In honor of Mom’s 87th birthday this week, we’re sharing some of her writing wisdom. She claims she was born the same year as Micky Mouse and bubble gum. 1928 was a good year!
We’re blessed to still have our parents with us and frequently enjoy long lunches where the discussion seems to always include books and writing. Hope you enjoy some of the many things that we learned from this wise woman we call Mom.
Although she won major book awards, the Newbery Medal, a National Book Award, an Edgar, and others, to us Betsy Byars was “Mom”, and the lessons we learned from her about writing have come mostly by just watching. Watching …
1. Her love of reading - Our mother always made a great effort to put books into our hands, from our first library, a bookmobile to the city library in the basement of the fire station. We were always leaving with armloads of books. When you’re having trouble writing, read. Reading stimulates writing.
2. Her hard work – we saw Mom spend hours at her electric typewriter, writing and rewriting. We knew that it wasn’t easy. She used to say she worked on it until it sounded like she hadn’t worked on it at all. Writing requires hard work; it only begins with the first draft.
3. Her perseverance – Mom worked for fourteen years before getting her first book published. We saw those trips to the mailbox – the disappointment – but she was continued writing through numerous rejections. The road to success in writing often involves rejection, keep writing.
4. Her creativity – Our mother’s creativity wasn’t limited to her writing. We grew up creating with her in many projects, sewing knitting, woodworking, and silk screening. To keep your writing fresh, be creative in all areas of your life.
5. Her willingness to fail – Mom thought outside the box, often sewing and knitting without patterns. This made for many failures but a lot of learning. Things we made did not always turn out like we imagined that they would. She always told us “No writing is ever wasted.” Our failures as writers teach us as much as our successes.
6. Her humility – Even with all of her successes Mom remained humble. Her humble spirit allowed her to connect with readers in a real, honest way. It made her open to new experiences and ideas and allowed her to accept input from editors. Pride is an enemy of good writing.
So much of what we learn about writing comes from observing others. Who has taught you by example?
We first shared this with Suite T, the blog for the Southern Writer’s Magazine.
He Restores My Soul by Nan Jones
The mountain stream tumbled over the rocks, softening the jagged edges, smoothing the crevices into one complete beautiful stone. Day after day, moment by moment, the flowing water did its work transforming the broken places of the stone.
I think of the broken places in my life – the loss of loved ones, unemployment, a beautiful marriage destroyed. I think of the jagged places that are sharp and painful. I think of the crevices that run deep and allow my heart to bleed when I least expect it.
And then I think of the Living Water of my God that flows over and through my heart. Day after day, moment by moment … ever-flowing, ever-washing, ever-smoothing away the jagged, broken places.
His grace is amazing indeed.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
~ Psalm 23:1-3, NLT
We are happy to have our friend, Nan Jones, sharing with us today. Nan uses the words of her heart to assist fellow Christians in discovering the Presence of God in their darkest hour. Her debut book, The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife was released June 30, 2015 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. You may visit Nan at her website: http://www.NanJones.com or her blog, Morning Glory: http://morningglorylights.blogspot.com/. Nan has also created a facebook community page, Seeing Beyond The Veil. For personal communication you may email Nan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble
The Perils of A Pastor’s Wife will help mend your heart that has been burned in the lonely fires of ministry. Sweet Sister—somewhere, somehow, somebody knows. You are not alone.
The Shepherd’s Song paperback is out and we are celebrating with a blog tour! Come by any of the links and visit us and leave a comment. We have prizes! We love prizes. You can sign up to receive a free Psalm 23 devotional and printable poster here. Then keep a lookout at the great sites below for free books, recipes and gifts.
April 10 Write Right! We share our writing secrets here!
April 13 Jennifer Slattery Lives Outloud Have you ever thought about yourself as a sheep? Maybe you should. Come see and maybe win a book!
April 14 Faith Happenings Is your life a page-turner? A quick beach read? Hmmm.
April 15 Carol Heilman and Friends Life, kids and faith. Pour a cup of coffee and come over to chat. Win a free gift today!
We love to share cute things with our readers! Win these cute felted sheep soaps. How? To enter the drawing, join our newsletter here.
We will notify the winner on April 20!
April 16 Morning Glory Enjoy this lovely devotional blog by Nan Jones. What does it mean to “anoint with oil”?
April 17 Wordserve Watercooler 7 surprising ways to deal with writer’s block. More writing secrets revealed.
April 18 Stitches Thru Time The inside story with Crystal Barnes. And you can win a book!
April 20 Telling Stories that Matter Most What is the connection between prayer and writing? Is there one?
April 21 Faith Happenings The Lord is our Shepherd. How? Why? What now?
April 22 Dena Dyer: Hope and Humor for Hurting Women Have you been healed by writing? Come see how it can happen.
April 27 Faith Happenings Why do you write, or bake, or sew, or knit? Why create at all?
April 28 Redwood’s Medical Edge Jordyn Redwood’s blog for writers gives medical information for accuracy in writing. Sharing about the stages of loss and grief.
