Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Game of Life

Over the holidays, I’ve enjoyed spending time with my niece and nephews. My six-year-old niece insisted that my twin brother and I play the game “Life” with her, and who can say no to her deep brown, pleading eyes?

So of course I said yes, despite my last – and only – experience with the game. I was probably eleven at the time, and I ended up with two sets of twin boys and dead broke. I figured my odds could only improve.

I was wrong. I inherited a skunk farm (which cost me a pretty penny), owned a goat that ate my neighbor’s prize orchids, and had to get dentures.

Ridiculous game.

To my relief, my niece quickly grew tired of it, and we moved on to something else, but the experience left me thinking: How awful would it be if real life were just a game, subject to random chance?

I am thankful that it isn't. Instead, our lives are orchestrated by a sovereign God. I like what Ephesians 1:4 says: “… he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” God has an individual purpose for the lives of each of His children.

Ultimately, our lives are part of a bigger plan, God’s story of redemption. And at Christmastime, we are once again reminded of that beautiful, miraculous story of baby being born of a virgin – fully God and fully man – coming to earth to redeem lost mankind.

Praise God that life isn’t a game of chance. Sure, we will have our ups and downs – a goat may eat prize orchids or the tire in your car may go flat on your way to work.

But at the end of the day, our focus should be glorifying the one true God with our lives – wherever He has asked us to live, work, and serve. After all, isn’t that what the shepherds did – glorify and praise God and tell others about Him?

Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Tap into Your Creativity

Whether you’re a business professional, stay-at-home mom, teacher, athlete, or other hard-working professional, there will always be days that leave you feeling hum-drum: bored, bland, or weary.

We have to get imaginative to turn ordinary tasks into something more enjoyable. And quite frankly, that isn’t always easy. 

Especially as a teacher, I face this challenge. As the school year progresses, students grow comfortable with their class routines; a routine in itself is a good thing, but the problem arises when comfortable crosses the line to "checked out." 

Seventh-grade, middle-school keyboarding is a perfect example. Learning the home-row fingering and practicing typing drills are important but can become tedious, so I try to give my students a break from their typing textbooks every once in a while.

One exercise my students have come to enjoy is a story scenario (“code” for composing at the keyboard, which sounds much more like work). Italicized below is my scenario I gave the students last week. I asked them to finish the story, and I’ve listed the first few words of some of their imaginative responses.

Like any other school day, Jordan rolled out of bed, slipped down the stairs, and slouched over his bowl of Fruit Loops at the breakfast table. He had just shoved his chair back to rise from the table when he saw ….

·         The door open
·         A brown and black spotted bull
·         Nothing
·         A giant robotic rooster
·         The gunman coming to the door
·         A zombie
·         A random pie monster
·         A monkey
·         Nine men in bio suits who said, “You have to come with us.” (This is a personal favorite!)
·         A shadow
·         The school bus driver staring at him through the wet window with a weary look (Someone was paying attention to our English discussion on adjectives...)
·         A huge TV
·         His sister
·         His favorite super hero
·         Something not normal
Yes, these are middle school student responses! Their eyes were shining, and their hands straining as high as they could to get my attention to read their stories to the class.

I think there’s a lesson for us here: First, try to break up the everyday once in a while to keep life fresh and interesting; and also, don’t be afraid to turn ordinary tasks into something creative. You never know just what inspiration you might find or talent you might tap.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pumpkin Patch Reminders

Yesterday, my friend invited me to go with her to a pumpkin patch. Believe it or not, I had never been. (I thought pumpkins grew on the store shelves at Publix and Walmart. Just kidding.)

So, she introduced me to a “real” pumpkin farm where rows of pumpkins line hay bales, sit on counters, and rest in rustic carts. I was like a kid in a candy store. I couldn’t decide which one I wanted.


There were gourds and pumpkins of all colors, sizes and shapes, Cinderella pumpkins, and pumpkins so large I probably would have had to roll them to the car (had I the desire or money to buy one).

