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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 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 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!

May 13, 2010

Hello. My name is Heather, and I’m a Book Blogger.

I just wanted to write that to see how it looked. I’ve introduced myself in many ways, but never as a “book blogger.” Apparently, there are lots of us, tons of us in fact, who blog about books, and now there’s even a convention full of people who will be meeting together to discuss blogging about books.

Here are a few of the topics that will be presented:

* Professionalism/Ethics
* Marketing
* Author/Blogger Relationships
* Social Responsibility
* Writing/Building Content

I would love to be there, but since it’s May 28 in New York City, alas, I won’t. That’s the last day of school for us, and I’ll be busy loading up kids and the contents of their newly cleaned-out lockers.

If YOU would like to go, I hope you can, and I hope you have a great time. You can read all the details here. Admission to the Book Blogger Convention also allows you access to roam the celestial BEA (Book Expo America), which is billed as “the largest publishing event in North America.” Here’s a rundown of all the exciting events going on for children’s book authors, editors, publishers, agents, booksellers, and other people crazy about kid lit.

I would like to be a fly on the wall for the session entitled “Speed Dating with Children’s Authors” (for booksellers only).

Are you in a book club? Here’s a contest where you can spread the word about your ten favorite books, and maybe even win a prize in the process!

Reading Group Guides is hosting a contest in honor of their tenth anniversary. From the website:

We know what book clubs do best — the discussion of great books and great authors among readers who often become great friends, or at least feel connected by their passion for books. Through the years we know book groups have discussed books that have motivated, moved, inspired and just made for great conversation.

In honor of our 10th anniversary, we’re looking for your book group’s Top 10 Favorite Discussion Books. Share them with us and you will be entered to win one of FIFTY (50) gift certificates worth $200.

Consider this a chance for your group to buy a month’s worth of your discussion books — on us! The gift certificate can be for your group or you can opt to donate your prize to the library, school or other organization of your choice.

Hey, the contest opened up only a couple of days ago, and ends August 31, 2010. So you’ve got plenty of time to mull over your list, and get everyone in your group to enter. Then you’ll have more of a chance of winning $200 worth of free books. Details are here.

Reading Group Guides will use these contest entries to compile a list of the Top 10 Most Popular Titles. What a great idea — I’ll be eagerly awaiting this news.

I’ve been in so many “book clubs” over the years, though they’re often called “Bible studies” or “parenting groups.” I don’t know what I would have done when I became a new mom 14 years ago if I hadn’t been able to join a parenting group through my church. We met and discussed books on how to grow spiritually as moms and wives.

I learned more from the women in my group than from the books themselves, to be honest. One older woman, who had grown kids, let us meet in her beautiful, clean home once a week. She organized childcare in another home around the corner, where we paid $1 for a homeschooled teen to watch our babies. Oh, relief, joy, to be out of the house around other moms.

As the years have gone by, I’ve been in other groups where we’ve discussed Francine Rivers’ novels, Beth Moore Bible studies, and plenty of other books that give us women an excuse to get together and chat, unload, share, and eat good food.

I’m not in a book club right now because I’m mostly reading children’s novels (connecting with my kids) and books I’m weirdly drawn to for some reason or other (currently, Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel.) I would love to hold a book club in my home someday with my kids and their friends. Maybe I will, now that I’ve taken the time to blog about it.

I guess I do hold my own nightly book club when I read out loud to my preschooler and first grader. Funny, how their siblings always lurk around the corner when they hear us reading out loud together, laughing. They don’t want to admit that they still enjoy a good picture book. I don’t think I’m any happier than when I’ve got kids piled all over me listening to stories. Last night, it was The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss (again), because we’re fresh out of library books. Time to make another library run.

Now, here’s an article you MUST READ if you struggle with insomnia. If you don’t fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, it may be because you’re brain is still wide awake from your ipad, computer screen, or TV.

