Thursday, January 31, 2008

Author Interview: Susan May Warren

(Note: Susan is sponsoring a blog tour contest--details below!)

I've been reading a lot of Susan May Warren's books lately because I like how she writes! Susan's characters are believable and I miss them when I'm finished with the book. Her plots are woven with a strong dose of real life, humor, faith and romance. All that combined equals a great read for me!

Susan's newest release is Chill Out, Josey. To fully enjoy it, I grabbed a copy of Everything's Coming Up Josey, the first book in the series, which tells about Josey's year in Russia as a missionary.

Chill Out, Josey finds Josey's plans for the perfect life being upset by some unexpected circumstances. Here's a synopsis of the book:

Russia? Not again. Josey's finally living the good life - she's got the man, the (almost-perfect) wedding, the two-story Cape-Cod house of her dreams. That is until her man drags her back to Moscow! Josey knows she has the guts to follow her own dreams across the world, but she's not so sure she can play the perfect wife while her husband chases after his. Josey's set on having the perfect life…even in a world without hot water, decent take-out and size-two leather fashion. But can she find the courage to tell her man the secret that will change their lives forever?

I had the chance to ask Susan a few questions about her writing life:

What got you started along the Writing Road?
My first steps were reading a lot of books and knowing what I liked. Then I started a book “journal” – writing down what I liked about a book, the plot, the characters, the writing. I sought ways to put that into my own writing. Then, of course, I started working on stories, writing them over and over and over until I liked the voice. I still do that. *g*

What are some obstacles along the Writing Road?
Discouragement! Not just rejection, but working so hard on a book or story only to have an editor or even critic not like it. And then, of course, there are other authors who always seem to write better than I do. I am constantly thinking … how can I tell this story better, how can I make this scene have more impact.

What keeps you motivated along the Writing Road?
A writer writes, even if no one reads her work. I love to write. I love words, and plots and building stories, and seeing a story come to life. For me, writing is a way to also see God at work in my life, helping me grow with my characters. So, I guess the pleasure of seeing a book come together – and God’s touch in my life is my biggest motivator.

What's next for you along the Writing Road?
I’m so excited to be starting a new series with Tyndale. It’s a funny, first person, PI series that combines my chick voice with my love for romantic suspense. The first book, Gimme Some Sugar, comes out next year in March. BUT, between now and then, look for Wiser than Serpents, a thriller set in Taiwan, Finding Stefanie, a story about a cowgirl getting her man, and Get Cozy, Josey – due out next November, just in time for Josey to move to SIBERIA!

Susan is sponsoring a blog tour contest! Here's the details:

Submit your funniest/craziest/most embarrassing PREGNANCY STORY and be entered to win a Super Fabulous, Ultra Deluxe Chill Out, Mom SPA BASKET!

Here is the link to the Contest page on Susan’s website:


**This contest is exclusively for her blog tour. Chances are there will be another contest going on for her general audience. Feel free to enter both contests. By submitting your story, Susan will know which contest you are entering!**

Next stops on Susan's blog tours:



Feb 1 :



(Today's the last day for our January giveaway! Click here for details.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Confessions of a Researchaholic

Five years ago, I put together an extensive twenty-seven page “how to research” document for myself. I was tired of changing computers and losing my “Favorites” list or trying to remember where I recorded research info details. Never did I think I would publish this research info.

I Confess…

I wanted to credit the website that listed the “Six Common Style Guides.” I don’t recall it’s name nor could I find it after an exhausting Google search.

See, even researchaholics, don’t follow their advice to keep track of all sources.

What Sources Do I Cite?
Sometimes writers are unsure what sources to cite to avoid plagiarizing. Whenever quoting, paraphrasing, summarizing, or referring to someone else’s intellectual property, cite the source in a:

  • Parenthetical documentation that is placed between (parentheses within the sentence before the period).
  • Footnote listed in succession at the bottom of the page.
  • Endnote printed in succession at the end of a chapter or a book.
  • Bibliography.

Six Common Style Guides
1. The Chicago Manual of Style:
Used by book publishers and editors. URL: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/

2. AP Stylebook: Used for magazines and newspaper articles. Considered the “Journalist’s Bible.” URL: http://www.apstylebook.com/

3. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers: Used by undergraduates in writing research papers. URL: http://www.mla.org/

4. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: by Kate L. Turabian, Kate. Based on the Chicago Manual of Style: Used in colleges and universities. URL: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/

5. The Concise Rules of APA Style: Used by students, teachers, researchers, and clinicians in the social and behavioral sciences. URL: http://www.apastyle.org/elecref.html

6. Scientific Style and Format (Commonly referred to as the CSE Manual): Used by authors, editors, publishers, students, and translators in all areas of science and related fields. URL: www.councilscienceeditors.org/publications/style.cfm

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Creative Thinking

Yesterday, I met with a friend who I consider a prolific writer and thinker. She's the type of person I need when my brain is frozen solid and I don't know what do with my writing. She's creative--and resourceful.

