A wonderful new gift book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, is available in October for Christmas giving. Today, I’ve invited the six coauthors to share their unique story of how they came together to publish this exciting book full of stories, recipes, tips for simplifying the holidays and so much more (click on bookcover to see the trailer!).
First, let me introduce Cathy Messecar, Leslie Wilson, Brenda Nixon, Trish Berg, Terra Hangen and Karen Robbins. Thank you for being here today, ladies.
Karen: Thank you for the invitation.
You are from three different areas of the country—Texas, California, and Ohio. How did you all meet?
Terra: We all six joined The Writers View, an online group for professional Christian writers. Trish and Brenda met in person in 2004 for lunch, I understand, and on 9/18/04, after reading a post Brenda sent to TWV, I sent an email to Brenda, asking if she would like to join with me and walk alongside each other, as a Barnabas group. Brenda said yes that same day, and suggested Trish too. Very quickly Cathy, Leslie and Karen joined in and our stalwart band of six was formed. Living in California, I was so happy to find 5 Barnabas writers in other states so we could bring together a wealth of different viewpoints and expertise
Brenda: Actually, We haven’t met. We’re all great colleagues and friends via the internet. Four years ago Terra and I formed a dyad to support each other as Christians who write in the secular markets. Along came Trish, Cathy, Karen, and Leslie (not necessarily in that order) and we formed a close knit bond of support, creative energy, and professional accountability.
Karen: I met Trish through an online forum called The Writers View and she invited me to join the group.
Trish: Although we belong to the same Yahoo writing group, we met one by one online. Eventually, the six of us decided that since we all write as Christians for a secular market through magazine articles and newspaper columns, we could support and encourage one another.
Leslie: Though we met virtually through The Writers View, I have been blessed to give and get hugs from Trish (at a MOPS conference), Cathy (in the area on business) and Karen (in town for a writers' conference). I can’t wait to meet Terra and Brenda face-to-face, though I feel as though I already know them!
How did you come up with the idea to do a book together?
Brenda: The book is Cathy’s brainchild. She mentioned the concept of telling stories of events that happened for the first time at Christmas and sharing holiday historical tidbits and recipes and each said, “If you need any help, let me know.” That offer morphed into each of us equally contributing and co-authoring A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.
Trish: Yep, Cathy came up with the idea and the title, and asked us if we wanted to join her on this project. Of course, we said Yes!
Terra: Cathy mentioned the idea for a Christmas book to the group, and someone (I think it was Leslie) suggested that maybe our group could all write the book together. Cathy agreed to lead the way on the project. The earliest email I have on this is from 9/7/05, which shows that this has been a three year collaboration from idea to publication.
Karen: (Chuckling) Terra is a librarian and keeps our historical records by saving our e-mails.
Leslie: Actually, Terra, I wrote that comment (in a group e-mail) kind of tongue-in-cheek. Cathy, the ultra-sweet person she is, took my joking at face value and here we are. However, I believe God prompted the passion and ideas we all bring to the project and that He will do mighty things as a result of our collaboration!
Why did you decide on a Christmas theme?
Brenda: It was Cathy’s concept to write a book centering on Christmas.
Cathy: For several years, I’d been thinking about Christmas as a threshold to introduce Jesus to folks who aren’t familiar with him, and I love a simpler Christmas with the emphasis on family, friends and doing for others. I knew of some families who had experienced “firsts” at Christmas—reunions, losses, special surprises—and I wanted to collect those stories.
Terra: Cathy’s idea immediately resonated with me because Christmas books are “a way past watchful dragons,” as C. S. Lewis wrote. Many people won’t buy a book about being a Christian, but will buy a holiday and family fun book, thus the “past watchful dragons.” People who want to grow in their faith, and people who have no faith but celebrate Christmas will buy our book and hopefully be led to put the focus back on Christ for the holiday, and for their lives.
Leslie: Though Cathy birthed the idea, the rest of us quickly hopped on board. Not only is Christmas special to me—especially now that I have a family of my own—but also that particular holiday cries out to be simplified, to return to the meaningful aspects of celebration, and to lose some of the hype and commercialism.
Tell me a little about what is in A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts? What is your favorite part?
Cathy: I like that you can read one chapter in about 15 minutes and, with all the different suggestions, it feels like Christmas Eve. Makes you want to set up the nativity! Many of the suggestions for family activities can be adapted for any family get-together.
