Thursday, March 30, 2017

You? Write a book? What makes you so special?

So you’ve decided to write your memoir—but you hear nagging little whispers.

“Who do you think you are?”

You? Write a book? What makes you so special?”

You might ask, “Who am I, that I should write such stories? I’m not a Moses, or a David, or a Paul, or an Abraham….”

But wait! Moses got so mad he killed an Egyptian and ran away and hid in the desert for 40 years.

And later, when God said He was sending Moses to Pharoah to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses made all kinds of excuses and balked and wailed, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it” (Exodus 4:13).

Here’s the important point: It’s not that Moses was so great—it’s what God did: He enabled Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the land of milk and honey—and so much more.

Then there’s David, and Paul. It’s easy to think of them as saints, but they really messed up sometimes. Their lives were a mixture of faith and willful disobedience, spiritual success and failures, yet God used them in mighty ways and continues to do so today. It’s not so much what David or Paul did, but what God did.

Abraham is…one of the most important men in the history of the world,” writes Richard Peace. “What makes him so important … is not his sterling character (which he did not have), his outstanding intellect (which may have existed but it is not mentioned), his charming personality (he could be pretty annoying) or substantial personal accomplishments (he has few, apart from his pilgrimage to the promised land). What Abraham is remembered for is his faithfulness in obeying God’s call to undertake a long and demanding journey. It was not so much what Abraham did, but what God did…. In Abraham we see not so much a saint in action; rather, the faithfulness and graciousness of God…. In Abraham we see an ordinary man who is used by God, not because of who Abraham was, but because of who God is….” (Richard Peace, Spiritual Storytelling)

So…. How does that make you feel? Can you see yourself as an ordinary person used by God?

Bottom line: Write your stories—not because of who you are, but because of who God is.

It’s not that we think
we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves.
Our only power and success come from God.
2 Corinthians 3:5, NLT

…Our adequacy is from God…. Therefore, having such a hope,
we use great boldness in our speech [and writing]….
2 Corinthians 3:5, 12, NAS

Write your stories!

Depend on God to make you adequate for this awesome task.

Use heavenly boldness in your writing.

Your stories can help readers
become all God created them to be.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: Your stories can shape your family’s history

The Bible urges us to tell our children and grandchildren our stories—because God knows how influential stories can be. Just look at the way He uses stories in the Bible—it’s full of stories. Why? Because they are so powerful!

Stories sculpt us,
define us,
enlarge our hearts,
save us,
and help us figure out why we were born. 

Your stories are important, perhaps more than you realize.

We all know stories have shaped history. And your stories can shape the history of your family, one person at a time.

Your stories can offer inspiration,
encourage peace and joy and hope,
demonstrate courage and integrity,
introduce readers to God’s love,
and strengthen their faith.

Your kids and grandkids and great-grandkids need to know your stories—stories of success and struggle, even failure. Your stories can help others learn from your hard lessons.

“…Dr. Duke said that
children who have the most self-confidence
have…a strong ‘intergenerational self.’
They know they belong to
something bigger than themselves….

The bottom line:
if you want a happier family,
create, refine and retell the story
of your family’s positive moments
and your ability to bounce back
from the difficult ones.
That act alone may increase the odds
that your family will thrive
for many generations to come.”
(emphasis mine; 
to read the whole article.)

Write your stories!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lisa Oltmans, a member of our SM 101 family, has published her memoir!

That’s right! Lisa Oltmans has published her memoir, See You Now: A Memoir of Shane’s Triumph Over SMA, and I’m delighted to welcome her here to share her story with you.

Her guest post today will inspire you in two ways:

(1) You’ll be moved by her faith and endurance in what she describes as “a story of survival against all odds,” and

(2) you’ll be motivated by Lisa’s tenacity in finishing her memoir and publishing itshe’s actually holding her book in her hands! Isn’t that what you want to do, too?

Below she shares specifics about organizing, writing, editing, and publishing—as well as working through her grief, which many of us must also do in writing our own stories. You’ll be inspired by the good tips Lisa offers.

Welcome, Lisa!

On my birthday, February 28, I read Linda’s blog about holding your own book in your hands. I knew what that felt like! And I wanted to let her know how much her Spiritual Memoirs 101 had not only inspired me, but led me to go forward and self-publish my own memoir, See You Now: A Memoir of Shane’s Triumph over SMA.

