One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble, He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle, He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.
Psalm 61: 1-4
Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth, I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy.I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah
Note from the Reformation Heritage KJV version:
“Tabernacle” refers to God’s tent, not the sacred tabernacle into which only priests could enter, but a symbol of dwelling in fellowship with God, claiming Him as his Host to protect and provide for him. “Covert” means shelter.
This Is Your Captain Speaking is not a typical actor’s memoir, so I was pleasantly surprised when I purchased this autobiography for a quarter at a used bookstore. The title is derived from Gavin MacLeod’s popular role as the captain on the 1970s television show The Love Boat. Interestingly, MacLeod dedicates the book “to the Captain of my life, who came that I might have life and have it abundantly.”
I first saw Gavin MacLeod as Big Chicken, a drug pusher, on my favorite television show, Hawaii Five-O. Once I knew who he was, I noticed several guest roles he played in other television shows, the most familiar being The Andy Griffith Show. In all these, he was the same character: always a “bad guy.” Several years later I was stunned to see him in the Christian film, Timechanger, where he played a Bible professor. Having seen him in this role, I naturally assumed he was a Christian, but I had no idea how profound his story is.
MacLeod was raised Catholic but rejected that faith when he was older. His father was an alcoholic, and he, unfortunately, was an alcoholic for a brief period in his life. MacLeod married his first wife at twenty-four years old, and they later divorced because of his drinking. He remarried, and once again, divorced. However, his circumstances were different, for his second wife, Patti, became a Christian. At the same time, MacLeod found out his mother had a brain cyst and could die in surgery. That morning, he prayed that if God would let him see his mother one last time, he would give his life to Him. Then, he contacted Patti, and they soon remarried. (Read the book to find out the rest!)
His entire life changed; MacLeod didn’t want to be the “bad guy” anymore but instead use his fame to be a testimony for Christ. Indeed, because he is famous, Gavin MacLeod exerts a strong influence over his audiences. After being saved, MacLeod had the unique opportunity to witness to a dying friend, Ted Knight, whom he had co-starred with on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Both Knight and his wife were saved as a result of MacLeod’s testimony.
In addition to his captivating story of faith, the principal component of MacLeod’s book is, of course, his life in Hollywood. MacLeod loves trivia on actors and filmmaking, and he relates much in his autobiography. Did you know Raymond Burr raised orchids? Or that Julie Andrews was married to her husband, Blake Edwards, for forty-one years, until his death? I love interesting trivia as well, so this book appealed to me even more. Yet the most unique thing about Gavin MacLeod as an actor is that even when he plays a villain, viewers still like him. He confesses this oddity in his book: “It’s a strange thing, and I say this not to be boastful but because I’ve never understood exactly what it is about me that makes audiences react this way: even when I’m playing a really terrible character, there’s something about me that audiences still like” (51).
The accomplishments of Gavin MacLeod are incredible. He has known two US presidents, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and worked with famous actors such as Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe. But what is more incredible is his testimony: “My greatest wish, though, is that whoever reads my story will walk away at the end with a smile. And maybe, just maybe, there’s something to be found in my journey—especially me journey of faith—that will help give someone a little bit of hope. Maybe even change someone’s life for the better.” Many of you have probably never heard of Gavin MacLeod and are wondering, “Why should I read this book?” I admit I’m biased—I am a big fan of Gavin MacLeod as an actor—but as writers I think it is important to see the impact one man can have on the world. I recommend this book to teens and adults alike, and I believe that if you do read it, your life will be changed for the better.
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.
Welcome to my fifth grade RtI group. Seated at this table are four students who have spent most of their academic careers cycling in and out of various levels of reading intervention.
Seated at this table is Sara, the girl who spent last year traveling the states in an RV with her family, who washes her hair with pink dye shampoo every other day, and who can empathize the heart out of any story you give her. Here is James, who can make origami yodas out of post-it notes, who struggles to carry the weight of his depression on his 10-year-old’s shoulders, and who likes to give names to my dry erase markers. Next to James is Mateo, taller than me and a good bit wider but somehow the shyest fifth grader I have ever met. When asked to illustrate his dream house, he drew a potato with a door in it. Finally, we have Maisy. If anyone has a right to hate reading, it’s this kid. She has been in RtI for as long as she has been in school. But Maisy is also the girl who fills my whiteboard with motivational quotes, who dances down the hallway at the end of our sessions, and who rewrote the words to “Holly, Jolly Christmas” to congratulate me on my wedding.
Today, we are discussing a 16-page booklet we read last time about a Mexican folk tale.
“Is there anything else you guys noticed?” I prod.
“Honestly, this writer wrote something that didn’t interest me,” Maisy confesses.