She gave me a few suggestions. I thought I'd share them with you.

Goggle a word or a combination of words you are want to write about. Read articles. Take notes, jotting down what intrigues you and journal your own thoughts. My husband even suggested this to me a few weeks ago. Why didn't I think of that? I usually research but not at first. I use the internet as a last resort. What a great way to jump start the creative process.

Start writing. One of the best ways to get creative is by writing. The act of writing loosens the frozen chunks. I'm often surprised at what I come up with. Aren't you? Ideas flow best when we are in our chair, fingers on the keypad.

Use mind mapping. Draw out your idea on a piece of paper. In the center circle, write your the name of your topic. From there, branch off with smaller circles as subtopics. And with the subtopics, do the same thing. Before you know it, you've mapped your idea out.

What helps you start the creative process?

**You still have a few days to enter our two giveaways. Click here for details.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Are You a Real Writer?

Ever wonder if you're a real writer? What makes you a real writer? Is it getting your first article or short story published? Getting your first advance?

Author Janni Lee Simner says she got tired of waiting for that "real writer" certificate to arrive in the mail. So, she took matters into her own creative hands, and designed The Official Real Writer Certificate.

As Simner states on her Web site:

Presented so that you, too, can stop waiting for your validation to
arrive in the mail and get on with the business of writing. There's only one
requirement for printing out a copy: that you first say aloud, "I am a real
I find it looks particularly nice on yellow parchment paper, and
that a gold seal and a frame are both nice touches. :-)

Many thanks to Simner for stepping up and affirming real writers one and all.

Her certificate states that you have met "the standards set forth" to be a real writer.

So you tell me: What makes someone a real writer?

And don't forget to print out (and frame) your certificate.

(With thanks to my "real writer" son, Josh, who first mentioned this on his blog Through a Glass Darkly.)

All comments until January 31st are included in our two giveaways, click here for details.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Writing Conferences: The Reasons Why

I'm going to a writers conference next week--and I'm not pitching a single book idea or magazine article.

Waste of time, right?

Obviously, I don't think so.

I'm packing my bags and spending two glorious nights at the Broadmoor Hotel with my writing comrades Tiffany and Scoti. I'm going to attend some workshops--although I haven't decided which ones yet. And I'm going to take part in a book signing--signing my book, no less! And I have no business pitching anything right now because I'm too busy getting ready to speak at Hearts at Home in March!

There are lots of reasons to attend a writers conference besides pitching your Great American Novel:

  • Discover if you're meant to be a writer. Go and absorb the ambience of the writing world. Ask questions. When asked, "Why are you here?" admit you don't know. Maybe something someone else says will help you figure out your direction along the writing road.

  • Enjoy the workshops. If you're a dyed-in-the-wool non-fiction writer, dabble in fiction. Take a workshop on blogging and set up a blog--finally! Soak up the knowledge of others who are farther along the writing road than you are. You'll come away motivated.

  • Go ahead--make an appointment with an editor or an agent. They don't bite. Okay, I've heard of one or two who were a bit cranky, but aren't you ever cranky? Treat an editor nicely and I'll bet they treat you the same way. If you only have a book idea, than ask her what she thinks of your idea. Ask a magazine editor what he's looking for.

  • Make new friends. There are lots of fun people at a writers conference. Lots. Don't make it all about you. Ask everyone you meet, "Why are you here?" and "What are you writing?"--and then listen to their answers. Get business cards. Network. Make friends.

Anybody made any plans to attend any conferences in 2008? Do tell!

(All comments until January 31st are included in our two giveaways, click here for details.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Writing from the Heart

I'm a heart writer. I love writing from the depths of my pain and joy to encourage others. For years I only journaled my thoughts. However over the past few years, I've written for publication from those deep places. Being vulnerable isn't easy. Many writers still won't go there. By choosing the safer route, they offer readers a nibble and leave them hungry and unsatisfied.

Here are a few tips to writing from the heart:

Tap into your highs and lows. By getting in touch with our emotions, we write more authentically and with passion.

Be courageous. We all experience fear. What we do with that anxiety is what makes the difference. When you're scared, try moving forward anyway. You can always hit "delete" later.

Focus on the readers' needs more than your own. Put yourself in the reader's position, what would you want to know? Don't hold back. Give the reader all of you. They want the raw deal. Aren't those type of books your favorite? They are mine.

Stop worrying about what people might think. In life, people will judge us. When I wrote about my abortion experience, I panicked about being exposed. But I had to keep telling myself I wrote my story to comfort others who suffer silently. This battle never goes away for me.