Karen: There are heartwarming stories about things that happened for the first time at Christmas. For instance, one of my stories is about the first Christmas with our adopted children. And the book is pretty. When I first saw the colorful pages and drawings, I fell in love with the illustrator’s work.
Brenda: I don’t have a favorite part – I love it all!
Terra: I like the way the parts are woven into a seamless whole, like a patchwork quilt, that is stronger and more beautiful than the parts.
Trish: It’s like everything you ever wanted to know about Christmas, all the best tips and recipes, and neat stories all wrapped up in this perfect little package.
Leslie: I love reading the special stories, hints, recipes—whatever—and imagining the precious family time that precipitated each moment. Plus, the book is gorgeous, beautifully printed, truly something to be proud of. And we are.
I’ve heard that the book is really a nice gift book; can you tell me a little about the format?
Cathy: Yes, it’s a hardbound book, full color interior. The layout makes it easy to read. It has a definite scrapbooky look on the interior. Different logos identify sections, such as an oilcloth-look Christmas stocking appears beside the “Stocking Stuffer Tradition” (help for connecting family members), and the “Cookie Canister” recipes are on a recipe card, and the back ground of “A Gift For You” is a gift box with bow. It’s a classy gift that they can be placed on a coffee table or in a guest bedroom during the holiday season.
Brenda: I like to describe it as a Starbuck’s sorta gift book. It’s high quality, crisp, and practical.
With six different personalities and areas of ministry, how did you manage to put this all together and still remain friends?
Karen: We pray a lot for each other and it helps that none of us have an over-inflated ego.
Cathy: There were no squabbles. Surely, we had differing opinions, but we knew that any of us could suggest an idea for this book and that each idea would get fair reviews from others. We actually voted on some aspects—everyone in favor say, “Aye.” If you’ve ever watched women at a Dutch treat luncheon when they divide up a meal ticket, it can be intense as they split the ticket down to the penny. As the project came together, I was in awe of my gracious coauthors, unselfish women who respect each other.
For some decisions, we did a round robin—things like book title and chapter titles and what categories to put into the book. Then, as compiler, I’d send out a list of needs to The Word Quilters, that’s what we call ourselves. For instance in a section we call “Peppermints for Little Ones” (hints for children’s activities), I’d put out a call, and the WQs sent in their hints, and then I put them into appropriate chapters.
Brenda: (Smiling) Are we still friends? Seriously, we each have our own platform, ministry, and family life, and those interests kept this project in perspective – it was important but not the only thing on our plates. No one was so enmeshed in this project that she campaigned for her own way. We never had a bitter disagreement or insistence to be “right.”
Terra: We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.We offer support and ideas for our separate writing projects and for personal prayer requests. I love these ladies, and I have only met one of them in person. So far, Karen is the only one who has met each of us, and one day we hope to meet in person, in a circle of friendship and love.
Trish: I think we are all very flexible and forgiving. We do have a variety of personalities here, but God has worked amazing things through our little group.
Leslie: Though I have seven non-fiction projects in various stages of completion, I could not be more thankful that this is the one to reach publication first. I am truly blessed to have worked with these women, learned from them, watched as they’ve poured heart and soul into crafting a product that will impact lives for the Lord.
Where can my readers get a copy of SOCF?
Cathy: The coauthors will all have a supply, plus our publisher, Leafwood Publishers, will have plenty of copies and discounts for buying five or more. Or they can be ordered at most online stores or by your local bookstore.
Karen: And anyone who leaves a comment here can be entered in a drawing for a free book and a gift basket worth $200! For a list of its contents, check our blog, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. And while you're there, leave another comment and increase your chances of winning!
Tell me more about your blog.
Karen: We started our blog in July and it is accumulating a wealth of information about Christmas. Each of us posts one day a week following the theme for that week. Watch for new recipes, tips, ways to simplify, stories, etc., similar to what is in our book.
Leslie: Ooh, ooh, let me answer this one. I’m probably the newest to blogging among the group, but I LOVE it. I’ve enjoyed posting and receiving comments back from readers. What an amazing adventure having an online voice can be! This blog will focus on a different theme each week—anything from tips to avoid overeating during the holidays to how to give a guest room special touches—and expand on the material in the book. I think readers will get to know the authors’ individual personalities and connect on a more personal level. Plus, they get that many more ideas, information, inspiration (!) at no additional cost.