Here’s what the expert says:

“I wish people would just take a boring book — an old-fashioned book — and [read] by a lamp. Make sure that it’s not too bright — just so you can read,” said Alon Avidan, associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at UCLA. “And if they do that, I think they’ll feel a lot better and they’ll be able to relax.”

See? We Book Clubbers have known all along that the best way to get a good night’s sleep is to read a chapter or two of our favorite book. Unless, of course, it’s something that we want to blog about, then it can be hard to turn off that voice in our head. Know what I mean?

By: Heather Ivester in: Books,Parenting | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

May 4, 2010

I’m happy today to share with you some exciting news! Gina Holmes, one of my long-time blogging buddies, is releasing her first book this month! It’s called Crossing Oceans, published by Tyndale House. Gina has become a well known writer in the Christian book publishing world through her influential literary blog, Novel Journey. I enjoyed sharing a meal with Gina back in 2007 at the Christy Awards, held in Atlanta. She has definitely been an inspiration to me!

Welcome, Gina! Your blog, Novel Journey, grew out of your own journey to become a published author. Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?

I’ve been writing toward the goal of publication for something like ten years. I had written four manuscripts that haven’t been published before this one, Crossing Oceans, was contracted. I’ve had lots of rejections and near misses along the way, but I’m so grateful for all of it. Crossing Oceans is my best piece of writing to date and a story I’m so very proud to debut with.

And thanks for mentioning Novel Journey. It has been a labor of love, not just for me, but for the whole Novel Journey team. It’s a great place for readers to discover new authors and for writers to connect and learn. And unlike most things in life, it’s a completely free resource.

As you reviewed novels and talked to a lot of novelists who have had varying degrees of commercial success, was there ever a “dark night of the soul” where you decided this just wasn’t what you thought it was going to be, just wasn’t worth pursuing?

Not worth pursuing? No way! There are so many worthy stories to tell, and it’s my burning desire to do that. Not to say that I didn’t have fleeting moments of despair along the way, particularly when I came close to getting a contract, only to see it fall through at the last minute. But those moments really were fleeting, and I knew God’s timing would be perfect … and it was.

You’ve written several as-yet-unpublished novels, all of them in a completely different genre—thriller/suspense. Crossing Oceans is quite a departure. Do you prefer or find your voice more easily in one or the other?

I grew up reading suspense, so naturally that’s what I thought I should write. I did okay with it and got some recognition in a contest and came close to getting contracted, but ultimately none of those suspense novels ever sold. Then I started reading some really amazing novels outside the suspense genre, and it was like another world opened up to me. It was no longer a thriller I longed to write, but a story that would change lives the way the books I read had changed mine.

When I started Crossing Oceans, I presented it along with a suspense novel I was working on to my agent, Chip MacGregor. I asked which one he thought suited me better. He told me both were good, but that Crossing Oceans seemed more like my true voice, or something to that effect.

It turned out to be a turning point and absolutely the right advice. I’m now writing what comes naturally and absolutely loving it. Chip’s a genius.

How did the idea for Crossing Oceans come to you?

I’m not exactly sure where the idea came from, but when I write, I’m usually working out something in my personal life, past or present. Often it’s not until the story is done that I figure out exactly what.

I think with Crossing Oceans it probably was my relationship with my parents. They divorced when I was a baby. For the first years of my life, I was with my mother, and then when I was in second grade, I went to live with my father. I know what it’s like to be torn, like Isabella, between two families who don’t always like each other but who all love the child they share. Then again, maybe I wasn’t working out anything! Maybe I just fell asleep watching something about a dying mother, and woke up thinking I had a brilliant idea.

Do you ever find your Christian worldview a challenge to convey in your writing or as you communicate with other novelists in the industry?

It’s not difficult to convey in my writing, I don’t think. At least not today. Hey, I’m a sinner. I wish I weren’t and I try not to be, but I always seem to fall short. It’s the same for my characters.

The thing with me, and them, is we get back up, dust ourselves off, and try to do better next time. My faith, in all its imperfection, isn’t lip service. It’s who I am. What I believe. That comes out in my conversations, my choice of clothing, music, friends, and in my writing. It’s very natural for me.

