Travis: “I mean that’s one way of looking at it. The other way is saying that I’m right.”

Amy: “Alright, well the point of inviting Detective Burke here today was to better understand Point of View in fiction,more importantly in crime fiction where the perspective of the detective is everything. And what drives every whodunnit is the question of who is solving the mystery.”

Travis: “But in the real world as a cop, I don’t have that luxury. If I’m going on “who,” that could be based on prejudice. Maybe I like the person, so I’m going to rule them out. Maybe the opposite’s true. Either way, I’m wasting time to get to the right arrest. I have to follow the hard evidence. The first question we ask is “what.” If I do that, the “what,” will lead me to the “who.” I think that’s the main difference in how I’m thinking as a detective, and how you guys might be thinking as crime fiction readers.”

Amy: “Detective Burke underscores a key point that we’ve discussed before: The best mystery writing really is just a search for identity. Not just of the killer but also of the investigator.”

Travis: “But who I am doesn’t matter as much as how we find the evidence.”

Amy: “You sure about that?”

Travis: “Pretty sure.”

As this exchange of dialogue shows, the perspective of the detective in writing a mystery story is paramount, and often contradictory, to real life investigations. There are different ways a real life detective investigates so it might help for authors to talk to investigators to understand the procedure in investigating a crime. Often, police departments and various agencies have citizen based training that could help you in writing your mystery or true-crime stories.

Author DiAnn Mills writes an FBI book series and has attended several “citizen academies” held by the FBI and ATF in her area. She also wrote a blog post for SWM’s Suite T about the experience. You can read her SWM Suite T, guest author blog post, titled Writing Authentic and Accurate Law Enforcement. By attending these “academies,” she received authentic research for her book series. Something for all mystery crime writers to consider for actual field research. 

You might want to check out various departments and agencies to see if one in your area can help you expand your knowledge to help you in developing authentic stories. 

Who knows, like Hallmark’s Mystery 101: Words Can Kill, you and your book might appear at the next book festival in your area. The fictional festival in the movie was titled, “Murder We Wrote Book Festival.” Don’t you just love that title for a festival?

September 25, 2019

The Power of Fiction

By Dan Walsh

If it would fit, I’d title this column: “The Power of Fiction to Influence the Way People Think.” That’s what I want to talk about.

What’s got me thinking this way?

It came out a few months ago, that after traveling 7 months through space (a 300-million-mile-journey) at a whopping speed of over 12,000 mph, NASA’s InSight Mars Lander finally reached its destination and landed safely on the red planet.

In the science world, this was big news. HUGE news.

But in the world of science fiction, such an achievement would have to be considered, at best, a boring disappointment. At worst, a total embarrassment (that anyone would celebrate such a pitiful accomplishment).

Here’s how a Star Trek fan might react: “It took you 7 months to travel from Earth to Mars (a planet in our own solar system), in an unmanned spaceship?” See, we all know that Captain Kirk would merely have to give the command, “Scotty, give me Warp Factor 8,” and the Enterprise could cover that distance in a matter of seconds. In fact, for a few seconds more, Scotty could get the Enterprise to far-away galaxies, allowing Captain Kirk and his crew (of hundreds) to “explore new worlds…to bravely go where no man has gone before.”

Of course, in the Star Wars universe, in his Millennium Falcon, Hans Solo could easily cover the same distance in half the time as the Enterprise using Hyperdrive. After all, Hans holds the unique distinction of having “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.”

Herein proves my premise, about the Power of Fiction to Influence the Way People Think. Tens of Millions of people (maybe hundreds of millions) have watched the Star Trek and Star Wars movies and TV shows in the last several decades. And because we have, we readily accept the idea that in the not-too-distant future people like us will be able to cover trillions of miles of space in seconds. How? Easy. We’ll just use the Warp Drive (of Star Trek) or the Hyperdrive (Star Wars). No big deal.

But in the real world, it takes us 7 months to reach a planet that’s, well, not that far away. And we can’t send a man on such a trip (let alone hundreds in a Star Fleet spaceship), because all our experiments on the International Space Station (orbiting our own earth) have shown, when we spend that much time in space our muscles atrophy, our bones shrink up, we experience balance and eye disorders, our immune systems weaken, and we even experience a significant increase in flatulence (pardon me, farting).