Please understand not all writers are called to write about the depths of the heart. You might be a business writer or a journalist. Still you can pour your heart into the craft and each piece. But if you choose to write from your heart, run with it. Pour your soul into your work. Don't look back or take a detour. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Beth, Scoti, and I are cheering you on. Hopefully we offer you a drink of refreshment here--along your writing road.

You can do it!

(All comments until January 31st are included in our two giveaways, click here for details.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Clear My Closet, Change My Writing Life

Organizing My Writing Life

My clothes are taking over my closet! To accommodate my thrift store designer duds, I remodeled my closet twice, then added plastic hangers, bins, baskets, and closet doublers for skirts and jackets, and shelves for shoes. Everything is grouped with its own kind—by color no less. Most of my unused clothes ‘hangin’ around’ look great, but are no longer “me.”

I have a gazillion professional jackets and skirts. After dressing for success for far too many years, a couple of pairs of jeans, cotton T-shirts and my silk jammies make-up my work-at-home, lonely-writer’s attire.

I want to eliminate ‘stuff’ to concentrate on writing. Being a researchaholic, I went to the Internet to get some tips on how to de-clutter my closet.

“Take everything out of your closet,” one expert suggested. If I did that, I wouldn’t have one inch of space in my bedroom to move, much less sort clothes into categories.

  • Keep.
  • Trash or store as fabric to make a quilt—someday.
  • Giveaway.
  • Yes, I haven’t worn it for ten years, but I’m too emotionally attached to let it go.

“Set aside one hour to clean out your closet,” another home organizer advised. She obviously has not seen my overstuffed closet. Then there is the guest room closet storing various-sized wardrobes for every season—‘just in case’ today’s body shrinks tomorrow, next month, next year. (Sigh.)

“Take filled boxes or bags immediately to the car. Drive directly to thrift shop,” a reformed packrat commanded. She promised, “Your energy will soar.” I rationalized: I do not have enough energy, bags, boxes, or room in my car to eliminate the giveaways.

“When you buy a new garment, release an old one,” is another popular de-cluttering tactic. There is nothing like the thrill of finding a $2 designer treasure that I must buy—then realize I donated it a couple of months ago.

Editing My Wardrobe

Feeling rather desperate, I needed an extra motivator to cut down my clothing count. I called TESSA, an organization serving victims of domestic violence and adult sexual assault. Not only did women need job interviewing outfits—TESSA was low.

Being deadline motivated—this post and completing a few more pitch sheets—I pulled clothes from my closet. As the “giveaway” pile grew, my enthusiasm swelled. I wanted to give away more. However, I discovered I still need to iron and put clothes on hangers (forget the bags). A few items require repair or need to go to the drycleaners. I will finish this project today and then work until midnight on those pitch sheets.

Can hardly wait to drive these clothes to TESSA so my closets—and some deserving, courageous women—will experience a fresh start.

All comments until January 31st are included in our two giveaways, click here for details.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

“What is originality? Undetected plagiarism.” —Dean Inge

Re-Searching, Re-locating, Re-reading Sources

When I co-authored Wrong Way, Jonah with Kay Arthur I included a sidebar of rabbinical laws from the Talmud and the Mishnah. The publisher received the manuscript on deadline from an exhausted writer—me. I enjoyed the relief until the editor called, “We need the citations for the sidebar.”

Which tractate or pages did I find those interesting tidbits? I did not know.

To re-locate the source, I re-read the entire Talmud and Mishnah—twice. Did I mention? There are 72 volumes in the Talmud and half as many for the Mishnah. Reading through an eight-foot-wide section of 9” x 12” x 2”-sized books is stressful when faced with a short deadline.

Do As I Say…Not As I Did!

When meeting writing deadlines, the last thing you want to do—trust me—is spend time decoding cryptic notes or re-searching your source materials.

Do you ever quote, paraphrase, summarize, or refer to someone else’s intellectual property? ALWAYS (Yes, I know I’m screaming and you will too if you don’t…) write down all details required to obtain permission or to create a bibliography, footnotes, or endnotes.

What Do You Need to Record?

