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?

‘Teens Giving Back’ Workshop Offers Ideas for Helping

Speaking to students at volunteering workshop at Allen County (IN) Public Library

Speaking to students at volunteering workshop at Allen County (IN) Public Library

Yesterday Jeannie Johnson of the Creative Women of the World shop (http://creativewomenoftheworld.com/) and I conducted a free workshop on Fair Trade and ways to volunteer to help others, especially poor people around the world.
Jeannie Johnson showed items made by people around the world from recycled items.

Jeannie Johnson showed items made by people around the world from recycled items.

The workshop, attended by 20 homeschooled teens at Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne Indiana, was a monthly meeting organized by librarian extraordinaire Cathy Lambert of the YA Department at the library.

Lovely Cathy Lambert, YA librarian at Allen Co Public Library, brings enthusiasm to her homeschoolers' meetings.

Lovely Cathy Lambert, YA librarian at Allen Co Public Library, brings enthusiasm to her homeschoolers’ meetings.

This is my fourth annual workshop for Cathy focusing on books (See June 2010-2012 Allen County Public Library posts for photos of our Greek god costume contest and Indonesia cooking session and learning what it’s like to be an author).
Celebrities Giving Back by Kayleen Reusser

Celebrities Giving Back by Kayleen Reusser

This year I talked about my book Celebrities Giving Back (Mitchell Lane Publishing) and ways famous people like Tony Hawke have established foundations to help people. I also mentioned my book Recipe and Craft Guide to Indonesia as it includes craft items that could be made for sale at fundraisers.
Free caps made by Stitches of Hope volunteers and given to people with cancer.

Free caps made by Stitches of Hope volunteers and given to people with cancer.

I showed the students two crocheted caps made by a charity I support called http://www.stitchesofhope1.blogspot.com.

We make and distribute free handmade caps to people who lose hair from cancer and other illnesses. So far, we’ve given away 5,000 caps to places around the US, including Alaska! Several students mentioned places they had volunteered and I encouraged them to do more volunteering this summer or when they have opportunities.

Jeannie holds a laptop bag made from a recycled feed sack.

Jeannie holds a laptop bag made from a recycled feed sack.

Jeannie brought an assortment of items from Creative Women of the World, a shop she and other concerned individuals from Fort Wayne have recently opened in downtown Fort Wayne. It is a beautiful shop worthy a trip!
Students loved inspecting recycled items for sale at Creative Women of the World.

Students loved inspecting recycled items for sale at Creative Women of the World.

The items for sale have all been made by impoverished people from around the world—Tajikistan, Uganda, Haiti, Nepal are just a few of the countries represented with handmade items including jewelry, home décor and coffee and chocolate.

What was really fascinating was what the non-edible items are made from – Coke bottle caps, abandoned tires, gum wrappers, pop can tabs, even cassette tape film!

Recyled items available for purchase at Creative Women of the World shop

Recyled items available for purchase at Creative Women of the World shop

The kids could not always figure out what natural resources /recycled products were used, but they loved everything!
Students holding items for sale at Creative Women of the World

Students holding items for sale at Creative Women of the World

Prices are reasonable at the store. I had shopped there for Christmas and my recipients were thrilled with the jewelry items!

I hope you will consider volunteering to help someone today and/or joining a group that helps people. It’s fun to work together to help people earn their way out of poverty. What do you do to volunteer to help people around you and around the world?
Take care,

Married Couple Resigns Professional Careers To Help Kids in Haiti


This is an inspiring story of a married couple who is willing to give up their home, careers, families and surroundings to help kids in need. They will move in February 2013. Information about how to help support the Aschlimans is at the end of the article. Prayerfully consider helping them with their financial needs.

This was published in the News-Banner in 12/12.


Bluffton resident Lisa Aschliman is hoping the transition from learning Spanish to Creole is an easy one. Since 2003, Aschliman has taught Spanish at Norwell High School. In December 2012 she and her husband Bruce resigned their full-time jobs (he worked at Aquatic Management in Bluffton) to work as missionaries in Haiti with the Bluffton-based organization Loving Shepherd Ministries (LSM).