But seriously…who wants to see a movie showing all that?

Clearly, we prefer to believe in the fiction world the creators of Star Trek and Star Wars have provided. Not only do we readily accept what they say about traveling vast distances throughout the universe, we’re totally comfortable with the idea of hanging out with dozens of alien races, even those who look like huge insects (I’m always surprised at how all these alien insect-like races have advanced so far beyond us in technology when they don’t have opposable thumbs and can’t even hold a wrench).

But what’s the reality? Well, since the UFO craze began back in 1947 (over 70 years ago), no one has ever produced a single alien being, dead or alive. Or an actual alien spacecraft. But hey, they’ve got to be out there, right? The government has them hidden in underground bunkers in Area 51.

Well, maybe. Maybe not. But it doesn’t matter. We don’t need to see an alien to believe they exist. And we don’t need to be discouraged at how long it takes us to reach Mars right now (or how much everyone in our spaceship will be farting the whole time). We know it’s all true. We believe it.

Such is the Power of Fiction to Influence the Way People Think.

So in conclusion, my fellow fiction writers. Don’t look down on your profession, simply because “we make stuff up all the time.” In our pens (or on our laptops), we wield enormous power. If we learn our craft well, we can literally make people believe in things like warp drive, superior alien races (who can’t even hold a wrench), and huge theme parks filled with dinosaurs previously extinct for millions of years.
Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 21 novels (all available on Amazon), including The Unfinished Gift, Rescuing Finley, When Night Comes and The Reunion (now being made into a feature film). Over 750,000 of his books are in print or downloaded. He's won both the Carol and Selah Awards multiple times, 4 of his novels have been finalists for RT Reviews Inspirational Novel of the Year. Reviewers often remark about Dan's rich, character-driven storylines and page-turning suspense (even with his more inspirational books). He's been writing full-time since 2010. He and his wife Cindi have been married 42 years, have 2 grown children and 4 grandchildren. They live in the Daytona Beach area, where Dan grew up. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter, read his blog, or preview all his books by visiting his website at Dan’s books: If These Walls Could Talk - DAN'S NEWEST NOVEL, When Night Comes, Remembering Dresden, Unintended Consequences,  Perilous Treasure,  Rescuing Finley, Finding Riley,  Saving Parker and  The Deepest Waters (2nd Ed)

September 24, 2019

Do You Drag Your Reader?

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

Have you had the opportunity to be in a group, and one person starts talking and talking and talking, and you just keep saying to yourself, “Lady, get to the point?” Last night I experienced this. It isn’t easy sometimes to be patient.

Believe it or not, there are writers who write just like this. They just go on and on and on and the reader finally either closes the book or skips ahead a page or two, maybe more.
Ask that author what tight writing is, and they are clueless.

To me, tight writing is getting to the point without having to go around the world and drag the readers through every nook and cranny. Tight writing is moving the story along while keeping your readers turning the pages.

I like what Elmore Leonard, author of Get Shorty said, “I try to leave out the parts people skip.”
Reading a lot of books, I confess there are pages I skip over in books where the authors do not write tight. I am sure you’ve read books by an author or two who did not write tight.

The best advice I read on writing tight was from Dr. Seuss, “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

That says it all!

September 23, 2019

Protagonist are Needed

By Laurel Thomas

Every story needs a good hero. The flawed one we love to root for. You know who I mean, the one who faces a challenge and comes out stronger on the other end.

Even a superhero has a weakness. Maybe he’s misunderstood or misjudged in an ordinary world where he just doesn’t fit. Worse, a malevolent creep lurks nearby with a handful of kryptonite. We get it. We may not have super powers, but we understand when everything seems to contend against our writing progress. 

The writer’s journey is like crafting my own personal breakout novel. I’m center stage as the main character, whether as superhero or ordinary joe. No matter how I profess stage fright, those blinding lights appear every time I present an article to be published, a story to be read, or a blogpost to be shared.