 


Some pumpkins were all covered with warts, so that they looked more like a storybook witch’s nose than a pumpkin.

“Eww,” I said, pointing to one completely disfigured and covered with warts.

“What do you mean?” my friend asked. “Warts give it character. It’s beautiful.”

I finally settled on a stout pumpkin with a curved, prickly stem and a multi-colored, little gourd with a pointy bottom (so hence, it rolls around on my desk).



Aren’t you thankful God isn’t picky in choosing His children? He loves us – tall or round, smooth or blemished, warts and all.

And our flaws do give us character, as my friend reminded me. A pumpkin patch would be boring if all the pumpkins were identical. It’s the variety and the imperfections that make pumpkins so unique and interesting. No one pumpkin is just like another.

Praise God He can use us – in spite of ourselves and our flaws – and that He’s uniquely designed us with a specific purpose in mind, one that will ultimately glorify Him.

Psalm 139:14 – “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Teaching Life

My dear readers, I have not forgotten about you, but I have started teaching, and my life looks radically different than it did before. Translation: I work something like a 50-60 hour work week - before I bring my work home with me.

Now I understand why teaching is a calling, because it isn’t just a job; it is a way of life.

How does this affect my writing?

*Winces.*

Let’s just say I’m squirreling away antidotes and character ideas for summertime. And after only two weeks of teaching, my storehouse is already looking fairly healthy. I’ll share one of my personal favorites with you.

Homework over the weekend? Whaaaatttt???

It’s hard to believe that students are already complaining about homework after only two weeks of school. Last week, my American history class thought that if enough of them complained, maybe they wouldn’t have homework over the weekend. (Don’t bother explaining to them that your work as a teacher never ends, and don’t expect them to appreciate the care you take and hours you put in to provide them a quality education. They really don’t care.)

So, I suggested we review the meaning of democracy and republic.
  • Democracy: rule by majority opinion
  • Republic: rule by elected representatives

Hmm, the classroom is not a democracy, is it? Nope. It’s more like a republic where an elected official (i.e. the teacher chosen to teach the class) makes the decisions with the best interests of the group at heart.

Certainly, that person takes the time to listen to what the people have to say, but in the end, he or she makes the best decision based on the information available.

Oh, and let’s not forget to review the pitfall of democracies… Right, the majority opinion is often wrong.

Ok, let’s move back to the lesson now.

The challenge
Whether you’re a teacher or someone with demands pulling on your resources, finding the time to recharge your battery and make time for what you love can be hard.
Your work should be rewarding, and you should certainly give it your best, but your work alone isn’t everything.
Make time for the people who matter and prioritize your pursuits. I know I am learning how to find the balance myself.
So what’s the status with book 3? Well, the rough draft is on my desk. My goal is to publish over the summer in time for an early fall release (in plenty of time for Christmas).
Any hints about the plot, you ask? Let’s just say plenty of adventure, surprises and life changes are in store.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Time for a new adventure

So far, 2013 has been a year of goals met and adventures had. I quit my day job to spend more time writing. (And by the way, the first rough draft for book number three is done!) My brother and I hiked 22 miles in the Grand Canyon. A week later, I helped chaperone a youth mission trip to New York to run a Christian day camp.

Now, I’m starting a new adventure: full-time teaching at a private Christian school. Frankly, I never thought I would be a teacher. People have told me I would make a good one; I just wasn't sure education was the job for me.

But if I’ve learned anything from the last several years, it’s that God’s plan is not what I mapped out – It is better.  

So here I am, making lesson plans, plotting out the first semester, and getting excited for school to start. Reality hit me when I was shopping last week, and a voice behind me said, “Miss Hogrefe, you’re going to be my 8th grade teacher!”

Appropriately, I was reading in Isaiah today, and chapter 41 verse 10 reminded me that no matter what lies ahead, my God will always be there to help me.
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
What about you? Are you beginning something new? Perhaps you are persevering through a difficult time or maybe working hard to finish a major project. Regardless, the future holds new adventures and challenges for each of us.

