Exciting Writing News (& How You Can Help!)

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final stages of tweaks {New Leaf Creative Studio}

Even when we give up on our dreams, God doesn’t. Even when we doubt him, he is still faithful. Our desires may be fulfilled differently than we think, but that doesn’t mean God has forgotten them. He knows best and his timing is perfect.

When Jeremiah and I returned from our 10-year anniversary trip this past summer, I received an email from a big-name publisher about my interest in writing a devotional book with an author many of us know in the Christian community. I was beaming with excitement – heartbeat racing and all! I was one of 3 writers to submit samples but as I got further into the process, I learned that it was going to be a ghostwrite and not a cowrite to my dismay.

After seeking counsel and being still for a while, I respectfully declined as ghostwriting wasn’t in line with my personal writing goals or something I felt comfortable with. Through that experience however, I learned so much. Feeling somewhat stuck and discouraged, I began answering my own question, What if I write my own devotional book? I’ve always had a burning message in my heart to communicate to moms who are struggling. Jeremiah really encouraged me to do what I felt most excited about right nowThat was June. This is October. And here we are…

I’m thrilled to let you know that I’ll be releasing my first book (Kindle & paperback versions) called Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. I will be talking about it more this month, but I wanted to begin sharing now.

Quiet Time is all about encouraging and strengthening moms in the trenches of motherhood who are daily battling tantrums, sibling fights, defiance, emotional ups and downs, sleepless nights, depression, and more. This devotional book helps address the worthiness of the calling in the midst of the sacrifice. On each page, moms will find their calm in Christ and be reassured that they’re not alone, God is with them, and their work is worthy.

14489737_10102850710146368_1307227125_oRight now, I’m building a Street Team of readers and friends who will come alongside me to share the book with others. I truly believe in the power of community and that this project is a team effort. I would love for you to consider joining me.

As a part of the Street Team, you will be helping me get the word out about the book and also being a huge part of encouraging young moms.

What is required to be on the Street Team?

1.) Read a PDF copy of the book. You will receive a free PDF copy of the book before it goes on sale. (a month before it releases)

2.) Write a positive Amazon Review. Once you’ve read the book and if you like it, I would love for you to share a positive Amazon review during the launch.

3.) Share on social media. Provide a link on your social media accounts where friends/family can learn more about the book.

And I have a few other goodies up my sleeve as well. If you’re not a mom, I still welcome you to read it and share it. If you can’t commit to being on my street team, I value your prayers as we near the end of the process and launch the book.

If you would like to join me on the Street Team, please fill out your information on the form below and I will be in touch with you. Thank you so much!

Samantha

The Courage to be You, Bravely

6-13-sweet-pearIt’s funny how sayings stick in your head. “Be You, Bravely” was the theme for my Mother’s of Preschooler’s group (MOPS) in Dallas a few years ago and I have reflected on it a lot this week.

Whether it comes through scrolling down the highlight reels of friends on Facebook and Instagram or comparing myself to what another person has in their life, God is teaching me to be me. And me alone. The temptation is to believe that other friends have it better, are more gifted, and suitable for their work. But the truth is that we all have challenges in our lives – some obvious, some unseen. We’re all gifted uniquely for God’s purposes – fashioned according to His will.

It takes courage to be You. And no one else. It’s much easier to be busy about what others are doing, instead of taking a good hard look inside your own heart and seeing what God is doing in you. Who has he made you to be? What dreams has he given you?

Recently, I was given an exciting opportunity from a Christian publishing company to be one of three writers to submit writing for an upcoming project they are working on with a respected author. They seemed very interested in my sample writing and was hoping I would move forward in letting the author see my samples. The problem was that I thought it was going to be a co-write and soon learned that it was a ghost-write. My heart immediately became unsettled.

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image: thejellyjars.com

If you aren’t familiar with ghostwriting, you are hired by a publisher to write the story/content that is officially credited to another person – in this case it was someone quite famous in the Christian world. In ghostwriting, you take on their voice but you receive no credit on the cover and you cannot reveal it in your portfolio. You’re usually given a good sum of money in ghostwriting, too. There are pros and cons to it.