As far as other novelists go, I guess it’s not a challenge. I’m a Christian and not everyone’s going to agree with what I do, or what I write, or what I believe, and that doesn’t matter. My mother said when I turned forty that I would stop caring so much what people thought and really start being who I am. I’m almost there and, as usual, she was right. I would say that in my personal life, everyone who truly knows me is well aware that I’m a Christian. I don’t hide it in my professional life either.

Thank you so much for visiting us here, Gina! We wish you the best with your debut novel and look forward to seeing what’s next in your career!

You can learn more about Gina Holmes at her personal website and also see all the fun things she’s up to at Novel Journey. Here’s a picture of me and Gina hanging out together at the Christy Awards in 2007.

Blogging buddies meet!

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

April 20, 2010

It’s spring here in Georgia, and our gorgeous dogwoods and azaleas are sending me out into the yard with my clippers, snipping a frenzy of bouquets to spruce up our home. I’m not at all a gardener, but our house rests on property where generations before me still share their love of natural beauty.

If you’re like me and love flowers, then I must tell you about a new young adult book I recently read by Amy Brecount White. It’s called Forget-Her-Nots and shares the story of 14-year-old Laurel’s blossoming realization that she has a supernatural gift of being able to communicate through flowers.

As I read this book, I felt the author to be one of those few kindred spirits I have in this world. She has a fantastic love of literature and her depth of knowledge blew me away. After reading the book, I wanted to know more about her, and I was thrilled when she agreed to answer a few of my questions.

I hope you enjoy meeting Amy Brecount White and will visit her website to learn more about what she’s up to.

Welcome, Amy! How did you get the idea to write a book about the Victorian language of flowers?

It was a combination of factors. I was freelancing a lot of non-fiction articles and always on the lookout for new story ideas. I came across a beautiful coffee table book on tussie-mussies, which are symbolic Victorian bouquets. Although I tried to sell an article on this topic, I never did.

Later, I went to hear author Toni Morrison speak, and she advised aspiring writers to “write the story that only you can write.” That struck a chord with me, and I started to think about my loves and what I cared about most. Flowers, teenage girls (since I’d taught at an all-girls school), literature, and relationships.

I hope you can see all my loves in Forget-Her-Nots.

Oh, yes definitely! That was great advice from Toni Morrison, and I think it’s what makes your book so unique. Are you anything like your main character, Laurel?

Yes, although I don’t have the gift of flowers, I do have a very sensitive nose and adore flowers and gardening. I think all characters have something of their author in them too, even the mean ones. I also coach my daughter’s soccer team and used to play myself.

I’m not surprised to hear that you’re an experienced soccer player and coach! I really enjoyed jumping right into the game with Laurel since I’ve been a soccer mom for several years (though never a player!) Amy, Can you tell us more about how you became so interested in tussie-mussies, which play such an integral role in the plot of your novel?

It came from the book I mentioned earlier and a lot of research into the language of flowers and Shakespeare’s use of flowers. There isn’t a definitive language, but the list in the back of my book contains the most common meanings associated with flowers throughout Western culture. I would love to explore flower mythology and meanings from Eastern cultures — especially India, China, and Japan — in a future novel.

Do you ever send anyone these little bouquets of flowers?

Yes. Before the idea of Forget-Her-Nots was born, a friend and neighbor of mine had ovarian cancer, so I made her a bouquet with flower messages for her health, hope, and strength. I wished so much that it would come true, and that was one of the seeds that led me to write my novel.

I’ve also created a tussie-mussie out of photos of flowers for a niece who lives too far away to send fresh ones.

That’s a great idea, sending a digital bouquet to someone you love. What is your favorite flower?

I love all flowers, but I adore gardenias for their sweet scent and loveliness. Bleeding hearts, lilacs, and dogwoods are other favorites, as they are all blooming in my yard right now.

Oh, I’m sure your yard must be beautiful! As we’re approaching Mother’s Day next month, what flowers would you recommend for a pretty Mother’s Day “tussie mussie?”

