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Monday, August 31, 2009

I Told Two Friends Campaign

I Told Two Friends is an online campaign led by Dallas author, Melanie Wells, to rally book lovers to help fight adult illiteracy. Readers are invited to join our effort to raise $100,000 for the cause by purchasing Melanie Wells' novel, My Soul To Keep, and encouraging two friends do the same. 100% of the author's profits will go to ProLiteracy, an international non-profit whose mission is to end adult illiteracy worldwide.

Tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends, and so on and so on . and help thousands of eager adults learn to read this sentence. Be part of the solution!

You can purchase the book through Amazon. Website for Melanie Wells. For more information go to

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Want Readers? Then Shut Up!

by Mike Duran

That's right -- If you want people to buy your book, then keep your opinions to yourself! At least, that's the conventional wisdom amongst many agents, authors, and publicists. The reasoning goes something like this:
If you're trying to be honest and authentic on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter account, and you spout off about religion, politics, parenting, public education, gay rights, abortion rights, health care -- or any number of controversial topics -- you risk alienating potential readers.
So when it comes to selling books, transparency is apparently a liability.

It's understandable. I mean, wouldn't it be disconcerting to discover that one of your favorite authors was an anti-Semite, believed the earth was flat, or shopped at Walmart? When it comes to building a platform, there is value in keeping your mouth shut and keeping your topics to a minimum. God forbid that you actually reveal you like Sarah Palin or something.

The choice between honesty and diplomacy is not always easy. Christians ar
e commanded to "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). However, someone who's attempting to cultivate a platform and craft a public persona must be careful what "truth" they actually speak. On the one hand, by being transparent, up-front, or opinionated, we risk offending people and alienating readers. On the other hand, by muzzling our convictions and skirting controversial topics, we risk being dishonest. Furthermore, how an author is perceived by the industry is important. The writer who speaks her mind and is vocal about her convictions, inevitably runs the risk of staying the hand that could sign her paycheck.

So what's an author to do?

Maybe it's a matter of personal conviction. Maybe it's a matter of business acumen. But when I shut up -- when I say what people want to hear and refrain from saying what they don't -- I feel less like a diplomat and more like a suck-up.

Either way, building readership and marketing yourself is a tightrope.

Like many walks of public life, the broader the audience, the more we must temper what we say. Some authors opt for completely avoiding reference to their religious beliefs, political affiliations, and/or books they didn't like. Others wear those opinions on their sleeves. Regardless, we can take consolation in the fact that people come to fiction, film and music for what it does for them, not the political, ideological views of the artists.

In other words,
a good story, well told, always trumps one's artistic tastes and political or religious affiliations.

Okay, so maybe honesty and diplomacy can coexist. I mean, I can be honest without being obnoxious. Just because I'm pro-life does not mean I'm a Neanderthal. But if perception is a key to publication, then the outspoken writer always runs the risk of being perceived as a malcontent, a loose cannon, or agitator.

Alas, maybe being a suck-up is a better career option. Either that, or I can build a platform of malcontents and agitators…

“Get up!”

Anita Mellott writes to encourage others on their journey of life. With a background in journalism and mass communications, she worked for 13 years as a writer/editor for Habitat for Humanity International. She balances homeschooling and the call to write, and blogs at From the Mango Tree (

I stared at the computer screen. Red and green strikethroughs and edits masked my original text.

“Lord, what do these comments mean?” A tear splashed onto the keyboard.

I swallowed as I tried to process my first experience with a critique group. Their remarks, in the wake of my recent lay-off as a writer/editor with a nonprofit, only magnified my angst.
I knew writing was hard work, but following their advice to strip my writing of its journalistic tendencies was agonizing. Could I redirect years of training? How long would the paradigm shift from “telling” to “showing” take?

Is writing what I’m supposed to be doing?


It’s not about you; it’s about the craft. It’s about getting better.

Who am I kidding? I’m never going to make it.

The battle within raged. Writing once energized me. Now it sapped me.
Before, I couldn’t wait to get to my computer to give life to the ideas that demanded release. Now I was barren, numb. Excuses became the order of the day.
“Isn’t this your writing time?” My husband looked at me curiously one Saturday as I grabbed my purse.

“Umm, I need a break.” Careful to avoid his eyes, I headed toward the door.

“Let’s do your nails,” I called to my tween as I passed her room.

“Really?” Her head popped around the door. “But you usually write in the morning.”

“Not anymore.”

On the few occasions when I dragged myself to the computer, I’d stare at the screen for what seemed an eternity. Then my fingers would fly over the keyboard only to turn to lead.

What if people laughed at my “dry” writing? Maybe this writing journey was best left a dream.
Fear’s icy tentacles continued to numb me. After several weeks, I buried my face in my hands and cried, “Lord, if writing is what you’ve called me to do, I need to know. I want to obey you regardless.”
A few days later, after yet another restless night, I went downstairs to my desk. In the early morning quiet, I read the day’s devotional passage, “The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid” (Matt 17:6b-7; NLT).

Through the day, the words of the One who is the Truth echoed in my mind. As they penetrated the deep recesses of my heart, discouragement and the fear of rejection and failure began to release their stranglehold on me.

The next morning I woke up, my mind swirling with ideas, replacing the confusion that had gripped me for weeks. Each idea competed with the other in its race to spill out.
“Get up,” they called. Shaky feet propelled me to my desk. Trembling hands turned on the computer. My fingers took on a life of their own trying to keep pace with my thoughts. As the words wove stories that began to embrace me, He seemed to whisper, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you.”

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Grammar Saturdays

Friday, August 28, 2009


Guest Blog ~ Author Jill Dearman ~ The Play of Writing

The Play of Writing

From “Bang the Keys: Four Steps to a Lifelong Writing Practice” by Jill Dearman (Penguin/Aug. 2009)

How does an actor know when the play has begun? The curtain rises, of course! When the show's over the curtain falls. What does a dancer do before a performance? Warm up. Just like any athlete must. Writing is both an exercise and a performance, so the rules of the actor and the athlete's game are the same for us. A little warm up goes a long way towards putting us in the mood to write and helping us to enter "the zone."

