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Interview with Angelika Martin

Angelika Martinby Sally Matheny

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 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 :,, and

Sally Matheny 1FA 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,, on Twitter, Pinterest, and on facebook.

You Never Know Who’s Watching at a Writers’ Conference

eye blueEven though conferences can be physically exhausting, I still feel revived after participating in this year’s Write2ignite Conference. Not only through the reinforcing of my writing skills, but also through the refreshing of my spirit.

If you didn’t attend the 2015 Write2Ignite Conference, allow me to share with you a glimpse of some blessings I witnessed. I’m sure others saw additional blessings, because you never know who’s watching you at a writers’ conference.

Here’s my short list:

I witnessed an outstanding director, Jean Hall, who has the amazing gift of staying calm under all circumstances and keeps things running smoothly. Her faith in God to bring it all together is always apparent. She also carries a tiny handy-dandy pair of scissors on her keychain. I’m looking for a miniature roll of duct tape so she’ll have the perfect combo set.

A super helpful young man named Dylan came to help the team set up for the conference. Dylan maintained a quiet presence during the entire conference and was always there to help whenever called on. He also had excellent skills for locating items people misplaced.

I had the pleasure of transporting author Tim Shoemaker back and forth to the conference each day. I appreciated his helpful words as I shared with him about my pre-speaking jitters. In addition, he was kind and understanding when I missed our turn-off and when I kept juggling and dropping things once we arrived.

I knew, without a doubt, my family was praying for me back at home. But what a blessing it was to have friends at the conference pull me aside and whisper a prayer over me before I spoke. God heard all our prayers, and His amazing grace calmed me just before I stepped behind the podium. Thank you, Lord.

I noticed smiling teens enthusiastic about writing. One teen in particular I heard go up to Tim Shoemaker and thank him for speaking. She said she didn’t write for boys, but his talk about the topic helped her have a better understanding of her brother!

I saw numerous authors and editors taking time to chat with teens and adults outside the classrooms. Jenny Cote, an award-winning author of six books, paused to offer a word of praise to those selling their first published book. Those encouraging words go a long way.

Watching members of the leadership team do their jobs with enthusiasm is always a blessing. It’s like a joyful family reunion whenever we get together, and we all love the mission of Write2Ignite.

During praise-and-worship time, I loved watching Donna Earnhardt take heed of the Holy Spirit prompting her to call on someone to give a testimony. What a tremendous blessing to hear a young teen girl, without prior notice, volunteer. She eagerly shared a vivid description of when the woman with the alabaster box poured perfume on Jesus’ feet. If that wasn’t enough, Donna, who had been wiping her tears as she listened to the girl speak, then stepped up to show the audience the song lyrics that were already cued up for the next song, “The Alabaster Box.” How awesome was that?

Later, another woman shared her testimony of how God spared her life in a horrific accident, providing her a second chance to accept His love and eternal salvation. She reminded us of the importance of seizing those opportunities today, not to wait. Even though this woman still experiences tremendous physical pain every day, she is using her written and spoken words to point others in the direction of her Savior.

I watched people volunteer to help others all weekend—with an umbrella, a ride to lunch, and a seat in the auditorium. Smiles, prayers, and encouraging words weaved throughout the crowd.

Even the homeschool mom who volunteered to help with the snacks in the green room continually checked to make sure everyone had what he needed. She kept asking whether the coffee was fresh enough. She cared about those she served and gave full attention to every detail. What a blessing.

I saw God’s blessings overflow this weekend. I can’t help but wonder what others saw. Surely, in the crowd on campus, there was someone who was struggling with a life issue, someone who was lonely, or someone who was not in a close relationship with Jesus Christ. I hope they saw a glimpse of what I saw.

If you attended the Write2Ignite Conference this year, what blessings did you see?


Encouraging others is Sally Matheny’s mission in life. She enjoys “reflecting on ordinary life under God’s extraordinary Light.” A freelance writer and blogger, Sally is blessed with her pastor-hubby of 25+ years, three children, and a home that can’t stay clean for more than seventeen minutes. Find encouragement from Sally on her blog at, or follow her at

Reflecting with Multi-Faceted Author Vonda Skelton

by Sally Matheny

Vonda Skelton IIVonda Skelton shines the light of Christ through various art forms. The author of four books, a blog, and numerous magazine articles, Vonda also serves as a playwright. Her contagious enthusiasm flows into her audiences as she speaks at churches and schools, teaches at her own Christian Communicators Conferences and at many other conferences.

We’re blessed to have this multi-faceted and talented woman join us at Write2Ignite this year. Vonda will present two workshops: “Scriptwriting: Biblical Truth from the Stage” and  “Share Your Books and Increase Your Income with School Programs.”

Currently, Vonda is writing a screenplay and gearing up to teach at several conferences but she took a moment to chat with us.

