Advice to Beginning Writers

NOTE: This is week 4 of our Writers’ Blog Hop. The theme this week is advice I’d give to a newbie writer. Click on the link below to check out what other writers have to say about the topic.

Button for blog hopDear Beginning Writer,

It wasn’t too long ago that I stood in your shoes. Although I’ve been an avid reader who enjoyed writing for most of my life, I never considered myself a writer until after I attended my first writers’ conference. The best way for me to share advice with you is to tell you a bit about my personal journey as a writer.

I entered The Word Guild’s God Uses Ink contest (Now called Fresh Ink Novice Writing Contest) in 2009 and won first prize in my age category. The prize was free registration for the Write!Canada Conference. I stepped out in faith, booked my flight and attended a conference where I knew no one.

At the conference I learned many things:

  • Writing your book is the “easy” part
  • There are several avenues to having your work published
  • It’s important to start building a platform before you publish anything
  • It’s helpful to belong to organizations where you can interact with other writers and learn from their mistakes
  • If God has called you to write, be obedient and walk through the doors He opens for you

I still remember feeling like I was walking in a fog on a dark night. I knew I was supposed to be at the conference, but I had no clue what to do next. People at the conference were friendly enough, but most of them were from Ontario. I wondered what I would do for support after the conference.

After I arrived back home I decided to do what I could. I sought out support from groups I could access online. The groups I linked up with are:

I didn’t think I had time for a blog, so I joined Twitter and began using it as a mini-blog. I also started a personal Facebook account and enjoyed the opportunities to interact with my friends and family. A few months later, I decided to start a blog as a way to share information from my work as a school board trustee with Northern Lights School Division No. 69.

Testimony January 2010One of the most helpful books I read was Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz. One piece of advice she gives is to research markets, write, submit, and start over. In other words, you don’t sit around waiting to see if one piece is accepted before you start on another piece. And if your piece is rejected by one market, you do some more research and send it out again. I started my journey to publication with the winning entry I wrote for the Word Guild contest. It took several months (and many rejections), but my memoir piece entitled Gifts from a Loving God was accepted by Testimony magazine in November 2009 and published in January 2010. It was subsequently reprinted by two Sunday School papers.

Something else I found helpful was Brian Henry’s Canadian Writer’s Contest Calendar. I purchased my first copy in 2010 and began entering contests as a way to learn how to follow writing guidelines and also to receive honest feedback on my writing. The contest I enjoyed the most was Fiction in Five, where I won several prizes and had a few of my short stories published. One of those short stories became the basis for my novella, Cecile’s Christmas Miraclewhich was just published in December 2013.

Cecile's Christmas Miracle Book Cover Although I live in a fairly remote rural area, I’ve been able to take advantage of several writing courses which have helped me hone my skills. The Christian PEN offers courses throughout each year, where lessons are sent by e-mail. Class members are added to a Yahoo listserv and able to send in homework assignments, ask questions, and interact with each other. Long Ridge Writers’ Group and the Institute of Children’s Literature offer writing courses where you receive materials in the mail and may either submit by mail or e-mail. In these courses you are matched with a published author who acts as your instructor and gives you detailed feedback and suggestions.

My writing journey continues with many ups and downs. My prayer is that I’ll be faithful to God’s calling on my life. The rest is up to Him.

If you have questions or suggestions you’ve found helpful, please leave me a comment. Thanks 🙂


Dealing with stress in a healthy way

I’m starting week 7 of my journey to fitness. The excitement has worn off and some days exercising is just plain hard work. I’ve seen progress, especially in the first few weeks — I’m down ten pounds and five inches. I’ve hit the first plateau, where my body is saying, “Hey, wait a minute. Let’s not starve ourselves here.” The good news is I’m being consistent with my eating and exercising. The bad news is the numbers haven’t changed lately and sometimes it’s easy to be discouraged.

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I’ve been thinking about how I arrived at the place where I weighed more than I ever had before. For me it was about stress and unhealthy responses to stress in my life. Here are things I find stressful:

  • Balancing everything – being a wife, parenting, writing, teaching music, household tasks, community involvement, etc. Quite often I find myself feeling guilty – I should have done more, made myself available, etc.
  • Relationship issues – By nature I’m a people pleaser. It makes me feel good when I am able to help others. It makes me feel bad when there’s conflict between me and somebody else.
  • Home renovations – Kendall and I have been married for over 20 years. We’ve been doing some sort of renovations for over 18 years. I’m the type of person that likes a place for everything and everything in its place. I’ve learned to be more flexible with my children. However, it still bothers me when I constantly feel like I’m living “out of a suitcase”.

