The Art in Writing

Strange and wonderful things happen when we keep our eyes peeled, our ears sharp, our hearts welcoming, and our minds creative. This year, I met someone who at first glance was not an obvious fit with my writing life. But first glances are often wrong.

Mary Young Zog the DogI am a Christian non-fiction author. The woman I met at a local women’s expo is a children’s book author. She launched as a self-publisher via Pucky Huddle Books — I have chosen the traditional route as my foundation. I’m a business coach, she married a rock star. Literally.

But we both live in the same tiny county.

Mary Young is married to Rusty Young of country rock group Poco fame. They still play for exclusive events, and tour around the country. But in their desire to escape the crazy life of frenzied fans and intense concert schedules, they built a beautiful cabin nestled about twenty minutes from where I live. On a serene hill overlooking the stunning Huzzah Creek, Rusty gets to relax with his music and Mary peacefully plays with her muse.

RC Woods What Lies BeneathDue to Mary’s prompting, she and I, along with local Indie author RC Woods, have pooled our talents. Recently, the Crawford County Author’s Group held our first event, called The Art in Writing. Three diverse but driven authors determined to learn from, promote, and support each other.

Until recently, in our small region, we each felt alone. Let’s face it, those of us who put pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard are a strange breed to normal folks — most people don’t get the weird ways our minds work. Or sometimes, the strange hours we keep.

When my brain fries, when my creative juices dry, when I’m too tired to think of new ways to market my books, a couple of hours with fellow writers revives my brainstorming abilities. The art in writing is not magical — it’s intentional. It’s not competitive — it’s cooperative. No matter how similarly or differently we write.

I have other author friends who equally stir my creative brew. They don’t live close, but because of twenty-first century technology, we can call, text, private message, Facetime, or Skype. We can schedule retreats with each other, (my favorite). We can compare marketing efforts, research, and new ideas.

Getting Through

Releasing, April, 2015 through Barbour Publishing

The WordServe Water Cooler is another way to stay in touch with those who get the crazy business of writing. Sharing and learning with folks like you keeps my energy up when it threatens to flag. I often write about difficult subjects, so I need an occasional boost.

No matter whether other writers live near or far, I’ve discovered I don’t do as well without them. For me, the real art in writing is community. A brother/sisterhood of folks who will pick you up when you feel down. An encouraging message, a timely quote, a pertinent fact, a social media shout-out, even insights to help you market like a rock star. The writing community is the magic behind my words.

What infuses the art in your writing?

WordServe News: May 2014

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

Rebecca DeMarino released her debut novel A Place in His Heart with Revell publishers.9780800722180_p0_v2_s260x420

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Doug Fields released 7 Ways to Be Her Hero with Thomas Nelson publishers. 920563

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Kathi Lipp released I Need Some Help Here! with Revell publishers.9780800720780_p0_v3_s260x420

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Jonathan McKee released Get Your Teenager Talking with Bethany Hou9780764211850_p0_v3_s260x420se Publishers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spencer Moses released his suspense thriller with Revell publishers, Network of Deception.9780800722562_p0_v3_s260x420

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Gilbert Morris released the third book in his Western Justice series with Barbour 9781616267605_p0_v2_s260x420books, Raina’s Choice

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Dr. Arnie Cole and Michael Ross released Worry Free Living with Authentic.9781780782263_p0_v1_s260x420

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Karen Witemeyer released Full Steam Ahead with Bethany House Publishers. 9780764209673_p0_v2_s260x420

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New WordServe Clients

Mark Atteberry, pastor and multi-published author, signed with agent Alice Crider.

Larry Dugger, pastor and Christian counselor, signed with agent Alice Crider

John Merritt, founding pastor of CrossWinds Church in Dublin, California, signed with Alice Crider

Bill Sanders, award-winning journalist, signed an agency agreement to be represented by Alice Crider.

New Contracts

Jan Drexler signed with Love Inspired to release A Home in Deadwood. Sarah Freese, agent of record.

Anita Agers-Brooks signed with Barbour for her non-fiction book, Getting Over What You Can’t Get Through. Alice Crider, agent of record.

Angela Strong signed with Ashberry Lane for her YA novel, The Water Fight Professional. Alice Crider, agent of record.

