Follow The Writers View for Practical Advice

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If you are a Christian who is a writer or feels God has called you to be a writer but you don’t know what to do first, I recommend you join TWV1 — The Christian Writers View Group on Yahoo.
I’ve followed it for many years and have found it to be informational, biblical and best of all, written by many professional writers from across the nation! You have to apply but as far as I know, nearly everyone is accepted. Subjects are posted weekly and anyone can reply w/ pertinent information to the topic. This is not a place to sell books blatantly, although if it pertains to the subject, such as marketing, then its OK.

You must adhere to the rules, such as keeping your answers brief and on topic. The column is monitored which makes it reliable for quality posts.
There is no cost to join.
I’ve pasted my recent response to a question posted this week about newspaper writing. Since I’ve written for newspapers– Ossian Sun Riser (column), Ft Wayne News-Sentinel Features, Bluffton News-Banner– for more than a decade, I felt I could give some insight.

Do you write for newspapers? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Please leave me a comment. I love newspapers as you’ll see in my responses below.

Hello, everyone. Let’s talk about writing columns for newspapers for the
next days.

For those of you who are writing columns for newspapers, how did you get
your columnist job? What is the biggest challenge you face in writing your
column? And how has writing the column benefited both your writing and your
overall brand as a writer?

If you are interesting in writing newspaper columns, what questions do you
have that we could answer to help get you on your way?

David Thomas, Journalism Panelist

My response to the group:

1. How did you get your columnist job?

I had written dozens of Feature stories for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel
newspaper when a columnist for a smaller newspaper, Ossian (IN) Sun Riser,
died. I contacted the editor, asking if he could use my help and attaching
several sample stories. He took me on and I’ve written weekly stories about
people, events, places in a rural community close to me for four years. The
pay is nominal, but I get paid on time and the work is easy-people are
friendly, they like my stories, and I enjoy giving honest, generous people
their 15 minutes of fame.

2. What is the biggest challenge you face in writing your column?

My biggest challenge is not finding ideas-I think everyone has a good story
inside! I work in a school library and find it difficult to establish
time/energy to write at home. Rarely does this keep me from submitting a
story by deadline. My editor is great to work with and I’m eager to make his
job easier.

3. How has writing the column benefited both your writing and your overall
brand as a writer?

Since people in my community know me/my name, I have been asked to speak and
take my 11 children’s books for author talks. The regular pay has helped me
feel productive and disciplined. Last year I wrote two weekly stories for
two papers.

I love writing for newspapers because you see the story in print so quickly!
And I know my stories are items that people put in scrapbooks.

Wayne Center Elementary School Enhances Students’ Interests with Visit from Medusa!

Reading excerpt from my book to Wayne Center Elem students during author visit.

Reading excerpt from my book to Wayne Center Elem students during author visit.

I love visiting schools to talk with students about the importance of reading for success in life. I may not look successful in my Medusa costume, complete with a wig of rubber snakes, but I’ll swallow my pride to get kids excited about books!
Wayne Center Elem students enjoy hearing Greek mythology stories.

Wayne Center Elem students enjoy hearing Greek mythology stories.

Recently I spoke to all 400 students in Grades 1-6 at Wayne Center Elementary School in Kendallville, IN. It is a beautiful building that was constructed just a few years ago. Our sessions were conducted in the spacious and sunny library! Thanks to the Wayne Center Elementary School librarian for allowing us use of the space for the morning.

It was great fun addressing all 6 grades at intervals. I tailor my talk to their maturity levels. Here are comments from one Third/Fourth Grade teacher:

Our school was treated to a visit from Medusa dressed Kayleen during our end-of-year reading celebration. Kayleen was wonderful to engage each group of students, no matter the age group, and talk about her books and what it is like to be an author. The students had a great time asking questions and learning more about her too. What a great visit!

I heard many good things from the staff after her visit and they all said Kayleen engaged the students at each grade level. Thank you to Kayleen for taking time out of her day to come join us. It was wonderful meeting her.

