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CONTENTMENT: MY Writerly Word for 2020

This past year was a difficult one for me. Due to our financial situation, we have not been able to travel, which has always been my go-to for inspiration. A new destination has the ability to shake up my brain cells and send them in a new direction, but this year, they stopped. Cold.

It’s as if I had a brick in my hand, and couldn’t lift my pen. My creativity was on lock-down. My mind was a blank. Oh, I could compose an email, and even write blog posts. But a story? Nope.

Have you ever had that feeling? Not comforting, is it?

What’s more, I felt jealousy rising within me whenever an author friend signed a new contract or received a raving review from Kirkus or Horn Book. It hurt when fellow authors posted about their school visits or bookstore signings.

It’s not that I hadn’t put forth the effort. Not at all. I had been contacting local bookstores and schools daily during the Fall, dutifully sending my one page of info immediately after I hung up the phone. I even kept a spreadsheet of the contact info and details of the email or phone call.

I felt like quitting Facebook and Instagram. Twitter, especially, was the worst. A knife went through me each time I witnessed someone’s successes as I scrolled. It’s not that I wanted to steal their joy or take away their accomplishments. Of course not. But I wanted it to happen to me as well.

It was then God brought the word CONTENTMENT to my heart and mind. If God has gifted me as a writer, then He knows what I need, right? And He has perfect timing. If He can move mountains and calm the sea, He certainly can remind my contacts to call and arrange a school visit. Or not. And, He can spark my creative muse in an instant. Or not. My part? To be CONTENT with what the Lord brings into my writing life.

My Word last year was PERSEVERANCE, and boy, did I persevere. I contacted over 30 schools, bookshops and conferences asking if I could share my author’s journey or teach a writing course. But in 2019, I had five events to attend where I could introduce my debut MG historical fiction, The Heart Changer.

This year, I want to rest in God’s plan for me. I have classes to take, and blog posts to write, and short trips to take as I search for ways to be inspired. And as I rest, do you know what is happening? Little by little, I see the Lord, my Master Designer, taking control and connecting me in almost imperceptible ways with my readers. What a freeing experience! I am released from my duty of cold-calling and reminders. CONTENTMENT is coming into focus as worry and doubt are banished.

I’m coasting down a gently flowing river on a raft, letting the current take me wherever it will. I lift my face to the sun, feeling its warm glow. I don’t need to worry about the destination, God has it all under control. I only need to rest.

Although I want to be content with my writing life and schedule, I am still open to connecting with the public in any region of the US. If you know of a church, school, bookstore or conference looking for a middle-grade author to participate in a bookish event, check out my Visit page. I love to share my passion for the Bible, history and the writing life with my readers!

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.

Her debut middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer released with Ambassador International April 26th, 2019. Connect with her at her Author’s Website.

Are You Thankful for Troubles? Building Character Through Trials by Jarm Del Boccio

William Shakespeare

Image from biography.com

Although my husband and I live in an almost-empty-nest, sometimes I catch myself reminiscing. Our homeschool history course many years ago includes a mini-unit on Shakespeare and his works.  We’d listened to an excellent 3 part DVD series by Schlessinger Media called, “Shakespeare for Students.”  The concepts are simply explained, but meaty.

In The Characters of Shakespeare (Part 1), we learn there are two types of characters in Shakespeare’s works. static and dynamic. Here is a summary:

Static (or Stock) Character: A person who does not change during the course of the story. A shallow two-dimensional figure used to carry along the story, add comic relief or provide a menacing presence. The Fool in King Lear is one example (which, by the way, is the most “tragic of his tragedies . . . nothing good comes from it unless it is a lesson for the readers!) A villainous character would be Iago in Othello or Edmund in King Lear.

Dynamic Character:  A person who changes, for better or worse, in the course of the play.  A deeper, three-dimensional character, such as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. She matures into a complex young lady by the last act, but, unfortunately, it’s too late.  Another example is Macbeth, who moves from a valiant war hero to a paranoid murderer within the course of the play. So, this got me thinking . . .  Not only is this good to know as we develop our own characters in a story (too many static characters spoil the broth, and vice versa), but ponder this:

What sort of character are you?  What kind do you wish to be? 

Hopefully, it’s obvious that you can’t be a dynamic character if you have no trials and tribulations. How many people do you know who have everything they want and need – are they shallow, or complex?

What character is God forming in you this Thanksgiving? Be thankful if God allows troubles in your life. It will make you a more well-rounded 3D character who will be wiser, more compassionate and helpful to others.

Now that’s character!


*This post first appeared on Jarm’s travel and inspiration blog.

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/

Overcoming a Writer’s Fears by Attending Conferences


As a writer, I often find myself bogged down in fear.  Fear that my writing may not be good enough. Fear that I am too old. Fear that I don’t know how to write. Attending conferences gives me the insight to overcome those fears through encouragement, instruction, resources and reminding me that my writing needs to be covered in prayer. 

Sneak Peek: Lori Hatcher’s Workshop, “The Day I Wanted to Quit”

Your proposal is rejected—again—and your head swirls with doubt, disappointment, and confusion.

You pour your heart out in a blog post, take hours to format it just right, click Post, and wait. The only buzz you hear is from the ceiling fan above your head, and the only comments you receive are from your mother and Aunt Fran.