The time is now to get ready and go in the strength of the Lord.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Go Farther: Lessons from the Grand Canyon

Have you heard the story about a little boy and his father who were playing football together? The son was getting ready to throw the football to his father when the boy shouted, “Go farther, Daddy!”

Children sometimes overestimate their abilities, but I think adults tend to do the opposite. We cheat ourselves into believing, “It’s too hard; I can’t do it,” and opt to sit on the sidelines instead of tackling challenges that seem larger-than-life.

My brother and I just returned from hiking Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon. The trip taught me a few things about pushing limits.  

You can go farther than you think you can.



As I trained for this trip over several months, I took frequent 2-4 mile rucks around my neighborhood with my 20-pound backpack. I hoped that this steady practice plus a dose of adrenaline would be enough to help me hike down the canyon to Havasu Falls. (The trail is supposedly 8 miles down to the Indian village and another 2 miles to the campground. It’s really more like 11 miles total, according to my brother’s GPS.)



What I never expected to do was hike out 11 miles the next day. My plan was to get to the village early and catch a helicopter ride out.

However, when we arrived, we learned that the helicopter sign-up didn’t open until 6 a.m., and the first flights didn’t take off until 10 a.m. – and there really was no guarantee you would get on board.

That left us with two options. Sit in the hot village for four hours waiting for the helicopter and risk having to hike out in the heat of the day if we didn’t get a flight; or just hike out.

We opted to hike out for a total of 22 miles in 2 days. 



You can push yourself harder than you trained.

Not only can you go farther, but you can also push yourself harder. Both down and up, my brother and I hiked the trail in 4 1/2 hours. The first day, we started hiking around 5:30 a.m., and the next day, we started at 4:20 a.m. Both days, we woke up around 3 a.m.

*Groan*

You are tired. You are sore. You are beat. You just put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving.

But it is so worth it.


The winding, steep mountain trail leading back up the canyon wall to the parking area was 1.5 miles high. Coming down was slippery; going up was the ultimate cardio workout.

You have to keep a good attitude, and humor helps. Along the path, my brother joked, “Pain means you’re alive.”

Thanks, Dave. Yep, I’m still alive.



The bottom line is that you can do all things through Christ. He is our source of strength.
My favorite verse is Isaiah 40:31 which says, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Ask yourself what areas in your life could use a good stretching. And if you're looking for an adventure, may I recommend Havasu Falls?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Crunch, Crawl, and Climb till you find your dream

For years, my brother and I have talked about hiking the Grand Canyon, and finally, we just decided to do it.

We each signed up for one of those bonus miles credit cards to help pay for our plane tickets. (If you want some serious advice on how to use bonus mileage offers to your advantage, check out The Art of Non-Conformity blog of Chris Guillebeau, the man who finished his quest to travel to every country in the world this year. Specifically, the following two posts might be helpful:


Then, we started training. Or, I should say, I started training. My brother is probably in the top 1% of Americans who are supremely fit. I’ve been on the fitness track ever since I graduated from college, but I would never call myself a fitness buff.
The two biggest challenges we’ll face are heat and altitude. Florida excels in the heat department, but it scores an F for “Flat” on the altitude scale. So, I purchased my rucksack (50% off – so proud of myself for finding that good deal), filled it with bricks and water, and have been hiking around my neighborhood for the last several months.
Yep, I get stares.

So what. People who stick to their goals often raise a few eyebrows.

Whatever mountain (or canyon) personifies or embodies your dream, I want to encourage you to go for it. Just remember, the path won’t always be easy. In my own opinion, there are three Cs the journey will require:

1.       Crunch: Whether physical crunches to burn your abs or wallet crunches to create your budget, pain and sacrifice are often requirements for achieving goals.

2.       Crawl: Don’t expect immediate results. Practice and perseverance are twin companions for those who are training to reach their dreams.

