Author: Haley Gambrell

Limitless Creativity

The creativity of God never ceases to amaze me. He created plants that grow underwater, He created diamonds and dandelion dust with equal ease, and He called a single woman with no children to write for the Christian homeschool market.

I wasn’t homeschooled as a child. I went to a very small private Christian school. My mom wanted to homeschool, but it was the early 1980s, and the legal aspect of homeschooling in my state was terribly intimidating. But when my sister and I weren’t in school, our mom was always making up learning games and projects for us to do at home. Though she never taught professionally, she has a teacher’s heart.

I’ve always had a heart to write for God. I think I was about 9 years old or so when I started my first “book.” It was a really sad attempt, but it was an attempt! I started developing my writing professionally in 2003. I worked on several projects, but my heart was writing for kids. In 2011, I felt God nudging me toward homeschooling, though I had no idea why. I went to the CHAP convention in Harrisburg, PA, and picked up tons of information. One of the countless freebies I took home was an issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. I joined the mailing list, wanting to learn more about homeschooling. A few months later, they put out a call asking for writers to volunteer to write curriculum for a new site they were developing for families called SchoolhouseTeachers.com. It took me all of about three seconds to decide to join.

I began helping the newly formed team of writers brainstorm and create curriculum about everything from art to history. I love history, but art? That was a stretch. But that was the beauty of writing in a team. My weaknesses were someone else’s strengths, and by working together, I learned more than I ever imagined was possible.

So I’m a non-homeschooled single woman with no kids who has never loved any writing more than writing for homeschool families. In another surprising turn, I’ve moved from part-time volunteer to full-time staff and now serve as the Executive Editor of SchoolhouseTeachers.com.

I’m looking forward to speaking at the 2017 Write2Ignite conference about connecting with the homeschool market and creating products that both entertain and educate. I’ll also be giving a presentation on “Hard Truths for Tender Hearts,” which touches on another passion of mine, sharing stories of the persecuted Church with children in a sensitive way that they can understand without frightening them.

I encourage writers to learn how they can connect with and serve the homeschooling market. But more than that, I want to encourage everyone to never underestimate or doubt the limitless creativity of God. Never decide that you aren’t qualified to do something you know He’s calling you to do. He called a shepherd to become a king and a Pharisee to become a missionary. What is He calling you to do?

Bonnie Rose Hudson lives in central Pennsylvania. Along with spending time with her family and writing, making kids smile is her favorite thing to do. Her heart’s desire is for every child to feel the love of God and know how special they are to Him. She loves creating curriculum and working for SchoolhouseTeachers.com, the curriculum arm of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, as the site’s executive editor. At TOS, she found a place where her love of God and history combine with her love of writing to bring encouraging, educational, and entertaining material to students and their families. She would love for you to visit WriteBonnieRose.com to discover how you can write for the homeschool market.

Spotlight on Lisa Albinus

My name is Lisa Albinus. I get to live the dream of being an artist and author as I live my life with a Bible tucked under my arm and a paintbrush in my hand. My greatest desire is to breathe hope into the latent, creative dreams of your childhood and the crayons that have been abandoned. We trade in our crayons for deadlines and status, abandoning color for the more mundane daily living that permeates our being.

Remember the easier times, when a fresh box of ninety-six crayons was heaven on earth? The smell as you opened the box and saw all the little soldiers sharpened, pristine, ready to be called out of the ranks and used for great masterpieces? Let’s return to a time of wonder and unlimited potential. When we glorify the Lord through color, there’s a sweet freedom of expression.

Join me at the Write2Ignite Conference, and let your fire of creativity be rediscovered. I’ll take you on a colorful, creative adventure, where we’ll find beauty in the darkness and rescue her from your past. We’ll discover the freedom in mixed media journaling, awakening color within. Let’s clear away the cobwebs and make a stand against the lies that whisper, “You can’t.”

In addition, on Saturday, adults and youth can join me as we explore the sketching of faces and people and enjoy an introduction to watercolor. As an illustrator, author, and speaker, I cherish the opportunity to help you incorporate the visual with the written word.