Now, many in publishing don’t see this as a big deal. There are many books written by celebrities that have been ghostwritten. However there is another camp of people that believe it is unethical/bearing false witness/deceiving. Best-selling author Randy Alcorn has this point of view. Having never been asked before to consider ghostwriting, I wasn’t sure where I stood.

I can see why writers do it as it helps someone who may not be gifted in writing to get their story told. I do know writers that ghostwrite and I don’t judge them. But in my heart, I didn’t feel it was right for me. It also wasn’t in line with my personal goals in my writing career. I talked to trusted friends and my Dad who’s an excellent businessman and received affirmation not to move forward with it.

It was hard to let the publisher know I wasn’t interested, but I felt peace. I believe it is giving me greater clarity in what to pursue next in my writing career. It has taught me above all, to be me and to stick to my convictions. To not look at what everyone else is doing, and then determine what choice I should make based on that.

There is always temptation to look back and wonder if I made the best decision, but the still, small voice inside me continues to say, “Yes. Trust me. This is not a shut door, but an open one. Keep trusting me.”

Do you ever find it hard to be You? When have you been tempted to doubt what you knew was right?

– Samantha

Writing Platform: Staying True to Who You Are

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If you’ve followed along with me for some time in this little space, you may remember that my husband and I submitted a book proposal on marriage to one of my favorite Christian publishers in 2015. After one of my articles went viral in 2013, the publisher reached out and asked about my interest in writing a book. Some of you have asked about the status of the project and I felt I should update you here.

The whole experience has been such an honor talking with the Associate Publisher, brainstorming ideas, conducting interviews, doing research, writing the proposal, dreaming of it impacting our audience, and sending it off. After months and months of waiting, we heard back and were told that as first-time authors the publisher was going to have trouble getting the proposal through the publishing board who looks carefully at prior book sales and author platform. We were so far in the process and were sad to receive that news, but we accepted that this may not be the right timing. Or the right project. I had peace in my heart because I knew God was in control. We had played our part.

Many wonderful authors today experienced rejection after rejection before their idea sold. Part of the back story on this proposal is that I had submitted another one prior to it that didn’t make it. So that makes two rejections. I remember the words from my chancellor in college,

“You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or his wealth or his education. But you determine a man’s greatness by what it takes to discourage him.”

The publisher mentioned other options as far as us putting our book online chapter by chapter, and soliciting feedback and building an audience for the book before it is published. I have thought about shopping the proposal to different publishers or coming up with a whole new idea for a different audience. An author friend of mine said she would be happy to pass the proposal on to her literary agent which I’m highly considering.

But as of now I’m praying about the direction to go as I don’t want to give up on the idea. There are no books currently on the market like it. And platform? Well, platform is a big deal in the publishing industry. It’s important to have a large audience and influence for book sales. Your book has to make money after all and publishers take great risks. But I also know that God is the ultimate one who builds my platform. It is not something that I craft or manipulate with my own hands. That’s not to say I don’t play my part, but I leave the results to the Lord.

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My husband has been a testament to this as I’ve watched him wait on the Lord for many years until God fulfilled his plan for him in full-time ministry and to now see his faithfulness rewarded as he is now leading a wonderful congregation of believers as lead pastor. As his wife, I’ve witnessed his platform in the home and in the workplace and it has been one of service, patience, love, faithfulness, integrity, humility, perseverance, and more. To me, platform is about serving others. As Jesus says, “the greatest must become the least.” So in whatever capacity God gives me to serve, I will accept it as my platform.

I also have to stay true to who I am in my dream to author books and do my part in working diligently. I can’t allow a “no” to discourage me from God’s calling on my life to keep writing. It sure is tempting though to give up and just focus on the writing assignments I have at hand. It is tempting to make excuses and say I’m too busy, have too many kids, or just simply can’t balance it all. Which is all true, but I still don’t want to give up on my dream. I know the hard work isn’t in vain.

My five-year-old daughter Rebekah reminds me of someone who is absolutely true to herself. She doesn’t mold into someone she is not. She lives on the edge, walking barefoot near the road (it drives me crazy). She will often get out a piece of paper and her paint brushes and create the most beautiful picture from her imagination. She is artistic, spicy, smart, and introverted. God has specific plans for her gifting as I know he does for me. I don’t think she is the least bit worried in how God will choose to use her either. She inspires me in her childlike faith.