Print Publications
Author(s) or editor(s)
Journal, magazine, article, book, or encyclopedia title
Newspaper or article title
Newspaper’s name
Date of publication
Newspaper: Section, page and column location of article
Journal or magazine: Volume, issue number, and page numbers
Date of publication
Book publisher
Place of book publication

Online Publications or Databases
Journal, article, eBook, or project title
Author(s) or editor(s) (if provided)
Online magazine or journal title
Original source publication
Journal or magazine volume, issue number, accession number, section, page or paragraph numbers (if provided)
Date of publication
Page or paragraph numbers (if applicable)
Address of the site
Date you accessed the site
URL (site address)
Place of publication (if applicable)
Date of publication (if applicable)
Name of Database
Vendor/supplier of database
Library through which article was accessed

Primary Sources

Author’s name
Recipient's name
Date written
Name of collection
Name of depository
Depository's location

Interviewee’s name
Interviewer’s name
Date conducted
Name of collection
Name of depository
Depository's location

Motion Picture
Director’s Name
Producer’s Name
Film Company
Running Time
Featured Performers

Author (if given)
Title of work
Group responsible for the site (if applicable)
Date site was last updated
Date of access
Address of the site

Online Postings (Chat Room, Listserv or Blogs)
Title of post
Post number (if numbered)
Date of post
Address post was made to
Address of message archives
Date of access

Email Messages
Author’s name
Subject line
Description of message that includes recipient (e.g., e-mail to the author)
Date sent

Book Review
Reviewer’s name (if indicated)
Title of review (if indicated)
Name of author of the reviewed book
Title of work where the review appears
Date of publication (of the source where the review appears)

Government Document
Issuing agency
Title of the document
Number of the Congress
Session number of Congress
Place of publication
Date of publication
Document number (if given)
SuDoc number

The lists above are adapted from Duke University Libraries (2007). “Assembling a List of Works Cited in Your Paper.” [Updated August 1, 2007]. Retrieved January 21, 2008. Available from http://library.duke.edu/research/citing/workscited

All comments until January 31st are included in our two giveaways, click here for details.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

In Honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

"Everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant."

Martin Luther King Jr. (Excerpted from The Drum Major,1968)

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let's think about ways we can write to serve.

Does someone you know need an encouraging word today? Send a card, e-card, or e-mail.

Is there an non-paying writing opportunity you might consider as an act of service?

One of my first freelance assignments was non-paying. God answered my prayers to connect me with at least one reader. For two years now, we've kept in touch via e-mail. I've watched her life transform. She's experienced tremendous healing and now she speaks to churches. And I've continued to write for this ministry(paying since then).

What ideas do you have for serving others with words? Please share.

(I recently wrote an article about Martin Luther King, click here to read.)

(All comments until January 31st are included in our two giveaways, click here for details.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I'm a Research Beginner: Where Do I Start?

Confessions of a Researchaholic

"The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write: a
man [or woman] will turn over half a library to write one book."
— Samuel Johnson
Do you want to broaden your knowledge base and add fascinating tidbits to your writing?

I confess…I enjoy reading encyclopedias. My first foray onto the Internet was via free access provided by Juno. When I discovered the Library of Congress online (http://www.loc.gov/index.html), I did not come up for air for days.

Juno canceled my “free” account.

Top Ten Research Suggestions

1. Read. Read. Read. I always keep a book in my purse and in the car.
2. Be curious. Ask questions. Seek answers. Develop a nose for interesting, unique details.
3. Watch people. Observe, interview or listen to interesting people. Read or listen to opposing viewpoints, then chronicle your response to help you rethink or crystallize what you believe.
4. Start broad. Scour general reference books—atlas, dictionary, almanac, encyclopedia, historical time line—to narrow your topical search.
5. Use your local library resources. Check out pertinent books from the library. Get acquainted with the research section.
6. Always read bibliographies. Then request original source material by utilizing interlibrary loan.
7. Examine online sources. Read newspaper, magazine, professional journal, and scholarly sources.
8. Peruse online foreign sources. Read English edition newspapers on every continent. Check out their editorials and editorial cartoons.
9. Be aware of cultural trends. Review the bestseller lists for books, movies and music. Journal your responses to what you read, see and hear.
10. Contact experts. E-mail, call or visit museums, historical societies, universities, and experts to find little-known details.

Five Research Time Savers

1. Subscribe to free e-newsletters offered by professionals on topics of interest. I subscribe to e-newsletters from university presses announcing their new book releases.

2. Search google.com. Click on “advanced search.” Choose 100 results instead of 25. Type key words into google.com, and go for it! Scan the list, read short description and then click on best links.

3. Sign up for Google Alerts at http://www.google.com/alerts?hl=en Type in key words to receive emails with links to Google’s latest search results.

Don’t Have Time to Study Your Research?

4. Set up folders under “Favorites.” When I don’t have time to study a web site in detail, I save the link into the appropriate folder, then return, click and read when I have more time to mine the wealth.

5. Save web pages as a text file. On your menu, click on “File,” click on “save as,” choose “text file.” Saving a webpage as a “text file” eliminates all graphics. You also have the source and copyright information for your bibliography.

The Writing Life

Just let me write.

That's the cry of most writers I know: Just let me write.

