Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Storm Warnings

Warnings came from every quarter: the Mayor, the National Weather Service, TV meteorologists. Hurricane Irene would have far-reaching effects along the Eastern Seaboard.

Mandatory evacuations were announced, people cut short vacations, and almost everyone took precautions. While this storm didn't pack the punch of a Katrina, it brought a lot of rain and flooding.

Jesus admonished those who did not look at the signs of the times. The small indications, when put together, all spelled major trouble ahead. Are we so wrapped up in our daily lives that we ignore the signals all around us?

Taking steps to preserve life are not a sign of fear. They're a sign of wisdom. Make sure your life is grounded on the Rock, Christ Jesus. When He's your foundation, the wind and waves of trouble may assail you, but you'll stand firm in Him.

What are some of the lessons you've learned from going through the storms of life? Do you keep an eye on the state of our nation and pray about it?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Conference Pictures

My dear friend, Jeanette Levellie, and I finally met in person. Here she is at our regular "catch you after a workshop" spot at the base of the Learning Center stairs. Isn't this picture stunning? She's a beautiful lady--inside and out. :)

The figures you see in the background are part of a nativity scene.

It must have been near the end of the day. I look tired (but definitely happy).

From Left to Right: Barbara Higby, Jeanette Levellie, and Susan Panzica

Barbara is a new friend. We hit it off right away.
She and Susan came to the conference together.
Susan and I met here two years ago.

From Left to Right: Susan J. Reinhardt, Jeanette Levellie, and Elaine W. Miller.

Elaine is an author and speaker. She taught a workshop at the conference. We met on the
Internet through our friend, Diane Estrella.  Hi, Diane! Sorry you couldn't join us.

Here's Jen going over her notes for the next editor meeting. Isn't the setting gorgeous?
To the left of the picture is a small lake with ducks and geese. We
enjoyed getting some refreshment for the soul.

If you ever get an opportunity to attend the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, jump at it. We had a fabulous time!

What is your favorite part of a writers' conference? The workshops, the editor/agent/author meetings, or networking with other writers?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #171

Authorhaven posted a video of Ray Bradbury talking about persistence in writing. It's a little under three minutes.

If you have an example of how persistence paid off in your writing life, I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where Were You?

Here I am, toting bags laden with mail for our branch offices. As I'm putting them into the various bins in the warehouse, a radio sports commentator says something unusual. "The building is shaking. What's going on? I don't like this." Hmm, California must be having another earthquake. I hope it isn't serious.

When I return to the office, everyone is buzzing about the tremors. A couple of people say they felt it, but most of us didn't. I'm shocked. An earthquake? Here?

Whether an earthquake is literal or figurative, it rocks our world. Everything that was stable suddenly becomes unsteady and unpredictable. We're more aware than ever of the fragility of life.

My late husband's favorite painting was a bird sheltered in the cleft of a rock. A storm raged all around it, but it was safe and calm. In the midst of uncertain times, I'm grateful my trust is in The Rock, Jesus Christ.

If you live in one of the states that experienced the earthquake or tremors, please share what you were doing and how/if it impacted you.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Conference Update

The 2011 Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference will go down in my personal history as one of the most exciting I've attended. Besides meeting Jeanette Levellie and her hubby for the first time, my work caught the eye of two editors and an agent.

After talking to various people, I did something out of character. I abandoned the one sheet. Speaking from my heart about my book, "The Moses Conspiracy," piqued their curiosity and yielded two requests from editors for partials and also from an agent.

Karen Lange and I wanted to test the level of interest for our book before we got too deep into the writing. A couple of people questioned the timeframe (Colonial), but Karen found a title being released next year by a major publisher in the same genre. Our book has a working title of, "Unexpected Pathways." One editor and an agent want to see the chapters.

I couldn't wait to get home and call Karen with the news. We're both a bit shell shocked at all the interest and worked like crazy to get the submissions out. We'd appreciate your continued prayers for favor.

