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Book Review of THE HEART CHANGER by Guest Blogger, Kathryn Dover

I enjoyed reading The Heart Changer by Jarm Del Boccio. Before I even started reading the story, I noticed on the copyright page the use of King James Version text as the basis for the story. This is rare and instantly caught my attention. This biblical basis is crucial because The Heart Changer is based on the account of Naaman given in 2 Kings 5.

In the passage, Naaman is instructed to wash in the river Jordon seven times by the prophet Elijah. He refuses to do so until his wife’s maid persuades him. This maid, named Miriam by the author, is the protagonist of The Heart Changer. The beginning of the story is somewhat gripping. The end is satisfactory but slightly abrupt: I was not expecting the story to end. Overall, the story flows very well with short chapters that keep readers interested, but it is not too difficult to put down if one has chores or homework to do. It is the perfect balance for students in school, both younger grades and teenagers. The mature language is also age-appropriate and can be enjoyed by a variety of ages.

While the plot contains some action, such as Miriam’s village being attacked at the beginning of the book, the main development is internal. All the characters, especially Miriam, exhibit visible growth throughout the story. Just like in life, the changes don’t happen instantly but occur gradually as the result of several events. The story is more realistic because Miriam’s growth happens slowly, and the ending leaves room for continued growth. Even after all she has been through, Miriam is still struggling with her “stubbornness” at the end of the story. Hence, readers can identify with her.

The title is an accurate description of Miriam’s growth and the theme of the story. She goes from have a “stubborn,” “anxious,” and “bitter” heart to one that is forgiving and set on Jesus. My favorite scene in The Heart Changer is where Miriam and Rana, the servant Miriam is replacing, are at first bitter enemies and become best friends simply after an encounter about Miriam’s faith. It shows that even the slightest contact with a Christian influence like Miriam can have a great influence on an unbeliever.

In addition, the setting is historically accurate. The details in the story show that the author researched her setting and time period. Minor details, such as pig being unclean meat, and references to real Bible characters and stories, such as Joseph, add depth and realism.

I enjoy reading books that take a seemingly insignificant character who plays a critical role in the plot and tells a story from her point of view. The Heart Changer stays within biblical parameters in a passage that allows for great poetic license. I hope for a series of behind-the-scenes Bible characters!

This book would make a great gift for the middle school or teen reader in your life! _________________________________________________________________

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.

 

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Give the Gift of Writing

Do you know a teen or tween who dreams of writing a book? Or, perhaps your spouse or best friend is a budding poet. Either way, Write2Ignite has the perfect gift opportunity!

Starting in January, team members Brenda Covert and Carol Baldwin will be giving writing workshops at area Hobby Lobby stores.

The cost for each two-hour workshop is $25.00. But, if you purchase a workshop by December 31, it is only $20.00.

From the Heart: The Gift of Poetry 

Date and Time: January 25, 1:30- 3:30

Location:  Hobby Lobby, 7816 Charlotte Hwy, Indian Land, SC 29707

Supplies: Notebook and pen, laptop, tablet, or whatever you’re most comfortable writing on.  Or, use a journal from Hobby Lobby and a special set of colored pens.

Description: This poetry writing workshop is for teens and adults who want to craft the perfect poem for Valentine’s Day. Brenda Covert, author of a teen poetry curriculum, will help you find your poetic voice so that you have a poem suitable for framing and gift-giving. A gift from your heart is the best gift of all!

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Date and Time: February 1,  3:30-5:30

Location: Hobby Lobby, 6007 Wade Hampton Blvd, Taylors, SC 29687

Supplies: Notebook and pen, laptop, tablet, or whatever you’re most comfortable writing on.  Or, use a journal from Hobby Lobby and a special set of colored pens.

Description: This poetry writing workshop is for teens and adults who want to craft the perfect poem for Valentine’s Day. Brenda Covert, author of a teen poetry curriculum, will help you find your poetic voice so that you have a poem suitable for framing and gift-giving. A gift from your heart is the best gift of all!

