Friday, December 30, 2011

FRIDAY'S FIND

(In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I may not have actually found "Friday's Find" feature on a Friday. In fact, I may have stumbled on it last Saturday morning while listening to "Car Talk" on NPR. Or Tuesday at 2 a.m. while my "Liar's Bench" CD played through headphones. However it came to my attention, I felt it worthy of bringing it to yours, Gentle Reader.)

The Find: "Cecil Murphey's Writer to Writer"

How did I find the find? Diana Flegal, agent with Hartline Literary, made reference to him in her blog post for December 28.

My reaction to the find? I added Murphey's blogsite to my list of favorites on this page. He's in the teens of a 50-part series of posts he calls "Common Problems." I like his common sense approach. For the experienced writer, he gives reminders. The novice writer can learn much from this series. I look forward to reading his new book, Unleash the Writer Within.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Two Constants

Two constants exist. One is change. People. Politics. Circumstances. Geography. Writing conventions. Word meanings. They all change like the clouds in an Indiana sky.

At my age, I should be used to change, I suppose. I should take it in stride. I've certainly seen enough of it. "Of such is life," I should say. Fact is I don't accept change easily.

Therefore, when the email arrived announcing that our ACFW Scribes small critique group had been disbanded, I was sad. It didn't come as a surprise. Some members now have agents and/or contracts, and their critique needs have changed. While I celebrate the victories in the lives of my fellow Scribes, I will miss the camaraderie, the tough critiques, the prayers and encouragement we shared. 

This year brought other changes, also. I attended two Writer's Digest webinars and the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference. I also finished the first draft of my second middle-grade novel. Even as I revise that work, I'm writing a third MG and researching for a historical novel set in southern Indiana (using a pseudonym).

What changes will 2012 bring? That's not for us to know.

Which brings me to the second constant: God, our immutable Sovereign. Isn't it a comfort to know that whatever the new year holds, He Who said, "I Am that I Am," already is there. What security! What peace!

New Year's Resolutions--
Resolved: I will write, as the Lord enables and leads.
Resolved: I will submit to select agents and publishing houses.
Resolved: I will wait upon the Lord to work His will in my life and career, acknowledging Him as my Supreme Agent.

Your Turn!
What changes occurred in your life this year that affected your writing? What do you anticipate for 2012? What resolutions have you made relating to your writing? Please leave a comment.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Dark Streets Shineth


When I was a child, the streets of New Castle, Indiana--my home town--became magic at Christmas time. "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" blared from bell-shaped speakers mounted atop some of the buildings. Shop windows sparkled with colored lights and tempting displays. Wide-eyed children pressed their noses against the window glass to get a closer view of the Terri Lee dolls, Lionel train sets, and mechanized elves. Other tots stood with their parents in the long queue to get inside the cramped little Santa Claus house on the courthouse lawn.

The stores extended their hours from Thanksgiving to Christmas, so the town streets bustled with shoppers in the evening, laughing and greeting friends. Uniformed Salvation Army workers, backs turned to the wind and collars flipped up, rang their silver bells at every intersection.

Since we lived in the Jennings Building, up over McShurley's Shoe Store and The Coffee Shop, I spent a lot of time wandering the stores and the downtown streets, drinking in the sights and sounds of the season like a mug of hot cocoa. Sometimes Mama would give me a quarter and a nickel so I could visit the candy counter at Murphy's dimestore. I would get a quarter's worth of French creme candy, available only at Christmas time, and five-cents' worth of warm Spanish peanuts, my favorite. With those two bags in my hand, I felt like a big spender.

I loved it. The busyness. The music, tinny though it was. The laughter. The candy. The lights. They all contributed to the magic.

But snow lent the real magic. As the air began to fill with large, cold, wet feathery flakes, I would turn down a side street, walk a block or so, and stand under one of the antiquated street lamps. Looking up into its aura, I watched the snow dance in the light. Softly, so that none could hear me save the lamp and the descending snow, I sang along with music from the speakers: "O, little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight." Amen.

Dear reader, would you be so kind as to leave one of your own Christmas reflections as a comment? I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa Claus and Me


I never really believed in Santa Claus, but I loved the idea of that jolly old elf. Since we lived in the heart of our small central Indiana town, my path to and from school took me past the courthouse where a wee "Santa Cottage" stood between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Santa, assisted by "Mary Christmas," held court there.

Each afternoon a long queue of children and parents wended down the sidewalk and curled around the corner. Several times each year, I would step to the end of that line and go through. Santa probably wondered why I squinted at him, but I was trying to see the man beyond his disguise. I played the game and give him my wish list, and then Mary Christmas handed me a whistle sucker, all the while giving me that "Haven't you been here a few other times this year?" look. The sucker was what I really wanted.

The Santa in the shack did not sound at all like the Santa on WCTW. The latter's voice was deep and jolly. He seemed genuinely interested in the children who called in their requests. Years later, that radio Santa became the publisher of a local weekly. He gave me my first writing job. He paid me to do what I loved. Imagine that! Merry Christmas!

Write on!

Because of Christ,
Sharon

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Center Stage



I love the pageantry of Christmas. Cantatas, children's plays and musicals, young adults' dramas, "specials," live nativities, and caroling. I think much should be made of the coming of Incarnate God into the flesh of humanity. The birth of the King of kings is monumental, after all. It changed all of history. The entire Bible--Old and New Testaments--points to the 33 years on Earth of the Christ, the eternal Son of God: His birth, life, death, triumphant resurrection, and imminent return.

At church whole families are involved from September until show time in preparations. The walls of the church building resound with music proclaiming the birth of the Newborn King for three months. It is a busy, cheerful time as choirs rehearse, actors learn lines and blocking, children repeat their parts until they say them in their sleep, fathers build simple sets, and mothers sew or alter costumes.

Hearts pound, tummies quiver, and knees knock as presentation time closes in. The scent of candle wax and fresh evergreens waft on the air. Grandparents arrive early to vie for choice seats, the ones providing the best camera shots. Pews fill to capacity, and ushers scurry around setting up folding chairs.

The sanctuary lights dim. The music begins. The chattering audience, filled with electric expectancy, falls silent as the program participants march in.