Ed Schwartz is president of Loving Shepherd Ministries, a Christian organization serving orphaned and at-risk children in Haiti and Ethiopia by providing them with permanent, godly families.

Working with missions groups outside of the United States is not new to the Aschlimans. Since 1992, they have been involved with short-term missionary trips organized through the Apostolic Christian Church (country location) of which they are members. “I’ve probably gone to Mexico 25 times to help churches and children’s homes,” said Lisa. Bruce has often accompanied her, assisting with maintenance and car mechanical needs and other critical projects. Lisa’s knowledge of the country’s language was a boost to their work in the Hispanic-speaking country.

That advantage was not applicable when in March 2012 the Aschlimans traveled to Haiti for a month to see the work of LSM.

Bruce had spent the month of January in Haiti helping with the work there at the request of Ed Schwartz, president of LSM.

He enjoyed the experience so much that he convinced Lisa to return with him two months later. Together they visited 12 homes, each filled with a dozen children and their house parents. “Most of the children became orphans from the earthquake in 2010,” said Aschliman.

Visiting Haiti and seeing the work being done there for approximately 200 orphans between the ages of two and 18

was an eye-opening experience for the Aschlimans. “We realized just what a wonderful thing was happening for those children who had nothing.” Upon returning to Bluffton one month later, the Aschlimans told Schwartz they would like to help with future projects in Haiti.

He took them at their word. In October 2012 Schwartz talked to the Aschlimans about returning to Haiti permanently. “He asked Bruce and I to go to Haiti to live and work with the ministry there on a long-term basis,” said Lisa. Bruce would assist with maintenance and shipping. Lisa would serve as the mission’s child-development coordinator.

The Aschlimans were floored at the request. “We had full-time jobs and a mortgage,” said Lisa. But they told Schwartz they  would pray and ask God to reveal His plan for them. For a week the Aschlimans prayed, listened to  sermons and songs on Christian radio stations, read devotional comments and the Bible. After seven days they came to a mutual decision. “We believed God wanted us to go to Haiti and that we should obey  Him,” said Lisa.

In December the Aschlimans resigned their jobs. Within the next few weeks they hope to sell their home, car, and other belongings to prepare for their move which they hope will be in February.

As LSM’s child-development coordinator, Aschliman will work with Haitian teachers to offer educational assistance, tutor students, and implement art and  music in their education. Bruce will help with the school’s ranch, farming and vocational training. “He may help create a mechanic’s garage,” said Lisa.

The Aschlimans will have to learn the Creole language, which is part French, part Western African dialect. “Hopefully it will not be too difficult,” said Lisa.

The Aschlimans will not serve as house parents or assist in adoptions for the children. “The people living together in the homes are considered a family with siblings and parents,” said Lisa. “The idea of LSM is to create permanent families for the children who no longer have families.” All of the children in each home are either females or males. House parents are recruited among local churches. The Aschlimans will live in an apartment in Les Cayes, Haiti.

“We hope these children will be the leaders in tomorrow’s Haiti,” said Lisa. “They could be future politicians and professionals who are needed to help the country get on the right track.”

Note: Another Bluffton resident, Zach Bertsch, is working with LSM to add more homes in Haiti. Since being diagnosed with cancer in 2010, Bertsch’s Cancer Redemption Project (http://cancerredemption.com/) has planned four new homes for orphans in Haiti for a total of 16.

For more information about LSM or to make a financial contribution in honor of the Aschlimans in Haiti go to www.loving-shepherd.org.

The Aschlimans will record their Haitian experiences at  bashsblogspot.blogspot.com.