Don’t be afraid. Be bold, be fearless as you embrace new things and dormant dreams. Allow the child of yesterday, who squealed with delight at a new coloring book, to be your guide. You can—and I’ll help you.

Let’s change the world together through color.

See more from Lisa at the Praise Heart website, and see some of her work below!

Stories Matter

“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.” —Muriel Rukeyser

Once upon a time…

… in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

… a young shepherd boy stood before the giant with only a sling.

… a starship set out to boldly go where no man had gone before.

… four reptiles stumbled upon green ooze in the sewers of New York.

… a special child was discovered in the town of Smallville.

… a one-legged cook performed mutiny aboard a ship.

… a hairy-footed Halfling discovered a magical ring.

I’m guessing you could identify most of the stories above just by the single phrase. Why? Because stories have power. Stories resonate deep within us. Our minds will cling to few things as resiliently as a well-told story. They tug at our emotions, enlighten our insights, and offer guidance to our hands and feet. In short: Stories Matter.

A story can be told in a cornucopia of languages—yet the act of storytelling is a universal rite. Cave art can be attributed to every civilization on every continent at the same point in their cultural development. The reality of the pictorial stories declares a simple truth: We do not learn to tell stories—storytelling is encoded into our very DNA. Storytelling is part of being human.

Stories Matter.

We must teach children mathematics and logic—but we need only cultivate imagination. Humanity has always understood the world through story. Simone Weil once said, “Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life.” Should this surprise? We are, after all, created in the image of the Great Storyteller.

When God orchestrated the holy Scriptures to offer guidance, He did so primarily through story. A Book intended for all cultures was written in a language all cultures could understand and value—the language of story. Over 60% of the Bible is narrative. Often lost in the clutter of systematics is that the Bible reads less like an instruction manual and more like a New York Times best-selling thriller. No wonder the Bible is the most plagiarized book in history.

Stories Matter.

So let’s put away this nonsense about stories being a trivial child’s fancy. We do not outgrow stories any more than we outgrow being human. Stories are, and will always be, an essential part of the human equation. We understand the world and our place in it through the lens of story. Not only that, but we are active characters in an epic, continually unfolding story being told each new day. As Hans Christian Andersen once said, “Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale of all.”

Stories Matter.

I hope to see you all on March 24–25 at Write2Ignite 2017. I’ll be giving a keynote talk on the power of Story and leading some breakout sessions on writing fantasy fiction and overcoming writer’s block (it is possible, trust me!). Come, and let’s learn from each other how to better tell the stories that God has given us—because stories truly do matter.

***

Daniel Blackaby is a fifth-generation author and the grandson of Henry Blackaby (author of the best-selling Experiencing God Bible study). After publishing his first book as a 23-year-old college student, Daniel has gone on to write several award-winning books in both fiction and non-fiction. His work includes the YA fantasy trilogy The Lost City Chronicles and non-fiction When Worlds Collide: Stepping Up and Standing Out in an Anti-God Culture and 7 Steps to Knowing, Doing, and Experiencing the Will of God for Teens. Check him out at DanielBlackaby.com and on Facebook.

 

Making Mud Pies

I’m told I was a particularly difficult baby and a challenging child. The family blames the first on colic; I blame the second on a vivid imagination.

Whatever the cause, a series of photos seems to substantiate the claims of my parentals, aunts and uncles, and grandmother. One snapshot in particular comes to mind.

Picture a “sweet” toddler (me) in a two-piece pink bathing suit (circa the mid-sixties). Black mud smears my white tummy, mats honey-colored curls, and plasters my face. Two green eyes peek out. Mud even coats my arms to the elbows.

What happened? Armed with a Banquet pot pie tin (pre-microwave days), dirt, and water, I “cooked dessert” with joy and abandon. In the middle of a puddle, my imagination sprang loose, and fun ran amok. Creativity happened.