I know that I will always have stress in my life. Some things I’ll be able to change, and with other things I’ll have to choose to cope. I find that identifying the things which stress me out is the first step to dealing with them in a healthy way. When I feel stressed, I often crave my comfort foods – chocolate, sweetened yogurt, cheesecake, and other sweet things. In the past few weeks I’ve started training myself to slow down and think before I eat. Here are some things I’ve found helpful:

  • Drinking water – often I’m thirsty rather than hungry
  • Choosing healthy snacks – vegetables or protein
  • Allowing myself an occasional treat
  • Choosing an activity to get my mind off eating and onto something else
  • Paying attention to serving sizes
  • Chewing slowly and enjoying the taste of my food
  • Praying
  • Filling my mind with healthy thoughts

What about you? What stresses you out and how do you handle it?


The #truths I live by

Today many people claim that truth is relative. Some will even go so far as to say that there is no such thing as truth. (You can check out the various “theories” of truth here.)

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I choose to believe that the Bible is the inspired, inherent word of God, written by at least 35 different authors over a period of about 1,500 years. The truths I live by all come from the Bible. (Note: I use BibleGateway.com to look up verses. These are in the New American Standard translation.)

1. I believe that salvation is only available through Jesus Christ.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'” John 14:6

2. I believe that I can know where I’m going when I die

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3

3. I believe that each person is uniquely created by God

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.”  Psalm 139:13-16

4. I believe my body is a holy temple of God

16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” First Corinthians 3:16,17

5. I believe that I am no longer condemned

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4

6. I believe that God fills me with His peace

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7

7. I believe that God gives me the power and strength to do what He calls me to do

11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13

So how does all this relate to me and my body?

  • God made my body just the way He wanted it to be; I need to choose to accept  the parts of my body that I can’t change, including what I perceive as “flaws”
  • God gives us food to eat and enjoy; I need to choose to eat food that will give me energy and keep me healthy
  • God gave me unique abilities; I need to choose to use my abilities to honor Him

Delighting in Obedience: Redefining Success

How do you define success?

This is a question we need to answer for ourselves and revisit on a regular basis. Our definition of success will affect how we act and react to life and what it brings. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about “success”:

BiblePsalm 62:7 (Living Bible) “My protection and success come from God alone. He is my refuge, a Rock where no enemy can reach me.”

Proverbs 3:6 (Living Bible) “In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.”

Proverbs 12:3 (Living Bible) “Wickedness never brings real success; only the godly have that.”

Proverbs 28:13 (Living Bible) “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.”

Ecclesiastes 4:4 (Living Bible) “Then I observed that the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy! But this, too, is foolishness, chasing the wind.”

Mark 4:19 (Living Bible) “but all too quickly the attractions of this world and the delights of wealth, and the search for success and lure of nice things come in and crowd out God’s message from their hearts, so that no crop is produced.”

2 Corinthians 3:5 (Living Bible) “and not because we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success comes from God.”

At the beginning of January I picked a chapter of Scripture to memorize while I walk on my treadmill. I have been working my way through 1 Timothy 4. This morning as I walked, this is the verse I memorized and meditated on (verse 8):

“For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”

This fits perfectly with what Lysa Terkeurst discusses in chapter 8 of Made to Crave.

“We need to define ourselves by our obedience, not a number on the scale.” -Karen Ehman

I Timothy 4:8 is NOT an excuse to avoid exercise. However, it reminds me of where my priority should be – becoming more godly. My job is to be obedient by:

  • Thanking God for the body He gave me (Psalm 139: 13-17)
  • Eating nutritious foods that will provide energy to accomplish God’s will
  • Getting sufficient exercise to become or remain fit so that I can use my body for God’s glory
  • Measuring my worth by what God thinks of me, not by a number on the scale

And even more importantly:

  • Reading God’s Word regularly to nurture my spiritual growth
  • Replacing my negative “self-talk” with true, uplifting statements from Scripture
  • Listening to (and making) music that will feed and nourish my soul
  • Meeting regularly with other believers to learn more about God and encourage others
  • Praying every day, throughout each day, so that I’m conscious of God’s promptings and fellowshipping with Him
  • Walking in obedience to God and His Word

We are told success is winning a prize, becoming wealthy, having influential friends, being beautiful, and myriads of other things people expect. As Christians, I believe our definition of success should be:

“Consciously and persistently pursuing God and His will in our lives, no matter what the cost.”

