Thursday, March 31, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
It seems that if you have a creative urge it will somehow manifest itself. I still get the urge to pull out my sewing machine, but I mostly want to put words together that will give someone pleasant entertainment or food for thought.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Today Tiff will discuss the importance of entering writing contests to build your career.
MD: There are all kinds of writing contests and several reasons to enter one. Tiff, how would you advise a writer about finding a good contest to enter?
TC: I think the most important thing to look for is what kind of feedback you’re going to get. Whether it’s a smaller contest with only one or two judges in a small local group, or whether it’s a large national writing group, the biggest benefit, especially for writers starting out, is that feedback and developing a thick skin. Once you’ve gotten to the place where you’re starting to get some interest in your writing, where you’re starting to develop in your craft and you’ve gotten requested fulls or partials, then it’s important to see who the final round judges are. That’ll help open the writing door.
MD: Writing contests are not for the faint of heart because writers receive unbiased feedback on their craft and storytelling abilities. I understand you’re judging a contest, 2011 MBT Frasier Contest. Can you tell us about that?
TC: The Frasier Contest is sponsored by My Book Therapy. I’m actually the coordinator of the Frasier contest, which means I oversee the entries and work with the judges. The score sheet alone, oh my goodness. The kind of instructions we give the judges, it’s one that gives feedback. The unique thing about the Frasier is that every judge is asked to find one thing that they really liked and to comment on that, in addition to the other critique comments.
MD: What’s the prize for the contest?
TC: The prize is a $500 scholarship (free tuition) to one of the My Book Therapy Retreats. What’s really great about it is these events are only about twenty writers, maybe. You work back and forth with Susie Warren (of My Book Therapy) for a couple of days, really building your craft and developing your writing.
It gives you the opportunity to get judging feedback, which is very important, but also if you win instead of just getting a plaque (which you do get) you also get the opportunity to work one-on-one and in a small group setting with a bestselling author of more than thirty books. It’s really very cool.
Thank you for letting me talk a little bit about the Frasier. The Frasier closes on March 31st. We’ve got a lot of great prizes for everybody. The awards ceremony will be at the pizza party during the ACFW conference this year. Being a writer myself and seeing the way the score sheet is put together and the way it’s built and the kind of heart that Susie has going into it, it’s a great contest for aspiring writers and I would definitely recommend people enter the contest.
MD: What’s the best reason for a writer to enter a contest?
TC: There’s a couple of reasons to enter. One of the best is practicing what it is to be a writer. Writers have to write on deadlines, writing contests offer deadlines. Writers have to open themselves up to critique and criticism. Writing contests definitely offer that. Writers have to get the eye of editors and agents. When you move into the final rounds of some of the larger contests that’s exactly what you get. Really what a writing contest does is train you for living the writing life.
MD: How will entering a contest boost a writer’s career?
TC: Writing contests can boost your career because you get a better read from the editors and agents. Even if your craft isn’t quite there in the opening pages, the editor and agent are required to read the entire piece. That gives you a few pages to make your sale instead of a few lines. If you’re a slow starter and an agent or editor is reading your piece and on page three the story really starts to grab them, you might have an open door to have them say either I’d really like to see more of this, or to say hey listen, your story starts at this point. Start it here and then see where you go.
MD: What’s the best attitude for a writer entering a contest?
TC: Don’t go in feeling like you’ve only succeeded if you win. The attitude to have is that you’re entering the contest to see what issues you consistently have in your writing, what areas need to improve. Contests give you an opportunity to get feedback from numerous people. While some people like to bemoan the fact that writing contests are subjective, I would like to present the truth of the writing industry. It’s all highly subjective, whether it’s an editor, an agent, or a reader. The feedback you receive is the real benefit. Don’t take on a confrontational or adversarial relationship with the judges. It’s not a competition of judges vs. authors. Keep that in mind when you’re evaluating your score sheet. Envision the score sheet and any comments being said with a loving voice and a smiling eye.
MD: How should a writer evaluate their contest score sheet?
TC: Do not take every single thing that every single judge says and change every single bit of your manuscript. That is a big fat no-no. You have a unique author’s voice. You’re not trying to transform yourself into a variety hodgepodge quilt of judges’ comments. What you are trying to do is see if there are consistent issues that are coming up time and again. Or, look at some of the feedback and see if something they said makes sense.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
GuidepostsBooks (March 1, 2011)
Erin MacPherson lives with her husband and their two adorable children in Austin, Texas. She was an editor and staff writer for the Nickelodean ParentsConnect website for years, where she spent hours each week researching pregnancy, talking to obstetricians and midwives, and giving out tips and advice to new and pregnant mamas.
Visit the author's website.