Then it's over. All that's left to do is to dismantle the sets, fold away the costumes, file the music, store the ornaments, and vacuum the carpet. But for three glorious months the lives of the church family revolved around that monumental moment 2,000 years ago when God became man in the form of a wee babe, born in a borrowed stable to a peasant virgin and laid in a common manger. Therein Rests the true pageantry of Christmas.
[First posted December 2009]
Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mary Kole on Revision

As I began  the revision process for my second middle-grade novel, I went hunting for advice on select agents' and editors' blogs. Mary Kole, associate agent with Andrea Brown Literary. Kole writes really good stuff on her kidlit.com blog site, including "Some Thoughts on Revision." You're not revising right now? You will, so I advise you to file this one away.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Blessed Thanksgiving to You!

I hope your day is full of the blessings of faith, family, festivities, fabulous fare, and fun. Know that you, gentle readers, are among the many things for which I thank the Lord. God bless you as you seek to worship Him with the gifts He has granted you. May your travel be safe, also.

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Joy of Revision

The first draft is done. It's rough. It's supposed to be. It sits at sixty-three thousand words and 264 pages. Slogging through all those blank sheets of paper was the hard part.

I sit here rubbing my hands together at the prospect of the next step: revision. The framework is there. Now for the nuances, the character idiosyncrasies, the deepening of POV, the tears, the giggles, the snorts--the layers that breathe life into the story. Revision!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A "Must Read" by Andy Scheer

Andy Scheer is an agent with the Hartline Agency, and he was a presenter/consultant at the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference. His blog entry "Eliminate Overused Words," on Hartline's "From the Heart" site, is essential reading for all serious writers, fiction or non-fiction. It's his response to a hint given at the conference by keynoter Angela Hunt. Do read it!

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon

Postscript: BTW, "From the Heart" is one of my tip-top favorite blog sites. I visit it regularly. You might want to bookmark it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Looking at the Stats


Right now, someone in India is reading this blog. That just blows my mind. In fact, when I click on the "Stats" button from my Blogger dashboard and hit "Audience," I see that readers live in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Georgia (the country, not the state, though I hope folks from our great southern state visit, too), Armenia, Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Latvia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, China, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Russia, the Philippians, and New Zealand. The internet, especially the social networking sites, makes the world seem smaller. I'll not get to visit most of those nations, but I can connect at some level through Blogger, Twitter, or Facebook--the three I use most commonly.

How should one react to that information? As a writer, it sets me to wondering about you, dear reader. What is your life like? What are your sorrows? Your joys? What drew you to this blog? Are you drinking tea as you read? Are you a writer, too? Are you an avid reader? What do you like to read? How difficult is it for you to get to a computer and browse online? For some, it's quite a challenge, as they may have to pay for the privilege. Often the connections are so poor that it's difficult to stay online. Having a sense of audience also imbues this writer with a responsibility to write well on interesting topics and to do so regularly. (I need to improve on that score.)

I do not take lightly the fact that you read this blog. This month we in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving, a day when we remember our forefathers who set aside a time to thank God for helping them to survive the hardships of a new land, for providing for them. It's a season that reminds us to be ever thankful for His provision. I thank Him for you, gentle reader, and hope that you'll stop by often.

I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment or send a message. By clicking to "Follow" this blog, you can receive notice of new posts.

If you are a writer, then . . .

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Best Little Conference You Never Heard Of

Ever heard of the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference? I hadn't until a couple years ago when I stumbled on its website. God made it possible for me to be there this weekend, and I highly recommend it.

One hundred seventy-four writers from seventeen states and Canada gathered at the Wesleyan Church World Headquarters on the north side of Indy to hone their craft, fellowship and worship with other writers, and meet in one-on-one consultations with a cadre of professionals--literary agents, editors, and established writers.

Best-selling author Angela Hunt (above), whose books have won the coveted Christy award, along with several other honors, was the keynote speaker. Her experience in writing everything from children's picture books to non-fiction and adult novels equipped her to encourage and inspire writers, no matter where they were on their journey.

She equated writing to constructing a building. Both the builder and the writer need the correct tools, and both need to work hard. With the "write" tools, one can build "words, sentences, even books."

I loved Hunt's style. She was natural, intimate, and professional all at the same time. She interacted easily with her audience and kept us smiling--sometimes giggling--while conveying serious points. And she wasn't afraid to chase a rabbit or two, if they happened to cross her path.


I wish I could have attended all the sessions, but that just isn't possible. I was twice blessed to hear Les Strobbe (left), whose credentials would fill this blog space. Saturday's topic was "Are Agents Really Necessary?" Since he is one, he was qualified to address the subject. I expected him to say, "Absolutely!" He did, going into detail about the value and responsibilities of an agent. He also discussed how one should go about seeking an agent, not necessarily accepting the first one to show interest in one's work.

On Saturday Strobbe's topic was "Expanding Your Ministry through Writing." He urged attendees to examine their own areas of expertise and experience. How might we use our experience to minister to the Body of Christ or to reach others for Him? It was a thought-provoking session.

James Watkins (right), award-winning author of sixteen books and over 2,000 articles--and a great stand-up comedian, I might add--did a serious workshop on how to be humorous in our writing. First, he explained the value of humor as an attention getter and a teaching tool, and then he listed and defined the various types of humor. We laughed and learned.

Shannon Marchese (left), senior editor of fiction for WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group (a division of Random House), warned writers about "Speed Bumps in Fiction Writing." She gave us a handout that I intend to keep close by to review from time to time. Most of the ideas listed were familiar to me, but then I've studied my craft for a long time. We never finish learning to write well.

She warned against such things as:

Cheesy foreshadowing, when writers use cutesy devices which give the plot away (such as a boat named "incommunicado" when the problem in the marriage is poor communication);

Deus ex machina, endings that smack of the hand of God reaching down to suddenly right everything or endings that have a new unknown character suddenly appear as the cause of all the woes;

Flat characters--bad characters being over-the-top bad and good characters being too good, because both types are equally unbelievable and unlikeable;

Purple prose or overwriting;

Poor research, even in contemporary novels. "Know your cow-birthing scenes."


I entered the room for Andy Scheer's session "Is Your Manuscript Ready To Edit" feeling a bit sad, knowing it was the last session of the conference for this year. Scheer's upbeat style soon lightened my mood. As was the case with most of the presenters I heard, the sixty minutes allowed each session was not nearly enough to cover all he or she intended. Scheer could have used twice that.

He broke down the various aspects of our writing and explained how we could self-evaluate manuscripts, addressing issues related to both fiction and non-fiction. I liked what he said about point of view, suggesting that writers consider how a scene would change if related from a different character's POV.