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Recently, our friend Scott who has traveled the writing journey with us and leads one of the largest pre-marital ministries in the country emailed a few weeks ago saying to keep going and not give up. He has read just about every Christian marriage book on the planet. He strongly believes in our idea, writing, and his words were just what I needed to hear to get me back on the road again. I love how God uses the body of Christ when we need a gentle push.

Well right now, the proposal sits on my computer but I plan on taking action with it in the coming weeks. I would love your prayers as I seek to know if God has further plans for it. If he doesn’t have a plan for this particular project, I’m okay with that. I will continue writing. But I want to be faithful to at least keep trying and to not let any discouragement keep me down.

Thank you for reading!

Samantha

 

Book Proposals and Trusting God’s Plan

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It’s been quite some time since I blogged last. Okay, four months! That is a long time but so much has been going on that I wanted to fill you in on. At the beginning of this year, an email popped up in my inbox that I didn’t expect. A Christian publisher who I greatly respect had taken notice of one of my article’s and asked about my interest in writing a book on the topic of relationships. Anyone who has known me for a long time knows that being an author has been a life long dream since the 4th grade. My heart beat fast and I was ecstatic.

I told my husband and my family and closest friends. I got back in touch with the publisher with an idea that they liked and I moved forward with working on the proposal. Jeremiah watched the kids for me on the weekends while I’d go to our local coffee shop to hammer out the first few sample chapters.

I felt like God was calling me to write for single women who are waiting on God’s will for a spouse, similar to the book Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Eliott. Deep down, I felt too intimated to tackle the topic of marriage. I submitted the proposal and felt confident. In May, I heard back from the publisher and they loved and affirmed my writing and passion, but felt like the market was too crowded for the idea to sell, but that maybe we just needed to explore a different direction.

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I was tempted to get discouraged but Jeremiah encouraged me that it wasn’t rejection, but redirection. I knew he was right and I wasn’t going to give up. I realized the market really was crowded and deep in my heart I felt God had something different in mind. Shortly after that time, Jeremiah and I began to brainstorm ideas on marriage. After all, I had been writing marriage articles for over 2.5 years now.

Jeremiah was able to make my ideas better since he’s a visionary and I’m more detail oriented. We found ourselves really excited working on our idea together. We pitched it to the publisher and suggested the idea of Jeremiah and I writing it together as co-authors. Slowly, my fears of writing a book on marriage began to fade as I realized it wasn’t about me.

Several weeks later while we were on our road trip from Texas to Michigan, we were able to talk on the phone further with the publisher.  I was so thankful for our conversation and their willingness to help us narrow our idea. They asked us to come up with a detailed proposal so when we got home from vacation, we got right to work whenever time allowed.

As we neared the end, we sent it to a few author and editor friends for feedback, we changed one of the sample chapters completely, we kept editing and polishing it up some more, and after letting it sit a while and then coming back to it for more edits, we decided it was finally ready.

Well,  I’m happy to say that we just recently submitted the proposal! So now we are waiting to see if the publisher would like to move forward.

This whole process has been such a journey, especially in the midst of raising our four young children and Jeremiah starting a remodeling business. It’s been busy, chaotic, hopeful, and exciting. We’ve definitely experienced spiritual warfare and arguments–  To be expected when tackling such a project. But I have been so blessed being able to work alongside my husband and watch his gifts shine through. When I compare this proposal to my first, I feel like it’s so much better having his point-of-view, insight, and thoughts from the male perspective. I absolutely love the book concept and it is unique in today’s market.

What I’ve realized most in this journey is that God’s plans are not mine. They are better. After hitting the send button to the publisher, I felt nervous and excited. Nervous knowing that they may or may not think it will sell, but excited at the possibility that it very well could and we might get to sign a contract. Of course, we’re praying for the latter.

