Impossible Writing Projects

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I sensed the Lord’s direction to share a particular story from my family’s life, and I began to write about it when we were still in the heat of the crisis.

Impossible journey. Every time I attempted to move forward with submitting this project for publication, something major would happen to prevent my progress.

By major, I don’t mean a little bump in the road. I’m referring to some impossible situations—like my mother’s terminal illness, my daughter’s two major surgeries and several difficult pregnancies, my father-in-law’s lengthy terminal illness, and more.

And I haven’t even mentioned the journey to publication. Oh, my! Where do I begin with that one?

Impossible project. As I approached this long-standing project about a crisis with my daughter Tara, red flags waved all around me, warning me of the impossibility of this effort. And to be honest, when I came home from her house recently, discouragement blanketed me again like a heavy, dark storm cloud. And I’ve been tempted to toss this project into the “impossible” pile once again.

Impossible calling. Then, I spent time in a study of Moses.

And I thought my task looked hopeless!

Moses faced the unimaginable tasks of his calling with great fear. He knew he didn’t have the strengths that he would need to complete the things that God had called him to.

Moses was well aware of his weaknesses and limitations. He wanted to embrace God’s promises, but everywhere he turned, he sensed the impossibility of God’s plans for his life.

Powerful Promises. Today, as I study more about Moses, I’m reminded once again of how God’s promises do not depend upon me. Even my unbelief, fear, and doubt will not change God’s plans. God will complete His work—with or without my involvement.

I know the story I need to write will be told to encourage others who might be experiencing a similar crisis. And I don’t want them to miss out on the blessing.

So, I’m choosing to go forward again, holding on to God’s promises.

Thankfully, I don’t believe God has given up on me like I’ve often given up on Him. He will forgive my complaining and blaming others for my failures. And He promises to provide all I need to complete the work that He has stirred up in me.

I pray if you are struggling over a similar circumstance, you will consider God’s promises to you again today.

“[Be] strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NLT)

Have you ever given up on a project because it seemed impossible?

How to write a GREAT book

What makes a book a great read?

If someone asked me to name the best books I read in 2017, four immediately come to mind: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore, Be Strong in the Lord: Praying for the Armor of God for Your Children by Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers, and Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.

But if you asked me why they were the best books of the year for me, I would have specific reasons for each. I choose Walker’s book because it literally changed my behavior in two ways: I now try to get more sleep to improve my health, and I refuse to drive a car if I’m in the least bit tired (yes, he scared the heck out of me with statistics!). Moore’s book impressed me deeply with its story of women who suffered terribly, yet fought industry to make it responsible for employees’ health on the job. Be Strong in the Lord deepened my faith for both my children and myself, and Picoult’s novel gave me new eyes and a new heart to confront racism in America.

These books changed my behavior and attitudes in specific, concrete ways. I am a different person because I read them.

And that is ultimately what makes a book a great read: it meets the reader where she lives, and changes her.

Book design, reviews, buzz, brilliant writing, thorough research, perfect plotting – authors dream that all those things will come together in their books to make it a bestseller, but the key to every book’s success, I believe, is in how the author connects to the reader about something important to that same reader. This means, naturally, that there exists a myriad of topics a writer can address (and they do!), which also means many – actually, probably MOST – books will never appeal to every reader, and because of that, every author needs to be mindful of the particular audience for whom they write. To best serve that audience, however, the successful author has to dig deep into his own wants and desires, unearth the most compelling, most universal, needs he can share with his readers, and then translate that into the written word.

The words “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone” are attributed to Ronald Reagan. Likewise, every book can’t be a great read for every reader, but for some reader, some book can be a great read. As you set forth on your writing journey in 2018, I hope you write that great book for some reader.

Who knows? You might even change my life.

New Year’s resolutions…or not

Well, this is embarrassing. I thought I’d write a post about writing resolutions for a new year by reviewing my resolutions for 2017 and noting how I did.

But I can’t find my list of resolutions.

Anywhere.

So I either 1) put it somewhere I wouldn’t forget, and I’ll find it in another six months or so, or 2) the dog ate it, along with several grocery lists and the instructions for assembling my husband’s new bike, or 3) I never made a list in the first place.