3.       Climb: Remember that with God, all things are possible. After the mountaintop, there might be a valley, but He is always right there by your side to see you through whatever successes or failures you face.

Be a “goal-getter.” See you back here next time – hopefully with some stunning pictures to share.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Reading: What’s on your list?

I love summertime.

And summer reading.

This summer, I have some extra reading on my list. Since I will be teaching full time at Spring Hill Christian Academy next fall, I’m pouring over the teacher’s editions for an English class, American history class, and three computer classes.

Today, I read about the Lost Colony and the one, cryptic clue left concerning the fate of those first settlers; the Plymouth Pilgrims and Mayflower Compact; and don't forget Pocahontas and Squanto. 

Who says history is boring?

Aside from “required reading,” I'm also chipping away at the list below. My goal is to finish by August. 
  • C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy (fiction/fantasy)
  • Jen Hatmaker’s Seven (devotional) – If you're interested, check out my review.
  • Dani Pettrey’s Shattered (fiction/suspense) – This is the sequel to Submerged, which I reviewed back in January.
  • Chris Guillibeau’s $100 Startup (business) – Read his book The Art of Non-Conformity first. He is a secular author with some practical, brilliant ideas. 
  • Elisabeth Elliot’s Keep a Quiet Heart (devotional) – I’ve read it twice, but it’s just that good.
  • Another book or two from Dee Henderson’s O’Malley Series (fiction/suspense)
I’m half way through the list, and once I’m done, I’ll be able to add more.

What does your summer reading list look like? What “must reads” would you recommend?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pitfalls in the Pomp of Speeches and Storytelling

Tis the season for graduations, and this year, I will be attending at least four. Two down, two to go.

For fear of being misinterpreted as overly critical, let me begin by saying I thoroughly enjoy listening to senior speeches. They are full of insights and accomplishments that graduates should be proud to share.

However, they also provide a glimpse of some pitfalls common to speeches and writing alike. Writers, take note! Finding these mistakes in someone else’s speech is much easier to do than spotting them in the pages of our own writing.

Don’t use a big word when a small one will do.

Graduates have drilled vocabulary words, memorized SAT and ACT lists, and frequented dictionary.com on a regular basis. They are proud of their knowledge, and well, they should be.

The irony is that after learning impressive-sounding words like penchant and ambiance, deleterious and surreptitious, graduates have people (like me) tell them to replace their pedantic words for everyday ones.

Why? While knowing what big words mean is important, most people don’t like stuffiness. They prefer simplicity.

In the writing world, remember that readers don’t want to keep a dictionary by their side. They want to get lost in the story, not the meaning of the word anachronistic.

Word choice and appropriateness will make all the difference in your ability to communicate.

Don’t be wordy.

The best speeches are short, simple and sincere. My favorite speech so far has contained all three of these qualities. The result? I was able to relate to the graduate and actually remember something from the speech (without scribbling notes).

If you are writing a novel, you may have to skip the “short” part, but you should not sacrifice clarity for word count. If an action does not serve to build the plot, cut it out. If the dialogue is humorous but long-winded, trim it up.

In short, make every word count.

Don’t preach at your audience.

One of the speeches I heard belonged more at a political pep rally than a graduation ceremony. While I agreed with what the graduate was saying, I also felt myself stiffen as though someone were shouting at me.

No one enjoys a lecture, and as writers, this pill can be a hard one to swallow – especially for Christian fiction writers. We want to convey truth through a story, but how can we do so without pointing fingers?

Here’s my suggestion: Tell the story well, and let the story tell the truth. Make the struggle your character’s struggle, and simply let the audience watch the drama unfold and come to their own conclusions.

Thank you to all the graduates for sharing your speeches and words of wisdom. Congratulations on what you have accomplished! May your futures be bright.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Myth #3: Authors keep dozens of copies of their books on hand

Maybe first-time self-published authors do. Yes, it is very exciting to see a box of books with your name on them. However, I’ve discovered that keeping large quantities of books on hand isn’t wise unless I don’t want to be able to get into my closet. Instead, I try to plan book signings in advance and order copies accordingly for the event.