Filled with helpful tips, amusing anecdotes, and encouraging advice, here's one mama's take on everything pregnancy -- from stretch marks to weight gain to figuring out how to rely on our creator through all of the uncertainty and joy of the next nine months. Pregnant women may discover that while they are thrilled about the baby, pregnancy can be another thing entirely. Instead of glowing they're glistening. There's morning sickness. And suddenly a favorite pair of jeans no longer fits. Erin MacPherson has created a comprehensive guide that's packed with information that every newly pregnant mama needs including exercising while pregnant, a detailed guide to each trimester (including sleep, doctor check-ups, pregnancy sex), what to buy and not buy for your baby, how to use your Bible as your pregnancy resource, and how to use this time of waiting to really draw closer to God through prayer. Filled with helpful tips (how do you quell that not-just-in-the-morning sickness?), humorous accounts (doesn't everyone crave peanut-butter-and-olive sandwiches?), and supportive spiritual advice (what does a godly pregnancy attitude actually look like anyway?). The Christian Mama's Guide to Having a Baby has the advice a mama-to-be wants to hear. Erin MacPherson assures, 'at the end of nine months, you really will be glowing.'
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: GuidepostsBooks (March 1, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
You're Havin' a Baby!
The fact that you're reading this probably means you're pregnant. Yep. YOU are pregnant. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? If you thought your graduation day or your last birthday or even your wedding day was exciting and exhilarating and amazing, just wait until you hold your little bundle in your arms for the first time. The feeling is breathtaking. I get misty-eyed just thinking about it. That said, you have eight months (give or take) to wait before that misty-eyed moment so don't start packing your hospital bag yet.
I've always wondered how God created the heavens and the earth in seven short days and yet it takes nine long months to create a baby. Nine months. Seems like an eternity, doesn't it? I remember getting so irritated when people told me that my pregnancies would pass in the twinkle of an eye. They swore that I'd be holding my baby before I knew it. That's kind of hard to believe when you're carrying around twenty (er, thirty) extra pounds and gagging every time you catch a whiff of someone else's dinner.
But, really, your pregnancy will be over before you know it. In the meantime, you're probably going to need some girlfriend-to-girlfriend advice to get you from point A—the miserable, exhausted, growing-by-the-minute, gagging, vomiting and sweating point that you're most likely at right now, to point B—the glowing, ecstatic, sleep-deprived-but-you-don’t-care-at-all point that you'll be in less than forty weeks. And that's why I wrote this book.
I remember during my first pregnancy, the first thing I did after peeing on a stick was head to the bookstore to find a book that would keep me informed about what to expect (nausea, bloating and night waking) and what not to expect (a glorious time where I could eat unlimited amounts of ice cream while my husband massaged my feet). Not surprisingly, there were oodles of choices; there were pregnancy guides for new moms-to-be, old moms-to-be, young moms-to-be, and tall moms-to-be. There were pregnancy guides for dads-to-be and grandparents-to-be and second-cousins-to-be. But there was nothing for Christian moms-to-be. So, I did what any somewhat sane mother-of-two would do. I wrote my own Christian pregnancy guide.
The good news is that I’m not going to bore you with medical jargon. It's not that I don't like medical jargon (when I was pregnant, I loved reading books that told me all about the medical feats that my body was performing while growing a baby), but simply that I'm not a doctor. In fact, I don't have any medical training at all (unless you count the fact that I took—and passed—health education in high school). So, if you're looking for medical rhetoric and big-word-laden advice for a magical medical breakthrough that will quell your ever-present nausea and keep your weight gain to a minimum, this probably isn't the place.
But, while my medical expertise stops at "take some Tylenol and go lie down," I do have some pregnancy expertise. I've been pregnant twice. My sisters have all been pregnant. My friends have all been pregnant. Heck, a few months ago, my dog got pregnant. I've been surrounded by pregnancy nonstop for the past six years, and as I dealt with morning sickness and weight gain and decorating a nursery, I gleaned some pregnancy knowledge.
I also had horrible pregnancies. I know. I shouldn't be saying that to new moms-to-be, but for the sake of honesty, I'm going to throw it out there. I went through the ringer during my first pregnancy and swore up and down that I would never, ever survive and that if by some miracle I did survive I would never, ever, ever get pregnant again. Well, I survived. I fell in love with my baby and promptly got pregnant again. And you know what? I survived the second awful pregnancy too. And, if we're being honest, I'd take another pregnancy (or two)), God willing. In an instant.
You probably don't want to hear this right now, but it is worth it. Every time you gag. Every time you throw up into your mouth. Every pound you gain. Every sleepless night. All of it. It's worth it. Just wait. I promise that nine months from now, you're going to be e-mailing me and telling me I was right.
I won't say I told you so.