I have a suspicion it’s door #3: I never made resolutions for 2017.

And here’s why:

  1. Years ago, I realized I didn’t have to wait for a new year to begin new habits or improve on old ones. Making resolutions is really procrastination, waiting for the right moment to begin a new project or make a change. Every writer I know has learned the truth – there is no ‘right’ moment to start writing. A new year is not going to magically make it happen. You just have to sit down and write. Now.
  2. Resolutions sugarcoat tough realities. Of course, a writer resolves to write a book every year. Some years, that actually happens. Yippee! Other years, that ambitious resolution gets buried by the nuts-and-bolts of marketing the last book you wrote, preventing you from even picking a topic or plot for the new book you wanted to write this year. Or you have a family crisis that demands all your attention and energy. Experienced writers know that life happens…and when it does, writing resolutions go out the window…until those same writers are ready to process what they’ve experienced and incorporate it into their next book, which may not be the next book they thought they’d be writing.
  3. Resolutions are limiting. Again, life is full of surprises, and when a writer feels tugged in a new direction, an old resolution can be inhibiting. Why keep hammering away on that novel you’ve worked over for years, when an unexpected opportunity to write (or co-write) a self-improvement book presents itself and you find yourself drawn to it? Good writers know they need to welcome growth opportunities, sometimes even before they finish old projects.

So you won’t find me writing resolutions for 2018 in the next week. Instead, I’m going to rejoice in all the satisfying things my writing life brought me in 2017: learning how to build my own website, hearing from a growing number of readers how much they enjoy my books, an unexpected nomination for a Christy Award from my publisher, invitations to speak to groups, returning to writing a blog, sharing my faith with published devotionals, and mentoring new writers.

Wait a minute. I am going to write one resolution after all. And here it is: Thank God every day for the gift of writing.

I know I can remember that. And I’ll never have to worry about the dog eating it, either…

Happy New Year, writers!

How about you? Do you make resolutions?

12 Unique Last Minute Gift Ideas Writers Can Give for Christmas

Has the date snuck up on you? Maybe you were hunkered down all of November to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge. Or perhaps you’ve got a book deadline, and the focus on your writing sphere has kept you from realizing what’s going on in the real world. Yikes!

If you are a writer who’s run out of time and you still have a list of people to get gifts for, then this post might just give you hope. I’ve compiled some unique gift ideas for writers — since we have the ability to give thoughtful words. Not only are these personalized items special, but they are inexpensive (some nearly free), and they hold the potential to make a lasting impact. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get writing and giving!

12 Last Minute Gift Ideas for Writers

  1. The Story of Us: Write a condensed version of your special moments with the gift recipient, the traits or talents you especially appreciate in them, or a shared dream. How did you meet? Did you watch them enter the world?
  2. 12 Things I Love About You: Write one for each month and print them on cardstock — if you add pictures, you can make a calendar.
  3. Crazy Love Directional Christmas: You can use the sample template here, or write your own from scratch. But however you craft the story, have your family members bring a $10 or less, unisex, wrapped gift for the game. Stand in a circle, and every time the words right, left, back, or forward are read from the story, everyone passes their gift in that direction. When right or left is said, each person should hand off to the person on that side of them. When they hear back, the gift goes back to the person who had it last. Each time forward is said, pass the gift to the person across from you. Whatever you’re holding when the story ends, becomes your gift. 
  4. Dedicate a Blog Post or Series to Your Recipient’s Favorite Cause: In honor of your loved one, spotlight a social issue they care about. 
  5. Write a Personal Tribute or Family History: Write an accolade or look up the origin of family names. Print on decorative paper, then frame for hanging.
  6. Warm Up Cold Cash With a Personalized Touch: Fold up bills and place them and coins in the slots of an empty candy box, like Whitman’s. Add a customized note, that you place on top, using monetary terms to define the way you feel about the relationship. A few lines to consider: You can’t appreciate me a quarter as much as I appreciate you. I’m ten-fold better off because you are in my life.
  7. Money Balloons: This is another unique twist on giving money. Place folded up bills, coins, and appreciation notes inside un-aired balloons, then blow them up no more than a few hours before your special someones will open their gifts.
  8. Blessing Cookies: Make your own fortune cookies with special messages just for the person you’re gifting inside. Instructions here.
  9. Willy Wonka Golden Ticket: Make up your own golden ticket based on something your recipient likes. Include a note about why you want them to have this. Research and write out economical ways to visit one of their dream vacations.
  10. Punny Gifts: Add humor to the holidays and make Christmas a little bright and funny with these delightfully punny gift ideas.
  11. 5 Things That Make Me Grateful I Know You: Write out a gratitude list specific to the person you are gifting. (Use the examples listed below or come up with your own complimentary comments.)
    1. The way you make me laugh
    2. Your kind heart in helping others
    3. Your generosity with strangers as well as friends
    4. Your talent with a hammer and nails
    5. The special way your nose crinkles when you smile
  12. Check Out More Creative Money Ideas here: Just put your special writing twist on whatever you give. The gifts of our words can be the most priceless present of all.

