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Christy Catherine Marshall

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June 27, 2010

I read over at TitleTrakk Book News that the 2010 Christy Award Winners were announced last night in St. Louis. If you enjoy reading fiction by Christian publishing houses, here are some books you’ll want to check out!

Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills, Tyndale House Publishers

Who Do I Talk To? by Neta Jackson, Thomas Nelson

The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson, Thomas Nelson

Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent, Tyndale House Publishers

Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin, Bethany House Publishers: a
Division of Baker Publishing Group

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen, Bethany House Publishers: a
Division of Baker Publishing Group

Lost Mission by Athol Dickson, Howard Books: a Division of Simon &

By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson, Marcher Lord Press

North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson, WaterBrook Multnomah

Here’s a link to the Press Release which contains descriptions of all the award-winning books. I’m sure this was an exciting night for everyone who attended in St. Louis. The Christy Awards are named in honor of Catherine Marshall and her inspiring novel, Christy.

As for me, I enjoy reading Andrew Peterson’s posts over at The Rabbit Room, so it looks like we’ll need to get copies of the two books in his WINGFEATHER SAGA series. North! Or Be Eaten is the second book in the series. By the way, here’s an interesting interview with Andrew Peterson, by CJ Darlington of TitleTrakk.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees! They’ve given us lots of great books to read.

Happy reading to all of you!

June 25, 2010

If you’re looking for some writing deadlines to help spur you on this summer, I’ve compiled a few here from the Chicken Soup for the Soul website. A friend of mine recently sold a story to their forthcoming Christmas series, and she said they paid her $200 and will give her ten copies of the book, which will make great Christmas gifts. That’s not bad!

At the very least, if you take the time to write down your stories, then you’ll have them for yourself, as a tangible legacy of your own life journey. I’ve heard it can take up to three or four years to find out if they’ve been accepted to the Chicken Soup series, so the waiting can be long! They’re also strict about the stories being previously unpublished, so be careful to study the Submission Guidelines before sending.

Upcoming series include:

Extra Christmas Stories
For a possible second Christmas book, we are looking for additional Christmas stories … The deadline date for story submissions is July 13, 2010.

Everyone has a great story about the unconditional love between grandmothers and their grandchildren. We are looking for wonderful stories celebrating grandmothers and grandchildren … The deadline date for story submissions is August 31, 2010.

Mothers and Daughters
Mothers and daughters… they are, at the same time, very similar and also completely unique. Mothers show daughters who they will become. Daughters live out mothers’ dreams … The deadline date for story submissions is December 31, 2010. This title will not publish until 2012.

New Moms
Becoming a new mom is the most amazing experience, unique and unlike any other. From the moment that baby is placed in your arms, there is an incredible feeling only a new mother can know … The deadline for story submissions is July 31, 2010.

The preteen years – those years from nine to twelve can be rough from both a physical and emotional perspective. You are not a kid anymore but you are not yet a teen … The deadline date for story submissions is August 31, 2010.

A completely new book on one of our most requested topics – TEENS. The stories in this book, written almost entirely by teens, will be stories that you will want to read again and again … The deadline date for story submissions is December 31, 2010.

Young at Heart
So, you’ve crossed that magic age and you are ready to retire or start a second career. But you’re not ready to stop living! You feel energetic and young and there is still so much to see and do and enjoy … The deadline date for story submissions is December 31, 2010.

You can read all the details about upcoming series, with specific guidelines here. Best wishes to you on your summer writing goals!

P.S. If any of you get a story accepted to a Chicken Soup for the Soul book, I’d love to know. We’ll all celebrate with you!

By: Heather Ivester in: Writing | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

June 23, 2010

Our church recently made it through a full week of Vacation Bible School, using Lifeway’s western theme, Saddle Ridge Ranch. We had a fantastic turnout, with over 400 in attendance, and I have to say this was one of my favorite themes. Yee-haw! I’m wondering if any of you out there have used this with your church VBS.