I don't want to worry about marketing. I don't want to worry about publicity. I don't want to worry about all that other stuff.

There was a time when writers wrote and publishers did everything else to sell what writers wrote.

No longer.

I'm sorry I missed that phase of writing world. Or maybe it's a case of the grass is always greener ... maybe there were inherent problems with the way that system worked. It doesn't really matter because I'm a writer in this day and age. I must deal with what's expected of a writer here and now.

Which means I have to help market my book.

Confession: My journalism degree required not one class in marketing. The only things I've ever sold were McDonald's hamburgers and teen clothing. And I spent most of my check buying cute tops and pants for myself.

But now I have a book. And I want people to know about my book. I want people to read Baby Changes Everything because I think it has some good information in it. Great stories. Encouragement for late-in-life moms.

Yes, my publisher helps sell my book. Yes, I have a publicist who booked me on some radio stations--and I even landed a tv interview.

But there is no rest for the weary writer. You write a book--and you take a deep breath and help market that book! You blog and you speak and you hand out free copies occasionally. You ask other writers what they are doing. If you're like me, you feel like you're never doing enough.
And then, you go to bed, get up and try again the next day.

And for some insane reason ... you find yourself thinking about writing another book.

I am, after all, a writer.

All comments become entries for our January giveaways. For details, go here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Elevator Speeches

One of the best parts of attending a writers conference is the opportunity to sit one-on-one with editors from different publishing houses. For some, this is too intimidating so they avoid the sign up sheets altogether. For others, it's a challenge to pitch an idea; they live for the moment.

The verbal pitch is often referred to as an "elevator speech." A short thirty second snapshot of your book or magazine idea. Here's some things to consider when drafting out your speech. Know your:

IDEA-what is your book about?

FOCUS-who are you wanting to reach? What audience? Try to narrow it down to something specific than "all Christians." Too generic.

SLANT-what angle will you take? What makes your book different or fresh from what is already on the market?

KEY MESSAGE-what do you want readers to takeaway from your book? Know the felt need.

I've heard an elevator speech should be less than 200 words and memorized. That way you're able to speak with confidence even though you are nervous. Think about the most powerful way to start your speech. Come up with a hook question or idea as your lead sentence.

For those of you who are not ready to pitch your book, I encourage you to still book an appointment, two, or three. Use your appointment to introduce yourself and ask the editor what his/her needs are. Listen. Take notes if you want. Ask questions. Be polite. Thank them for their time. Networking is a huge part of writing. Don't let fear stop you from making new relationships.

Any further thoughts of the dreaded elevator speech, post a comment.

And remember your name will be entered in our two giveaways for January for posting a comment.

(On a side note, in honor of Sanctity of Human Life Week, I wrote my personal experience with abortion. Feel free to read it and share the link with anyone who may benefit. Visit Ungrind.org.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Success = con-TENT'

Organizing My Writing Life
When Beth emailed me her 2008 word, I read CON'-tent rather than con-TENT'. To feel con-TENT' and carve out more time to write, I’m de-cluttering CON'-tents that burden me. One weight I wanted to eliminate—before attending the Writing for the Soul Writers Conference—were a few (I’m lying, a lot of) pounds.

After reading How to Lose 21 Pounds in 21 Days, spending $125 for weird ‘whole foods’ at Whole Foods, I took the author’s advice and set up a “working kitchen.” Like soldiers standing in battle formation, a juicer, a steamer, two crock-pots, two blenders, a rice cooker, and a George Foreman rotisserie lined my “working” counter. Little Georgey Foreman grill is tucked in a cabinet.

The Writing Plan

I don’t know about you, but when I write I lose my appetite and all track of time. My plan? Steal hours from cooking to write. Just dish food on a paper plate, eat, type, and toss plate in trash. This plan worked well until I decided to detox for 21 days to return every cell in my body to a newborn state.

Each day, I prepare lunch and dinner immediately after breakfast and chores. The only problem: lunch and dinner was not for me. After swigging down an ounce of Goji juice ($37 a bottle), taking on about three tons of water and downing a wretched, dirt-tasting Berry Green drink ($32 a bottle), my kitchen no longer “worked.”

More Time to Write. Right?

When in a starved-state-of-mind, food stars in every TV commercial and show. Being a researchaholic, I manically googled mouth-watering recipes. To distract food-mood-craziness, I decided to reorganize my kitchen cabinets. By the time my cells returned to a pure state, I would be able to prepare meals quickly.

Kitchen gadgets, pots and enough dishes and glasses to entertain 300 littered my antique dining table, which led me to my hall closet that doubles as a pantry. I decided to reorganize my dishes by color and holidays in the closet and restuff all foodstuffs into the kitchen cabinets.