The other fifth graders at my table stare at her in shock and horror. How dare she have a negative opinion about a book a teacher handed her? She cracks under the pressure and immediately starts to back-pedal.
“You guys,” I interrupt, “You don’t have to be interested in or even like everything we read in here. In fact, I’m reading a book right now that I don’t agree with at all.”
They looked at me like I had grown a second head.
If you’ve made it through some or all of high school, I know that you’ve been where Maisy was today. We have all begrudgingly read a Romeo and Juliet or a Twelfth Night or a To Kill a Mockingbird or a Brave New World.
Have I traumatized you enough, or shall I continue to name drop?
In twelfth grade, I hated Holden Caulfield, but I still look back on The Catcher in the Rye with fondness. As a protagonist, Holden was a selfish, unreliable, and extremely angsty little twerp, and I was glad to be done with him when Mr. Watson moved us on to the next book in the curriculum. However, five years later, and I still reference The Catcher in the Rye a handful of times each year, I still think about the ducks on a frozen pond, and I still can picture Holden’s recurring nightmare as if it were one of my own.
Why is that?
Why is it that a book that I did not care at all for has become one of my happiest memories of high school?
Rory Gilmore of the eponymous TV show Gilmore Girls hits close to home when she says in her valedictorian’s speech, “I live in two worlds. One is a world of books. I’ve been a resident of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode [sic] a sad train with Anna Karenina, and strolled down Swann’s Way.”
I did not like Holden Caulfield, but I walked with him for 277 pages, and that is not easily forgotten. I did not appreciate some of his choices—or any of his attitude, for that matter—but by Jove, I learned from him. I walked a sad and tumultuous road with him, and I will never forget what life looked like to this blue-eyed, already-grey-haired 16-year-old.
We say that books have great power, but how often do we challenge ourselves with that power as adults? How often do we pick up books we know we will not enjoy or that we may not agree with and make ourselves read them anyway? How often do we ask ourselves to stretch as readers and as humans into someone else’s shoes now that there is no high school teacher telling us to?
“I’m reading a book right now that I don’t agree with at all,” I confide to my fifth graders, grimacing at the thought of The Fountainhead and just how many more chapters I’ll have to wade through to get to the end of it.
“Because even though I don’t agree with all of the characters or even the author of this book, I know there are people out there who do agree with them. And I can learn from this book how to understand and empathize with those people better.
You can learn something from everyone.”
What are you learning? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below.
Sarah Hope is a West Michigan reading interventionist and writer who someday hopes to invent and obtain the position of a professional friend. She believes strongly in empathy, storytelling, and humans. You can follow her on Instagram at sarah.hope.97.
“In the Christian life, one fact is crystal clear: we are at war. It involves every Christian—and collectively the entire Church—and it is a holy war. It does not involve physical combat; it is against spiritual enemies. It is a hard-fought war, demanding everything a believer has and is…To do their part in this war, individual believers must engage the spiritual enemies with the weapons and equipment with which God has endowed them. We can learn about all of this through God’s Word, but His truths are also illustrated through the events that have occurred in human military history. This book uses both, surveying the military history of Israel from Abram’s operation to rescue Lot through the fall of Jerusalem and examining our spiritual warfare in the light of military history and modern military organization.” (From the back cover.)
Write2Ignite featured Dennis Peterson last April talking about his path to publication for his latest book, Combat! With the release of the book in February by TouchPoint Press, Dennis is now on the other side of the process. In this second interview he answers more questions about the book and how he plans to market it.
How did you research the military aspects of Combat?
Having taught history for a number of years, and having conducted quite a bit of research as a history textbook author, I already had a good background in military history. I conducted even more specific research into biblical Israel’s warfare and military theory and strategy by reading copious amounts of material by experts in the subject–ancient historians, Sun Tzu, Jomini, Clausewitz, and veteran high-ranking officers from America’s modern military. I then applied what I learned from that research to the individual’s spiritual warfare.
Do you think of the book as a devotional?
If it is, it’s an awfully long devotional! I see it rather as a Bible study. Each chapter has four or five (or more) discussion questions that relate to the information contained in the chapter.
How are you marketing Combat?
I posted Facebook updates on its progress all along the way, announced its release date as soon as I learned it, announced when it was available for preorder and where, and then announced its actual release. I also had several partners (I guess the term for them now is “street team”) who also promoted it on social media using their platforms, thereby broadening the reach of the news. I also printed business cards that showed the cover on one side and basic ordering information on the back and bookmarks, which also showed the cover and ordering information but also gave a description of the book and information about the author, and began handing out those at every opportunity.
Are you speaking to any groups?