In 1989, my only son was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at the tender age of six weeks. The doctors predicted he would die before the age of two. The only Scripture that reached out to pull me back to earth was, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Through prayer and a daily walk of faith, my husband and I raised our son to adulthood. I felt that Shane’s story, a story of survival against all odds, had to be written for the young families just receiving such a diagnosis and for anyone in a caregiving role for a family member.

Writing the memoir of my son's life was an act of love. Although I could have written this book in any order, I felt that keeping the chapters in chronological order presented my son's life for others who are in the middle of their own battles.

I used my journals and blogs to get started. I took a large loose-leaf notebook and made dividers for each section representing a year of Shane’s life. I scrapbooked in photos, clippings, ticket stubs, notes, and miscellaneous items to jog my memory. I made a spreadsheet with a row for each chapter and columns for the name of the chapter, year, Shane’s age, Shane’s school grade, chapter summary, important events, our employers, teachers, and nurses. Each year has an associated Bible verse because our relationship with Jesus is the catalyst that made my son’s life possible.

Using my outline, I worked through my grief, year by year. It was not an easy process, but it was a cathartic and healing process. I had my moments of doubt. I started over a few times, and it took five years for me to complete my son’s story. 

I used my spreadsheet to keep track of what I had written and what I still needed to write. I color-coded them with a highlighter, red for writing in process, yellow for editing, and green for completed.

To write, I picked a chapter and imagined myself time travelling, using the mementos and photos to jog my memory. Some revived memories were so sharp and painful that I had to skip them to write later.

Filling in the spreadsheet with green highlighter, I printed each chapter after I wrote it on my computer. I placed them in my loose leaf notebook. I found having the printed pages helped encourage me to keep working.

I knew that editing was an important process. After I finished a set of chapters, I sent them to a dear friend who taught English for over twenty years. She marked the edits I needed to polish the book, and she asked for clarification when I was not clear about some things.

For publishing, I researched all the possible methods to get Shane’s story out into the world. At my age, waiting for an agent and a publisher was too time-consuming. Shane taught me that life is short, and it is best lived in action and not in waiting. An e-book can be published free of charge, so first I published Shane's story as an e-book on Smashwords.

I titled the book, See You Now, which was one of Shane’s favorite sayings. He would never let anyone say, “See you later.” Even at a young age, he lived in the moment. My cover was designed by a professional graphic artist for a reasonable charge.

To publish the book as a paperback, I used Amazon’s CreateSpace. It was very exciting to hold a real copy of the book, review it, and then approve it for print.

I’ve received feedback from other families, and Shane’s story has encouraged them in the middle of their own battles. His example has inspired these families to make the effort and help their children get out into the world every day.

I know some of you have such stories of encouragement to share as well. I encourage you to organize your memories and get your story into print. The light of Christ changed our story from one of tragedy to one of triumph.

The world needs these stories, and these examples of how faith changes everything. God is always faithful to those who call out to him in faith for help. Start my friends, and write.  It is worth every second.

Special thanks to Linda for encouraging us all!

And thank you, Lisa, for inspiring us as well! May God use your memoir, See You Now: A Memoir of Shane's Triumph Over SMA, to help many in their own struggles.

For more information click here to see Lisa's author profile and links to her author website.

Have you published your memoir? 
If so, let us know! 
Leave a comment below 

Or feel free to send me a private message 
on the Facebook Page.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Your stories: Where do you find them?

Your stories are all around you, just waiting for you to put them in writing.

Look at your cell phone contact list, your address book, your Facebook friends, your email inbox, your Twitter friends—what stories can you write about some of those people?

What stories can you write about the fun you had with them? About the adventures? What did you learn alongside them about failure, hard work, success, romance, illness, teamwork?

What skills did those people teach you?

What lessons did they teach you?

Who taught you about honesty, integrity, perseverance, kindness, compassion, generosity, faith in God? How, specifically, did those individuals shape you and encourage you to be the person you are today?

Write your stories! But not just stories. God-and-you stories.

Stories are everywhere. Look around your office or your house. What have you tucked into a special drawer or a safe deposit box?

If a tornado siren sounded, or if a smoke alarm went off, what would you grab and take to a safe place?

If those items could talk, what stories would they tell?