Next Monday, I'll share some of the things I learned in the workshops. If I can get my pictures developed and scanned into the computer, you'll also get to see some happy faces.

Have you ever "thrown out the script" and poured out your heart? I'd love to hear about your experience. Readers: Can you discern when a writer is completely immersed in their story?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #170

Donna Lodge guest posts at Storyfix. She discusses the value and use of subtext in our stories.

What is subtext? It's what the character doesn't say or what he/she thinks contrary to their outward actions. A red rose can be a gift proclaiming love...or something to make an allergy sufferer miserable. Think about what we used to call a "backhanded compliment," something that appears nice but has an edge to it.

Have you used subtext in your stories? Examples?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Older and Wiser

No, this isn't the long-awaited conference report. I need some time to process and assimilate events. :)

Here's my personal list of ways I'm older and wiser:

1) Comfort (as in sneakers) trumps making a fashion statement. Don't leave home without them, especially if you're attending a writers conference.

2) A guy on the check-out line turned to me and Mom and said, "I'm just standing here. I might as well load your groceries on the belt." Twenty years ago, I might have said, "Thanks, but I can manage." Today, I say, "Thanks, how kind of you." Why throw my back out from all that bending and twisting?

3) I've learned the value of teamwork instead of insisting, "I can do it on my own."

4) Moaning about how much I still don't know about writing has given way to thanking God how far He's brought me.

5) Traveling light has always been a foreign concept to me. I'd take my entire wardrobe if I could. Now, that I have to haul the luggage into my trunk, I see the wisdom of carting less stuff.

What have you learned over the years that has made life easier?

Monday, August 15, 2011

No Wonder We Have No Time!

Blogging, tweeting, branching out, linking in, Facebook! I can see the wisdom of using social media, but do we have to use ALL of it? Yes, I know this sounds like a rant, but bear with me.

I've noticed each one appears, and everyone says it's a must to participate. Who wants to be left out if the crowd is all on Twitter? Has blogging peaked, so everyone goes to the next hot trend?

I'm a blogger, Facebooker, and tweeter (a little) in that order. Should I also join BranchOut, LinkIn, and the other smaller social media outlets?

How do you decide which social media to adopt? Which one is your personal favorite?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #169

Jean Fischer at The Walrus and the Carpenter dissects the usefulness of eavesdropping and people watching. Check out her tips on becoming an observer.

Have you used any lines you've overheard in a random conversation? Have any people inspired a character in one of  your stories?

A friend, now deceased, was the inspiration for a quirky character in a short story I wrote. She was truly one of a kind.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You Say Tomato. I Say Tomatoe.

How I wish my tomatoes looked like this beauty! The super hot, dry conditions made my plants shrivel and the fruit to develop black rot. Even the resident groundhog passed by my garden this year.

Could more diligent watering have helped my veggie patch? Maybe. Maybe not. Sometimes there are conditions beyond our control when it comes to growing plants.

Like gardening, we nurture our manuscripts, editing them until they shine. Yet, market conditions, the publishing climate, the economy, and subjective tastes can cause the fruit of our labors to fail.

With gardens, we can try again next year and learn our lessons well. Practicing our craft with dogged determination and being wise about the business side will give us a fighting chance with future endeavors.

How is your veggie and writing garden this year?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Conference Week!

Yay! I'm super excited because the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference begins this week. The link will take you to the website, Write His Answer. From there, you can click on the link for the Philly conference. Marlene Bagnull started the conference 28 years ago. It's not too late to sign up. They accept walk-ins.

I'll be on the Internet sporadically this week, but I hope you'll stop by and say, "hello." Have you ever attended a writers conference? What was your favorite part about the experience?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #168

If you've attended a conference, it's happened to you. You're in an elevator with an agent/editor, at lunch, in the hall, sitting in a workshop waiting for a class to start, and the dreaded question is asked. What are you writing?

Carla Olson Gade, at Writing to Distraction, posted a hilarious video on elevator pitches. The video is toward the end of the article. We're glad Carla is getting back into the groove. We missed her.