The motto, “Need Answers? Ask God!” was easy for kids to remember, and we memorized the key scripture, James 1:5, in unison:

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.

VBS has come a long way since my days of singing “Deep and Wide” and drinking orange Kool-Aid from Dixie cups. It’s a major task trying to reach this generation of high-tech kids, but I think Lifeway has once again done a great job.

In my tiny speck of the globe, I worked with the fifth graders, on the third floor of our Southern Baptist church. I really enjoyed this age group. We spent about an hour teaching the lesson, broken up into different games and activities. The rest of the morning, the kids went to worship ralley, crafts, snack, music, and recreation.

I found it amusing that one of the boys used his ipod to look up scripture, and he was always the first one to find it. “EPIC” seemed to be the word of the week, as in “Epic, man! That is so cool!” It’s exciting for me to be around kids who are being exposed to the Bible for the first time.

We once asked a question about Joseph, and a little voice piped up, “Is he the guy that got thrown in the lion’s den?” To which someone giggled, “No! That was Daniel, you dork.” We passed out Bibles and asked the kids to look up scripture. One girl flipped hers open then whispered to me, “Is Genesis before or after Isaiah?”

I loved all of this. These fifth graders will come of age around 2020 or 2030. They’ll be making decisions someday about where to live, what to do with their lives, whom to trust. I hope they’ll remember these days of VBS and seek the still, small voice of God as they plan their journeys.

The highlight this year was definitely the music! Jeff Slaughter did an amazing job with keeping the kids interested. I don’t know if he wrote and choreographed all the songs, but he’s the guy we saw dancing around on a big screen every morning singing “Tumbleweed” and “Like Jesus” (my personal favorites). You can listen to the songs here.

And now we have a whole year to get ready for the new 2011 theme: Big Apple Adventure!

June 15, 2010

Those of you who’ve been reading here for a while know I’m crazy about Japan. I taught English in Osaka for a couple of years, and when I came home, I left part of my heart over there. Well, I’ve become acquainted with a Christian mom who writes novels in North Carolina, after living in Japan 18 years! I’m so happy to introduce you to author Alice J. Wisler.

Hi Alice. Welcome to Mom 2 Mom! We’re so glad you’re here. Can you tell us a little about your background as the daughter of missionaries in Japan?

I was born in Osaka, Japan in the 1960s to career-missionary parents. I went to Japanese kindergarten in Osaka and an international elementary school in Kyoto. High school was in Kobe, and since the distance was far, I lived in the high school dorm for four years. Then I went back to teach English in a church-run school in the 80s after college and a stint in the Philippines. So, I’ve lived 18 years total in Japan.

Wow. That’s amazing! Do you still find yourself remembering Japan? How do you keep your memories alive? Do you have any favorite Japanese dishes that you like to eat or cook?

Japan is a huge part of my life. I love authentic Japanese food (Kanki and any restaurant that serves their food with sword-like knives is not what I grew up with). Sushi is my favorite. I like to make tempura at home with my fourteen-year-old son. I sing Japanese songs from childhood around the house all the time.

How did you get started writing fiction?

Boredom. I got tired of fighting with my younger brother and needed something else to do. I’ve been writing since first grade. My teacher had me stand up in front of the entire class and read my short stories. One was about having the “chicken pops” and one was about a birthday party. Fiction came to me at about third grade.

Do you think writing can be therapeutic for women who encounter difficult times in life?

Writing is one of the best forms of therapy. When you put your heart and all its anguish on paper, you experience clarity and comfort. I thank God every day for his gift to us in the healing that comes from the tool of writing through sorrow.

Can you share with us about your son, Daniel, and how your writing ministry for grieving parents began to develop?

Daniel, my second child, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at the age of three in 1996. He went through chemo, radiation and surgeries to try to reduce and remove the malignant tumor in his neck. In 1997, he died in my arms. He was four. I was thirty-six.

