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by Marcia Moston @MarciaMoston


A disclaimer: Growing up, I wanted to be an archeologist, astronomer and missionary doctor. The latter ambition lasted through two years of pre-med until a meltdown in a chemistry exam ended it. Among other pursuits, I’ve couriered architectural blueprints from one city office to another, hung telephone directories on doorknobs, filled vending machines, written a book, and taught. But never once did I consider being lawyer. So don’t construe the following as legal advice. It is simply intended to raise points of consideration, because whether we write fiction or nonfiction, facts or fabrications, we write about people. And some may not like what we have to say.

Defamation: When writing about the relatives or other real people can get you in trouble
In short,defamation involves making injurious, falsestatements about another (living) person who can be recognized.More than being rude or insulting, a defamatory claim has to be harmful to the person’s reputation or business. 

Disclaimers: Many writers—both fiction and nonfiction-- think tacking a legal sounding disclaimer onto the copyright page guarantees protection. Although a clearly worded disclaimer will help, it is a second line of defense. The first, if you are writing nonfiction, is to tell the truth. But what if the truth isn’t favorable? Let’s face it—the best people to write about are usually the odd ones—the quirky, quaint and questionable. 

The most common way to deal with this is to change names and identifying details as Jeannette Walls does in her memoir The Glass Castle: “The names and identifying details of some of the characters have been changed.” Fiction writers use a similar form: “Any resemblance to persons living and dead is coincidental.”

But for people writing stories of abuse or addictions, for instance, changing names and details may not be enough, nor may it be desirable. The disclaimer in Richard Hoffman’s memoir, Half the House,contains a startling admission: “This is not a work of fiction. It contains no composite characters, no invented scenes. I have in most instances, altered the names of persons outside my family. In one instance, on principle, I have not.”

That “one instance” of not changing a name led to the arrest and imprisonment Hoffman’s former coach who had abused him years ago and who, unbeknownst to Hoffman, was still coaching and abusing. Hoffman hadn’t intended to be vindictive but saw no reason to protect the man. In this case, since Hoffman’s trauma was a necessary and true part of his story, revealing the real name of theperpetrator was legally acceptable. However, situations like this need careful and prayerful consideration.

Sometimes writers get release forms or let the people named preview the relevant portions of their work. Althoughit’s your story, ultimately, you are responsible for what you say about others and need to decide whether it is worth it.

Even with a disclaimer, how much can you change before your nonfiction work becomes a piece of fiction? The disclaimer in Jennie Lawson’s memoir—Let’s Pretend This Never Happened—A Mostly True Memoir, gives me the shudders: “This book is totally true, except for the parts that aren’t.” Yipes! Which parts are those?  

As a reader, I can accept story-crafted passages, but I want to know which is fact and which is fiction. In Unless It Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing,Roger Rosenblatt tells which parts are fabricated. His disclaimer: “Before you read this book, I must confess a fraud. What I present as a word-for-word account of the conversations that went on in my writing classes at Stony Brook University in the winter/ spring of 2008 is fiction, top to bottom. I would like to have recalled verbatim all the marvelous things that I and my dozen students said over the course of the semester, but my mind, hardly a steel trap, recalls only the problems and subjects we discussed. To be clear: nobody really said what I say he said in class. But the ideas expressed here were expressed there.”

Novelistswho use real-life historical figures are also concerned with disclaimers. Historical fiction writer, Ariel Lawhon bases her book, I Was Anastasia,on the real-life mystery of a woman who claimed to be the surviving daughter of Tsar Nicholas Romanov. Like many historical writers, Lawhon includes this disclaimer: “Where many real-life historical figures and public figures appear, many of the situations, incidents, and dialogues . . . are not intended to depict actual events . . . .”

The problem for me is that many historical situations do reference real events and I have to spend the next day looking up the actual record in order to identify them. That’s certainly one way to learn history for those of us who missed it the first time.

Disclaimers don’t have to be stuffy. They can give the writer yet one more opportunity to show their voice as Tobias Wolff does in his memoirThis Boy’s Life: “ I have been corrected on some points, mostly of chronology. Also my mother thinks that a dog I describe as ugly was actually quite handsome. I’ve allowed some of these points to stand, because this is a book of memory, and memory has its own story to tell. But I have done my best to make it tell a truthful story.” 

Wolff’s mother, whose two sons both published memoirs, later said, "If I'd known both my sons were going to be writers, I might have behaved differently." Ha! The dangers of being related to a writer. 