Getting Into the Pregnancy Groove
Being Pregnant and Loving It
You figured out how to actually get pregnant (go you!), now you have to figure out how to be pregnant. And contrary to popular belief, being pregnant isn't as simple as remembering to take your prenatal vitamins, which is a feat unto itself. Pregnancy is exhausting, exciting, exhilarating and stressful all at once, which means that you're going to be exhausted, excited, exhilarated and stressed for the next few months. Not an easy thing to be—especially when you're gaining weight at a rate of three pounds per week.
I hate to even say this to a pregnant woman, but the next few months might not be the best months of your life. (Sorry!) I think my biggest misconception about pregnancy was that I expected it to be easy. I thought I'd be bubbling with baby-growing joy for the entire nine months. Maybe that’s true for some people, but it wasn't the case for me. Pregnancy was hard. And stressful. And super-annoying at times. And I wrestled with emotions that I'm embarrassed to even admit. (But we'll get to that later.)
Interestingly, while I was trying to get a handle on the stress and emotions of pregnancy, I felt an overwhelming urge to draw closer to God. There's something about impending motherhood that makes a girl really reflect on who she is and who she wants to be. I knew that my future children needed a godly mother, and I knew that I fell (far) short of the mark. This caused me to spend a lot of time reflecting on the characteristics of godly mothers and how I could become one.
As Christian women, we have to live up to a pretty high standard. The legendary Proverbs 31 woman is gracious and kind and long-suffering and probably never snapped at her husband for leaving dirty clothes on the floor. I'm not even close. I find myself living in a daily battle to live up to God's standard for my life. I wake up praying that I'll live with patience and integrity throughout the day…and find myself losing my cool before breakfast.
Yet, at one of the most stressful, emotional and trying times of my life (my first pregnancy), God drew me closer to Him. I actually felt His presence as I spent time praying and reflecting on my baby and my future as a mother. It's comforting to hear His voice in a time of need and feel His presence when you're feeling your worst. And, hearing God's voice (and knowing he's there) is great motivation to have a godly attitude throughout pregnancy.
Of course, I was still the same old girl who couldn't seem to make it to breakfast without losing patience about something. (Have I mentioned the dirty laundry that is always left on the bathroom floor?) Still, God did show me that purposefully choosing to have a godly attitude resulted in me feeling closer to Him. That, in turn, allowed me to have a more gracious attitude about my pregnancies.
Sounds a bit trite, doesn't it? I mean, if it was all about choosing to smile through any situation then every day would be gumdrops and preggo-pops, right? Not exactly. But God does call us to be content in any circumstance (even morning sickness!), which means choosing to focus on the reasons we have to be grateful, even when it’s tempting to be grumpy.
And trust me, when I was pregnant, I had lots of reasons to be grumpy. But, I did strive to have an attitude of gratitude about my pregnancy. Here's how I did (and didn't) do it:
How to Get into the Pregnancy Groove
1. Get Yourself Pumped Up:
When I first got pregnant, I was giddy with excitement. And who wouldn't be? I was going to have a baby. I couldn't stop thinking (or talking) about it. But then I got tired. And sick. And bloated. And suddenly I wasn't so giddy anymore. In fact, once those pregnancy symptoms kicked in, I turned into a whiney, moaning, self-pitying mess. I resented my baby for making me feel so bad and resented everyone else because they didn't feel as bad as I did. I resented my job because I had to go to it. I resented my husband because he could sleep and I couldn't. I even resented my dog because she could spend the entire day basking in the sunshine while I had to actually get up and function.
So, how exactly do you start thinking about rainbows and baby booties when you've spent weeks hugging the toilet bowl? One thing I did was immerse myself in babyland. I bought books about pregnancies and babies. I hung out with friends who had babies. I ogled over baby gear on the Internet and rented funny movies about babies and watched them over and over. The only thing I didn't do was volunteer to babysit because that would've taken way more energy than I had at that point. But if you're feeling up to dirty diapers and peekaboo, go for it.
The point is, the more time you spend around babies (and other mothers), the more excited you will be about your own baby. And believe me, the only thing in the world that is worth nine months of pregnancy is a baby. And you're getting one. So hop on board the baby train (I don't have to tell you twice, do I?) and start living baby.
2. Turn that Mommy Guilt into Glee (Or at Least Contentment):
That resentment that I felt because I was sick, tired and fat quickly turned to guilt. I felt guilty for resenting my baby who was supposed to be my pride and joy. I felt guilty for resenting my husband who was honestly trying to help me as much as he could. Mostly, I felt guilty that I wasn't thrilled to be pregnant.
I started to wonder if God didn't approve of my pregnancy and my baby. Crazy talk, right? I know that now, but at the time, I felt so awful and so confused that I started to doubt God's providence. Of course, once I realized—duh!—that God blessed me with the pregnancy, I wanted to be grateful to Him regardless of how I was feeling. God wants us to be content in our pregnancies, even when we're not feeling good. Tough job, huh?