 Todd Burpo, minister and author of the best-selling book Heaven Is for Real, also spoke. From the impassioned way he addressed his audience, it was clear he believed the account he gave.

Now you know about the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference. The 11th annual conference is slated for the first weekend in November 2012. Mark your calendars to attend. Will I see you there?

Postscript:
Would you be so kind as to click to "Follow" this page? That means a lot to writers. Thanks much!

Write on!
Sharon

Monday, October 31, 2011

NaNoWriMo Starts TOMORROW!


Today is Monday, 31 October. So what? Tomorrow is Tuesday, 1 November. If you're a fiction writer, that means something.

November 1 kicks off National Novel Writing Month. For those scribes who participate in NaNoWriMo--a competition that pits the writer against herself and the calendar--it means writing through blocks, persistent ringing telephones (leave a message, for crying out loud!), stomach cramps, raging fevers, the Black Death, hunger pangs, super sales at Kohl's, birthdays (you'll get a stinkin' "belated greetings" card on 3 December, okay?), baths (which cuts down considerably on folks' dropping by to chat), dogs clawing and whining at the kitchen door, and firemen using a battering ram to break down the front door. It's not that the writer isn't concerned about his house burning. He cares. He just doesn't notice. He's in the moment, immersed in the story.

Fifty thousand words in 30 days: that's the goal. That's pressure. So don't pop in with a casserole. Don't call. Don't send email. Don't die. At least not until 1 December.

Happy NaNoWriMo, writers!

Friday, October 28, 2011

SOUPer Simple Comfort Food for Writers


In the 2009 film Nim's Island, Jody Foster plays an agoraphobic writer of middle-grade adventure novels whose diet consists of Progresso soup. She has it delivered to her door. I suppose as canned soups go, Progresso is as good as any, but nothing beats a bowl of steaming homemade soup on a crisp autumn day.

Since my writer's den can be on the airish side, I'm often huddled over my keyboard cocooned in a brown crocheted shawl with a mug of hot tea to my right and an earthenware bowl of soup at my left elbow.

To help you gear up for winter writing, I'm posting soup recipes that call for no more than four ingredients (excluding salt and pepper). Delicious doesn't have to be complex.

Amish Beef Rivvel Soup
1-1/2 to 2 pounds of beef (use chuck, round, or stew beef); cook in water until tender (I use a pressure cooker). If using a solid cut of meat, dice it up in bite-size pieces or pull it.

Rivvel:
3 large eggs, beaten well. Add salt and pepper as you would if you were going to fry them. Stir in as much unbleached flour as possible. (I begin with a fork, but switch to two knives to cut in more flour.) Continue adding flour and cutting it in until most of the dough is the consistency of navy beans.

Bring the beef broth to a boil and, while stirring constantly, drizzle the rivvel into the boiling broth by the handful. If you don't need all the rivvel, seal the remainder in a zipper bag and store in the freezer, to go in another soup later on. Once you've added as much rivvel as you need, turn the heat down to low. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until the rivvel is done, as you would any other pasta. This soup goes well with crusty bread and a salad.

Beef Barley Soup
Cook 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of  beef, cooked as for Beef Rivvel Soup above.

Rinse 1/2 pound pearl barley well. Add to boiling beef broth. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until barley is tender, about 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. This soup also goes well with crusty bread and a salad.

Kickin' Tomato Soup
1 can tomato soup
1 can Ro-tel diced tomatoes and green chilies (I prefer mild, but suit yourself.)

Mix together in a heavy saucepan and heat. Serve topped with toasted home-made seasoned croutons and a generous dollop of sour cream. 

Okay. Okay. The next recipe uses two times four ingredients, but if you make it, I think you'll agree it's worth the effort. Enjoy!

Fried Potato, Bacon, Corn Chowder
8 slices bacon, cut into 1" pieces
2 cups cubed potatoes
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sour cream
1-1/4 cups milk
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can whole-kernel corn, drained
1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Cook bacon over medium heat for five minutes in a Dutch oven. Add potatoes and onions. Cook until potatoes are tender (15 to 20 minutes). Add remaining ingredients. Cook until heated through (10 to 12 minutes). Amazing!

I've shared some of my favorite soup recipes. Would you  reciprocate with one of yours? Click "Comments." Also, if you try one of mine, let me know how you like it.

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reclaiming All Hallows Eve


[Note: Whenever I refer to the Church, I mean the regenerated followers of Jesus Christ, not some brick-and-mortar structure.]

The Church has allowed Satan, the ancient enemy of Creator God, to steal, or at least taint, many of our celebrations. The man Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, who gave his all to follow the Savior, has morphed into a jolly, rotund, caricature we call Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny continues to try to usurp the position of the resurrected Savior. Children are taught erroneously that Thanksgiving was a time when the Pilgrims thanked the Indians for helping them to survive in the wilderness.

All Hallows' Eve also has suffered at the hands of the enemy, though not as much as the afore-mentioned, since it was never purely Christian and has clearly pagan origins. Most agrarian cultures celebrate significant events in the seasonal growing cycle: harvest time, solstices and equinoxes, and planting time, for example.

The origins of All Hallows' Eve--Hallowe'en (don't forget the apostrophe)--go back 2,000 years to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The word means "end of summer." Pumpkins, apples, and various gourds were a significant part of that event. The Celtic new year began on November 1.

By 43 A.D., the Romans had conquered the Celts, and within the following 400 years, had integrated their own pagan festivals into Samhain, including Feralia, occurring in late October. Feralia was a day to commemorate the dead.

"Christianity" spread through the Celtic lands by the 800s. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III established that November 1 would be All Hallows' Day. According to Roman Catholic belief, All Hallows' Day was when souls were released from Purgatory and allowed to wander the Earth for 48 hours. Apparently, Pope Gregory was attempting to supplant Samhain with a Christianized version. That was Pope Gregory's M.O. He often claimed pagan celebrations and buildings and imposed a "Christian" significance on them. For example, he claimed the Pantheon (which was dedicated by the Romans to "all gods") for a Christian purpose. His All Saints' Eve was celebrated much as Samhain had been, with bonfires, parades, and people wearing costumes of saints, angels, and devils.