One last option for writing about others is this advice from Phillip Lopate:

1. Befriend only people who are too poor to hire lawyers to sue you.
2. If you plan to write about friendship, make lots of friends, because you are bound to lose a few. 
3. For the same reason, try to come from a large family. 

TWEETABLES



Marcia Moston—author of the award-winning Call of a Coward-The God of Moses and the Middle-class Housewife—has written columns and features for several magazines and newspapers. She has served on the faculty of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and currently teaches her true love—memoir and creative nonfiction—at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on the Furman campus in South Carolina.
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By Edie Melson  @EdieMelson

True confession time.

Writing is both the thing I love best and the thing I hate most.

When the words flow, it’s heaven on earth. When they stutter to a halt, the opposite is true. And the truth is, both of these circumstances are a regular part of the writer’s life.

We write when we feel like it, and when we don’t. We write when we’re inspired, and when we’re not. Most of all, we write because we have to. Putting words on paper is life to us—an addiction without a recovery group.

The time to write isn’t something we find. It’s something we sacrifice for, carving it out of lives that are as busy as anyone else. I get so weary of wanna-be writers complaining about no time to write.

I have author friends who don’t have the time either. One author I know honored a deadline even though his granddaughter was having brain surgery—he wrote in the hospital waiting room. Another, a stay-at-home mom, had just the opportunity of a contract and she wrote in the ten and fifteen minutes breaks available while caring for a special needs daughter, a preschooler and a toddler. 

I could share story after story after story about how writers I know have sacrificed to follow their vocation—all true. The truth is that we all have the same 24 hours in a day and we all have the choice of how to spend them.

“If you can imagine yourself doing anything else besides writing—do it!”

I’ve been known to give this advice to those just starting out—because they still have time to turn back. I’m a hopeless case. I’ll write myself into a grave and hopefully beyond.

Becoming a writer is a decision—followed by a life of choices that enable us to live out that commitment.

Here are some of the hard choices you’ll need to make to find writing success:
  • 1. Trading TV time for writing time. You’ll need those hours to put words on paper.
  • 2. Committing to a lifetime of learning and staying current with the publishing industry. The industry is changing a lightning speed, either keep up or die.
  • 3. Saying no to the good things, so you’ll have time to say yes to the best things. Writing is an isolated life a lot of the time.
  • 4. A willingness to write through the junk to get to gems. Good writing is rewriting—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  • 5. The necessity of checking your ego at the door. There’s always someone more talented, successful, lucky, etc. Get over it and move on.
  • 6. A willingness to trust other professionals—like your agent, your editor, and your critique partners.
  • 7. An unwillingness to compromise what truly matters. And no this does NOT contradict #6.
  • 8. Trading talking about writing for actually putting words on the page. Networking is important, but not as important as writing.
  • 9. The commitment to keep going when the odds seem impossible. In this industry impossible odds is the new normal.
Well, this is my list. It’s your turn to add your thoughts. You all always have such valuable insights, please share them below in the comments section.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

TWEETABLES



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by Linda Gilden @LindaGilden


One of the backbones of nonfiction writing is research. For some of us that is the most fun part. For others, the additional record keeping and notations are a nuisance and often done poorly or not at all. For all of us, good notes are a necessity to properly get permissions, cite sources, and stay within the confines of the literary law.  

If you are working with a publisher, ask for their style sheet. Most have a certain preference when it comes to style guides. If you don’t have that information or are self-publishing, a good guide to follow is the Chicago Manual of Style. Just be sure to use the most recent addition because some guidelines change.

For many writers there are questions that come up when trying to discover the best way to credit sources and when to seek permissions. 

Someone recently asked, “If I need permission, should I get it while writing my manuscript or after it is accepted?”

The answer to that is good for all writers to know. Regardless if you are writing an article or a book, if you know you are going to need permission, begin the process right away. Obtaining permission can sometimes take weeks or longer so the earlier you can start the better. If you wait until your manuscript is accepted, the wait until actual publication could be prolonged.

Initiate the process by going to the website of the publisher or copyright owner. Many large publishers and other companies have permissions departments and you can find a request form on their websites. If you find that form, use it and follow exact instructions listed on their website. If you don’t find a form, you will have to write a letter. There are sample letters on the internet that will help you get started. 