What’s your favorite gift idea from the list? Do you have a unique way to use writing for gifting?

Word Becoming Flesh in the Life of a Writer

 “The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us….” John 1:14. (NIV)

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was called to carry the Word Made Flesh. Saying “yes” to that plan involved a huge surrender on Mary’s part. Obedience brought her under scrutiny and censure, not only in the public eye, but also–initially–with Joseph, whose opinion she must have valued.

“Don’t be afraid,” the angel told her, which was saying, in essence, “You are about to be shunned and ostracized in your hometown because you are going to get pregnant with God’s son and although you have never been touched by any man, nobody is going to believe your story and they are going to whisper and point at you when you walk by and call you harlot and whore and turn their backs when you enter a room.”

Sometimes the hardest part of being a Word carrier is believing the truth of The Word and not the words others speak over us.

Yes, as followers of Christ, we too, are Word carriers. Through our lives, we demonstrate Christ to those around us.

In the book Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr, she reflects on this time in Mary’s life and asks, “What kind of surrender is happening in you? Do you ever experience being called by a Word larger than your understanding? What is the newest Word that has become flesh in you, dwelling deep in the recesses of your being?”

As a writer, I can think of three words or phrases becoming flesh in me. 

  1. Trust is a word larger than my understanding. God is in charge, I am not. Oh, how hard this is for me to remember! I get caught up in book sales and deadlines. I get caught up in numbers! Not words. Numbers! God does not ask for the numbers to get larger in me, but His words. His life-changing words. Trust needs to expand in me.
  2. Fear not are words larger than my understanding. My college writing professor always told me that the job of the writer is to write what people cannot say or are afraid to say. “To write is to take an ax to the frozen sea within us,” Frank Kafka once said and I need those words to become larger in me. Fear not.
  3. Live real words is a phrase being made flesh in me. Not just written words. Not just paragraphs in my safe little office. A writer does not create sentences in a vacuum. Writing does require solitude and space, but words don’t leap onto the page out of nowhere. Life-changing words find their way on paper after living out the Word made flesh among His living, breathing creation. Live real words are words still being made flesh in me.

Today, on your journey of faith as a writer, I pray you say yes to the surrendering, not as a defeatist, but as one who walks one more step into life larger than your understanding, as the Word is made flesh in you. 

Against the backdrop of the Sonoran Desert, Lynne Hartke writes stories of courage, beauty and belonging–belonging to family, to community and to a loving God. Her book, Under a Desert Sky, was released in May 2017 with Revell/Baker Publishing. She blogs at www.lynnehartke.com. You can find Lynne on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

 

Got a Problem? Here’s the Solution!

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Many years ago, our then five-year-old son trudged into the kitchen.

“I don’t wanna go back to school.” He dropped his Ninja Turtle backpack on the floor and crossed his tiny arms to emphasize the point. “Mrs. C doesn’t like questions and she doesn’t like teaching kids either.”

Surely, he’d misjudged Mrs. C. The teacher we’d just met at Open House a week earlier seemed warm, welcoming, and open to creative little spirits and their quandaries.