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Linda Lehman Sews for Children

This sweet lady came to my acquaintance a few months ago when I wrote her story for the Senior Living magazine. She has since offered me names of other people in her area that would make good profiles. Thanks for that, Linda! I’m sure you’ll see your friends’ stories in print soon! Linda’s story reveals the joy in volunteering. I hope it inspires you to do volunteer today.

Linda Lehman of Berne has stitched more than 100 dresses for little girls in Africa.

Linda Lehman’s home in Berne, Indiana, is filled with family photos and mementos showing her love for people. It is an inherited trait from her mother who passed away in 2010.  “Mom made quilts for each of her grandchildren,” said Lehman.


When Lehman began cleaning out her mother’s home after her mother’s death, she found many yards of good material leftover from her mother’s projects. “Mom never wanted anything to be thrown away,” Linda added. “She loved being creative.”


Lehman shared some of the material with a nearby church, knowing her mother would have liked it going to religious projects. She brought the rest home and stored it. Less than a year later, Lehman was happy to discover a purpose for it which she knew her mother would have approved.


“A friend had made dresses for little girls in Africa from pillow cases,” said Lehman. “When I admired them, she said so many children in Africa do not even have one set of adequate clothing.”


Lehman asked for the website with the pattern and mailing address. She immediately started making dresses from her mother’s leftover fabric and notions.


The dresses for girls are sometimes referred to as ‘pillowcase’ dresses because they are simply constructed from fabric pieces that lie across the front and back of a body and are tied together at the shoulders. Besides pillowcases and fabric yardage, dresses can be made from curtain panels. Lehman adorned her dresses with rickrack, lace, hem binding and bias tape to make them prettier. Lehman has applied special stitches from her machine for added touches. Most have elastic around the necks and are sleeveless to accommodate Africa’s hot climate.


She has also sewn dresses for little girls in Haiti which a missionary to that country delivered. When a member from her church who works as a nurse at an orphanage in Africa heard about the dresses, she asked for and received dresses from Lehman. Thus far, Lehman has sewn more than 100 dresses.


Linda and her husband Luther attend First Missionary Church in Berne. The church has a sewing group called Hearts and Hands. According to Linda, members of the group have contributed to the cause. “Four ladies in the group agreed to make dresses for Africa,” she said. The group has made quilts, bears, blankets for other projects.


Born in Celina, Ohio, Linda Lehman moved to Indiana with her family as young child. She graduated from French High School in Berne before it closed. She and Luther, a Berne man, married in 1958. They have four children and 12 grandchildren. Linda worked as a secretary for 32 years at South Adams High School.


Linda is pleased with the way her mother’s fabric is being used to help children in third-world countries.  “I think about Mom when I’m working on a dress,” she said. “I know she would be happy with how we’re using her materials to help needy children.”


Information on how to contribute items for Little Dresses for Africa can be found at www.nancysnotions.com.


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How Peyton Manning has helped thousands of Americans

This excerpt about Peyton Manning is from my children’s book, Celebrities Giving Back (Mitchell Lane 2010)

My children's book entitled: Celebrities Giving Back (Mitchell Lane).


Peyton Manning

Whenever someone enters the children’s section of St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, they think of Peyton Manning, former quarterback for the city’s football team, the Colts. They don’t think of him for his ability to throw a football or because he was Super Bowl XLI MVP. The people of St. Vincent know the name because on September 6, 2007, the children’s hospital was renamed in appreciation of Manning’s devotion to the children of Indianapolis and other cities across the nation. It was renamed Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent.


Peyton Manning has helped thousands of children.

Manning has used his time, talents and funds to help children for years. In 1999, Manning established the Peyback Foundation to help disadvantaged children in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Indiana. The foundation provides assistance to organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs; area food banks; and summer, after-school, and youth athletic programs. By 2010, it had donated more than $3.6 million to those organizations.

In addition to financial assistance, each Christmas season, Manning takes over the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis for the PeyBack Holiday Celebration. More than 1,000 children from 100 community agencies attend. The special event includes dinner, a visit from Santa, special Christmas gifts from Peyton, and the opportunity to visit the nationally renowned museum. The foundation also hosts Christmas parties in New Orleans and Knoxville, Tennessee. (His father, Archie Manning, was a quarterback for the New Orleans Saints.)

