Write2Ignite

Christian Writers of Literature for Children and Young Adults

Author: Carol Baldwin Page 1 of 10

Driven: Book Review by Teen Reviewer, Kathryn Dover

I first noticed the inscription in the front of DRIVEN by Betty Pfeiffer that all profits go to Hmong charities. This is a great tribute to the subjects of this book, Payeng Yaj and Shongfue Khang. I also noticed that on the back cover of the book, the pictures of the real Payeng and Shongfue are blurred and the caption reads that their names have been changed as well. Even today, it is possible the two missionaries are still in danger.

Driven is a true story of two Christians who fled from persecution in Laos and then chose to return as missionaries. They are part of the Hmong clan which was persecuted by the Communist government after the Vietnam War, forcing them to flee to Thailand. The book is separated into three parts: Payeng Yaj’s story, Shongfue Khang’s story, and their story together.

The hardships they endured are inspiring. Payeng relates her journey from Laos to Thailand. Many dangers were present, and Payeng’s family underwent many struggles. Unfortunately, life in Thailand refugee camps was not much better than Laos. Conditions were cramped and unsanitary, and Payeng’s family had arrived too late to receive refugee ID cards, which were required for food. By the end of her section of the book, Payeng has been separated from her family and her husband. Then, Shongfue tells his story of traveling through the jungle to Thailand. God spared Shongfue’s family many times; they were caught, arrested, and sent back to Laos repeatedly but never harmed. They had to cross a lake during a dangerous storm, yet they all survived. Shongfue arrived in Thailand much earlier than Payeng, and their marriage was arranged by their fathers, a Hmong custom.

Once reunited, Payeng and Shongfue prepared for their journey to the United States. Life in America was difficult; they knew no American customs and could not speak English. The author describes their situation best: “Fences of the refugee camps had been replaced by fences of ignorance that seemed almost as insurmountable” (76). Shongfue had longed to be a missionary to the Hmong people in Thailand for most of his life, and the opportunity arose after being in the United States for sixteen years. The couples’ ministry has been blessed by God and is a huge success; they have three congregations with around two hundred members each, Vacation Bible School programs for children, and many other ministries. Even though it is impossible now, Shongfue hopes someday to extend his ministry to Laos.

The story is very well-written and keeps readers interested. I think Driven holds educational value as it reveals little-known aspects of the Vietnam War. I, as probably most readers, did not realize that Laos was involved in the war just as much as Vietnam. The United States government promised to aid the Hmong people in return for their behind-the-scenes work during the war, but this never came into fruition. Instead, the Hmong were persecuted strongly because they aided the United States. Also, the story reminds readers of the struggles of a missionary. Payeng ends the book by reminding readers how God used her and how He can use them as well. I enjoyed this gripping story and recommend it to readers of all ages.

Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.

 

Writing With Consideration by Darcy Hendrick

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. Luke 12:27

I have always loved this passage, perhaps because among the many challenging instructions in scripture, this one comes naturally to me.

Consider the lilies.

My pleasure! And not just the lilies but a cloud streaked sky, how the rays of the sun shine through the window on a cold day, the mist rising from warm grass, snow glistening in the sun… The list of beautiful images from God’s creation are, I imagine, literally endless.

And God tells us in His Word very specifically, and more than once, (Psalm 8:3, Luke 12:24, Proverbs 6:6) to consider His creation.

This is not just happy instruction from an endlessly creative and loving God and Master Artisan. For the Christian writer it is endless source material. And if you write for children it is a playground of possibilities!

In my studies, one of my assignments was to write an article for a children’s magazine. That was basically it. It could be fiction or non-fiction on the subject of my choice.

As I was toying with ideas for subject matter I was also living my life and, as I have a tendency to do, looked up. I’m a sky watcher. Not for meteors or new planets, although I’m sure those are fascinating as well.

I simply love the sky. And as I watched I noticed, on more than one occasion, ravens soaring in ascending spirals. They would reach some invisible stopping point and leave the spiral only to soar back down and begin the ascent again.

I was fascinated and curious – a wonderful combination for a writer!

What were they doing? Why? And did they enjoy it as much as I fancied they did? It reminded me of a rollercoaster.

And so, these seemingly insignificant moments of curiosity became my article, Raven’s Rollercoaster explaining thermal dynamics and air currents.

Because I considered.

I didn’t just give God’s creative genius a passing glance. I stopped to look, and in looking I learned.