I wanted lazy susans ($30 each—I needed 6) and pullout shelves (a minimum of 4) at the Container Store. Next thing I know, I’m standing in my pink leather moccasins on two inches of ice buildup on my driveway. My frostbitten feet slip and slide as my jig, miter and circular saws cut shelves and oval-shaped circles from plywood teetering on saw horses. Cost? $0. That night, with wood chips still floating in my eyelids, I completed a pitch sheet for the conference.

Success = con-TENT'

I survived three out of 21 diet days, eliminated 33 gallons of water, gained five pounds, and finished two out of five pitch sheets. But the CON'-tents in my kitchen cabinets and hall closet look great. And I’m con-TENT'.

Monday, January 14, 2008

An Interview with Author Trish Berg

That's me, author Trish Berg and author Jane Jarrell. We were speakers at the annual MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Convention last September. I'm looking forward to seeing Trish again in March when we both are speaking at the Hearts at Home Convention.

Trish has written The Great American Supper Swap and Rattled, which was released this month by Waterbrook.

I had fun asking Trish about her journey along the writing road.

What got you started along The Writing Road?
I was born to write. As a child, I wrote poems and stories. In high school, I loved writing papers. In college, I wrote for college paper--as the sports writer, if you can believe that!
But then I got married. I worked as a marketing manager and put writing away for many years. I saw it as an unneccessary luxury I didn't have time for.
Soon after my first daughter was born in 1995, I joined a MOPS group. Soon I was writing for their local newsletter and then I was submitting articles to MOPS International. I still remember my first published article, "Fighting Over Pretend Apples." It played on MomSense Radio in 2001. That was it. I was hooked.

What is your greatest obstacle to progressing along The Writing Road?
Right now, my greatest obstacle is time. It's the challenge of finding the time to write--at least during the daylight hours. I have one preschooler still at home with me, Riley, who is 5. So I am needed as a mom during the day. I end up writing late at night when the kids are all in bed. It is exhausting. I have been balancing motherhood and 2 part-time jobs for many years now. I've been a part-time college professor, teaching one or two business classes a term, on top of writing.

What keeps you motivated to move along The Writing Road?
The simple joy of writing. My soul needs to write. It's how God made me. I tucked it away for so long that I forgot how much joy writing brings me.
At times when I am into writing a column or a manuscript, I can feel God providing the words as I type. When that happens, it's as if I am home. I feel his presence--and wow! That's my motivation. Being where God wants me to be. Doing what he created me to do.

What's coming up for you next along The Writing Road?
2008 is quite a year for me. I also set big goals. My friends call it moxie. I see it as knocking on big doors and seeing which ones God opens. But again, I do see a lot of rejection along the way and I am learning to grow through that.
I write a weekly newspaper column for The Daily Record in Ohio, and would love to syndicate that. It's one of my big career goals.
The Great American Supper Swap is doing well, but I'll continue working on additional publicity to spread the idea of supper swapping as a simple way to get families back to the dinner table.
Rattled: Surviving Your Baby's First Year without Losing Your Cool is out this month. I can't wait to get this book into the hands of moms everywhere.
I'm working on book two in that mom series--Frazzled: Surviving the Preschool Years without Blowing Your Top, which will be out April 2009.

For more information about Trish, as well as her recipe of the week, free stuff for moms, and a link to her blog, go to http://www.trishberg.com/.

All comments become entries for our January giveaways. For details, go here.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I Confess…I’m a Researchaholic

“If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.”—Wilson Mizner
This quote makes me laugh, because it’s so true. Beth calls me the Research Guru. I love research—it’s a blind date with knowledge and triggers writing ideas.

Have you ever wondered how to avoid plagiarism, evaluate the credibility of your sources, interpret scholarly, expert or secondary sources that disagree with each other, or how to organize and store your research?

In the upcoming months, I will blog about what I’ve learned along the Research Writing Road. Topics will include:

1. I’m a Research Beginner: How Do I Start?
2. Important Tips to Remember Before Beginning My Research
3. Avoiding Plagiarism and Citing Sources
4. Six Common Style Guides
5. Citing Online Sources
6. Citing Discipline-Specific Styles
7. How to Step Out of My Cultural Perspective to Grasp Another Cultural Mindset
8. How Do I Evaluate the Value of News Reports Regarding Current Events
9. Questions to Test Your Sources’ Credibility
10. Questions to Test Your Sources’ Accuracy
11. Questions to Test Your Sources’ ‘Truthiness’ (I love Stephen Colbert’s humor!)
12. How Do I Locate an Original Source?
13. What Can I Do If I Can’t Find the Original Source?
14. How Do I Evaluate Original, Scholarly Sources that Disagree with Each Other?
15. Where Can I Find Hard-To-Find or Out-Of-Print Books?
16. Why Date My Research?
17. How Do I Store Research on My Computer?
18. Finding Common and Out-Of-The-Box Resources
19. Online Research Sources by Topic
20. Online Research Sources Organized by the Inductive Question Method

If you have any research tips, please share them with us.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pitch or Proposal?