I have spoken in one local Christian high school’s chapel. I am willing to consider more as opportunities become available.
Are you planning on holding bookstore events?
There are several local bookstores that I intend to approach to arrange book signings.
The believer is to “put on the whole armor of God,” as the complete Roman panoply shown here illustrates. Illustrator: Preston Gravely
What was different about writing and publishing this book?
The publisher of this book was different than the one for my first book. The previous publisher was an academic publisher that tended to market solely to libraries and schools, and they did little to help spread the word beyond their catalog. The current publisher has posted numerous social media announcements about the book. They even monitored my own Facebook posts about the book and shared them, further broadening the market. They expressed confidence in me and my work, even offering me a contract for my next book! The only negative aspect that I’ve experienced is not having access to my book earlier. The first publisher had author’s copies to me several days before the book was available to the general public.
Have you had any reviews? Interviews?
I had the first customer review appear on Amazon as soon as the Kindle version was available. It was written by one of my former Basic Composition students, and it made me feel as though all my efforts in the classroom so many years ago actually had made a difference after all, at least in one student’s writing life! “Suite T,” the blog site of Southern Writers magazine, published Part I of a two-part feature story about the book on February 21. Here is Part II of that feature. As for interviews, a reporter for the Greer Citizen newspaper interviewed me and devoted about 1/3 of a page in the paper’s entertainment section to a write-up about the book before it was released.
Thanks, for sharing all of this with our readers. In addition, TouchPointe has contracted Dennis to write his next book which is titled,Ã‚Â Christ in Camp and Combat: Religious Work in the Confederate Armies.Ã‚Â Look for an upcoming review of Combat! on this site.
Check out all of Dennis’s books at Amazon.com by searching “Dennis L. Peterson.”
Last week, I was sitting around a conference table with an enthusiastic group of writers. They passed out their copies and we all took turns offering gentle but constructive feedback. Before I go on, consider joining a critique group; it’s key if you want your writing to grow and your story to be the best it can be.
An older gentleman in the group read his piece, and I was intrigued by the fact that his main character was a 16-year-old girl. The feedback that followed focused on how his MC sounded more like him than a teenage girl. How can he help that? How can you?
Here is a list of details you should keep in mind when writing in the perspective of a YA:
Teenagers are in the beginning stages of finding themselves. Even the most mature teenager probably has many underlying insecurities. If it’s not body image, it’s peer pressure, or bullying, or not feeling understood. If you’re writing contemporary YA, you also have the growing amount of mental illness among young people to factor in. It’s not cliché, it’s real life for them.
Your characters shouldn’t act too logical or mature. Young adults are still learning about handling conflicts. They are infamous for acting out of emotion.
Just like with adult men and women, young adult girls think different than young adult boys. If you’re writing in the perspective of the opposite sex, one of the first details you should research is the mindset of that gender. That way, you won’t impose too much of your own thinking on your character.
Seek to understand what abstract concepts look like to young people. What do they fear? Do they have hopes? What does victory look like? How would they describe love? The fears I had at 15 are on a completely different spectrum than the fears I have at 26. And I’m still peeling back the layers of love. Capture that, and your youthful readers will relate better to your characters.
Understand your time period. Some of these traits are universal for teens, but some details change depending on the generation you’re exploring. For instance, Generation X seemed to be very keen on getting their driver’s license the day they turned 16, but Gen Z seems less motivated, possibly due to the many rideshare apps. Consider these subtle generational changes when you write.
Now that you have a whole lot to think about, how do you go about answering these questions?
Crack open the child psychology books. Rudimentary knowledge of brain development at that age can make a world of difference. Even if your character doesn’t suffer from them, learn about mental illnesses and how they affect emotions and relationships between people that age.
Interview your young connections. Sit down with friends and family members, a high school class, or a church youth group and really hear their words. You will get a real visual and auditory understanding of them as well as a peek into their mindset.
Find younger beta readers to look over your work and give them questions to focus on regarding character authenticity or plausibility. They may have good feedback that you can include in your manuscript.
Research trends, not only in fashion or ideals, but also in how young people are treated by bullies, parents, peers. What responsibilities are common for the age group in question?
Most importantly, remember. Remember your adolescence, your struggle, your journey, and your growth. Doing so will provide the heart that your story needs. The research will only enhance your experiences. As the writer, you can confidently give your young adult characters the arc that they need to make a compelling journey.
How do you like to tackle the mind of your YA MC? Let us know!
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.
The Write2Ignite Team is thrilled to welcome Jean Matthew Hall back to the Team as the Write2Ignite Director.
Jean was one of the original founders of Write2Ignite back in 2008. We thank the Lord that she is able to rejoin us.
