Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Writing Contest Judge--The Who and the Why

Who? Me? Judge a Writing Contest?

Imagine this scenario:

You’ve been reading critically for years. You’ve picked up many a book and thought, “I can write better than this.” Then, you tried writing and found out that it’s a little harder than it looks. So you’ve been studying the craft of writing, and you understand the basics. Your local or online writing organization is asking for judges for the annual writing contest. (You are a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, your local writers group or a critique group, aren’t you?)

You're having coffee with your friend, who is a published author. She surprises you by suggesting,“You should be a first-round judge.”

Your mouth drops open and you search for words. “But . . . but I’ve never done anything like that before.”

She smiles. “There’s always a first time. Remember how nervous you were to hand me your first chapter to critique? You’ve come a long way since then.”

Your mouth is dry and your breathing feels a little shallow. “I don’t know . . .”

“Remember why I took my daughter away last weekend?” She waits for your nod, then laughs. “Yeah, we had the birds-and-bees talk. I didn’t think I could do it, but you reassured me that we’d both survive. And we did. Thanks.”

You laugh, feeling more relaxed. “I don’t think many parents like giving that talk.” You look into your mentor’s eyes. “You really think I’m ready to judge?”

She nods and pats your hand. “Absolutely.”

Qualifications of a first-round judge:

--Understands the basics like POV, grammar, pacing, genre, character development, and continuity.


--Follows contest rules.

Two of the Best Reasons to Judge:

--To give back to the writing community.

---To increase your writing skills. You often learn how to improve your writing when you spot mistakes others have made.

When your local or online writing organization asks for first-round judges, don’t think of reasons why you can’t. Be quick to volunteer. Sure, it’s intimidating, but you’ll learn on the job. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.

~Roxanne Sherwood

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Book Review: The Noticer

"I notice things about situations and people that produce perspective. Remember, young man, experience is not the best teacher. Other people's experience is the best teacher."—Jones, An elderly man with white hair, of indiscriminate age and race, wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and leather flip flops carrying a battered old suitcase.

Andy Andrews

The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective

176 pp. Thomas Nelson Publishers

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

The Noticer, a self-help book set in a fiction setting, came highly recommended to me by several readers that I respect. When people hype a book, it sets up my expectations. I anticipated it to be a page-turner until the last page.

For me, it wasn't.

However, from a writer's perspective, the book is an easy read and creatively constructed. I enjoyed the author's vocabulary and the stories and pictures his words painted in my mind. Flowing seamlessly from chapter to chapter, every chapter and story provides a nugget of wisdom for a particular problem facing a character.

Chapter 1 made me wonder if The Noticer was a type of takeoff on The Shack.

Chapters 2 & 3: The advice that Jones, a character who turns up in individual's lives when they are struggling, synthesizes The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Matedown for a couple on the verge of divorce.

After reading the first three chapters and making notes, I set the book aside to attend to my life. The book did not motivate me to pick it back up again until a few hours before deadline for this review.

Chapter 4 is a lesson on self-talk, fear and worry. Jones tells Worrywart Walker "Forty percent of the things you worry about will never occur…. Thirty percent of the things you worry about are things that have already happened—in the past. And all the worry in the world ain't gonna change what's already happened, right? Twelve percent of all worries have to do with needless imaginings about our health. My leg hurts. Do I have cancer? My head hurts. Do I have a tumor? My daddy died of a heart attack when he was sixty, and I'm fifty-nine…. Ten percent would be petty-little-nothing worries about what other people think. So if my math is right, that leaves eight percent…. Eight percent for legitimate concerns … these legitimate concerns are things that can actually be dealt with. Most people spend so much time fearing the things that are never going to happen or can't be controlled that they have no energy to deal with the few things they can actually handle (pp. 54, 55)."

Chapter 5: Jones expresses to unmarried, college-age students, who call him "Garcia," how to determine if someone would make a suitable life partner.