Do you agree? If not, how would you define success?


3 Things I’m #Determined to Do

This week in our Proverbs 31 study of Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food, by Lysa Terkeurst, our key word was “Determined”. Our key verse was:

1 Peter 5:7-8a, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert.”   NIV1984

There are three things I’m determined to do this year:

  1. IMG_00000206I am determined to follow God with all my heart and strength. Determination requires a choice. In Joshua 24:14-16, Joshua challenged the people of Israel to choose who they were going to serve. This choice resulted in actions – they had to throw away the gods their ancestors worshiped and serve the Lord. In Ephesians 4:22-25 we are given more details about how this choice to follow God should affect us (emphasis mine):22 “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”   I will choose to follow God, to seek His will, and to do what He asks. I will choose not to pursue my own selfish interests, not to engage in activities which will draw me away from God, and not to do things I know are wrong.
  2. I am determined to make lifestyle changes which honor God. I was reminded lately that I was not taking care of my body the way God wanted me to take care of it. I was feeling sluggish and the number on my scale was the highest it has ever been. Although I ate mostly healthy food, I ate too much of it, and snacked instead of waiting. Exercise was also something missing from my schedule. One of my resolutions this year was to make lifestyle changes which will honor God. I Corinthians 6:19 reminds me that my body really doesn’t belong to me; it belongs to God. I am determined to make the following lifestyle changes: eating mindfully, no snacking after supper, taking smaller portions, and exercising regularly. Although I have set some weight loss goals for myself, they are secondary to honoring God with my choices. I started this journey on January 2nd and am blogging here on Fridays about my journey.
  3. presentI am determined to use my spiritual gifts to honor God. I believe God gives each of us spiritual gifts to serve Him and His people. (If you’re not sure what your spiritual gifts are, take this gifts test.) My spiritual gifts are administration and exhortation. Although I don’t always like to lead, people tell me I’m good at it. Last year I took on the challenge of leading InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. Writing is a gift I’ve enjoyed most of my life. However, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started taking this gift seriously. I’m thankful for a group of Canadian Christian writers who are determined to encourage, mentor, challenge, and equip one another. I will choose to use my writing to exhort others as God leads.

What about you? What are you determined to do?


#Empowered by trusting God

Made to Crave CoverI’ve started another Proverbs 31 online Bible study. Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food by Lysa Terkeurst is the book we’re using. One of the questions Lysa asks early on in the book is:

“Is it possible we LOVE and RELY on food more than we love and rely on God?”

One of the things I appreciate about the Proverbs 31 studies is that these women are not afraid to ask tough questions and they expect honest answers – from themselves as well as study participants. It’s refreshing to be part of a community where we are able to be brutally honest and allow God to change us, while being supported and encouraged. I find this very empowering. Excuses don’t cut it. Only the truth.

This study deals with an age-old problem — relying on food; putting our trust in money, or position, or people RATHER THAN GOD. In Jeremiah 2:13, God states it this way:

“My people have sinned twice.
They have deserted me,
even though I am the spring of water that gives life.
And they have dug their own wells.
But those wells are broken.
They can’t hold any water.

Isn’t it ironic that we turn away from the almighty, loving, perfect God who created us and try to fill our emptiness with created things that don’t last, hurt us, and leave us in worse shape than we were before? How can we be so foolish? Thankfully, God understands that we are prone to sin and He waits for us to repent and come back to Him. He is the only one who can truly empower us.

As I begin this study, I choose to turn away from relying on food and people to relying on God. In and of themselves, these things are not bad. It’s my reliance on them that is wrong. I confess my sin of relying on “broken wells” and choose to rely on God today.

I know I face an uphill battle, but that’s okay because I’m empowered by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He stands with me and I can call out to Him. Lysa shares:

“When I started, I knew this battle would be hard — harder than I ever imagined. But through it all I determined to make God, rather than food, my focus. Each time I craved something I knew wasn’t part of my plan, I used that craving as a prompt to pray. I craved a lot. So, I found myself praying a lot. . . It was my way of tearing down the tower of impossibility and building something new. My tower of impossibility was food. Brick by brick, I imagined myself dismantling the food tower and using those same bricks to build a walkway of prayer, paving the way to victory.”