Today, many people claim that Hallowe'en is an innocent harvest festival, but a quick trot through the costume section of the local Wal-Mart tells a different story. With a glance backward to Samhain, Feralia, and, yes, All Hallows' Eve, one can see that the culture of death lives and thrives in today's celebration. It amazes me that many Christian parents continue to celebrate this time of ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and witches, labeling it "innocent fun." What is innocent about rubber masks that portray people who have been maimed, disfigured, frightened out of their minds, or murdered? Parents who encourage such "innocent fun" are opening the creaking door on the occult and nudging their wee ones over the threshold. Hallowe'en always has flirted with the macabre. May our All-wise God grant to those children the wisdom that their parents and grandparents lack.

Jesus says that He Is the Light of the World (John 8:12). As His followers, we are commissioned to reflect that light in today's dark world (Matthew 5:14).

As for Hallowe'en, we need not reclaim it; we never owned it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

First Draft, DONE!

Sunday is my older grandson's birthday. To celebrate, I finished the first draft of my second middle-grade novel manuscript.

He stood at my elbow and looked expectantly at the computer screen. "So now you're done with it, Gran'ma?" I hated to burst his bubble, but I had to be honest.

"No, sweetheart. I'm just beginning."

"What do you mean? I thought you said it was done."

I explained that only the first draft--the raw writing of the thing--was done, that now came multiple revisions. "And I need to cut approximately five-thousand words."

"That sounds boring, Gran'ma," he said, as he walked out of the room. I decided not to overwhelm him by describing my search for an agent. After all, he's just turning eight. 

Happy birthday, Reuben!


Addendum:
No, that's not a picture of my typewriter. I use a computer (though much of my initial writing is done in a Moleskine notebook with a good-quality pen or mechanical pencil). I just love pictures of old typewriters and other "writerly" schtuff.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Review: THE BETRAYAL by Jerry Jenkins

Book Two in the Precinct 11 trilogy
from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois (Copyright 2011; released 1 September 2011)
400-page trade paperback, $14.99
ISBN: 978-0-4143-0908-8

From Jenkins's website
"As a longtime Chicagoan, the son of a police chief, and the brother of two cops, I found this writing a labor of love."

Back Cover Copy:

Detective Boone Drake has just pulled off the most massive sting in Chicago history, bringing down the heads of not only the biggest street gangs in the city but also the old crime syndicate. The story is the biggest in decades, and the Chicago Police Department must protect the key witness at all costs. Yet despite top secret plans to transfer the witness prior to his testimony before the grand jury, an attempt is made on his life.

It soon becomes apparent that someone inside the Chicago PD leaked information to the shooter. As evidence mounts and suspicion points too close to home, Boone doesn't know whom he can trust. An investigation reveals that the turncoat might be someone very close to him, even someone he loves--or is someone just trying to cover up corruption at the highest level of the police department? Trusting the wrong person could prove fatal.
The Betrayal is as fresh at today's Chicago Tribune. Literally. The windy city has survived more than its fair share of corruption scandals through its history, including some that are currently being unraveled. One in particular shares several markers with Jenkins's latest novel, though the two don't run parallel.
     I made a quick call to Jenkins's office to see if the current high-level case--involving officers with CPD's elite Special Operations Section (SOS)--influenced him at all. His assistant said no. "He has been planning this trilogy for several years. Since his father was a police chief and two brothers are police officers, he's heard their stories." Thus, the verisimilitude.
     Confession: cop thrillers are not my genre of choice. Though I read and loved Jenkins's Left Behind series, eagerly awaiting each new release, would this book hold that same attraction? Then I read the first four paragraphs.
Boone Drake awoke before sunup with little recollection of the previous two days. [All right. The hook was in my mouth. But it wasn't set yet.]
Oh, he knew the basics--where he was, that he was fortunate to be alive. Two uniformed officers still guarded his door. The noises and odors invaded his room at what everyone still called Cook County Hospital. And slowly, it all began to come back.
Boone, a detective in the Gang Enforcement Section of the Chicago Police Department, had masterminded the most massive sting in CPD history, bringing down the heads of not only the biggest street gangs in the city but also the Outfit--the old crime syndicate.
Key to the operation had been the secret spiritual conversion of gang kingpin Pascual Candelario--and his becoming an informant. [By the time I got to this point, I was hooked.]
The Betrayal  picks up where the first book in the trilogy, The Brotherhood,
leaves off, with Boone Drake in the hospital recovering from the wound left by a 45 caliber Glock slug that had slammed into his chest as he tried to protect Candelario, crook turned Christian. And state's evidence. By all rights, Drake should be receiving a hero's accolades from the department while relaxing and recuperating. Instead, amid accusations against the integrity and reputation of Haeley Lamonica, also a CPD officer and the love of Drake's life, he sets out to clear her name, if she's as innocent as he believes her to be, by uncovering corruption in high places.
     The rapid-fire action propels the reader through the thirty-seven chapters and the epilogue, allowing very little time to gasp for air. As I neared the end, I couldn't lay it down and turn off the light to sleep. If at any point I dared to slip into complacency, sure that I knew what was coming, Jenkins switched things up and sent my heart into overdrive.
     There were times when I was concerned that too much would be revealed about pre- and extra-marital relationships. Also, when Haeley Lamonica is in jail, there is opportunity to go into graphic detail about life and abuse in such a place. I needn't have worried. Jenkins proved himself capable of handling such issues in the Left Behind series, never crossing the line of Christian propriety, proving that a skilled writer need not include gratuitous and offensive details to convey a point.
     Jenkins's characters are well developed and realistic. Even though, as a detective in CPD's Gang Enforcement Section, Drake moves among the dregs of vice, he holds to a high standard, one that reflects Jesus Christ in both his personal and professional life. Those around him who are corrupt spend little time in trying to entice him to betray his calling. They'd rather see him dead.

"Dianna, my wife of 40 years, is my everything," says best-selling author Jerry Jenkins

      Jenkins began his writing career as a sports reporter for his local newspaper. He is former editor of Moody Magazine, vice president for publishing, and now chairman of the board of trustees for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. He is author of more than 175 books, including the 70,000,000-selling Left Behind series. He holds honorary doctorates from Bethel College (Indiana), Trinity International University (Illinois), Colorado Christian University, Huntington University (Indiana), and Tennessee Temple University.
      Riven, which Jenkins considers his life's work novel, released in July 2008 to stellar reviews and has been optioned for a movie.
      His articles have appeared in Time, Reader's Digest, Parade, and Guideposts. He is contributing editor for Writer's Digest.
      He has co-written novels and non-fiction as-told-to autobiographies with Tim LaHaye, Bill Gaither, Billy Graham, John Perrodin, Dallas Jenkins (his son), Chris Fabry,  and Ron DiCianni.
      Writers often receive advice to "find the genre you're good in and stick to that." Jenkins either didn't get the message or he chose to disregard it, because he writes with ease in numerous genres, including speculative fiction, cop thrillers, an international spy thriller, and Christian counseling and motivational non-fiction.

