Speaking to Students About Books at Deerfield Elementary School

I spoke to 4th graders at Deerfield Elementary School about reading and writing books.

I spoke to 4th graders at Deerfield Elementary School about reading and writing books.

The past couple of weeks have been busy with speaking opportunities about writing. I confess, I didn’t always want to participate in speaking opportunities because I was afraid of public speaking.

For decades after high school and colleges when those classes were painfully fulfilled as requirements, I avoided all possible events that might require being in front of others.

But everything I read said public speaking was important for writers to accelerate their careers. I avoided it for almost 10 years until I finally said, “OK, enough is enough. I’m tired of being afraid.” I joined the international organization called Toastmasters (http://www.toastmasters.org/).

A 4th grader from Deerfield Elementary School modeled a project from my Indonesia Craft/Recipe book.

A 4th grader from Deerfield Elementary School modeled a project from my Indonesia Craft/Recipe book.

Am I glad I did! After being a member for six years, I had to quit because of a family situation. It felt like God was saying, “OK its time to take what you know and use it to bless others.”

So that’s what I’ve done. With the publication of my nine children’s books I’ve been asked to speak at libraries, churches, civic groups, schools and other venues. In 2012 the total number of venues I spoke at was 30 with more than 1,000 people in attendance.

Students at Deerfield Elementary School listened well as I talked to them about reading and writing books.

Students at Deerfield Elementary School listened well as I talked to them about reading and writing books.

I usually blog about each experience individually because each one is special to me.

Recently I spoke to 75 4th graders at Deerfield Elementary School in Fort Wayne Indiana. I’m being honest when I say that my knees did not quake and my voice was not shaking and I was excited to teach the students about the importance of reading/writing/books on that special afternoon. These photos are all from that visit.

I’ll post about more speaking engagements coming up in the next few weeks.

What is one of your fears and how are you trying to overcome it?

Recommended Christian Writing Blog: The Writers View

Celebrities Giving Back by Kayleen Reusser

Celebrities Giving Back by Kayleen Reusser

From time to time I will recommend a blog that I think Christian writers will find help from. The Writers View is one such blog.

I’ve subscribed for several years now and have learned so much. I think it is issued 2x/week and always with pertinent topics for discussion. Here is an excerpt from the current topic and it is one that I contributed to.

Be aware that the topic changes 2x/week. By the time you read this, the forum may be on a different topic.

Subscribers have to be approved but it is a simple process and I’m sure most people are approved!

I highly recommend this blog. I know several of the commenters and recommend their writings.

Let me know what you’re looking for in a Christian writing blog. Do you have a Christian writing blog of your own to share thoughts with?

Thurs-Sat Discussion Topic: Paradox in Writing

Greetings, Viewbies!

Today’s question comes from Tim Riter, Nonfiction Book Panelist.

Paradox pervades the world of faith. “If you save your life you will
lose it.” Or, “By grace you are saved through faith, this is not of your
own doing,” yet we also read, “Faith without works is dead.” Since the
business of Christian publishing exists in the world of faith, how does
paradox touch our writing? What paradoxes have you found? How have you
resolved them, if you have? Can you resolve them? Do you need to? Can a
balance be achieved while being biblically faithful?

Don’t reply to this email. To join the discussion, head over to the TWV blog, hosted at The Bestseller Society:

Here’s the link: http://www.bestsellersociety.com/paradox-touch-writing/

James Pence – Owner / General Market Panelist, TWV
“On one tragic night, Terry Caffey lost everything; in one amazing year, God restored it all.”
Terror by Night, Tyndale, 2009: http://www.terrorbynightthebook.com

My reply:
I market myself and my 11 children’s book through my blog (www.KayleenR.com) and speaking engagements and even appearing in costume as Medusa to hand out Halloween candy (I’ve written 3 Greek gods books).

Hades by Kayleen Reusser

Hades by Kayleen Reusser

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed at the expectations on authors to learn all of the social media and participate in that while also writing and maybe even working a full-time job on the side!