Since then my world changed. I started Daniel’s House Publications in his memory and created a monthly ezine, wrote articles, remembrance cards, spoke at bereavement conferences, and was asked to lead writing workshops. I saw that this tool of writing benefits many, so eventually started teaching online writing courses.

What can people expect from taking your online course, “Writing the Heartache Writing Workshop?”

My online courses last five weeks. I send the assignments out via email and the attendees complete them and send them back to me for feedback. I offer guidelines on writing poetry, essays, and for publication. The five-week outline is available here at my website, as well as information on how to sign up.

Can you tell us about your “in-person” grief-writing seminar that will take place in North Carolina in July?

The all-day workshop I’ll hold on July 17th will be an expansion of what I offer online. We’ll write from photographs and from mementos. We’ll create poetry and essays and share. The atmosphere will be a warm one to tell our stories.

Not everyone will be writing about a significant loved one who has died. Some will participate and write about other losses — loss of dreams, broken relationships, etc. This event will take place at the Country Inns and Suites near the Raleigh-Durham, NC Airport from 8 AM to 5 PM. You can read more about this exciting day here.

Well, it looks like you’ve got a busy summer ahead. Congratulations on your novel, How Sweet It Is, being a finalist for the 2010 Christy Awards! Can you tell us about this book?

How Sweet It Is is about getting away from the past in order to heal and start a new future. Deena Livingston, the main character, has been in an accident and broken up with her fiance. She moves to a cabin in Bryson City in the Smoky Mountains where she’s to teach cooking to disadvantaged middle school kids in an after-school program. The story is about forgiveness.

Are you looking forward to traveling to St. Louis for the awards ceremony?

Yes, I’m looking forward to flying there later this month. I’ll also be signing advanced reading copies (ARCs) of Hatteras Girl at the International Christian Retailers Show held after the Christy Awards.

What is your new novel about?

Hatteras Girl is set in the Outer Banks. Jackie and her childhood friend, Minnie, want to take over the Bailey Bed and Breakfast in Nags Head, but obstacles (including a handsome realtor) get in the way. This is a story about having to wait for dreams to come true.

That’s a topic we’re all familiar with! Do you have any tips for parents who would love to find more time to write? Is it worth the effort?

Keep at it. Don’t give up! Make time to craft the best stories you can write. Edit often. Yes, it is worth the effort because there is no other satisfaction like having your work published.

Thank you for your encouraging advice! Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for this interview, Heather. It’s been fun!

You can learn more about Alice J. Wisler and her really cool novels at her website. Be sure to check out the beauiful Dutch cover of Rain Song!

June 10, 2010

If you’ve been around the Christian mom blogging community for a while, you’ve most likely heard of Kelsey Kilgore, who blogs as Holy Mama. A west Texas mom of four, Kelsey recently published her first novel, A Love for Larkspur. She’s also a gifted humor writer and encourager for stressed-out, battle-worn parents.

Hi Kelsey. How’s the weather in Texas? Have you seen any more tumbleweeds lately?

Here in West Texas, it is HOT. We went to three baseball games on Saturday and at the start of the second game, it was 107 degrees. By the end of the third game it was cooling off at 100, and it felt lovely. Really! West Texas heat is dry, never humid, and that helps.

It’s so hot here, that vets recommend shaving your long-haired cats in the summer.

Isn’t he CUTE?! My ten-year old, Ethan, made the little purple shawl. I haven’t seen any tumbleweeds, but it isn’t really the season now — the best ones are found in winter.

Oh, that cat is ADORABLE — and the shawl too! Can you describe for us a typical west Texas summer scene? I mean, do people really walk around wearing cowboy hats and boots?

Why, yes …. yes you do often see hats and boots here, year-round. But that’s the exception, not the rule.

A typical scene … I don’t get out much and my life revolves around children, so bear with me. What comes to mind are endless Saturdays of kids’ sporting events, the happy shrieks of kids splashing at a swimming pool, and grilling outdoors with family. None of that sounds particularly unique to this part of the country, now that I think about it.