I recommend any combination of these flowers and herbs that would smell lovely, and don’t forget to include a card deciphering the meaning of the flowers.

Rosemary – I’ll remember you always.

Sage – I esteem you and all you do for me.

Gardenia – To “transport” you to a place where you’ll be ecstatic.

Fennel – You are worthy of all praise.

White bellflowers – I’m so grateful for all you do.

Irises – To send my message to you.

These are all so lovely, and most should be blooming or available easily around Mother’s Day.

You’ve inspired me to really give careful thought to the meaning of flowers! Back to your novel, was this story based on actual people or places?

I tried to stay true to the countryside and architecture around Charlottesville, Virginia, but there’s no Avondale school there, and I’ve never attended boarding school. I also used historical details about orchid hunters, Charlotte de Latour, and Mt. Kinabalu. Everything else is a product of my over-active imagination!!

Did you ever sneak around like Laurel reading really old books about the secret language of flowers?

Oh! Fun question. I wish. When I was her age, I did stay awake long after I was supposed to be, reading a good book under the covers. In fact, I still stay up too late reading, but I don’t have to hide it anymore. I just have to drink more coffee or green tea the next day. 😉

Are there really people known as “Flower Speakers?”

You never know…. Truly, I think anyone who gives flowers to another person in a spirit of love and good will speak the language. You can lift another person’s mood for days by giving her or him flowers. (This was proven in a study at Rutgers University.)

What do you hope readers will gain from reading Forget-Her-Nots?

My Publisher’s Weekly review said I had “a reverence for the natural world,” which thrilled me. I definitely hope that all my readers young to older will look at flowers differently and see how truly amazing they are. Also, most of my stories are intergenerational and emphasize our connectedness through the generations. I hope young readers see that especially.

Do you have any advice for moms who are trying to take care of their families while also squeezing in a little time to write?

Yes. I freelanced for newspapers (The Washington Post) and magazines (FamilyFun, Washingtonian, Notre Dame Magazine) when my three kids were younger. It was very satisfying to do the research, write the piece, and see it published in a relatively short time. So much we do as moms is repetitive and never-ending. So I would advise budding writers to take on some short projects first. Try your local newspaper or parenting magazine.

I’d also advise you to go easy on yourself and be happy if you write a little bit every day. Definitely always carry a notebook. Some of my best inspiration came on playgrounds!

This is very thoughtful advice, Amy! I’m sure many moms out there can relate to jotting down story ideas on the playground. How do you manage to spend time with your kids and still be a productive writer?

If I’m on a tough deadline, I wake up at 5 or 5:30 and write for a while before I have to get the kids out the door. Then the rest of the day seems to go more smoothly. If you want to do both, you can’t ever have writers’ block. No time!

So I’d always write notes to myself at the end of my writing time about where to start next. I’d give myself a concrete problem to solve or scene to write, so I could start immediately. I often wrote in snatches, meaning an hour here and there. Some writers think they need hours, but writing during nap time or quiet time works well, if you’ve given yourself a specific and doable task.

Also, you have to be able to walk by the pile of smelly laundry and crumby counter and focus on writing. I throw laundry in when I need a break, but try to do most of the housework after my working hours. Now my kids are in school all day, so that helps.

Wow. You make running a home seem compatible with carving out a writing life. These are such great ideas! Are you working on another book now?

Yes, it’s called String Theories. It’s about a 14-year-old girl who gets in over her head, the physics of relationships, a stream, and getting even. It’s a little edgier than the first one, so I’d recommend for ages 14 and up.

I’m sure it will be fantastic. Thanks so much for visiting us here at Mom 2 Mom Connection, Amy! We wish you the best with your writing endeavors and look forward to seeing your next book!

Thanks so much and thanks for hosting me!

You’re welcome!

Note: Special thanks to Susan Salzman Raab and the other fine folks at Raab Associates in NYC for introducing me and everybody here to Amy Brecount White and her books.

