Raising a Bible Reader

As adults we know how important it is to read the Bible frequently. In a recent sermon, our pastor asked –

“What if we treated our Bible like our cell phone? What if we never left home without it?”

I thought of another question – what if our children saw us treating the Bible like we do our cell phones?

At 4 my daughter is too young to be reading the Bible, but she’s not too young to develop a connection with the Bible. Here are some ways I’m using to make that important connection:

  • I found that grouping my Bibles together and keeping them in a special place intrigues my daughter. Having Bibles of different sizes and colors creates curiosity and makes them fun to explore.
  • At this young age, the best way I can encourage Monkey’s interest in the Bible is to let her see me reading and enjoying the Bible on a regular basis, which is more incentive to read it often.
  • When I’m reading my Bible, Monkey often gets out her ‘Beginner’ Bible. Then together we read a story from her Bible aloud.
  • After we read out loud from her Bible, I give her some time to look through her Bible alone while I read from my Bible alone.
  • This time reading alone doesn’t usually last too long since Monkey is curious about what I’m reading, and asks for me to read to her from my Bible. I like to read a story to her from my Bible and then read the same story again from her Bible.

Passing Along A Great Idea

It happens more often in the winter. Leaving Target or the grocery store with the back of my car loaded with groceries and other items I need, or more likely don’t, I stop at a red light to see a man standing there with a cardboard sign that reads – Homeless Need Help.

My heart goes out to the man and I want to help, but I don’t want to invite a stranger over to my car and hand him cash. Mostly because I’ve just spent all my money and partly because I’m not convinced cash is the way to help, but still I hear Jesus’ words in my mind:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:35-40 NIV).

Driving away from the man, I know I’ve failed to follow Jesus’ words, and I pray for forgiveness and for Him to show me how I can help those in need. He answered my prayer today in a blog post that I’d like to share with you – Be A Blessing – Blessing Bags .

I look forward to putting a few of these bags together with my daughter’s help. I don’t know if I’ll include a Bible, unless I can get a donation like this blogger did or find a good deal. Helping in the smallest way, is still helping and I’m so grateful for answered prayers!

How do you respond to those asking for help at traffic lights? Is it safe to invite them over to your car to hand them a bag? I watch a lot of crime shows and imagine danger in the simplest of situations.

Have A Merry Running Christmas

‘Tis the season for celebrating — for parties, decorations, and for rejoicing. In all the holiday hub-bub, it may be hard to make time to run, but running can be a festive activity too! Here are some tips for making your next run a merry ole’ time:

  • Run wearing a Santa hat – Bring a smile to the faces of your neighbors and drivers alike!
  • Run with bells on – String a few little bells on your shoelaces or add some sleigh bells to the jogging stroller (just a little warning – this could be a tad overwhelming on long runs)!
  • Run with Christmas tunes – Rock out to some upbeat carols and spread some joy by bursting into song every mile or so!
  • Run at night to see the lights – Sometimes it’s a bit intimidating to run at night. But there’s no better time to give it a go than at Christmas when white and colorful lights adorn the neighborhood. Just don’t forget to don your own reflective gear!
  • Run and rejoice in the reason for the season – Read the Christmas story in Luke before heading out and reflect on Jesus’ birth as you run. It’s a great way to refresh your spirit and put Christmas back in the right perspective.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas!

Notes on ‘Writing Popular Fiction’

Writing Popular Fiction by Dean Koontz

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Writer’s Digest; 1st edition (1974)
  • ISBN-10: 0911654216
  • ISBN-13: 978-0911654219
  • ASIN: B000I2YUNS

The most successful writer […] is the one who can sit down at his typewriter every working day and produce a certain number of words or finished pages, regardless of what he might prefer to do instead (p.180).

First, let me start off by saying that this book was published in 1974 and some of the information is no longer relevant; however, some information never goes out of date.

In this book, Koontz examines the ‘major categories or genres of fiction’ and gives specific ways and examples of writing well in each. According to Koontz, the major genres of popular fiction are:

  • Science fiction/Fantasy
  • Suspense
  • Mystery
  • Gothic/Romance
  • Westerns
  • Erotica

Right away the book shows its age. In the chapter on ‘Gothic/Romance’ Koontz only discussed the Gothic novel and it’s structured plot formula, which is not nearly as popular now as it apparently was then.

In an article from March 19, 2008 titled Sub-Genre Descriptions, Writer’s Digest lists the major genres of popular fiction and includes the sub-genres. As one would expect the Gothic novel is not under the Romance category; it’s considered a sub-genre of Horror.