Oh! We feed prairie dogs sometimes, just for fun. They like pretzels and carrots.

A pretzel-eating prairie dog — now that’s definitely not something I’ve ever seen here in Georgia!

OK, I’ve been reading your blog for years. Do you think writing can help alleviate some of the major stresses moms face today?

Writing alleviates some of MY stresses as a mom. But other moms I talk to often say that writing would only add to their stress — everyone’s different. It’s not my major stress reliever — blogging, for me, is more of a tool for documenting my kids’ childhoods and these years in general.

I know this is a fast-paced time period, and I forget so much! I want to always be able to look back and see what I wrote/thought/believed during this time. I don’t mind sharing my life with whoever might be interested in reading about it — but largely, it’s written for the future me!

I agree — if I don’t write it down, I forget it! What else do you find to be a good stress reliever?

My two main stress relievers are cleaning and exercise. Preferably something fairly violent, with lots of punching and kicking of other individuals, but a punching bag will do. Since I tore my left ACL in September, I’m not cleared yet to go back to kickboxing.

In the meantime, I’m trying to build up strength and endurance so I’ll be ready for it again when the doctor gives the go-ahead in December. I haven’t always been this way — I only started exercising after antidepressants stopped working for postpartum depression after my 4-year-old was born.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Not really. Most of the time I don’t even think of myself as being a writer, even now. Writing was something that came very easily to me, and I knew it would always help me out in whatever I ended up doing. As it turns out, I’ve ended up mothering, mostly, with a little writing on the side. Next year all the kids will be in school full time, and maybe then I’ll be writing more — and thinking of myself as more of a writer!

Did you have a teacher or mentor who particularly encouraged you with writing?

Yes, Penny Arrington, high school English teacher extraordinaire. She was the sort of crazy-tough teacher that you either adored … or feared and had nightmares about for the rest of your life. (I mean that in a good way.)

She had super high standards and she expected every single student to meet them — and she pushed us very hard in order to help us get there. I admired that. I admired her. Still do. She’s a high school counselor now, and we had dinner about a year ago when I went back to my home town for a brief visit.

How did you get started writing fiction?

It was a God Thing. A very, very weird God Thing. One night, a very long time ago, I had a vivid dream with all sorts of interesting people. I woke up in the middle of the night and had a sense that I should make it into a book.

In order to let that crazy thought go, I prayed something I should never have prayed. I said, “God, if you want me to write that, help me remember all of it because I usually forget dreams. Amen and goodnight.” And I thought I’d go back to sleep. Instead, I stayed awake all night and scene after scene played out in my head in a way I’d never before (or since) experienced.

So the next day, exhausted, I started to write. It took almost a year. And what came out of that was truly a terrible read. But what ALSO came out of that was a whole year of hands-on learning in what to do and what not to do in fiction writing.

I learned so much from that experience — I wouldn’t trade that awful manuscript for anything! And nor would I read it again, for anything! Or subject anyone else to it — but still, it is precious to me if only in its immense personal value!

In your debut novel, A Love for Larkspur, your main character, Lark, has a close relationship with her mom. Is this based any on your relationship with your mom?

I wanted a good mom-daughter relationship in the story. At the time I wrote it, I was living here in Texas and my own mom was living in Australia. I only saw her once or maybe twice a year. I was also dealing with a mother figure in my life who was painfully, and suddenly, rejecting me.

Those feelings and issues are in there, and I intentionally wrote a strong, positive mom figure into the story so it wouldn’t come off as so “anti-mother!” That being said, my own wonderful mother is extremely different from Lark’s wonderful mother.

Do you enjoy having your mom live closer to you now? What’s your favorite activity to do with your mom?

Now that my mom DOES live close by, I’m so grateful for all the time we spend together! We like to shop or go eat or take the kids swimming. Occasionally she’ll get me to go antiquing with her (not my fave) or we’ll plant flowers or do yard work together.