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During the writing process, I’ve also felt who are we to write a book on marriage? At times, we feel so broken in our relationship and some days are just plain hard. But that is the beauty of the gospel. Jesus comes down to us. He puts things in our lap not because we deserve them. With his life laid down, he raises us out of brokenness and sin and chooses us to be a part of his mission. He uses imperfect people and reveals his perfection. That is a mystery I’ll never get over.

I’m humbled and honored at even the chance to send a proposal to a publisher and at the thought that God could use our stories and experiences to encourage other young married couples out there.

So rather than doubt myself or God’s plan, at the end of the day the only questions that really matters are, Am I surrendered to His will? Do I trust that His plans are good?

So no matter the outcome, we’ve giving it over to Him with palms open.

We certainly appreciate your prayers as we wait. In the mean time, I look forward to posting again when I’m not cleaning up messes and taming tantrums. 🙂

Why You Don’t Need to Write or Live to Please Anyone

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photo: shutterstock

A few months ago, I poured my heart out into an article and submitted it to the website’s editor to review. After clicking send, feelings of doubt washed over me and I started dissecting the words over and over in my mind.

What if no one can relate?

What if I offend someone?

I’m definitely not perfect

Was I being too honest and vulnerable?

Is my writing good enough?

The other day while my husband was driving and I had a few minutes of peace, I read some encouraging words from a writer and author I’ve followed for a while now. Jeff Goins wrote about the subtle, dangerous temptation to write for recognition:

We begin to focus on the audience more than the act of creating, and ultimately, our art suffers. We grow self-conscious and worrisome about how a certain word or phrase will be perceived. It becomes less about the art and more about how much other people like us.

As I read those words it was like my soul was being exposed. As a writer, it can be so difficult to spend hours upon hours creating words only to later fear what your audience will think of them. I have worried about that many times.

But the truth is that I write because I love it. It’s a part of who I am. I write to tell a story, share biblical truth, encourage, and instill life and hope into others. I write because I feel closest to God when I do. I don’t know any other way to make sense of life than to write. That’s probably why I’ve had 13 journals since middle school.

If I have an audience, great. That’s a privilege in and of itself. And I always keep the reader in mind. But I shouldn’t be writing to please anyone.

Naturally, this flows into my spiritual life. In fact, it’s dug down deep in the roots of my sinful nature. You’d think at 31 years of age this would have taken care of itself but insecurities are difficult to beat. Just ask my husband.

People pleasing in life and as a writer is dangerous because it’s man-centered, not God-centered. Living for the approval and admiration of man is an idol. Paul knew it well:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Gal. 1:10

It places the concern of people above God’s. It elevates them and not Him. And that’s a struggle that must be worked through.

But I know I’m human and in need of God’s grace. I need His discernment and love to guide me as I strive to bring him glory.

My article ended up going live at the first of the year. I prayed that God would use it how he wished and I was blown away by its positive response. Some readers contacted me through email and Facebook and we were able to encourage each other. Because it reached a broad range of people, I also had readers who misunderstood me.

One reader projected her pain onto me as the writer and she wasn’t nice.

I was tempted to get upset and dwell on her words. But I prayed for thick skin. And God gently reminded me that the audience I need to be most concerned about is the Audience of One.

The writing life is hard work, just like our faith journey. But it is love that motivates us to stay the course.

Do you find any of the above true in your own life? Feel free to share in the comments. 

Top Blog Posts and Articles from 2013

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2013 was somewhat a year of sweet survival for me as we welcomed baby #4 (and my husband gutted our entire master bath and remodeled it – yep he’s amazing). So far 2014 is shaping up similarly (still in survival mode and sleep deprived) but that’s okay. In 2013, I was able to post about once a month and submitted 3 articles for online publications. I wrote mostly about motherhood and marriage. While I wasn’t able to blog a whole lot, I’m grateful for the moments of solitude I did have!

Here are the Top Blog Posts according to hits:

1.) What to do With Miley

2.) A Surprise Baby!

3.) You Might be a Stay-at-Home Mom to Four Kids, 4 & Under If…

4.) A Letter to My Son, On Manhood, Mission, & Meaning in Life

5.) Help Us Name Our Baby!