Dawn Jackson
The school also purchased copies of my books for their school library.
My thanks to Wayne Center Elementary Principal Karen Gandy, and teachers Patrice Abbee and Dawn Jackson for arranging my visit.

Patrice Abbee (L) and Dawn Jackson (R) helped arrange my visit to Wayne Center Elementary School.

Patrice Abbee (L) and Dawn Jackson (R) helped arrange my visit to Wayne Center Elementary School.

What is your school doing to promote students’ interests in reading? An author visit might do that!

If you are an educator or know of a school that would be interested in an author visit from me, I’d appreciate your letting me know. I want to connect with as many students as possible to let them know the value of reading and writing.

Devo: Will You Choose to Sink or Swim in Trusting God?

My husband and son frolicking in a pool.

My husband and son frolicking in a pool.

A devotional thought for summer.
‘And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.’ Philippians 2:8 New American Standard Bible

When my kids were small, I took them to swim lessons. Trained instructors demonstrated how to perform each stroke. But there was something my kids didn’t know about their instructors. They were also certified life guards. Before my kids got in the water, their instructors were prepared to save them from drowning, if needed. A simple demonstration of how to swim wouldn’t be much help to someone who was drowning.

We’re all swimmers in the Sea of Life. In the beginning we dip our toes in the water. Then we get braver and venture out further. We may even try to swim to the other side of the pool.

Suddenly we reach the middle and feel scared. Temptation, worry, and doubt drag us down. We yell for help.

Jesus, our Lifeguard, quickly swims to our side. He secures us next to his body and delivers us safely to the edge of the pool.

It wasn’t enough that Jesus gave us an example of how to live. He became our Savior by dying on the cross. He showed us that we could trust Him with our lives.

God, thank you for allowing your Son to die on the cross so that we might have life. His obedience and love for us are overwhelming. Help us to be worthy of His love. Amen.

Profile of WWII vet Gale (‘Smoky’) Baller – US Army

Smoky Baller served in the US Army during WWII.

Smoky Baller served in the US Army during WWII.

For the past several years I’ve made it a point to interview WWII veterans. Their stories are always interesting and historic. I encourage you to tell a veteran — any war– thank you for their service.

During World War II, Gale (‘Smoky’) Baller fought on the front line in Germany. “Machine gunners had high risk positions,” he said. “The Germans shot mortar shells at us because they knew we could do the most damage to them.”
Baller –he grew up with the nickname ‘Smoky’ because he tap danced with a sister as children — graduated from Bluffton High School in 1944. After being drafted into the United States Army in August, he passed a physical examination at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis. He completed basic training at Fort Blanding in Florida which pleased Baller. “I had never traveled outside of Indiana and liked Florida,” he said.

Baller disembarked with thousands of other American soldiers from New York City on the second largest British ship in the world – the Aquitania. They landed at Le Havre, France.

Baller didn’t get seasick during the nine-day voyage, but he didn’t attempt the menu. “I didn’t think I’d like British food so I packed a box of Hershey bars,” he said.

At Le Havre Baller was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division, 39th Regiment, D company. “In our unit you operated a machine gun or mortar shells,” he said. Baller carried cans of ammunition for machine guns. The cans weighed 45 pounds and were carried over a soldier’s shoulders behind the gunners. “One gunner carried the receiver for the machine gun and the other carried the tripod,” he said.

In Winnersburg Germany Baller and other American soldiers requisitioned the home of a German couple to spy on the German army. The German home owners understood English and seemed relieved when Baller and the other soldiers explained they would not hurt anyone. While Baller did guard duty from the home’s second story window, the German woman offered the Americans a treat. “She made us a strawberry pie,” he said. When the soldiers prepared to leave, Baller thanked the couple for their hospitality with chocolate bars.