Cracking the Core of Fiction Writing: Character and Conflict for Teens and Tweens

Date and Time: January 11, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Location: Hobby Lobby, 1511 Woodruff Rd, Greenville, SC 29607

Supplies: Notebook and a pen. Or, use a journal from Hobby Lobby and a special set of colored pens!

Description: If you’re between the ages of 11-17 and love creating stories, then this is the workshop for you. Join North Carolina author, Carol Baldwin, for a fun and informative workshop that will help you create memorable characters with conflict—the driving force of a riveting story. Whether you’re writing fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, or a contemporary story, the principles you’ll acquire will move you forward on your writing journey.

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Date and Time: January 18, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Location: Hobby Lobby, 7816 Charlotte Hwy, Indian Land, SC 29707

Supplies: Notebook and a pen. Or, use a journal from Hobby Lobby and a special set of colored pens!

Description: If you’re between the ages of 11-17 and love creating stories, then this is the workshop for you. Join North Carolina author, Carol Baldwin, for a fun and informative workshop that will help you create memorable characters with conflict—the driving force of a riveting story. Whether you’re writing fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, or a contemporary story, the principles you’ll acquire will move you forward on your writing journey.

TO PURCHASE A WORKSHOP AND REGISTER

Email Cathy Biggerstaff at Write2ignite.Cathy@gmail.com.  Let her know which workshop you are purchasing and who will be attending. She will then send you a PayPal invoice. DEADLINE for the discount is 12/31/19 but participants can also pay when they come. Checks should be made out to Write2Ignite. Questions? Contact Carol Baldwin or Brenda Covert.

Coming in March: Self-Publishing with Sandra Warren and Gretchen Griffith in Hickory, NC.

Date to be announced.

 

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An Idea for Those Who Didn’t (or Couldn’t) Tackle NaNoWriMo This Month by Brenda Covert

Have you seen the social media posts from NaNoWriMo writers beating themselves up because they failed to meet their daily writing goals and pen a 50,000 word novel in November? Or they reached their goal but nearly lost their minds in the process? IMHO, those who wrote any amount this month deserve a pat on the back and a hearty handshake, not a load of guilt.

Though I wrote a novel in the past (not during NaNoWriMo, and it took me 5 years to complete), I now prefer to focus on children’s writing. Picture books in particular appeal to me. Wondering whether NaNoWriMo had a kidlit counterpart, I discovered a blogger who tried to get PicBoWriMo going, but it didn’t catch on. Neither did PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month), which in 2016 became Storystorm and moved to January – a challenge to create 30 story ideas in 31 days. That’s a great idea worth pursuing, but it’s not the same as writing actual stories!

After stumbling across a contest for 100-word stories, I recognized an idea even the busiest among us could tackle. You could write just 4 words a day and have a story in a month, but hopefully you could do this in a couple of days. Here are the particulars:

  • Write a story with no more than 100 words. Fewer is fine.
  • Your story should appeal to kids age 12 or under (although you could also write for adults).
  • There should be a main character and story arc; descriptive or mood pieces don’t count.
  • It can be a story poem, or it can be prose. (I tend to use fewer words in poem stories.)

There are several good reasons to attempt such short-story writing. First, publishers appreciate picture books that are light on words because that means more room for illustrations. Second, telling stories in 100 words is a lesson in succinctness; you learn what matters and what isn’t really necessary. And third, if writer’s block interferes with your writing goals, switching to a 100-word story can get your creative juices flowing again.

If you find yourself with some free time around Thanksgiving or Christmas, see how far you can get with a holiday-themed 100-word story. If you finish and feel like sharing in the comments below, please do! We would love to see what you come up with and encourage your efforts!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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Brenda Covert, a member of the Write2Ignite team,  has been editing since 2002, first in the educational field and then in the Christian/family-friendly market. Her editing experience goes from picture books to chapter books—including Johanna’s Journey: Call to Freedom (a finalist for the 2015 Selah Award)—to YA novels and adult fiction and nonfiction, including inspirational books and Bible studies.

Brenda has two grown children, a new grandchild, two blogs that she promises to devote more attention to, and more cats than an allergic woman should have! (Want one?)