Jean will spearhead our next big event in September 2020. YA-HOOO!
We asked her a few questions to give you the 4-1-1 on her. Keep reading!
What was the impetus for beginning W2I? What was your vision and work in those beginning years? How did you see it unfold?
In 2007 several of us got together for lunch at an SCBWI Conference in Charlotte, NC. We each expressed how we would love to have a similar gathering focused on our Christian faith and worldview. That conversation led to a brainstorming and prayer meeting. Thus, Write2Ignite was born.
Why did you step away from the leadership?
I led the Write2Ignite Conferences until 2014. At that time my personal life became very complicated. My husband was critically ill, my mother with dementia lived with us, and my daughter needed a full-time caregiver for her four children while she worked. The Lord told me it was time to step down from Write2Ignite and minister to my family.
What is bringing you back now? Please share your new vision for W2I and how the Lord led you to this new vision.
In 2016 my husband passed away. In 2017 my mother did, too. God told me it was time to relocate and give my daughter and her children some space. So, I relocated to Louisville, KY, to be near my son and his family. A few months ago, the Write2Ignite Team contacted me about returning to “duty!” After prayer and consideration, I agreed. And I’m glad I did. It’s great to be working with my old writing and conference buddies again.
I can hardly wait to show all of you what’s coming for Write2Ignite in September 2020.
We’re planning a BIG announcement on Friday, March 13. Be sure to check in with our website. You are going to LOVE it, I know.
Thanks, everyone, for making me feel right at home at Write2Ignite.
Please leave me a little message in the comments. I’d love to say “Hi” to you individually.
Jean is the author of the picture book Bountiful Blessings series published by Little Lamb Books. The first book, God’s Blessings of Fall, debuted in September 2019.
Learn more about Jean on her website , on FB at Jean Matthew Hall Author, and at SCBWI .
“A picture book illustrator needs to tell a story with pictures. A picture book author needs to show the same story with words.” –Jean Matthew Hall
When I attended last year’s Write2Ignite conference, I went to Jean Matthew Hall’s discussion, What is a Picture Book. One of her main points was that a true picture book tells the story through both the illustrations and the words. Without either, the story would be incomplete.
When the illustrations build the story, rather than merely reflecting the words, it adds a layer of magic and delight to the book. But while it’s easy to recognize that pictures and words work together to make great stories, it’s sometimes hard to write a book designed to be accompanied by images (especially if you aren’t an illustrator). In order for pictures to help tell the story, the words have to leave enough unsaid.
As a beginning picture book writer, I struggle to leave details unsaid. My brain wants to describe everything, leaving no creative space for a future illustrator. The words feel like the heavy-lifters, so I don’t want to leave too much work for the pictures to do. I struggle with deciding what to show with my words, and what to leave for the pictures to tell.
What has helped me to look at my story drafts differently is reading picture-driven stories.
Picture-driven stories remind me that the words don’t have to do all the work. The illustrations are capable of taking on a larger role than I give them credit for.
One great example of this is Watersong by Tim McCanna. In this beautifully illustrated book, the words are entirely onomatopoeia. They are poetry, providing the sound track to the story told in the images. A fox runs through a storm, and though not a word is said about the fox, the reader is engaged by his experience. The overall tone is heartwarming and satisfying. This is a story that had to be told in pictures; words simply could not have produced the same effect. Reading it reminded me that sometimes, simplicity in words creates the perfect atmosphere for imagination.
The opportunity pictures provide for imagination is even better seen in wordless picture books. I didn’t realize this genre existed until I began working at a library where patrons asked for help finding them. One fun example I found is Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman. (I was on a rainy-day kick this week). In this book, a young boy all alone in a big house finds a key, which leads him to explore and to find unexpected friends. Told in colorful images, the story guides the reader through the action and curiosity but leaves space for us to imagine as well. What is the boy feeling, thinking, saying? All that is left to our interpretation.
As a writer focused on words, reading a story without a single sentence in it lets me exercise a muscle I don’t usually use.
The advantage of reading books where the story is told mostly or entirely in images is that it trains my brain to think differently. They teach me to think in pictures. Suddenly, I’m not hearing my story being told; I’m seeing it. My narrative becomes a Pixar short film in my mind rather than a podcast.
Without steeping myself in the power of illustrations, it’s hard to let go of my pet narrations and descriptions. Cutting away the unnecessary details becomes easier when I’m reminded of the beauty of discovering the story visually. Wordless picture books like Rainstorm and picture-driven stories like Watersong help me to experience the capabilities of pictures. They teach me to be a better writer by showing me what I don’t need to write.
What are some of your favorite picture books? Do you think their stories are more word-driven or picture-driven?