Chapter 6: Jones helps a widowed woman realize that her life has meaning. Generations yet unborn would be shaped by her actions. "No matter your age, physical condition, financial situation, color, gender, emotional state, or belief… everything you do, every move you make, matters to all of us—and forever," (p. 91).

Chapter 7: Although, Jones seems to represent a wise, Jesus-figure moving among men and women, this chapter reinforces a theme running throughout the book, "you can do whatever you want to do. You can accomplish whatever you want to accomplish [emphases mine]."

Before I read The Noticer, I asked a fellow struggler on the road of life to read it and provide feedback on the book.

A Fellow Struggler's Thoughts on The Noticer

"The chapters are vignettes of human interactions with the basic plot being the mythical figure, Jones, imparting wisdom, or perspective, to other people.

The perspective the author, Andy Andrews, dishes up via his "Jones" character is insightful, timeless, and often fresh.

The last chapter sums up his theme: "In desperate times, much more than anything else, folks need perspective." This perspective, Andrews explains, leads to calm, clear thinking, new ideas, and ultimately "the bloom . . . of an answer."

How true!

But something feels slightly misleading to me in this theme. It's more what he doesn't say than what he does say. Yes, we all need perspective when we are mired in our difficulties. Someone wiser than us who connects us with perspective is a true gift to us.

What bothers me is the premise that life can be figured out and conquered by me IF I will just apply myself . . . if I will avail myself of the timeless wisdom in books like Andrew's. It's partial truths like this one that are ubiquitous these days. Books, CD's, Videos, TV, and popular guru-speakers all trumpet their "secrets."

The teaching of all this self-help information is this: I can manage my life. There are "how-to's" to be learned and applied that will get me over the hump, out of the crisis, on to the life I dream about. What I need is the information or insight that will give me perspective. (I can have what I want…)

It's our modern day remix of the Garden. I can do this, God—on my own. It's also terribly Western because of our financial means to navigate our own lives.

I continually come back to the one truth that anchors me and gives me a foundation for a meaningful, sane life. The truth isn't perspective, insight or a secret. It's a person, a personality—it's Jesus. When I call out to Him in my heart, He answers. He gives me direction—sometimes using books like The Noticer—most powerfully in scripture.

Most of all, He gives me His presence. I am not alone. He doesn't drop a clue down on me and then leave. He is with me—in me—every moment of every day. Jesus is the "secret" our Christian gurus are tiptoeing around these days. He's out there, but not really useful for anything tangible. And that is what I take issue with. I've found EVERY human resource inferior to Jesus.

I hate it that we hide Him…and call ourselves 'Christian.'"

Chapters 8–10 and The Reader's Guide

Chapter 8: It seemed to me that the story reduces The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in all Your Relationshipsto a couple of insightful paragraphs.

Chapter 9: Andy, a main character, is rather shocked to see Jones as a shape-shifter. Jones' familiar face was "motionless—changing—moving—and yet it was not. This old-man face that had caused me in the past to casually wonder whether it was of Anglo or Africa descent shifted visibly before me. As I thought of him as "Garcia," he appeared quite obviously Hispanic, yet when "Chen" came to my mind, there was an old Asian man before me (p. 127)." At the end of this chapter, Jones takes Andy back to the place where Jones found Andy—homeless, living under a pier. Jones reaches out again to another young, homeless man and the cycle of providing encouraging perspective to someone begins again.

Chapter 10: Jones disappears, leaving behind his familiar suitcase. People, whose lives Jones' touched, gather around the suitcase, talking about the difference he made in their lives. They open the mysterious suitcase in which Jones has left them a note, which concludes the book.

A Reader's Guide provides questions for each chapter that can be used for group discussion or personal reflection.

The author weaves story, relevant problems, and advice together. Since I assumed that Jones represented Jesus, it seemed a little weird to hear the Jesus character quoting studies. The book, a short and easy read, would appeal to the ADHD short-attention spanned, Internet scanning generation.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Quick List of 50 Writing Tools

I'm learning from my writing comrade, Scoti, that there's a real advantage to trolling the Internet for writing information. Granted, some of the links are worthless rabbit trails and advertising dead ends. But I've watched Scoti unearth some valuable information--and I decided to do some cybersleuthing of my own.