True story. This is my conversation with a sweet senior lady about my book.

Lady: I’d really like to buy your books. I’ve heard great things about them.
Me: Thank you! I’d love for you to read them.
Lady: Can you get me copies of them?
Me: Well, I don’t have that many left since my last book signing.
Lady: *Incredulous face*
Me: (Hurriedly) But you can go on Amazon and order them. It’s really easy.
Lady: What’s Amazon? I’ve never heard of it.
Me: I’ll look in my closet and find a copy.
Note to fellow writers: Make exceptions where appropriate unless you think you can successfully explain that Amazon is not just a river in South America but also an online shopping experience that has nearly everything imaginable for sale.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Myth #2: Some writers are immune to writer’s block

Writing, like any other job, has its tough spots, and we diagnose this ailment as writer’s block. No writer – I repeat, not one– is invulnerable.

I dearly love my friends who cheer me on in my writing and are kind enough to check in on me every once in a while to make sure I’m still breathing – like one of my friends who engaged me in the following texting conversation the other week.


Friend: Hey girl, how is the book coming?

Me: A little slow today… trying to work out some plot details and

feeling a bit distracted.

Friend: Is everything ok?

Me: Yeah, it may be a slight case of writer’s block, but I’m forcing myself to just write anyway. That usually helps me through it.

Friend: Does this happen to you a lot?

Me: Not too often… No writer is immune, though. I wish!

If a writer tells you he's having a rough day, don’t ask why. It just happens. The wise person knows to give his writing friend a brownie and a hug – and then shoo him back to his desk to get back to work.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Myth #1: Starting is easy for writers

I’d like to share a series of common writing myths and the humorous ways I’ve tried to help non-writing friends and acquaintances understand what I do a little better.

Case in point. At church on Sunday, a friend told me how much he would like to write a story.

Me: Everyone has a story to tell.
Friend: I just wouldn’t know where to start.
Me: Starting is hard.
Friend: How do you start? How do you know where to start?
Me: I sometimes write multiple introductions until I decide what works best. It’s hard for me too.
Friend: Ha, ha, you’re just kidding.
*Sigh* I wish I were.
Starting anything – a new job, a new school – is hard. Starting a new story is no different – even for those of us who have written and published books.

Dear reader, if you think writers have some special gene that makes the words flow from the tips of our fingers magically onto the document on our screen, well, we don’t. We call ourselves writers because we keep at the occupation long enough that we don’t know what else to call ourselves.

And we love it. Really, we do. Most of the time.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Book Review: Seven by Jen Hatmaker


You may have heard about Seven on the radio or seen it on the shelf at your Christian bookstore. I first heard about it when I started some part-time work for Stone Island Communications, an agency that represents some of today's finest Christian women speakers.

Seven. Seven. Seven. The inquiries I answered raved about this book, how it had transformed their lives, families, and their life groups at church.  Jen Hatmaker is a Christian author and speaker whose writing makes you feel as though you’re her intimate friend, and she isn’t afraid to share all her shortcomings, victories and defeats.

She undertook her Seven project, “an experimental mutiny against excess,” along with her family and close friends, whom she calls “the Council.” She chose seven areas needing reform in her own life, and then tackled each one a month at a time.

Clothes. Spending. Waste. Food. Possessions. Media. Stress.

The book reads like a journal through each month, and entries range from anecdotes that will make you laugh out loud to heavy concepts you may need to pray about.

One word of caution. This book is not Tozer’s The Pursuit of God (which I also loved). Hatmaker takes an honest, sometimes raw, point of view which some readers may find not very church-like, perhaps slightly offensive. I may not have agreed with everything she said, but I appreciated her sincerity and courage to embark on “a journey of less.”