External conflict is a given. Children, aging parents or another job require my attention.  Health issues or financial stress may plague me or a loved one. Maybe I’m just tired!

Then there’s the ever-present internal conflict. Like when my work is challenged, criticized or rejected. Unless the mortgage counts on what I produce in a writing business, I’m tempted to say, Hey, I’ll stick to my day job. But wait, writing IS my day job.

It’s all about growth in the guise of change. Here’s an excerpt from the mind of Missy, my main character in River’s Call. Missy wasn’t sure how change worked. Maybe when pain got real bad, some kind of chemical reaction took place in the gut and traveled to the head. People she knew never really changed. Her, most of all.

Change is the growth option I love to hate. And often pressure is what brings me to that pivotal decision to move forward in a new aspect of the craft – or stop. And get mad. And refuse the chance to become the superhero I’m destined to be at the end of my story.

The final destination of my journey is made up of all those little decisions. Its crafted in the fire of ineptitudes and insufficiencies I’ve had to face and say, Okay, let’s learn something new. Let’s add to this tool box of writing. Let’s grow instead of quit.

At some point, my quest is finally met. I’ve tossed paper airplane after paper airplane into the atmosphere of publication and visibility. When my love of the craft turns to angst, I remember this is about more than passion. It’s about more than gritting my teeth and getting it done.

It’s about change…in me.

Like my favorite protagonist, I won’t exit my own story. I’m crafting the ending and decided it’s a good one!
A former high school English teacher, Laurel Thomas loves words and their power to convey story. She’s written for inspirational magazines including Guideposts, ghosted nonfiction and delved into her favorite playground – fiction. In her position as general administrator for Write Well, Sell Well in Oklahoma City, she supports multi-published professionals who equip writers for success through conferences and weekend intensives. Check out her website at

September 20, 2019

The Lies Our Characters Believe

By DiAnn Mills

Our characters can be stubborn. Just when we think we know them inside and out, they toss us a wrench. We struggle to push them into a story-line that forces them to change and grow—or slide downhill as in the case of antagonists—then they behave contrary to how we sketched them.

We work hard at shaking them inside out to ensure they are unique, memorable, and fit the plot and genre. Our goal is to achieve the proper balance of complexity in an unpredictable story.

What causes characters to spin in the opposite direction?

Sometimes the problem with our characters is not what we believe about them, but what they believe about themselves.

Lies, big and little, influence the character’s dialogue, behavior, goals, wants, careers, how they journey through our story, and a host of other attributes.

What are some of these lies? These pesky confidence-destroyers and killers of relationships, careers, views of God, and distorted truth stop our characters from reaching their full potential. These lies begin as children when life experiences and role models taint the character’s personality.

Our characters have a rich backstory that has molded and motivated them into who they are in chapter one, line one of the story. Every moment has the potential to create misconceptions about life.

For example, a character may believe:

I have no choice but to be perfect.
Life isn’t fair.
I’ll never be happy unless I have lots of money.
Everyone is out to get me.
God’s love must be earned.
Morals are a personal preference.
Relationships are 50/50. Any less and I’m outa here.
The only way for someone to love me is for me to take care of them.

See what I mean?

How characters respond and initiate action regarding their lies show who they are. You can use these additional internal issues to add stress, tension, and conflict to the story. Create situations that force characters to face their lies head-on and the story demonstrate powerful crafting.

How does a writer find the resources to help their characters out of their psychological mess? I use psychology books, consult psychologists, and research quality websites that focus on human behavior and counseling techniques.

Writers may need to stick their characters into a chair and find out how and why they are misbehaving. When we discover what prompted the character’s lies, we can establish means to get rid of them. The result is an unforgettable novel that will entertain and inspire readers.

What lies do your characters believe?
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure? Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Conference, and the Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on: Facebook, Twitter, or any of the social media platforms listed at

September 19, 2019


By Vicki H. Moss, Contributing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

When writing on a certain subject or activity, how important is it to have experienced the activity yourself? Can you simply fake it—that you know what you’re talking about it or at least make people think you do?

