Write2Ignite

Christian Writers of Literature for Children and Young Adults

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 The author describes their situation best: “Fences of the refugee camps had been replaced by fences of ignorance that seemed almost as insurmountable” (76).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.

 

Do You Google?

Google and the InternetWhen I was 14 years old, I won the grand prize in a contest: a set of encyclopedias. I know—not very exciting, is it? But this was in the ancient days before computers, personal or otherwise. You’d have thought I won London’s crown jewels!

I was so proud of that prize. It replaced the 25-year-old encyclopedias my parents owned. This new set included photos and up-to-date entries. Don’t laugh—I stayed up nights just reading about various subjects for the pure joy of learning. Yes, I was a bookworm…or nerd…or geek…or whatever it’s called today.

Those encyclopedias took me through high school and into college. Back then, computers were the size of a room and programming really was a foreign language. As personal computing evolved, so did access to information. Eventually we were no longer restricted to physical books, or even a physical library, to satisfy our hunger for information.

The internet became the new frontier – the digital equivalent of the wild west. And search engines became our railroad for traveling this frontier. Search engines changed the way we access information. Lycos, Google, Dogpile, Ask Jeeves (which morphed into Ask.com), and Bing were just a few of the sites that helped us retrieve data from the World Wide Web. Their names were as creative and varied as the information they provided.

Still, information takes us only so far. The bigger question is, how are we using the information? Interpretation and application determine if the information becomes truly helpful, or if it remains an info dump or even a temptation swamp we wade through each time we turn on the laptop. Two potential quagmires readily come to mind:

Personal Impact

With all the blogs, tweets, networks, websites, and search engines out there, it’s way too easy to allow the information overload to sap our energy, drain our time, and influence our values as we passively take it all in.

Discernment is not a word we often hear these days. Yet, discernment is exactly what we need to process the information that’s so readily available. Depending on your perspective, search engine filters are either a necessary moral protection or a restriction on free speech. Still, even with the use of filters, we cannot abdicate our responsibility to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) and minds by guarding our eyes and ears.

Writing Research

As writers, we also have a responsibility to be discerning in our research. Information is readily accessible for our writing needs, but just because we find data online doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Googling our questions is easy. Discerning how we use what we learn is more difficult. Whether we write books, magazine articles, blogs, or devotions, readers view us as having implied authority. We have a responsibility to investigate the accuracy of our research before we use it. As we’ve all heard, “Google, but verify!”

Each time I turn on the computer, the Holy Spirit calls me to be aware of the fine line between gaining knowledge and losing myself, both as an individual and as a writer. How about you?

What are you doing to guard both your heart and your credibility when you use the internet?

10 Reflections from a New Author

 

This past year has been a special one for the books (pun intended) because I published my first book! As you know, the process is anything but quick, but you can bet that the experience has been rich with lessons that will carry on into my future projects. My brief takeaways might just work as a reminder for you while on your writing journey.

 

  1. Dedicating your work to God makes a world of difference

Writing a book is a daunting task that involves more than just hashing out 300 pages. You have the task of giving a reader an experience, good or bad, influential and entertaining. Praying over my message, my chapters, my ideas and more helped me surrender, knowing God will help, inspire, encourage, and take the book where it needs to go.

  1. Don’t marry your words

This idea comes from one of my writing professors. We writers can get so attached to our words that we fail to receive criticism. When it comes to crafting your ideas effectively, the best practice is to be open minded and flexible.

  1. Your audience is more important than your ‘dream’

I’ve always been so focused on “writing the book” that it hindered me from thinking about who I was writing for. Becoming a writer may have been the dream that got us started, but our attention to our readers allows us to bear good fruit, which is ultimately more fulfilling.

  1. Editing never ends

You can go through your manuscript a hundred times and still find something to tweak. I had several sets of eyes go through my work and I went through in a variety of formats, but the final product still has a few errors. Learn when to let go before you let the editing process keep you from ever publishing.

  1. Rejection doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer

I thought that I would be a mess when I received my first rejection. To my surprise, I had prepared myself enough to be confident despite each “No” from the industry. Publishing houses and literary agents reject for a number of reasons: length of the manuscript, criteria of the publishing house, market need, etc. Let them roll off your back as you continue to learn and grow.