Vonda, what was your first paying job? How old were you?

From the time I can remember, I’ve always worked. As a seven-year-old, I opened a lemonade stand all by myself. However, the Health Department (AKA my mom) shut me down during my grand opening. How was a seven-year-old supposed to know that you couldn’t have a community Mason jar for your customers to use in sequence without washing? I made a whopping 15 cents before Ruth-less closed my doors.

Soon after that embarrassingly public shaming, I was assigned the role of washing apples in my dad’s candy-apple production line for Skinner’s Concession Stand. It wasn’t long before he recognized my talent and I graduated to lead candy-apple and cotton candy wrapper. By 8 or 9, I began selling my own loom-kit potholders in my grandmother’s cloth shop. Then, at 12 years old, my daddy set me up in my own business, Jewelry by Vonda Marie. He would purchase cheap, tangled earrings for about $2 per dozen, we’d de-tangle them and attach them to velveteen earring holders, and sell for $0.99 each. I made a killing.

Then I became an author and my wealthy lifestyle was over.


You’re hilarious. Didn’t Bitsy, in Bitsy and the Mystery of Hilton Head Island, work in a concession stand? I loved that book.

Yes, the concession stand thread was taken from real life. In each of the Bitsy books, there’s something about one of my daddy’s businesses.


At what point in your life did you know you wanted to pursue writing?

From the moment I created my first poem in first grade. None of the teachers could believe a little first grader had written such a masterpiece! I memorized the entire thing and still remember it today:

I have a ball.

The ball rolled down the hall.

It bumped into the wall.

In college, I decided that one day I was going to write a book. One day I woke up, realized I was 40 years old, and had never written anything. So I sat down and wrote my first book.

Was the book published? 

I was 42 years old when I actually finished the first book (Tybee Island), but it wasn’t published until 10 years later!

That offers hope to those of us beginning our writing journeys later in life. Looking back over your writing journey, what is one thing you wish you had known earlier?

That there are no shortcuts. Good, publishable writing takes an investment of time, money, and dedication to learning the craft and developing a thick skin.

The theme for Write2Ignite 2015 is “Shine.” What three helpful hints would you recommend to writers to make their work shine?

You’ll shine bright if you come with a humble attitude, a servant’s heart, and a willingness to learn.

Thanks for sharing with us, Vonda. We can’t wait to see you at Write2Ignite!

Readers, have you registered for the conference yet? You don’t want to miss Vonda and all the other wonderful presenters!

In the meantime, you can connect with Vonda at (includes the Christian Writer’s Den)

The MoGo7000 Challenge, where you can write your book and have a chance to win $100! It’s free!



  • My books are all available in online stores. For signed and personalized copies, check them out at my Store:
      • Seeing Through the Lies: Unmasking the Myths Women Believe (women’s non-fiction)
      • The Bitsy Burroughs Mysteries for boys and girls 8-13yo
        • Bitsy and the Mystery at Hilton Head Island
        • Bitsy and the Mystery at Amelia Island
        • Bitsy and the Mystery at Tybee Island

     [author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Encouraging others is Sally Matheny’s mission in life. She enjoys “reflecting on ordinary life under God’s extraordinary Light.” A freelance writer and blogger, Sally’s ordinary days are blessed with her pastor-hubby of 25+ years, three children, and a home that can’t stay clean for more than seventeen minutes. Find encouragement from Sally on her blog: and Twitter: @sally_matheny [/author_info] [/author]  

Reflecting with Illustrator and Author Tony Snipes

Tony Snipes illustrates and writes with passion. He shares that passion and his love for God as he helps others discover their purpose. Tony will share his talent as he returns to Write2Ignite this year to present two workshops.

In the adult workshop “A Mirror or a Flashlight?,” Tony will guide others to discover their power of creativity. The teens will enjoy Tony as he teaches a hands-on workshop, “Sketching Faces.”

Tony’s life brims with many things, including his precious wife and three daughters, but we’re glad he took a few minutes to chat with us.

Tony, what three things are most memorable to you about 2014?

The day we gave our daughter her first car, my last Art Slam Live event, and Christmas morning.

Was it your last Art Slam event or was there something extra special about the last one you hosted?

Yes, I still host the Art Slam Live event. I should have said the “most
recent” rather than “last”. The most recent event is when we actually
partnered with the city of Mauldin, SC. It led to more credibility. We are
partnering with them this year as well!

That’s great! And, I bet your prayer level went up as well with that first car!

BIG yes on that!

First cars, first sweethearts, and first jobs will always be memorable though. What was your first job?

Working for the Housing Authority for the summer when I was thirteen years old.

What type of work did you do for the Housing Authority at age 13?

It was a part of a city-wide summer program for kids. Another
young man and I assisted the maintenance team of an apartment complex. We didn’t
fix anything ourselves, just helped a LOT on the clean-up side of things.