For those of us who aren’t from Texas, can you tell us about larkspur? When does it bloom?

Larkspur is in bloom right this very second at my house, as you can see, next to golden Stella d’Oro daylilies.

The foliage is delicate, and ferny, and can look very much like a weed to a novice. So when we moved into our last house and a flowerbed seemed to be overrun with these little weedy plants, I tried to pull them all out.

Eventually, after ripping out thousands of them, I gave up. I was shocked to discover what the “survivors” turned out to be! And of course I wished that I’d left them alone. In subsequent years, that flowerbed recovered from my misguided efforts and every June it became a traffic-stopping display of the prettiest larkspur in town. The ones in the photo above were planted from seeds I took from our last house.

Why did you choose this name for your character?

I like unusual character names, and I love plants and flowers. It just worked out to combine the two!

In your novel, Lark enjoys jogging to ward off her stress. Do you also find exercise helps you cope? How do you make yourself go to the gym? Do you have any tips for the rest of us?

When I wrote about Lark jogging, I hadn’t started running. I’d always wanted to, but didn’t think I’d be any good and hadn’t ever tried. I’m a runner now, but I’m fairly new.

When the antidepressants stopped working for the postpartum depression, the doctor suggested hardcore exercise. And I hated this idea. Everyone else at the gym was probably skinny and knew what they were doing — and I had baby-weight and varicose veins. I had no business being there. But the drugs weren’t working and my depressed face-planting on the carpet wasn’t working out so well, so I committed.

I made myself go to the gym and exercise every single day — even though I couldn’t stand it — for six weeks. And then I noticed that I liked it. After that, I let myself go just four times a week if I wanted to, and if it felt like it was enough to keep me sane — but oddly, I usually wanted to go more frequently than that.

Now I still go because I want to. I don’t feel like I’m myself if I skip for very long. That’s all the motivation I need. (And I like to work out at home or go for a run or try other gyms. Not being tied to one location helps). But whatever motivation YOU need? Give it to yourself.

If you want to schedule it so you watch Project Runway while you’re on the treadmill, go for it. Whatever works, within reason, is worth it. Before long, you won’t need to be so creative. But don’t let yourself think, like I did, that you don’t belong or you’re not good enough, or you’ll never fit in with the skinny group. I have social anxiety issues, can you tell?

Oh! And make yourself try a class! I like almost all of them. I’m not coordinated enough for Step classes, but am not above making a total fool of myself in a Zumba class or dropping the barbell on my foot in a weightlifting class. Gyms are full of dorks like me, so it turns out, I fit right in. (And I did get skinny! And sane. Okay, well, no, that’s a total lie, but sane for ME, and I even wear shorts. Short ones!)

I read in ParentLife magazine that you’ve found blogging to be a good way to share your faith. In your four years of writing online, what has been the most positive aspect of blogging?

Overall, the most positive moments have also been the hardest. Our 16-year-old daughter has been a challenge to raise, and we’ve had a heartbreaking four years of placing her in various residential treatment centers and trying to navigate through her psychological/emotional/mental issues and stay strong (and safe) as a family. Sometimes we’ve been successful, and at others we haven’t.

My heart aches for the parents in similar situations who find me by googling various diagnoses their children have been given, and we often end up in long, tearful but supportive email exchanges. None of that happens on my website where people see it — it’s a behind-the- scenes operation that can be emotionally draining, time-consuming, and a wonderfully precious way to tell a mom or a dad, “You are not alone. And you will be okay. I have lived through this and so will you. There is life on the other side of this.”

I remember all too well those dark, hopeless periods of parenting her, and these people often write from that same desperate place — and are stunned at finding someone who understands what no one else in their life has understood. They’re good parents. They’re trying their hardest, and they’re falling apart by the time I hear from them. Those conversations are often divinely timed and inspired.