If you are in doubt as to whether permission is needed, always check. “I didn’t know I needed permission to use this” will never stand up in court.

Sometimes only using a small portion of a large work falls under “fair use” laws. You may not need permission at all. “Fair use” will probably apply more to portions quoted from books because there is such a large amount of material in books. If you want to quote more than a sentence or two from an article, check to see if you will need permission. You can only use a certain percentage of a small work. It is better not to quote from poems since most poems are so short that you would exceed the allotted amount quickly.

When quoting a person, make sure your information is accurate. Always go back to the original source if possible. Even better talk directly to the person for a new, fresh quote. Just remember proper attribution is essential. 

Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine says, “I think it is important when I quote someone, to make sure I use the direct quote and put in quotation marks. Right after the author's name, I then feel it important to cite the place I got the quote along with the website address.”  

If you are unsure exactly how a certain magazine handles quotes, read through several issues, paying special attention to the direct quotes and how attribution is given. 

What about your current work-in-progress? Have you added quotes from several sources to enhance your writing, increase your credibility, and expand your reach? If you have other questions, leave them in the comments.

TWEETABLES


Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Her passion is helping others discover the joy of communicating with excellence. In the midst of all the busyness, Linda’s favorite activity is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material! www.lindagilden.com
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by Cindy Sproles @CindyDevoted


In those days, Amazon issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire book world. This was the first census that took place while Barnes and Nobel still hung on by a thread.) And everyone looked around their own towns to see what stores remained.

Seeing how the shopping giant was gobbling up small bookstores, an author went up from her home to the local mall, because that was where she’d seen the last remaining bookstore in her town. She went there in search of a book, one pledged to be an excellent read.  While she was there, the time came to check out, and she headed to the register.

The author laid the book on the counter and the store owner gently lifted it up then rubbed his hands over it. He pulled it close to his heart and took in a deep breath. “It’s a wonderful choice.” He said. “It has pages you can dog ear and margins where you can make notes of special things you read.”

The store owner wrapped the book in a beautiful tissue paper and placed it in a lovely paper bag, not plastic, because the books in his store were special. Loved. Wanted. They weren’t labeled unavailable or sold out like on the Amazon pages of some. There was room for books on every shelf.

The author was so impressed with the love the store owner had for the book, that she quickly left the store and went where there were members of book clubs drinking coffee and discussing their latest read. It was their joy to keep the watch over the love of reading. 

The author appeared to them, and sang the praises of the small bookstore and of the love for books the owner had. 

And a revelation shone around them, and they were terrified that the Amazon giant would soon gobble up this sweet store.  But the author said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Shop in this bookstore. Bring in business. Trust this bookstore owner will love your books and continue to give them a place of honor, because he loves them.” 

That day, in the small mall, new life was given to a little bookstore as the readers took their friends and flocked there to shop. The books that lined the shelves were purchased and with each purchase, the bookstore owner rubbed his hand over the book, lovingly wrapped it in pretty tissue paper and placed it in a special paper bag, not plastic. And the customers left, overjoyed that they had part in the rebirth of a bookstore. One that stood to be counted in the census Amazon performed, and one that could not be gobbled up. 

It’s every author’s dream to have their book on the shelves of Barnes and Noble or listed among the millions on Amazon. We feel as though we have arrived when our book dons these shelves, but many authors forget those small homegrown bookstores, struggling to survive. Bookstores where the owners know every book on each shelf and if they don’t house the book, they will happily order it for you and have it in their store with that same 2-day shipping you find with Amazon Prime.

This is not a bash Amazon or Barnes and Noble post, rather it’s a plea for the small mom and pop bookstores who genuinely love a visit from an author and have a burning desire to make a book a success.

I speak from experience. My local mom and pop store, took hold of my novels and sold over 2000 copies combined. He advertised them in the local newspaper, invited me in to do book signings and even assisted in my book launches making them such a success, that people stood in line to get in. 

Take time to visit your local small bookstores this Christmas holiday. Get to know them. Volunteer to help with book readings. Pay attention to how they personally love your books. Take your friends, encourage others to shop there and you too, will be part of the rebirth of a bookstore.

TWEETABLES
The Birth of a Bookstore, A Christmas Story - @CindyDevoted on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

A local bookstore can be an author's biggest asset - @CindyDevoted on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Cindy Sproles is an award-winning author and popular speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions ministries and managing editor of Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is the executive editor of www.christiandevotions.us. She teaches at writers conferences nationwide and directs The Asheville Christian Writers Conference - Writers Boot Camp. 