What We’re Celebrating!!

Jennie Atkins is a semi-finalist in the Romance category of the ACFW Genesis contest for unpublished authors!

Carol Barnier made the awards list in both humor and evangelism for two of her articles for the 2014 EPA Higher Goal Awards!

Debora Coty (Fear, Faith and a Fistful of Chocolate), Jo Ann Fore (When a Woman Finds Her Voice) and Jordyn Redwood (Poison) all made the shortlist for the 2014 Selah Awards!

Wounded Women of the Bible by Dena Dyer and Tina Samples is a finalist in the AWSA Golden Scroll Awards!

Leslie Leyland Fields was featured on Christianity Today as the cover story. You can read it here!

Adam Makos’ A Higher Call hit the New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, and Washington Post bestseller lists!

Jordyn Redwood’s Poison and Julie Cantrell’s When Mountains Move are on the short list of Inspy finalists!!

Kimberly Smith wrote an article for Time magazine. Read the full story here!

What can we help you celebrate?

Two Writers Walk Into This Bar . . .

Celebratory drinkWhat happens when two writers unexpectedly find themselves with a free evening together?

A nice dinner and a glass of wine? Laughter and bonding? Sharing experiences from both on and off the author trail?

Yes. All that, and new marketing ideas, too.

At least that was my experience two weeks ago when my agency colleague Anita Agers-Brooks made a short-notice trip my way and we were able to spend a few hours together – hours that had no agenda other than getting to know each other. And even though we write in different genres (Anita is a leadership guru, while I write humorous mysteries and memoir), we had much to offer each other in the way of marketing and business ideas. Here are a few nuggets from our impromptu party to spark your own ideas:

  1. Writing is a business. Do you treat it that way? Anita reminded me that I needed to file paperwork to become an LLC (limited liability company) as legal protection of my assets. We live in a litigious world, and a writer must be a good steward of her assets both spiritually and financially. As Anita pointed out, if you wait to protect your business till someone sues you (yes, it can happen!), you’re already too late. (And be sure to include Errors & Omissions insurance while you’re at it.)
  2. Goodreads.com is a publicity goldmine. Are you on it? For my new book release, 658 people entered my giveaway drawing for 3 free copies. That’s a lot of eyes on my book the day it released. And giveaways are just the tip of what you can accomplish on Goodreads. (Read this marketing tutorial on using Goodreads.)
  3. Pay attention to casual comments. After a pastor told Anita her book would be a good topic for a sermon, she found a template online for sermons. She plans to fill it out using her book and then share the template with pastors. She’ll get her message presented by pastors, and she won’t even have to be present! (Does that qualify as bilocation – being in two places at the same time?) I’m going to take her idea and see if I can make it work for me.
  4. Take ownership for your promotional campaign, because ultimately, the book is your baby. Both Anita and I have been surprised by the limitations even large publishers can have when it comes to marketing; our publishers can pull some big coups for us (Anita spoke to a filled college auditorium thanks to her publisher, and I’m getting phone-in radio interviews thanks to mine), but the local press and on-going events calendar that make up the bulk of your PR efforts remain in your own lap, not to mention getting your launch team recruited and equipped to spread the word.
  5. Learn from each other’s experiences. After spending an evening with a writer in the same phase of our careers, I feel like I may still be in the same boat. But now I know there are other boats traveling along beside me, happy to share their own tips and advice. In fact, maybe a small-group marketing retreat would be a good idea. Hmmm….

(FYI – I was kidding about the walking into a bar. Anita and I did walk around a golf course, however. The air was much fresher.)

WordServe News: March 2014

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

Debora M. Coty released The Bible Promise Book: Too Blessed to be Stressed Edition 9781624169885_p0_v2_s260x420with Barbour, a collection of selections from the original Too Blessed to be Stressed book.

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9780802409577_p0_v1_s260x420Roberta Kells Dorr released Abraham and Sarah with River North.

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SavedbyGracieJan Dunlap released Saved by Gracie with Authentic.

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Ken Gire released At Peace in the Storm with Bethany House Publishers.9780764208843_p0_v2_s260x420

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9781624168581_p0_v2_s260x420Paul Kent released Playing with Purpose: Baseball Devotions with Barbour.