I’m honored at the way God uses my little website to bless these sweet, depleted parents. I had no idea that sort of thing would ever happen, much less, regularly. But it does, and those exhausted, often misunderstood parents are dear to me in a way I find difficult to explain. Their stories are mine as well — one I don’t often write about except in my emails to these dear strangers.

Kelsey, you have an amazing ministry. Keep it up! Who knew blogging humorous slice-of-life stories would put you on the front lines encouraging battle-weary parents?

Now, back to your fiction writing, do you have plans to write any mom-lit in the future?

Yes, well, maybe. In theory. But you know what always stops me? It feels weird to create children’s characters that are wonderful that I want to spend time with, and yet they’re not my own children. Characters become so real to me, it feels disloyal in a sense.

All the best parts of my male leads come straight from my husband, so I’ve never felt conflicted there. One day I’ll resolve that in my head and make it work. I adore writing about kids and what they say and how they think — I just haven’t transferred that over to fiction yet!

I hope you will someday! In closing, do you have any advice for moms who desire to write with a house full of kids, dogs, cats, and piles of laundry?

You can do it. It doesn’t matter if it’s good. It’s YOURS. And just because of that, it has value and so it’s worth the effort. If you want to write, you really, really, really should. If it’s for an audience one day, great! If it’s not, that’s just as great! Your thoughts and ideas and creativity deserve an outlet, and if writing is the one you choose, I applaud the choice.

Don’t let the kids, pets, and laundry be your excuses not to do it. I wrote entire book-length manuscripts while breastfeeding babies and perfecting the One-Handed Because I’m Holding a Baby ALL THE TIME And Look — There’s One On My Boob Now Isn’t He CUTE Typing Style.

It can — and should — be done, regardless of children, laundry, or other bits of Life. My mom once gave me the book Anybody Can Write, by Roberta Jean Bryant. I recommend it.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, Kelsey! You’ve offered us so many great ideas. I think we’re all ready to lasso our next challenge. Yee-ha!

Be sure to visit Kelsey Kilgore’s website and Holy Mama blog, where she rounds up her highly entertaining tales of motherhood and occasional recipes involving pine nuts.

June 9, 2010

I’ve posted over at Young Ladies Christian Fellowship today — please come visit!

This is a wonderful organization where my sister-in-law writes and edits. I’ve posted on the topic, Sharing Your Heart as a Devotional Writer. If you know any teen writers, I’m offering a few good writing tips for them!

June 7, 2010

I’ve been browsing through some of my favorite writing books recently, as I’m trying to make the transition from writing nonfiction to fiction. I wanted to share with you one of my favorites, Bird by Bird. If you’ve never read this book, you’re in for a treat!

Below is the review I wrote for Amazon, in 2005:

I absolutely love this book. I wish I could have read it years ago when I was in college, laboring through my English major, taking myself way too seriously. It should be required reading for everyone who is fascinated with words on a page.

It’s the kind of book you keep along beside your dictionary and thesaurus, and whatever else you keep as a reference. It helps just knowing that Anne is there, between the pages, poking fun at you as you agonize over a first draft. You look at her book cover, and you know what she’s thinking, what she’d tell you if she were sitting beside your computer.

“Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t — and, in fact, you’re not supposed to — know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing,” she writes.

Before I read BIRD BY BIRD, I always had this fear of getting started with a story. Well, I guess I still do, but at least I know Lamott’s take on it. I love research, gathering information and quotes. I love talking to people about what they’re passionate about, people I interview for a story. And the books! And underlined sentences! And articles and papers and poems and scriptures and movies and spilled cups of coffee. Just one more thing, I tell myself. Then I’ll start…

After reading this book, I know it’s okay to feel that way, but the way to write is just to get something on paper. At some point in life, you have to move beyond your private journal to connect with an audience because there’s someone out there who may understand you, and you’ll never know if you don’t try.

Lamott tells her writing students on the first day of class that “good writing is about telling the truth.” She says “an author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean. Aren’t you?”

That’s all we can do as writers, is to keep trying to tell our versions of the truth, as we move around in our little worlds surrounded by the Truth.