And these days, when modern life is so filled with insidious interruptions, I think it is especially helpful to begin one's writing time with a cue, and end with one too. When I run my Bang the Keys workshops I usually sit in front of the clock and ask a workshopper to warn me when it's one minute to "showtime." Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly divaesque I demand that a gaggle of assistants powder puff my face, spray my hair and feed me a chewing gum cigarette for effect. When the clock turns and the hour has begun, I light a candle. When the wick catches fire we all know that the workshop evening has officially begun. When we are done, I blow out the candle. Over and out.

Arranging one's time is a huge part of this phase in one's writing practice. There is something about training your body and mind to begin and end an endeavor consciously, as in lighting a candle to start the workshop, blowing it out to end, that naturally carries over into the way you structure your writing life as a whole.

As always, focusing on a fun, doable micro (coming up with a writing "cue") can help with the much more intimidating macro (meeting your six week writing goal, and ultimately finishing a large work).

Certainly a good way to prepare for one's writing hours is to try a meditation (as outlined in the "Channel Surfing" chapter of BANG THE KEYS), or perhaps do a little quick journaling, but there are additional methods I'd recommend trying, just to change it up.

If you are aiming for 500 words a day you can be as rigid as Graham Greene and literally end your writing day when you hit that lucky number. I would recommend though that once you are in a good writing jag you push yourself to write just a little more. Incrementally you may work up to 1000 words a day or much more than that. But even if you stop at exactly 500 (or just under), good for you! That is a great way to end your writing day, by doing what you set out to do. The question though, is how to begin?

I enjoy mediating at the beginning of my writing time. Meditation, after all, is simply the act of focusing on one thing with relaxed concentration, and creating a boundary (or force-field, in my mind) to keep out all other things. Thjs can sometimes help to close out the rest of the world, and help me tune in to my own creative world.


“One chiefly needs swiftness in banging the keys,” said author Mark Twain, who pioneered the use of typewriters. Modern-day author and writing coach Jill Dearman has taken Twain’s words to heart in creating her successful “Bang the Keys” writing workshop, offering participants a four step path to creating and maintaining a robust habit of banging the (now electronic) keys.

Scribes have been longing for a relevant and modern writing workshop-in-a-book, one that deals with the issues of distraction that plague them in this information-overloaded 21st Century of ours … and now it has arrived, in fresh, crackling prose: Bang the Keys: Four Steps to a Lifelong Writing Process (ISBN: 9781592579143, Alpha Books, August 2009, $16.95). With a foreward by John Leland, New York Times reporter and author of Why Kerouac Matters.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Author Interview ~ Kay Strom

Of Kay's 34 published books, four have been book club selections, nine have been translated into foreign languages, and one has been optioned for a movie. Her writing credits also include numerous magazine articles, short stories, two prize-winning screenplays, books and stories for children, and booklets for writers. Her writing has appeared in several volumes including More Than Conquerors, Amazing Love, The NIV Couple's Devotional Bible and The NIV Women's Devotional Bible, and The Bible for Today's Christian Woman. Her work also is included in a number of compilations, including various books from the Stories for the Heart series.

Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writer's conferences, and special events throughout the country. In addition, more and more her writing and speaking are drawing her to countries and cultures around the world. Most recently she trekked through India, China, Indonesia, Sudan, Morocco, and Senegal - tape recorder and camera in hand - preparing to tell “the rest of the story” of our donor dollars at work in the lives of individuals and villages around the world.

Kay is a partner in Kline, Strom International, Inc., leaders in communication training.

What made you start writing?

I have been writing since I was a child. It sounds corny, but it’s like I was born with stories in me just bursting to get out.

What's the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

I write three main drafts. The first one is the idea draft, and it is such fun. As I write I’m thinking, “This is so good! I have to be among the best writers in the world!” Then I read that draft and start draft two—the working draft. I think, “This is horrible! Now everyone is going to find out what a fake I am, that I never could write at all.” (This is definitively the hardest part!) Draft three is the final draft. It is nowhere near at euphoric as the first, but not as hopeless as the second. Probably draft three is reality!

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

I think every writer does to some degree. We can’t help it. We are what we know the best.

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?

Great question! This is a battle for sure. On my third book, I had a “crisis” where the editorial director insisted I change a major focus of the book to a premise I didn’t believe and could never defend. My option was to withdraw the book. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but I withdrew it. The book was quickly picked up by a much larger publisher and released in hardcover—several printings, translations, even went through a second edition.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

The Call of Zulina is the first book of a three-book saga. Set in West Africa, it centers around Grace Winslow, whose mother is African royalty and her father a British sea captain. Trapped in a marriage arrangement with a pompous, offensive white slave trader, she flees from her home and ends up in the middle of a slave revolt at Zulina slave fortress. There she comes to understand the horrific nature of her family’s involvement in the slave trade. She is forced to choose a side—slave or slaver.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

The characters of Lingongo and Joseph Winslow, Grace’s parents, are modeled after real people who ran a slave business in Africa in the 1700s. I “got to know” them when I was researching a book on the life of John Newton, slaver turned preacher and abolitionist, author of Amazing Grace. As I read about them, I wondered, “If they had a daughter, who would she be? English or African? Where would her loyalties lie?” In West Africa I toured an old slave fortress and was struck dumb by a set of baby-sized manacles bolted to the wall. That was my “what if” moment.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

The richness of the African setting; delving into the truth in history.

Least? Finding myself in the middle of a horrible episode of history; the truth I learned.

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

Having one foot in each of two worlds and not quite belonging in either is a common feeling, especially for Christians who are “in this world but not of this world.” I would like readers to see the power of taking a stand, even though there are consequences for doing so. Still, the consequences of not doing so are far greater.

What does your writing space look like?

Too small… too jumbled… too unorganized… and my kitty sleeps on the computer. But, hey, it works!

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

We have a hot tub spa, and I love to relax in it and read or talk to my husband or do nothing at all! I also walk. And I like to play tennis and bowl and golf via Wii!

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.