When you go to a writing conference hoping to sell an editor on your book idea, do you use a book proposal or a pitch sheet?

Have you even heard of a pitch sheet?

I'm teaching a workshop next month on pitch sheets, and I'm always surprised at how many writers have never, ever heard of them. I'm on a personal mission to change that!

For some of my thoughts on pitch sheets, check my Writer's Perspective column here.
For the sake of blog-brevity, I'll tell you what a pitch sheet is and why I think it's better than a book proposal for editor appointments.

What it is: A pitch sheet is a one-page condensation of your book proposal. It's taking the important parts of a proposal--your synopsis, your author information, the need for your book--and distilling it down to one page.

Why it is better than a book proposal: Most editor appointments are 15 minutes long. You tell me: Can an editor really take a good look at your book proposal in 15 minutes and listen to you sell your book idea? I don't think so. Why not hand an editor a concise, compelling pitch sheet that says, "Ask for my book proposal!" While you're verbally pitching your book, the editor can take notes, ask questions--engage you in conversation. Isn't that better than sitting there while an editor pages through your book proposal?

Yes, all books require book proposals. But I think too many writers are skipping over an important step by not crafting pitch sheets for their books. Leave those proposals at home when you go to a conference. Most editors won't ask for a copy of it anyways because they don't want to load their suitcases down with all that paper. If they want to see a proposal, they'll ask you to mail it to them.

Take that oh-so-precious proposal and distill it down to a one page pitch sheet. It's really all you need to sell your book idea.

All comments become entries for our January giveaways. For details, go here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Follow Your Writing Passion

My writing road has been bumpy, long, winding, and painful. In my former life (married, before kids), I sacrificed my career goals to work in television to support my husband’s ministry. After turning down my dream job opportunity, God redirected me to publishing where my creativity flourished.

When my husband abandoned our marriage, I worked for religious nonprofits. I fell into a pattern: I invested my heart and creative skills to advance others’ goals. More often than not—with little thanks and low pay.

As a solo parent raising two sons without benefit of court-ordered child support, I worked three jobs. When my nest emptied, I invested my heart in another nonprofit led by people passionate about their mission.

For years, my Mother had encouraged, “Strike out on your own. Write!”

Didn’t Mom understand? Freelancing paints a grim, green-free picture—starving writer.

To begin writing regularly outside the work environment, I started Inkspired, a weekly writers critique group. I wanted deadlines, accountability and encouragement.

The longer I worked for people going after their passions, the more dissatisfied I felt not pursuing mine. I could no longer sell my writer’s heart to the lowest bidder just because they claim a higher calling.

Desperation fueled determination. My soul calling refused to stay dammed up. I felt driven to find a way to invest in my writing life, which led me to an unusual financial door. I care for a friend’s disabled child.

My special friend and I laugh and enjoy each other. Even though my charge does not comprehend my words, I frequently express, “Thank you for supporting me.” Now I am finally embracing my writing life—fulltime.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Tuesday's Tips On Conferences

Since it's a new year, many writers start planning, saving, and preparing for a writer's conference. Beth, Scoti, and I are no exception. We will attend the Writing for the Soul conference starting on January 31st.

To find a writers conference in your area, visit Writers Digest.They have an extensive list by month, state, and genre.

Here's some basics:

* Bring business cards. Networking is a huge part of your conference experience.

* Dress professional. Make a good first impression.

* To save money, room with someone. Even if you don't know anyone attending, there are usually options to have a roommate or two.

* Share your book ideas. Editors don't have time to look at your entire manuscript, instead bring a query, proposal, or a pitch sheet. If they're interested, they will ask you to mail them your proposal.

* Be ready to talk about what you write. That's often the first question you will be asked among writers.

* Organize yourself. Declutter your purse or briefcase. Have your articles, devotions, or proposals separated in manila folders. Sample writing helps editors see your style. Bring your best work.

* Study the program beforehand. Visit the websites of the publishers and agents attending. Know who publishes what. Know which workshops you are interested in.

* Grab publisher catalogs and writers guidelines. These are valuable resources to have on hand when you return home.

* Send thank you cards to editors and agents. No need for fancy gifts, just a simple card will do.

Did we miss your favorite tip? If so, please tell us.

Are you planning to attend a conference in 2008. Why or why not?

All comments will be entered into our drawing for two giveaways.

(Next Tuesday, we'll talk about your "elevator speech." How to share your ideas with an editor in thirty seconds and how to make the most out of your 15 minute appointments. And why you should meet with an editor even if you don't have something to pitch.)