The title of the book, BIRD BY BIRD, came about from an episode in her brother’s life. He’d put off starting a report on birds, which was due the next day at school. Surrounded by books, paper, pencils, and “immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead,” her brother had sunk into despair. Then Anne’s father sat down next to him, put his arm around her brother’s shoulder and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

That’s a magnificent philosophy for anything, for life. Take it slowly, one step at a time. I think I could sit here and quote every page of this book, but if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go start reading it through again.

(Thank you, Lauren, for telling me about it!)

Note: This book does contain profanity, which might be offensive to some readers.

June 4, 2010

According to several writing circles, the month of June has been declared “Cecil Murphey Appreciation Month.” If the teaching and writing ministries of Cecil Murphey have touched you in any way, please announce this to your friends and send him a note of thanks!

Cecil Murphey is one of the most gifted and prolific Christian writers I know. He’s authored over 100 books and teaches at inspirational writing conferences around the world. Several of his books have become bestsellers, though he’s often telling someone else’s story. One of his specialties is ghostwriting.

Have you heard of the book, 90 Minutes in Heaven? It’s the story of Don Piper, who survived an auto accident and lives to tell his incredible experiences. On the cover of the book, you’ll notice it says “By Don Piper, with Cecil Murphey.” Cec is the writer who helped Don Piper shape his story into the book that it is. He interviewed Don and wrote his story, which has become a New York Times bestseller.

Another of his well-known books is Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. This book was recently made into a movie, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. Two more of his ghostwritten books that I enjoyed reading include Rebel With a Cause (Franklin Graham’s life story) and Touchdown Alexander.

Cecil Murphey leads a fascinating life as a writer, getting to interview so many interesting people. I’ve been blessed to hear Cec speak several times. When I first heard him, it was at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers’ Conference. I wondered who in the world he was because when he walked up to the podium, everyone stood up and started screaming and clapping, “CEC! CEC!” before a word even came out of his mouth. I thought this must be someone really important.

During that speech, Cec’s first words were “I’ve received over 900 rejections in my life as a writer.” Then he paused. “But I’ve published over 100 books.” He encouraged all of us in attendance to not be afraid to submit our work, that rejections were part of the writing journey, even for successful authors.

I went to another conference through American Christian Writers where Cec Murphey was the keynote speaker. I attended four or five of his workshops and asked him a million questions about the writing life. He has been a great mentor to me.

God has blessed Cec Murphey’s writing ministry financially, and every year he gives away thousands of dollars in scholarships for writers. Right now, you have until July 1 to apply for a scholarship to attend the Write His Answer conference in Philadephia. You can keep up with his news on his Writer to Writer blog.

All of us here in the blogosphere rise up and applaud Cecil Murphey for his gifts of teaching and writing. Thank you, Cec!

June 3, 2010

Do you make excuses about exercise? I do. I’m still trying to get consistent. When I work out, I feel great — yet the next day, I find myself making excuses. Here are my top ten — can you add any?

1. I’m too busy. I’ve got a meeting, a deadline, an appointment, can’t squeeze it in.
2. It’s raining. When it stops, I’ll go.
3. It’s too hot. When it cools off, I’ll go take a walk.
4. I’ve already taken my shower today — better wait and exercise tomorrow.
5. I’m running late, and the step class already started. Oh well. I’ll be on time tomorrow.
6. I’m not in the mood. I’m sure I’ll be in the mood tomorrow.
7. I’m having a stressful day. I won’t be as stressed-out tomorrow. Then I can exercise.
8. My (fill in the blank) hurts. I better take it easy today, so I won’t overdo it.
9. I hate working out alone. I need someone to work out with me.
10. I got winded walking to the mailbox — doesn’t that count for exercise?

Do any of these sound familiar? My #1 excuse is that I’m too busy. Yet when I work out, I have more energy and can accomplish more in less time. How about you? What’s your biggest excuse?