6.) One Fact in Motherhood: Some Days Everything Falls Apart

 

Here are the Top Articles according to Facebook Shares 

1.) 8 Non-Negotiables for Dads with Daughters – KirkCameron.com

2.) 5 Words that Could Mean Life or Death to Your Marriage – StartMarriageRight.com

3.) I Love You, But How Do I Like You? – StartMarriageRight.com

I’m excited for the experiences and stories God will give me this year to write about. In case you missed some of the above, I hope you get a chance to read them. I appreciate you!

Just a Note to Say…

coffee-cup-and-computerI’m still here!

I know it has been several weeks since I’ve posted. I’ve been working on a few writing projects that have taken up most of my hard-to-find spare time- a story for an upcoming Focus on the Family book (yay!), a few new articles, and a book review for my former professor, mentor, and friend Karen Swallow Prior’s new book, Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me. I’m in the midst of her review and will be posting a giveaway here soon so stay tuned.

A lot is happening in our home too. My husband has been thick into remodeling our master bath (quite the project!). As you can imagine with three young kids, it has been crazy. But we are so excited to be nearing the end of it. On Thursday, it will be two weeks until I’m due with our 4th child! It feels like yesterday that I was just writing the post about our surprise baby. Our baby boy will Lord willing complete our family so I’m really trying to savor all that’s happening right now.

I certainly value your prayers in this season of life. Feel free to drop a comment or email. I’d love to hear how you are doing.

As always, thank you for reading!

Giveaway: Win a Copy of Fierce Women by Kimberly Wagner

This week I’m really excited that Moody Publishers has given me a copy of the new book Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior by Kimberly Wagner to give away.

Fierce Women is one of the most honest, refreshing, and engaging books I’ve ever read on the marriage relationship when it comes to how wives relate to their husbands. Within our inherited sin nature and living in a culture where women have the tendency to dominate, manipulate, and take charge over men, I appreciate that author Kimberly Wagner has unashamedly called out this kind of behavior, or shall we say heart issue, as sin.

Not only that, Kimberly shares her personal stories and struggles of how her own behavior and treatment of her husband almost led to the destruction of her marriage. She gives women hope that they can change too. But rest assured, this is not a self-help book designed to repair marital problems.

Kimberly makes it clear that real change didn’t occur until she realized that what she calls her “emasculation” of her husband was tied to God’s glory. God opened her eyes and helped her see how damaging her selfishness was to their oneness. Humility, grace, and dying to self is what led to the restoration of her marriage.

Every woman has a type of fierceness within her and God desires to use that fierceness for good. Kimberly describes a  “soft warrior” as a woman who uses her fierce strengths to encourage and inspire her husband toward greatness. A soft warrior trusts in her husband’s leadership, doesn’t try to “fix” him, accepts, admires, appreciates, affirms, and prays for him. She allows him to take the lead because that is his God-given role.

What is at stake if we fail to use our fierceness for God’s glory? Kimberly reminds us that “God designed the most intimate of all earthly relationships to serve as a real-life parable to depict his commitment to his bride. Marriage is God’s platform that displays to the watching world a physical picture of a spiritual reality.”

Fierce Women spoke volumes to me personally because I am a fierce, strong-willed woman myself (just ask my husband!) and I have seen the “bad side” fleshed out in my marriage. I felt like I was seeing myself all over the pages. I was so encouraged that my fierceness can actually be a beautiful thing God can use if I am willing to surrender.

You will want to get your hands on this book as soon as you can. There is so much more to the book that can’t fit into this blog review.

Kimberly Wagner is a frequent guest on Nancy Leigh Demoss’ Revive Our Hearts radio program, as well as a regular contributor to the True Woman and Beyond Bath Time blogs.

To win a copy, simply leave a comment below. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced Monday, Dec. 3.

* (Male readers: please feel free to enter the giveaway as you might benefit from this yourself or consider it as a gift.)

A Special Thanks to You, My Reader

My husband had a seminary professor tell him once that if you ever go into a church to preach or speak that you should always first thank your audience for having you. Because the truth is that no one has to listen to you. No one has to spend an hour under your teaching. It’s a privilege and honor to communicate to the hearts of your hearers and for someone to take the time to listen to what you have to say.

As a communicator, always thank your audience.