In fairly short order, I stumbled upon Poynter Online. The Google blurb said Poynter Online "helps journalists do their jobs better and to serve their communities ... and provides useful tools ...

One of the first tools I discovered was writing coach Roy Clark's "Fifty Writing Tools: Quick Tips." Clark suggests:

Use this quick list of Writing Tools as a handy reference. Copy it and keep it in your wallet or journal, or near your desk or keyboard. Share it and add to it.

Categories include:

Nuts and Bolts
Special Effects
Useful Habits

A number of the tools are also available via podcast. Here are one tool example from each category:

Nuts and Bolts:
Begin sentences with subjects and verbs.
Make meaning early, then let weaker elements branch to the right.

Special Effects:
Prefer the simple over the technical.
Use shorter words, sentences and paragraphs at points of complexity.

Work from a plan.
Index the big parts of your work.

Useful Habits:
Draft a mission statement for your work.
To sharpen your learning, write about your writing.

As the photo at the beginning of this blog suggests, Clark also has a book, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, from which this quick list is culled.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Are you a novelist?"

There's a huge temptation to stay silent about writing fiction. At what point do you become a novelist, while typing “Chapter One” or “The End?”

One day, while homeschooling six children, I decided to write a novel. I had earned a B.S. in journalism and had a life-long love affair with books, so I thought I knew what I was doing. Turns out, I didn’t. I really had no idea how to write a scene, let alone chapter after chapter of the critters. I’d never heard of writing craft books. I thought you just used your creativity and muddled through until you held a completed manuscript. When I attended my first writing conference to meet an editor or agent, I learned that the conferences also taught writing courses. I invested in a shelf full of books on various aspects of fiction and began studying the craft. But during all those years, I told no one that I was writing. (By the way, if it take five years to write a novel, you’re most NOT writing one.)

When I met a NICU nurse, I made a mental note to interview her later. But she moved, so later never came. Then, I moved and the same thing happened with all the other people I’d intended to interview for my novel. The reason I missed opportunities to interview these people who came into my life was because I didn't want to tell them why I was interested. I wasn’t ready to admit that I was a novelist. Maybe, I wasn’t sure I was one. I had no way to gauge whether I'd be successful or not, and I didn't want to answer all the questions that were sure to follow.

Eventually, my family knew I was writing. One night, I stayed up late to finish editing a chapter for a contest I was entering. When I’d been in bed for an hour, my five-year-old woke me because he’d had a bad dream. I ended up missing church, and my children told everyone that I stayed home because of the contest. No! It was because of my child. But they’d told people about my writing, and the news was out.

The flip side to revealing my secret life is I’ve generated interest in my novel. Only problem is people are asking to buy a book I haven’t sold. I admit that I’m an unpublished novelist. Now, I’m often asked, “How’s the novel coming along?” and “Do you have a publisher yet?” Many days, those questions aren’t fun to answer. But when I’m asked, “If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?” There’s an easy answer, “Novelist.” I’m living my dream. (Except, of course, I’d like to add “published” in front of “novelist.”)

Have you told more than your closest friends or relatives that you’re writing fiction? If you have, when did you announce your news? If you haven’t, at what point will you admit you’re on the writing road?

~Roxanne Sherwood

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tools You Can Use: Automatically Record Source Details

"Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit."--William Pollard

Make the Internet Your Personal Research Database

The Internet offers writers the ability to conduct powerful research. Do you struggle organizing all your sources so they are readily available to write endnotes or a bibliography or even worse, when your publisher requests your original research sources? Now you don't have to rely on your memory or photocopy a ream of documents. I've bookmarked Web pages, saved the Web page (HTML file) on my computer, and cut-and-pasted the text into a text file or Microsoft Word document. But the main drawback of storing my research in these ways is organizing and managing my research and sources.