Note: I found this list archived on Blisstree. I wrote this in 2006, when I was the “Lively Women” blogger for b5 media.

By: Heather Ivester in: Wellness | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

June 1, 2010

I reviewed this book nearly five years ago on Amazon, and I don’t think I’ve ever posted it here. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is still in print, and I noticed it’s garnered 549 reviews, from 1996 to 2010. WOW. I’d call this book a success from both author and publisher standpoint. Many books barely stay in print 3 years, much less garner hundreds of reviews over a 14-year time period.

Educating your child never goes out of style.

I used this method to teach three of my children to read, and I was thinking about pulling it off the shelf this summer just for something fun to do with my five-year-old. I’m a lot more laid back than I was a decade ago. Now I think … what’s the rush?

Parents feel so much pressure to help their kids get an early start in reading … but kids need to be active and healthy more than anything. Let them run, jump, explore, play, dig, swim, touch, slide, kick! I see so many children with eyeglasses now — I’m wondering if all this early reading push might be straining their eyesight. I even saw a commercial recently where a mother was teaching her baby to read before it could even talk. WHY??!!

But if your child is showing signs of reading readiness, here’s a good way to go about the process. So, without further ado, here’s my Amazon review, published in September 2005:


I’m using this book to teach my third child how to read, so I think it’s high time I wrote a review of it. Parents, this is the only book you need to get started on the most important skill they’ll ever learn. And YOU can be the one to teach them!

There are lots of fancy-schmancy phonics programs with bells and whistles — and games and prizes and treasure chests and eight million little stickers and tiny books to keep up with. If you like all that, and need all that, then more power to you. I can barely keep up with everything else I have going on, much less a complicated method of teaching my child to read.

Simplify your life, and just get started. For less than 20 bucks, you’ll have your child well on his or her way to reading.

OK, the title is a little misleading. It’s not EASY, by any means. Especially if you have an active four-year-old boy. Let him do his lessons standing up, lying on the floor, jumping up and down the stairs, out in the yard — he’s active, and let his gross motor skills be used while he’s learning. It takes 10 minutes of super-focusing — but in between the different parts of each lesson, let your child move around. You want him to love reading!

Also, don’t feel like you have to do the writing task of each lesson. My girls love to write, so this was fun for them. But I skipped it with my son until he was more ready to hold a pencil. Actually, we did some lessons out in the driveway, with a fat piece of chalk. He had a great time and usually ended up drawing a whole train system or town after we finished his lesson.

It works. It really does. And it’s amazing to be sitting next to your child the first time they learn to read the word, “see.” Or “mom.” (“Mom! I just read the word ‘mom!'” they’ll say.) It’s something you’ll always remember doing together.

You don’t have to be a reading teacher. You don’t need any special skills or experience. You read the script in red print. You stay on task. And you finish the lesson. Then you praise your child and tell her how smart and wonderful she is!

With each of my kids, we made a VERY SIMPLE chart that had 100 squares on it. I just used a ruler and made some lines and put numbers in them — didn’t even use the computer. It took 5 minutes. Then, after we did a lesson, I let the child put a sticker over the number. Any kind of sticker. All those hodge-podge sheets of stickers you end up with — they work great for a reading chart.

I let each child pick a reward they wanted to receive when they finished all 100 of the lessons. That gave them great incentive to get through the whole book.

For extra practice, I recommend the Bob books, which you can see listed on this site. Kids love these books — they’re adorable. Scholastic makes a good set of beginner readers as well. But you don’t need anything else besides this one book — the little Bob readers can just help reinforce.

As a busy parent, this is one of the most enjoyable things you’ll ever do with your child. But don’t feel like you have to rush — do a few lessons, and if you need to take a break, then do. I highly recommend Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s BETTER LATE THAN EARLY if you’re the type to freak out that your three-year-old can’t write his ABC’s. Too many parents push their children and ruin their eyesight at a young age.

Have fun watching the light go on!