I think you’ll agree you can certainly Google a subject or activity and watch enough You Tube videos to learn to write intelligently about what you need to describe. However, if you can experience whatever it is you’re writing about, I do believe you can be more creative on the page. 

So here’s where I use fish emulsion for an example. As a gardener, I want to feed my flowers and veggies with the best plant food that will boost them into incredible blooms and produce. And I see fish emulsion advertised and reason that if the Native American Indians showed the pilgrims how to plant crops by putting a dead fish in a hole as fertilizer before planting—and I don’t fish much anymore so don’t have fish for planting—fish emulsion has to be the next best thing. So I order some. And I’m amazed at how much plastic is taped around the container.

I suppose, under no circumstances does the shipper want that emulsion leaking through the wrapper while being shipped. Hmmmm. This does not bode well. All of that extra wrapping is sending out subliminal messages that perhaps I don’t really want to deal with fish emulsion for some reason. Perhaps a stinky reason? How awful could it be? I shelve that thought for awhile along with the fish emulsion.

Then, I experience an inevitable rabbit infestation. Deer and rabbit repellent spray are useless when it comes to keeping rabbit hordes at bay. Nor does clapping my hands to try and scare them off. Nor does taking hair from my brush and wrapping some around tender plants scare them off with my scent when I’m not around. And I don’t have a dog or cat to use their hair to frighten the rabbits with predator presence.

But, oh, look at this article! Red Fox urine should do the trick! So I read the reviews and are they ever hilarious—everyone talking about the horrid stench and how the Amazon delivery guys must hate them now…so, no fox urine for me.

Now, my thoughts wander back to the fish emulsion luring me to the shelf in my garage. Does it ruin—is there an expiration date? Perhaps I need to stop worrying about rabbit damage, throw some fish emulsion around the plants and pray they grow so fast the rabbits can’t keep up with their growth and the roses and petunias somehow survive.

However, retrieving the fish emulsion and returning to the kitchen, I open the container to put a couple of tablespoons of the liquid into a watering can to then dilute with water. And I realize—big huge mistake. What was I thinking? After opening that nose bomb and spilling some on the counter top, and my gag reflex going ballistic as I try to wipe up the mess with paper towels, I need to either lose my cookies or need a face mask to breathe.

Rushing outside, I promise myself to never open that fish emulsion container in the house again. My clothes reek with the stuff clinging to me like a putrid cloud and of course I hadn’t thought to wear gloves. No matter how many times I wash my hands, every time my face itches and I scratch the place, I smell rotten fish. Blech!  

And that example, my writer friends, is why there are just some things you need to experience for yourself if you’re going to write about it; helps me anyway. No You Tube video can relay such an experience when it comes to the sense of smell. I had to breathe that foul odoriferous dark ooze to write about it to help get my personal experience down on paper.  

Hopefully the smell from my watering can will tone down. In this century. And only if I get desperate will I ever order fox urine. But you know, experimenting with fox urine could be another interesting writing exercise. I if only I were that adventuresome.               

September 18, 2019

Balancing Act

By Darlene L. Turner

Most full-time day jobs are demanding and stressful. Sound familiar? So how does a writer balance a writing career with that dreaded day job? Is it possible?


Many do it today. In fact, most writers also have a daily vocation that includes a challenging routine with possible overtime. How does that leave time for writing when they come home exhausted and brain dead after working an eight-hour day? Add in the responsibilities of family, church, and other relationships. It never ends. How is it done?

By being creative. Here are some hints and suggestions.