It would be nice to be rich and famous as an author. But I’m content at this point to donate my services to 2 Christian writing clubs I helped start in Bluffton and Fort Wayne Indiana. I feel like God will bring the blessings of being well-known and lots of book sales in His time from helping others.

Children Experience Worship at Bethel Church

Ron Garner and his family pastor at Bethel Church.

Ron Garner and his family pastor at Bethel Church.

“Everything we do at this church is based on the word of God,” said Ron Garner, pastor of Bethel Church in Bluffton, Indiana. He replaces Pat Harris who pastored at the church for 26 years before retiring to the South.

Garner is a native of North Carolina, but graduated from Bluffton High School in 1994 after moving here with his family when he was in the fifth grade.

After high school, Ron attended Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne but dropped out of college to work for an automotive company.

He met his wife Tonya at Bluffton High School. She attended Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne for nursing and later worked at Parkview Hospital.

After they married, Tonya and Ron attended Hope Missionary Church. Talking with Pastor Matt Hartzell about his spiritual life convinced Ron to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. “God had brought me to the point where I finally wanted to surrender my life to serving Him,” he said.

Feeling called to pastoral ministry, Ron Garner enrolled at Taylor University-Ft Wayne where he earned a degree in Bible theology in 2004. The Garners pastored at churches in Ohio and Ron worked three years in a factory before accepting a call to minister at Bethel Church, a non-denominational congregation, in December 2012.

Sunday School classes for all ages at Bethel Church begin at 9:00 a.m. Worship services with nursery and preschool assistance begins at 10:00 a.m.

Children are an intentional part of the worship experience at Bethel. “We want kids to learn how to worship with their parents and view their parents as primary spiritual instructors,” said Garner. “For that purpose I always try to engage kids during the services.”

A Bible Study for adults, youth meetings and children services occur on Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. The Garners, who have four school-age children, plan to move to Bluffton when their home in Ohio is sold.

Garner’s goal in preaching to the 70-member congregation at Bethel is to help them reach the place where they understand God is in control. “I’ve learned that He can use things for his glory and equip us how to live faithfully,” he said. “We must not run away from challenges to our faith but engage scripture and always stand firm with an answer for what we believe in.”

During his seven months at Bethel, Garner has become excited by the congregation’s friendliness. “There is a great sense of family here and people who love Christ and are committed to the authority of the Bible,” he said. “We invite people to visit us who seek a place with a family atmosphere and who want to hear what God has to say.”

Bethel Church
4500 E 300 South

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This article appeared in the Bluffton News-Banner.

Six Tips for Writing Celebrity Profiles

Bill and Gloria Gaither, famous Christian singers & songwriters, were easy to interview.

Bill and Gloria Gaither, famous Christian singers & songwriters, were easy to interview.

Articles about celebrities are one of the easiest types of articles to sell. Editors know readers want to learn what makes well-known people tick.

The good news is that you don’t have to be famous to interview celebrities. My name isn’t Barbara Walters, yet I’ve interviewed Bill and Gloria Gaither, Joe Bonsall of The Oak Ridge Boys, singers BarlowGirl, Tobi Mac and Steven Curtis Chapman, and comedian/singer Mark Lowry.

Interviewing celebrities takes skill, timing and practice. I interviewed dozens of people before attempting to talk with a celebrity. In addition, most celebrities are on a strict time schedule; each question and minute must count. A third challenge is accessibility. The more famous the celebrity, the more difficult it is to procure the interview.

Jerry Jenkins, author of Left Behind books, was full of information about writing books.

Jerry Jenkins, author of Left Behind books, was full of information about writing books.

Despite all of these obstacles, a celebrity interview is easier to conduct than you might think. Following these steps will help to produce sellable interviews with famous people.

1. Get an assignment

Famous people pay managers and agents great amounts of money to screen interview requests. Only the most deserving writers, i.e. those with an assignment from a publication’s editor, will be worked into the client’s schedule.

After publishing dozens of profiles on ‘regular’ people, I contacted the editor of the Ticket! Section of the Fort Wayne (Indiana) News-Sentinel newspaper and was hired to write freelance articles for them.