However, Hatmaker's voice is a strong one. Although she identifies her target audience as middle- to upper-middle class parents, this book will appeal to twenty-somethings and up who are willing to set aside consumerism and comfort for practical Christianity.

Seven reveals the truth every believer should confront: Simplifying your life provides more space for amplifying God.

I love this idea. This weekend is a garage sale at my church for our summer youth mission trip, and I’m searching my room to see what needs to go.

But that’s just one small application.

Read Seven, and you’ll find yourself looking at your stuff, your time and your priorities in a different way.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thoughts on the New Adult Genre

Sally Stuart recently posted about a new genre in books called New Adult fiction. She explains that New Adult books target “the 20+ crowd” and “contain more mature themes and are meant to appeal to this age group’s needs.”

The Guardian defines it as ranging from ages 14-35. That’s quite a span. However, this source does provide a helpful definition, explaining that in these books, “the main characters transform from teenagers into adults and try to navigate the difficulties of post-adolescent life…”
ABC calls it the new “smut” fiction. Yuck.
I resent the inference that new adults in their late teens and twenties are only looking for trashy, explicit, “coming of age” stories. With all the changes this generation is facing, they need compelling, clean fiction with decent role models more than ever.
But I’ll get off my soap box. Suffice it to say that there is clearly going to be a dramatic difference between everyday New Adult fiction and Christian New Adult fiction.
Young Adult vs. New Adult

I first heard the term New Adult at the 2013 Florida Christian Writer’s Conference when I was pitching my Wings of the Dawn series to an agent. When I described it as a young adult series with a transcendent quality appealing to adults as well, the agent suggested it might better fit the New Adult genre.

Me: What’s New Adult?
Agent: It’s a genre that shows a post high-school character confronting and dealing with life changes throughout the course of the story.
Me: That kind of sounds like my heroine.
In addition to the protagonist’s age and stage of life, the content and issues explored in the story also factor in when determining if a book could be categorized as New Adult.

Think about Nancy Drew books. If I remember correctly, Nancy is eighteen, which is border line between Young Adult and New Adult. However, I read this series in middle school – or maybe even elementary. The content level is an easy-read mystery, not a story exploring complex issues.

Why New Adult?
From personal experience, I think New Adult is oftentimes an overlooked age group. I’ve been a part of college and career groups and also currently work with my church’s youth group. Teens and Twenty-Somethings are facing so many challenges in today’s society, and the transition from high school into advanced education, career and commitments can be confusing. Designing fiction that targets the needs of this age group makes perfect sense.

However, I think New Adult fiction should approach tough topics honestly but also in a clean way. This content will likely appeal to younger adults (12-18) who may be looking for role models in their reading or find themselves thrust into circumstances that force them to “grow up” faster than expected.

The bottom line? Christian New Adult fiction should help this age group see the truth of God’s Word applied to the circumstances characters face.

After all, the Bible is the ultimate guide to the challenges and changes of life. As Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Have you read any good New Adult Christian fiction lately? What did you like or dislike about it?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I quit my day job to be a writer

Sort of.

I’ve always wanted to say that, so now that I have, let me tell you the story.

After working six years in catalog and product development, I parted ways with my full-time job while staying on as a freelance contributor. As a result, I have more time to dedicate to Wings of the Dawn, Book 3.

However, I didn’t quit my day job to be only a writer (although being only a writer would be a most admirable occupation).

I am also pursuing my interest in becoming a teacher, so I am taking an education class and am now the substitute teacher known as “Miss H” (because “Hogrefe” is a mouthful to learn in one day). Side note: Substitute teaching is opening a brave new world of anecdotes and character sketches that you, my dear reader, will be able to enjoy right along with me.

The reason I share my new adventure with you is simply this: I know there are others who have interests and dreams they are perhaps too afraid to develop – because quite frankly, failure isn’t fun. (If you need the failure pep talk, re-read my post on Failure: Friend Not Foe.)
And yes, anytime you start something new, you are bound to face challenges. My classroom management textbook states that the top goal of first year teachers is survival.