I am a pretty organized writer. Conception is no problem—my idea file is bulging! I gather info, then I make a fairly detailed chapter outline and attach all my research to the appropriate chapter. (This is a time-consuming step, but the better I do this, the easier and more trouble-free the actual writing.)

Then I write a first draft: no corrections, no rethinking—just pouring it out. (I love this step!) Then I write a second draft: bringing order to the first, rewriting, switching info to another chapter, etc. (This is the painful step.) Then I do a final draft: polishing, fixing, double checking info. I move away from the project for a week or two and do something completely different and my husband reads it and makes corrections and suggestions. (He’s great!) I consider my husband’s comments, then I go back and reread the entire manuscript out loud one last time.

What is the first book you remember reading and what made it special?

I started reading at four and never stopped. I remember stories from my early reading books. My older sister says I used to say I wanted to write a fun reading book of my own!

What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?

Shadowlands (C.S. Lewis) C.S. Lewis is one of my all time favorite authors. But this book came to me just as my first husband was in the throes in an awful illness that finally resulted in his death, and it so touched my heart that I wept for days.

Fatherland (Robert Harris) This is such a gripping example of thought-provoking “what if” fiction.

A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens) I read this in eighth grade and it transformed my view of the power of a book. While I was writing The Call of Zulina, I was picturing Madame DeFarge knitting secret messages into her shawl.

A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving) Read the opening page of that book and see if you can put it down. Not at all a typical Christian book, this is still one of the best I’ve ever read on Christian mysticism. (I named my cat after Owen Meany!)

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

In every way! I am helped by the gifted word crafter and the great storyteller. But I’m also helped by the not-so- great books, especially when I see shades of my own writing stumbles in them!

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

I can have my own voice. I don’t have to “be like” someone successful to be a writing success.

How much marketing do you do?

Not nearly as much as I should. I don’t particularly like marketing my books. I much prefer getting started on the next book. What have you found that particularly works well for you? Interviews and speaking engagements. There I can connect with others and share my passions.

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

I have two more books coming out in this series. One is written (set in London) and I’m just starting book three (set in the new United States of America). I have also been approached by a publisher about possibly going back to Sudan and writing the story of the displaced Southern Sudanese going home again. But I’ll have to say, after writing four books this year, I need a bit of a breather!

Do you have any parting words of advice?

I love the idea of fiction with a purpose. My prayer is that when readers finish The Call of Zulina – then when they finish the complete Grace In Africa series—they will long to see slavery wiped from the earth. And they will be an active part of accomplishing that.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Guest Blogger ~ Rita Gerlach

Rita Gerlach has published three historical novels which received high praise from book reviewers and readers. Currently she is writing a novel set along the Potomac River and England’s gentle countryside entitled Beside Two Rivers, a story of love and loss, prejudice and acceptance, in a volatile era. She has articles in Writers Gazette, Will Write 4 Food, Write to Inspire, and the print magazine The Christian Communicator. She's a member of The Western Maryland Writers Guild and the American Christian Fiction Writers association. She lives with her husband and two sons in historic Frederick County, Maryland.

NJ: (Happy birthday, Rita)

Perseverance, Patience, and Humility

Sitting on my desk is a small piece of cross-stitch that I finished years ago. It says,

‘Commit your works to the Lord’

Beneath the verse is a cluster of red tulips, a basket, garden gloves, a trowel and a watering can. There isn’t a day gone by that I do not see those words before my eyes. Committing your work to the Lord takes perseverance, which has a few different facets that define it. Tenacity, steadfastness, grit, and determination, but never pride.

As an aspiring writer, ask yourself if you have the grit to continue writing after receiving rejections and harsh critiques. Do you have the steadfastness to improve your writing? Are you willing to learn the craft of good storytelling? Do you have the determination to continue to send out work? Do you have the tenacity to remain true to your goals, even if it means it could take years before you have your first book published? Can you be persistent and humble at the same time?

For a writer to truly become masterful it takes work, and you can never believe you've so arrived that you no longer need to improve or grow. Pride can lead to a fall. A humble heart keeps you open to learning.

Be patient in your search for publication. Do not rush it. After you have polished your manuscript to a high sheen, and you are ready to submit, study how to write a query letter and book proposal. Make a list of publishers or literary agents you wish to submit to. If you get a rejection, know that this is the norm. It happens to every writer. Just move on. Keep submitting. In the meantime, write another novel.

The industry may be tough. But there is one thing for certain. Whether you are published or not, no one can say you are not a writer, and no one can take away your gift. Only you can decide what you will do with it.

Surrender the Wind

When American patriot Seth Braxton inherits his grandfather’s estate in faraway England, he inherits more than an isolated manor house. He falls in love with the daughter of an eccentric landed gentleman, and uncovers a plot that leads to kidnapping, murder, and betrayal.

Juleah’s independent spirit and gentle soul win Seth’s heart, enraging the man who once sought her hand and schemed to make Ten Width his own, in this stirring tale of fidelity and forgiveness.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Your Thoughts on Book Trailers?

Gina Holmes

I've received a mock up of my debut novel, Crossing Oceans, and it is beautiful!!! I can't wait to show it. When I was in the pre-contracted phase, I was worried I wouldn't get a contract. Then when I had a contract, I was worried that I wouldn't pull it off and earn the money and confidence I'd been given.
Now that the book is done, major revisions made, I'm really pleased. Is it okay to say I think it's really good?

So, now I'm happy with the novel and happy with a beautiful cover and so it's on to something new to fret about. (When I say worry and fret, I just mean a healthy concern that keeps me motivated, not a mistrusting of myself, God, my publisher or anyone else, honest.)

Now, I'm on to thinking about a book trailer. Jessica (Dotta) thinks they're very important. I'm not as convinced, but I do think they can help some IF they're done right.

Telling the whole story in a five minute trailer... not right.

Simply flashing the title, publisher, author's name and book cover, with cheesy music in the background ... not right.

I've been perusing many trailers lately, trying to gauge what works about some and doesn't about others and I've come up with a basic, 30-45 second script that I think will be effective, if I can actually pull off the technical aspect.

I'm curious what book trailers you've seen that do it for you, that would really make you want to buy the book. Go ahead and share links to ones that work for you, or ones that don't and tell us why they do or don't.