I knelt and met my child at eye level. “What makes you say that, honey?”

“’Cause if we wanna know something, she says ‘Not Now’ or ‘Go back to your seat.’ And…if we have a problem, she tells us to go write it on the problem board.”

Hmm.

“Problem board? What’s that?”

“It’s that big board on wheels with lots of white paper.”

Ah…yes. The one at the front of the classroom. I remembered seeing it at Open House.

“Well, did you need help with a question?”

“No. I had a problem.” My son’s face clouded. “Tommy took all my pencils and snapped them in two. When I tried to tell Mrs. C she said, ‘Go write it down on the problem board and then your problem will go away.’”

Really? What kind of nonsense was that?

“And so, what did you do?”

“I wrote my name on the problem board. And then Mrs. C laughed at me and said ‘You have a problem with yourself?’”

I cringed.

Even today, I still frown at the memory.

What I eventually deduced:

  • Most five-year-olds might be able to write their name, but very few write in complete sentences yet. Therefore, blank space on Mrs. C’s problem board equaled—well—no problem! Ever.
  • Mrs. C’s methodology for handling her classroom on a day-to-day basis was far different from what my husband and I observed at Open House. “I try to make things as easy for the students and myself as I can. The less complicated, the better,” she told a group of parents one day.
  • By easy and less complicated she meant unencumbered by demands, decisions, and anything else that required more than marginal effort.

I found that mindset disturbing, and to this day, Mrs. C’s words and attitude still resonate. It was and is so heartbreaking.

God doesn’t grant us creativity to waste, but He does set the bar high. He expects us to use good judgment when using our talents.

For writers and many other professionals, words like easy and uncomplicated rarely mesh with success.

Most of us know by now that with anything worth having (a long-held dream, goal, or career), there’s going to be work involved.

Ignoring “problems,” neglecting the obvious, and expending little energy aren’t endearing qualities. They invite complacency and undermine God’s plan for our lives.

It’s a tough climate for writers just now, but heaven help us if we come to think of our craft as not worth the effort!

If you’re new to the writing journey or if you’ve been at the process a while, I hope you’ve decided to dig in your heels and not settle for the uncomplicated.

I hope you’ll think through, rise above, and go beyond the “problem boards” of life, yet be confident enough to realize, too, sometimes, that’s where the real stories are.

Now

Go tackle some white space.

Don’t be afraid to write on it!

*This post first appeared on my blog.

Original Image Credit: MiraGregorCosic/Pixabay

 

Can you think of a time when you felt ignored or that your problem didn’t matter?

How did you handle it?

Writers, anything you’re tackling on your “problem board” today?

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Cynthia writes Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction from the beautiful Ozark Mountains. A hopeless romantic at heart, she enjoys penning stories about ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances.

“Cindy” has a degree in psychology and a background in social work. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW MozArks, and RWA.

Cindy loves to connect with friends at: http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com/

She also hangs out here:

http://www.twitter.com/C_Herronauthor

http://www.facebook.com/authorcynthiaherron

http://www.pinterest.com/cynthia_herron/

For love, fun, and encouragement ~

Sign up for Cindy’s monthly e-NEWSLETTERS

 

Promises for the Writing Process

WordSwag/KarenJordanAs I worked on my first book project, I struggled with all kinds of self-doubt and fear. I wondered why I had even bothered with writing a book proposal.

I had faced several rejections in the past. And I had been unable to follow through on other book projects earlier for a myriad of reasons.

Yet I couldn’t seem to let go of my desire to share the spiritual lessons I had learned, applying God’s principles and promises to my life.

Peace. I had been praying about finding spiritual rest and peace. And I had struggled with the thought of compiling the truths I had discovered while helping others in their struggle with fear—especially with worry, anxiety, and depression.

Prayer. I had voiced a question to God as I wrestled with fear, doubt, and unbelief concerning direction for my book: How can I write a book about finding spiritual rest, when I’m still one of the most anxious people I know?

Promises. I discovered powerful promises in the Bible as I sought God’s direction and moved forward with my book. I hope they will encourage you as you work on your next writing project.