Do the words, "elevator pitch" make your eyes glaze over? How do you overcome that fear and form a coherent description of your book or article?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wednesday Wanderings

A year and a half ago, I stood in a store, reeling from sticker shock. Although I'd used coupons for years, the challenge of making ends meet during unemployment was daunting.

Not long after that fateful day, my friend, Miriam, introduced me to Swagbucks. It's a Free Internet search engine that rewards you with points that can be exchanged for many items. My favorite is the $5.00 Amazon gift certificate.

Miriam then told me about blogs that take much of the work out of putting deals together with coupons. Did you know that you can use a manufacturer's coupon with a Target coupon? I didn't. Below are some ways I stretch my budget:

1) The 2 cent and 3 cent coupons of yesteryear have given way to more generous savings. I had a $5.00 coupon not long ago for a hair care product. Coupled with a dynamite sale and a store savings program (in this case Rite Aid's +Up Rewards), I paid pennies for the product. Sign up for their Wellness card and also CVS' Extra Bucks Card, and see your savings grow. Walgreen's offers Register Rewards without any special cards.

2) I hang out at blogs like Hip2Save, The Krazy Coupon Lady,, Forthemommas, and Chachingonashoestring. They tell me about potential deals at my favorite stores and where to find the best coupons.

3) Swagbucks feeds my book-buying habit. Other folks purchase their kids college textbooks, save for Christmas, or even purchase groceries with the Amazon gift cards they earn. Check the link in this post to sign up for an excellent program. You can even get Swagbucks for printing out and redeeming grocery coupons - a double blessing.

4) Freebies - the above-mentioned blogs will also alert you to freebies out there. This week I got a coupon for a free, full-size bottle of Pantene shampoo, as well as a sample of Honey Nut Cheerios.

With all those great savings, you can put aside some cash for that writers conference you've been longing to attend for umpteen years or purchase a new printer. When your church or local food pantry has a collection, you'll be able to donate items you have on hand or purchase at a sharp discount.

Thanks, Miriam, for helping me be a better steward of my resources. Now, I'm telling others, so they can benefit as well.

Jump into the couponing waters! It's fun. Do you have any money-saving tips or unique ways you raised funds for charity or a writers conference? Any testimonials from fellow Swaggernauts?

Note: The link to Swagbucks is my referral link. Swagbucks is FREE!

Monday, August 1, 2011

One Sheet? Two Sheet?

Karen Lange, of Write Now, and I are preparing a one sheet for our book. We want to see if there's an interest in our story.

Some questions came up with the one sheet format:

1) With two biographical sketches needed, how could we fit everything on one page? After much discussion, we decided to depart from the norm and produce a two sheet. All the book information is on the main page, while our biographical information is on the second page. Otherwise, there would have been no room for the book summary.

2) What is the title of our book? We have to come up with I slapped a temporary name onto the draft of the one sheet/two sheet, but we're still emailing about that subject.

Technical problems:

1) My ancient Microsoft Publisher program that I used to produce the one sheet for The Moses Conspiracy decided not to cooperate. I managed to put something together, so we'd have a basic document to refine.

2) When I emailed the document to Karen, she couldn't open it. Snail mail to the rescue.

3) I sent my picture to Karen's secondary email address because she couldn't open it from her primary account.

Karen was able to do the layout in Word and solved the picture problem via cut and paste. Her son did a small graphic. We were happy he was in the wings to bail us out if we ran into serious trouble. Karen will send the finished one sheet/two sheet to me via U.S. Mail.

I'll be putting together a packet for the conference. The one sheet/two sheet, our business cards, and the first two chapters will be put in a presentation folder. It keeps everything organized. 

Collaboration is a lot easier when you have the right equipment and it meshes with that of your co-writer. Karen is doing a post on producing a one sheet. I hope you'll visit her sometime this week.

Have you run into difficulties sending pictures via computer or opening documents from another writer? Have you ever had an email submission get lost in cyberspace? I'd love to hear your experiences and advice.