Thursday, March 15, 2018

Food, Fun, Flash Fiction. FUTURE? Feedback Needed.

Everyone attending agreed. ACFW Indiana’s March meeting showed why writers of all levels benefit when they get together and have fun. On March tenth, a small group met for lunch, shared their latest endeavors, then went to work on a flash fiction challenge. To sweeten the day even further, the winner of the challenge would receive a cash prize and guaranteed publication in Spark, an imprint of Splickety Publishing Group.

These were the contest parameters: Write a flash fiction romance with the theme “The Aww Factor.” Each contestant blindly picked three prompts—a person, a place, and a cute or cuddly  object. The prompts could be integral to the romance, or merely mentioned. And our authors met the challenge beautifully!

Member-contestants ranged from new writers to agented to published. Unlike most contests,  everyone was free to seek ideas and advice from others as they worked, so the fun and fellowship never stopped. After a career in education for forty years, the atmosphere reminded me of my students’ most productive times, when they worked quietly, consulted with someone nearby, and returned to their task. 

Five hours later, each contestant succeeded with a completed, sweet, romantic flash fiction. Judges have the rest of this month to score the submissions. So not only did members get the opportunity to perform a writing exercise together, they will also receive feedback on their work, whether they win the contest or not.

We’ll announce the winner at the June 9 meeting. You can RSVP for that meeting with featured speaker Dennis Hensley by emailing

Because few members chose to attend this month's meeting, the Board of Directors has some questions.

1. I queried members who are more experienced in the writing industry than I am. They suggested established authors might feel the meeting would be a waste of their time. They can always write at home. Why drive quite some distance to do the same thing?
If you agreed with their assessment, does my description of the day change your mind?

2. Those who did attend enjoyed the workshop-atmosphere interaction and the opportunity to write side by side with other writers. When asked for constructive criticism, they agreed a flash fiction challenge without the strict parameters associated with a specific publication would have been preferable.
If the topic were wide open, would you be more likely to attend a similar future event?

3. Another group participation-style meeting could be a “read-in” event, where writers would bring a few pages of their WIPs, read it aloud to the group, and seek feedback.
Would you be willing to attend such an event?

4. Each year, the board plans four meetings. Three of them include a speaker or a panel of experienced authors/editors/agents. But we would like the fourth to contain something different--more doing and less listening.
Do you agree with the board’s vision of what meetings ought to be? If not, what would you prefer to see happening in ACFW Indiana? 

5. What other participation events are you aware of and would like to see implemented in ACFW Indiana?
The board exists to help Christian writers improve their craft. We need your input to do our job well.

Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.
Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft. She still visits the school and teaches creative writing workshops.

Where Linda can be found on the web:

Monday, March 12, 2018

Confessions of a Weekend Writer

By Darren Kehrer

Today's task list:
  1. Wake up
  2. Get the family off to their day
  3. Be at work by 8am
  4. Get home by 5pm
  5. Feed the family, pay bills, help with homework, watch the news, spend quality time with family or spouse.
  6. Try to get into bed by 11pm
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 tomorrow
I'm guessing many of you are not able to write during the week because your life revolves around your family, your work responsibility, or your spouse's life; however, you still have the desire and dream to be a writer. I know some of the above duties are on my daily list. I would suggest to you that even if you only have time to write on the weekends, that still counts!

My week day life revolves around family and my primary work responsibilities. There just isn't enough time to write during the week. Given that fact, I've had to come up with some ideas to at least keep the ideas flowing, but more importantly, to keep my ideas recorded for later usage. 

Here are a couple ideas for you, should you also find your writing life exists only on the weekends.
  1. Use your SMART phone
    • Most phones have the ability to record verbal notes. I use that many times while I'm driving and need to record an idea on the fly
    • Most phones have great built-in note taking apps. I keep a list of plot ideas, character names, story beginning ideas, and story endings.
    • There are many writing apps available to help you categorize, record, and transfer your thoughts on story ideas into a useful format for later usage.
  2. If you travel for work, always be on the look out for great images, settings, and interactions that could be used in a story. Grab brochures, take pictures, and jot a few notes. You never know if those will inspire a story at some future point.
  3. I have to put all my work appointments on my phone calendar, be sure to enter a "writing time" event too. Even if only an hour, those monthly hour weekend sessions can add up to finished short story in no time at all.
  4. If you spend a significant amount of time in your car, listen to podcasts about writing and related topics. Turn your drive time into learning time.

