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5 Messages Teens Desperately Need to Read

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It’s 2020! Never has it been so clear that we are living in a completely different world with a completely different set of rules. Each generation is reared up with other influences, more distractions, and a whole new set of problems.
Since we have accepted the call of God to write for the growing generations, we must now pay attention to their needs. If you’re wondering what to explore with your upcoming projects, these 5 crucial concepts are just some that teens desperately need when they open their next book.

1. Good vs. Evil

This concept isn’t lost on storytelling. Any good versus any evil can be found in just about any book. But I’m getting at the nature of good and evil. More stories need to focus on what causes good and what causes evil. We need to promote the biblical fact that we all have a fleshly, evil nature, even if we’re the protagonist. The fight may look different when we realize that good is caused by God and evil by Satan. But the victory might be just what someone needs to hear for their own life.

2. Hope in Mental Illness

We have an epidemic of mental illnesses on our hands. I read that nearly 1 in 5 people are dealing with some type of mental illness. The coming generation is plagued with depression and anxiety. We must write freely about it in order to spread awareness, but our words need to reveal hope and a means of help. I believe more than enough people will relate better when our stories show that we see, we understand, and we offer comfort in a hopeless mindset.

3. Authentic Love

If you’re like me, you like a good old-fashioned love story. But I’m not talking about writing more love triangles and epic romances. I’m talking about demonstrating through our words, the love Christ has challenged us to show. For example, what does it mean to love an enemy? A bully or an undeserving family member? What does it feel like when people fail at showing that love to us or worse, when we fail at showing it to others? A world of possibilities will follow when we take the time to unpack true love.

4. God’s Intentions

Culture has made it easy for young people to decide what they think of the world and what it should be like. Unfortunately, culture’s agenda hasn’t been kind to God’s ways. With a velvet tongue and a delicate hand on the keyboard, we need to nudge our readers to question the views of society just as they are taught to question the views of faith. We need to give them a glimpse of hope through family, marriage, service, and morality in a way that points them back to God.

5. Independent Faith

In reference to the last idea, it’s good to question your faith. The idea is to not only take for granted what has been given to you, but to also discover for yourself the deep well of truth ready to be explored. If we aren’t encouraging our readers to understand and live out their faith, what are we doing but providing entertainment which they get just about everywhere else in the world?

 

It’s easy to look at these messages and say, “Well, looks like you got yourself a good recipe for a cheesy, Christian read.” Not so.

Just because these themes are necessary for our audience doesn’t mean our stories need to be safe and boring. The youth is confronted with a harsh world every day, so we don’t need to shy away from the harsh truth. Pay attention to these felt needs and your writing will live on in the young hearts of those who read them.

Happy writing!


Leah Jordan Meahl is a Christian author who enjoys journeying alongside you through faith with her blog. Visit her full bio on the Bloggers page.

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How to Survive the Sinking of the S.S. CHRISTIAN MARKET

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The high seas of the writing industry are tumultuous at best with raging competition and a strong current of marketing demands. Within the last few years, one of these waves has taken the Christian fiction market to a low. As a result, publishing houses are merging or narrowing their acquisition criteria, Christian brick and mortar stores like LifeWay are closing, and self-publishing is becoming all too tempting.

But don’t fear, fellow Christian writers! We have the ultimate Life Preserver. Yes, it’s Jesus! With a few simple truths to remember, He will help us refocus in order to navigate even the bleakest of waters.

Truth #1: Remember Who called you.

While we are all different, a common theme among us faith-based writers is the belief that God called us to write. After all, He gave us the skill, the desire, and the message to do so. While that calling doesn’t give us the liberty to do whatever we want with it, we can be certain that God wants us where we are until told otherwise.

And while we’re trusting in The One Who called, we can focus on constantly learning and producing quality work. Jesus understands the obstacles we’ve faced to get where we are, and He will see us through the obstacles heading our way.

Truth #2 Remember the Why

If we believe we’ve been called, we should also believe in the reason we’ve been called. God has cultivated in us His wisdom and His message and we have been charged to reveal it the best way we know how, creatively.