How do you collect, organize, and keep information for endnotes or bibliographies? Cogitum Co-Citer, a content organizer, automatically records quoted text, its title, the URL, and the date you collected it. Often, I've collected research, then when I went to use it in an article or chapter, I can't remember how I wanted to use the information. Co-Citer lets you add a comment as to how this information may be useful in a book proposal or how you want to incorporate it into a chapter or title. Plus, it allows you to create folders for specific writing projects.

How to Use Cogitum Co-Citer

Collect Breaking News

Don't have time to keep up with breaking news? Select a text or a fragment of the text, put it into the collection, and return later. Create special folders for the news agencies and assign descriptive comments. Co-citer stores the complete text of articles, text fragments, or just headlines. Because Cogitum Co-Citer stores the Internet address where the text was found, you can easily link back to the full news story at any time.

Collect Aphorisms

If you find a quote you want to remember (or return to), store it using Cogitum Co-Citer. You can create folders for aphorisms according to authors, subjects, or Internet source.

Conduct Research

Writing often requires research. Cogitum Co-Citer creates a syllabus of texts you read. Because the program allows you to create and manage folders, you can create special folders or subfolders according to the source, author, or point of view. When your publisher needs documentation for your sources, collected texts can be sent via e-mail.

Cogitum Co-Citer Features

  • Create and manage new collections
  • Create and manage folders for organizing texts
  • Add comments about the grabbed text
  • Sort records according to various criteria
  • Follow the link associated with the grabbed text just by clicking on it
  • Import/export collections to work with them at other computers, to split a large collection into smaller ones, or to combine small collections into a larger one
  • Publish the collection as a Web page
  • Send the collection by e-mail
  • Control how the grabbed texts and information are displayed
  • Search the collection
  • Print texts from a collection
  • Delete grabbed texts from the collection

Thursday, April 16, 2009

See Your Plot’s Timeline

"Man is eminently a storyteller. His search for a purpose, a cause, an ideal, a mission and the like is largely a search for a plot and a pattern in the development of his life story—a story that is basically without meaning or pattern."—Eric Hoffer

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

Does your novel have an awesome cast of characters, yet you're still struggling to figure out the plot's timeline? Here are a few tools to plot out your time line—visually.

TimeToast: Interactive Timeline Creator

TimeToast lets you create timelines in a snap. You can add events for different calendar dates with pictures and text descriptions and then view your timeline.

TimeToast Features

  • Share your timelines with critique group members
  • Create an unlimited number of timelines
  • Embed the timeline on your website
  • FREE

Timerime: Flash-based Timeline Maker

Timerime helps you to create, view, and compare timelines.

Timerime Features

  • Create comprehensive multimedia timelines with pictures, text and videos
  • Let your critique group view your timeline or share theirs
  • Embed timelines on other web pages
  • FREE


Timeanddate.com deals with everything related to time and date. You can create a calendar for the year(s) in which your novel is set. Need to know if on a certain day there was a full moon? A word of warning—the website creator's organizational thinking for the site is a mystery to me.

Time and Date Features

  • Convert time zones and run countdown to a particular date
  • Create country-based custom calendars
  • Includes sun and moon calculators

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Truth—Stranger than Fiction

"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is, because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't.—Mark Twain

"Well, isn't that special." —Church Lady, Saturday Night Live

Church Ladies with Typewriters Strike Back

They're baaaaack—church bulletin bloopers. Just more proof that you cannot trust spellchecker.

Food and Fellowship

The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.

Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM—prayer and medication to follow.

The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.

The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.

Music Ministry

A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.

Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.

At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.

This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.

Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

Children's and Youth Ministry

For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.

The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.


Don't let worry kill you off—let the Church help.

Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.

Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.

Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. is done.

Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say 'Hell' to someone who doesn't care much about you.

Volunteers Needed

The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.

Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.

Say What?

The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on the Water.' The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'

Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.

The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new campaign slogan last Sunday: 'I Upped My Pledge—Up Yours.'

Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Make Your Writing Time More Productive

"Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back."—Harvey MacKay

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

For writers, time is money. So…how much time do you spend writing each day, each week, each month? Do you want to be more productive? The tools below will help you determine how you really spend your writing time. Choose the tool that best suits you.


Ever wondered how much you spend on different writing projects? myHours.com, a free easy-to-use, web-based time tracking and management tool, tracks the time you spend while working on various projects.



  • Create projects, tasks and generate reports
  • Calculate costs required to complete a project
  • Supports different date and currency formats
  • Email comprehensive task and project reports


Want to manage your writing time? Toggl, a free online time tracker tool, helps writers and freelancers manage and also time their working hours.



  • Put a time-tracker on your tasks/projects
  • Add a billing feature to timed projects
  • Invite other users to monitor project time and billing details
  • Export project time reports to PDF or CSV (Excel) files
  • Timer continues to run even if browser is closed
  • Multi-Lingual: English, Estonian, German and Spanish
  • Can be run as a desktop program, but still requires internet connection to access Toggl server


Want to measure the exact amount of time you spend on a writing project? Tasktimer times and measures the total working hours for each writing project or task over an extended period.

Tasktimer Features

  • Start and stop timer clock as many times as you want.
  • View tasks lists by current month, week, or day.
  • Add comments and generate reports (details) for each task-timed task.
  • Export task list along with the timer reports to CSV (Excel), OPML and RSS formats.

Track How Much Time You Waste Online?

Kick your internet time wasting addiction. It's too easy to procrastinate writing by spending more time online researching, surfing, or catching up with Facebook friends. How often do you kick yourself and think, I could have spent that time writing, writing, writing. These tools help track your online time and even provide reports to help you decide how to make better use of your time.


Are you a social networking junkie? Set LeechBlock to block time-wasting websites from loading in Firefox during your writing time. This productivity tool will help you avoid sucking the life out of your writing day, by blocking time-consuming sites for the specified hours that you stipulate.

Time Tracker

Do you spend too much time on Firefox? Do you open tabs faster than you can close them? Can't meet your daily word count? Keep track of how much you browse with TimeTracker.

This simple, yet effective tool, tracks the amount of time you're browsing around.


Where are you spending your time online? Facebook? Blogs? Google? Rescue Time, a web-based time management and analytics tool, helps writers who want to be more productive. It provides a bird's eye view of the sites where you spend the most time. Rescue Time allows you to set goals, like "spend less than an hour per day on Facebook or blogs" or "spend at least 2 hours a day writing." It also sends you a daily summary of how you're doing on those goals (via RSS) or receive real-time alerts when you exceed a goal target.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tools You Can Use: Organize Your Library

"To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul".— Cicero

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

How do you organize your books? Mine are by topic on my bookshelves. BeepMyStuff lets you create a personal library without much effort. All you do is scan the book's barcode using your webcam.


Features Include

  • Barcode driven personal library of your movies, books and games.
  • Automatically obtains book details from Amazon.
  • Option to catalog the item manually.
  • Free and easy to use.

Benefits of Beep My Stuff

  • Creates an online library of all your DVDs, Blu-Ray movies, CDs, video games, and books
  • Share your library with friends and view their library collection
  • Records your library to show your insurer
  • View your library as a list or thumbnails

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

You might be a fiction writer, if:

--A friend is telling you her terrible news, and it’s so bizarre that you can barely say the words “I’m so sorry” because you’re concentrating on details in hopes of using this incident in the future. I’ll share my most recent case, but I warn you, I’m going to find a way to use this, so don’t steal my story.

My friend’s car is making strange rattling sounds, so she takes it to the shop. The mechanic opens the hood and finds the engine is filled with acorns. He blows out the nuts and tells her to liberally dust the engine and her driveway with cayenne pepper. But he warns her to avoid the air conditioning coils, or she’ll send cayenne pepper through the system. Another customer's vehicle became a nut burial ground, only he didn’t catch it in time. Squirrels ate through the engine’s wires causing more than $4,000 damage.