She is the author of two devotionals, He Said, She Said - Learning to Live a Life of Passion and New Sheets - Thirty Days to Refine You into the Woman You Can Be. Cindy's debut novel, Mercy's Rain, is available at major retailers. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com and book her for your next conference or ladies retreat. Also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
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Edie here, I'm so pleased to introduce you to our newest columnist, Yvonne Ortega. Yvonne is a dear friend of mine and an incredible speaker. She's going to add so much to The Write Conversation so be sure and give her a warm welcome!
How a Writer Can Put Power into A Point: Part 1
by Yvonne Ortega @YvonneOrtega1

Are you an author who never signed up to be a speaker? Do you feel more comfortable behind your laptop in a corner at Starbucks, a study room at the public library, or in a quiet room at home? Do you prefer talking with an intimate group of people?

Even if you answered any of those questions in the affirmative, you may still find yourself speaking at large gatherings, book signings, and writers conferences.

On the other hand, I’m a speaker who writes. In this post, I will share tips to help you put power into your point when you use slides. Then, you will feel more confident as you promote your books and services and deliver your presentation with polish. 

Speak in a Conversational Manner

Speak in a conversational manner as you do with family, friends, or coworkers. Sometimes in a conversation you get excited and speak faster. Other times you slow down. Do the same in your presentations.

The first delivery mistake to avoid is speaking too fast. Some authors race through their message and don’t pronounce their words clearly. 

At the beginning of his speech, I heard an author tell the audience, “I normally have four hours to deliver this presentation. So, I’ll talk as fast as I can and make sure I give you all the information in the one hour I have.” 

He sounded as if he were trying to escape from a burning building. When he finished, he was breathless. Most of the men and women in the audience gave up trying to keep up with him. They stopped taking notes long before he finished. 

English as a Second Language individuals in the audience struggled to understand, frowned, and shrugged. 

That presenter didn’t put power into his point.

Speaking too slowlyis no more effective than speaking too fast. When I first starting speaking, I would speak slowly as if I were reading a bedtime story to children. Imagine the challenge it would be to stay awake for that kind of delivery. 

When I spoke too slowly, I didn’t put power into my point.

Remember that neither a fast rate all the way through the speech, nor a slow one works. Speak in a conversational manner.

Don’t Read Your Slides
In addition to speaking too fast and speaking too slowly, another delivery mistake you want to avoid is reading your slides.If all you do is say what’s on your slides, you’re competing with yourself, and the audience loses. The audience must choose among looking at the screen, reading their handouts, or watching you. Unfortunately, they will probably mentally check out of your presentation. 

If all you do is read your slides, you might as well send the slides via email. Save your audience the trip to your speaking engagement, and save yourself the time to dress up and travel there.

Keep Your Slides Simple
You’ve probably heard the expression, “Less Is More.” Laura Edelman and Kathleen Harring from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA conducted a survey of college students to find out what they liked and didn’t like about their professors’ PowerPoint presentations. 

The Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University online posted the results without a date on the article.

Edelman and Harring showed that the students disliked too many words on a slide, clip art, slide transitions or word animations, and templates with too many colors.

Also, the students found verbal explanations of pictures or graphs more helpful than written clarifications. 

With the above in mind, create your message first, and then make your slides. Use only a few slides. 

Each of your slides should have one graphic, one chart, or one graph. Remember a picture is worth a thousand words. 

At a writers conference, a speaker had crowded the slides with so much text in a small font that it was impossible to read them. Even those of us in the first row couldn’t read them. 

Avoid crowding each slide with one bullet point after another. Your slides should reinforce or enhance your speech, not give it or distract from it. If you put text on your slides, use less than ten words per slide. 

To wrap up, here are the main points again:
*Speak in a conversational manner
*Don’t read your slides
*Keep your slides simple

Follow this list, and you will put power into your point.

TWEETABLES


Yvonne Ortega speaks with honesty and humor as she shares her life and struggles through presentations that help women find comfort, peace, and purpose. Her background as a licensed professional counselor gives her a unique perspective into the heart of women. Her counseling experiences in jails, prisons, and outpatient services add depth and humor to her presentations, as do her years of teaching mostly high school and college Spanish. Her presentations are interactive and down-to- earth with application for the audience from God’s Word and his promises. 