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Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall released Mark of Evil with Zondervan.

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Ben & Julianna Zobrist with Mike Yorkey released Double Play with B&H Publishers.

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9781624166181_p0_v2_s260x420Mike Yorkey released Playing with Purpose: Racing with Barbour.

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New WordServe Clients

Shelley Hendricks signed with Alice Crider.

Leticia Yuzefpolsky signed with Greg Johnson.

Linda Znachko signed with Alice Crider.

New Contracts

Anita Agers-Brooks signed a contract with Barbour for her non-fiction project titled, Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over. Alice Crider, agent of record.

What We’re Celebrating!!

The Brotherhood Conspiracy by Terry Brennan is a finalist for Foreword Review’s 2013 Book of the Year Award, in the category of Action & Adventure (Adult Fiction). Foreword Reviews, the only review magazine solely dedicated to discovering new indie books, announced the finalists for its 16th Annual Book of the Year Awards. The winners will be determined within the next two months. The final announcement will be made Friday, June 27, in Las Vegas, during the American Library Association Annual Conference. There are awards in over 60 categories and cash prizes for the best in fiction and nonfiction. Here is the complete list of finalists and the listing for The Brotherhood Conspiracy can be found here.

Amy Sorrells’ debut novel How Sweet the Sound received a fantastic review from USA Today!

Set in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a time when the topic of sexual abuse was not a thing “talked about” in the media and for which victims were still too often treated as “deserving” of the crimes committed against them, this novel refuses to nicey-nice over tough and ugly realities. This story is, throughout, raw — but yet penned with a sweetness of prose that makes you want to keep reading, even when you know it would be easier to curl into a ball and weep for the brokenness of the characters therein.

Poignant switches of point-of-view between Anniston and her aunt, Comfort, show the reach of abuse within generations of the same family and stretch a reader’s heart to its limits. Simply put, it hurts to read this novel. It hurts to watch the characters go through what they do. It hurts to see family secrets exposed, revealing pain upon pain. It hurts to see them abandon true love and it hurts when they are seemingly abandoned by it — but how beautiful the pain when an ending so lovely and right redefines and redeems several futures at once.

This book will turn your emotions inside out and grip your heart with a clawed fist before pouring acid — and then balm — over the wounds. You have been warned. Now, by all means, go buy this unusually edgy and entirely moving inspirational novel and read it for yourself.

What are you celebrating on this writing journey?

Growing a Writing Garden

We writers are pioneers — with the opportunity to become heroes. 

“Do what?” you say.

Here’s how I connect the dots, or the rows, in this case.

Country Vegetable Garden

Preparing the Soil is Critical to a Bountiful Harvest

I now realize how much writing is like gardening. I grew up in the country, with parents who toiled under hot sun and long days. There were eight of us in the family, so we gardened to survive.

I can still see my mother making mud when she swiped her saturated forehead with a soil encrusted hand. “Break the ground up until all the chunks are gone, and the dirt feathers through your fingers.” Then she’d demonstrate, watching streams of brown flow into the wind.

After softening the soil, we fertilized with a mix designed to enhance growing power, making sure we didn’t scorch the tender seeds we hid beneath a blanket of dust.

Every seed looked different. We placed pods, beans, tiny black dots, and flaky wisps into the ground, then covered them according to the depth of their needs, before watering. The scent of earthy musk was strong, as wet and dry mingled.

But still, the work wasn’t done between planting and harvest. It took several days before the first fledgling shoots peeked into daylight. We hunkered over the dirt, waiting to glimpse the sprouts. The first took the longest, but when it popped, the landscape was soon covered in bright green, fragile plants, all groping higher for the sun.

Kentucky Tobacco

Are You Nearing Harvest Time?

Once we saw progress, even harder work began. Hoeing, weeding, continual watering, fighting the heat of radiating summer days. Sleep. Repeat. Sleep. Repeat. While the plants slowly grew taller and thicker.

For weeks, we followed this pattern. The newness had long since worn off. We were hot. Tired. Bored. And ready for the monotony and harsh elements to end.