The Battle of Remagen Bridge in March 1945 was vicious. “Both sides wanted that bridge which was the last remaining one over the Rhine,” he said. “The Germans tried to blow it up, but we made a pontoon for our guys to go across in jeeps and on foot.”

By the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, Buck Sergeant Baller began preparing, as did thousands of other soldiers, to fight in Japan. While waiting, Baller was assigned to work in a motor pool shop at a resort requisitioned by the Allies in Germany.

A handful of horses provided Baller the opportunity to ride daily after his work shift was completed. Unfortunately, his horse stepped in a ditch one day during a ride. Baller broke several bones in his right hand. The horse escaped uninjured.

Baller spent six months in a hospital in Munich. When the doctor said Baller’s hand would have to be re-broken, he was shipped back to Galesburg, Illinois. The war had ended in August 1945. Baller was honorably discharged in November 1946.

For his military service Baller received a Distinguished Unit Award from France. He also received the following medals: Bronze Star, Good Conduct, European Campaign, World War II Victory, Army Occupation, US Unit citation, Honorable Service, Expert Shooting and Combat Infantry.

After the war, Baller married. He and his wife, Alice, became parents to two sons, Jerry and Mark. Following Alice’s death, Baller remarried Norma in 1990.
During his lengthy work career, which ended June 2013, Baller worked for the Steury Bottling Company, Reimschisel’s Motors and Hiday Motors.

Baller’s thoughts of his military service are simple. “I went in as a soldier who was often scared to death, but I grew out of it,” he said.

The End

Grow a Master Mind Group!

My Master Mind buddies-- Tammy Van Baalen & Laurie Gray.

My Master Mind buddies– Tammy Van Baalen & Laurie Gray.

Since starting a Master Mind group, I’ve learned to appreciate how things work together to accelerate one’s career and life. For instance, I first learned about Master Mind groups last fall when I attended a Toastmasters (public speaking) meeting of which I’m a member. I joined Toastmasters because I want to promote myself as a speaker in order to tell more people about my writing career and perhaps to teach people about writing.

At the meeting, I listened to another member give a speech about the book by Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich.

I had heard of the book, but didn’t know much about it. The Toastmaster giving the speech was articulate, used visuals, and showed enthusiasm for what the book, written 80 years ago, had done for his life and career.

At the end of the speech, I wanted to read the book and start utilizing its concepts in my own life.

After reading that book, I began to think of starting a Master Mind group. I knew of none in my area and didn’t know how to find one. So I decided to form my own group.

A couple of people in my writing support group came to mind. They were interested once they heard what it was about, and the three of us put the group together.

That was a few years ago. Through the encouragement of the members of my Master Mind, I felt compelled to work on my goals as a freelance writer and set steps of progress in my life that put me miles ahead of where I would have been without the group.

Today I have 11 children’s books with my name on the cover.

A Master Mind group is a valuable way to accelerate your goals or career. Read Hill’s books (he has others) and join a Master Mind group—or form one of your own.

Share the Story (Or Two) inside of You!

Books with some of my early stories.

Books with some of my early stories.

I believe every person has a story inside of them. They may not know about the story. In many cases I’ve helped people tell their stories by interviewing them and then with their permission writing their stories, usually in magazines and newspapers.
Nowadays I’m most known for the 11 non-fiction children’s books I’ve written. But I’ve had essays in other books, including stories in anthologies.
One of my favorite stories to have written ‘as told to’ is one from Peggy Littell about the accidental death of her husband, Matt.
More books with stories I've written from my life.

More books with stories I’ve written from my life.

The incident of Matt’s accidental vehicle death took place in Philippines. I saw the news about it in a newsltr about the Littells’ mission work hanging on the bulletin board of my church.
Intrigued by the notes of Peggy’s forgiving attitude toward the person responsible for Matt’s death, I wrote to Peggy. I believed Peggy’s story could bless other people and relayed that to her.
She agreed to allow me to interview her and then write the story. We entitled it ‘Not in Vain’. It was published in the book, The Gift of Letting Go.