That was the gist of what his professor was urging his seminary students to do. I think his professor was also stressing the importance of humility and I thought it was great wisdom for writing as well.

No one has to read what I write on this blog or in any other publications. It is a privilege to even have an audience who will take 10 minutes out of their day to read a post or an article. And I’m grateful and humbled that you as a reader do this.

Whether it is one person, 10 people, or 50 people, I care about each of you. I care about what is going on in your daily life and I care about your relationship with Christ. In addition to my love and passion for writing, I consider writing as a ministry to you.

I also want you to know that I pray for you and think of you when I write any post or article. While many of my posts are personal narratives or begin as personal stories, I’m always thinking of you and how God might use my words to speak truth and life into your heart. I’m always praying that God would show you more of himself.

And in return, I love hearing from you even if it’s just to say “hi.” Your comments and feedback encourage me and spur me on in this journey. The Lord knows we all need it!

So… that’s all I really have to say. Thank you being the best readers any writer could ever want.

Writing and The Ups & Downs of Social Media

I’m linking up with Sarah Markley today discussing social media in the writing world.

In college and seminary, I wrote primarily for magazines. I had no idea who my readers were personally. I didn’t have a blog, Facebook, Twitter or an i-Phone.

Shortly after I got married, I joined Facebook. Then after a writer’s conference in 2007, I was encouraged to start a blog. A few years later I joined Twitter for the purpose of networking with other writers and authors but I wasn’t sold on it for a while. I questioned:

Do I really need one more thing to put my energy towards? Will this become a distraction? Do I really need to be on it?

After becoming a stay-at-home mom in 2010, I started to see that being heavily involved in social media was a big deal in order to be a successful writer. You had to let others know about your work and gain a following. And you needed social media to build relationships that could lead to being published.

I understood the necessity of having a good platform but my love and passion for writing was getting shoved under the bus by the hype and noise of social media and self-promotion. I realized this more vividly through Jeff Goins, who helps writers get back to the basics of loving the craft. I wondered:

Could I just write for writing’s sake because I loved it, felt close to God through it, and wanted to encourage others?

Social Media and the Heart of it All

I felt like I couldn’t keep up with everyone else in the social media world. I found myself overwhelmed rather than enjoying it as a tool for connection, edification, and outreach. My heart desired to be noticed by others and my mood was sometimes dictated by how many retweets, responses, blog stats, comments, likes, and shares I had.

After a lot of wrestling the day came when I realized I had to make a choice. My time spent on social media would have to be limited and I would have to be okay with not being excessively involved for the sake of my relationship with the Lord, my husband and children, and my love for writing.

As I started to ask God to help me live in moderation, I found more freedom from the desire to people please, compare myself to others or feel like I wasn’t “being” or “doing” enough in the online world.

The Art of Disconnecting & Connecting

I wrote when I sensed God leading me to write something. I got on Twitter and Facebook a few times throughout the day but it wasn’t the end of the world if I went several days without sharing anything or reading other feeds. I practiced the art of turning my phone on silent so I didn’t feel the urgency to respond to every chime or notification. I set limits on how often I would check email and blog comments. It was more challenging than I thought!

I connected with people and readers more individually through email or a personal message rather than publicly. I started to enjoy the benefits and blessings of social media rather than feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. 

With the ability to share posts on Facebook and Twitter, God has given me the opportunity to connect with friends and readers I never guessed were reading and minister to them in unique ways. He’s also given me the opportunity to guest post for authors that I love and to become a contributing writer to a few sites.

I’ve learned new things and gained fresh insight through social media. And probably the thing I love most is getting to know readers and connecting with them in a more personal way that can’t be done through magazine writing.

Life is Happening Where You Are

I don’t have it all together when it comes to balancing the benefits of social media. It’s a daily choice and discipline to make sure my heart is in line and I’m using it for the right purposes.

Will I continue to use social media in the future? Absolutely. But as a writer, wife, and mom my time will be guarded. Life is happening where I am right now and I don’t want to miss out. There will always be time later to post, share, reply, connect, and write.

What about you? Do you ever struggle with finding a balance with social media? What do you like/dislike about it?

 

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