Monday, October 5, 2015

Book Announcement!

Though my work has been published many times, up until now, I have not had a book published. Today, I am excited to announce that is no longer the case. I now have one book released and very soon will have two. I will tell you about these in two different posts.
In my previous post, I told about the seasonal devotional book I co-authored with childhood friend, Shirley Crowder, and I shared one of the devotions. Today I want to share its beautiful cover and let you know how it can be ordered.
In my next blog I will share the news of my second book.
Here is the book and information pertaining to the devotional book:
TMP Books's photo.In early November, we get busy preparing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, and we often forget the real meanings behind these celebrations. We can guard against this by preparing our hearts to seek Him as we focus on God’s Word, and by remembering that Thanksgiving is a time to give God thanks; Christmas is the celebration of the Savior’s birth; the New Year brings new beginnings. Then, as we go about doing the things the Lord has called us to do where He has called us to do them, we catch Glimpses of the Savior and biblical truth in the things we experience and observe. These devotionals are based on memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year celebrations in Africa and America. May the Holy Spirit work through these meditations to help readers recognize Glimpses of the Savior in the things they observe, and become skilled at finding Jesus among the celebrations and decorations.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book Excerpt

Harriet Michael's photo.This week saw the first day of autumn. How could it be fall already? Time has a way of flying by. I have stayed busy trying to get two books launched as well as continuing to write short pieces. One of the books that will soon be released is a short, seasonal devotional book I co-wrote with a friend I grew up with on the mission field. This is an ex co-wrote with a friend I grew up with on the mission field. Here is an excerpt from that book. 

Life’s Ripples

Read: Psalm 74:13-17 
The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon. It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.
Psalm 74:16-17 (NIV)

Autumn was once an enigma to me. As a little girl growing up beneath the hot tropical sun, I had no memory of autumn. Oh, I had experienced it when my parents were in America on furlough but I was too young to really remember what it was like. 

Nonetheless, even in tropical Nigeria, I learned to love the autumn season. Why did I love it as a child when I had not experienced it? Where did I get my love for this season of cooler weather, colorful scenery, scurrying squirrels, crunchy leaves, and frosty mornings? I think the credit goes to a missionary aunt who taught my school—my Aunt Lil Wasson.   

Because she had a teaching degree and several children of her own in need of an education, Aunt Lil bravely took on the job of elementary school teacher to all the missionary kids on the compound. Ogbomoso, the Nigerian town where we lived, had both a hospital and seminary with about a half a dozen missionary families working in each. All together these missionaries had at least a dozen or more elementary age children depending on who was on furlough in any given year. Aunt Lil taught all of us in her garage which had been made into a one-room school house. She was a brave woman, indeed.  

Aunt Lil loved autumn. She grew up in Arkansas where trees are abundant and autumns are glorious. Nigeria had only two seasons. Half the year it rained some everyday and the other half it did not rain at all. America’s autumn months fell at the end of rainy season.

Aunt Lil always decorated her schoolroom with pictures representative of autumn and had her American citizen students learn about their homeland. I can still remember sitting in her garage classroom looking at the decorations all around me—bright orange pumpkins, brown squirrels, and trees with red, orange, and yellow leaves.    

She had a large poster-size picture of Jack Frost painting a leaf with an artist palette of fall colors which always intrigued me. One hand held the palette and the other held a paintbrush. Of course, we all knew Jack Frost was not real, but my imagination went wild just the same with thoughts of a magical place where the world turned bright with colors, where shiny, frosty crystals formed on the ground, and a little elf painted the leaves when children were not looking.  

Today, I thank God for my missionary aunt’s enthusiasm over the world He made, both tropical and temperate. And I realize how everything people do can have a lasting ripple effect on those around them.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lessons from the Trail--Part 2