Lastly, and possibly the most important, don't give up. Just keep writing. As long as you don't stop writing, there will always be the possibility of getting your story finished (or published). You can't edit something that doesn't exist (so a good friend of mine says); therefore, keep the words flowing...even if only on the weekends.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Listen for What You Want the Reader to Hear

If you're certain one more post about self-editing will make you a bit bug-eyed and crazy, stop reading. On the other hand, you might want to start listening, although I don't necessarily mean listening to me.   

Recently, a speaker hired someone to transcribe audio recordings of her recent engagements, and then she hired me to edit the transcripts. 

In some places, what the speaker supposedly said made little sense, so I assumed the transcriber had either misheard or made what seemed like a strange guess. In other places, question marks indicated the transcriber gave up trying to understand what had been said. 

To do this job, I had to listen to the audio myself. That made all the difference between just reading the transcript and hearing what the speaker expected her reading audience to hear. I suspect English isn't this transcriptionist’s first language, and that's okay. But for instance, “copy and paste” became “cut a piece,” and “pace yourself” rather humorously became “paste yourself.” 


English is the first and perhaps only language for the authors I work with. Sometimes, though, I don’t understand what they’re trying to say. After some thought and digging into context, I can usually determine what the author probably means to say, but that’s not what the words convey.
I don't care who we are as writers, transcribing exactly what we mean to covey from our brains to the page every time is a challenge.
“The pit in my stomach expanded with fear,” a writer might write. Mmm. You can feel the effects of fear in the pit of your stomach, but unless you’ve swallowed an actual pit, you won’t have one expanding there no matter how scared you are. A sentence like that can sound almost right at first, but when you really listen to it, you know it's not. (Again, no shame here. It happens!)

Or sometimes a single word is off. Did the author mean to say “she felt down the fire escape in the dark” or “she fell down the fire escape in the dark," and right at the end of a cliffhanger too? Was she one of the most adept criminals to ever make a getaway? Or did she trip and plunge to the ground below? 

Someone's got to question what could be missteps, and maybe it should be us writers first.

Consider going off somewhere alone, with coffee, chocolate, or whatever it takes, for one more read-aloud, self-editing pass of your work. Listen to specifically catch what might cause a reader to guess what you meant, give up on guessing what you meant, or hear what you never meant. (If you have time, you might want to record yourself reading, and then listen to the audio later.)  

But don’t, I repeat don't, make yourself bug-eyed and crazy! I don't want to be responsible for that.

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries (Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with thirty years of experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a regular contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren, with foster grandchildren in their lives on a regular basis.

Photo credits:;

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Why Should I Care?

I seldom put a novel aside without reading it through, but last week I did. It was a new book by an author whose historical novels I admire a great deal. His new book is a thriller with a contemporary setting, but I don't think my interest flagged because of the genre or setting. So why did I part company with him after reading nearly 300 pages?

Because none of the characters deserved my attention. I felt no emotional tie to the heroine or the people she loved, and most of the others were (How can I put this kindly?) not the sort I would want to be my roommates. Perhaps the author wanted to tantalize me with the possibility that one of them would become a "person of interest" in the investigation, but that was precisely the problem--I wasn't interested in any of them. I'm not a callous person, yet all of the characters left me cold.

I've come to realize that stories I enjoy most are those with characters I care about. I imagine the same is true for you. So why might we care about a fictional character?

We see ourselves reflected. I saw myself in Father Tim of Jan Karon's Mitford series, for example. Having been pastor of a church in Fort Wayne for several years, I heard my former parishioners in the voices of Father Tim's parish. I saw my own foibles and blunders in Father Tim's attempts to serve his people, and I recognized my own feelings of joy when his efforts succeeded.

We get a second chance. When a fictional character is placed in a predicament similar to one we've experienced, we see alternate ways we might have dealt with a problem. Or we may feel vindicated by our own handling of it. Either way, we enjoy reading about realistic characters who afford us a second chance to deal with our own problems.

We become more aware of God. A spiritually mature character sees God at work in situations where we might miss him. Depression Era stories such as "Spencer's Mountain" and "The Journey of Natty Gann" offer us good examples of characters who see God at work in desperate circumstances.

Characters don't have to be likeable or worthy of imitation in order for us to care about them; but unless we care, we're not likely to follow their stories to the end.

Joe Allison has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN. His non-fiction books include Setting Goals That Count and Swords and Whetstones.