Now when I email a celeb’s publicist for an interview (having gotten the information from my editor), I begin, “Hi. I’m Kayleen Reusser from the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel and I’m calling to request an interview with Steven Curtis Chapman to promote his upcoming appearance in our area.” I may ask for a copy of the celeb’s latest work, be it CD or book, to be sent to me. Fortunately, with the advent of personal websites where celebrities’ public relations departments post press releases, the need to ask for hard copy press kits is extinct, saving time and expense.

Tracy Petersen has written dozens of popular Christian novels. She is seated in middle.

Tracy Petersen has written dozens of popular Christian novels. She is seated in middle.

If you’d like to write celebrity articles on assignment, send a few published clips from profiles you’ve published on Average Joes to the entertainment section of your local newspaper. Cutbacks in staffing at newspapers can mean more opportunities for freelancers. Tell the editor you’ve heard Joe Piper of 90 Minutes in Heaven fame has scheduled a book signing in your area. You’ve read the book and would love to do an interview with Joe and write a 500-word (or whatever word length they specify) article for the newspaper.

2. Be flexible

A celebrity’s time is tightly structured. You must be willing to work around whatever time the publicist offers you for an interview. If you work another job during the day, as I do, this can be challenging. I try to schedule interviews for evenings or weekends. When the publicist for Michael Tait informed me he could only talk on a certain week day at noon, I interviewed him during my lunch hour. The resulting article appeared in Whatzup!, a local entertainment guide.

3. Prepare

Find out everything you can about your subject before the interview to prepare your questions. Be aware of biographical information, career beginnings, discography, number of sales of hit records or best-sellers, family life, and quotes.

You’ve heard it before — don’t assume everything on the Internet is accurate. If something sounds questionable, ask the celebrity about it. When I read several years ago that Joe Bonsall, lead singer of the Oak Ridge Boys, had published a children’s book, I was puzzled. He enthusiastically explained his interest in writing for children. This all went into the article, creating an avenue of information readers probably were not familiar with. My editor was pleased.

Use your library to check out other sources of information about your celebrity. While preparing to interview Dick Smothers, I noticed his website skimmed the surface of his career during the 1970s with his brother. More information was available in books at my local library. The resulting article contained several of these facts. Databases are also helpful.

4. Record the interview

Years ago, I taped record every phone interview with a recording device from Radio Shack. It connected from my tape recorder to the phone. I always informed the celebrity that our conversation was being recorded, which is required by law. Today, I’m a faster typist and can get the conversations in the computer without using my device. This saves time and effort in transcription. Again this takes practice so don’t rush it and risk misquoting.

5. Think on your feet

Keep in mind that celebrities don’t live in ivory towers. They like to mingle with people. A writer must be ready for these opportunities.

Several years ago, while living in Port St Lucie, Florida, the town where the New York Mets hold their annual baseball spring training camp, I met one of the Mets, Tim Teufel, at church services one Sunday evening. After chatting with the outfielder for several minutes, I realized he’d be a good interview subject. He consented to an interview for an article about his Christian faith. He called me at home the next evening. The resulting article, “A Different Ballgame,” was published in Evangel, Gem, Live, and Sharing the Victory.

6.One more step

Okay, you’ve done your homework and got the interview. You prepared well and wrote an interesting article. Your work isn’t finished. Now you must send a copy of the published article to the publicist who helped you arrange the interview. She may decide to include it in the online press kit for her client. Someone’s articles have to appear there. Why not yours?

The End

Church profile: Abundant Life Christian Center

It has been a privilege to interview several dozen pastors from my county this past year to write a series of stories for the Bluffton News-Banner newspaper about their churches. This is one story that is unusual– the pastor preaches in 2 churches in different places each Sunday a.m.! His wife is an evangelist also. Please leave a comment if you have been ministered to by this church and I’ll be sure to let the pastor know. Please consider signing up to receive these blogs by including your email address on my home page. God bless.


Scott and Michelle Ochsner minister at Abundant Life Christian Center in Bluffton and Fort Wayne Christian Center.