April 15, 2010

Our family spent spring break visiting Asheville, North Carolina, and it turned out to be somewhat of a literary tour for me. As always, I’m drawn to anything related to books, and so I wanted to share with you my fascination with George Washington Vanderbilt’s astonishing library in his former personal home, Biltmore Estates.

The library contains over 10,000 books, although we learned that Vanderbilt’s original collection contained over 23,000 volumes. He was an avid reader and book collector, and our tour guide said Vanderbilt was once known as “the best read man in America.” Wouldn’t you have loved being one of his guests? Biltmore is known as the largest home in America, with over 250 rooms, including 43 bathrooms. (My children were particularly interested in that detail because we all have to share in our house. No fair.)

I was completely in awe, and my oldest daughter and I had to tour the house two days in a row to make sure we didn’t miss anything. If you have a chance to visit, I highly recommend that you spend the extra $10 to listen to the audio tour. It’s worth every penny if you love stories, and Biltmore is a home full of stories! We especially loved hearing tales about the lavish banquets and house parties. The house originally opened in 1895 for a Christmas Eve party.

Behind the library’s chimney, on the second floor, is a secret door and passageway which Vanderbilt designed for the use of his guests. This allowed them to slip downstairs, perhaps in their nightcaps, and select a bedtime book to read without having to descend the grand spiral staircase in the center of the home. How thoughtful!

Many of Vanderbilt’s guests were writers, including Henry James and Edith Wharton. On the ceiling is a painting by Venetian artist Pellegrini, entitled, “The Chariot of Aurora.” I really could have spent a week in that one room alone, though of course visitors aren’t allowed to touch any of the books. Still, what a place to dream.

Our second literary stop came as a bit of a surprise because I got so caught up in the glory of Biltmore and the Blue Ridge mountains, I didn’t do enough research before the trip.

While there, we discovered that Asheville is the homeplace of author Thomas Wolfe, whose famous novels include Look Homeward Angel, Of Time and the River, The Web and the Rock, and You Can’t Go Home Again. I haven’t read any of these books, but I’ve now got Look Homeward Angel on reserve at the library because I’m so curious as to what caused such a stir in Asheville when it was first published in 1929. It was autobiographical, based on his life in a boarding house called “Old Kentucky Home,” where he lived with his mom and their boarders (pictured below).

We visited the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, which showed a wonderful short movie about his life, as well as exhibits that included Wolfe’s desk and typewriter from his apartment in New York. I was struck by how uncomfortable his chair looked, imagining him sitting there for hours a day, composing his novels and short stories. His editor, Max Perkins at Scribner, also worked with Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

We were sad to learn that Wolfe died 18 days short of his 38th birthday — so he got all his life’s work done by age 37. Amazing. I found it interesting to note that Thomas Wolfe was born in 1900, the same year Cornelia Vanderbilt was born at Biltmore, only daughter of George and Edith Vanderbilt. (She had quite a big house to ramble around in.)

Having fun yet? OK, our last stop on this brief literary tour of Asheville is only a temporary one. We visited the CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG exhibit at the Health Adventure Museum at Pack Place. If you have kids, you must visit this museum, especially on a rainy day (like we did). We spent about four hours in that place, all thoroughly entertained. My older kids and husband spent the entire time upstairs in the Mindbender Mansion doing all sorts of brainy exercises, while my 5-year-old daughter and I hung out with Clifford.

What fascinated me most about Clifford is that I never thought much about Clifford as a character in literature. Yet there was a small exhibit about the book’s author, Norman Bridwell, and I’ll never look at those books the same again. His first Clifford book was published in 1962, and there are now over 160 titles in the series, with over 100 million copies in print. I think I’d consider him a successful author!

My kids, at various times, have all loved the Clifford books, and his big red dogness has helped me many times keep my eyelids propped open during late night story reading. We enjoyed watching a little movie about Norman Bridwell, who is an older man now, talking about how his drawings came to life. The setting for the Clifford books is the island of Birdwell, based on the author’s home at Martha’s Vineyard. PBS created the television series based on the books in 2000. Any parent of a preschooler will be able to recognize the sound of Clifford’s theme song coming on TV. (That’s when we all jump in the shower, right?)