  • God will complete the work that He began in me. “[Being] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion . . . ” (Phil. 4:6 NLT).
  • The Holy Spirit will teach me all things and remind me of everything that the Lord has taught me. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26 HCSB).
  • Christ promises to give me the strength I need. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13 NLT).

What promises from scripture have meant the most to you while you labored over your writing projects?

 

One Surprising Thing I Learned About Marketing

I recently participated in a marketing class taught by my former WordServe agent, Alice Crider. She gave us the tools needed to take control of our careers and the motivation to create opportunities.

Release Day

There was, however, one thing about the class that shocked me. In fact, if more writers knew about this before they got started, then they might have reconsidered their career choice. Here it is:

To sell your books, you need to be a likable character, and one of the requirements for becoming a likable character is to be polarizing.

Polarizing: to cause (people, opinions, etc.) to separate into opposing groups.

This means that if I am polarizing, then there will be people who don’t agree with me, or they could, gasp, even dislike me.

I hate conflict though. Can’t we all just be friends?

The problem with this wish is that as a writer, if I want anyone to stand with me, I have to first stand for something. I have to know who I am. I have to believe wholeheartedly in what I’m saying. And while this may push some people away, it’s going to draw those who agree with me even closer. They will become my true supporters.

For example, Jen Hatmaker recently claimed that gay marriage can be holy. You can’t get more polarizing than that in the church. She was attacked, and her books have since been banned from certain stores. But here’s the interesting part. She has endeared herself to her audience so completely that her latest book is now in the running for Goodreads Best Book of the Year.

Once I understood this, I decided to not only keep yoga in my next novel, but to use it in promotion. My editor was afraid some Christians would be offended, but I explained why I teach yoga and how it is both permissible and beneficial for me. She accepted with the stipulation that I write a reader letter for the beginning of the book.

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I shared that letter yesterday online, and it was definitely polarizing. I received a personal message saying that I’ve been warned, and now they were going to wipe the dust from their feet and leave me behind. But I also got messages from people wanting to review the book. Besides that, one yogi reviewer told me Finding Love in Eureka is one of the best books she’s ever read. I’ve found my audience.

My point here isn’t to argue who is right or wrong. It’s to encourage writers to be strong. Of course, that’s going to include being knowledgeable and respectful. (You’re goal isn’t to tick people off but to say the hard things that you might not want to say for fear of ticking people off.)

You’re the expert. You’ve been given your passions and desires for a reason. Don’t let your message be watered down when trying to please people. You have something unique to offer that won’t resonate with everyone.

In fact, Jesus said, “Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” There’s probably never been a more polarizing man in all of history. And His book, you know, is a number one best-seller.

 

5 reasons to be thankful you’re a writer

‘Tis the season to be thankful! As every writer knows, the writing life is filled with ups and downs, yet it’s a blessing to claim writing as a career/passion. So while this is too long a list of items to share in a Thanksgiving prayer before digging into the holiday turkey, you might want to take a few minutes on your own to make these observations food for thought and thanks!

  1. You’re your own boss! Or at least, you are until you have a publisher who gives you deadlines. At that point, you’re thrilled to NOT be your own boss, because it means you’ve achieved your dream of finding a publisher who thinks your work should be published! Affirmation is a marvelous thing, isn’t it?
  2. You get to play with words. Writers are weird that way – we like the way words fit together to make sentences, or we hear music in our heads from the rhythm of well-crafted phrases. Also, words are free, so you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get started with your passion, unlike people who want to take up scuba diving or landscaping. If you don’t like the words you have, you can always find new ones; if you don’t like scuba diving after a few trips, you’re stuck with expensive equipment you have to donate to a rummage sale or sell on eBay…
  3. You get to tell stories. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you get to enjoy putting together a ‘story’ – something with a beginning, middle and end. You can spend weeks, months, years, mining your imagination and doing research to create your writing, and you learn cool stuff about things you hadn’t paid attention to until you started composing your story. There’s so much in the world to learn, and you get to pick and choose what interests you.
  4. You get to connect with people. No matter where you publish your words – online on social networks, in magazines, in books, in blogs, in community newsletters – you have an audience, and your words will touch them. Some of those audience members will respond back to you, and then you suddenly realize that words truly are powerful and as a writer, you are privileged to wield that power, along with the responsibility that power brings with it.
  5. Your words can make a positive impact on a reader. At some point in your writing career, a reader is going to thank you for sharing what you have written, because it helped/healed/enlightened/entertained/connected that reader with something important in life. That point is when you, in turn, thank God for giving you the ability to write, because your words have served someone, and ultimately, that’s why you felt called to write in the first place! When you see your writing as ministry, it’s awesome motivation to keep at it. Blessing and being blessed by writing – that’s something to be thankful for!