April 29 Southern Fried Fiction Love this funny inspiring blog by Ane Mulligan. Come visit with us at her place. Win a free gift today!
April 30 Redwood’s Medical Edge Uh oh! Here are some surprising addictions that you your character might have.
May 2 Sweet South Cruella DeVil. Atticus Finch. Some thoughts on naming characters. And another chance to win a book!
May 4 Cozy Customs MMMMM. Do you love sweets? Here’s a family recipe not to miss.
May 5 Patchwork Quilt Sharing a recipe with a high Wow! Factor
May 6 Seriously Write How not to get a tattoo. Seriously. (Or how to use readers for research.)
May 7 Fresh Start With Fresh Faith. A great site by Anita Agers-Brooks. Change is scary. Some thoughts on how God leads us.
May 8 Wordserve Watercooler Voted one of Writer’s Digest top blogs for writers. Some stories about our field work in research. You what?
May 13 Country at Heart Recipes Writers need recipes that are easy and fast – like crockpot soup. Here’s ours.
May 15 StoryWriting Studio We want to write for God? How can we tell if we are truly following Him? One last chance to win a book!
Writing Tips From Jesus: Take Off Your Outer Garment
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer garment, and wrapped a towel around his waist. John 13: 3-4
Take off your outer garment. But we don’t like exposure. A writer’s ego is fragile.
There is a poet who hides her beautiful poetry under her bed in a box. Another writer burns her journals. A friend of ours will not tell his story because his sisters would not approve.
After publishing The Lord of the Rings Tolkien said, “I have exposed my heart to be shot at.” And there are those that would take target practice on our hearts.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. compared a critical reviewer to “a knight in armor beating up on a hot fudge sundae.” And there are those knights in armor waiting.
We are all protective of ourselves. Writers can’t be. We “take off our outer garment” and serve by being vulnerable. When we write, we show ourselves and connect with others by being transparent, allowing others to see inside of us. It’s risky.
There is a cost to the exposure that writing brings.
Knowing that God has all things under control makes us brave. We make a choice to be “shot at” and “beat up” and we expose our thoughts anyway. We let go of fear and use our one wonderful life for His Glory.
How did Jesus do it? How do you do it?
Betsy and Laurie http://www.WritingSisters.com
But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. John 8:6
On this earth nothing we write will last. All is temporary, even the old classics are fading as new writers rise up. In a thousand years or even a hundred who will be remembered?
In the Bible God wrote twice. Once with his finger reaching down to give the law on two stone tablets. Then again as Jesus wrote with finger, this time scribbling in the sand.
When Jesus wrote men were ready to stone a woman for adultery. Jesus made a space in time. He slowed down the action as he scribbled and the men were changed. No one knows what he wrote.
It’s the idea that art is something unexpected and creative and creates a space in time where we can hear God. Michael Card.
Perhaps no one will remember our words, but if we can create a space for God though our writing our readers can be changed eternally. God can speak into that space and time.
What is your goal as a writer? Bestseller list? Fame? Few attain those goals and the satisfaction is temporary. What if we could shift our focus and write from the perspective of eternity. The best writing creates a space in a reader’s mind and heart for God to enter.
A blog, a tweet, a story written for our children, a devotional message in the church newsletter, a lesson prepared for a small group. All writing is important and at the same time all writing is just scribbling in the sand.
Some are called to be prophetic goads, and some giants may hammer in firmly embedded nails. But the rest of us can aspire, with no tinge of shame, to scribbling in the sand. Philip Yancey
What do you think?
Betsy and Laurie
What power there is in the pen. The power to allow a reader to step into a world of our creating and experience truth, love, revelation, joy. Or with stories we can take a reader to a place of fear, hate, abuse. Our creator God has made us in His image to create. It’s up to us how we will wield that power.
- Light or darkness
- Love or hate
- Building up or tearing down
“A farmer went out to sow some seeds . . .” Jesus begins a story that is layered with meaning but simple. The reader, even years after the telling, has room to move around in the story. Jesus loves the reader.
“A man had two sons . . .” Jesus begins again and our hearts are drawn into the narrative, listening and experiencing, not manipulated and controlled. In humility Jesus creates the world of a story and gives it to us.
In the best writing the author is invisible. The reader enjoys the story without awareness of the writer’s agenda. The author’s intent and focus as been on the reader, not on himself.
As writers, storytellers, mothers, fathers, teachers we use words every day. The most powerful words are spoken or written in love and humility.
How will you use your words today?
Betsy and Laurie
Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. Ex. 3:5; Josh. 5:15
Want to be a better writer? Take off your shoes.
Sometimes when we are writing, the self slips away, out of the chair, gone, but the typing continues. Then the words on the screen seem to come from a place beyond ourselves, a holy place. In those elusive moments we feel the hands of God take our hands and the result is something beyond our own ability.
When God appeared to Moses and later to Joshua, He told them the same thing: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Ex. 3:5; Josh. 5:15).