That story has been published in several publications, including books and magazines. This practice is legal in the publishing world. The first time the story was accepted I sold it for First Rights. The second and subsequent times I sold it for One Time Rights. Those editors who saw those words would know the story had been published previously.

My latest Chicken Soup book-- For Bride's Soul.

My latest Chicken Soup book– For Bride’s Soul.

I’ve also published my stories in four Chicken Soup books ( The website for submissions is one of the best I’ve seen for submitting stories. Very user-friendly:
Chicken Soup for The Coffee Lover’s Soul (‘A Lesson in Forgiveness’);
Chicken Soup for Christmas 2 (‘A Lesson in Forgiveness’—same story as above);
Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul (‘The Stranger’s Offer’);
Chicken Soup … Teens Talk about Getting into College (‘Endings and Beginnings’).

I don’t see many anthologies now as several years ago when I began writing. If you’re interested in getting a personal essay published, read many Chicken Soup stories. They are all well-written and have a definite beginning, middle, end. Those are components of a good story.
Search Christian Writer’s Market Guide and other market guides for current story markets.
What story do you think you have inside of you that would be of interest to an editor and readers?

Want to Grow as a Writer? Join a Writing Group!

Bluffton Christian Writing Club members meet monthly.

Bluffton Christian Writing Club members meet monthly.

People often ask me what is something they can do to promote their writing career. I always advise them to meet regularly with other writers.
The reasons are myriad. I help lead 2 Christian writing clubs and belong to several others that I attend as time permits. Due to time constraints, for me the most conducive way to meet with writers is usually as a group. There are other advantages to meeting as a group as well.

River Terrace Estates, a retirement community located outside of Bluffton, has allowed the Bluffton Christian Writing Club to meet in its library each month for five years. We have given them thank you notes and homemade treats in appreciation.
Our group numbers 3-10. We cancel in January & February due to weather and we continue to meet in the summer. Rhonda Maller is the other co-founder of this group.

My good friend Rhonda Maller is co-founder of Bluffton Christian Writing Club.

My good friend Rhonda Maller is co-founder of Bluffton Christian Writing Club.

We meet the second Monday night of each month at 6:30 pm.

The Ft Wayne (IN) Christian Writing Club meets at Waynedale Public Library in Ft Wayne Indiana. We have to check in with the Circulation staff to keep our name on the book for the room for 3 months out. Since our group numbers as many as 15 people, the meeting room, which has plenty of space/chairs, is always helpful.

We don’t have time restraints at the nursing home, but because the library closes at 8:00 pm, we meet at 6-7:30 pm on the fourth Tuesday night of each month.

An advantage to meeting at the library is having access to Wifi during the meeting to look up info like writing conference details. Of course, the books in the library are also handily available. Our larger group has sometimes necessitated us breaking into small groups to take turns reading our selections and sharing critiques.
At both groups we open each meeting with prayer and encourage kind comments throughout. We also limit the time for each person to speak to allow every member who brought something to read to have time.
Our focus for each group is to share writing that honors God. No pornography, swearing, or other inappropriate content is allowed.
Both groups are the result of a group I joined as a brand new writer in the 1990s in Ft Wayne—Ft Wayne Christian Writing Club. We met on the northwest side of Ft Wayne and was led by Linda Wade.
I had never written anything and was terrified to go to the meeting alone but made myself because I wanted to write so badly. Everyone was so helpful and friendly and encouraging. The group broke up several years ago and I miss it.
Just to give back to the Ft Wayne community I decided to form a similar group in Bluffton and Ft Wayne. It’s a joy to lead both groups.

We don’t take dues and most of us don’t see each other outside of the meetings, but I think we’re becoming good friends.
If you’re a writer, you probably belong to at least one writing club. If not, I encourage you to look for one in your area. You’ll be surprised at the help you’ll receive.
What writing group do you belong to and what has been the biggest advantage to you from belonging?