Here's one I thought was very good: The Embers, Hyatt Bass

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Divine Appointment

Marcia Laycock is a pastor's wife and mother of three grown daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone, and has published two devotional books, Spur of the Moment, and Focused Reflections. Visit her website -

“Do you know anything about these flowers?”

The young woman’s eyes were hopeful but I had to disappoint her and explain that I did not work in the hospital gift shop. I was just there to stock the book rack. I pointed to two ladies at a nearby counter. “Maybe they can help,” I said.

She nodded, stared at the flower display and sighed. “I’m not really sure what I want.”

I took note of her dress then – a baseball cap pulled over messy hair; a thin pair of pyjama bottoms topped by a hospital issue housecoat wrapped around a frail frame; pull-on terrycloth slippers, two sizes too big.

“My friend is dying,” she said, then turned back to me. “I am too.”

I put my clipboard down and waited. Her story unfolded in simple language, the words slipping from her mouth almost as though rehearsed. She reached into a pocket and pulled out a picture of her seven year old daughter. I could see the resemblance. She smiled when I mentioned it and went on to say there was a surgery that she was hoping for – highly experimental, there was only one doctor who could do it and he just happened to live in a nearby city. But then her voice fell and I had to lean close to hear. Her friend had had the surgery. She was still dying.

The conversation turned to the word hope then. She had hope they would agree to do the surgery, hope that, unlike her friend, she would recover, hope that she would live to watch her daughter grow up.

She said a pastor came to visit sometimes and “we say our small prayers together. They seem small, just words, but maybe not, eh?” Again that hopeful look in her eyes.

I was praying small prayers right then. She’s so young, Lord. Please. Please.

Then she was gone and I resumed stocking the rack. I do it once a month and in that hospital, the rack is usually almost empty by the time I return. As I filled the pockets with books I was acutely aware of their contents. They hold pages about the love and mercy of Jesus, pages filled with stories of courage and faith, pages of humour to lift a sad heart and inspiration to encourage a weary soul. Pages of hope.

I knew I was sent there that day to do much more than “just stock the book racks,” but my job suddenly seemed important. My other job, as a writer, suddenly seemed essential, “That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.” (Ps. 26:7, KJV).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Author Susan Santangelo ~ Interviewed

About the Author

Susan Santangelo has been a feature writer, drama critic, and editor for daily and weekly magazines in the metropolitan New York area, including a stint at Cosmopolitan magazine. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, a national group of mystery writers, as well as The Cape Cod Writers’ Center. A 10-year breast cancer survivor, she was one of the founders of the Breast Cancer Survival Center in Connecticut, which provides support and education about the disease to those who have undergone treatment. A portion of the sale of each book will be donated to this organization (

Along with her Personal Beloved Husband, Joe, Susan shares her life with three English Cocker Spaniels, Tillie, Tucker, and Lucy, in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, and West Dennis, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

My very first cozy mystery, has been published independently on Cape Cod, MA . It’s called Retirement Can Be Murder, and is the first of a series of humorous mysteries aimed at the fastest growing demographic in the country, Baby Boomers. So far, it’s selling very well, and I’m thrilled with the reviews I’ve been getting.

We are all about journeys...unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.

When the idea for writing Retirement Can Be Murder was first conceived, it was going to be a joint venture between my husband, who is also a writer, and myself. We were looking for something we could do together as we approached our own retirement, and since we both write – although we mainly did news releases and public relations writing – this seemed like a good fit for us. It was supposed to be a chapter written from the wife’s point of view, followed by a chapter written from the husband’s. A sort of “tongue in cheek” humorous novel, with a murder thrown in to keep it interesting. I wrote the first chapter and showed it to my Beloved. He said, “This is really good. Write the second chapter.” After I wrote five chapters and he had written none, it became clear that I was the writer and he was the editor, so the whole project had to be re-thought. Ah, well, that’s marriage, I guess!

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

I find that I can’t just sit at the computer and write write write all day long. I write in spurts, and I’m constantly making notes to myself. What really stimulates my “little gray cells” is overhearing other people’s conversations. I confess I’m a real observer of human nature, and it’s amazing what people talk about in public situations such as the check out line of the local supermarket or on their cell phone. I get great plot and character ideas every day this way.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I wish I had known sooner that most publishers and agents are reluctant to take a chance on a new author unless that author has some sort of celebrity “platform.” That’s perfectly understandable, given the state of the publishing business and the economy today. I wish I’d spent more time before the book was published blogging and building more of an on-line identity. Now I’m playing catch-up. And I wish I’d made the decision to publish the book independently sooner. Hiring a book designer and printer gave me control over the project that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I think it’s been money well spent, and I’m very pleased with the way the book came out.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

Other people!

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

I spend a two mornings a week as a volunteer at the Cape Cod Hospital Thrift Shop. One morning about a year and a half ago, when I was still fine-tuning Retirement Can Be Murder, I started talking with another thrift shop volunteer about the most efficient ways to kill people and not get caught. As we tossed ideas back and forth, we really got into it, and our voices got louder and louder. Finally, a customer in the thrift shop couldn’t stand it any longer and approached us to ask what the heck we were talking about. It turned out she was the food editor of our daily paper here, the Cape Cod Times, and after she finished laughing, she said the story of my path to publication would make a great feature for the paper’s monthly magazine, “Prime Time.” The story ran in the February 2009 issue, and I was on the cover. Just call me Ms. February! It was a great way to start a publicity campaign, because the book was published just a few months later.

With the clarity of experience, what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears writers if you were beginning this writing journey today?

I still feel I’m pretty wet behind the ears myself. But I think the best advice I can give to writers is to believe in yourself and your book. And keep writing, no matter what.

What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?

I’ve always written. And I’ve always wanted to write a mystery. I always figured I had plenty of time ahead of me to do it. But then I was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years ago. That event completely changed the way I look at my life. I decided I’d better get going and do the things I want to do now. It’s really true that life is not a dress rehearsal.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn't have to be one of your books or even published.)

