Saturday, May 30, 2020

Successful Writers Never Stop Learning

By Andrea Merrell

When asked if she’d been to a writers’ conference lately, the answer was quite a surprise. “I don’t go to conferences anymore. They’re all the same. Besides, I’ve already learned all I need to know.”

The truth is we’ll never get to a place where we’ve learned everything we need to know. This is true, not only in life, but in our writing. Writing and publishing is an ever-evolving industry. Changes come quickly. As soon as we think we have a handle on the “rules,” they change. Again. Taking shortcuts and avoiding the training we need can derail our efforts.

Pastor and author Bob Gass says:

By taking shortcuts, you risk shortchanging your future. Your unwillingness to learn today will leave you unprepared for tomorrow’s opportunities. No skill you learn will ever be lost. Gleaning knowledge and learning new skills builds confidence and sharpens your mind. Successful people have one thing in common: they never quit learning.

Even the Bible tell us to study in order to show ourselves approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:15). We’re also told in Ecclesiastes 9:10, Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going (NKJV).

When God places a calling on our life, He expects us to learn, grow, prepare ourselves continually, and put our best foot forward. If we don’t know the next step, He tells us to ask for godly wisdom (James 1:5).

How important is it for us to remain teachable? To keep learning and growing? Meditate on these words in Proverbs 2:2-10 (NLT):

Tune your ears to wisdom,
 and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight,
 and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
 seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
and you will gain knowledge of God.
For the Lord grants wisdom!
 From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.
He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
He guards the paths of the just
and protects those who are faithful to him.
Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair,
and you will find the right way to go.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will fill you with joy.

There are many webinars and online courses available. Read books on your craft. Read books in your genre. Attend a local workshop. Join a critique group. Try to attend at least one conference per year if possible.

Every successful writer I know makes it a priority to keep learning.

What about you?

(Photos courtesy of, jscreationzs, and ankris.)


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

It's Just Straw Paper

By Yvonne Lehman

Several of us go out to eat after church on Sunday. Our number of available women varies. Several who are accustomed to me, hand me the paper coverings from their straws and the rectangles from around the napkins that holds their utensils. I make bows from those papers and give them to the eaters or line them at the end of the table for the waitress.

Some seem to think I’m creative, but I think I’m … let’s not say, bored, but antsy, needing to do more than just sit and listen or talk. Also, I write with the TV on. I need noise in the background. Makes my subconscious get into gear. And my fingers need to be moving.
Sunday, there were only three of us. One was new to us and did most of the talking. While she talked, I flattened the paper, folded each side toward the middle, making a loop on each side, leaving two edges hanging down. I placed my index finger inside each loop to fluff it out. Using condensation from my water glass, I wet my finger and thumb, then pressed the middle to secure the bow. Sometimes the sides aren’t even, and I start over. Many times my first effort with the water isn’t wet enough to secure the bow, and the middle pops up. Sometimes the bow is lovely upon first try. Not often, however. Generally, putting that finishing touch with the water takes several attempts. But when Sunday’s bow was finished, I gently placed it toward the center of the booth away from me, so I could satisfactorily observe my creation.

The other two women didn’t notice or comment. To the constant woman, this was commonplace. The new one was intent upon telling her story. I thought about what they did with their papers.

The new woman removed her straw, crumpled the paper, and tossed it toward the center of the table away from her. It lay sprawled in an ungraceful manner. The constant woman rolled her paper around in the palm of her hand until it became a wadded ball. Then she carelessly laid it aside, without any thought to its potential or my needy hands. (I could excuse that since the new woman’s conversation was … revealing. Or one might say … a story idea.)

So, while waiting for my fried salt and peppered catfish and non-salt and peppered non-crispy fried oysters, I looked at my bow that went unnoticed by my companions or the waitress.

Those other straw papers, having been abused or pampered, reminded me of the writing process.

We can have a story idea in our hands—or heads, so to speak. It’s a good idea, but if not given serious thought, it’s crumpled and tossed away.

We can have an idea, hold it for awhile wondering if it’s of any value after all, roll it around in our heads, but become distracted by something of interest at the time and then carelessly lay it aside to be treated like trash.

The serious writer, however, knows that nothing is just a paper idea. Something good can come from this. I must fold and smooth, and when it threatens to come apart, it’s as if cold ice water is applied but eventually it warms, adheres, and settles into being a lovely little symbol of an idea worked into something that’s symbolic of beauty and a piece of art.

Just straw paper?

No! A lesson about life and how we handle situations, even writing a book, article, or devotion.