That early exposure to maintenance and clean-up probably makes you a great husband today!

Tony,  you’ve done a variety of work over the years. At what point did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I knew I wanted to write my first book around 2003 when I began collecting my thoughts in journals.

Looking back over your writing journey, what is one thing you wish you had known earlier?

I wish I had known more about the marketing side.

Anything specific about marketing?

Yes, how to build a following before you launch your book. It’s much
easier to do that now that we have social media. Also, not to look at
authoring a book as a method of getting rich, but rather looking at it as
a form of a “magnified business card”. Being able to put “the author of”
at the end of your name adds significant awareness to your personal brand.

Do you have any recommendations, of books or websites on marketing, for our blog readers?

Yes. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt. Great book on basic methods of building a following!

What do you hope to learn this year?

How to perfect storytelling.

If awarded one day to talk with three authors (from any time period), whom would you choose?

Dr. Myles Munroe for his awesome books on purpose and the Kingdom principles of business; marketing guru Seth Godin; and entrepreneur expert Dan Miller.

The theme for Write2Ignite 2015 is “Shine.” What three helpful hints would you recommend to writers to make their work shine?

  • Tell great stories.
  • Have a marketing strategy.
  • Build your following, even before you launch your next book, using social media.

Tony, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

Readers, you can connect with Tony at and and on Facebook.


Reflecting with Award-Winning Author, Jenny Cote

by Sally Matheny

Jenny L CoteAward-winning author, Jenny Cote developed an early passion for God, history, and young people, and beautifully blends these passions together in her two fantasy fiction series, The Amazing Tales of Max and Liz and Epic Order of the Seven.

What’s amazing are Jenny’s skills and her travels. Her research has taken her to Handel’s composing room in London, to stay in the home of C.S. Lewis, and on to Ireland, Paris, Normandy, Rome, Israel, and Egypt.

Jenny’s own Scottish Terrier, Max, and her black cat, Liz were the inspirations for the characters in Jenny’s books. She posts videos of them on her website at Max, who is battling cancer, steals the show during his annual pumpkin roll.

Returning to Write2Ignite this year, Jenny will teach three wonderful workshops: “Give Me Liberty AND Give Me Deadlines!”, “Create,” and “Write.”

In the meantime, she shares a few thoughts with us here.

Jenny, what were three of your favorite moments from 2014?

  • Opening the box of fresh-off-the-press copies of my fifth novel, The Wind, the Road, and the Way in March
  • Standing on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on June 6th for the 70th anniversary of D-Day
  • The day I finished writing my sixth novel, The Fire, the Revelation, and the Fall in September

What was your first paying job? How old were you?

Besides babysitting, it was working for a gift shop to make bows, arrange merchandise, and be a sales clerk. I was 17 and I worked for them every summer and Christmas throughout college.

At what point in your life did you know you wanted to pursue writing?

After I already had a long career in strategic planning and business development for a children’s hospital, two marketing degrees, and a five-year-old son.

Looking back over your writing journey, what is one thing you wish you had known earlier?

That the publishing world moves at the speed of molasses! It is a long, slow process to write, get published and market books. You must be patient.

What do you hope to learn this year?

How to produce and market audio books.

Oh, that sounds wonderful. Then you can come back and teach that at the next Write2Ignite Conference!

Do you remember one of your favorite books from your childhood? What made it special?

Charlotte’s Web. Talking animals, of course.

Of course! What was one of your favorite books when you were a teen?

The Black Stallion

If awarded one day to talk with three authors (from any time period), whom would you choose?

C.S. Lewis, Margaret Mitchell, Paul

The theme for Write2Ignite 2015 is “Shine.” What three helpful hints would you recommend to writers to make their work shine?

  • The light begins in your heart before it flows out of your pen, so take care to keep your heart light continually burning through daily time with God. Commit your work totally to him, and trust his shut doors as much as his open ones.
  • Write about what you are passionate about. Then you won’t care how many endless hours you must research to know what you’re writing about, and to write with excellence.
  • Don’t settle for good enough. Eliminate mediocrity from your vocabulary. That goes for your writing, your editing, your publishing decisions, your marketing and your public presence. YOUR very best is the goal, not that belonging to someone else.


Thank you for sharing with us, Jenny. We look forward to seeing you in March.

Readers, you can connect with Jenny on her website: and on

Facebook: Jenny L. Cote.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Encouraging others is Sally Matheny’s mission in life. She enjoys “reflecting on ordinary life under God’s extraordinary Light.”

A freelance writer and blogger, Sally’s ordinary days are blessed with her pastor-hubby of 25+ years, three children, and a home that can’t stay clean for more than seventeen minutes. Find encouragement from Sally on her blog: and Twitter: @sally_matheny [/author_info] [/author]

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