WQs: As an added bonus for inviting us to your blog, we’d like to pass along this Christmas tidbit to you and your readers:
Enjoy a blessed Christmas this year! And thanks for inviting us to share our book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, with you.
Monday, September 29, 2008
There is currently a lot of talk amongst authors about branding, what is it? do I want it? how do I get it?
At the recent ACFW Conference, Agent Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, taught a workshop on creating a brand. Wouldn't you know it? My two appts collided with this workshop time and I wasn't able to go to it. Good thing I have the recording to listen to later.
While I grasped the basics of branding, as with most things, I finally 'got it' when I had a concrete example placed in my hot little hands. Saturday, Sept. 20th, I was at the Mall of America for the GINORMOUS book signing at the Best Buy Rotunda. Over 120 authors were signing their books and giving interviews and taking pictures. It was a tremendous day for Christian Fiction.
While there, I was browsing the Barnes and Noble (who sponsored the book-signing event) and my little eyes fell upon a brand spanking new Dick Francis novel. I RUSHED over and snatched it up, then turned to Georgiana Daniels and said, "I don't even care what this book is about. I'm buying it because it is the new Dick Francis."
Plink! The penny dropped. THAT is a brand. I knew what I would find in that book simply because Dick Francis had written it. A tough hero in an interesting job that has some connection with steeplechase racing in Britain. A moral dilemma, physical danger, a puzzle to solve, and a smash-bang finish that leaves me wanting to read another Dick Francis work as soon as possible. That's his brand, and he didn't disappoint me.
Which leaves me wondering. Someday, will someone pick up one of my books and say, "I don't care what this book is about, it's the newest Erica Vetsch, and I have to have it." Wouldn't that be cool?
How about you? Do you have an author (or more than one) that you snatch up hot off the shelves simply because you have to have their work?
Friday, September 26, 2008
This week's Friday Five is:
Five Random Thoughts about me
1. I love bubble baths. But only when it is cold outside. In the summer it's showers only.
2. When I get sick, I have a 'feel good' blanket that I want with me. It's one I have had since I was a kid, and it only gets pulled out of the closet when someone is sick.
3. I don't know how to use most of the features on my nifty little digital camera. The DH likes to mess with the buttons and try all the gizmos, but I just want to point and click.
4. I like Fiber One Key Lime Yogurt. As a life-long yogurt hater, this was a big thing for me. It's really yummy!
5. I love flowering crab trees in the spring, especially the pink ones. My DH just planted three flowering crabs for me--two pink and one white. Isn't he sweet?
How about you? Any random thought whizzing around your head?
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Georgiana and Gina Conroy. It was so great to meet friends.
This is my beloved husband Peter. I'm including this photo for G, who teased me that Peter was a mythical spouse like "Vera" Norm's wife from Cheers. She'd never seen a picture, though I talk about him all the time. Isn't he cute???
These are the flowers that my parents JUST had delivered a few minutes ago. Aren't they beautiful? The roses smell heavenly. I'm grinning like an idiot! Thanks, Mom and Dad.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
The Bride Bargain
Barbour Publishing, Inc (September 1, 2008)
Kelly Eileen Hake
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Hopped on the scale this morning and am down three pounds from last week for a total of 51 pounds over all.
Feels great, and I already need new clothes. The ones I bought a month ago are gettin' loose. When I get back from conference, I'll blog the "Great Minnesota Banquet Attire Safari."
See you next week.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Five things I have done to prepare for company.
1. Cleaned. Don't we all? I've tried to learn over the years not to leave it all until the morning company is expected. I've also tried to learn not to sweat the small stuff too much. Will my company really walk out if the shoes in the mud-room aren't lined up along the wall? Doing a little each day in the week before and not sweating the small stuff has made my family happier with having company too. They don't like a snarky, stressed out mama. Go figure.
2. New pillows on the guest bed. I bought new pillows for the guest bed a couple years ago, and slowly they have been filched, thieved, purloined, and absquadulated with. Every member of this household, myself included, grabbed one when an old one needed to go. I bet this will happen again.
3. Made an appt. for manicures for Kaye and myself. We'll treat ourselves to a fingerwave before heading up to Minneapolis to dazzle editors. :)
4. Worked ahead. As much as I have been able, I've tried to get all the work done I can in advance so I can relax and enjoy my company.