Every writing conference you attend seems populated by successful, profound writers and brings new battles with jealousy and insecurity. You compare your blog, book, or platform with that of your superstar colleague and wonder whether you’re deluded in thinking that God could ever use you or your story to influence someone else.

I felt this way at my very first writers’ conference. I sat there as a new writer, the ink still wet on my fingers. I’d written quite a few articles for our homeschool newsletter, had two published in a local magazine, and had no clue what a blog was.

To my left was a two-time Christy Award winner. To my right was an author of fifty (not fifteen) books.

And then there was me.

Stuck in the middle like the ketchup in a ketchup sandwich. Colorful, but not much substance.

They talked about POV—first person, second person, and third person. And third person limited, third person multiple, and third person omniscient. I didn’t know whether I was in a theology class or in a psychology class, studying schizophrenia.

“What am I doing here?” I thought to myself. “I’ve never wanted to write a novel. I don’t even understand half the words they’re tossing out, and Google Translate is no help! What if they find out I’m a poser? They’re going to sit me in a corner and put a dunce cap on me . . . or worse—write about me in their next novel: The Girl Who Thought She Was a Writer.”

I wondered how quickly I could excuse myself to go to the bathroom and never come back. That was the first day I wanted to quit.

Have you ever felt this way? Perhaps you’re feeling this way right now.

In my 2018 Write2Ignite workshop, “The Day I Wanted to Quit: Tackling the Mind Games That Discourage and Defeat Writers,” we’re going to talk about comparison, insecurity, and competitiveness. We’ll examine the biblical roots of each issue, walk through a three-step personal evaluation, and craft a unique mission statement designed to silence the voices that imprison our writing potential. After attending this workshop at another conference, one attendee confided, “I didn’t just identify my writing mission, I identified my life mission!”

Most writers leave a conference pumped up and empowered. Then they go home. The doubts, fears, and insecurities they left behind begin to whisper in their ears again. Head games—writers play them every day. Is winning the battle in our minds really just a matter of positive thinking, or does God have something to say about it? I look forward to examining these thoughts with you at the 2018 Write2Ignite conference.

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Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of two devotional books: Hungry for God . . . Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women (the 2016 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year) and Joy in the Journey: Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms. A blogger, writing instructor, and women’s ministry speaker, Lori seeks to help women connect with God in the craziness of life.

You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God . . . Starving for Time. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).

Teaser Post: Trust and Obey

“Am I rich?”

“Am I famous?”

“Am I on a bestseller list?”

Often, we writers ask questions like these as we try to measure our success.

The problem? Most of you, like me, have to say no to these questions. Unless we’ve been fortunate enough to author beloved children’s books or a series of YA novels that launch a box office smash, most of us aren’t household names.

The questions listed above point toward the world’s measurement of our success and threaten to place our writing focus where it doesn’t belong. Too much reflection on these thoughts can tumble us into the Slough of Despond, where we wallow like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress.

The real problem? Those questions don’t reflect how God measures success. While it’s wonderful to craft a picture book that ranks high on Amazon or a nonfiction hardcover that funds a major purchase for the family, perhaps we need to consider the questions God asks.

“Do you trust Me?”

“Are you obeying Me?”

Hopefully, we’re saying yes to those questions about our daily living. But we should also apply them to our writing:

  • Are we obeying God by writing the truths He wants us to convey?
  • Are we pleasing Him by being good stewards of the gift of words He gave us?
  • When we’re writing in obedience to His prompting, do we trust Him with the words He gives us?
  • Do we trust His timing for those words?

The solution: In the push to finish manuscripts, find an agent, sell a series, and so on, focusing on God’s questions can take the pressure off. We can trust that God has a plan for us and our gifts.

As we move forward in our writing journeys, let’s be sure to ask the questions that measure success in God’s eyes. Will we trust and obey?

During the 2018 Write2Ignite conference, Kim will teach several workshops, including “Is My Manuscript Ready for an Agent?,” which will help writers evaluate their manuscripts. 

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Kim Peterson mentors aspiring writers. She has taught writing for twenty-five years, working extensively with both published authors and those seeking careers in writing, editing and publishing. Currently, Kim teaches in the online professional writing program of Taylor University (Upland, Indiana). She also leads two productive online writers groups—one for mixed genres and one for writers of children’s books and articles.

Kim, who is a regular conference speaker, previously served on the writing faculty at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana, and mentored writers through the Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. A long-time professional book reviewer, Kim reviews novels for CBA’s Christian Market magazine. She recently concluded more than eight years as fiction reader for the Les Stobbe Literary Agency until Stobbe’s retirement.

Working as a freelancer for forty years (she started young!), Kim has written for Indiana newspapers and various periodicals and websites, including AppleSeeds, Encounter, Evangel, Vista, and devotional markets. Her work has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Rocking Chair Reader, the Moments series, and other anthologies. She blogs about nature and loves writing for children.

Kim says of her childhood, “My mom made reading a priority. She surrounded me with books. When my morning chores were finished, she let me disappear up our cherry trees with a good book and a thermos of juice. I don’t climb trees to read anymore, but I can still disappear into a great story.”

 

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