Many of us enjoyed the creativity of childhood. Forsaking a bike to experiment with a unicycle, hosting a tea party on Mars, and staggering through a homemade obstacle course on stilts.

Then we grew up, leaving childhood behind. Unfortunately, many of us left our childhood sense of wonder behind, too.

Somehow grown-up responsibilities crowded out our childlike creativity. Oh sure, we are still creative in how we organize our files, decorate our homes, and manage the other things that clamor for our attention. We use our creativity daily, but we aren’t enjoying our creative nature, and we rarely devote time to enriching that aspect of our lives.

But if we want to write for children, we need to rediscover the joy of a vivid imagination.

If you want to bring back that sense of wonder, to embrace that childlike creativity, to re-accept our unique natures and use the gifts God gives each of us, join me at Write2Ignite! 2017 in my workshop “Creativity: Imagine Like a Child.” We’ll be digging into some fun hands-on exercises!

Hope to see you there. I hear the dirt at North Greenville University is red!

Fall Writing Contest Winner

Recently, Write2Ignite held a fall-themed short story contest for writers of young adult fiction. We’re pleased to announce that our winner is “H2O-CO” by Gayle Veitenheimer! Please visit Gayle’s Facebook page, and enjoy her story below:

“H2O-CO”

Squeals and giggles pierced the fall evening, grating against Greta’s ears. She frowned. Mallory Johnson had attached herself to Brett Mabry. One arm wove around his bulging bicep. The other arm draped over his shoulder pads. Homecoming was three weeks away. Candy, flowers, and poster board signs appeared at random moments as guys courted dates for the upcoming dance. Brett was prime Ho-Co material, and the cheerleader was marking the team’s star receiver for herself.

Greta sighed. Why did a water girl like her always fall for the guys the cheerleaders picked? Her life felt like a Taylor Swift song. Mallory caught her glance and glared. As Greta’s fists clenched, the squeeze bottle in her hand shot an icy blast into her eyes and nose. She spluttered and coughed. Wiping her face on her sleeve, Greta tucked wet strands of hair back in her ponytail. She caught Brett’s stare from the corner of her eye as Mallory pointed and laughed. Smooth, Greta.

Cheeks burning, Greta refilled the bottle and set it on the bench. She opened the cooler, wishing she could crawl in and disappear. Need more ice. She grabbed the handle and hauled the rusty metal beast to the ice machine in the field house.

Scoop. Dump. Scoop. Dump.

Cleats clicked on concrete as the team filed out to the field.

Show time.

She grinned as players greeted her and grabbed pieces of ice before warm-up.

“Good luck, guys.” She raised a fist. “Go get ‘em.”

One by one, they fist-bumped her back. “Thanks, Water Girl.”

She tugged the handle of the ice chest. It scooted a few inches before grinding to a halt. When would the booster club invest in some new coolers? Some with wheels?

“Need some help?” Brett’s blue eyes stared down at her.

She tripped and almost fell. “No, I’m good. Thanks.”

“I’ve got it. Here, hold this.” He pushed a red helmet toward her. She clutched it as Brett took a firm grip and pulled. The cooler slid obediently behind him. Stupid cooler. She gave it a death look.

“By the trainer’s table?”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

“No problem.” Brett placed a hand on her shoulder.

She jumped. Why did she have the jitters?

“Hey, Greta?”

“Mabry! Get over here!”

“Yes, sir.” Brett rolled his eyes. “Sorry, gotta’ go.”

She smiled and nodded.

“Uh, Greta?”

Her hands were sweating.

“Can I have my helmet back?”

Mabry!

Greta shoved the helmet toward Brett and wiped her hands on her jeans. “Good luck.”

Mallory’s voice echoed behind her. “Good luck, Brett. I know you’ll do great. See you after the game.”

Greta wanted to gag. Instead, she continued her prep. Water bottles. Full. Ice. Check. Gatorade. Ice packs for the trainers. More coolers in the locker room for halftime. Check. Check. Check.

Tonight’s game pitted Greta’s school, Central High, against crosstown rival, Northside. As the season wound down, both teams held perfect records.