Scott and Michelle Ochsner minister at Abundant Life Christian Center in Bluffton and Fort Wayne Christian Center.

Beginning in January 2013, the congregation of Abundant Life Christian Center in Bluffton added a sister congregation in Fort Wayne. Scott Ochsner who has ministered at the Bluffton congregation since 2004 is the pastor at both churches.
“The previous pastor at the Fort Wayne church died in 2012,” said Ochsner. “Our congregation wanted a branch in Fort Wayne so it was a good fit.” Ochsner preaches in Bluffton at the 9:00 a.m. worship service which lasts approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. Then he and his wife, Associate Pastor Michelle Ochsner, drive to Fort Wayne where Scott repeats the same sermon at11:30 a.m. at Fort Wayne Christian Center.

The church is located at the corner of Hannah Street and US Highway 27. The Fort Wayne church has approximately 100 members while the Bluffton congregation numbers 120.

Scott Ochsner and his family moved to Indiana from Colorado in 2000. At that time he pastored a church in Decatur. “We found several people were attending who lived in Bluffton,” he said. “So in 2004 after engaging in a corporate fast to seek guidance from the Lord, the congregation founded Abundant Life Christian Center in Bluffton.”

The church is located on the south side of Bluffton beside the Dollar General store.

Ochsner’s wife, Michelle Ochsner, is a nationally known conference speaker (http://www.michelleochsnerministries.com/) who assists her husband with ministry. The Ochsners’ five children participate on the church’s worship team and with the children’s ministry. The church’s youth uses the former Star Video building situated adjacent to the main campus for meetings.

The decision to shepherd a second church was one the Abundant Life Christian Center congregation sought additional counsel for. “We are a non-denomination church but not independent,” said Ochsner who attended Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas. “For any big decision we summit to the guidance of our board of trustees.” These include pastors at City on the Hill Church in Boulder, Colorado; New Life Christian Church World Outreach in Warsaw, Indiana; Calvary Christian Center in Sacramento, California. “I call these men any time our church needs to make a major decision or needs counseling and advice,” added Ochsner.

According to Ochsner, the mission of Abundant Life Christian Center is primary. “We want to impact the world for Jesus both at home and away by proclaiming the word of God with boldness in God confirming His word by signs and wonders,” he said.

One way he believes the church is impacting the world is through technology. “Thousands of people have streamed sermon podcasts from our website,” he said. The church also broadcasts sermons via radio station WZBD in Decatur.

“My goal as a pastor is to help people mature in Christ as the Bible commands,” he said. “My greatest joy is when a person gives his or her life to Jesus Christ. That compels me to do what I do.”

1409 S Main Street
Facebook: Abundant Life Christian Center

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Guest Speaking for Michelle Medlock Adams at Taylor University

Talented, prolific and kind Michelle Medlock Adams is my children's book mentor.

Talented, prolific and kind Michelle Medlock Adams is my children’s book mentor.

Most writers owe their success/ progress to another writer or two.

I could list several from the former Fort Wayne Christian Writing Club who helped me get started writing—Jim Watkins, Linda Wade, Rosa Liston, to name a few. They patiently helped me learn the ins/outs of how to create something editors would want to publish. Thanks to all of you.

Jim Watkins is a talented Christian author and speaker.

Jim Watkins is a talented Christian author and speaker.

Taylor Swift Day by Day by Kayleen Reusser

Taylor Swift Day by Day by Kayleen Reusser

Taylor Swift Blue Banner Bio (Mitchell Lane)

Taylor Swift Blue Banner Bio (Mitchell Lane)

I took her advice and am I glad I did! I sent a letter of interest to the publisher and a sample of my work – a magazine article I had written about a child. We exchanged emails and soon a contract was on its way to my home! I had barely heard of the 16-year-old country singer they wanted me to write about. What could she have to say that people would want to know about? I thought. But I agreed to write the book.

The Blue Banner Biography on Taylor Swift is still in print today.

Since then, I’ve written 10 other children’s books—9 total with Mitchell Lane and 2 with another publisher to be released in 2014.

