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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Playing With Words

A child “can develop fully by means of experience in his environment. We call such experiences ‘work’. Such experiences are not play… . It is work he must do in order to grow up.” – Maria Montessori, Italian physician and educator

“Play is a child’s work.” – Jean Piaget, Swiss early childhood theorist

I had to write a new bio for myself recently to promote the upcoming
ACFW Journal magazine. As I struggled to make the bio more than just a recapping of my activities in the world of publishing—yawn—I fell upon describing what I do as “playing with words.”

No, this is not a new thought, nor is it original to me. But it is attractive, is it not?

Since coming to work for the Christian Writers Guild just over a year ago, I have frequently felt that what I get to do is closer to play than to work. But, as Montessori and Piaget suggest, even play is a vital learning tool. I know I am learning more about writing and editing as I work.

So, let’s play together—and see what we can learn. I’m going to provide the beginning of a story and I want you to carry it forward. A couple rules, because every playground has them:
  1. Write no more than two paragraphs or 2-3 lines of dialogue.
  2. Do not lead those who will follow you into an abyss of extreme silliness—only mild silliness allowed.
  3. You can make more than one comment, but you have to let another commenter carry the story forward before you contribute again.
  4. No editing.

Ready? Go! And thanks to CWG mentor Christy Scannell for the seed to this story, which I played with and expanded:

If Everett Sloan has to preach one more sermon, he’s going to hit someone—probably Bertha McVie, his “EGR” (Extra Grace Required) board chair, who just plopped her overstuffed self into the metal folding chair across the table from him. The metal protested louder than Everett, but he meant it more.

“Pastor Sloan,” the ooze in her voice made him hate his own name. “Some of the ladies from the auxiliary—” no doubt she meant herself—“have been wondering something.”

OK, play!

"Let's Play" image (c) Jennifer Marr,

Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor for the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his new playground. As anyone who has watched children play knows, play is how humans learn. By planning each issue of ACFW Journal and editing its articles, Michael is constantly learning. He also plays with words as the editor-in-chief of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and as a contributor to the blogsite, He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and was a reporter for The Indianapolis Star.


  1. He waited, trying his best to look nonchalant. He hoped his silence made her squirm--although he knew the folding chair might not survive.

    "It's about that man." Bertha dropped her voice to emphasize her words. "You know, the one who keeps showing up halfway through the service every Sunday."

  2. "You mean your husband?" Everett bit the words back before they could escape. Bertha would never rat on Hubert. No doubt she'd convinced herself he was just taking a long time in the restroom every single Sunday morning.

    No, she probably meant Sidney, the homeless fellow who'd been showing up for the last couple of months. And his lateness, Everett was sure, was not her primary concern.

  3. Ev rewound last Sunday's service in his mind and replayed it. Sure enough, halfway through, Bud Hathaway's nephew, Stuart, entered and sat on the back pew. Oh, this was too good. Thank you, Lord.

    "Ah yes. I've seen him. What about him?"

    "You probably couldn't see his shirt collar was threadbare. His hair covered it. I don't think he's out kind."

    Ev bit his lip to keep from laughing out loud. He'd bide his time and spring it on her at the best moment possible. "Our kind?"

  4. Bertha smiled. "Yes, pastor. 'Our kind...', you know, lovers of Jesus, people who worship in Spirit and in truth. The ladies"--there she goes again--"our worried. He was, I can hardly mention it, wearing sandals and the word 'deodorant' was mentioned several times.

    Ev did not smile, but maybe he could preach another sermon after all--not that anyone would listen.

  5. "I'm so glad you've brought this up," Everett said. "I've been meaning to mention it to the board. Since you're here now, you can be the one to tell them at tonight's meeting."

    "I can?" Bertha looked like she'd just won the lottery.

    Everett finally smiled. "I wanted to thank them for praying for Bud Hathaway's family. As you know, Bud was our first member from his neighborhood and his first prayer request was for his kin. That young man is his nephew, so I can only assume the board has been faithfully honoring Bud's request. Right?"


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