I think about that question a lot.

Someday I want to write stories based on my old blue American Tourister carry-on bag (a gift from Schiefelbeins before Dave and I left for Africa; thanks, Rick and Marilyn!). It has traveled with me for 24 years and counting, across three continents: from this planet’s most primitive places to the world’s most sophisticated cities—and what stories it could tell! Not just stories, but God-and-me stories.

What stories would my husband’s grandmother’s aluminum colander tell? And her ironing board? I don’t know how many years Grandma Jennings used them, but I’ve used them for 50 years! Five generations of our family (so far) have used those items. Imagine what stories they could tell—stories of God’s faithfulness to our family, generation after generation.

Why have you thrown out some possessions but kept others for many years?

Why could you never throw them out or give them away? Because they represent something important to you. What is that something?

Look around and ask yourself:

“If this dining room table could talk, what stories would it tell?”

“If my old Bible could talk, what stories would it tell?”

“If these boots could talk, what stories would they tell?”

What about a photo? A book? Washing machine? Piece of art? Jewelry? Woodworking tools? Coffee mug? Mechanical tools? Art supplies? A vase? A favorite old devotional book?

Many items could tell stories—stories significant to you and your family.

Set aside time to think about a key item. Ponder its importance: while you drive to work or mow the lawn or brush your teeth or walk the dog or drive the grandkids to baseball practice.

Look at old photos connected with the item—photos of places and people.

What questions do you need to ask?

What questions do you need to ask yourself?

Peel back layers. Wait for answers. Listen for them.

When answers surface, write your storiesnot just stories. Write God-and-you stories.

Remember, while you’ve been using and enjoying those items, God has always been with you, working in you, working on your behalf.

Your stories are all around you. You don’t need to experience news-making miracles to witness God at work. He is in your everyday comings and goings.

Oswald Chambers says it this way:

“We look for visions from heaven
and for earth-shaking events
to see God’s power.
Yet we never realize that
all the time God is at work
in our everyday events….”

Write your stories!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: On vulnerability, success, failure, and hope

Let's read that last part again. "Editors don't want [and I add: readers don't want] stories of our great triumphs and success. Readers identify with failure and find hope in rising above mistakes."

Let's remember this while we write our memoirs.

Follow Cec and Me, with Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk, on Facebook

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Do you have a plan to promote your memoir?

The closer I get to publishing my second memoir, the more I look for marketing ideas.

I find book promotion painful. How about you?

But you and I know we must do it.

Marketing can seem like grinning at people and saying, “Buy my book! It’s great!” But that’s not the best way to do it.

There’s an art to book promotion and we need to do it correctly.

If you’ll soon publish your memoir, you must become a student of marketing it.

How do you do that? You can buy books, attend workshops and writers’ conferences, sign up to receive relevant blog posts by email, and follow pros on Facebook and other social media.

Below you’ll find links to articles I’ve found helpful.

Sarah Bolme at Marketing Christian Books says, “Most people hate selling. They also hate being sold to. So, stop trying to sell your book and start trying to connect with your potential readers.”  Read Sarah’s advice about creating emotional connections, including Mark Rodgers’ list of seven types of emotional objectives in persuading people.

  • her most effective means of promoting books
  • the least effective promotions she’s tried
  • connecting with her readers
  • the craziest promotional gimmick she’s used
  • unexpected doors for promotion
  • tips for new authors promoting their first book

  • learn when it’s a good idea to give away free books and when it’s not
  • listen to the pros, not your family and friends, about your book’s cover design

The Nonfiction Authors Association shares tips from “the industry’s best, brightest, and most innovative experts.” In this post they answer the question, “What are some of your best tips for leveraging social media for authors?”

Debbie Young at Self Publishing Advice Center encourages the following marketing methods:
  • joint promotions by groups of authors
  • targeting specialist markets, not just bookstores
  • networking with people from your past
  • bookish acts of kindness

I highly recommend you follow Sandra Beckwith at Build Book Buzz. She’s a real pro. Check out her post, Who are your key influencers? in which she explains how to find your influencers and what to do with your influencer list.

Sandra Beckwith recommended a post over at Just Publishing Advice. Check out Ten Marketing Mistakes New Authors Make.  