But I didn’t just learn about air currents and ravens, I learned a bit more about my Creator. I learned he delights in His creation, whether it’s giving ravens a roller coaster in the sky or giving me a special scripture to remember it by, long after my assignment was completed.

Luke 12:24 says, Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!

 What a gift! A gift God gives to us and we pass along to our readers.

When we consider.

Whether your writing needs direction, inspiration, or a bit of child-like wonder, stop, look around, and consider the works of God’s hands. Inspiration may just be right in front of you.

So write with consideration and let God’s lessons begin!

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Darcy Hendrick is a member of the Write2Ignite team. She lives in South Carolina with her fearless Yorkie-Poo, Baby. She delights in spending date nights with her grandson and finds endless inspiration for her writing simply observing the beauty of God’s creation.

It’s Time for Write2Ignite’s 2 for 1 Critiques

You may be wondering whether your manuscript is ready to be published. Maybe you have a nagging feeling that your story is missing something, but you don’t know what it is. Perhaps you’re going to attend a writer’s conference, and you want to make sure your writing is polished before sharing it with editors and agents. Your family thinks you’ve penned the next best seller, but what will professionals think? A professional opinion would really help.

We have just the thing: a 2-for-1 critique! You receive a written one-page critique or comments written on your pages from two Write2ignite professionals.

We are offering 2-for-1 Critiques now through June 15. The fee of $45 gets one story critiqued by two professional members of our faculty. Two heads are better than one, and two critiques offer twice the insight!

To submit a manuscript for critique in any of the categories below, email your manuscript to our critique coordinator, Brenda Covert. In the subject line, put “W2I CRITIQUE ENTRY.” Include in the email text your name, email address, title, and category. You may submit as many manuscripts as you wish, as long as you pay the fee for each one.

Categories

Young adult or middle grade novel—1-page query letter or synopsis (single-spaced) plus first pages of the manuscript (double-spaced), up to 10 pages total.

Nonfiction book— chapter outline, synopsis and/or query letter (single-spaced) and first pages of the manuscript (double-spaced), up to 10 pages total.

Picture book—Complete manuscript up to 1,000 words

Early reader/chapter book—First chapters up to 10 pages

Nonfiction article—1,200 word limit

Short story—1,200 word limit

Poetry—5 poems equal 1 critique; 40-line limit for each poem

Devotional—500-word limit each; up to 4 devotionals per paid critique

Manuscript Submission Procedure

Type all manuscripts in double-spaced, 12-pt. font, standard manuscript format. Include your name, the title of your piece, and the page number on each of your manuscript’s pages.

Payment

 

We accept payment by  check, money order, or credit card.

Credit Card: 

if you wish to use a credit card, please contact Cathy Biggerstaff.

Check or Money Order:

If mailing a check or money order, make it payable to Write2Ignite. Please send the check to the address that you receive after you email is confirmed.

Himalayan Adventures: A Teen Review

I was instantly drawn to this book by the beautiful illustrations of animals on the cover and the interior pages. Since I am an animal lover, the stories of exotic animals kept my attention.

Himalayan Adventures by Penny Reeve is a unique book. As the name implies, the book relates adventures the author heard about or experienced while she was a missionary in Nepal. In the introduction, the author describes her struggles as a missionary, especially the difficulty of learning the Nepali language. She tells a story about the beautiful Nepali mountains, reminding readers to look up to God during turbulent times. Each subsequent chapter contains a short story about Nepal, its people, or its animals. Then, the author uses that story as an analogy to illustrate one of God’s truths, ending each chapter with a Bible verse.

Illustration by Fred Apps

Illustration by Fred Apps

 

The stories are interesting, and the vivid imagery instantly draws the reader in. I was fascinated not only by the tales of exotic people and animals, but also by the way the author found biblical symbolism in her stories. In addition to simple truths, the author relates her stories to the way God’s creation works together. One story tells how the Chepang hunters catch bats, which provide needed protein for their people. A unique tree attracts the bats, and the hunters set traps at these trees. The bats help pollinate the trees and are caught by the hunters. Thus, they nourish the trees and the Chepang people. Without the bats, neither could survive. Also, many stories tell of the miracles God worked in the Nepali peoples’ lives to aid in the spread of the gospel. One of my favorites was about a man who was attacked by a leopard and miraculously survived. He thanked God for his survival and used his scars to witness of God’s grace to others. However, my favorite story was the one about Kanchi, a pet monkey who was very bossy to her owners; it reminds the reader not to be prideful.