5. Prayed. Prayed for safe travel, for God to smooth the bumps, and for us to have a sweet fellowship together.
How about you? What do you do when you know company is on the way?
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
In The Shadow Of Lions
David C. Cook; 1 edition (September 2008)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ginger Garrett is the critically acclaimed author of Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther, which was recognized as one of the top five novels of 2006 by the ECPA, and Dark Hour. An expert in ancient women's history, Ginger creates novels and nonfiction resources that explore the lives of historical women.Her newest release is Beauty Secrets of the Bible, (September 11, Thomas Nelson) based on the historical research that began in her work on Chosen. The book explores the connections between beauty and spirituality, offering women both historical insights and scientific proofs that reveal powerful, natural beauty secrets. A frequent radio guest on stations across the country, including NPR and Billy Graham's The Hour of Decision, Ginger is also a popular television guest. Her appearances include Harvest Television, Friends & Neighbors, and Babbie's House. Ginger frequently serves as a co-host on the inspirational cable program Deeper Living. In 2007, Ginger was nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award for her novel Dark Hour. When she's not writing, you may spy Ginger hunting for vintage jewelry at thrift stores, running (slowly) in 5k and 10k races, or just trying to chase down one of her errant sheepdogs. A native Texan, she now resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.
ABOUT THE BOOK "I am the first writer, The Scribe. My books lie open before the Throne, and someday will be the only witness of your people and their time in this world. "So begins the narration of one such angel in this sweeping historical tale set during the reign of England's Henry VIII. It is the story of two women, their guardian angels, and a mysterious, subversive book ... a book that outrages some, inspires others, and launches the Protestant Reformation. The devout Anne Boleyn catches the eye of a powerful king and uses her influence to champion an English translation of the Bible. Meanwhile, Rose, a broken, suicidal woman of the streets, is moved to seek God when she witnesses Thomas More's public displays of Christian charity, ignorant of his secret life spent eradicating the Bible, persecuting anyone who dares read it. Historic figures come alive in this thrilling story of heroes and villains, saints and sinners, angels and mortals ... and the sacred book that will inspire you anew. Fans of Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury will love Ginger's intriguing combination of rich character development, artful settings, and inspiring historical insights.
If you would like to read an excerpt from In The Shadow Of Lions, go HERE
Monday, September 08, 2008
Today I have a reason to celebrate. Six months ago we began the registration process for my daughter to enroll at Northwestern College for the Fall08 semester as a high school junior. The state of MN has a program whereby juniors and seniors in high school can enroll in MN colleges and universities and take college courses for both high school and college credit simultaneously. A wonderful way to get a leg up on college (and have it paid for by the state of MN). The girl would attend by completing independent study classes and on line distance ed.
To say that we'd encountered one roadblock after another would be an understatement. Everything from misdirected standardized test scores to a misplaced application in the college office. By the time we were finally able to get some answers, we were informed that it was too late for her to enroll in the English Composition class she had wanted. They could still get her into Math, Chemistry, and World History, but no English classes at all.
I vascillated between serene (after all, God knew this all in advance and His will would prevail) and frustrated (this is a rotten way to run a railroad! If our family business treated customers like this, we'd be out of business in a week!).
Wouldn't you know it. This week my pastor started a series of Sunday School lesson about Respectable Sins...those sins we tolerate or justify or excuse so we won't have to deal with them. Near the top of his list was frustration. God isn't running things the way WE think they should be run and we're afraid that God isn't able to satisfy our needs of that moment. OUCH!
Today, after the mail still didn't deliver the textbooks and course materials for the classes she was supposed to be registered for (semester started two weeks ago), I called Northwestern one more time. At last, I was able to reach someone who could make the wheels start turning.
We received a student ID number, student email address, and assurances that the course materials should arrive by Wednesday. If they don't arrive, I'm to call Todd back so he can follow up on their whereabouts. Todd is my new hero.
Best of all, he worked things out so my girl could join the Composition class a little late. We've talked to the professor and he is confident she can catch up quickly.
I'll feel better when the materials are here and she's all caught up, but for now, I'm rejoicing that we seem to be on the right track.
And hopefully I'll remember God's goodness the next time I'm tempted to become frustrated when things aren't going the way I think they should be.
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
Wounded: A Love Story
David C. Cook (September 2008)
Claudia Mair Burney
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Marblehead Light, Marblehead, MA
Today, CJ is guest blogging some words of wisdom about Writer's/Artist's Doubt. You can visit CJ at: The Compost Heap.
