Two Sides of the Same Coin


When you teach someone else how to do something, you learn a lot yourself.

Teaching has a way of cementing ideas, facts, procedures—all kinds of information—in our brains through the visual and auditory senses, as well as the writing (of the lesson plan, main points on charts or power point and so on).

So, I am going to suggest something you might think is crazy: I’d like you to consider mentoring a beginning writer. 

You may consider yourself a beginner and question just how much help you could be to someone else. But, even if you only stay a step ahead of them, the experience will be invaluable—as you learn TOGETHER.

I remember, as a first year teacher. being assigned to teach two periods of sewing in Home Economics. I had no experience. I didn’t know any of the terms, parts of the machine, not even how to read a pattern.

Each night, I would go home and teach myself what I needed to know in order to get through class the following day. This went on for the entire semester. I stayed, literally, one step ahead of my students. But, by the last day of class, I found myself actually looking forward to the next group of students. I felt increased competence and confidence 

So, the point is: whether you know a lot about the craft of writing, or you consider yourself a beginner, the experience you will gain by mentoring someone else will be invaluable.

It will be time well spent…because learning and teaching are two sides of the same coin.


Terrific Tuesdays



Some years back, my sister and I used to meet up once a week for a day of shopping, with breakfast and lunch sandwiched in-between. Those “Terrific Tuesdays” were great.

We maintained the habit over the course of several years. However, our lives got busy with jobs, families, and masters’ programs, so we changed our ritual to once a month. It wasn’t long until it became two or three times a year and then, finally, we abandoned any hope of maintaining a regular schedule.

I know you can relate.

I should have hung onto those days like gold. We should have found a way…

So, just how does that relate to writing?

Well, let’s say that I have my writing calendar all filled out, appropriating 4-6 hours of writing  to each day of the week.

But, then the holidays come along and I’m torn between writing and meeting a friend for coffee and catching up on old times. Or, on a trip to visit Grandma for Christmas, I feel compelled to sneak up to the guest room and hammer out the plot for my next book while my kids remain downstairs helping to decorate the tree.

The truth is, there’s just no other way to create memories unless you’ve been there in the first place.

In the long run, whether our book comes out in March or May will not really matter. But, our interactions with others—our relationships—will grow, or they will die on the vine, depending on how much we cultivate them.

Take time to nurture yourself and others without guilt over meeting your writing goals.

I know there are very talented authors who will tell you to write everyday no matter what. I used to believe that. And, it led to a lot of heartache.

This year, I’m giving myself permission to take part in the celebration of the season, to laugh, to foster relationships, to turn off my computer and shut my office door.

No, this year I won’t be writing during the week of Christmas.

Instead, I will be making memories that will last a lifetime.

Christmas Letter




On my “To-Do” list this week, is writing my yearly Christmas letter to friends and family. I am making a list of trips, health updates, and accomplishments I’d like to include.

That got me to thinking about YOU and what I’d like to share as the Christmas season fast approaches.

First of all, I’d like you to know how much I appreciate your encouragement and support by reading/commenting on my blogs each week. I hope they have been both helpful and encouraging to you as we walk this “writing road” together.

To catch you up on what I am doing, currently, I can say that my Beta Readers are doing their work right now, critiquing Simon Says. I look forward to hearing from them over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, I am busy writing back cover copy, revising my “About the Author” page, looking at a myriad possibilities for the front cover, and jotting down ideas for the second book in the series.

Finally, I am finishing up the manuscript for my second interactive Alzheimer’s book, I Remember Bible Stories,” as well as interviewing illustrators.

On a more personal level, I continue to be more involved in my parents’ lives at their care center and am taking on some of my mother’s previous roles, such as the big family gathering on Christmas Day. I am fortunate to live near a Honey Baked Ham store, as I am planning the meal around a nice spiral-cut ham.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years as you move ahead toward both your personal and writing goals.


Fiction Writers, Do Your Research



I struck up a conversation with a gentleman in a hospital waiting room last week. I shared a little about my writing and he responded with a comment that made me think.

He made an observation that, to him, writing fiction was quicker and easier than writing non-fiction because it did not require research.

At first thought, I agreed with him. But, later that evening, I put pen to paper and contemplated whether or not that was actually as true as it appeared on the surface.