1.      Develop a schedule – when is the best time to write? Early morning? Late evening after the kids have gone to bed? Writers need to find the hours that work best for them. Everyone is different. What one writer finds successful may be the exact opposite for another. Pick a time and stick to it. Let’s tell our family and friends our writing schedule. They need to know we’re not available.
2.      Eliminate distractions – in today’s society there is so much to distract us. Television shows, movies, video games, social media, etc. These all add up and become time gobblers. We shouldn’t get rid of them completely, but reduce the hours spent. Perhaps record those shows and watch them when we need a break (see #3) or inspiration. Reduce our social media interactions to 30 minutes a day. Balancing our distractions gives us more time to write.
3.      Recharge your muse – sometimes our minds get cluttered with such things as work, social media, family outings, etc. We need to unwind. Take a break. Go for a walk, go for lunch with a friend, watch your favorite TV show. It may spark a new idea. Just don’t overdo it.
4.      Write in short sprints – every minute of writing adds up. Only have an hour in an evening? Write. 30 minutes? Write. Get a community of writers together and do a writing sprint via video conference. This can be a lot of fun and can feed your muse. Brainstorming with others is invaluable and gives a fresh perspective.
5.      Take care of our health – hunching over a laptop can take its toll on our bodies. Plus, if you spend your day time job doing the same, it will result in sore muscles, headaches, anxiety. We need to be sure to get ample rest, exercise, and eat healthy. Instead of reaching for that chocolate, grab an apple. When we follow a positive routine, it ensures our balance is intact. It keeps us fresh and ready to tackle our jobs and writing sprints.

These are only a few suggestions to help balance work and writing life. Every writer’s schedule is different and we need to find what works best. The only caveat? Stick with it to reach maximum results.

What are your suggestions on how to balance work and writing?
Darlene L. Turner writes romantic suspense and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray with the Steve Laube Agency. Her love of mystery began as a young girl when she picked up her first Nancy Drew book. She’s turned that passion into her own writing and believes readers will be captured by her plots, inspired by her strong characters, and changed by the Christ-centered message. She’s had numerous articles published and is a Craftsman Alumni of the Jerry B. Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild. Darlene is a finalist in the 2019 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence contest and won in 2016. She’s also a finalist in the 2019 ACFW Genesis contest and won in 2017. She lives with her husband in the Forest City of London, Ontario. She blogs weekly at where she believes there’s suspense beyond borders. Social Media links: Website:
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September 17, 2019

2 Great Ideas for Getting Kids Reading

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

You may have seen the commercials. It starts with author James Patterson speaking in front of a backdrop of the American Flag. He states, “I’m James Patterson and I’m not running for President. But if I was running for President, I’d scream at every debate about getting kids reading.” Sure, it is an ad for his book cowritten with Chris Grabenstein entitled MAX EINSTEIN REBELS WITH A CAUSE but if you go to his website, he has 10 Tips for getting your kids’

James Patterson's "10 tips to get your kids" reading

-Start today!

-Find books your kids love.

-Get a Library Card in your child's name.

-Set aside a daily "no-electronics" time for reading.

-"Buddy Read" together.

-Create a Reading Club with friends.

-Reward progress.

-Travel with your books wherever you go.

-Remember: it's up to you to make it fun.

Patterson developed these 10 Tips with Summer reading in mind but you can adjust and apply them year-round.

Another great idea to get your kids’ reading comes from England Elementary School in England Arkansas. I’m especially proud of this idea because it’s a fantastic idea and it comes from my wife’s and mine alma mater. It has received tens of thousands of likes on Facebook  and TV coverage on their local news channel out of Little Rock AR. 

It is a book vending machine. Many schools have bought into the idea and used their student activity money to purchase the $4,000 machine manufactured by Global Vending Group.  The way it works, each week there are 50-60 golden tokens awarded to children showing outstanding behavior. Those awarded may take their coin and purchase a book from the vending machine. The kids love this because as one little girl said this book is mine and I can keep it and take it home. The other books are the schools.

There has been a great interest in the book vending machine and in the exceptional behavior of the children so they can earn a golden token. It would be a way for literacy groups, book clubs, writer’s groups and the like to encourage reading. Fund raisers could easily reach the $4,000 purchase price in a short period of time.

As a grandparent of 10 I know the struggle to get our digitally minded kids to put down the screens and read a book. It can be difficult but it is possible. We have used the “no-electronics”, or as we call it digital blackout to gather the grands around the dinning room table for art, board games and reading. I enjoy seeing and hearing them take turns reading from a book they choose. It’s a magical moment for grandparents and I think your kids/grandkids will love you for it.

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.
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