An opportunity to play in the arena for the New Orleans Saints when he was a high school football player was an experience Peyton Manning never forgot. He created the same experience for Indianapolis area athletes with the PeyBack Classic, launched in 2000.


Peyton Manning spends time off the field visiting children.

“I wanted Indianapolis high school teams to feel that same sense of pride I had when I ran onto that field with my teammates,” he said. “I also wanted a chance to pay back local high school athletic programs for providing such wonderful opportunities to these kids.”

Peyton’s Pals, another program of the Peyback Foundation, sponsors a series of monthly educational, cultural, and community service events for 20 middle school kids. Students learn about living a healthy lifestyle and how to deal with peer, family, and school pressures.

Peyton Manning’s generous spirit has touched more than students in Indianapolis. In 2005, he and his brother Eli, a player for the New York Giants, organized a plane full of relief supplies to be delivered to Katrina victims in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. That year, Peyton Manning was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his off-the-field community service.


Why has Peyton Manning given so much time and money to helping kids? “I had great parents, a great support system and a blessed childhood,” he said. “What can I do to help kids have some of those same opportunities? Provide them with some of the same types of support and give them opportunities to have memorable moments in their lives.”


Please contact me if you’d like a copy of this title autographed by me for your child. Contact me at @@kjreusser@adamswells.com@@

(delete the @’s at the beginning and end; they are there to prevent Spam).

The End


Tony Hawk helps communities


Celebrities Giving Back by Kayleen Reusser


Recently, while talking to a 4th grade class about my nine children’s books , I told them about my book Celebrities Giving Back to encourage them to serve as volunteers. I told them about one example from the book, a famous skateboarder named Tony Hawk.

As most kids in this class had heard of Tony Hawk, I’ve posted this excerpt from Celebrities Giving Back for them. Tony Hawk is admirable for establishing a foundation to help people. His involvement in the lives of others warranted his inclusion in the book which lists 16 other famous people who have helped people with time, effort, and money.

This book is special to me because I work with a group called Stitches of Hope that gives away beautiful, soft crocheted/knitted caps to people who lose hair from cancer and other illnesses. Learn more about us at www.Stitchesofhope1.blogspot.com

A cap made by a Stitches of Hope volunteer, given to someone with a medical need.

What could you do to help someone today? If you are a volunteer, please let me know what it is you do and the name of the group and I’ll mention it here. You can be a great volunteer at any age! 


(from Celebrities Giving Back by Kayleen Reusser):

When Tony Hawk was given a skateboard at age nine, no one could have predicted how that piece of equipment would affect his life. Over the next few years, he perfected his athletic skills with the board. By age 16, Tony had won enough skateboarding competitions to qualify him as the best skateboarder in the world. More important, at the skate park, he found friends and an outlet for exercise and self-expression.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Hawk became the face of skateboarding, especially when he completed the first 900 in 1999. The 900 is an aerial spin on a skateboard, rotating 2-1/2 times, then landing on the board upright. Hawk’s fame increased when a series of video games featuring his unique moves was released.

Twenty years after Hawk received his first skateboard, the sport had more than 13 million participants in the United States. Unfortunately, the construction of skate parks has not kept up with the sport’s popularity. By 2010, approximately 3,000 skate parks were available in the United States. Lacking suitable places to practice, most skaters ride wherever they can, including streets and parking lots.

In 2002 Hawk organized the Tony Hawk Foundation, which encourages the construction of skate parks in towns and cities across the country. “It doesn’t take long for cities to realize their modest skate parks get more use than the local tennis courts or baseball fields,” he says.