Further, he owns Jenkins Entertainment, a Chicago-based film-making company, and Christian Writers Guild. He is an in-demand speaker, especially on the subject of writing, and a popular humorist.

He and wife Dianna live in Colorado. They have three grown sons and eight grandchildren.

Read more about the life and work of Jerry Jenkins here.

Read on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon

Disclosure of Material Connection: Review copy provided by publisher. A positive review was not required; opinions expressed are those of the reviewer, Sharon Kirk Clifton.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Remembering Grandparents--the WRITE Way


Grandparents' Day became a national holiday in 1978. It is the first Sunday following Labor Day. This year, it falls on September 11.

Grandma Kirk was a strong-willed, independent Quaker woman whose house always smelled of apples and who grew beautiful flowers. Throughout the growing season, vases of cone flowers, sweet peas, four-o'clocks, daisies, dahlias, zinnias, rosies and posies I couldn't possibly name adorned tables throughout her home. She loved me. Sternly.

Grandpa Kirk was the gentler of the two. He spoke little, but lovingly, and he smiled. Such a smile! It spread all the way up to his eyes. He teased, too. Grandpa was an engineer, though I didn't find that out until I grew up. He was the one who tooled up the old Maxwell automobile factory in New Castle, Indiana. (It later became the Chrysler factory.) And if anything went wrong with one of those huge machines, they called Grandpa to fix it. He was the only one who could. He was also a farmer, though his farming days were past by the time I came onto the scene.

A cousin who, by virtue of being older, knew them longer, told me recently that they both loved the Lord deeply.  That blessed me.

I hardly got a chance to know Grandpa Wright, Mama's daddy. He died when I was six or seven. Memories of him come in fragments: because he was tall, he had a broad, comfortable lap; he smoked a wonderfully fragrant pipe; he liked pink wintergreen lozenges; he loved me. Grandma Wright departed this earth before I was born.

Even though all my grandparents were gone by the time I was ten, they impacted my life. So with the approach of NGD, I considered how I could best honor their memory. Write a book, I decided. For a few years now, an idea for a children's picture book about the relationship between a little boy and his grandmother has been niggling about in the back of my mind. This would be a good time to write the first draft of that manuscript.

Whether you consider yourself a writer or not, I urge you to record memories of your own grandparents. Provide details. Preserve them for posterity.

It's Your Turn:  How do you plan to celebrate National Grandparents' Day? Leave a comment, if it please you. It would certainly please me!

Write on!
Because of Christ

Postscript
Quotations about Grandparents
Bill Cosby--"What is it about grandparents that is so lovely? I'd like to say that grandparents are God's gifts to children. And if they can but see, hear and feel what these people have to give, they can mature at a fast rate."

Eth Clifford--"My grandfather was a giant of a man ... When he walked, the earth shook. When he laughed, the birds fell out of the trees. His hair caught fire from the sun. His eyes were patches of sky."

Lord Chesterfield--"Being pretty on the inside means you don't hit your brother and you eat all your peas — that's what my grandma taught me."

Louisa May Alcott--"A house needs a grandma in it."
Irina Baronove-Tennant--"It's so important to give your children and grandchildren inspiration ... Teach them to notice, to pay attention, to appreciate, and to be inquisitive. Don't just look, try to see."

Teresa Bloomingdale--"If your baby is 'beautiful and perfect, never cries or fusses, sleeps on schedule and burps on demand, an angel all the time,' you're the grandma."

Marcy DeMaree--"Grandma always made you feel she had been waiting to see just you all day and now the day was complete."

Vaughn J. Featherstone--"What a wonderful contribution our grandmothers and grandfathers can make if they will share some of the rich experiences and their testimonies with their children and grandchildren."

Find more at Grandparents.com.

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Writing Amish

Each year I am privileged to travel to LaGrange County, Indiana, to tell stories as "Jack's Mama" at David Rogers Days, held the fourth weekend of August. DRD is one of Indiana's hidden jewels, as festivals go. Set in the log cabin village of David Rogers Park, it is in the heart of Indiana's northern Amish country. The event celebrates this state's pioneer heritage, as well as the life and philanthropy of the man for whom it is named. The rolling hills, large black walnut trees, wildflower meadows, and verdant farmland provide a beautiful setting. Guests pay a modest gate fee to enjoy traditional acoustic music, a sleight-of-hand artist (who also swallows fire and serves as ringmaster for a flea circus), a Punch and Judy show, strolling entertainers, a large interactive children's area, early American dance instruction, and various pioneer reenactors demonstrating such things as spinning, weaving, smithing, and bowl-making. Most of all, I love the audiences, many of whom are Old Order Amish.
       This year's festival was different for me because I've read several works of "kapp fiction." While it's not my genre to write, I enjoy reading them. I'm most familiar with the works of Beverly Lewis, Wanda Brunstetter, and Cindy Woodsmall. I've heard that kapp fiction is popular among the Amish, especially if the local Bishop permits them. But how accurately do they portray Amish life, I've wondered, since the best fiction is firmly rooted in truth.
       One of the Saturday vendors at DRD was a gracious Amish woman named Kathryn. She was selling some of the foods eaten following the church service on Preaching Sundays: homemade dill pickles, the best I've ever tasted; fried pies, Amish peanut butter, snickerdoodles, huge gingersnaps, sour cream sugar cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, and cheese wedges. After discussing food and swapping recipes, we got on the subject of Amish fiction.
       "Do you read them?" I asked.
       "Jah. Wanda Brunstetter. Beverly Lewis. I read them when I get time." Of course, having read the books, I knew exactly what she meant, since they rise early and work long.
       "How accurate are they to your lives?"
       "A few are very accurate. Those ladies, for example. But many are not."
       I told her I check out the credentials of the writer and look at the acknowledgements page. Does the author thank members of the Amish community who proofed the manuscript for accuracy? Obviously they can't if they didn't invite some knowledgeable reader to critique the work.
      "Sometimes," Kathryn said, "writers will include things that either are not a part of the Amish way of life or are peculiar to a particular community." She indicated that she shuns the work of writers who are careless with the facts.
      I appreciate when authors are clear about the setting of time, place, and, in the case of kapp fiction, specific community. As with any kind of writing, it behooves us to do the research.
     