You can find Brenda online at BrendaCovert.blogspot.com. If you’re especially fond of Christmas, you’ll enjoy her blog at ChristmaswithBrenda.blogspot.com. Follow her on Twitter, where she’s  @TheBrendaCovert.

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Broadcasting with Purpose and Intent

Before I interned at South Carolina Public Radio, “intimate” and “people-oriented” were the last words I’d use to describe the broadcasting organization. My picture of public radio included stuffed shirts, pressed pants, and dull voices. All news reports were robotic, lacking the warm relatable touch humans can bring to stories.

Now, I’ve been wrong many times in my life before, but it’s rare I’m quite this wrong.

Public radio’s foundation is built on the community that serves as its audience. The reporters, programmers, and crew who toil day after day chasing the news dedicate themselves to providing their audience content that is informative, objective, and engaging. It takes an undeniable human touch to achieve such a goal. Through producing stories alongside the team at South Carolina Public Radio and receiving mentorship from News Director John Gasque, I learned how much work goes into ensuring the public radio broadcasts are transparent and relevant.

Interning at South Carolina Public Radio gave me a behind-the-scenes look at some of the daily challenges journalists face. Besides finding story concepts, it’s crucial that reporters’ stories be inclusive and nuanced. Failing to address the impact a story might have on often-neglected communities is inexcusable. Public broadcasting is a state- and donor-funded initiative intended to inform the public and be a source they can trust. Anything less would compromise the purpose of its existence.

Besides providing an appreciation for the importance of public broadcasting, working at South Carolina Public Radio gave me practical experience. First was a thorough explanation of the standards South Carolina Public Radio abides by. I learned the best ways to capture high-quality audio as well as take pictures with an HD [high-definition] camera. I found out what kind of human interest stories resonate with a  South Carolina audience and received tips on scripting said stories in a way that engaged them.

People have criticized internships for failing to provide opportunities to learn and instead supplying interns with an endless amount of busy work, but I was granted the opposite experience as an ETV Endowment intern. My supervisor made it clear that he treated all his interns like employees. I would be subject to the same standards as every other employee in the building. That precedent kept me focused on my work and helped me realize how interested the employees of South Carolina Public Radio were in giving me the best possible learning experience.

This internship gave me a new perspective on life in general. God calls those who believe in Him to be authentic. He asks them to be mindful and caring of others. South Carolina Public Radio aspires for integrity and compassion in daily reporting. In an age where journalism, and specifically news media, are constantly scrutinized, public radio perseveres in factually reporting the news to its audience, while being aware of the perspectives of their listeners. This balance is incredibly difficult to maintain, but my experience helped me realize how important it is. In an incredibly uncertain and chaotic world, public broadcasting’s mission to inform the public with purpose and intent is an imitable and admirable goal.

Connor Boulet’s favorite spot in the world is behind a microphone in a padded studio, warming up his vocal cords for an early afternoon broadcast. A broadcast media student at North Greenville University, Connor’s dream is to engage an audience through electrifying music and open conversation. In a world shifting towards new media, Connor recognizes the role radio plays in many people’s lives and wants with all his heart to be a part of that impact.

 

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How to Make Your Christian Fiction Stand Out

From Pexels by Suzy Hazelwood

As storytellers, we love to share what we’re passionate about, what concerns us, what plays out in our imaginations, and how they all come together in the real world. Many of us can’t help but include our love for Christ and our desire to bring His truth to the ones who need it the most. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get swallowed up in the typical Christian tropes that deems our words “cheesy, tired, and unrealistic.”

As a Christian fiction and nonfiction writer, I spend a lot of my time trying to bring my faith to life in a way that will both draw and minister to people. Here are my top 5 tips for how you can freshen up your faith-based writing to best cater to your Christian audience.

Put Your Character(s) in Unfamiliar Territory

Sometimes, we need to separate ourselves from what we know in order to come to new conclusions. Take your characters and put them in places that are unlike what you usually find in Christian themed stories. Church is only one example. There’s nothing wrong with church, but church can be a very comfortable way of expressing the power and love of God.