Do you know what metadata is? If not, you need to educate yourself. “Book metadata is all about making your book more discoverable,” says Derek Haines at Just Publishing Advice. It’s “about words and phrases that will help readers find your books.” And that’s what you want, right?

I’ll post more links to help with your marketing strategies, but for now, begin by taking in all the information in today’s post.

Let’s help each other! 
If you have marketing tips to share with us, 
leave a comment below 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: When was the last time you attended a writers’ conference?

Some people say writers should attend a conference at least once a year

Are you overdue?

Writers’ conferences offer a wealth of information and inspiration, things such as:

  • Networking with other writers, people who share your goals and dreams. You might even make a new friend or meet someone who will become a valuable critique partner.
  • Learning from professionals—writers, editors, publishers, marketers, and agents. Whether you’re a beginning writer or an accomplished author, professionals’ expertise will educate and help you move toward publishing a high-quality memoir.
  • Making appointments with pros. Most conferences offer participants opportunities to get critiques and to meet with editors and agents.
  • Schmoozing with pros. Around lunch tables and at social times, you can rub elbows with those professionals—and that can lead to some delightful results.
  • Inspiration to improve your skills and work hard on your manuscript. At writers’ conferences you’ll find a lot of enthusiastic people, and their passion will rub off on you. 

Be selective about which conferences you attend. Scrutinize brochures for offerings and faculty and choose a conference that best suits your purposes and needs.

I encourage you to look into Colorado Christian Writers Conference coming up May 17-20, 2017. Many consider it one of the best in America.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Check out Experience Tells, memoir vignettes published in an ezine

Today we welcome guest blogger 
and my dear friend, Joyce Hyde
who, along with two friends, publishes memoir vignettes 
in an online magazine—or ezine. 

And what a coincidence: The ladies chose the same theme verse 
as ours here at SM 101, Deuteronomy 4:9!

Perhaps you’d like to choose this format 
for your stories, too. 

Check out Joyce’s post here and the ezine, 
They will inspire you!

Welcome to SM 101, Joyce! Take it away!

For several years Carol Brinneman, Kristin Elkinton, and I worked closely together at a nonprofit to produce print and web communications. Carol is a highly qualified editor and writer. Kristin is a writer, and was, for many years, the manager of the department where I worked. I had written in the past, but in recent years I focused on graphic design using Adobe products such as Photoshop and InDesign.

We became friends and have much in common. We are Christians and have been missionaries most of our adult lives. We’ve all traveled a great deal and lived cross-culturally. Each of us has endured difficult times in our childhoods and adult lives as well.

In May 2015, I retired because my husband, for health reasons, needed me at home full time. Kristin had retired a few years earlier, but Carol was still working, though not full time.

We met for lunch, as we had done several times before, but this time the atmosphere was different. I don’t remember who brought the idea up first, but we started talking about wanting to do more with our lives. We all felt our calling from God was not over when our assignments ended, and we were not ready yet for a rocking chair on the porch!

The more we talked, the more the idea jelled that we should do something with the gifts God had given us. We had stories to tell of God’s blessing, correction, and provision. We felt we had survived it all and been privileged in the lives we’d led. Now we were concerned mothers and grandmothers who wanted to see our children, extended family, and friends thrive—in life and in a relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The timing was perfect. Adobe had just come out with Publish Online. This app allowed us to publish from Adobe InDesign and upload to the web at no cost. I told Carol and Kristin about this new possibility. We realized we had the platform, and the ability to do the magazine, but should we?

We went home and prayed, making sure this was something God wanted us to do. It was a huge commitment to publish a magazine regularly. We wanted to do an excellent job, and that takes lots of time. We met again and decided to go ahead, starting with the 2015 Christmas issue. We have now published six editions of our ezine, Experience Tells.

We chose as our theme verse Deuteronomy 4:9, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” We hope we are accomplishing this goal with each issue.

I believe everything came together for us to start the magazine: timing, personnel, gifting, and desire. We have no idea how long we will continue, but when the time comes to stop, we will be grateful for the blessing of doing this together as friends.

All issues are on our Experience Tells website. Please visit our Facebook page, too, and like us.

Joyce and I and our husbands worked together 
for several years in Nairobi 
and explored the beauties of Kenya on our weekends. 

I can’t imagine living there without Joyce and Marvin—
our memories are indelible. 

Read about them in my memoir,