Recently released, Operation Birthday Celebration—A Journey to the Manger, offers a fun Christian alternative to a popular book on a spying elf. An additional handbook, overflowing with ideas for activities and teaching moments, accompanies this colorful, interactive book.
One of those activities includes crafting the main characters, Jesse the shepherd boy, and his feisty lamb, Bongo. The author provides easy instructions as well as directions for setting up scenarios and innovative activities. Each day of December, as they help Jesse search for his missing lamb, children come closer to the manger and the true meaning of Christmas. Everything correlates with Biblical truths and ends with a birthday celebration for baby Jesus.
Autumn is crunch time for author Angelika Martin. Because she personalizes each storybook with the child’s name, city, and state, orders for the book roll in now through mid- November in order to ensure a December 1 delivery. However, Martin has kindly taken a few moments to answer a few questions about her writing journey.
Share with us how your writing journey began.
I began writing out of necessity while studying drama and theater in college. Thirty-eight years ago, a scarcity of published faith-based material inspired me to write short stories, skits, and scripts for class assignments, which then led to directing.
The writing continued as I found myself surrounded by children while working as a community youth director at a military base in Germany and serving in other positions—Sunday school teacher, vacation Bible school teacher, YMCA summer camp director, and private Christian school teacher. Most of my writing coincided with a vocation, but I came to write Operation Birthday Celebration as a gift to my grandsons and because I didn’t want the Christmas holidays to be hijacked by an elf!
Has your publishing experience been a good one?
But of course! Romans 8:28!
The journey has been a process. God opened a door for me when a writer friend shared my manuscript with her own literary agent. Even though [the agency] didn’t usually represent children’s books, the agent was very excited about the book’s potential and approached me.
After a year of knocking on doors and having another Christmas come and go, we agreed to part ways so that I could pursue Christmas with a test group—which meant self-publishing at least initially.
I needed to get a book in print for my twelve test families. The minister of my church, a self-published author, suggested I check into LuLu.com. I was extremely pleased with the quality of their printed products and was very confident I would have a quality children’s book.
Any special resources you recommend to beginning writers and illustrators?
Beginning writers…write! Get your words on paper and then become a student and learn how to hone your craft. Attend a writer’s conference, read blogs, join a critique group and find a mentor.
Even though I haven’t done it for my illustrating, I think it would be much the same! This age of technology is amazing. I spent hours looking at the work of other artists, researching techniques, and even watched YouTube videos. I became a huge Copic Marker fan!
I was also not afraid to ask for help. God led me to a gifted young lady who took my illustrations and incorporated background graphics using software to upload the work into the book’s template. Then LuLu did the rest.
Do you attend classes, conferences, or participate in a critique group?
Earlier this year, I attended Writer’s Boot Camp (now known as The Asheville Christian Writer’s Conference). I have several dear friends, best-selling authors, who have been invaluable to me. Other friends are working towards publication. I follow several blogs. In the past, I have been part of a critique group, and member of a writing guild.
Do you work outside the home? When do you make time to write/illustrate?
I do work outside the home. For the past twelve years, I have worked with Hope House, a crisis pregnancy ministry in Kingsport, TN, serving as their center director.
As has been my trend, I write when I need to. Much of my writing coincides with my daily activities at work and church such as newsletter articles, public relations updates and announcements, Bible study/ Sunday school curriculums and devotions.
I enjoy posting something short and meaningful on social media after a poignant experience or in response to something I’ve read. I do have ideas for at least two additional books featuring continued adventures of Jesse and Bongo.
What are you learning right now? (in any area of life)
Whether it has to do with my book, ministry, family, or relationships, I am always learning how to surrender them to God. That doesn’t come easy for me. I have always been an overachiever and works-oriented person coming to recognize this Christian journey as a dance with both obedience and grace.
I want things to make sense, and I like answers to ‘why’ questions. I like being in control and having my ducks in a row. I like to check things off of my list and see results, but walking in faith requires me to step out of a circumstance, take my focus off of what I see with my eyes, and place my trust in the One whose ways are not my ways and whose ways are higher than mine.
Thanks for sharing with us, Angie. May the Lord continue to bless you and your work.
Connect with Angie Martin : www.jesseandbongo.com, www.facebook.com/operationbirthdaycelebration, and firstname.lastname@example.org
A freelance writer and blogger, Sally Matheny’s writing is published in numerous online and print publications including Appleseeds, Clubhouse Jr., Homeschooling Today, Practical Homeschooling, and The Old Schoolhouse.
Speaking at events for women, children, and writers, Sally enjoys encouraging others to be strong and courageous, and to use their talents for the Lord.
A former public school teacher, Sally has homeschooled over fifteen years. She also teaches history and writing classes in her community and leads a N.C. Jr. Historian club. She and her bi-vocational pastor-husband have three children and live in the foothills of North Carolina.
Connect with Sally via her blog, www.sallymatheny.blogspot.com, on Twitter, Pinterest, and on facebook.