This excerpt by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love was taken from Jacqueline Sullivan's blog http://blog.jacquelinesullivan.com/ I had the pleasure of taking Jacqueline's Marks and Metals workshop a few years ago. I expected her blog article to be related to calligraphy and art, and here she was talking about writing. Jacqueline noted that the author's words could apply to making art as well as writing. I read on.
You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.
I was anxious to share this paragraph with Erica. She's been preparing for the ACFW conference in Minneapolis in a couple of weeks. She's shared her enthusiasm about the conference and also how she's nervous, unsettled, and feeling unprepared.
How often have I felt what I create isn't good enough? Such thoughts and feelings erode self-confidence. A recent thread on a calligrapher's loop I belong to seemed to be about mediocre calligraphy being passed off as art. Some of the concurring comments were made by artists a lot farther up the experience chain than I am. My little, inner critic chimed in too. I thought about recent pieces I've done and thought, "Yup, the emperor is naked."
And then it hit me. Light dawned on marble head.
If I was given the talent to put pen and ink to paper, isn't it a slap in God's face to say "I'm not good enough?" Thinking I'm not worthy is denying the honor I was given. Sure, I have a long way to go in my pursuit of the perfect letter form. However, the focus should be on the journey, on using my talent in the very best way I can with the knowledge and experience I have learned along the way.
This not only applies to art and writing, but to all facets of life. Honor what you have been given and give back by using your gifts to the best of your ability.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Friday, September 05, 2008
This week's Friday Five is:
Five things in or on my nightstand.
1. My TBR Pile. This teetering stack rises and falls depending on the mail from CFBA. Right now the pile is pretty small. I'm reading Virginia Lanier's A Bloodhound to Die For at the moment.
2. Alarm clock. I rarely need my alarm clock, since my husband has one and usually sets his, but sometimes I have to get up before him, so the evil, red numbered squawk box comes in handy.
3. Coconut-Lime-Verbena lotion from Bath and Body Works. Love that smell.
4. In the top drawer I have three glasses cases. This is ridiculous because I never use them, but every time you get a new pair of glasses from the eye doc, they give you a case for them. I wear my glasses from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed, so overnight, they sit on top of my nightstand. Why I keep the ugly plaid cases is a mystery to me.
5. The most important thing: The TV Remote. I am the QUEEN of the remote, lightning fast with the channel button, sultaness of surfing.
How about you? What do you keep by the bed?
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
Up Pops The Devil
Avon A (July 29, 2008)
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
Back To Life
Avon Inspire (September 16, 2008)
I've been reading a lot about plot lately. To plot or not to plot, that is the question. And I've tried to identify and quantify my own plotting process. For you can't change/improve a process until you analyze the death out of it. :)
I've tried a bunch of different plotting methods. Here are a few:
The Snowflake Method. Aye-yi-yi...hated it. My brain just doesn't work this way.
The Plot Skeleton. This helped a bit, if nothing else to help me deconstruct other novels or movies for what worked and what didn't.
The Three Act Model. From Jim Bell's Plot and Structure. Yep, this one helped me see story structure in a whole new light.
Note Cards. Yup, tried these a couple times. Color coded the POV character, the setting, the motivation, etc.
Outline/Synopsis/Storyline. The frustration with this is that I write out how I think the story will go and within the first thirty pages I've veered so far off the storyline I planned it seems a waste of time.
I've decided my plotting is like a road map. I know where I want to start, and where I want to end. The rest is a lot of twisty possibilities, side roads, interstates and freeways, county highways, and streets. And I'm driving in the dark. I have headlights though. I can see as far as the headlights reach in my story, and as long as I'm moving forward, a little more is illuminated.
My secret weapon: My daughter. When I have a rough idea of how the story will go, I talk it out with my daughter. As I refine the story and write more, I go back to her and she listens to the plot again. She endures this process about four times per novel. Each time, she pulls the story apart, asking pointed questions where she sees flaws.
I've just completed my 8th novel, and the last four have been done using this process. It seems to work for me.
How about you? Do you have a process? Are you a dedicated outliner? Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer? Or somewhere inbetween?
My thanks to CJ for the map. If you look closely, you can see her point of origin and what those who live outside Boston think of the rest of the USA. :)