I entered the world of Clifford and spent a happy time playing with my daughter, who will one day tell me she’s too old for Clifford books. I know this because it’s already happened with my four older kids.

Traveling with five children is an experience itself. My husband and I like to use the term “educational field trip” because the vacation really begins once the trip is over. But it was worth it.

I hope you enjoyed my little tour. I think I’m out of breath now.

March 23, 2010

Since I started blogging in 2005, I’ve been privileged to interview some really great people. Most of these interviews were conducted while I simultaneously typed and juggled a baby on my knee. I’ve been able to meet some of these writers in person at conferences, which is always fun.

I’ve updated the links here, so if you’re an author with a website or blog that links to one of these interviews, please update your link with my new web address. And drop me an email if you have a minute!

Claudine Aievoli, April 2007
Tracey Bateman, February 2007
Trish Berg, April 2007
Kristin Billerbeck, October 2006
Allison Bottke, August 2008 interview for Christian Women Online ezine
Barbara Cameron, November 2008 interview for Christian Women Online ezine
Colleen Coble, April 2006
Gina Conroy, May 2007
CJ Darlington, March 2010
Mary DeMuth, February 2006 (1), (2), September 2006
Jenn Doucette, February 2007
Dena Dyer, October 2006
Alyice Edrich, February 2006 (1), (2)
Suzie Eller, May 2006, October 2006
C. Hope Flinchbaugh, January 2007
Tricia Goyer, March 2007
Sheila Wray Gregoire, April 2007
Liz Curtis Higgs, January 2007 cover interview for Christian Women Online ezine
Ellie Kay, March 2007, interview for Christian Women Online ezine
Keri Wyatt Kent, April 2006
Christine Lynxwiler, April 2007
Dandi Daley Mackall, March 2007
Kathryn Mahoney, March 2006 (1), (2)
Randy Mortenson, November 2006
Kathryn Porter, January 2007
Deborah Raney, September 2006
Christy Scannell, April 2007
Donna Shepherd, May 2006 (1), (2)
Vonda Skelton, April 2006, March 2008
Susan Thacker, March 2006(1), (2)

By: Heather Ivester in: Books,Interviews | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

March 12, 2008

I’m thrilled to be hosting a special guest today, Vonda Skelton, a fellow writer who has become a dear friend!

I’ve met Vonda a couple of times at writer conferences, and we’ve bonded since we both love children’s books. And she’s a neighbor, right next door in South Carolina! I interviewed Vonda a couple of years ago here and here about her drama script writing and her series of children’s mystery books.

Recently, I had the privilege of reading Vonda’s Skelton’s first book for women, which was amazing. It’s called Seeing Through the Lies: Unmasking the Myths Women Believe, published by Regal. If you’re looking for a refreshing and challenging book for a women’s Bible study, I really loved this one! (And it’s FUNNY too — always a plus for me.)

Vonda has stopped in today to answer a few questions for us. After the interview, if you’ll take a minute to leave a comment, you’ll be entered in a great contest with awesome prizes!

Hi Vonda. Thanks for coming back to visit! Where did you birth the idea for your book, Seeing Through the Lies? How did it come about?

This book was written out of my passion for women’s ministry. We — not just women, but all of us — are deceived by so many lies! They are woven throughout today’s culture. I wanted to help us get focused, or in some cases, refocused, on the timeless truths of God’s Word.

I knew I could reach many more women through a book than I ever could reach through my speaking ministry. So, I started with the key points from my “Celebrating Womanhood” presentation, where we look at the seasons of a woman’s life and come to the conclusion that God can use each of us, no matter our age or situation.

After several revisions and rethinking the needs of women, Seeing Through the Lies was born.

Oh, I wish I could hear your presentation! I’m sure there are many of us who wonder how God can use us in the season we’re in. What takeaway points do you hope the reader pulls from this book?