Is your imagination beginning to create havoc in a character’s life? Isn’t this great conflict—as long as it isn’t happening to you? Of course, you’re sorry that it’s happening to someone you know. (You’re only glad you heard about it.)

--In a middle of a sermon, you begin to take notes. Not just for your own edification, but for your character's.

--You overhear a catchy bit of dialogue and grab a napkin to record the phrase before you forget it.

--You’re looking at your children, smiling and nodding at what you hope are appropriate places, but your mind is still mulling the scene that you were working on before you were interrupted.

--You hate to waste any conflict, argument or inconvenience in your life. You don’t relish experiencing difficulties, but if you have to go through them, at least let them be useful for your fiction. I’m always thankful that my life isn’t worse; I can always find someone in more difficult circumstances. But I’ve had so much adversity since becoming widowed that I’ve started making a list of conflicts to throw at my characters. Poor darlings. They have no idea what they’re in for!

--You meet someone new and strike up a conversation. When they mention an unusual occupation, you begin to casually interview them.

That’s my list so far. What are the ways that you know you’re a fiction writer?

~Roxanne Sherwood

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Creativity Killers

"From cradle to grave, the pressure is on: BE NORMAL. Those who somehow side-step that pressure and let their genius show are customarily ridiculed, reviled or otherwise discountenanced." —Gordon MacKenzie, Orbiting the Giant Hairball.

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

Sometimes it's nice to know that other creative souls understand the discrimination I've felt through the years. 1 Corinthians 12 states, "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons" Yet, often organized religion harbors and promotes intolerance. Their internal political machines demand that members march in lock step herd mentality with their theology, their beliefs, their mantras, and their causes.

How Often Have You Heard?

  • "You're not a fit. Maybe you need to leave." (Translation: Or we will get rid of you, even if we have to slander or lie about you.")
  • "You're rebellious." (Translation: What's wrong with you? We can't control you. Why can't you follow our man-made rules?)
  • "You're too edgy." (Translation: You're too honest. Our most strident followers don't do vulnerable.)
  • "You're a loose cannon." (Translation: Your questions or insight make us too uncomfortable. We're comfortable with the status quo.)

No Brain. No Drain. No Gain.

Believing their actions were for my own good, many religionists shot cannonballs through my heart, tearing gaping holes in my self-esteem, calling and faith. Too often religious folks prefer to discard those with whom they disagree rather than pursuing biblical resolution of conflicts, reconciling differences of opinion, or respectfully agreeing to disagree. Many religious people claim they do not believe in divorce, but in reality, they do. In defense of their theological, philosophical, or ideological preferences, it's easier and more expedient to build impenetrable, unforgiving walls to toss relationships over and out of their lives.

And we wonder why some form opinions that Christians are hypocrites.

For years, I've asked myself these questions, If Christ is so powerful, why doesn't he change the people who claim to know him?Why do religious people prefer religion to relationship with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and their fellow man? I think the answer is simple.

Fear of commitment, intimacy, and being real. Pride makes it too difficult to allow Christ to recreate us in his image. Too much open heart surgery.

Danger! Are You a Conformity Hazard?

G.K. Chesterton observed, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."

Critical and creative thinking is discouraged and demeaned. It's a threat.

To what? Some claim to the truths of God's Word.

Why disturb beliefs in pet theologies? Why encourage people to think richly and deeply about their faith, when you can cling to rigidity. Black—White. Wrong—Right? When we close our eyes, we're all the same.

Sinful. Accepted. Loved. Forgiven. Gifted. Empowered.

Cloning vs. Body Building

A religious organization attracted creative, thoughtful people of faith. Yet many creatives did not feel supported or understood. Some left discouraged, stripped of their confidence in the way God created them to function and contribute within the body of Christ. Others lost their faith. The grinding corporate political infrastructure commanded allegiance to the founder—to the point of idolatry. Without question, the head honcho's views were correct—always.

Can anyone say "cult?" And some wonder why there are no C.S. Lewis or G. K. Chesterton's today.