Here is a list of just some of the research necessary for every fiction writer to complete in order to write an authentic book:

a) Learn about the setting of your book, such as the state/country, the type of weather, the topography, terrain, type of government, and so on.

b)  What type of people live there? Is their speech distinctive?  In what type of industries might they be employed?

c)  In what year/time period does your story take place? What is going on in the world at that time? What hair and dress styles are prevalent? What music is popular?

d) Do any of your characters experience an illness or disability?  If so, you will need to know how it affects his life, treatments he might experience, etc. How will he interact with others?

e) Do your characters meet with a disaster? You may have to learn about floods, earthquakes, fires, and so on.

f) How old are your characters? What kind of music, games, activities are appropriate?

A good editor will catch some of these things, such as when mine caught it when I wrote  about something that would not have even been invented yet!!

But, don’t count on someone else to do it. You’ve got to do your homework and make your book as authentic as possible.

Some say a book is successful when it is so real that the reader actually feels he/she is experiencing the action right along with the characters.

Part of making this happen is doing the hard work ahead of time.

It’s called: research.

The Value of Persistence




I recently read that Jerry Jenkin’s LEFT BEHIND was his 125th book. I can’t imagine writing that many books in the first place, but beyond that, it is astounding to me that he was able to keep at it until he hit

the big time,

pay dirt,

his big break.


Then, I ask myself if I have what it takes to keep going in the face of



sheer exhaustion.

Have you wondered the same thing?

Or, do you just get up every day and say good morning to God and your computer (in that order) and then fill your day with what you long to do more than anything else?

If so, you may be doing what I do. Taking it day by day. Moving ahead step by step until one day you realize that you’ve actually written a book!!!

Because you are



and totally devoted.

Because you can’t imagine

not writing,

not creating,

not doing anything else with your life.


Protagonist vs. Antagonist


In a writing workshop I recently attended, the presenter took us “back to the basics.”

If you’ve been writing for awhile, periodically it’s a good thing to revisit the essential elements of story.

The terms “protagonist” and “antagonist” are about as basic as it gets.

Let’s look at their definitions and what those two elements have to do with a well-written story.

The protagonist is the hero of the story—the central character whose journey we follow throughout the book. He’s the “good guy”. The one we cheer on. The one who experiences set-back after set-back, but emerges victorious at the end.

The antagonist, is the villain. His role is to block the hero’s progress toward his goal at every turn.

The cruel step-mother.

The demanding boss.

The rival for the hand of the princess.

Whoever they are, it’s essential that they do their part by providing those set-backs or road blocks to the hero on his journey.

It is this struggle to overcome that moves your story along to a satisfying ending.



Note: The inciting incident, another basic, was discussed in a previous post, entitled “Creatures of Habit.” You can read it under ARCHIVED POSTS.

I’ve Changed My Mind




After a meeting, yesterday, the topic of how often one should write (every day? how many hours per day?) came up.

I listened as inexperienced writers eagerly listened to more seasoned authors on the topic that is as dear—and as often-debated—as toilet training is to young parents.

In one of my previous posts, I said that if you are researching for your book or article, or attending a conference, or viewing a webinar, that “counts” as your writing for the day.

Well, like I told the others after the meeting, I now know a bit more about the craft of writing and have changed my mind about what I advised a year ago.

There is no substitute for WRITING.

Here’s why:

You cannot learn to dance by reading a book or studying diagrams of nimble feet doing the Cha Cha.

You cannot learn to fish without baiting your hook and casting the line into the water.

There is no substitute for actually DOING.

We need to practice writing. All the reading and conference going—although worthwhile—cannot take the place of good, old-fashioned application.

Some people find themselves in such an endless cycle of “learning how to write” that they never actually sit down in front of the computer and try their hand at it.

They think that if they will just read one more book or watch one more webinar, then they will be ready…qualified…fully prepared.

All of that is well and good, but as my neighbor’s son studies his driving manual, I am reminded that he must also get behind the wheel and gain the experience of actually driving.

As a child, I heard my mother say, “Wishing doesn’t make it so,” many times. (Mostly this was in reference to having a clean room.) But, apply it to writing an article or book and you can make the connection, can’t you?

So, my conclusion is this: you must learn the skill of writing by writing, writing, and writing some more.

Every day?


An hour a day?

At least.

Grab a partner and dance.

Bait your hook and cast your line.

Back out of the garage and get out on the highway.

Turn on the computer and let your fingers fly across the keyboard!