  1. Your work is not less significant if it’s self-published

I always went along with the stigma of self-publishing. Obviously, it meant that the writer wasn’t good enough to get really published. Fortunately, I don’t feel that way now. Though some self-published books are less than good, self-publishing is a great way to learn about formatting and design. It’s also effective in building a readership that publishers ultimately admire.

  1. Don’t skimp on quality

In reference to self-publishing specifically, you are the one with the final say and the same goes for quality. Have editors but don’t rely on just their edits. Go back through yourself. Don’t try and design a cover if you have little to no experience as a graphic designer. Those details will scream low quality and end up hurting your readership. Cost effective solutions are out there, and you’ll be thankful once you have that stellar looking book in your hands.

  1. Marketing is a game: win or lose, you still have to play

Many writers hear the word ‘marketing’ and cringe. Growing your inner marketer is part of the job, and it will include trial and error. Read the books, try new things, get people excited about your work. Marketing is necessary, so bite the bullet. Seeing your platform growing, your calendar filling, and your books selling will make it all worthwhile.

  1. Doubt is part of the territory

No matter where you are in the process, I bet you’ve experienced doubt. I had many doubts right up until my release. We tend to doubt our story is as good as what’s out there. We doubt if anybody will truly enjoy reading our work. The list goes on. But don’t let those feelings keep you from doing it anyway. Keep writing, keep querying, keep advertising, and keep editing. You’ll be glad you did.

  1. Practice makes perfect

This is a lesson we all learn at a young age and it’s no different for the writing and publishing world. The more we read, write, edit and worm our way into the industry, the better we will get. I look forward to the day I can look back at my first book and praise God for how far I’ve come.

What’s something you’ve learned on your writing adventures? Is it on this list or is it something different? Please share with us!

Write on, friends!


Leah Jordan Meahl is an up and coming Christian author. She loves to journey with new adults and Christians alike with her blog. Check out her full Bio.

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!

********

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.

Difficult Times — Tips For Working Through the Tough Parts of Life

Sometimes life isn’t kind, and it’s hard to focus on your job or your personal projects. Here are some tips to help you work through difficult times.

Just a few weeks ago, my husband and I were involved in a hit-and-run accident with an 18-wheeler. It brushed the side of my Honda Civic and sent us spinning across the highway and flipped us onto the grassy shoulder.

Thankfully, we sustained only minor injuries, but our vehicle was declared an “obvious total loss” by our insurance company.

I’m looking forward to freeing up the space in my brain that has been occupied by this accident. It puts pressure on everything else I have to think about: my personal life, full-time job, freelance projects, and graduate work. I don’t have enough mental energy to give the needed attention to each of these things because the accident keeps overshadowing and crowding them out.

But even when this accident blows over, I know something else will be thrown my way. It seems like life is always trying to trip me up, trip you up, trip us all up. However, I’m learning to change my perspectives, and the first thing I’m choosing to do is replace the worries with gratitude

Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)

Difficult times can be combated by counting your blessings instead of sheep.I’ve been struggling with anxiety since the accident, and my husband’s night-shift job has exacerbated the situation. It’s difficult for me to sleep, let alone focus on work right now.

I was telling my parents about my struggle, and my dad suggested focusing on the miracle of safety and fostering gratitude toward God for protecting me and my husband during the accident.

So that’s what I’ve been trying to do — foster gratitude for the miracle of safety. 

When people ask me about the accident, I praise God for protection. There is something shocking about being the recipient of a miracle, and it isn’t a great feeling. It feels like an out-of-body experience. I shouldn’t be walking or writing or speaking or laughing.

Yet I’m here because of God’s protection, writing with just a slight ache in my back. It isn’t that I’m not thankful or feel undeserving. I just feel shocked and slightly awed. 

The conversation with my parents made me think of the song “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” by Irving Berlin.

When I’m worried, and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think those lyrics are going to be my motto for this year. I’m going to count my blessings before I go to sleep instead of recounting my worries from the day, and I hope each day will get a little easier as a result. 

Practically, counting your blessings looks like keeping a gratitude journal or speaking prayers of gratitude. Personally, I found that keeping a journal was a good way for me to keep the blessings of each day at the front of my mind. Writing things down really solidifies the good in my mind and gives me a way to go back and recount blessings from the Lord.