Ministering to people can take many forms and can happen in many places; take a chance and explore that. It could look like seclusion in a bunker underground, or a family boating trip, or in a spaceship. Once you’re in unfamiliar territory, you’ll have the reader’s attention quicker and they might just appreciate the different approach.

Hit Uncomfortable Topics

Nothing attracts attention like controversy. The world is filled with it, now more than ever. But BE CAREFUL! Don’t be afraid of cultural, political, and spiritual topics that make people squirm, but address them in love. It’s never good to bash someone over the head with your opinion, even if it’s backed up with the Bible. But you’re a creative writer! You can work through some of these conflicts creatively disguised for one simple purpose: to make people think.

It’s not your job as the writer to change minds or to force action. Your job is to first explore these topics creatively and provoke thought rather than to immediately turn the reader off with your beliefs screamed in the words of your story.

Minimize Christian Lingo

The Word of God is powerful, but we don’t want to overuse it so much that your story becomes preachy and boring. People don’t read to receive a sermon. They want to feel invited into a world, taken on a journey, and experience emotional connections. Address them like a normal person. You can still express the same truths, just recognize the popular phrases of the Christian culture, and tweak a little. Your work doesn’t have to be void of Jesus, the cross, or faith, but maybe downsize the words and phrases that your readers (assuming most are believers) are already familiar with. Give them something fresh to bite into and they might just go in for a second helping.

Handle Conversion with Care

Of course, we want our fictional friends to be “saved”! But, not everyone who hears the Gospel, will accept it. People reject it or sometimes feel unworthy of receiving it. People who start off as strong Christians fall away and maybe don’t come back. Your writing could explore all these stories even though they can be heartbreaking. If everyone finds God and gets saved in your writing, then it relies on the happy ending and falls into the predictable and not unique category. The key is to still provide hope. Because while we still have breath, we still have hope

Be Authentic

This is important and encapsulates all points. Sometimes, as Christians we tend to impose how we believe Christians should be on our characters. They come across very nice and friendly with few flaws. On the other extreme, sometimes Christian characters are the villain because of his or her legalism. Either case isn’t wrong, but practice humanizing characters, Christian and non-Christian.

Be real. We have ugly sides, we have bad habits, we don’t always treat people well. After all, we’re all sinners! Write how people actually speak. Feel how people actually feel. Vices and all.  Christianity isn’t always pretty, and the more we can portray our stories with that mindset, we can be more authentic with the joy and pain that comes with a life that’s intertwined with Jesus.

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I truly believe that no moment compares to the beauty of the deepest part of your heart reaching out with the extended love of Jesus. I also believe that no adventure is greater than the one you walk hand in hand with The Father. You have the privilege to make that real for someone else.

I assure you, if you keep these tips into consideration when you sit down at the keyboard, you will catch someone’s attention and touch someone’s heart.

Do you have any helpful tips to add? I would love to hear them! Happy Writing!

Leah Jordan Meahl has recently joined the Write2Ignite blogging team. She has a degree in Writing and Theater, and has pursued both passions longer than she can remember. She loves to journey with new adult Christians through her blog at www.meahltime.com. In addition to publishing a few daily devotions and stories, she’s featured in the fiction and nonfiction anthologies of America’s Emerging Writers. She’s beyond thrilled and thankful to be sharing her debut novella The Threshold. In her spare time, you’ll find her with a song on her lips, a cat on her lap, and a cup of coffee in her hand. James 4:8

 

 

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What Write2Ignite Conferences Taught Me

My first attendance at a W2I Conference was in March of 2017.  I landed a scholarship which helped me enjoy the whole weekend. 

I brought a notebook of questions that God answered in every workshop I attended.  I still have that notebook with notes.  Reflecting on that wonderful weekend, I wonder, should I have been so surprised by how God showed up? I mean, as believers, we know God’s Word is truth and we can recount those scriptures that read, “Seek God’s Kingdom first and all these things will be added unto you.”  God does help us have the desires in our hearts as we live for Him.  The first thing I gleaned from this conference was a personal renewing of a desire to write about godly things for children and their families. 