No human, I repeat, no individual's beliefs are correct all the time. Not mine. Not yours. Not anyone's. Blind holes occur in every one's judgment. If the scholars are unable to agree about theology, what makes me think I'm "the" expert?

I wondered, Why do some leaders want clones, instead of mentees? Not one person is spiritually-identical to another. My spiritual DNA longs to replicate my Creator. Why not adopt a win-win attitude towards encouraging everyone's God-given spiritual and creative passions? How much better equipped would the corporate body of Christ be able to reach into all aspects of culture with God's good news? Enclosing the God-breathed creativity of others within a rigid theological and ideological grid is about as effective as herding cats.

Give Your Creativity Life

Writing provides a safe, quiet, and hidden place to express what I think, feel, and observe. After I survived the hurts inflicted by religionists, I became stronger in the Lord. I no longer believe naysayers. I study God's Word so I can ignore the roar of the herd and hear God's breath in my heart, soul, mind, and writing. I also have learned to surround my heart with friends who understand and encourage who God created me to be. Our friendships are more than cheering sections. I can count on them to hold me accountable. Gloria has cheered me on for years. And Beth has been my Velveteen Rabbit. Both are creativity healers.

Who has trampled or shamed your God-given abilities? What do you need to do to overcome the "shoulds" to break from the herd?

Friday, April 3, 2009

FREE Online Character Building Workshop

"Difficulty attracts the man of character because it is in embracing it that he realizes himself."—Charles de Gaulle

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

Develop Living, Breathing Beings

You can't change the winds of these hard times, but you can adjust your sails and learn to sail your writing ship. The Writers Village provides a FREE independent study online Character Building Workshop using online questionnaires. Fill out the forms and answer questions to discover your characters on a more in-depth level and the roles they play in your story

Other Resources

Build a character wall.

Character Building: Bio sheets.

Character Building: Basing characters on real people.

Character Building: 12 questions.

Character Building: Building a character using multiple perspectives.

Character Building: Brainstorming

Character Building: Interview

Character Building: Biography

Character Building: Possessions

Character Building: A Day in the Life

Character Building: Defining Characters By Their Roles

The Snowflake Method

Tips on Naming Your Characters

Character Name Generator

Creating Characters Made Easy

Character Creation Worksheets

Character Building Worksheet

A Character Creation How-to


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No pain, no gain. Growing as a writer.

Some people become writers after tossing a book aside and boldly proclaiming, “I can write better than that.” Other people write for months or years before timidly showing their work to anyone. No matter what type of personality you have, at some point, you’ve got to take risks to become a successful writer.

Here are steps to increase your opportunities for success as a writer:

If you’ve never shown your work to anyone, find a critique partner or group.

If you’re in a writers group, you can teach a workshop. (You don’t need to be the most experienced writer in the group. You only need to focus on one aspect of craft such as point of view or setting. Research on the Internet, with books and through other writers. Present your material. Not only will you have served your fellow writers but you will have learned more than if you’d only sat in the audience.)

If you’ve polished the same chapter several times, enter a contest to get feedback from professionals.

If you’ve won a few contests, you can become a first round judge.

If you attend any sort of community or church group that has speakers, try to present a topic to the group. You’ll develop public speaking skills, which is something every writer needs. It doesn’t have to be the keynote speech. Start small and work your way up.

Write an article on one aspect of writing craft. Your research will strengthen your own writing. Now look for a place to publish the piece—either online or in print media. Maybe you can guest on an established blog or perhaps it’s time to start your own.

All of these things can be intimidating. (Believe me, I know. I’ve done each one of them with fear and trembling.) If you wait until you’re comfortable, you’re going to miss many—if not most—opportunities. So take inventory of your writing. Are you at the same place as a writer that you were in last year? Have you grown as a writer or are you stagnant? If you haven’t grown, what is one step you can take right now?

Don’t procrastinate one more day. Meet that goal. Each step moves you farther along the writing road.

~Roxanne Sherwood