While the categories have changed, Koontz is on point with the five story elements required for good fiction:

  • Strong Plot
  • Hero/Heroine
  • Clear believable motivation (i.e. love, curiosity, self-preservation, greed, self-discovery, duty and revenge)
  • A colorful background

Tips for Writers

Generating story ideas:

Everyone is a witches’  cauldron of bubbling facts, ideas, images, and memories. You must learn to tap this magical brew and order the unconscious plots within it (p. 153).

  • One method Koontz uses is to choose a dramatic or colorful word and free associate as he uses the word in a string of possible book titles, which he writes in a spiral notebook.
  • Another method is to play with a narrative hook. Sit down and type an intriguing opening sentence or paragraph. Then another and another and so on until your imagination takes flight.
  • Do the same exercise as above with character descriptions rather than opening hooks.
  • Help stories surface by reading:

With every novel you read, thousands of facts, characters, and plot twists are stored in your subconscious, constantly interacting below the level of awareness. When they jell [sic] and rise, they are usually in an original arrangement that bears no resemblance to the books that inspired them (p. 159).

Dialogue Tags

A few weeks ago, Dawn @ The Write Soil posted a very helpful tip from the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King (1993 edition):

Do not tag dialogue with other verbs. Use said. (Strong Dialogue Series #5)

It was hard for me to accept this rule. It’s not alright to use ‘ask’? That seemed preposterous. Ever since, I’ve been interested in learning what other writers have to say on the subject. Koontz instructs writers to use said but also gives simple variants of said like – shout, call, reply, ask, and insist to use. If more force is required he suggests using these versions – cry, scream, howl, and wail.

Titles

  • Make titles dramatic, colorful, intriguing.
  • A title should promise one or any combination of 4 things – exotic events, suspenseful action, a violent incident or sex.
  • Keep titles short with the promise in one key word.

7 Title Mistakes:

  • Dull titles
  • Cliche titles (unless you give it a clever twist. For example – Do Your Christmas Killing Early; Slayground; Murder is the Best Policy
  • General titles
  • Incomprehensible titles
  • Misleading titles
  • Revealing titles
  • Arty titles

Finally, I read it all the time – ‘just write and edit later.’ I agree with this practice, but I also have a lot of trouble sticking to it. Koontz advises eliminating revision whenever possible because your emotional involvement with the story can be the “intangible quality that makes the book exciting and marketable”. He also argues that planning to do several drafts fosters an attitude of carelessness with your first draft.

Koontz also warns writers to NOT take a break from your book once it is finished because the break gives you time to start doubting your story. (Been there!)

Overall, I found the book worth reading. I’m glad I spotted it on the library’s shelves!

Notes ‘On Writing’

 

You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself (p. 236).

 

This is not a book review of Stephen King’s On Writing, although I will say that I enjoyed the book and found it entertaining as well as informative. While I read, I took notes, which I then typed up –it’s my learning process. The book is a treasure trove of information, tips and advice to writers. Here are a few of the gems I picked up:

 

On Writing Practice

I’ve read it countless times before, but hearing it from Stephen King seemed to really hammer the idea home –in order to have a writing practice you need a space dedicated to writing; you need to schedule time to write; you need to set a goal for your writing time. I’ve known it all along –heard it from other writers and many bloggers – but I think I finally ‘get’ it.

The problem is I can’t sit in a room and write with the door closed, as Stephen King does when writing a first draft. I can’t do that with a three year-old. If she wants me or needs me, then I can’t ignore her for my writing. Perhaps this will keep me from succeeding, but she is my priority at this point in my life. I might as well be honest and up front about it if I want to attempt to have a successful writing practice. (I can, however, let Daddy read her a bedtime story and get in some uninterrupted writing time.)

On Getting Ideas

There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun (p. 37).

King creates stories from situations and doesn’t do much in the way of plotting. He compares writing a novel to uncovering a fossil –starting with a premise and slowly and gradually uncovering the story and developing the characters as he writes. The analogy works well and as my writing process is similar to King’s it made a lot of sense to me, but he also explains that not everyone can write that way –it’s just how it works for him.

On a Writer’s Toolkit

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write (p. 147).

Vocabulary

King’s advice – Use the first word that comes to your mind if it is appropriate and colorful.

Grammar

Memorize Strunk and White’s Elements of Style

Narration

Show don’t tell.

Description

There’s no need to go into great detail about a character’s appearance. Give enough detail to bring your reader into the story without overwhelming them with too much.

Description begins in the writer’s imagination but ends in the reader’s (p. 174).

Dialogue

Be honest.

On Revision

Rewrite formula—2nd draft=1st draft – 10%

King sends his manuscript to his ‘Ideal Reader’(for King, it’s his wife Tabitha) and 4-8 other people.

His ‘readers’ look for factual errors and give subjective evaluations (i.e. what worked and didn’t work for them).