CONNECTIONS

The second thing I learned about writing, and freelance writing in particular, is that people you meet at conferences can help change your life. Asking a question about poetry led me to meet with Brenda Covert during our one-on-one time.  Brenda introduced me to Union Gospel Press and she urged me to apply with them as they were open to new authors.  Months after submitting my application, I was offered an assignment.  They asked me to write devotions for singles.  So, I did.  Yes, this was a “paid and published” opportunity for me, a small step into a much larger world of writing and publishing.

RESOURCES

A third benefit is learning about various links, resources, and publications where I can continue to pursue writing projects. Currently, I have no assignments with a publisher, but I have been busy this summer entering writing contests and submitting poetry and short stories to magazines. I have been able to re-ignite my personal blog, and I have had some critiques done on a YA fantasy novel I ‘ve been writing for most of my life.  So my writing journey continues even to today.  Who knows what God may have for me around this corner of my life?

Diane Buie's pubs
Some of the magazines Diane Buie has been published in.

Diane Buie celebrated when she saw her articles in print. These included devotionals for children and pre schoolers; beginning with ages PreK up to  4th and 5th grades.  A few of the submissions to Union Gospel Press were Bible related games or activities to enhance faith development.


What about you: How have writing conferences impacted your writing or creativity?  How did attending this year’s W2I Conference in September change your life?  

 

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The Value of a Writing Community

So you think you can sit alone in your room or your local coffee shop and hammer out a book on your laptop and call it done? Nope. You need a community of writers, and here’s why.

Accountability

Writing is hard. And because it’s hard, it’s easy to let it slide, especially if you’re the only one who knows you’re supposed to be writing. But if you’re part of a writing group or you post your writing goals on social media, you’ve suddenly got a lot more people breathing down your neck—I mean encouraging you to finish what you start. A goal no one knows about can be ignored and forgotten, but when you’ve got a community who won’t let you forget, that goal becomes a lot more concrete—and more likely to be accomplished.

Connections

Writing is usually a solitary action, but publishing—even self-publishing—takes a village. Building a writing community now helps so much with that. You need beta readers? Authors will gladly volunteer. Need an editor or a cover artist? Your writer friends can tell you how they found theirs or connect you to someone they know. Need help marketing? They’ll promote your work like crazy. Some might even interview you for their blogs or have you write a guest post for them. I once complimented a writer friend on her marketing plan, and she gave it to me to study and adapt. Gave. For free. Never underestimate the value of a writer connection.

Writing alone has its thrilling moments, but it can also be lonely and frustrating. Having a community to get you through the good times and the hard times can be invaluable. You can commiserate with each other’s frustrations and celebrate each other’s successes. You can be inspired by others and inspire them in turn. You can cheer each other on until you accomplish your dreams.

How to Build Your Writing Community

Now that you know why a writing community is so important, how do you build one? You might try joining a local writing group; a library or university in your area might have some suggestions. You can make even more writer friends online. Facebook is a great place to connect with writing groups. You can also curate your Twitter feed to be author-friendly by following lots of authors and engaging with hashtags like #amwriting, #WIPjoy, #AuthorConfession, #StorySocial, and many more (be sure to see how other authors are using those hashtags first so you can learn how and when to include them in your tweets). There’s also National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, when you can join together with other authors to hammer out a draft of a novel in one month—the official website, nanowrimo.org, provides lots of resources and forums where you can connect with others. Finally, you can make great connections in person you might never make otherwise by attending a writing conference like Write2Ignite, Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference, or Realm Makers.

Writing is a solitary act, but it’s not one you have to do alone (nor should you). Building a community is one of the most important steps you can take towards writing success

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Award-winning author Jonathan King is a full time Library Assistant at North Greenville University. His literary experience ranges from editing The Mountain Laurel, NGU’s student literary publication, to writing short stories and plays, including two flash fiction pieces published by Splickety Havok. His short play Therapy received a Certificate of Merit from Columbia Scholastic Press Association, and another short play, Cuckoo in the Nest, received an honorable mention in the 2015 Writer’s Digest Writing competition. Jonathan loves peanut butter, superheroes, and anything combining the two.