I hope that after women read my book they’ll realize that Satan works hard to make us believe his lies, but this is what God wants you to know:

* Your worth is not dependent on your beauty, your busyness, or your stuff.
* A happy marriage is one that endures.
* Motherhood is an honorable profession.
* God has the power to overcome your fear.
* You win when you lose.
* Your life won’t be perfect until you reach perfection in heaven.
* You can’t win God’s love because of your goodness, and you can’t lose His love because of your sin. And that, dear sisters, is the truth.

Wow! These are really wonderful truths. Vonda, you’re a prolific writer, mother, and grandmother. How do you deal with your other obligations (family, job, church, etc.) when it’s crunch time near writing deadlines?

Did you have to ask that question? In all honesty, this is one of my biggest struggles — balancing my time between my husband, my family, my home, my church, and my writing and speaking ministry.

The truth is, my husband, Gary, is a dream husband. As I mentioned in the book, his mother made sure he knew how to cook, clean, change diapers, and iron long before we married.

AMAZING!! I’m taking notes now of things to be sure my sons know how to do.

And I know you’re not going to believe this, but I promise it’s true: I never have to ask him to take out the trash, fix the car, or pay the bills. (And no–you CAN’T have him! He’s MINE!) So on those days when he comes home from work at 6:30 and there’s no dinner on the stove and I’m still at the computer in my pajamas, he doesn’t say a word. He simply goes to the fridge, pulls out the sandwich makings and asks if I’ve eaten anything that day.

Can you tell I tend to get tunnel vision when it comes to crunch time? Yes, God has to rein me in over and over. I’m kinda like Paul, “I don’t know why I do the things I do!” (Now, if somebody out there could just tell me how to go to the potty without having to actually leave the computer — just think how much more I could accomplish in a day!)

You are SO funny, Vonda! That’s why you had me laughing out loud at your refreshing honesty in your book. I feel the same way about wanting desperately to find time to write, but needing to cook, do laundry, and clean my house — all at the same time.

Here’s another question for you — What’s your favorite worship song, and why?

One of my favorite songs is “Majesty” written by members of Delirious. The line that says, “Your grace has found me just as I am — empty-handed but alive in Your hand” just gets to me.

I can see myself standing before Holy God, falling to my knees … empty-handed, with nothing to offer Him. And yet, He takes me just as I am — selfish, self-centered, and proud — and cleans me up to be used by Him.

I can’t wait to get to heaven, ’cause I know that when I belt out the songs there, it will be beautiful! No off-key notes, no frightened, trembling voice — it’ll be loud and clear and powerful! And Jesus will be there, smiling at me. Yep. I can see it now. I’m the lead singer and Hillsong is backing me up. And Jesus is smiling real big.

As we say here in the South, it just don’t get no better than that!

Well said! Now since many of us here are trying to balance motherhood with a writing life, what kind of food or drink do you crave the most when you have writer’s stress?

Oh, a banana split always works, as long as it’s a real one. That means chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream, real fruit, and wet nuts, with whipped cream on top. And anything chocolate, of course. But then you have to balance it with salt, right?

Sounds delicious. I think I could use a banana split right now! Can you share something with us about what God has been teaching you lately?

He’s teaching me that I need to trust Him more. I recently had so many things going on that I couldn’t prepare for three events as thoroughly as I usually do.

I found myself feeling vulnerable, weak, and needy. Not that I don’t ask for His help every time I speak, but this was different. I was crying out to God, begging Him to fill me with His words, His message.

And you know what? Those three events were the most powerful, most amazing events I’ve ever had! Instead of working from a well-defined plan, I spoke the words God placed in my heart and mind. As always, I had been praying God would use the week’s events to change hearts … and He did. He changed mine.

I learned to relinquish my agenda and plans to His; to trust Him in a way I hadn’t truly trusted Him before. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

That week, God’s power was made perfect through my weakness. I never want to work in my strength again.

It sounds like your speaking ministry is helping the Lord reach thousands of women, as well as YOU! What are some of the lies or myths women tend to believe? And what are the best ways for women to see through the lies and unmask the myths, in order to live the lives God would have for them?