What about you? Are you trusting food, people, money? Or are you choosing to be empowered by God?


My Writing Goals for 2014

Blog Hop for WritersNOTE: Writers: please click on the button above to share your blog link and participate in the blog hop. Readers: please click on the button to go to other writers’ blogs. They will be sharing posts along the same theme as this one.

“Write. Start writing today. Start writing right now. Don’t write it right, just write it –and then make it right later. Give yourself the mental freedom to enjoy the process, because the process of writing is a long one. Be wary of “writing rules” and advice. Do it your way.” ― Tara Moss

Path SignEach year, around New Year’s Day, I sit down and set some goals for myself. I find goals inspiring and look at them as guides, not something written in stone. Here are my writing goals for 2014:

1. Finish writing my novel, Olga’s Discovery. I’m working with Kathi Macias, the acquisitions editor for A Taste of Chocolate (an imprint of Elk Lake Publishing) on this project. She liked my proposal and I’ve promised her the first 20,000 words by mid-February. Currently, I’m at the 18,000 mark of my first draft. After that, I’m aiming to write at least 10,000 words per month until the story is finished.

2. Write a Twitter Manual for Writers. This was on my list last year, but I didn’t do it. I’m giving myself a goal of having the rough draft done by the beginning of May. Ongoing discussions with a publisher have given a kick-start. I’m aiming to get it done.

3. Write a full-length novel about Cecile and Colin. In December 2013, Cecile’s Christmas Miracle, a novella, was released. I’ll admit that I packed a lot into the plot – too much to be resolved in the length of the novella. Several people have told me they are waiting to read the next part of the story. I’m in the early stages of working out plot details and doing research, with a view to continuing the story in a series-style manner – releasing several chapters at a time. My goal is to have the next part of the story released in October or November and then continue the story on until it’s a full-length novel.

Those are my main writing goals. I know that there is a lot of work to do behind the scenes as well. I want to move my website and blog from WordPress.com over to WordPress.org. I also want to continue to post regularly. The plan right now is to post 3 times a week:

  • Mondays – Writing related posts
  • Wednesdays – Posts about what I’m learning in my walk with God
  • Fridays – My fitness journey

Of course there’s social media to keep up with as well. I’m still figuring out how I’m going to fit this all into my schedule. (If you have any tips, I’d be happy to hear them.)

As I start this new year with enthusiasm and optimism, my prayer is that I will always be sensitive to God’s leading in my life and that if I have to choose between my writing goals and spending time with people, I’ll choose the people.

What are some of your goals for 2014? I’d love to hear about them so we can encourage and support each other throughout this coming year.


5 Choices that help me in my walk with God

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Come, Thou Fount has been one of my favorite hymns for a long time. I guess I appreciate it because it describes my struggle to follow the Lord. Walking with God STARTS with one decision, but after that, I need to continuously choose, every day, even every moment of the day, to follow God. Otherwise I drift away. It’s like I have an automatic setting to do my own thing that overrides everything else, unless I choose.

In my walk with God, I continue to find ways to encourage or force myself to grow spiritually. Here are a few things I’ve found helpful:

  1. Setting aside a specific time for Bible reading and prayer. I’ve found that if I don’t make this a priority, it doesn’t happen.
  2. Getting up early. I’m a morning person, so it’s easier for me to focus when I get up. My alarm usually rings at 5:30 on weekday mornings. This allows me to have time by myself with God before anyone else in my family is awake.
  3. Keeping a planner beside my Bible. I find I’m easily distracted by my “to do” list. If I write things down in my planner, I can forget about them and give my full attention to God and His Word.
  4. Writing down lessons learned, prayer requests, etc. My mind wanders easily. Writing things down helps keep me focused. It’s also encouraging to go back and see how God led and taught me in the past.
  5. Using a devotional resource. Over the years I have done a variety of things including: reading through the Bible in a year (Google “Reading through the Bible in a Year” to check out different options), using Our Daily Bread (I now have the app on my iPad), working my way through a book of the Bible and studying verse by verse (using a concordance and doing word studies), participating in online Bible studies (Proverbs 31 Ministries is a great resource for women.)

What about you? What have you found helpful in your spiritual journey?