I also run a non-profit organization for post-treatment breast cancer survivors, and I write the quarterly newsletter. I’m very proud of the fact that the articles in the newsletter have made such a positive impact on survivors’ lives.

Do you have a pet peeve in regards to this writing business? Share a dream or something you'd love to accomplish through your writing career.

It seems that people of a “certain age” become invisible, because our country seems to be more and more obsessed with youth. I’m hoping that by writing a series of books focusing on the everyday lives of Boomers, that perception will change. We still have plenty of good years ahead of us and lots of things to contribute. And if we can laugh along the way, that’s even better!

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, of course )?

When a stranger stops me in a parking lot, or sends me an e-mail, and tells me how much they loved my book, I get a major high! I love making new friends. The subheading of Retirement Can Be Murder is “Every wife has a story.” Lots of women have come to book signings and shared their stories with me. Some of them are hilarious. I’m also reconnecting with lots of school mates, former neighbors, and old friends, because of the book, which is fantastic.

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

I’ve been married to My Personal Beloved for 42 years. And we were married on April Fools’ Day. Enough said.

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

When I started writing this book, I didn’t have a real outline. Just a rough idea of the plot and characters, and who the murderer was. At times, I began to panic that I’d gotten myself (i.e. the characters) into a situation that I couldn’t get them out of. But as I got to know the characters better, I realized that I didn’t have to worry, because the characters really do take over a book. I’d heard that from other writers, but never believed it until it happened to me.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

I have to decide on a title before I do anything else. It may not end up being the title I’ll use, but it gives me a focus.

Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?

I have an office in my home that I use for my writing. No one is allowed to talk to me when I’m writing. Even the dogs! (Although sometimes if they’re insistent enough I do have to take a break and let them out.) As I said, I write in spurts, but before I stop I usually make notes as to where I want the rest of that chapter to go, so when I begin again, I have a point of reference. I may reject that idea when I look at it later, but at least it’s a place to start.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

Definitely a combination, with emphasis on seat of the pants. I like to have my characters surprise me.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?

I think the hardest thing about pulling together a book is knowing when to end it. And, if you are writing a series like I am, ending the book in such a way that your readers want to read the next one.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.

The daughter of one of my high school classmates bought the book for her mother as a Mother’s Day present. She e-mailed me that, before she wrapped the gift to give to her mom, she decided to check it out for herself, ended up loving it, and bought a copy for herself too. I thought that was really sweet.

Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you'd share with us?

I had a funny thing happen to me in a local restaurant recently where I’d gone out to lunch by myself. I always bring a book with me to read, and when the waitress gave me the bill, she asked me what I was reading. I gave her the title, and she asked me if it was good. I said, “Yes, but not as good as mine.” I gave her a little sales pitch, and she bought 3 books – one for herself, one for her mother, and one for her mother-in-law. The moral of this story is, talk up your project every chance you get. You never know who’ll be listening!

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

Lots of people ask me why I write. My answer is that, with the world in such a crazy state these days, and so much happening in life that’s beyond our control, it’s nice to be able to produce a happy ending.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Author Interview ~ Kim Woodhouse

Kimberley Woodhouse is a wife, mother, author, and musician with a quick wit and positive outlook despite difficult circumstances. A popular speaker, she’s shared at more than 600 venues across the country. Kimberley and her family's story have garnered national media attention for many years, but most recently her family was chosen for ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Montel Williams Show, and Discovery Health channel’s Mystery ER. Welcome Home: Our Family’s Journey to Extreme Joy, releases from Tyndale House Publishers September first. In addition to her non-fiction, she also writes romantic suspense and children’s books. Kimberley lives, writes, and homeschools in Colorado with her husband and two children in their truly “extreme” home.

What is your current project? Tell us about it.

I have two projects in the works right now. Non-fiction: a parenting book about the joy of parenting and keeping your cool through extreme circumstances, and fiction: a complex romantic suspense set in my favorite state - Alaska.

You also have a book entitled Welcome Home. This is basically your life story, right? What prompted you to share it with the world?

Yes, Welcome Home is our story. Starting from about sixteen years ago until today. So many people wanted to know the rest of the story after our episode of EM:HE aired. I was inundated with thousands upon thousands of emails and questions. Then Discovery stepped in and did the Mystery ER episode which told a little of the diagnosis process with Kayla, but there were still so many questions unanswered. For years, I’d been asked to share our story with others around the country, but I didn’t always share the hardest things. It seemed very personal and too difficult a task. But I felt the Lord prodding me. To swallow my pride and tell the “really tough stuff” so that other people could be encouraged in these tough times.

You and your family appeared on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Can you tell us about that experience?

It was surreal and overwhelming. I still wake up every day and marvel that this happened. We knew we were finalists, but the chances were so slim – we just didn’t think that it could actually happen to us. Then we found out that people had been nominating us from all over the world for years. What an amazing thing!

Everyone from ABC and the show were so good to us. They took great care of us, truly understood the story, and have taken great care of us since. Ty and Ed were two of my favorites. They’d sit down with us and just ask questions – trying to wrap their minds around all the facets of the story.

Our house was built in 96 hours. Can you believe that? They really do everything in seven days, and they really do surprise the families. I will be forever grateful for this experience.

What are you sharing in your book that you were not able to share on the television program?

We shared a lot about our faith on all the TV shows, but most of it was edited out. And that’s okay. People still saw “something different” and it opened the door for people to ask questions. The great thing about Welcome Home is that it’s just my honest story. From me to you. My struggles, my triumphs, my failures, my questions, but most importantly – God’s joy through it all.

How has your unique life journey prepared you to be an author?

I believe it’s through the really hard junk that we learn the most important lessons. As writers, we often want to shape characters who are larger than life and everything that we wish we could be – when readers really want a character they can attach themselves to. They want real people, real struggles, someone who’s gone through the same crud they’ve been through and come out on the other side better for it. Readers want to experience how the hero made it from the bottomless pit of suffering to the mountaintop of happiness, because then it becomes real to them. Gives them hope that they can overcome as well.