Monday, January 7, 2008

What's the Word (Again)?

Linguists: 'Subprime' is word of the year

'Tis the season to choose the word of the year. The American Dialect Association selected 'subprime' as 2007's Word of the Year at it's annual convention.

While acknowleding that 'subprime' has been a word used by bankers for awhile, a spokesman for the group said now everyone is talking about 'subprime,' which means a risky or less than ideal loan, mortgage or investment. People are using the word creatively to mean "below the best," saying things like, "I am going to subprime my test."

So what other words were considered for 2007's Word of the Year?

  • Facebook--as a noun, verb or adjective. (Just how do you facebook somebody?)
  • Green--denoting environmental concern. This word topped the associations 2007 Most Useful category.
  • Googleganger--a person with your name who shows up when you google yourself. This is a verbal twist on the idea that you have a doppleganger, an identical copy of yourself. And do you know I googled myself and found a Beth K. Vogt published in some engineering journal?

I admit I was caught off guard that 'subprime' showed up as the Word of the Year. Any thoughts? Any recommendations?

All comments become entries for our January giveaways. For details, go here.

Friday, January 4, 2008

New Year, New Goals

If you're like me, a new year brings a fresh perspective, the desire to look ahead and set new goals.

What will you write this year? Your first novel? Articles? Will you ramp up your writing and query more? or focus on your book idea? Will you create a website as a writer? Or is something more pressing on your plate causing you to write less?

What are your 2008 writing goals?

Pick one and let us know.

Beth, Scoti and I are attending the Writing for the Soul conference in Colorado Springs starting January 31st. So our first writing goal involves preparing for the conference only a few weeks away. Praying about what to take: an article or two, a few devotionals, a pitch sheet for a book idea.

And let's not forget the questions, "What will I wear? Did I wear that last year?"

All comments are entries for our two giveaways. See yesterday's post for details.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Year, New Contests

We promised more contests in 2008, and we stand by our promises!

We'll start with the good stuff: I'm going to make this a Double Contest.

Two ways to win. Two prizes to win.


Here's what you can win:

1. A copy of Writing Motherhood by Lisa Garrigues


2. A year's subscription to Writer's Digest.

Here's how you can win:

1. Post comments during the month of January (This is the "regular" way to win).


2. Tell others about The Writing Road Blog. When they post a comment, make sure they add a P.S. saying that you told them to drop by! (They can use your blogger name. We'll find you.)

Let the contest begin!! It's always fun to read your posts!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Can I Start the New Year Over?

Today I drove my daughter Hannah to her new school campus about eight miles from home. Her former campus closed before Christmas due to mold issues. When we arrived, we wandered empty halls, climbed stairs and finally found Hannah's new classroom on the fifth floor. No teacher, no students. Ten minutes early. People are probably trying to find there way, I thought. A teacher popped her head in and said, "School starts tomorrow. Today's an inservice day."

So much for my ten-year-old's excitement and my day of productivity. I planned to workout at the Y, blog, and finish two writing assignments due tomorrow and Friday. Instead I skipped the Y and turned into a ball of stress.

We drove back home. I felt like an idiot. What mom doesn't check when her child starts back to school? I just assumed that since my high schooler started back today so did my fifth grader(they attend the same charter school). Not.

So I start 2008 a bit off track. Hope to still get my writing done. Found a playdate for Hannah. Maybe, if I'm real productive, the girls can swim and I can workout at the Y this afternoon.

It'll all work out--if I have the right attitude. It's amazing how quickly my mood can change based on my circumstances. God, help me walk in your ways.

(PS. Soon we will announce our January giveaway. Coming soon, we welcome our fellow writing comrade, Scoti Domeij. By next week, we should be in full swing with our blog.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Word for 2008

I don't do New Year's resolutions.

After too many years of making and breaking an annual list of wills and won'ts, I found something I like a lot better.

I focus on a word for the year.

In 2006 my word was gratitude. That's a good word for a gal with a glass-half empty perspective. That year, I posted a sign with the words "In Everything, Give Thanks" in a central location in my house. I also kept an (almost) daily list of what I was thankful for.

In 2007, my word was simplify. Life became ridiculously simple when an extended illness caused me to prioritize my life. Things that were oh-so-necessary became not so. Life was about recovery. And being thankful again for family and friends.

So, what's my word for 2008?

Content--as in, satisfied, enjoying a sense of well-being.

I picked content as my 2008 word after seeing a hand-lettered sign that said, "Be happy with what you have."

That thought set me back on my heels--challenging me to stop always wanting more things, more stuff. Sometimes I'm so busy window-shopping, I forget to enjoy what I have.

So, writing comrades, anybody else want to pick a word for 2008?