We might think our story idea is like a flat piece of paper to be crumpled and tossed aside. Or we can take that idea and work with it until it becomes something creative. Sometimes, no one will notice. But there’s satisfaction in creating something from what may seem insignificant. Sometimes, others will notice, laugh, comment, and enjoy the moment.

What are you going to do with your … straw paper?

My assignment for the May conference was to teach workshops on “Ideas” and “Writing for the Moments Series.” Since we can’t meet in person yet, here’s an idea.

Write an article for one of the Moments books. You may do what many have: change lives with what you write. Or, like others, delight with an entertaining incident. Or express what you’ve learned from an experience, or how your faith grew in tying times. This may be your opportunity to be published for the first time.

Here are a few guidelines:

A story that compliments the theme of each book, such as Christmas Moments. Most are true stories. Some are reflections on the theme or subject of the book. These are written by never-before-published and multi-published authors. We have also used a few short stories, poetry, prayers, and a few by children.

Author’s natural telling voice. In fiction we’re hounded by the need to show, not tell.  A true story, or your reflection on something, is told. Tell it your way. But be aware of allowing your reader to see the action, feel the emotion.
  • Mary loved everybody. (Too little telling; needs some showing.)
  • Mary sent cards or took food to anyone she knew who was hurting. (Showing.)

These may be original or previously published if rights have been returned to you. We retain rights after acceptance until publication, then rights automatically return to you.

Word count
However many words are needed to tell your story (from about 500 to 2000+ words). Main point is the content of the story.

Look for unnecessary words, poor sentence structure, correct punctuation, typos, getting away from theme, inserting too much backstory or explanation.

Sharing, with the possibility of changing someone’s life, heart, or mind. Authors get one free copy and discount on orders. All royalties go to Samaritan’s Purse, an organization that helps victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through his son, Jesus Christ.

Submission guidelines
On the article, include your name, mailing address for your free copy, and email address. I like them in 12-point type, Times New Roman, and sent as an email attachment to

*** Accepting NOW! ***

Christmas Stories for 2020 – Santa or Jesus or both

Broken Moments – hearts, lives, relationships, objects, promises, etc. (serious or humorous)

Grandma’s Cookie Jar Moments – most will be about grandmas – others may be warm, cozy stories having the ambience of a stereotypical grandma-type story

Lost Moments – lives, souls, keys, eyeglasses, minds, things found, etc. (serious or humorous)

Can, Sir! Moments – now that we’re going through a pandemic, these may be about the virus (perhaps how you spent Easter while staying home), going through cancer, surviving, caregiving, observations, advice. It also may be about other situations in which you decided, “With God’s help, I can.”

I’d love to hear from you.


As a bonus, Yvonne will give away one of the Moments books to the first one who reads this post and sends her an article. Be sure to mention in your email that you’re submitting because of this blog post at

(Photos courtesy of Yvonne Lehman.)


YVONNE LEHMAN is founder, and was director for 25 years, of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and Blue Ridge Novelist Retreat for 12 years. She is a best-selling, award-winning author of 59 novels and compiler and editor of 15 non-fiction books in the Moments Series. She is an acquisitions editor with Iron Stream Media/LPC in the Romance and Women’s Fiction lines. Her latest novel is The Gift (LPC) and recent Moments books are Moments with Billy Graham and Romantic Moments (Grace Publishing).

Monday, May 4, 2020

Three Ps for Writers

By Andrea Merrell

“Do you have what it takes to be a writer?” the speaker asked. There was silence—and a lot of raised eyebrows—as everyone in the room processed the question.

“Don’t answer,” the speaker continued with a grin as one person timidly raised her hand. “Just think about it.”

What exactly does it take? Creativity? Desire? Skill? Just as in everything else in life, when God calls us to write for Him, He equips us. He gives us the ability, but He expects us to develop and expand that ability. That calls for three things: passion, patience, and persistence. Let’s take a look at each one.


They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Most writers will say they write because they “can’t not write.” Words burn in our heart. Words that are given to us to bless, inspire, encourage, and entertain. Characters interrupt our days, and stories play out in living color.


Getting our words on paper or safely tucked in the computer is the easy part. Learning to do it correctly according to guidelines and industry standards is a different matter altogether. It requires patience as we learn and perfect the craft. We attend conferences, take classes, learn from critiques, and practice, practice, practice. Then we learn to wait as we look for an agent, submit our proposals, and wait for those doors of opportunity to open. Being a successful writer is a process, not an event.


Being persistent means not giving up. With passion driving us and patience keeping us steady, we continue to move forward regardless of rejections, disappointments, and closed doors. We keep learning and growing. But most of all, we keep writing.

With the three Ps in mind, do you have what it takes to be a writer?

(Photos courtesy of and FrameAngel.)