Yvonne is also a speaking and writing coach and the owner of Moving from Broken to Beautiful®, LLC. She is the author of four books: Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward, Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Forgiveness, and Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Grief

Yvonne is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), the Christian Authors Network (CAN), the National Speakers Association (NSA), and Toastmasters International. 
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By Sarah Van Diest

“True beauty must be able to engage the dark desolations of pain; perhaps it is on this frontier that its finest light appears?” John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

There was so much I could write that day. I could write on being home after a trip to visit our son in Italy. I could write about Christmas just around the corner. I could write about one of our five sons who turns 18 in a few days, entering adulthood. I could write about freedom and life juxtaposed with law and death as depicted in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Seriously. There is so much I could write about. Friendship and love. Hope in sorrow. God’s faithfulness. Thankfulness. Wisdom. Passion. Forgiveness. Grace.

How do we choose, dear ones, what to write on when our hearts are full? How can we select one blessing over another and proclaim it to be superior simply by the act of choosing it? How do we not, when our hearts run over, spend our entire day with our eyes heavenward praising our Father? Or maybe we do just that.
Today is all we have. Yes? Tomorrow may come, but it may not. The hope of tomorrow, though, encourages and excites, urging us onward. Yesterday is gone, though it feeds our souls with its memory and fills us with its rich flavor of experience. Life is made of all of this. It is made of joys and pains, of hopes granted and hopes denied. And from where I sit today, just now, I say it is all very good.

And how do we define blessing? If I say I am choosing between what blessings to write on, what constitutes such a thing?

I believe this to be my life question. It comes up from a deep well with or without my permission. It is the question that is marked on me. It may not always be phrased the same way, in fact it rarely is, but the heart of it remains steadfast. The heart of this question is, “Where is God?”

You may not readily see how these two questions are, to me, synonymous, so let me shed light on it. It is easy for us to see God in the good things in life. When miracles happen or prayers are answered, we see God clearly. But when miracles fail to occur or when prayers are answered converse to what we had desired, do we see Him so easily, so clearly? When evil rages into our lives and destroys, do we see Him? Is He there?

I do not think I am unique in being marked with this question. I believe every soul is. Our spirits cry out for Him because we were made to find Him. We search for Him in the todays, yesterdays and tomorrows of life because knowing Him is the central aspect of our beings. “Where are You?” is the great cry of humanity up to the heavens and out into the depths of the universe.

And if we have ears to hear, the answer thunders back, “I am.”

In all things, my gentle reader, the great I amis to be found. I am not espousing any particular doctrine, only what I understand as truth. There is no time or place possible outside of the Father.

In this then can we not take confidence? In the eternal nature of His presence can we not take comfort? Can we not look then at all things as blessings because all things point us to Him? What greater joy could there be than to find Him and know Him?

I could write today about many things, but the purpose of each is the same. Every story, every thought, every breath, heartbeat and heartache leads to Him. That is life. Yesterday. Tomorrow. Today. And it is good.

“…and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” Acts 17:26, 27.

TWEETABLE

Sarah Van Diest is a writer and editor. She’s the mother of two boys, stepmother to three more, and wife to David. Sarah wrote this book as letters to a dear friend whose life was turning upside down. She’s done this for years for numerous friends and will continue to, Lord willing. It’s her gift to them. It’s hope written down.
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by Beth Vogt @BethVogt

Disappointments are unavoidable in life. The question is, what will we get out of our disappointments? How, as Thoreau puts it, shall we be compensated by the discouragements that come our way?

Sometimes we don’t stick around after a setback long enough to receive any compensation. We hurry past the disappointment, eager to find a better moment, a happier experience. And sometimes we’re too busy grumbling and complaining about what happened. There’s no quiet, no readiness in our mind, emotions, or soul to receive any benefit when we’re disillusioned or disheartened.

So what can we gain from misfortune or when we face an impasse? Maybe it’s the lessons we learn, something as simple as “Don’t do that again.” Like “Don’t delete all the messages in your Archive folder in your Gmail account — and then delete them in your trash folder, too. Because that deletes all the email messages in your inbox. Yeah, been there, done that a couple of nights ago. A minor disaster, relatively speaking, but still … )

Or maybe one of the compensations of disappointment is the comfort we receive from others. I’m not talking about the “should have, would have” advice other people like to offer when we face defeat. No, I mean the encouraging words that hold no judgment … sometimes even the silent presence of friends who show up to just be with us.