So through all the trials that I’ve experienced personally, and everything we’ve been through as a family, I believe the Lord has taught me about being “real.” Being real, and allowing my characters to be real, gives relatable depth to the fiction story. It also helps me to share our life story in ways that touch people uniquely. Everyone has trials, yours are just as hard as mine, and we can encourage one another on this journey.

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

My best friend found one of my manuscripts back when I wasn’t telling anyone I was writing. She read it, walked over to me, and proceeded to hit me over the head with it. Told me I was hiding my light under a bushel.

At the time, I thought I was just writing to get the creative juices out. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone. Because I didn’t know how to write… did I? I had no confidence in myself as a writer. But that was when God did an amazing work in me. He showed me that I needed to work on it, needed to learn the craft, but He didn’t want me having confidence in it. Why? Because I needed to be a willing vessel. He should receive the praise and glory whether one person or five-million people read my stories.

That’s my extra oomph.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

When our episode of EM:HE first aired, I was contacted by huge publishing houses. All of them said they loved my writing, all of them said they wanted to publish me. Yay! But there was a catch – every one of them wanted God out of the story.

I went from elated—hearing that they loved me—to crestfallen. They all wanted to ride on the coattails of the publicity. It took me all of five seconds to respond, “no.”

For several days I thought that was it. I wouldn’t ever be published. I had my chance, and that was all she wrote.

But I knew that I had done the right thing. So I picked myself up by my bootstraps—and kept writing. I had several editors who had requested manuscripts before all the TV chaos happened, I would just follow through and see where it went.

Less than a month later, Alive Communications took me on as an author. I have never regretted my decision to stay the course. Because God IS the story.

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

Information dumps. I love research and details – but that doesn’t mean that my reader will be interested in the plethora of facts I find.

I’m still overcoming it :-) (as well as other writing flaws that I have) although I am better than I was before. Reading out loud helps, and my amazing critique partners help. We should never stop learning.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

Most of the time it’s getting my notes down for what I see as the opening scene. It always grows and blooms from there.

Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you'd like to share?

I used to need quiet and to have everything organized around me. But I homeschool my kiddos five to six hours a day and they are now super-involved in swimming. Another five to six hours a day, six days a week, we traipse around to two different pools. I’ve learned to bring my chair, laptop, plot board, and write with the chaos around me.

I like to write myself notes about what I see happening several scenes ahead to trigger the next writing session. And I love colored post-it notes. A different color for each character goes on my plot board.

Spiritually speaking - what has curled your toes and rocked your world lately? Any impact on your writing?

We live in a world that doesn’t want to ‘fess up—nothing is ever our fault, it’s always someone else’s (i.e. I sinned, but someone else made me do it – yeah, whatever.) J I think it’s had a profound impact on my writing, because we all need to admit that we are not perfect, that we make mistakes, and we should be willing to apologize, learn and grow from it.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

Tracie Peterson’s amazing attention to detail that draws the reader in without bogging him/her down, and Colleen Coble’s deep characterizations.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I would love to accomplish whatever the Lord has in store for me. Yes - awards, accolades, selling millions of copies, all sound wonderful (and I would love for that to happen, just admit it, we all would) – but they are nothing if they aren’t of eternal value. If one person is drawn to the Lord because of my writing – then that is far more valuable than any award or bestseller list.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Least favorite: There are times when it is VERY hard work.
Favorite: brainstorming and plotting out a new story.

How much marketing/publicity do you do? Any advice in this area?

Because of all our TV stuff, I do probably ten times more than other writers, but I know it’s worth it. Sometimes it overwhelms everything else, and I don’t like to trade my writing time for it, but I have to. My advice is to do as much as you can. Publishers are looking for authors who are willing to go that extra mile, but make sure you keep writing. :-)

Parting words?

Keep on keeping on. And no matter what you go through – God’s joy is always there.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Melody Carlson is an award-winning, best-selling author of nearly two hundred books for teens, children, and adults, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the Secret Life of Samantha McGregor series, the True Color Series, and Notes from a Spinning Planet series. Melody has two grown sons and lives in central Oregon with her husband, where they enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping, and biking.

What’s a Mentor to Do?

I spent several hours editing an unpublished writer’s work today. Not for money, and not because I didn’t have anything else to do (because I do) and not because she’s a friend (although she is) but simply because I believe in her as a writer and a person and because I wanted to help.

As a somewhat seasoned author, I totally understand the need for mentoring other less experienced writers. I remember how it felt trying to break into what felt like the locked-up and even hostile world of publishing. I remember the frustration—back then I collected enough rejection letters to wallpaper my bathroom. And I vividly recall the confusion—what did publishers really want anyway? I also remember the pull-your-hair-out aggravation—why does an editor say he really likes it and then rejects it? Anyone who has attempted to write and publish knows exactly what I’m talking about. You need very thick skin and some understanding and helpful friends. Thankfully I had both.

And so I try to be open to opportunities to reach out to other struggling writers, but at the same time, I realize that helping new writers can be a risky business. In fact, my husband usually gives me a pretty stiff reminder whenever I mention that I’m about to help someone. It’s not that he’s selfish—he’s actually the kind of guy who will give you the boots off his feet, he’s literally done that before. But he’s also protective of me and he knows how helping other writers can backfire. It can be like picking your way through a minefield in a blindfold. For instance, you can take time from your packed schedule and spend an afternoon doing what you feel is a thoughtful critique and the next thing you know you’re getting your head blasted off. Admittedly, I’m a little cautious.

So what’s a mentor to do? You can’t just give up. There are a lot of good writers out there who need some encouragement. So how do you go about it? For starters I’ve learned to practice some discernment. The first thing I try to determine is whether a writer is more interested in writing or in getting published. And if it’s the latter, I politely decline to get involved. Instead I try to refer them to what I think might be helpful resources like writer’s market guides, writers’ conferences, critique groups, writing books, etc.. Because if I don’t sense an honest love of writing, an appreciation of story, an understanding of characters…there’s not much I can do to help them anyway. It’s either there or it’s not.

And what I’ve learned is that if a writer is only interested in publishing, getting his or her name in print, a shiny new book in the local bookstore…he or she can quickly turn against you. When someone cares more about being an “author” than writing, you can be in for some unpleasant surprises. For instance, you might think you’re giving some good editorial direction but it’s perceived as a “personal attack.” Or a suggestion for a rewrite is misunderstood as your attempt to put up a stumbling block. Before long, hurt feelings and misconceptions can lead to ruined friendships and a whole lot of grief. It’s just not worth it.

When I determine that a writer is working hard and seriously wants to improve her craft and 1) is not trying to get me to refer her to my agent, 2) not trying to get an endorsement from me, and 3) not expecting that networking will get her published, I try to assess whether or not I can be of any help. First of all I have to decide if I realistically have the time. Next I determine whether or not I have the right kind of expertise to be of real help. For instance, if someone writes fantasy, I wouldn’t know where to start, but maybe I know someone who does. Then I try to discern if there’s a deeper connection than just writing going on—it might be spiritual or related to something I care about or a friendship that really matters. And finally, I pray that God will direct me. And a green light usually comes with a tangible sense of peace.

And that’s when mentoring is really fun and rewarding. Oh, sure it might involve a little more work than expected, but when it’s right and when you see someone else succeeding at something you love, it’s so worth it. I plan to continue mentoring as long as I can. And I encourage anyone else—no matter what level you’re at—to do the same.

What Matters Most
Sixteen-year-old Maya Stark has a lot to sort through. She could graduate from high school early if she wants to. She’s considering it, especially when popular cheerleader Vanessa Hartman decides to make her life miserable–and Maya’s ex-boyfriend Dominic gets the wrong idea about everything.

To complicate matters even more, Maya’s mother will be released from prison soon, and she’ll want Maya to live with her again. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. And when Maya plays her dad’s old acoustic guitar in front of an audience, she discovers talents and opportunities she never expected. Faced with new options, Maya must choose between a “normal” life and a glamorous one. Ultimately, she has to figure out what matters most.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Author Interview Hyatt Bass

The Embers is Hyatt Bass' first novel. Her award-winning feature film, Seventy Five Degrees in July, released by Vanguard Cinema in June of 2006, marked Hyatt’s debut as a feature film director. She also wrote the screenplay and was a producer on the film. Prior to that, Hyatt wrote, directed, produced and edited the short film, Just Desert, in Los Angeles, where she worked as a production assistant on Sister Act, a camera assistant on Tombstone, and an assistant editor and camera assistant at Roger Corman’s infamous Concorde Films. Hyatt received her BA from Princeton University. She lives with her husband, Josh Klausner, and their two sons and two miniature schnauzers in New York City.

Tell us about your latest project.

I have a novel, The Embers, that was just published by Henry Holt. Here is the description of the book I wrote up with my editor:

A once-charmed family is forced to confront the devastating tragedy that struck it years ago in this fiercely tender tale of betrayal and reconciliation.

We love to hear about your journey to publication.

The Embers actually started as a screenplay. I was editing my first feature film, Seventy-Five Degrees in July, and in a restaurant one day, I saw a precocious looking New York adolescent girl wearing an oversized men’s blazer and carrying a stuffed animal backpack.
I’ve always been fascinated by adolescent girls, and thought she would make an interesting subject for my next film. So I immediately started forming this character (now split in the book between Ingrid and young Emily). At the same time, I was completely blown away by the performance of one of the actors in my film-Harris Yulin-and I thought that whatever movie I made next had to feature him fairly prominently.
I began working on a story about an unlikely friendship between a teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood waking up to all kinds of things-romance and independence and fantasies of where her life will take her-and an elderly man nearing the end of his life, looking back with nostalgia and yearning, but also thinking about what he might have done differently. I liked the contrast between them, and the idea that, different as they are, they might strangely find comfort in one another.

Somehow, from the very beginning, the whole concept felt more like a novel than a film. But since I was a filmmaker, I brushed that idea aside and went ahead with the screenplay, all the while writing notes in the margins-“If a novel….”
In the end, the screenplay didn’t work at all, and so I figured I had nothing to lose.

Once I started writing the story as a novel, it was tremendously liberating. I had no page-limit, and I could delve much deeper into each character. Soon, the friendship between Joe and this young stranger, Ingrid, turned into more of an exploration of the relationship between him and his daughter, Emily. As Emily and the rest of Joe’s family began to spring up around him, the Aschers took over the novel.
I thought about a Van Gogh quote I’d read a few years before: One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul, and yet no one come to sit by it. This really captured the way I thought about the Aschers and the state of isolation they’re all living in, yearning for closeness but unable to connect. Out of the quote, too, came the title of the book. The funny thing is I now think the book would make a great film.

I spent 7 years writing the book. For the first few, only my husband, who is a screenwriter/director, was allowed to read it. Then, at a certain point, I decided I was ready for some objective, professional feedback, and I gave it to a couple of friends of friends—who I did not know (that was important for me)—and they gave me notes, which I worked off of for a while, editing and reshaping the book. When I had gotten it to a point where I felt pretty happy with it, I then gave it to another friend of a friend, who was an editor, because
I wanted it to be in the best possible shape before submitting it to agents.
She did some line-editing with me, and assured me that it was ready to go out. So, I sent it to several agents, and eventually landed at William Morris. Jennifer Rudolf Walsh, the head of the literary department, loved the book but felt that it still needed some work before we submitted it to publishers. So I worked with my agent, Dorian Karchmar, for about 2 years. (I should mention here that we were both pregnant with our second children when we started working together, and the babies definitely slowed things down a bit. My first child was also born while I was working on the book, so when I tell you it took seven years to write the book, this is part of the reason it took me so long.)
Anyway, when Dorian and I both felt the manuscript was finally ready, she sent it out to all of the publishers. We thought we wouldn’t hear from anyone for several days, but Henry Holt actually called the next day and made a pre-emptive offer—meaning that they offered a significant amount of money to buy it right away, before we got responses from other publishers. I was of course excited, but also a little worried at first because I knew¾or hoped anyway¾that my editor would probably be someone I would work with for many years on many books, and I liked the idea of getting to talk to a lot of different editors before making that very important decision.
After speaking on the phone with the Holt editor, Helen Atsma, I got really excited about the possibility of working with her and with Holt. And so, we accepted the offer. And I’m so, so, so happy we did. I love Helen and everyone I’ve had the chance to work with at Henry Holt, and I hope to work with them on my next book¾and the next, and the next….