You mean, besides the one that says we have to be a size 2 and perpetually 23 years old?

HA! YES!! What about us real women who haven’t been a size 2 since we were in, say, junior high?

Besides the lies we’re most familiar with — like our worth is based on our beauty, our busyness, or our stuff — we look at nine areas of deceit women tend to struggle with, like the lies inadvertently promoted by the Christian community.

How many times have we been told, “Just believe God and everything will be wonderful?” Or “If you have enough faith, you won’t be sick.” (The truth is, Jesus tells us we will have trouble in this world.)

Or what about the lie that says we’ll get married and live happily ever after every day? The only way we can unmask the myths and find the truth is to go to God’s Word. Read His instruction. Take to heart the Bible stories of people who lived through similar experiences and then apply the principles to our own lives.

What are the effects of women being sucked in to the lies? And what are the benefits of overcoming this temptation to believe what the world and the enemy would want women to believe?

Regardless of where I go, I find that women are disappointed. We’re disappointed in ourselves, in our marriages, in our lives in general. The problem is, we’re trying to reach some impossible dream the world sets for us.

Living in truth frees us to be what God uniquely created us to be. He wants us to live the abundant life. But we can’t do that as long as we’re falling for the lies.

I like how you utilize humor in your writings. What is your philosophy about integrating humorous thoughts into writings that have more serious subjects?

Some people believe that Christian women speakers have somehow “arrived.” Ha! All you have to do is spend a day at my house and you’ll see that’s one of the biggest lies of all!

Let’s face it, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all struggling along this path called the Christian life. When we laugh at ourselves, we level the playing field and see that we’re not alone. That in itself removes a mask. Then we can move ahead to the truth God has for us.

You give great discussion questions at the end of the book that really helps readers assimilate what they have read. Do you have some ideas or suggestions for how churches and other groups can use this book in a group study? How would a group dynamic enhance individual growth?

For a long time, I compared myself to women at church … and always found myself lacking. But when we come together and honestly confess our hardships and celebrate our successes, we encourage each other in the struggle. Isn’t it great to have a team of prayer partners who will intercede on our behalf throughout the week?

What strength! What love! Oh, just imagine what we can be for Christ when we take off the masks and become real! By completing either one or two chapters a week, the study can be used as a 6 or 12 week study.

Vonda, this was a fantastic interview! Thank you so much for sharing your heart here and through your book. You’ve shared such wisdom with us all.


And now you — my wonderful readers here — have the opportunity to be placed in a drawing for a free gift selected just for you by Vonda. This is a GREAT prize!

If you can take a moment and leave a comment, you’ll be included in a drawing, which will be held on April 2, 2008. The winner will receive:

* Designer Gift Box (looks like a piece of luggage with the words “Faith, Family, Friends” on the exterior).
* One copy each of three books by the author: Seeing Through the Lies: Unmasking the Myths Women Believe, Bitsy and the Mystery at Amelia Island, Bitsy and the Mystery at Tybee Island.
* A stretchy bracelet with Sterling Silver Beads, Gold Swarovski Pearls, Turquoise and Blue Zircon Swarovski Crystals and Sterling Silver Masquerade Mask Charm.
* Bookmark custom-made with Sterling Silver Beads, Gold Swarovski Pearls, Turquoise, Blue Zircon and Clear Swarovski Crystals and Sterling Silver Masquerade Mask Charm on a 4.75 inch Silver Plated Bookmark.
* Gold Tri-fold picture frame.
* Pewter-colored oval picture frame.
* Jeweled decorated cross.
* Peanut caramel clusters.
* Caramel Truffles.
* Mini-Yankee Candle.
* Three-pack sample tea bags.
* Sample Columbian Supremo Coffee.
* Oh My! Itty Bitty Chai Packet.

Don’t those prizes sound like fun! And they’d also make great gifts for Mother’s Day, which will be here before you know it. Thanks, y’all!