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

'Bye-'Bye, Borders

I'm sitting on a chair at a tiny table in the entryway of the Greenwood, Indiana Borders because this is the only seat left in the place. I feel as though I'm in the scene from You've Got Mail where the Shop Around the Corner is going out of business.

I know. I know. That little privately-owned children's bookstore had fallen victim to the big, bad chain store. My sympathies are with the small neighborhood shops, but since I've never lived near such a spot, except in my writer's vivid imagination, I am feeling sentimental about Borders' closings. Many pleasant, bookish, coffee-scented memories revolve around Borders--so many, in fact, I can almost forget Borders is a super chain. Or was.

My history with Borders goes back nearly a decade. My younger daughter, Dawna, introduced me to the joys that awaited just through those heavy red double doors. Before she went to South Korea to teach for a year, before she met and married a man from Nepal, before she had wee ones we would head for Borders, arriving around noon and staying until they ran us out so they could lock up for the night. Since that was pre-knee-surgery, she'd ask me what I wanted to look at. I'd dictate my wish list, and, while she went off to gather what she could, I'd order some scrumptious coffee and a sweet treat or an asiago-and-spinach-filled soft pretzel, warmed, of course. She'd return with a stack of books and magazines about writing, quilting, the arts, poetry, cooking, and literature. Once my nest was made, she'd go seeking after her own interests--arts, crafts, international cooking, travel, Chris Van Allsburg books (she's an illustrator and loves his work), and other miscellany. Then here she would come with a stack so high she could barely carry it, let alone see over it. And we'd stay for nine or ten hours, camping out while reading, sharing, drinking coffee, watching people, writing, and drinking more coffee.

When she married, we continued our Borders visits. Since her husband worked nights, we didn't have to hurry home. And of course, I never could leave without a few purchases. I suppose we should have paid rent on the table, too.

Sometimes I didn't read; I just wrote and wrote for those hours. It was at Borders that I discovered the guilty pleasure of writing in Moleskine notebooks such as the one I'm using to pen these words. From their eye-pleasing pale green paper and thin lines to the natural cardboard covers and their sewn construction I love them.

Dawna continued to be my Borders companion, even as the children came along--one, two, three--though the visits became shorter of necessity and less frequent. Now, just as the children are reaching an age when they enjoy browsing and finding a cozy corner to peruse a good book, Borders closes those magical red doors.

Don't hit me with the old line, "It's not personal. It's business." While I'm quoting You've Got Mail, I may as well add, "It's personal to a lot of people." I don't want to get into a conversation about the economy. Nor do I want to discuss the things I didn't like about Borders. I just want to bid the chain adieu. Something will come along to take its place. Hopefully.

The table I rest my elbows on is for sale for $75. The two chairs, $50 each. They're sturdy. Everything is for sale. Every bookcase, display rack, coffeemaker, counter, shelf ladder, and peg board hook. Every rug and every mug. From my vantage spot, I watch the constant flow of customers entering empty handed and leaving with bags full of bargains. Those shoppers, what are their memories, I wonder. Are they the least bit sentimental about the passing of this icon? Are you?

Because of Christ,
Sharon




Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Crafting the Conclusion

The end is in sight, though elusive. I'm eager to begin revisions on my middle-grade historical fantasy, but I still have two chapters to go: the climax and the conclusion.
     The temptation is to slap something down, knowing that it will change in the course of general revisions, thus following the advice of the writer who said, "Get it down. Then get it right."
     I belong to a wonderful historical critique group through ACFW Scribes, and I feel a self-inflicted guilt if I don't keep my chapter submissions flowing at a quasi-regular pace. However, my seven-month stint back in the English classroom prohibited any kind of a regular writing schedule. Anyone who has taught understands the teacher's work day doesn't end with the final bell.
     In his book Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell acknowledges that writers, especially professional writers working on deadline, are prone to this approach. Bell advises writers to take time to craft the ending well.
     "A weak ending can ruin an otherwise wonderful book," Bell writes (p. 99). "A strong ending can redeem an otherwise mediocre book. So take your endings seriously." Reading that, I felt vindicated for taking my time with these final chapters, even in this, the first draft.

Bell, James Scott: Plot and Structure, Writer's Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio; 2004

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Celebrate with Me!

I've been a professional storyteller for a quarter of a century. To celebrate, I'm offering some special deals to clients who qualify for my "Great Rate" pricing. Click on the tab above for more details.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I'm Out of Breath!

Follow-up on preceding post: 
I'm out of breath. Cheryl Klein, senior editor with Arthur A. Levine Books, must surely be, as well. That was a rapid-fire 90 minutes, with no time for questions from attendees. However, Writer's Digest promises that no question will go unanswered, so submitted will be answered and sent to participants along with a recorded version of the webinar in about a week. 

Though we were told we needn't take notes, I tried to capture some of the more salient points. But I'm happy that we'll get to ruminate further and at our leisure via the archived event.

Klein's presentation was very thorough. At this writing, I'm twenty-five minutes  past the webinar's conclusion and cannot think of a single question. She provided contact information, in case some arise.

Do I recommend the WD webinars? Absolutely, if the subject under discussion is pertinent to your writing. Was it worth the price? Yes. I am a frugal writer and tend to weigh at length value against cost, which is why I waited until today to register.

I can't attend nearly as many conferences as I would love to. Thank you, Writer's Digest, for offering opportunities like this through Writer's Digest University.

COMMENT QUESTION: Have you participated in a webinar through WD, ACFW, or some other venue? What was your experience?

50 Minutes and Counting!

I'm registered! In less than fifty minutes, the Writer's Digest webinar with Cheryl Klein, senior editor with Arthur A. Levine Books, begins. The topic is "How To Plot and Structure Your Novel." Can you tell I'm excited?

I've considered participating in WD webinars before. Fellow writers who have highly recommended them. This one is especially appealing because Klein pubs my genre--middle grade. I'll report back in a few hours, Lord willing. It's down to 46--no, 45 minutes, now.

Twiddling thumbs. Getting notebook. Pencils. Looking at clock. Twiddling thumbs. Humming tuneless tune. Forty-four minutes . . .