When revising your 1st draft –

  • Review elements from your ‘toolkit’ (i.e. vocabulary and grammar).
  • Knock out pronouns.
  • Eliminate pointless talk.
  • Add clarifying phrases.
  • Remove over-explanations.
  • Delete adverbs (adverbs are abhorred and should be eliminated at all cost –not just in dialogue tags but everywhere. If you have to leave a few in, that’s okay, but only if you just have to).
  • Look for meaning so that in the second draft you can add scenes and incidents to reinforce the meaning and delete meandering material.

Ask yourself –

  • Is it coherent?
  • If so, what will ‘turn coherence into a song?’ (i.e. what will make the story better.)
  • What are the recurring elements?
  • Do they entwine and make a theme?
  • Is there resonance? In other words, is there something that will linger for a little while in the reader’s mind and heart?
  • Is there resolution?

King gives a great sample self-critique of his own work in On Writing.

On Agents

Looking for an agent? King suggests doing research and consulting the Writer’s Market. (Personally, I think that the blogosphere has much better advice for writer’s seeking publication than King gave in On Writing, but what he did share was useful.)

Ask agents for a list of publishers to whom they have sold books or a list of magazines to whom they have sold short stories.

Be wary if an agent charges a fee to read your work.

***

Reading this book has reinvigorating my writing process. I hope you found a tip or two to help you along in your writing journey as well!

Run Like A Princess


Monkey’s Guide To Running Like A Princess:

  • A princess runs in dresses, skirts or tutus – no shorts and definitely no sweats!
  • A princess favors pink in all clothing.
  • A princess wears running shoes as long as they are pink and sparkly.
  • A princess runs with one hand holding out her skirt as if she is Belle ball-dancing with the Beast.
  • A princess is free to take frequent rest breaks and be pushed by her mother/servant (is there a difference?) until she feels up to running again.
  • A princess is also free to interrupt a run with a spontaneous ballet recital of sorts.
  • A princess can add dancing at any point during a run.
  • A princess enjoys a short nap after a long run.

VBS Wrap-up

even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you (Psalm 139:12 NIV).

Looking back at VBS, it all comes back to the Bible points the children learned each night:

  • God made you.

Monkey really got this point! Now she says everything from water and sun to markers and princesses are made by God. He made everything -almost everything:

While daddy was holding her and tickling her, he asked “who made tickles?”
Monkey giggled “Daddy made tickles.”

  • God listens to you.
  • God watches over you.
  • God loves you no matter what.
  • God gives good gifts.


Since Monkey only really got one of the five points, I almost wished VBS was more than one week, but then I got a grip. Instead, I decided to think of easy ways to keep the momentum of VBS going at home.

How To Incorporate VBS Elements At Home:

  • Pick a Bible story that illustrates one of the Bible points as an overall theme.
  • Be excited and upbeat.
  • Read the Bible story together. (Knowing Monkey, she’ll then read it back to me in her own short sweet version.)
  • Act out the Bible story. At VBS I saw how much the children enjoyed acting out the story of Jonah. They also enjoyed laying under a sheet pretending to be Jesus as the station leader recounted the story of Jesus rising from the tomb and being alive again. Right now I’m envisioning telling the story of the Samaritan woman and having my daughter and niece take turns acting out the scene with real water. They’ll love that and maybe the story will take root in their enjoyment.
  • Sing and dance together to one of the songs from the VBS CD that speaks to the Bible point.
  • Do a craft that relates to the Bible point. I learned at VBS that my daughter and several of the other children enjoyed making things to wear, like beaded necklaces, masks, and cups attached to yarn (okay, they were supposed to be kaleidoscopes, but the pre-schoolers in my crew liked them better as cups. Several of them wore them every night!) They also liked being able to draw on a big blackboard with thick chalk. Of all the possible crafts, I’m most excited about the lessons to be taught through making beaded necklaces. It’s easy. Monkey really loves beaded jewelry and most of all because downtown we have The Potomac Bead Company. The sight of all those beads and colors just makes me feel happy.
  • Reinforce the Bible point during our runs together. Nature gives so many opportunities to support God’s word.
  • Pray together.

***

So to wrap-up VBS 2011: Pandamania, I have to say that I’m so proud to be a part of FUMC Chambersburg. Members are so generous with their time and talents. They inspired me throughout the week.

Miss Dawn from The Write Soil co-hosted the opening and closing programs with energy, enthusiasm and passion. My niece adored her. As I watched her, one word came to mind: brilliant!

Other members had such warm hearts, children were just drawn to them. And I’m especially grateful to those members blessed with voices that speak to young children. It’s truly a gift to be able to get and keep the attention of a group of three and four-year-olds.

I have one word for the decorations for Pandamania: spectacular! The decorations truly transformed our church into a jungle. Below is just a small glimpse of a much more amazing picture: