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Christmas in July: Planning Seasonal Products Early

Christmas in July-Planning Seasonal Products Early

It’s July 1st. I’m having trouble getting my head wrapped around that. It means half the year has passed. It means all those things I committed to doing in July (when it was still months away) are suddenly due now. And it means the Christmas holiday will be here before we blink.

I know—you’re probably groaning because I mentioned Christmas. I’ll admit it. While Christmas is, in many ways, my favorite time of the year, it also brings with it increased pressures and demands. One way you can relieve a few of those demands is to plan and prepare your holiday-related products and specials now instead of at the last minute (which I have been guilty of doing so many times in the past!).

If you create printables and curriculum for the homeschool market, there is, in my opinion, no more exciting time than the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. Opportunities to bless your readers abound, and the opportunities to reach new audiences also flourish. Blogs everywhere will have special link-ups and roundups for holiday resources. The Pinterest boards that are dedicated to sharing holiday content are too numerous to count. And who hasn’t at least considered shopping those Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales?

The first year I was blogging more seriously, Black Friday took me totally by surprise. In October, I started seeing calls on social media to submit Christmas-themed products. Thanksgiving doesn’t generally cross my mind until the calendar flips to November. I was unprepared. I had one Christmas freebie I had made in the past. I guarantee you that I shared that one freebie almost everywhere I could find out about that year!
The next year, I am embarrassed to say, I didn’t start planning much earlier. But a few intense weeks of work produced a Thanksgiving activity pack and a Christmas activity pack. The Thanksgiving pack has been downloaded more than 1,300 times; the Christmas pack more than 3,000. While small numbers for some, they absolutely stunned me.

I learned something that year. There are a LOT of Thanksgiving and Christmas materials out, but there is also a HUGE need for it. Kids need activities to keep them busy on long car trips to visit family or during unplugged holiday time at home.

This brings me to this year. I can expect to start seeing requests for holiday material within the next four months. What can I do now to prepare? I can:

  • Brainstorm and develop ideas
  • Determine if there are graphics I will need to purchase and find them now so I can buy them on sale if the opportunity arises (I love Black Friday sales on graphics, but that won’t help me prepare my Thanksgiving products.)
  • Start creating holiday products
  • Plan sales and decide if there are additional new items I need to create to release at the same time
  • Locate and join group Pinterest boards that share holiday content
  • Be sure I am connected with online groups who will share opportunities for holiday-themed promotions

Have I started getting ready? Well, I bought some really cute fall graphics and I have one idea of something I’d like to do for fall! It’s not much of a start, but I’m learning.

One month at a time.
Bonnie-Rose-Hudson-200x200Bonnie Rose Hudson lives in central Pennsylvania. Along with spending time with her family and writing, making kids smile is her favorite thing to do. Her heart’s desire is for every child to feel the love of God and know how special they are to Him. She loves creating curriculum and working for, the curriculum arm of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, as the site’s executive editor. At TOS, she found a place where her love of God and history combine with her love of writing to bring encouraging, educational, and entertaining material to students and their families. She would love for you to visit to discover how you can write for the homeschool market.

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Sowing Seeds: Writing for the Christian Children’s Market by Kathleen M. Muldoon

Posted by Janice D. Green

I feel honored and blessed to have been granted the opportunity to republish the book Sowing Seeds: Writing for the Christian Children’s Market by Kathleen M. Muldoon. I’m thrilled to announce that it now appears again on Amazon.

Crystal Bowman is one of several “talented professionals who added their wisdom and experience for sections of this book.” (Quotation taken from the acknowledgements page.) Below are two reviews that Crystal wrote for this treasure of writing wisdom.
Sowing Seeds - front cover (300w)


Review from inside the book:

“This book is amazing! I wish I had had it 15 years ago. Anyone who wants to write for children needs to read this book and keep it at his fingertips while writing! Kathleen covers all aspects of writing in great detail, yet entertains the reader with personal stories that provide practical application. I highly recommend this wonderful book for all writers of children’s literature. I cannot say enough good things about it!” —Crystal Bowman, best-selling author of over 70 children’s books including My Read and Rhyme Bible Storybook.


Review from

(Five stars)

Format: Paperback

Anyone who wants to write for children needs to read this book! Kathleen Muldoon covers everything that writers need to know. It is packed with practical and helpful information, yet written with style and humor. Following the guidelines and instructions will give writers the confidence they need to jump into the challenging world of publishing. This book is great for experienced writers as well as novice writers. Anyone who buys this book will use it over and over again. It’s a very wise investment! Buy it!
You may preview the first 26 pages of Sowing Seeds on the publisher’s webpage:


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Affirmation by the Numbers

I was never much of a numbers person. Words are more my thing. Lots and lots of words, if you ask my husband! Numbers . . . not so much.

It’s one of the reasons I love to write. To be able to communicate using myriad combinations of a mere twenty-six letters is nothing short of amazing. Still, my writing life is slowly being consumed by numbers.

Sales numbers and sales rankings. Number of blog readers and blog subscribers. Blog commenters and friends lists totals. Website views and page views.


I used to think the most difficult part of the publishing process was actually writing the book . . . until I wrote the book.

Then I thought the most difficult part of the publishing process was convincing a publisher that my book was exactly what he or she wanted. Not anymore.

I have joined the assembly of authors who have all learned that hard work doesn’t end with a book contract. The question now consuming my thoughts is whether people will purchase my book. Does anyone even know it’s available? So the impulse to examine the numbers begins.How many page views did my website receive this week? How many Facebook friends “like” my Author Page? How many people commented on my most recent blog post? Was it more than the week before? If not, why not?

My latest compulsion is to check for book reviews. As of today, Amazon shows thirty-nine mostly five-star reviews. Whew! But shows only fifteen. Should I be concerned?

Just when I begin to get carried away by the numbers, I’m reminded that God is more concerned with people than with numbers. In Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, pastor and author Jim Cymbala notes, “The Bible does not say we should aim at numbers, but rather urges us faithfully to proclaim God’s message in the boldness of the Holy Spirit.”

Rather than fall prey to the lure of numbers, I must remember that God works, one person at a time, to build His kingdom. If the reason He prompted me to write this book is to benefit only one person, then it is a successful venture in His sight. If I’m doing what He has called me to do, then I must trust Him for the results . . . and for my affirmation.

Of course, I will do everything I can to market Daily Reflections on the Names of God. But ultimately, I must choose: is my focus on finite numbers or on my infinite God?

How do you resist the lure of numbers to bring you affirmation?


Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible teacher, and speaker. Her newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Precepts Ministries founder Kay Arthur. Additionally, Ava is co-author of the Faith Basics for Kids series. The first two books in the series are Do You Love Me More? and Will I See You Today? She has also written numerous articles for magazines such as Clubhouse, Today’s Christian Woman, Power for Living, and CalledIn addition, Ava teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. She is a passionate speaker and teacher and delights in challenging audiences with the truth of God’s Word in relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit her at



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Puzzling Over Puzzles: How to Write Puzzles for Kids

Puzzling Over Puzzles-How to Write Puzzles for Kids

One of my favorite things to create is puzzles! If you enjoy creating history and language arts resources like I do, the types of puzzles you have at your disposal to make learning enjoyable are virtually endless. Here are just a few types I’ve enjoyed making over the years:

  1. Word searches and crossword puzzles. Don’t underestimate these simple but fun puzzles. Word searches are great spelling practice. They also work well for familiarizing kids with key terms and names.
  1. Decoding. Decoding puzzles are easily adapted to any age and are another great tool for familiarizing kids with names and places. They are also a great way to sneak in a little math practice! You can make the code key as simple or complex as you like. For example:

A=1, B =2, C=3, T=20, Z=26 can be used with simple addition problems where the first letter is 2+1, the second letter is 0+1, and the third letter is 15+5 (C-A-T). Of course, you can be as inventive as you like and make a code that looks like this: A=36, C=72, T=96 and make the puzzle read 8*9, 6*6, and 12*8 (C-A-T).

  1. Fill-ins with word banks. In this type of puzzle, you give kids a paragraph or more about a certain topic and include blanks for them to fill in with the right word, chosen from a word bank. You can also use this puzzle to help kids become familiar with famous quotes or passages.
  1. Timelines. There are endless varieties of timeline puzzles for history topics. You can have kids arrange facts chronologically, have them memorize and fill in specific dates, or do other activities.
  1. Word scrambles. Word scrambles are another fun way to familiarize kids with key terms and phrases and help them practice proper spelling.
  1. Letter board puzzles. Letter board puzzles are structured like crossword puzzles—but without the clues. To create this puzzle, provide a list of possible words and terms. The student has to rely on spelling and logic skills to find the correct placement of each letter.

Letter puzzle

  1. Matching and multiple choice. Don’t overlook these classic examples of ways you can vary the way you present information in puzzles for kids to enjoy.
  1. Tile puzzles. Give the students a set number of tiles and instructions on how many letters they will need to use to make the correct answer.

Tile puzzle

  1. Graph decoding. This is another variation of a type of puzzle that can be used to help students find the letters they need to spell words that fit a theme or topic.

Graph decoding

  1. Missing sound. Filling in missing sounds is a fun way for little ones to take part! You can combine simple phonics and basic handwriting to familiarize young children with key words, names, and terms.

Missing Sound

Don’t forget—any time you get stuck for ideas, you can always pick up an inexpensive puzzle book at the store or scour free online printables to get your creative juices flowing!

What types of puzzles would you add to this list?
Bonnie-Rose-Hudson-200x200Bonnie Rose Hudson lives in central Pennsylvania. Along with spending time with her family and writing, making kids smile is her favorite thing to do. Her heart’s desire is for every child to feel the love of God and know how special they are to Him. She loves creating curriculum and working for, the curriculum arm of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, as the site’s executive editor. At TOS, she found a place where her love of God and history combine with her love of writing to bring encouraging, educational, and entertaining material to students and their families. She would love for you to visit to discover how you can write for the homeschool market.

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“When God Turned on the Light”

Cover_WGTOTLight_RevFinal7.inddI was given a copy of Allia Zobel Nolan’s book When God Turned on the Light to review, and the more I read it, the more I like it. Not only do I see it as a wonderful book for children, but it inspires me as a glowing example of how to write about the Bible in a delightfully new way.

This is a book about creation. It isn’t exactly Genesis, but it is. It weaves the theme of light playfully through most of the days in the Genesis account of creation. Because the book focuses on things young children understand, it will captivate children from beginning to end.

The rhyme in this story flows smoothly enough throughout the book. But it isn’t just rhymes that make the book poetic; the text is rich with word pictures and beautiful descriptions. For example: “Caterpillars munched leaves, which the light made see-through. When they took off their fuzzy coats, butterflies flew.” Allia’s creative lines, coupled with delightful illustrations by Linda Clearwater, will stretch every child’s imagination.

Pages come with surprises. For instance, zebras discover their reflections “staring them right in the eyes.” Fun pops out of page after page as the light seems to dance its way through the story, bringing everything to life. And near the end of the book, a much deeper concept is beautifully introduced: “Yes, God lit the world with another light too. He was Jesus, the Lord, who saved me and saved you.” Wow!

And on the last page is a Scripture verse, Psalm 18:28: “You have turned on my light! The Lord my God has made my darkness turn to light” (TLB).

This book takes my breath away. I know it will touch young hearts in a powerful way.

Authors and writers, read the very best books in the genres you want to write in to see what makes them the best. Look for the spark that ignites a child’s imagination. Then find topics that can sparkle and shine out of your writing, and put them on paper using all the finesse of a skilled craftsman of the language.

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Give Your Best, Trusting God With the Rest

by Sally Matheny

15289922_s“What are you working on?” is a common question at writing conferences. Are you anxious about your current project? Are you second-guessing if you’ve got what it takes to complete the task?

Several years ago, I traveled with a mission team to a rural area of Vermont. After conducting the first night of VBS for the local children, we realized the standard curriculum we brought would not meet their needs. Most of the children had never heard of Jesus. We scrambled to make adjustments in our presentation of the gospel.

After we returned home, I mentioned to the lead pastor that there was a need for a VBS curriculum that introduces Jesus Christ to the unchurched. My suggestion brought a designation for me to write it for the following year’s trip. (Be careful when making suggestions!)

A yearlong roller coaster ride of excitement and terror ensued. I’d never written VBS curriculum before. Heavy prayer, research, and writing filled my free time. Satan must have heard about the project because as panic and doubts set in so did massive migraines.

Two months before the mission trip, I attended a writers’ conference. I thought the week away would give me just what I needed to wrap up the loose ends of writing and the “Who is Jesus?” curriculum would be ready to go to the printer’s when I returned home.

At the conference, I decided to attend a workshop on writing devotions, which wasn’t originally on my itinerary. I thought this was God’s answer to my prayers. Walking in with full faith that God was going to provide enlightenment on how to finish the project, I came dragging out in desperation at the end. The class did not help whatsoever. I cried out to God, I thought this was what You wanted me to do! Why would You ask me to do this when You know I can’t? I need help!

I believe that is exactly where God wanted me—in a place of acute awareness of my own inadequacy. In the following days at the conference, God showed His power. He brought in my path numerous people—a missionary writing a book on how to effectively do short-term missions, a Life Way children’s curriculum writer who offered to critique my VBS curriculum only minutes after I met her, and another writer who imparted a nugget of wisdom. She said, “You only need to do what God has called you to do. You have placed upon yourself the burden that everyone’s salvation depends on your writing. Relax. Do your best with your part, and then let God do His thing. He’s the one who does the saving.”

Wow. She was right. I had placed an unnecessary burden on my shoulders—one I couldn’t possibly carry. I prayed asking God’s forgiveness and a wonderful sense of freedom settled in as I completed my task.

God continues to use that curriculum for His glory.

It’s amazing – the simplicity of trusting Him with the outcome of our work, whether it is a book, devotion, or a handwritten message in a greeting card.

Learn the craft, sharpen your skills, and gain knowledge from others.

Ultimately, give your best, trusting God with the rest.

Photo credit/Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

[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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Reflecting with Speaker and Author, Tim Shoemaker

Tim Photo 2014by Sally Matheny

Eight weeks until “Shine!” time. Are you registered for W2I yet? You don’t want to miss our keynote speaker, Tim Shoemaker. He is the author of eleven books and a regular contributor to Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine.Tim is also a captivating speaker. We’re excited he is teaching several workshops in addition to presenting the keynote address. Today, Tim shares some of his reflections.


Tim, tell us three of your favorite moments from 2014.

There were so many good moments… it’s hard to narrow it to three.  Here’s a short list…

  • Finishing Below the Surface… getting the series finale in the hands of friends.
  • Seeing Super Husband, Super Dad come out… and hearing how it helped others.
  • Started speaking at schools in a bigger way… and found I loved it.
  • Youngest son graduated paramedics’ school.
  • Down time with my wife and family on Lake Geneva, WI this past summer.
  • Vacation with the family in Florida.
  • New baby granddaughter born in December… Claire Rose.

Claire Rose. What a beautiful name! Is she your first grandchild?

Claire Rose is our 4th grandchild… which is unbelievable.  But they are all three years old and under… which is a riot when they’re all in the same room.

I bet they are! I’m sure it’s all play and no writing when the grandbabies visit. Tim, at what point in your life did you know you wanted to pursue writing?

When I was younger, I never dreamed I’d pursue writing.  It wasn’t even on my radar.  After I started a family, I used to love telling stories to my kids… and to nieces and nephews.  I’d like watching their faces… seeing when I totally had them wrapped up in the stories.

They often asked me to write the stories down… and at first I resisted.  But when I finally did—I found I loved it.  I wrote more and more on the side… writing for my kids, mostly.  I had one son who struggled with reading… so writing in a way that held his interest (but at his reading level) was a challenge.  Eventually a dream began to develop… I hoped to move to part time status at my work and devote more time to writing.  By God’s grace and in his time, and through circumstances I couldn’t predict, I was able to pursue that writing dream.

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

There are so many things… but here’s one.  I didn’t realize that writing was a skill that I could strengthen and develop.  I used to think that writing was a “gift”.  It was a talent that was deep inside… something I had or I didn’t have.

When I went to my first writers’ conference and got my first critique… I was devastated.  The chapter I’d sent in was really slashed up with red ink… and at that moment, I thought I didn’t have the “gift” at all.  I thought I’d better just forget about writing and go back to my job… back where I belonged.

I decided to leave the conference early.  Since I didn’t have the “gift” of writing, there was no point staying.  Thankfully, someone caught me in the hall on the way out… and that little encounter changed everything.

Oh, that is something to remember the next time we attend a conference—not only to be encouraged but also to encourage others.

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

I loved the entire Hardy Boys series.  A bunch of Alfred Hitchcock ones, too.  I loved some of the biographies… guys like Davy Crockett.  I also loved WWII stories… read many of the Landmark series of great battles.  I loved adventure… mystery… suspense… and the way I got swept away with the story as a reader.

What three helpful hints would you recommend to writers to make their work shine?

Here’s a half dozen hints…

  1. Really get your head into the perspective of your POV character and stay there. Don’t write anything other than what your character sees, hears, thinks, feels, etc.
  2. If you’re writing for kids… don’t talk down to them. They’re smarter than you think.  You don’t want to sound like a parent.
  3. If you’re writing Christian fiction… resist the urge to get hokey. Characters  recalling and reflecting on whole sections of a recent sermon, for example.  Keep your spiritual footprint subtle… and real.
  4. If you’re writing fantasy, I’ve got some thoughts to help you relate better to your readers… but too many to write here. Catch me in the hall or at a meal and ask me what I mean by these…
    • “Lose the magic sword.”
    • “Give it to me in English…”
    • “Be fair to readers… ”
  5. Pray. He’s the creative one.  Ask him to help you.
  6. Keep your hands clean. If we aren’t living the life we should… what do we really have to offer others?

Fantastic advice! Thank you, Tim. I look forward to asking you about “losing the magic sword” when I see you at the conference. Thanks for sharing with us.

Readers, you can connect with Tim at the following social media outlets-



Twitter: @TimShoemaker1