Illustration by Fred Apps

 

I think this book is a great educational resource because it provides information about Nepal, its people, and the work of a missionary. It would make a good devotional for middle-grade students, yet the lessons and truths provide encouragement to readers of all ages. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone, especially those who need encouragement.

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Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.

 

Call for Writers!

Congratulations to Danielle Hammelef who won the autographed copy of ANY GOOD THING from last week’s blog.

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Here’s a wonderful opportunity for you to write and be published. Please let us know if you successfully place an article or short story with Faith on Every Corner. We’d be happy to share your success story!

This is a link to their January issue. Remember: one of the best ways to learn if you’re work is right for a particular magazine is to study its contents.

 

 

Have You Heard?

Writer Magazine ranked the Write2Ignite conference among the best writing conferences in the Southeast!

Thanks to all of our hard-working volunteer staff members who helped claim that place.

Any Good Thing: Adult Christian Fiction by Joy Rancatore + Giveaway

Joy Rancatore‘s debut novel dramatically opens with 15-year-old Jack Calhoun’s life permanently altered: a teenage drag race ends in death and disaster. From that point onward, Jack shoulders the guilt of four deaths–compounded later by two other deaths for which he takes responsibility. Set up in five acts (you may have to look up “instauration” like I did), Any Good Thing is a saga that you will enjoy reading. 

REVIEW

In the first chapter the reader meets Jack’s girlfriend, Rachel Burns, her father Ben, and Jack’s mother, Becky; the three people who are his trinity of support as Jack wrestles with demons from his past. 
 
Jack’s father abandoned the family when Jack was young and Ben becomes a father figure to him. Quickly after the accidents, Jack descends into alcoholism; Ben helps him to get into a rehab. There, Jack confesses his motivation to get over his addiction: “I want to be better for my mom and the people who’ve stuck by me…despite all I’ve done.” (p. 43)
 
Although this refrain is repeated throughout the book, Jack’s fatal flaw/sinful thought pattern is that he believes the only way he can help the people he loves is to remove his poisonous influence from their lives. “No more would he sit by and watch people he loved get hurt by whatever curse had claimed him as its host. The final tendrils of the sun’s red hair slunk before him as he headed west.” (p. 90)
With this faulty conclusion guiding him, he joins the Marines and vows to make something of his life and become a source of pride to his mother. 
 
Jack’s internal conversation shows that he sees himself as a failure, but at the same time the author portrays him as a successful carpenter and outstanding Marine who is consistently promoted. Even when he feels responsible for his best friend, Tray’s, death in Iraq, Tray’s mother forgives him, but he doesn’t forgive himself. 
 
Jack feels hopeless when he returns home after taking a bullet in his right arm. His days as a Marine Scout Sniper are over and he refuses to get help. He enters into a bleak, near-suicidal time of roaming through North Carolina. His only help for the reoccurring PTSD anxiety is a stray, shaggy hound, Scout, who provides the companionship which Jack desperately needs.  
Early in the book Jack is disillusioned by the hypocrisy in his hometown church; later Ben also leaves the church for a similar reason. The novel is also full of characters who speak about Jack’s need to receive God’s grace and peace. Jack’s “that’s-good-for-you-but-can-never-apply-to-me-attitude” prevails for most of the book. Although I appreciated the author weaving a Christian theme into the story, sin and salvation is less central than coming to God to receive peace.  The centrality of Christ as Savior could have been made stronger.
The author does not shy away from hard topics like alcoholism, suicidal thoughts, straying from the faith, and PTSD.  One of the most touching parts of the book was how Rachel demonstrates an amazing understanding of what Jack has experienced in Iraq and demonstrates unconditional, unselfish love towards him. 
 
For me, the most powerful part of this book came in the last one hundred pages. An unexpected encounter with his father helps Jack begin his journey home, eventually leading to his emotional and spiritual healing. Jack’s self-absorption (which is the lie behind “I’m too bad for even God to love me”) is shown in the last few pages. Although Jack’s coming to faith was somewhat predictable, it provides a satisfactory resolution to Christian readers.  

GIVEAWAY

If you love adult fiction that includes drama, reconciliation, and romance, then this book is one you will enjoy. Please leave a comment with your name and email address by 8 PM on January 15 for a chance to win an autographed copy. 

Note: Portions of this review first appeared on Carol Baldwin’s blog

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