Until finally. Harvest time. Though it was still too early for the soothing calm of autumn winds, gleaning fruits and vegetables energized our dry spirits. We plucked juicy tomatoes, and ate them like candy. Fresh cucumbers refreshed our hot lips. We shucked silk from raw corn and popped it in our mouths. Life was good, and we wallowed in its glory. Until canning and freezing time.

Green Cornfield

What Does Your Writing Garden Look Like?

I won’t go into plucking, shucking, de-stringing, pressure-cookers, mason jars, freezer bags, or the other finger-numbing parts of putting food away for the winter. I think you get the picture. We couldn’t rush the process.

And writing connects with this scenario. So do pioneers and heroes.

Think about it. When you write, don’t you have to prepare the soil? Deal with fertilizer, but then realize it adds fodder to your crops? Don’t we seed devotions, articles, webzines, copy-writing, books, and speaking platforms?

We water, hoe, weed, and care for our tender publishing shoots.

Then we finally harvest. And we wallow in the glory of it — until we realize how much more work must be done.

Pioneer Wagon

You Are a Pioneer Who Could Be a Hero

This is where I think of pioneers. Many of us dare new territories with our messages. We explore and discover. And like the pioneers who founded America, we stake claims, work hard, protect, and we pray. Sometimes all manner of crisis, like harsh winters, droughts, prairie fires, tornadoes, and hail, threaten to destroy what we’ve built.

But like the sturdy pioneer, we must determine not to give up. This is where heroes are born. Those hardy souls who will not be moved from the place they are called. Who refuse to buckle under the bellows of the wind.

Those who know growing a writing garden is not something everyone can do. But who believe in their message, the impact, the harvest — and don’t give up. Because the honor of feeding a multitude makes dealing with every clump of dirt worthwhile. And so they hoe.

How does your writing garden grow?

Hopelessly Devoted to You

Soundtrack for Grease

I Wore My Album Out

I loved the movie Grease when I was a teenager. My cherished movie soundtrack album wore out, as needle tracks embedded themselves deeper into the shiny, black vinyl. I even played Olivia Newton John’s part as Sandy, in a condensed version with my high school mates.

In the privacy of my bedroom, and a handful of times on the stage, I belted out Sandy’s song of undying love for Danny, Hopelessly Devoted to You. With adoration pulsing through my vocal chords, I too, felt the passion of forever romance.

And today, that’s how I want to feel about Jesus. I want my heart to thump with anticipation every time I hear His voice, smell His scent, brush against His presence, taste His goodness, and see His glory. Though I tremble when I’m near Him, I want to wildly, passionately, and bravely chase after Him for more.

Sandy & Danny at Sunset - Grease

This is my Hopelessly Devotional

Like Sandy in the movie, I ultimately want to transform myself, so at the end, I look more like Him, and less like me. I want my devotion to shine from the inside out, so the whole world knows, I am hopelessly devoted to Him.

Today, I probably wouldn’t watch Grease if it weren’t for nostalgia. As I’ve grown in my desire to please God, I realize there are parts of the movie that don’t honor Him. But when I do allow myself to indulge, I see nuances explaining my draw to the magic of Grease, way back when. The same nuances draw me to intimacy with Jesus. I am hopelessly devoted.

But what exactly does devote mean? According to one dictionary, it’s defined this way. To give all or a large part of one’s time or resources to (a person, activity, or cause). 

This definition makes me pause. Am I giving all or a large part of my time or resources to Christ? Am I offering Him the best of my energy, talents, and love?

Often I think I do, I want to, but deep down, I know I fall short of an active, hope-infused devotion. My vocal cords aren’t pulsing with passion, the way they should.

Danny & Sandy -- Grease

Flying into Forever Romance

Thankfully, Jesus isn’t as fickle as John Travolta, when he played Danny in Grease. Christ is not impacted by peer pressure. He cares little about my outward appearance. His interest in me isn’t self-serving. He loves me enough for both of us. His desire is to meet me in the clouds, where He and I will truly fly away into our forever romance.

As I write this, I can close my eyes, and see us. Jesus and me, in a magical moment, strolling through heaven.

Danny & Sandy on the Beach, Grease

Hopelessly Devoted to Magical Moments with Jesus

I’ll cling to his arm, lay my head on his shoulder, and breathe deeply of his scent while we walk. He’ll stop and turn, so we’re face-to-face. He’ll lift my chin.