10 Things You Should Know About the Writing Life

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Original Image Credit: Engin_Akyurt/Pixabay

 

Recently, a friend mentioned that she was thinking about writing—as in pursuing it as a career.

“I mean, how hard can it be, right? I like reading books and I’ve always wanted to write one. I believe I can do it.”

Should I tell her? Should I prick that golden bubble of innocence with a cold, hard dose of truth?

I knew by the stars in her eyes she envisioned something far different from the nitty-gritty, day in, day out, nuts and bolts thing we know as writing.

“And I know it’ll take work, but I don’t mind work.”

The more she talked about the written word, the more animated she grew.

As it so often goes with conversations like this, my friend went on for several minutes, espousing her lifelong wish to pen the novels of her heart.

“Sounds like the writing bug’s bit you, for sure.” I remembered those feelings.

And then I remembered others. The bittersweet ones that are tough to swallow, but necessary in the learning curve.

I tempered my thoughts with some polite niceties, but then my friend pressed.

“Okay, Cindy. Tell me. What are you not saying? What’s something I should know about the writing life?”

“It’s a unique calling…”

“But?”

“No buts. That has a negative connotation. Let’s say andAnd writing’s something that will always matter.”

Here are 10 more things I eventually told my friend about the writing life.

1.      Writing will consume you. You’ll learn to juggle your passion through trial and error. There’s no shortcut around experience.

2.      Writing will test your mettle. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually. Professionally. Rise above pettiness. Seek wise counsel. Stay the course.

3.      Writing will challenge your comfort zones. Expect it. Accept it. You’ll write best beyond those zones.

4.      You won’t always love writing. Some days you may hate it. Don’t worry. That will pass. If it doesn’t, rethink writing.

5.      Writing with publication as your goal demands time. Sometimes lots of it. Months. Years.

6.      Writing is lonely sometimes. Align your troops—those go-to souls who get your art.

7.      Realize writing is a different medium. One size doesn’t fit all. In fact, the writing life rarely makes sense to those who don’t live it.

8.      Writing is an honorable calling. When naysayers tell you otherwise (and they will), remember who you’re writing for.

9.      Writing will shred your self-confidence. God will restore it.

10.    The writing life will change you. You won’t live with what if. You’ll write it.

Melissa Tagg once said this and I asked permission to quote her.

“It’s so true that writing is a lot of work. It takes research and dedication and so much stubbornness it’s not even funny. But man…it is also soooo fun and so filled with magical moments. And there’s a divine mystery to it. Because for all the craft books and classes and conferences that help us grow as writers, we can’t force those perfect nights when the story starts telling itself…the characters start breathing…and the plot comes alive. That’s when I know there’s something more than my own brain at work. That’s when I know I’m not doing this storytelling thing alone.”

 

*This post first appeared on my blog.

What have you discovered about the writing life?

Does your current career path align with your heart’s desire?

If not, what steps are you taking to correct that?

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Cynthia writes Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction from the beautiful Ozark Mountains. A hopeless romantic at heart, she enjoys penning stories about ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances.

“Cindy” has a degree in psychology and a background in social work. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW MozArks, and RWA.

Cindy loves to connect with friends at: http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com/

She also hangs out here:

http://www.twitter.com/C_Herronauthor

http://www.facebook.com/authorcynthiaherron

http://www.pinterest.com/cynthia_herron/

For love, fun, and encouragement ~

Sign up for Cynthia’s monthly e-NEWSLETTERS