We have a genre, a target audience, and a need that have a special place in our heart. If you’re reading this, that audience might be YA, MG, or children’s books. If you’re like me, the needs of emerging adults inspire your writing. We long to make a positive impact in the lives of our readers and one that goes deeper than just a good story. Let the ‘Why’ be a driving force in your work even if the vehicle changes from time to time.

Truth #3 Remember the Priority

As Christian writers, we don’t just spill words on a page just because. Writing not only scratches that inner itch, but it also helps us communicate to a world that will always need someone to point them to the truth of Jesus. Though the market may seem low, I believe the spiritual demand is at an all-time high. The world is consumed with entertainment for entertainment’s sake. The next generation is growing up with fewer morals, fewer role models, and fewer reasons to be close to Jesus. If we use our words to entertain, educate, and encourage people for Jesus’s sake, we will be providing a worth that cannot be matched.

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When you feel lost in the sea of rejections, when you can’t keep up with the new tide of trends, or when the culture drowns your ambitions, you know what to do. Let the culture and the industry do what they do, ebb and flow as always. Fix your eyes on Jesus, The One Who calms the sea, and He will make sure you stay above water.


Leah Jordan Meahl writes Christian fiction and nonfiction for new adults. Click here to learn more.

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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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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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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.

 

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5 Things Journalism School Taught Me About Writing

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I graduated in May of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and immediately transitioned into a career in marketing. I’m still learning the ropes of copywriting, but many of the principles I learned in journalism school apply to both copywriting and creative writing. I’d love to share some of those things with you.

Interviewing Strangers

One of the first skills I learned in journalism school was how to conduct interviews. In class, my professor had us practice interviewing each other before she sent us to the nearby computer lab to talk to other students — to strangers.

Approaching unsuspecting, and potentially unwilling, strangers was terrifying at first, but over time, the action became easier. By my sophomore year, I was excited to interview strangers.

I’m glad I learned to talk to people and ask good questions early on in my education because so much of the program was based on that discipline. Without interviewing skills, many of my news stories would have been lackluster because people are the heart of a story.

My senior year, I wrote a news story about Main Street Lynchburg, Va., receiving new water lines and electrical systems — not the most interesting story in the world.

But when I added quotes from a quirky barista known as “Coco” and an elderly camera shop owner who thinks the project is “experimenting with other people’s livelihoods,” the story took on a new dimension. 

Whether you’re writing a newspaper article or a work of fiction, talking to others will breathe life into your story.

Simplicity is the Key to Good Writing

Most news is written at an eighth-grade reading level. Journalists intentionally write at a lower reading level so news can be accessible to readers. When writing, journalists use simple sentences and words to get their points across. 

Similarly, in copywriting, we use plain English. When writing to a diverse audience, it is best to write plainly and simply because your readers may have different levels of education. (Am I the only one who read magazine ads as a kid?)

While fiction writers have a more specific audience, I still believe simple writing is the best writing because it doesn’t distract the reader from the story.

Transitions are Hard

Copies of the Liberty Champion displayed on my dorm room wall circa 2017

Both transitions in writing and transitions in life are difficult. 

Traditionally, journalists had to write as simple and short as possible to fit their stories into just a few column inches of the paper. That doesn’t matter as much now with the internet being the primary vehicle for news, but there still isn’t much room for transitions in journalistic writing. 

Academic writing is different than journalistic writing. It’s fluffier and lengthier and more formulaic. Every paragraph is supposed to be bookended with an introduction and a conclusion, and every section is bookended with introductory and conclusive paragraphs. And on it goes. 

Journalistic writing doesn’t have the time for paragraphs dedicated solely to transitioning from one thought to the next, so I learned snappy words to transition quickly from one subject to the next without giving my readers whiplash.

Similarly, I learned that transitions in life are difficult. (See how I used the word “similarly” to transition my thoughts?) 

Transitioning from being a high school student with an interest in creative writing to a journalism student dedicated to fact-based writing was difficult. At first, I felt like my creativity was being stifled because of the blandness of journalism compared to the freedom of creative writing.

But as my education progressed, the blandness transformed into a challenge, and I learned to write true stories creatively.

Again, I’m going through a transition from a journalism student to a copywriting professional. My creativity often runs dry because the copy I write is predetermined by my clients. I don’t get to choose my projects or conduct the research myself — it’s all provided. 

Yet I’m learning to incorporate creativity into direct mail pieces and monthly offer emails. And I’m beginning to realize that creativity is not unrestrained. It’s a tool I can apply to everything I write, whether it is client-provided content or a short story from my heart.

Writing is Easy. Editing is Hard.

I never had a hard time sitting down to write my first draft. After completing my research, transcribing my interviews, and framing an outline, the first draft flowed onto the page in a few minutes. 

Going back and editing is the hard part. Now, I don’t mean checking for grammatical errors. I mean cutting out unnecessary words and sentences, rearranging the flow of the story, and sometimes going back to the drawing board.

Usually, my first drafts ran long — around 1,200 words. At my college newspaper, we had a limit of 750 words per article so everything would fit into our 16-page paper. 

That meant I had to cut out about 450 words every week. That’s a big chunk of text (and work)!

The hard part of editing my own writing is admitting to myself that the first draft isn’t perfect. Over time I learned that a first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect!

Once I accept that my writing isn’t perfect the first time around, I can usually effectively cut out a few hundred words. Before submitting my work, I wait a day and reread the piece with “fresh eyes.”

Don’t Waste your Mistakes

You’re going to make mistakes at some point in your writing career, and that’s okay. Whether it’s misspelling a name or overlooking a grammatical error, know that you can learn from your mistakes.

During my time with the school’s newspaper, I made my fair share of mistakes. So I kept a document of my common mistakes on my computer. That way, I could refer back to it when writing my stories. 

I also worked as a copy editor for the school’s newspaper for two years, and during that time, I made some embarrassing mistakes (like overlooking a misspelling on the front page). Making a checklist of things to look for when reviewing your work (or others’ work) is a great way to cut down on mistakes and improve your writing and editing skills.

What have you learned on your writing journey? I’d love to hear about the lessons you’ve learned in the comments below!

 

About Emily

Photo by Jim Smith

EmilyBabbitt is a promotional writer for Liberty University Marketing and specializes in residential undergraduate enrollment. She has done extensive research on Generation Z and has written for school-aged audiences in her work as a promotional writer and through contract work with Growing Leaders, Inc. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, taking photos, and cooking. You can learn more about her work by visiting her website, EmilyMarlene.com, or connecting with her on LinkedIn.

 

Emily will be blogging for Write2Ignite on the first Thursday of every month. Her next post will be published on Nov. 7.

 

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The Minimalist Writer

Along the city wall in York, England – a bow window used in the time of war. It’s all about focus!

As a writer, I can get caught up in FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. Each time a new blog post or newsletter alerts me of a webinar I must attend, a book I should be reading, or a social media task I need to engage in, I get panicky.

Which is the most important? What if I make the wrong choice?

 

There is too much to do in a limited timeframe. Authors have families, other jobs, people and pets to care for, let alone places we’d like to go – just like anyone else. How do we fit it all in??

Can I make a suggestion?

We don’t need to!

As far as I’m concerned, there are only seven things we authors MUST do . . .

READ. WRITE. CONNECT. CRITIQUE. SUBMIT. INSPIRE. MENTOR.

Sound easy? It is!

 

#1 READ

Books that

– intrigue
– inspire
– inform

In addition, you must read in the genre you are writing in. And occasionally, to shake things up, choose a genre you would not normally read, or try an e-book or an audiobook. You’d be amazed at how a story gains another dimension when you listen to the words.

Join Goodreads, and find fellow readers who will share their favs. And you, in turn, can recommend yours.