Not success. Not strategies for student development.

Survival. Ouch.
I have two brothers, so I have seen almost every John Wayne movie imaginable. Though I don’t remember half of them, I like something this movie actor and director once said.

“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”
In other words, “saddle up” even though you don’t know where the horse is going to take you.

That’s where the adventure begins.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Eight Things to Take to Your First Conference

Aside from the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference (FCWC) which I attended last month, there are several other Christian writers’ conferences this year. Crossbooks summarizes them on their website. If you’re interested in attending a conference, see if any of these events are in your neighborhood.

During FCWC, I scribbled smiley faces next to some items that contributed to a smooth, first conference experience  and also jotted down a list of things to bring next time. If you’re a soon-to-be, first-time conferee, I hope these eight items will help you prepare for your conference.

What I'm glad I brought with me:
  • A goal. Yes, you should have a goal in mind, even if it's as basic as, "I want to learn how to be a better writer." The orientation speaker asked us first timers to share with another conferee our reason for coming. Verbalizing your goal makes you prioritize how you will use your time and which workshops you will attend.
  • Business cards. You can make them yourself or order them. Many conferees I met used Vistaprint. Make sure to include your social media and contact information.   
  • A flash drive. Writers, even if you come prepared with your proposals, be aware that the atmosphere at a writer's conference is full of creative ideas that may set the wheels of your craft spinning. I revised my proposal a couple times at FCWC – and became good friends with the staff who supervised the printing station.
  • My homework. I had done my research on publishers who would be present and was prepared to schedule appointments.
What I'll bring next time:
  • A highlighter. Yes, I missed my highlighter. You will have handouts thrown at you (literally, in the case of Steven James’ workshop, one of the most enjoyable, stimulating classes I attended).
  • My Nalgene bottle. Workshops are back to back, and if you don’t rehydrate, you will wilt.
  • An author flyer. I think as writers, we become so focused on our books that we forget to market ourselves. Another writer gave me this idea, and I recommend it for next time. (Editors and agents don’t want to collect lengthy proposals but may accept a single-page handout.)
  • My pitch on the back of my business card. This is another tip I learned from a fellow writer, and it makes beautiful sense. After all, your pitch should be concise enough to fit on the back of your business card.
What else might you do to help prepare for your first conference? 

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Bible Finale This Sunday

How many of you have been watching the History Channel’s miniseries on The Bible? If you have, you certainly aren’t alone. According to CNN, 13.1 million viewers watched the two-hour premier, and since then, weekly viewings have also been in the millions.

The finale is this Sunday, timely since we as believers are celebrating Easter and Jesus' resurrection.

I haven’t watched this program religiously, but some of the episodes have done a decent job depicting believable characters. So far, my favorites include Peter and Nicodemus. I will also admit to enjoying their portrayal (accurate or not) of the villainous, conniving chief priest.

There are several – rather, dozens and dozens – of discrepancies. In last week’s episode, the most glaring for me was the depiction of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. John 11:43 makes plain that Jesus simply went to the tomb and commanded, “Lazarus, come forth.” The History Channel’s rendition shows Jesus going into the tomb (where Lazarus is conveniently not wrapped up in burial cloths), and, from what I could tell, kissing the back of his head. The moment Jesus opened his eyes, Lazarus opened his. Dramatic? Yes, but not accurate.

However, I do agree with what a reviewer from Answers in Genesis said about the adaption. Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell in The Bible on the History Channel: A Review, says, “This film offers an excellent opportunity to share the gospel and the truth of God’s Word with friends who may be skeptical or simply consider the Bible irrelevant.”

Frankly, I would have been shocked if the History Channel managed to get the details right but regardless, appreciate the efforts made to capture the Biblical narrative on screen. I am reminded of what Paul said in Philippians 1:18, "What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."

What is your reaction to The Bible?