Publishing books changed my writing world. I’ve been a keynote speaker, guest on radio, TV, Internet shows, guest blogger, and asked to speak at libraries, schools, churches and civic groups.

Speaking to 5th graders at Park El. School in Fairmount. Photo by Cathy Shouse.

Speaking to 5th graders at Park El. School in Fairmount. Photo by Cathy Shouse.

So it was an honor to reciprocate Michelle’s help to me by guest speaking to her children’s writing class at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, last week.
She has been my writing mentor and I’m proud to tell people about her and her success. She has written dozens of children’s books for all ages from board books to Middle Grades. She also speaks and leads workshops at writing conferences.

Thanks, Michelle, I had a great time and your students were attentive and interesting. I wish all of you great success.

Who is your writing mentor? How has that person helped you in your career? What advice of theirs has helped steer your writing to the next level?

Liberty Center Baptist Church: From Surviving to Thriving

In a change from my regular format of posting a devo each Sunday I’m posting a story about a local church in my area that I wrote for the Bluffton News-Banner with permission of the editor.

Each week for the past year I’ve been blessed to interview a different pastor in my county. The stories with photos are published each Friday. Believe it or not, our county, which is mostly rural, has 65 churches!

Each church has gifts and strengths and God’s blessing. There are so many opportunities for each to minister to people in need. What can you do to help your church’s mission today?


Pastor Aaron and wife Laura Westfall minister at Liberty Center Baptist Church

Pastor Aaron and wife Laura Westfall minister at Liberty Center Baptist Church

Liberty Center Baptist Church

Where is God leading us? Are we ready for it? How much do we care about people who don’t know Jesus Christ?

These questions are some that Pastor Aaron Westfall
of Liberty Center Baptist Church has asked himself and his congregation in recent months.

Liberty Center Baptist Church is located in Liberty Center, Indiana.

Liberty Center Baptist Church is located in Liberty Center, Indiana.

“We want to look at the health of our church. through prayer and seeking the Lord’s will,” he said. “We want to go from surviving to thriving and keep our eyes focused on the vision. It’s exciting to get people to trust each other to walk together.”

Westfall grew up in Liberty Center with his mother and brother. He attended church with his grandparents. After graduating from Southern Wells High School, Westfall attended Indiana Wesleyan University where he majored in Christian Ministries. “As a teen, I felt God calling me into ministry,” he said. He was licensed as a pastor in early 2011.

In October 2011, while working full time at Wayne Metals in Markle, Westfall accepted the position as pastor at Liberty Center Baptist Church.

Although he is considered part-time, Westfall’s duties include preaching each Sunday, leading Wednesday night Bible Study and church meetings, and visiting members of the congregation in need. He is the only paid staff member at the church.

Aaron and his wife Laura Westfall work as a team in caring for their three children, ages elementary and teen, and church responsibilities.

“My main concern as a pastor is to keep my priorities in line,” he said. “God is No.1, but my family has to be my focus.”

At the same time he places an emphasis on creating a welcoming atmosphere at the church. “Our vision as a congregation is to be a place where people matter and lives are changed,” he said.

To facilitate this mission he is developing leadership within the church of 70 regular attendees. “I can’t do it all,” he said. “I know everyone here wants to reach out and share their Christian faith.”

In addition to taking communion to shut-ins and praying with people, Westfall and his church have helped members of the community with food needs and Christmas presents. On Sundays the church offers special classes on relevant topics, such as parenting. During Easter week 2013, the church plans to host a Passover service that will be open to the public.

One area in the church Westfall hopes to address in 2013 is the church’s youth ministry. “We have a lot of kids in our community who could use a loving, Christian place,” he said.

Westfall has seen some growth since he’s tenure at the church. Attendance then was 45 and there have been five baptisms.
“I believe my family was led to Liberty Center Baptist Church,” said Westfall. “It’s nice to be in a place where we can use our talents to serve God.”

Sunday School: 9:10
Fellowship time with donuts & coffee: 9:45
Sunday worship: 10:15
Classes for kids and Youth are available.

3071 W Cherry Street
Liberty Center IN 46766

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