Two writers share about this thought:
So why did God ask them to take off their sandals? I think it was an act of humility, an act of worship. It was a way of acknowledging absolute dependence on God. . . In case you care, one of my idiosyncrasies is that I remove my shoes whenever I’m writing. I do it as a reminder that I need God’s anointing. It reminds me that I am fulfilling a sacred calling. Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle
Why should you take off your shoes in the Lord’s presence? Because without shoes you are not going anywhere. You might try to walk, but you will not get very far. . . Barefootedness means immobilization, and so it is a symbol of submission. Being immobile . . . is a prerequisite for all activity, all service. Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job
Could it make a difference in our writing to take off our shoes? Sometimes our small actions in the physical world can reveal our desire in the spiritual world. We might move into a place of surrender by a small act of submission.
Maybe we should all take off our shoes today as we sit down to write.
Try it and let us know what happens.
Betsy and Laurie
Do you ever wonder if you could write a book?
One day when we visited a school to talk about writing we learned something from a second grader. A little guy raised his hand and said, “I can do the stories, I just can’t do the words.” He captured the struggle that every writer (or wannabe writer) faces.
How do you get the stories out of your head onto the paper? How do we even have the courage to begin? Often we write and rewrite stories over and over in our heads, but they never make it to the written page or screen.
The following scripture passages were important to us over our years of writing and we wanted to share some of what we learned.
Give us today our daily bread. Matthew 6:11
Don’t get ahead of God. If we think we have to write a whole book we can become paralyzed and overwhelmed. But what if we just have to write one paragraph, or one page. We can do that. Can we trust God for the rest?
We had written children’s books for twenty years before we decided to attempt our first book for adults. They are sooo long. We wondered if we could write a novel of more than 64 pages.
In the wilderness the Hebrew people received manna, just enough for each day. Why would we expect God to act differently with us? When we are faithful to show up and do our part, he gives us just what we need for that day, or hour, or fifteen minutes.
When we looked at it that way, we were able to move forward. Faith matters in writing.
Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. Jeremiah 15:19
Write from your heart, not what you think people will like or expect from you. When we changed genres it surprised some people. We heard a lot of opposition. “But you could sell another children’s book.” We chose what we thought God wanted us to write and we had to fight to keep from “turning” to the crowd. One agent heard about what we were writing and told us to write a Christian romance series, “because you can sell it”. God calls us to write the words that He gives us, not what we can sell or what we think people want to hear. Someone else may be called to write that romance series, but not us.
I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Nehemiah 6:3
Commit to the work. It is VERY easy to get distracted. How do you carve out time to write? We started writing during naptime. Our kid’s naptimes! It is amazing how productive you can be when you know you only have an hour to work. We also learned to put writing on the calendar. It helped us to say no to other things when it was scheduled in black and white. Each time we say yes to one thing we say no to another.
My tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1
Have confidence. Do you have the confidence to begin? If you have read this far then God has called you to write. He has already equipped you and is ready to use you to write His words. What do you need to do to cooperate with Him?
For us, the confidence to write comes from God. We cover our writing in prayer and have a prayer team praying for our writing. We love this quote by Corrie Ten Boom:
“It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts.”
There’s nothing to fear! Those stories that are in our heads were put there by God and He will be faithful to give us the words we need.
We would love to hear your thoughts about these passages. Do you have another scripture passage that has been meaningful to you in your writing?
Betsy and Laurie
Something about the first week of the year makes me feel like I’m starting a race, lined up ready for the gun to sound. This week I flipped over my calendar to 2015 and suddenly deadlines loom closer. Email messages are flowing in reminding me of promises that I made. It’s time to begin working on the goals listed on the paper before me. It can be overwhelming.
On your mark…
Where is our starting point for the New Year? It’s a good time to take inventory. What were my achievements in the past year? What are my goals for this one? If we are rooted and grounded before we start, the race will go better. We wouldn’t get far in the race if we didn’t know where we were headed.
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. Acts 20:24
Take a breath. Focus on one thing at a time. Life is lived one moment at a time. Writing requires perseverance, one word, one paragraph, one page, one chapter at a time. A slow persistence. Persevere. God provides our daily bread – just enough for today.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24
Okay. Time to begin. The route is marked out ahead. Let’s run it. The New Year has already begun. Let’s live it well!
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
Happy New Year,
Betsy and Laurie
First published at the WordServe Watercooler.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
People walking in the darkness have seen a great light. Isaiah 9:2
We love these words from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp:
Our God who breathed stars into the dark—He breathed Bethlehem’s Star, then He became a baby with lungs and breathed in stable air. We are all saved and rescued from the hopeless dark because God came with infant fists and opened wide His hands to hold yours. Ann Voskamp, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift
Merry Christmas to you all!
Betsy and Laurie
Here are our readings from Christmas 2013 for you. Click Here.
And one last lovely song for 2014. See you next year!
Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely, love divine
Love was born at Christmas
Star and angels gave the sign.