Totally engaged, I’ll get lost in His smiling eyes, while I belt out our song. He will know, I’m Hopelessly Devoted to You.

Is there a special song, movie, or memory that offers a unique vision of your intimate moments with Jesus Christ?

WordServe News: December 2012

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

As the year comes to a close, we’re so very grateful that WordServe Authors released 83 books in 2012, and signed 80 book contracts for nearly 119 books to release off in the future.

IntotheFreeJulie Cantrell had the agency’s first New York Times Bestseller in many years with her book Into the Free. It also garnered a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. A rarity.

We had several books climb over the 100,000 copy mark:

* The Secret Holocaust Diaries of Nonna Bannister, written by Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin (Tyndale)

* The Devil in Pew Seven by Rebecca Alonzo, with James Pence (Tyndale)

* My Flight to Heaven by Dale Black (Bethany)

* Edge of Apocalypse by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall (Zondervan)

* Linspired (adult and YA book together) by Mike Yorkey (Zondervan)

And we’ve had several authors show up on national shows:

* Rebecca Alonzo on Dr. Phil (twice)

* Lauren Scruggs appeared on several shows in November at the launch of her book, Still Lolo.

These WordServe authors signed their FIRST BOOK CONTRACT in 2012:

* Anita Agers-Brooks (Leafwood)
* Leigh Ann Bryant (Authentic)
* Deb DeArmond (Leafwood)
* Rebecca DiMarino (Revell)
* Jan Drexler (Love Inspired)
* Michael Hidalgo (IVP)
* Heather James (Kregel)
* Amanda Jenkins (Tyndale)
* Caesar Kalinowski (Zondervan)
* Heather Larson, with David and Claudia Arp (Bethany)
* Tracie Miles (Leafwood)
* Jerry and Caroly Parr (Tyndale)
* Christina Powell (IVP)
* Rachel Randolph, with Becky Johnson (Zondervan)
* Tina Samples (Kregel)
* Lauren Scruggs (Tyndale)
* Amy Sorrels (David C. Cook)
* Mandy Stewarad (David C. Cook)
* Janalyn Voigt (Harbourlight)
* Jeremy & Jennifer Williams (Thomas Nelson)
* Tricia Williford (WaterBrook)

These WordServe authors had their FIRST BOOKS published through a traditional publishing house:

* Julie Cantrell, Into the Free (David C. Cook)
* Arnie Cole, Unstuck (Bethany)
* Katie Ganshert, Wildflowers from Winter (WaterBrook)
* Adam Makos, A Higher Call (Berkley Caliber)
* Jay Pathak/Dave Runyon, The Art of Neighboring (Baker)
* Zeke Pipher, Man on the Run (Howard)
* Lauren Scrubbs, Still Lolo (Tyndale)
* Helen Shores and Barbara Shores Lee, The Gentle Giant of Dynamite Hill (Zondervan)
* Jordyn Redwood, Proof (Kregel)

So all in all, we had lots to celebrate!

New January Releases

WhatJesusSteve Addison, What Jesus Started.

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UnholyHungerHeather James, Unholy Hunger, her debut novel!

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RadicalDr. Rita Hancock, Radical Well Being

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AHigherCallAdam Makos, A Higher Call

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JustWhatDoctorRick Marschall, Just What the Doctor Disordered

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TheRiverGilbert Morris, The River Palace

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DilemmaOlivia Newport, The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow

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GreatStoriesJoe Wheeler, Great Stories Remembered #1, audio (eChristian)

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StinkyJoe Wheeler, Stinky: The Skunk Who Wouldn’t Leave (Pacific Press)

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New WordServe Clients

Several new clients have joined the WordServe stable with Alice Crider as their point person, but we’ll report more on that next month.

New Contracts

Christina Powell signed with Intervarsity Press (IVP) for her first book. The book is tentatively titled Question your Doubts. It explores the many roots of doubt experienced by both believers and nonbelievers, providing a corresponding response of faith from the rare perspective of a Harvard-trained research scientist who is also an ordained minister. (SF)

What can we help you celebrate?