Someone was going down tonight. Her boys were ready.

Pads smacked. Sweat flew. Players battled for yardage. Greta and her partner, Wendy, sprinted onto the field for each timeout and worked the sidelines in-between, taking encouragement and Gatorade to the thirsty boys.

“Great play!”

“You got this. Hold ‘em, D.”

“Nice catch.”

Northside scored as the buzzer signaled the end of the second quarter. Greta winced as a coach chewed out the safety. Down by six, the team trudged to the locker room.

Greta prepped for the second half. Taunts of “Water Girl” pelted her like ice cubes. The cheerleading squad snickered while Mallory acted out Greta’s icy face wash. A touch at Greta’s elbow startled her.

“Hey, Greta. Can I get an ice pack?”

She plunged a hand into the cooler before those blue eyes could undo her again.

“You okay?”

“I’m fine. It’s for Jake. Catch ya’ after the game, okay?” Brett held up a fist, and Greta bumped it. He winked and trotted back to the locker room.

Her knees buckled, and Greta sank into the bench.

Wendy gave her a look. “I saw that.”

The crisp fall evening suddenly felt very warm.

“Don’t get any ideas, Water Girl.” Pompoms swished, and Mallory brushed past her with a flick of her skirt.

Greta picked up a fully loaded water bottle.

Count to ten.

Deep breaths.

1, 2, 3, . . .

She put it back in the tray at around 7, 8, 9.

Fans cheered and cowbells rattled as Central kicked off to Northside. The Central defense held firm. Greta sighed in relief. For two more quarters, the teams fought for every inch. With three minutes to go, the score was tied. Central had the ball, and the quarterback led the offense in a steady march down the field. Greta tried not to bite her nails. Brett ran a post route but the quarterback took a hit as he released the ball. Pass incomplete. Greta’s heart sank. The clock read less than a minute to go. The running back broke loose for a first down. The coach called a timeout. Greta and Wendy grabbed the water bottles and rushed onto the field. They circled the boys as Coach talked the offense through their final push.

Back on the sidelines, Greta paced, scanning the line for Brett. Surely they would run that pass play again. The quarterback dropped back. Brett darted forward then cut toward the goalpost. Was this it? The ball sprang from the quarterback’s hand. And found Brett’s. He tucked the ball and dove for the end zone.

Touchdown!

Greta and Wendy screamed and hugged. They high-fived the guys on the sideline before meeting the incoming offense with some Gatorade. The kicking team headed out, and the kicker booted the extra point.

5-4-3-2-1! Fans swarmed the field. The teams shook hands, and coaches corralled their players for a few final words.

Greta hung back as the celebration began. She collected the water bottles and packed each one in its tray. She bit her lip. Mallory stood by Brett. Whatever. Tears blurred her eyes. She made some extra ice packs for the trainers, then stared down the heavy cooler. She stooped to grab the handle when the toe of a cleat came into view.

She followed the cleat up past a sweaty sock, a grass-stained uniform and into her favorite pair of blue eyes.

“I think you missed one.” Brett held out a plastic pink water bottle.

“No I didn’t. I always count, and we don’t have . . . any . . . pink . . .”

“Greta, here!” Brett thrust the water bottle at her.

It was wrapped in poster board:

HEY WATER GIRL,

TAKE A TIMEOUT

AND COME TO

H2O-CO WITH ME.

BRETT

Homecoming? Brett Mabry was asking her to Homecoming?

“Well?” Brett leaned forward.

Greta beamed. “I’d love to. Thanks.”

A lady yelled and waved from the bleachers. Brett groaned. “That’s my mom. She’s dying to get a picture. Do you mind?”

“Not at all.” Greta clutched her sign and the precious pink water bottle. Together they smiled and toasted their Gatorade while Brett’s mom captured the moment.

Greta returned to the waiting ice chest.

“Need some help?”

They each grabbed a handle and headed for the grass to dump the ice. Funny. This time it didn’t seem heavy at all.

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