What is one weakness you have as a writer and what do you do to overcome it?

I often get stuck trying to get sentences to read perfectly even though I’m so early on in the process, I should just be moving forward and fleshing out a rough first draft. Especially early on, there’s a good chance that a “perfect” sentence will get thrown out anyway. When I was writing The Embers
I made a rule that I was never allowed to go backwards and look at something I’d already written.
To keep myself from being tempted, I’d close a file when it was still fairly small—a chapter or two--and then start a new one.

What is one strength you have as a writer and to what do you attribute your success in this particular area?

From what people tell me, one of my greatest strengths is being able to write believably about characters who are much older than I am or much different, and have experienced things I never have. I think this comes from the fact I don’t like real-life conflict, and so I’ve always tried to see things from everyone else’s point of view in order to keep from arguing or fighting with them.

If you could go back to the young writer you were when you were just beginning, what advice would you give yourself?

Throw out the thesaurus.
When I read the first draft, there were words in there I literally had to look up in the dictionary because they were not words I’d ever use in real life. Taking inspiration from writers like Hemingway and Carver, I eventually figured out that using every-day words and stating things simply is often far more powerful.
I don’t think I’ve ever had to look up a single word while reading Carver, but the power and beauty of his writing is breathtaking.

What’s one publicity tip you can share that you’ve gotten a good response with in promoting your work?

Twitter! I was so reticent to join. I wasn’t even on facebook. But I’ve found such an incredibly supportive community of authors, booksellers, bloggers, and readers on Twitter. Several interviews and reviews have stemmed from it. And it’s so nice to connect with other authors—many of whom are launching their books right now too, and we’re all cheering each other on.

What do you to improve as a writer?

I’d like to take a lot less than seven years to write a book. I’m shooting for two years for the next.

What are a few of your favorite books not writing by you?

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (in fact, I count all three of her novels among my favorites)
Monkeys and Evening by Susan Minot
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
Anything by JD Salinger or Raymond Carver

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?

There was an incredibly touching letter my publisher received from a woman who said reading has always been her favorite form of relaxation and she could not put my book down. She wrote: “Her descriptions were so vividly conveyed, I felt as if I were a part of the book almost like a relative or close friend who interrupted a private family moment.” I will never forget that letter—especially because it’s from a complete stranger, and I don’t think she even intended it for me.

What’s your favorite part of being a writer/least?

My favorite part is just writing. I feel so lucky that I’m able to spend my time that way. I’m not a tortured writer at all—I just really love the process. My least favorite part occurred when I was waiting for the book to come out. I felt so excited and nervous about it, I couldn’t work on my next book, and not working just made my anxiety worse. Now I’m on book tour, and I really love doing readings, but I’m also eager for the tour to be over, so that I can start writing again.

What has surprised you most about this industry?
How incredibly supportive my publisher is for one. And really just how hard-working and passionate everyone in this industry is… especially everyone at Holt and all the booksellers I’ve met.

Parting words?

Thank you so much, and I hope to be back before too long to talk about my next book!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Selah: Dorothy Sayers

If you’ve read any Psalms, you’ve noticed the word selah. Hebrew—roughly translated, stop and listen. Let those with eyes, see, and with ears, hear.

Far too often, we're busy tuning out. Our eyes glaze, and we don’t see. The dramatic wisdom of untold centuries rushes over our feet, fresh and cool and invisible.

But it only takes a moment to step onto the shoulders of a literary giant. To pursue wisdom. Seriously, why read Noel De Vries when you could be reading, say, Dorothy Sayers?

Here she is, from her book The Mind of the Maker. Enjoy the view. And selah.

[Writing] is a social act; but the poet is, first and foremost, his own society.

For other minds, other analogies; but the artist's experience proves that the Trinitarian doctrine of Idea [Father], Energy [Son], Power [Holy Spirit] is, quite literally, what it purports to be: a doctrine of the Creative Mind.

[Theologians] are ready to use the "Father-symbol" to illustrate the likeness and familiarity between God and His children. But the "Creator-symbol" is used, if at all, to illustrate the deep gulf between God and His creatures. Yet, as Berdyaev says, "The image of the artist and the poet is imprinted more clearly on his works than on his children."

What is obvious here is the firmly implanted notion that all human situations are "problems" like detective problems, capable of a single, necessary, and categorical solution, which must be wholly right, while all others are wholly wrong. But this they cannot be, since human situations are subject to the law of human nature, whose evil is at all times rooted in its good, and whose good can only redeem, but not abolish, its evil. ... We do not, that is, merely examine the data to disentangle something that was in them already: we use them to construct something that was not there before: neither circumcision or uncircumcision, but a new creature.

...when plot precedes character and must be adhered to whatever happens, character inevitably suffers. (quoting J. D. Beresford)

...if the characters and the situation are rightly conceived together, as integral parts of the same unity, then there will be no need to force them to the right solution of that situation.

There are the propaganda writers—particularly the propaganda novelists and dramatists— Manichees, whose [form] assumes what looks like a genuine human body, but is in fact a hollow simulacrum that cannot truly live, love or suffer, but only perform exemplary gestures symbolical of the Idea.

Our speculations about Shakespeare are almost as multifarious and foolish as our speculations about the maker of the universe, and, like those, are frequently concerned to establish that his works were not made by him but by another person of the same name.

Dorothy Leigh Sayers was born at Oxford on June 13th, 1893. In 1923 she published her first novel, Whose Body, which introduced Lord Peter Wimsey, her hero for fourteen volumes of detective novels and short stories. She admired E. C. Bentley and G. K. Chesterton and numbered among her friends T. S. Eliot, Charles Williams and C. S. Lewis. To the end she drove herself hard, living the philosophy she expressed in these words: "The only Christian work is good work, well done"

Noel De Vries is a youth librarian percolating her second novel, a YA märchen set in 17th-century Holland. Visit Noel at Never Jam Today.