Adjust Your Expectations

Difficult times do not mean you have to stop working. Start by adjusting your expectations for yourself.Over the past six weeks, I’ve found that the best way to focus on work is to lower my expectations for myself. Usually, I’m a very quick and efficient worker. I write and edit quickly. I always make sure to make edits and keep projects moving as fast as possible because I know deadlines always close in quickly. 

So I’ve been showing myself some grace and adjusting my expectations. I’ve been intentionally communicating with my supervisor and letting her know I might need help with some things or may not have things done by the end of the day. And guess what? It’s okay. 

Sometimes, the expectations I have for myself aren’t the expectations others have for me. If I need to slow down, it isn’t going to inconvenience anyone terribly or change their opinion of my work. I’m still producing quality work, but I’m taking my time and allowing myself to think and feel and draw my attention back to the task at hand if my mind wanders. 

It’s been difficult getting back to work after the accident and the holidays, but I’m slowly hitting my stride.

I’m not sure what life has for you at the moment but know there is a season for everything. While many of us want to experience uninhibited creativity, that isn’t always an option. It’s okay to be run down. It’s okay to experience both the good and bad parts of life.

I hope you’re able to adjust your expectations and find reasons to express gratitude to God through difficult times. What are you thankful for today?

Learn more about Emily here.

writing

Writing Resources: Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams

“This book is for you–the person who wants to be published or grow in your writing craft  . . . My desire is for your writing to thrive and move into a higher gear after you read these pages.” (W. Terry Whalin, pp. 20)

Writing for publication is a skill that must be learned, and one of the best ways to learn is to go to the experts. Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams by W. Terry Whalin offers solid advice in clear, easy-to-digest sections which motivate you to work toward your goals.  At the end of each chapter, Whalin includes Dig Deeper lists of additional resources that elaborate on the subjects he discusses. He also offers questions for reflection and challenges you to take action based on what you’ve learned. Whalin aims throughout the book to help you define and achieve your goals as a writer, and in doing so, he creates an informative, encouraging text that you’ll want to keep ready at hand. 

Here’s a sneak peek of what Whalin has to say:

Fittingly enough for a book focused on achieving dreams, Whalin spends chapter two discussing the importance of making a plan for your writing. This chapter grabbed my attention the first time I read it because it makes two very convicting points.

First,

Whalin asks us to consider what our Time Wasters are, listing among them emails, family interruptions, and even writing opportunities. He explains, “Whether you have several hours a day or a full day to accomplish your writing goals, it is easy to fill those hours with ‘good things’ that do not help you move toward the fulfillment of those goals” (pp. 32). As an expert procrastinator, this line stung me a little. Whenever I sit down to write, there are a million other to-dos floating through the back of my mind. All of them seem more important, or at least equally important to the task at hand. But at the end of the day, time set aside for writing needs to be set aside for writing. If we want to accomplish our goals, we have to be willing to make them a priority. And that means sometimes, it’s okay to say no to other opportunities, even good opportunities. Our writing is worth devoting our full attention to, even if it requires a little sacrifice.

Second,

Whalin reminds us to make consistent short-term goals. Big-hairy goals, as a professor of mine used to call them, are great. Necessary, even. Dreaming big inspires our writing, helping us to believe in the possibilities. Short-term goals, however, make those big-hairy dreams achievable. Whalin explains that the key to being productive is to continually set smaller goals and follow through with them. Every small milestone brings you a step closer to your destination. While writing a 500 page novel can be daunting to consider, writing 5 pages a day is a manageable plan. And over time, the consistent effort of 5 pages a day will create the finished novel that was so intimidating at the beginning.

These tidbits of wisdom barley scratch the surface of all you’ll find in this book. Every chapter brings with it more applicable information, getting deeper as you go through.

So How Would I Rate This?

I give Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams 5 out of 5 jumping goldfish. 

This book is designed to be put into practice. Whalin’s conversational tone, real-life examples, and calls to action make the book engaging, and the advice is easy to understand and apply.  Reading each chapter left me with the same feeling I get when I leave a writer’s conference: I just can’t wait to get started. I hope you’ll add a copy to your shelf, and if you do, I hope you learn as much from this book as I did. 

One final question before you go. What is one short-term goal you have for your writing, or that you’d like to set for your writing today?

 

Whalin, W. Terry. Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams: Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. WTW Press, 2009.

 

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