By 2010, the writer in me had come alive. I don’t know if writing was something that lay dormant and finally hatched, a treasure God buried deep inside of me that He finally revealed, or if it was born a fresh, but whatever the case, it had become alive and active by this time. And I had found an outlet for my writing in freelancing small pieces which I began doing regularly.
The serendipity? I had a growing list of writing credits, some cash coming in from articles and devotions, and a slowly growing platform. But I still saw no hope of ever securing a book contract for my manuscript. So it sat on the shelf, in the forms of a hand-written notebook and a word document on my computer.
In the spring of 2011, I saw a contest for unpublished manuscripts and entered mine. It was the 2011 “Women of Faith” contest. Out of over 750 entries, mine was named as one of only 30 finalists. However it was not the winner and the winner received a book contract. So, other than giving me a sense of accomplishment, it did not change my reality. My manuscript was still on the shelf.
Last spring I attended a writer’s conference for children’s writers, even though I do not write for children. I attended to help my sister, a budding children’s writer, get her feet into the writing waters. At the conference I met Tracy Ruckman, owner of Write Integrity Press and Pix-N-Pens Press, Tracy publishes children’s books as well as all sorts of other genres. Though we had not met in person before, I knew her already via the web, because I had submitted a story to her, which she used in one of her anthologies.
As we talked, she asked about my writing and then asked me to send the first three chapters of my manuscript. A few weeks later, she asked for the entire manuscript and then to my incredible joy, said she wanted to publish it under PixNPens, the nonfiction side of her company.
So today, I am able to enjoy all kinds of writing. On the freelancing side, I now have over a hundred and fifty published pieces. (I’d have to stop and count but I know I have 100 published devotions, give or take a few, and probably close to 50 articles and stories.) I speak to women’s groups, and lead workshops at writing conferences on freelancing and devotional writing. I have two books coming out this fall, “Prayer, It’s Not About You” and “Glimpses of the Savior”, a seasonal devotional I co-wrote with childhood friend, Shirley Crowder. And I am 40,000+ words into my first novel.
God has been good to me!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lessons from the Trail

In future blog posts, I will share more insights about prayer that I learned in my quest to better understand it. Today, however, I’m continuing to share my writing journey.
Writing is a new work God is doing in my old age. It’s a huge blessing to me and I can only hope it will bless others along the way too. I thank Him daily for opening these doors, even though as is often the case, it was born out of a difficult and even dark time in my life.
I have a close friend named Susan Siami, whom I love to quote. I find her spiritual insights so inspirational. She once said, “I am so committed to my own agenda. And that agenda is zero pain for myself and those I love. God’s agenda is far greater than mine. He is producing a work in me and through me and often pain is the very means He uses to produce it.”
That certainly was the tool God used to begin my writing journey.
In 2009, I attended the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference, hoping to learn how to get my manuscript on prayer published. I came home thinking that goal was unachievable, at least at the time. I could self-publish but I had learned three things: 1) I knew very little about the publishing world, even after the conference, 2) I have editing issues. 3) I didn’t have a platform
I now know that I can pay an editor, and hire out other parts of the publishing process. And in fact I am in the process of self-publishing a small devotional book co-written with a friend. But at the time, getting a book out seemed impossible.
Writing still intrigued me. Actually, it did more than that; it pulled like a magnet. I had words I wanted to share and had spent the previous four years honing my ability to put them down on paper. (Learning to write on a computer came later. My 60,000+ word manuscript and my first few articles and devotions were all hand-written and transcribed onto a computer.)
The wheels started turning in my head. If I could start getting small pieces published, then I would be scratching that writing itch while building a platform too. A platform, for those of you who are not writers, was defined to me as the number of people who would read something simply because it was written by you. For me at the time that number was a big zero. Well, my mom and dad would probably read it, so maybe that number was more like two. J
So, I sat at my kitchen table one day, shortly after returning from the writer’s conference, sharing my thoughts with my daughter. I sheepishly told her about the great workshop on how to freelance small pieces and confessed my desire to try my hand at it. But who did I think I was fooling? I was not a writer.
My daughter looked up from her orange juice and said, “You know mom, the average American reader only reads at a sixth grade level.”

I burst out laughing and replied, “I can write at that level!”
And I sat down immediately and began transcribing a devotion I had hand-written in my journal onto my computer to send to The Upper Room. That devotion, titled, “The Day of Small Things” based on the question posed in Zechariah 4:10, “For who has despised the day of small things?” became the first piece I ever submitted. It was not the first piece I ever had published, because it takes a very long time from submission to publication with some devotional magazines. It was published a year and a half later in the February, 2011 issue of The Upper Room.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ashes for Beauty

Harriet Michael's photo.

*The picture I posted is the one that ran in the newspaper, my senior year of high school when I won the “Bicentennial Minute” essay contest.