It was a long, uphill battle for me. And I had to constantly remind myself of God's grace and mercy. But in the midst of the battle, God taught me many lessons that I wouldn't have otherwise learned: how to depend on others, how to trust and what it means to truly depend on God for strength
3. Pray for Your Baby
Another way to get into the pregnancy groove is to start praying for your baby in-utero. Sounds obvious, right? Well, it wasn't for me. (I was tired and sick, okay?) It took me several weeks of pregnancy to start praying for my son. I was so stunned and overwhelmed by the idea of being pregnant that the idea of praying for my baby didn't cross my mind. One day, one of the girls in my small-group Bible study mentioned that she had prayed for her baby throughout her pregnancy, and suddenly the light went on. I wanted to pray for my unborn child, too!
I could go into the mushy details about how my husband and I lay in bed and put our hands on my slightly protruding tummy and prayed for our son, but I'm sure you get it. In fact, you've probably been praying for your baby since the moment you found out you were pregnant. But just in case there's another woman out there like me who didn't think of it, I thought I'd mention it.
4. Think About the Pros of Pregnancy
There are some (okay, lots of) wonderful things about pregnancy. What other time in your life do you have free license to eat extra calories, sleep late and buy baby clothes without reservation?
Plus, when you're pregnant, everyone (and I mean everyone) gushes over you. I remember walking into church just as I was starting to show. Two of the guys in our Sunday school class ran to grab me a chair. My husband got me water and my girlfriend brought me muffins from the class next door. They had blueberry crumble! Everyone oohed and aahed. Part of me hated all of the fuss—uh, who am I kidding? I loved the attention! Who wouldn't?
But aside from the minor benefits, when you're pregnant it's easy to dwell on all of the things you're missing out on. You can't eat sushi. You can't wear your favorite pencil skirt. Your bras are all too small. And you're too tired to stay up late watching chick flicks with your hubby (as if that happened before). I remember bursting into tears in the middle of our church group's Christmas party because the eggnog was made from raw eggs, and I was a little uneasy about exposing my unborn child to salmonella. I actually sobbed. Totally irrational, I know—especially considering the fact that there were a million other drink options at the party—but I felt so deprived.
The thing is that pregnancy isn't about deprivation. Sure, there are things you shouldn't and can't do, but there is also one huge thing that you can do: Nurture your own child inside of you. What an incredible privilege. I'm sure some of our husbands are secretly envious of us that we get to do it and they don't! How else can we account for their sympathy weight gain?
The best way to get out of a pregnancy funk is to think about the reason for the pregnancy. I know that sounds obvious, but focus on your baby. Focus on the privilege. It'll help you to forget the pain. And if that doesn't work, think of all of the things that you can get away with during this brief period of your life.
Things You Can Do While Pregnant (That You Would Never Get Away With Otherwise)
1. Wear flip-flops or clogs every day. Even to church.
2. Leave the toilet unscrubbed for the nine entire months (might as well make it an even ten).
3. Order dessert (and eat it all by yourself).
4. Wear sweats to the grocery store, to work and to dinner at your mother-in-law’s.
5. Skip your morning shower. Three days in a row.
6. Add half and half to your decaf (or half-caf).
7. Send your hubby to Sonic for a foot-long hot dog at eleven o’clock at night.
8. Eat a foot-long hot dog at eleven and wash it down with Chunky Monkey.
9. Go to bed at seven on a Friday night.
10. Spend your entire Saturday camped out on the couch watching A Baby Story.
11. Borrow your husband's T-shirts.
12. Chat about baby names on a baby names message board.
13. Go to BabiesRUs and camp out in one of their rockers for an entire afternoon. (You probably need to test it out, so go ahead and take a nap if you'd like.)
Pregnancy Rocks (Even Though it Sometimes Stinks)
The fact is, in spite of all of the nausea, bloating and constant peeing, there's also an ecstatic, blissful, giddy joy that comes from the fact that you have a baby growing inside of you. It's amazing. And no matter how bad you feel, you can still cling to that. I remember being hunched over the toilet puking up my guts and thinking to myself how amazing it was that there was a tiny life growing inside of me.
The truth is, it's okay to be a little ambivalent, depressed, scared, worried, nervous, angry, irritated or annoyed by your pregnancy. Feeling that way is natural. And feeling that way about your pregnancy has nothing to do with how you're feeling about your baby. Of course you love your baby. But you don't have to love pregnancy to love your baby! Just because you're thrilled to be pregnant, you don't have to ignore all the aches and pains and annoyances.
So, enough pep talking… you're ready, right? Time to get down to the nitty gritty. What are the next nine months really going to be like? What can you do to combat morning sickness? And bloating? And the rest of those icky pregnancy symptoms? And, perhaps most importantly, how much longer (in minutes) are you going to be able to fit into your favorite prepregnancy jeans? Let's talk first trimesters.