The Dynamics of Grace

I was listening to David Crowder's "Obsession" just now as I put the finishing touches on my master's thesis about mercy, and I felt so moved by the song. I thought to myself, "if only my life could encourage people like that." That's when I realized, our lives already do. And for me, it's through writing. What a privilege it is to tell stories that reflect the love of God.

So if you're feeling frustrated or just worn out by your WIP, be encouraged and don't give up because what you're doing matters. It really matters.


Pray for Diann!

Urgent prayer request...

Many of you have probably had the pleasure of reading Diann Hunt's humorous books. I also had the privilege of meeting her at last year's ACFW conference. I can honestly say she's one of the sweetest people I met there--and I met A LOT of nice people. I only met her briefly, but she made a point to remember my name, which (as you can imagine) thrilled me to pieces. You only have to be around her for seconds before you sense the Spirit of God flowing through them. Diann is just as funny as she is sweet.

Diann bravely fought ovarian cancer and won. However, recently at a checkup, tests indicated she might have more cancer growing. She will know more in the coming days as she has more tests done.

Please invest with me in praying for Diann's total and miraculous healing during this time. Our God is a good God, and He desires that we might have life abundantly, amen?

From left to right, that's Deb Raney, Diann Hunt, Denise Hunter, and me. Yeah, this was pretty much one of the highlights of my year.

To keep updated, be sure to look at the Girls Write Out blog--


Contest Entries that Sparkle

If you haven't already noticed, it's contest time around the Christian fiction circles! The ACFW Genesis contest is well underway, and many other contests are preparing to open for submissions.

So you might be wondering--as I've been--what makes a strong contest entry. I'm clearly not a contest guru, but I have spent some time breezing around various blogs lately, so I thought I'd establish a few key areas that can help you get the most from your entry.

  • Read the scoresheet.
I mean, really. If the contest folks give you a scoresheet, it's like your high school history teacher giving you a "study guide." It will benefit you to check out what the judges are looking for.
  • Don't be afraid to rearrange stuff.
Got a really great scene later in the book? Maybe you can rearrange it so that you somehow open with that scene. Or if nothing else, pilfer the language so that your nicely-phrased descriptions still show up in the sample, free to do their dazzling work! :)
  • Proofread.
I made this mistake with the Genesis last year. My entry was relatively error-free; in fact, that's one of the sections I scored highest in. However, I caught a few typos after I sent it, as well as a few wordy phrases I could've tightened, and that really bothered me. So even if you've already proofread, as I tell my students, proofread again!
  • Don't forget to begin with conflict.
One of the most memorable lines of feedback I got from my Genesis judges last year was, "I'm not sure you actually have a story yet." Ouch! But you know what? They were right! All I'd written of my book at that point was the first two chapters, and I didn't yet know what my characters were in for. So make sure you suggest what's at stake for your characters, and begin with something that grips the reader. A beginning shouldn't just be an arbitrary beginning. It should be the place the story really starts.
  • Have fun!
Almost every time I sit down to edit, I have to forcibly remove this little dictator that rises up inside me and screams, "Slash it all!" Don't be overly critical or perfectionistic of yourself. Yes, it needs to be polished. Yes, it needs to be professional. But it also needs to demonstrate your voice, and if you sanitize your piece too much, you might just edit your voice right out. Don't forget to enjoy your writing, because that's the only way the passion will naturally flow through your words.

Have you prepared a selection for review or for a contest? What tips and techniques did you learn from the experience?

The Power of a Thankful Heart

I had an encounter with a homeless man a few weeks ago that, though brief, really shook up my notion of what it means to be thankful.

See, the thing is, I've always considered myself a pretty thankful person. I say "thank you" when someone opens a door for me, and I mean it. I appreciate all the ICEE's my mom has bought me over the years, and I am thankful--I mean, really thankful--for the blessings and work of God in my life, particularly for my relationship with Him and with my family and friends.

But I started thinking, "Do I even understand what it means to be thankful?" Because I think, truth be told, my thankfulness has a sort of cap or limit. Sure, I'm thankful for my faith. Thankful for my doggies. Thankful for my shoe collection. But how often so I take for granted the basic and vital things I know, that I've always known?

Like food, for instance. Shelter. A car. Family.

So often, because I've always had these things, I think part of my mind just assumes they're given. Thing is, they're not. For years, I've told myself people without those things, at least in America, are probably without them for some reason, be it an addiction or irresponsible choices. But that's not always true. And even if it is the case, is God's grace any shorter when extended to those really in need? Then why do we so often act like it is? Like we're somehow better because we know we're Christians?

These past few weeks, I've been trying to challenge myself to examine my thinking. What I've found is that my thoughts are alarmingly narcissistic. Not that some self-preservation isn't healthy now and then, like when a student tries to sass me or the grocery store doesn't want to accept my coupons. But what if instead of looking at my husband's shoes in the middle of the room and thinking, "I wish he'd put those in the closet," I looked at those same shoes and thought, "I'm glad I have a husband"? What if instead of looking at the dishes and thinking, "Ugh, I just unloaded the dishwasher," I looked at them and thought, "I'm thankful to have food tonight"?

Think how many more people we could affect if we looked at the world this way. I hope this blog isn't too serious in tone; I normally try to be a lot funnier, but this is what's been on my heart lately.

What do you guys think?