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day! (Can You Help Me?)

I hope all you fathers have a day full of the Heavenly Father's blessings.

Readers, can you help me, please? As I embark on a new writing project, my third middle-grade novel, I'm gathering ideas on what makes a great dad great. What are his attributes? What things are important to him? How does he interact with his children when they're young? What about when they become teenagers? Was your father great, or do you know one?

I really would appreciate your feedback. Please click the "Comment" button. Thanks!

RESPONSE TO COMMENTS:
Linda, Blogger won't let me post a comment, so I've found that this works. Thank you so much for your comment. Would you be interested to expand a little? Any examples?  

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Cross-Eyed Writer


In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3, Polonius bids farewell to his son Laertes, who is bound for Paris. The father says: 
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou
canst not be false to any man.
Far from the New Age self-knowledge liberal mindset that this quote would seem to support, Shakespeare had in mind a far more Elizabethan ideal when he penned the words. Polonius actually is warning Laertes against a debauched lifestyle of gambling, money borrowing and lending, carousing with women of loose reputation, and other intemperate pursuits. Such behavior would sully Laertes' reputation, proving him untrue to self.

The writer who is a follower of Jesus the Christ, while being concerned about her own reputation, is far more careful about how she reflects Christ through her writing. Whether she writes for the secular or the Christian market, she remains "Cross-eyed"; that is, she keeps her focus on the crucified and risen Savior.

I did not set out to be a Christian writer, per se. When I was in high school, I went through a phase of reading many of the Grace Livingston Hill romances. They were old even then, being set in the early twentieth century, but if one wanted to read fiction that was "wholesome," especially romances, Hill was about the only choice. Even then, however, I disliked the predictability and "preachy-ness" of her books. Nonetheless, I respect her for being one of the pioneers of Christian fiction. Janette Oke can claim credit for bringing the genre of Christian romance into its own for today's readers. Christian and non-Christian readers alike enjoy Oke's novels.

In recent years, the works of writers such as Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, Jerry Jenkins, Tim LaHaye, Max Lucado, Liz Curtis Higgs, and others have joined the ranks of C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien to write fiction that appeals to both Christian and secular markets. Some of the stories are overtly Christian, while others convey the saving message of Christ as a subtext or an allegory. These days, Christians write in nearly every genre and for all age groups. While their styles may be diverse, they have one thing in common, if they are true to their calling: they are Cross-eyed. They filter everything they write through the Lord's lens.

Are you a Cross-eyed writer? How does that affect what you write? Has the Holy Spirit ever called you into check for something you've written or were about to write? What steps do you take to make sure you remain a Cross-eyed writer? Please leave a comment telling about your experience. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Color of Shadows


Visit the Hoosier Ink blog to read my latest post, "The Color of Shadows." Hoosier Ink is a blog written and maintained by members of  ACFW Indiana. Be sure to bookmark it and visit often.

Write on!
Because of Christ
Sharon

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Two More Weeks

That's right. A ragtag remnant of this academic year is all that remains. Then I can get back to the business of writing. I can hardly wait!

If I sound eager for the school year to end, it's because I am. However, I know that I have been smack-dab in the exact place God wanted me for these seven months--immersed in the lives, minds, imaginations and hearts of middle-grade/YA readers. That's my genre of choice right now.  I've witnessed a passion for reading ignite in a few. At least one eighth-grader proved herself to be a gifted writer. A reluctant sophomore discovered a love for reading plays and acting. Several others demonstrated that they are accomplished  documentary producers.

God was with me through every circumstance, and I pray that He will continue to guide me as I shift back into high gear as a writer and raconteur. I'll try not to inundate this blog with multiple entries all at once. Please check back in June to see what I've been mentally incubating over the past seven months.



Soon. Very soon. Meanwhile . . .

Write on!


Because of Christ,
Sharon

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Writers Learn to Navigate the Digital World

ACFW Indiana Chapter Spring Meeting
More than 40 Hoosier writers and a sprinkling of Buckeye scribes gathered Saturday, 9 April, to hear Amanda Luedeke (pronounced LEE duh kee) speak on "Navigating the Digital World."Luedeke is an agent with MacGregor Literary

How is it that we can eagerly anticipate an event for weeks, but when it actually arrives, it is ephemeral. A few brief seconds in time, and it becomes history, preserved in the memories of those who were there, in meeting minutes, and on a smattering of blogs.

We had only a few moments to greet old friends and meet a couple new ones. No sooner had we asked, "What do you write?" than we found ourselves moving along the serving line of Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria in Greenwood. (Why do they place the salads at the beginning of the line and follow them immediately with a huge spread of desserts: cakes, pies of all kinds, puddings, ooey-gooey brownies . . .? Come to think of it, half the salads could pass for desserts, too. Why is that?)

A few seconds later, after we got refills on drinks, stashed leftover tidbits in little white Styrofoam to-go boxes, and exchanged business cards with those at our end of the table, our special speaker began.

Amanda Luedeke admits she looks twelve. Though she's slightly older than that, her credentials and experience would lead one to think she must be 40-something at least. She isn't. It's just that she began writing at age five. Her first ms, The Cat, never quite made it to the shelves of Barnes & Noble, but it did distill in her a passion for things literary. You can read more about her career on the MacGregor Literary website.

Speaking on "Navigating the Digital World," Luedeke said a writer should determine his identity, a.k.a., his brand.Writers who pursue several genres end up confusing their readers. "Pursue what you're best at," she said. The writer's website or blog should reflect that brand. To prove her point, she cited a few websites, including that of Jenny B. Jones. (One glance, and you know Jones doesn't write dark, Gothic mysteries or westerns. IF she does, she uses nom de plumes and has separate websites for each genre.)

Luedeke also took her audience sailing among the various social networking sites, including Twitter, Facebook, stumbleupon.com, and Digg.com, giving the pros and cons of each and demonstrating how they can help the writer. "Be selective," she adjured, since it's unnecessary to use them all.

Finally, she spoke in great detail about blogging, offering five rules for the blogger:
  • Never talk about blogging. (Just do it.)
  • Don't make promises you can't keep. (If you say you're going to write daily, you're committed.)
  • Find a way to make each post worthwhile. (Don't fill it with meaningless fluff.)
  • Never apologize. (See "Don't make promises" above.)
  • Never talk about your day. (Who really cares that you had toast for breakfast, unless it's a food blog and you have an amazing way to prepare toast. Which I do, by the way. Use orange juice instead of milk when making French toast. Delicious!)
Luedeke presented us with much useful information, inspiring me to revamp my strategies.