(end of excerpt)


I’m interested in speaking to students in schools and libraries. Please let me know if you would like more information for your group. @@kjreusser@adamswells.com@@

(remove the beginning and end @@’s)

Marlene Hoopingarner — Master Crafter

I met Marlene Hoopingarner through the volunteer group Stitches of Hope. She is a fantastic knitter. She excels at other crafts too . I’ve appreciated her talent for producing quality caps that are given to cancer patients and other people who lose hair from cancer. It was a joy writing about her for Senior Living Magazine.


Marlene Hoopingarner crafts knitted caps, cross stitch projects, and card embroidery.


Marlene Hoopingarner of Bluffton


The hands of Marlene Hoopingarner, 75, are never still. Her Bluffton home is adorned with several large, complex-looking cross-stitch, needlework, knitting, and other projects she has made. All are finely done and belie the intensity and time demanded of them.


Throughout most of her life, Hoopingarner has shared her projects with relatives and friends. “I was one of a group of seven walkers when we lived in Markle,” she said. “They chose favorite cross stitch projects for me to make for each of their birthdays and I did them.”


Hoopingarner has also given her time and talents to people she will never meet. In between her cross stitch projects Hoopingarner has knit– another favorite craft of hers– 250 caps for the local volunteer group called Stitches of Hope (www.stitchesofhope1.blogspot.com). She joined the group when it began in 2008. “I thought I could knit a cap to help someone with cancer,” she said. “I also thought it would be a good way to meet people in the community and it has been.”


Besides all of her crafts that she shares with others, Marlene has also volunteered as church pianist and organist for 50 years. Growing up in Zanesville, she took piano lessons from Lorin Schwartz.


After graduating from East Union High School, Hoopingarner worked as a secretary for the Nipsco Company. During high school she worked at Richardson’s Grocery in Zanesville and continued working there after marrying Don Hoopingarner in 1955. The couple has two daughters, Shari and Pamela.


During the next several decades, Marlene worked at a succession of secretarial jobs, including Franke Park Elementary School in Fort Wayne (1967-1979) and Markle Medical Center (1979-1996). She retired in 1996.


Though busy as a mother and working, Marlene found time to work on crafts. “I made all of our children’s clothing and my own out of necessity,” she said. Later, she taught herself to quilt and estimates she has completed 20 projects by machine and hand stitching.


In the 1980s a co-worker introduced Hoopingarner to cross stitching. She fell in love with the intricate craft and tackles new projects to this day. In recent years she has delved into more complex projects. Her “Tulips in a Vase” cross stitch pattern used 90 colors of floss stitched on 14 count aida cloth.  The rosy design hangs above the fireplace in her current home in Bluffton (the couple moved from Markle in 2007). Matted and framed, it measures 26 inches by 31 inches. It took her seven months to complete. A similar-sized spotted leopard cross stitch design took her six months to complete


Some of Hoopingarner’s other cross-stitch projects have included drawings by the artist Thomas Kincaid and Georgia O’Keefe. “At this point I cannot do any craft that seems easy to me,” she said. “It has to be a challenge requiring time and patience.”


With little access to stores that carry cross stitch patterns and supplies, Hoopingarner orders patterns online from England. Hoopingarner has completed 110 cross stitch projects.


Hoopingarner’s two newest crafts she has taught herself are needlework—using long and short stitches to create a picture – and card embroidery. “I love doing both of them,” she said. “I have made 40 cards and want to do more some day, but knitting and cross stitching takes most of my time.”


One craft Hoopingarner admitted she can not seem to master is crochet. “I tried it once and could not get the hang of it,” she said. “I like the way knitting looks so I’m content sticking with it.”


When she and Don head to Florida each winter, Marlene packs her knitting and cross stitch supplies to take with her. “A Michael’s Craft Store is located close to us so if I run out of something, I can purchase more,” she said.


Today, Hoopingarner looks at everything she does as a chance to give to others. “This is my way of sharing my talents,” she said. “Doing crafts and giving them away is a good way to use up spare time and it is great knowing you’re doing it for someone who needs them.”


The End