The important thing is to not turn our backs on our disappointments — to not deny their existence. Only as we accept the hardships that come our way can we then discover everything they have to offer us — if we are quiet and ready.

In Others’ Words: What compensation — something positive — have you received from a disappointment in your life?

TWEETABLE
The benefit of disappointments - @BethVogt on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Beth K. Vogt is a nonfiction author and editor who said she'd never write fiction. She's the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice) who said she'd never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She's a mom of four who said she'd never have kids. Now Beth believes God's best often waits behind the doors marked "Never." A women's fiction novelist, Beth's first novel for Tyndale House Publishers, Things I Never Told You, released May 2018.

Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner, a 2016 ACFW Carol Award winner, and a 2015 RITA® finalist. Her 2014 novel, Somebody Like You, was one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2014. A November Bride was part of the Year of Wedding series by Zondervan. Having authored nine contemporary romance novels or novellas, Beth believes there's more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us.

An established magazine writer and former editor of the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth blogs for Novel Rocket and also enjoys speaking to writers' groups and mentoring other writers. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Rob, who has adjusted to discussing the lives of imaginary people, and their youngest daughter, Christa, who loves to play volleyball and enjoys writing her own stories. Connect with Beth at  bethvogt.com.
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by Cathy Baker @CathySBaker

Anyone can purchase a Lowes gift card for Christmas. Or perhaps, a handcrafted petal-soft infinity scarf the color of sea glass. I’m sorry, was that too specific? 

But you, my fellow writer, can create one-of-a-kind gifts with the swipe of your hand or a tap on the keys. 

3 Ideas for Gifts of Writing  

1. Pretend to Be Employed by Hallmark.Send a card to someone who helps stir meaningful memories at Christmas. Is it the person who invites friends and family over for a cookie bake day? Or the one who reads the Christmas story every Christmas morning? Or maybe it’s the person who encourages you to brave the cold to attend your local Christmas parade. In your card, share how their influence impacts your holiday season. 

Write a Letter for Operation GratitudeAlthough a Christmas delivery cannot be guaranteed at this point, your words of hope and encouragement are sure to make any hero in our military feel like it’s Christmas all over again. Share your faith story, offer true hope, and if you’re committed to praying for that person, tell him/her how you are going to pray for them specifically. 

Make Your Family Newsletter Shine.Many families write a yearly newsletter and mail it at Christmas or New Year’s Eve. It’s a way of sharing highlights of the year with friends and family members. But let’s be real. Some can have you searching for the snooze button. Refuse the snooze! Here are a few ways to let your love for words shine: 

First, make it easy on the eyes.Writers know that white space is their friend, as are well-chosen fonts. Choose a font such as Arial, Helvetica, or New Times Roman for the body of the newsletter and save your fancy font for the title. Avoid using more than 2-3 fonts per page. You might wonder what this has to do with our words. I say everything! A hard-to-read page is usually a non-read page. 

Secondly, refuse lame words. Write a funny (or meaningful) poem, share your top ten moments in a witty way, or give clever hints as to your ancestral findings if you gave Ancestry.com or a similar program a try. Did you move? Share the why behind your decision. Be vulnerable. Be authentic, not braggadocios. Is your family in need of prayer? Ask for it. 

And lastly, leave ample room at the bottom of your newsletter to write a prayer for that particular family or friend. 

Yes, emailing your well-crafted newsletter is the most common way to share it, but there’s nothing common about you. So print that newsletter, slap a stamp on the envelope, and mail it. Now that’screative!

What’s one of your favorite Christmas memories? Do share!

TWEETABLES
3 Creative Ways to Use Your Gift of #Writing this Christmas - @CathySBaker on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

As writers we have the ability to craft special gifts - 3 ideas from @CathySBaker on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Cathy Baker is an award-winning writer and author of Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Beachas well as Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Mountains. Cathy is a Hope*Writer and Bible teacher who has taught numerous studies and workshops over the past twenty-five years. Her work has been published in Chicken Soup for the SoulThe Upper Room, and Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family. She is a monthly contributor to The Write ConversationWriter’s Digest 101 Top Websites for Writers. She and her husband, Brian, live in the foothills of the Carolinas with a beautiful view of Glassy Mountain and a soon-to-be tiny house. 