Isaiah 61:1-3 says in part, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives … to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness …” (KVJ)
That is exactly what God did for me when He opened the doors to writing for me. He exchanged my spirit of heaviness for a garment of praise; gave me beauty for ashes.
The year was 2003 and someone close to me was hurting greatly after experiencing a trauma. I started praying, oh so, earnestly. And as I did, all of my prayers were focused on my friend, her pain, her trauma, her need for healing. But I happened to be reading the Psalms in my devotions. (I write the word happened facetiously as I do not think it was happenstance at all, but rather God’s divine leading.)
One day I noticed something interesting in how David and the other Psalmists petitioned God. They did not base their petitions on their needs. Oh, sometimes they did, and certainly they cried out to God, pouring their hearts out to Him and telling Him their problems. But these were not the basis for their petitions. Instead they based their petitions on God—who He is, His character traits, His power, for His glory, and so forth. This observation revolutionized my prayer life. I started asking for healing not because my friend needed healing, for example, but because God was the great physician, because He was merciful and full of loving kindness, etc.
Then I thought, “Wow, what else do I not know about prayer?” My missionary parents taught me to pray as a child, and I have prayed all of my life.  But I did not realize this truth; what else had I missed? 
I began a personal quest to understand prayer better. I read from Genesis to Revelation, seeking passages on prayer, or times when people spoke to God, praised God, or made requests of Him. In the Old Testament these were often in conversation form, but I still considered them prayer since they were communing with God. I journaled as I searched.
Four years later, I had a hand-written manuscript written. And my friend? She was and is doing well. Beauty for ashes for both of us.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Who Knew?

Last weekend I had the privilege of serving on the nonfiction panel at the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference. One of the participants directed her question to me, asking about my journey to publication. As I shared with that group, I realized some of my readers might like to hear the story too. I will tell it in a series of blog posts in the coming few weeks. Today I am reposting a condensed version of an article I wrote a few years ago titled, “Who Knew? I Became a Writer After All.” The original article was published in Writer’s Weekly, May 2011. It tells some of my writing journey but I will tell more in the next few blogs. Here’s the article:
The year was 1976. Our nation celebrated its bi-centennial anniversary and my community held a writing competition. Students from several area high schools were asked to write short essays called “Bi-centennial Minutes.” I participated because I had to…it was a required assignment in my English class. A few weeks later, a reporter and a photographer from the local newspaper walked into my high school and interviewed me. Why? –Because I had won the competition!
Another spring a year or two earlier, at my high school’s awards ceremony, my name was called as a “Laurel Leaf” winner. This award, given to a written piece, which I had submitted because, again, it was required in my English class. In other words, I had to. No one was more surprised that I won than me! You see, I could not spell or punctuate–at all. I punctuated written pieces like some people sprinkle salt and pepper on their food; I just sort of sprinkled some around in my written pieces, or so it appeared. I loved to write, but I grew tired of all the red marks my papers collected so when college came, I majored in nursing.
Several years ago, someone I loved struggled severely and I struggled along side of her. I longed to be able to pray more effectively for this person. I began a personal study of prayer, journaling as I gained insights. After a few years, my friend was better and I had a manuscript written. I discovered I loved writing, now that we have computers that can spell and punctuate for me.
A few summers ago, I read a newspaper blurb about an upcoming writer’s conference in my area. I longed to attend but I was not a writer, at least not a published writer. I showed the article to my husband, sheepishly confessing my new silly dream of becoming a writer. He encouraged me to attend. I laughed as I made plans to attend. I decided I would simply declare myself a writer.
The conference was wonderful! The speakers were great. I came back greatly encouraged and more excited than ever about writing. In one of the sessions, took a class taught by Lettie Kirkpatrick-Burress where I learned about writing small pieces like magazine articles and devotions, as well as how to find magazines in need of articles and how to write query letters.
I came home and tried what Lettie taught and to my surprise, I began getting contracts for my submissions. The money I spent on the conference was earned back and turned a small prophet in the first year. And guess what? Though no one saw it coming, I turned out to be a writer after all!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Chronicles of a Two-bit Writer

Lessons From my Dad

Tilman Keith Edwards, MD as daddy’s signature always read was many things. He was a medical missionary to Nigeria, West Africa from 1958-1968. He was a beloved physician both in Nigeria and in Bluefield WV where he practiced for many years after he returned from Nigeria. He was the most brilliant man I’ve ever known. And he was a writer.

For many years he wrote for LifeWay. He wrote devotions for Open Windows, Sunday School curriculum, and a medical column in Mature Living Magazine. He has a few other credits as well–even winning a trip to Hawaii once from Medical Economics magazine for a contest he won by writing an article titled, “Making more Money just Means Being in Debt at a Higher Level.”

Yet, when I referred to myself as an author, a handful of years ago, after successfully getting a few small pieces published, these were his words, “Honey, you can’t call yourself an author until you have a published book, until then you are just a two-bit writer, like me.”

So I tease that my goal in life is to become a two-bit writer like my dad.

Well, soon, I will finally be able to also say I am an author! My first book, “Prayer: It’s Not about You” is set for release by PixNPens Publishing, , in September. I will keep you posted on that release and other writing adventures on this blog, as well as spotlight other writers and authors.

“This will be written for the generation to come, That a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.” Psalms 102:18