And then too soon it was over.

L to R: Rick Barry, ACFW Indiana Pres.; Amanda Luedeke, and Crystal Laine Miller, V.P.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

At the Cross

I huddle at the foot of the Cross,
My arms stretched to encompass it around,
My head bowed,
My eyes pinched so tightly they hurt.
Silent sobs wrack my being.

The men are gone.
The Brotherhood, save one, has forsaken the Master.
Other women stand,
Bow,
Lie prostrate nearby,
Each alone,
Forsaken,
Desperate,
Desolate.
I hear their weeping off in the distance,
At the perimeter of my own sorrow.

Roman soldiers stand silent,
Trying to understand,
Yet bound merely to a duty.
Scribes, Pharisees, Sadduccees
Cluster together and mutter into their self-righteous beards,
Rehearsing their excuses.
Their mumbling blends, segues into the rumbling of a gathering storm.

Messiah, on the Cross, lifts His head to Heaven.
With one last lingering remnant of strength,
He pushes against the spike that holds His feet,
Pulls up on the nails that pierce His wrists,
Draws in a gurgling breath,
Licks His lips to moisten them, to make speech possible,
And cries out to the Father Whose Face is turned away.

"It is finished!"

A pronouncement that will echo throughout Eternity.

I look up as His weary, abused head
Sinks
To His bosom,
Where so many children had rested their heads
And received His blessing.

A drop of His vermilion Blood
Rolls down one of the thorns
That comprises a crude crown.
In one interminable moment,
I watch it
Fall;
I tip my face downward in shame,
Knowing my own unworthiness,
Yet yearning for His anointing.
That Sacred Drop
Splashes on my head and covers me over.

The Earth begins to tremble.

~Copyright 2007 by Sharon Kirk Clifton

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Writing à la Stanislavski: There's Method to My Madness

In the mid-1970s, I wrote for a small-town weekly newspaper run by three newly-graduated Indiana University journalism alumni. I was in my mid-30s at the time, making me the old lady of the group. Nonetheless, I shared their enthusiasm--reveled in it, in fact. Together we were going to change the world. Our small part of it, at any rate. That was when I met author and literary patron George Plimpton.

Okay. I didn't literally meet him. But I learned of his work. His style influenced me then and continues to do so. 

In the 1960s, Plimpton became known for his "participatory journalism." When he died in September 2003, NPR's Mike Pesca summarized Plimpton's life saying, "He boxed with Archie Moore, pitched to baseball legend Willie Mays, played in pro-am golf tournaments and even performed in the circus. His best-selling book Paper Lion chronicled the time he spent in training camp with the Detroit Lions football team, posing as a slender, awkward quarterback candidate from Harvard."  

That's what I liked about Plimpton. He didn't simply interview people or read about a subject; he got down and dirty. He did the thing, whatever it was, and I wanted to do that. Physically, I couldn't always participate in some stories to the degree he did, but I came as close as I could, and I still do.

When I decided to do a story about a young black blacksmith, I researched smithing, learning the difference between cold-shoeing and hot-shoeing. Then I met with him in his barn. To this day, I can describe the sickening smell of a hot shoe coming in contact with a horse's hoof.

When a former professional boxer decided to attempt a comeback, I went to the gym with him, photographed his routine, and punched the bag a few times to get the feel of it. From that experience I can tell you that it is not easy to get control of the teardrop-shaped "speed bag." As for the cylindrical "heavy bag," it's practically immovable. And well I recall the smell of that old gym.

When I wanted to do a story about the work of an interpretive reenactor at a nearby living history museum, I spent the day dressed in period attire, traveling from cabin to school to blacksmith shop, etc. I was the first journalist to do that at Conner Prairie. I stirred the stew, spun the wool, swept the floor, and sampled the food. (That day, pork chops, sauerkraut, and coarse cornbread were on the menu at one cabin while another had just pulled a pan of rhubarb bread from the coals. Have mercy! It all was so delicious!)

George Plimpton also was an actor, playing himself in Reds and Good Will Hunting. (Is it really acting if one plays oneself? Perhaps. If you play yourself not as you really are but as others perceive you to be.)

Which brings me to Konstantin Stanislovski, whom I met (figuratively, again) when I minored in speech and theater in college. Stanislovski advocated a style of performance called "method acting." The method departs from classical forms by asking the actor to internally experience the scene. A method actor will not simply pretend to be sad, angry, or jubilant; he will recall events in his own life when he felt those emotions--the death of a beloved grandparent, the unfair termination of a job, the birth of a child, for example. Inasmuch as is possible, he will mentally relive those times so that his expression of the actions and emotions will be truthful, not contrived. I've often wondered if Plimpton was influenced by Stanislavski, applying some of the actor's ideas to writing. 

Though I'm sure I don't take it as far as method actors do, I try to experience as much of what my characters do as I can, stepping out of my own Born oxfords and into their tennies, high-tops, or whatever. (For that reason, you'll never see an MC of mine wearing stilettos.) 

Do you do anything similar toward understanding your characters and experiencing their lives? Do you know of a writer who goes to extraordinary lengths to know her characters and settings? I'd love to read about it on the "Comments" page, as would my readers, so please share.

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon















Wednesday, February 2, 2011

WooHOO! The February 2011 Issue is Out!

It's always a good day when word comes that ACFW's premier ezine, Afictionado, is up for viewing. The latest issue features articles by ACFW president, Margaret Daley; Randy Ingermanson (the Snowflake Man), who writes "Writer's Toolbox: Selling Your Novel in 25 Words or Less"; and many others. Write fiction? Click over to read some informative articles.

Stay cozy and. . . 

Write on!

Because of Christ,
Sharon

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Leave Our Mark Twain Alone! STET!

Dear Gentle Readers,

I cannot say it better than Lauren Lise Baratz-Logsted does in this article, so I respectfully submit to you a link.

Ironically, I began reading Our Town with my ninth-grade English students today. While I knew that our books looked different, I had no idea that the volume I was reading was a white-washed PC version. In the midst of our discussion about how appalling that was, one student noticed that on my large Huckleberry Finn poster was a warning, stating that the book was on many "banned" lists. One discussion led to the other. Then I came home to this article. Shocking!