To connect with Cathy, visit The Tiny House on the Hillhttps://www.cathybaker.org. Become a part of the THH community and receive a free gift, “10 {Tiny} Prayers that Offer Great Hope.”The tiny prayers included in this pocket-sized publication might just surprise you!
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by Lynn Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

I’m a firm believer that you can learn lessons about your writing life anywhere—as long as you’re paying attention.Case in point? I got the idea for this blog post from taking my oldest to three different orthodontists. 

Stay with me.

My daughter has disabilities and nothing—nothing—is ever straightforward. But even with 15+ years of experience, I was surprised when our dentist wanted us to see three orthodontists to get their opinions on the correct path forward. 

Three? Seriously? Even after I made the appointments, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t need three different opinions. This made no sense to me. Our dentist clearly respects and trusts these orthodontists. Why did I need to get all of their opinions?

Most confusing of all was this remark that she made as we wrapped up our discussion. “I truly believe after you’ve seen all three of them, you’ll know what the right path forward is.”

What? 

While I’m an expert on my daughter, I’m not an expert on teeth, jaws, palettes, etc. How would I “know” the right path?

You’ve probably already guessed what happened. When I walked out of the third appointment, I had a great sense of calm, because I knew what we needed to do.

It won’t be easy but it’s the best path for our situation. And here’s the real kicker . . . I wouldn’t be confident in this direction if I hadn’t gotten all three opinions because each one brought something important to the discussion.

So, you may be wondering what on earth this has to do with your writing? I’m glad you asked.

1. You need people in your writing life who not only know what they’re doing, but who can put you in touch with experts in different areas of publishing. At various times in your career this could be a writing friend, your agent, an editor, a social media expert, publicist, etc. This is someone who has your best interests in mind and who is willing to say, “I think we should get some outside opinions on this.” The flip side of this? Avoid people who think they, and only they, have all the answers. 

2. Contradictory opinions are not always a bad thing. We’ve all been there. We have our work critiqued and can’t decide which suggestions to heed and which to ignore. Or we submit to a contest and the feedback is all over the map. It may be tempting to think that the different viewpoints are worthless (especially the ones we don’t like). But in my experience, even when I’ve received wildly different scores, there’s always been at least one piece of valuable information in each of the judges’ responses.

3. Be very careful about who you go to for advice.THIS IS CRUCIAL and there are two parts to it. 

First,if you’re unpublished and we’re talking about “what direction should I take the plot” kind of questions, be careful that you don’t let a critique group hijack your story. I love critique groups but if the group is made up of unpublished writers be careful that you don’t get led astray by someone’s personal preferences.

Second,if you’re at the point of obtaining representation, paying for an edit, or contracting a manuscript, you cannot be too careful. This is your career, your future, your “baby” we’re talking about, but I’ve seen writers jump at the first agent or first publishing opportunity that comes their way, and those choices have left them in situations they can’t fix. Sadly, not everyone who claims to be an agent or an editor knows what they're doing. And not everyone with “publishing” after their business name is a quality publisher you want to be affiliated with. 

4. You’re going to have to see three orthodontists. Just kidding.But you should get input from multiple sources before making big decisions. How? You’re going to have to meet some people (sorry, introverts). Go to conferences, join online groups, read and comment on blogs like this one, do your research, and develop a network of writers you can reach out to before you make any drastic changes to your story or sign any dotted lines.

5. You’re the only one who can make these decisions. Ultimately, it’s your call. When you’ve gathered the opinions of the experts and you’ve weighed everything you know about your story, your style, your life, your dreams, you’ll be the one who determines your direction. And if you’re confident in the quality and diversity of the advice you’ve received, you’ll know what is the right path forward for you.

I can’t guarantee that if you take these steps you’ll be able to avoid all forms of publishing drama, but you will be able to walk forward in confidence that you’ve done the best you can for the story that has been entrusted to you. 

Grace and peace,









TWEETABLES
5 Writing Life Lessons Learned While Choosing an Orthodontist - @LynnHBlackburn on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

5 Writing Life Lessons to Help You Avoid Publishing Drama - @LynnHBlackburn on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Lynn H. Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her new Dive Team Investigations series kicked off in March of 2018 with Beneath the Surface. The second book in the series, In Too Deep, releases in November of 2018 with the third book to follow in 2019. She is also the author of Hidden Legacy and Covert Justice which won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. You can follow her real life happily ever after at WWW.LYNNHBLACKBURN.COM and on FACEBOOKTWITTERPINTEREST, and INSTAGRAM.
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