 

#2 WRITE

For obvious reasons, if you are going to be a writer, you need to, well, write!

Every day, in some way.

It could be a letter. A blog post. A one-page prompt. An entry in your diary. Some creativity needs to flow from your pen.

I find having a weekly blog post forces me to write. Sometimes, being part of a challenge like NaNoWriMo brings out the creative juices. Or perhaps you work better with prompts. You can find prompts online or in a book. Take your pick.

 

The Charles Dickens Museum

 

#3 CONNECT

Connecting with others is a must — readers, writers, and professionals (agents and editors).

How is that done?

Through Social Media — pick one!

Facebook: if you love to post links, ask questions, share your travel pics, post cute animal photos, and share FB posts with others.

Pinterest: if you love to categorize images in a visual file for future reference, collect images for your next book, or writing tips to use later.

Twitter: if you can be succinct, love to connect with professionals, use GIFs and images, and ask questions or participate in pitch parties, etc.

Instagram: if you are all about a single photo, love to go live, to inspire others, and can tell a story in one image, but don’t necessarily care to share.

Also, writers’ groups like 12×12 are a great way to connect. You will find your friend list and writing skills growing faster than you ever thought possible! Memberships to professional organizations like SCBWI and ACFW are a must.

 

#4 CRITIQUE

Every writer needs a critique group. You can’t write in a vacuum. You need others to point out flaws in your writing, so you can perfect it. If signing a contract with an agent or editor is on your wishlist, then you need critique buddies to help you get that manuscript in shape.

The groups I’ve mentioned above will have critique groups to join as well as Word Weavers International, specifically conceived to help writers perfect their manuscripts in a friendly environment. They gather online or in person to encourage one another in their writing pursuits.

 

#5 SUBMIT

Of course, if you are going to be published, you need to submit! Here is a comprehensive guide to help you. Find the Writer’s Market 2020 here. The guide gives you tips of all sorts, and the categories are divided according to genre, subject, and type of publication. For those who write faith-based works, The Christian Writer’s Market Guide is a must-read.

And don’t forget the importance of writers’ conferences such as our own Write2Ignite and others like The SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference.     Each year, you have the opportunity to schedule appointments with agents and editors who might be waiting to publish your story!

 

#6 INSPIRE!

I don’t know about you, but I need to get out every so often and be inspired. Since I am a historical fiction writer, nothing gets my little grey cells working more than a trip to a historical town or museum. When I visited Bath, England years ago, my daughter and I had tea at this famous bun shop.

When we finished our treats, I visited the tiny museum in the basement of the shop which you see below. There was a small sign indicating that the woman who started the shop was a Huguenot girl who escaped persecution and fled to England. That tidbit of info was all I needed to begin my story, which I titled “Because of a Bun: Soli’s Saving Grace”.

 

 

#7 MENTOR

Just as the Brontë sisters mentored each other, and modern-day writers, too, as their classics wind their way into our hearts, we as writers need to find someone a bit farther behind us to come beside us on our journey. Have coffee with them and ask about their projects. Give them links to helpful resources. Offer to critique a story for them. They will thank you, and someday, do the same for another.

Did I leave anything out? Let me know in the comments below!


 

The Heart Changer - MG Historical Fiction
Jarm Del Boccio’s debut MG Historical Fiction, “The Heart  Changer”

Jarm Del Boccio’s debut middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer, released with Ambassador International April 26th. You can connect with her at https://www.jarmdelboccio.com/  Purchase The Heart Changer HEREJarm loves reviews, as does any author! 

Here’s a handy Teachers’ Guide to use with The Heart Changer as a unit study.


Jarm (‘J’ pronounced as a ‘Y’) Del Boccio finds her inspiration in everyday life, but in particular, when she travels the globe, observing the quirky things that happen along the way. Focusing on the lives of characters from the past, Jarm is devoted to breathing new life into the pages of history. Jarm Del Boccio is content with the journey God has placed her on, and lives with her husband, adult daughter and son (when he lands at home), in a tree-lined suburb of Chicago.