Meet Kyle Ahlgren

Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 8.06.30 PMThis month I interviewed Kyle Ahlgren, Creative Director for the Leonard Group, an indy merchandising business whose motto is “Connecting with customers through stories of hope”. Kyle’s background is in graphic design, but he lives out creativity in more areas outside of his career. He grows a garden, gourmet cooks, goes on adventures, and has tattoos that are thoughtful works of art.

Set your reminder to return here this Saturday, November 3 for the full audio interview! In the meantime, check out the Leonard Group and follow Kyle on Instagram @instakyle33

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Heads Up: NOVEMBER

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Another month is upon us! In November our Word for the month is Initiative and our creative focus is Hand-Crafting. This month we’re high-lighting all types of creative expressions that have one thing in common: they are all hand-crafted. Here’s what’s on the docket:

Audio Interview with Creative Director of the Leonard Group, Kyle Ahlgren

Spotlights on lots of entrepreneurs/crafters of all ages from high-school to seniors who are masters at lathing, sewing, refurbishing, macrame, to name a few

A list of inspiring crafters to follow on social media

 

 

SPOTLIGHT: Susan Ramsden

Portrait 05 4x4Age: senior citizen

Genre: poetry

Publications:  Several poems in the 8-book series A Cup of Comfort 

What’s your background in writing?

I began my writing career in a light-hearted way many years ago, jotting down limericks and silly poems for family and friends at work. As a young teacher, I found these frivolous poems a fun way to relieve stress. Never would I have anticipated that one day I would be penning serious spiritual poetry and devotionals! That didn’t happen until I took early retirement due to chronic back pain. At first, I was distraught and lost, wondering, “I used to be a teacher. Now who am I?” With a lot of quiet time thrust upon me, I turned to writing for solace. The Lord began to pour poetry into my soul. I can only credit Him for any success I’ve had. 

What do you love most about it?

Writing poetry can be very therapeutic. For two years I taught a class for the Cancer Center on “Poetry and Expressive Writing as Therapy”. Poetry is a succinct way to get one’s thoughts and feelings out and to deal with them constructively. I’ve always loved words and playing with them. Poetry enables me to use words in a creative way, much like a painter uses his brush and palette, or as a sculptor uses stone and chisel, or as a composer uses notes to express himself. I enjoy poetry, as it employs rhythm and sound to create a picture artfully arranged–much like music. I write primarily Christian-themed poetry and devotionals, and I find that the process helps me focucs on the beauty and goodness of the Lord. It’s a form of worship for me. Writing poetry draws me more deeply into His heart.

What inspires and motivates you to write?

Knowing God’s love-beyond-love for us inspires me to put pen to paper in order to share His perfect, unending love with others. Our two self-published books were birthed for that very reason. The Way Home is the Gospel message and was written to share the Lord’s beautiful way of redemption with those who are lost. Grace Notes was written with believers in mind. It’s a book of encouragement and comfort for Christians who are going through difficult times. I find it very gratifying when our readers share how they were comforted and sustained through my words and my husband’s photographs.

Are there other areas of your life where you express creativity?

I enjoy doing readings as Bible studies, church luncheons, and women’s teas. I also enjoy playing piano and ukulele. I am trying to teach myself the harp right now. 

Amber Afternoon

An amber afternoon, offspring of autumn,

Gently adorns the woods for fall.

Sunlight sifts through crimson foliage,

Speckling the forest floor with elegant eyelet patterns.

Exquisite hour, you etch this sylvan world in gilded splendor,

Even as dying signals the imminence of winter,

And the world is tinged with muted melancholy.

Gone is the wild, winged freedom of summer,

And the lingering twilight of lush, halcyon days,

Attended by comforting, cricket-song vespers.

Gracious harbinger of the loss that is to come:

Your cool hand soothes the furrowed brow of time.

The year’s youth is slowly fading…

Into an amber afternoon.

–Susan E. Ramsden

 

MOSAIC

jagged shards of self-esteem

battered brittle bits of dreams

splinters of declining wealth

shattered glass of broken health

fragile, faltering, fractured prayer

hardened hopes dashed in despair

vanishing, vanquished expectation

reaching up in desperation

who can salvage scraps like these?

to bring some comfort and appease.

who can gather the debris

and make it beautiful for me?

I am the Artist of your soul.

I’ll redesign and make it whole.

Relinquish to Me every care.

Release the things that laid your bare.

These broken pieces I can use

To form true beauty, if you choose.

I’ll gather all that has been shattered,

And create a lovely pattern.

My love will make from stones of strife

A graced mosaic of your life.

–Susan E. Ramsden

Where the Magic Happens

IMG_9779One of my early steps of taking my writing seriously was when I set up a space for it. While I do like to go to Starbucks, get an iced coffee, and set up camp in a cozy corner of the cafe to write, I need a space at home for it. I need storage for my notebooks, dictionaries (yes, I’m old school), and laptop. I need a file cabinet for my rejection letters, workshop/conference handouts, edited drafts, and legal documents such as book contracts and tax info. I need wall space for my inspiration boards, and desk space for my curiosities that make me happy. And I need a space to work. By making physical space in my home for my writing, I also made metaphorical space in my life for it. And the physical space dedicated to writing sends a message to me and my family that writing is important enough to merit its own space.

When creating any type of creative space I go by the Three Ps: Personal, Practical, and Pleasing. 

Personal: your space should reflect who you are. Do you love bright colors? Then get a turquoise chair to sit in. Or organize your tools in brightly colored boxes. Are you minimalistic? Then choose clean lines and neutral colors. Surround yourself with personal tokens of yourself and your story. Right next to my desk I keep my published books to motivate and remind me of what I’ve achieved. I have old office supplies from my grandmother’s desk: little stapler, typewriter eraser and brush, and tin boxes of staples to remind me of my magical childhood with her.

Practical: your space should be set up to easily allow yourself to work. My writing space is in a corner of my bedroom, which is a quiet place to work. It is also right across my side of the bed so it’s a visual reminder to get to work! My file cabinet is right next to my desk so I can easily find a hand-out or a note. My lamp is on the left side of my desk because I’m right-handed and don’t want shadows cast on my paper. An outlet is right behind my chair so I can easily plug in my laptop or charge my phone. My notebooks are kept in the top desk drawer so I can grab them easily.

Pleasing: your space should be set up in such a way that you love being in it. I used to have my desk facing the wall, but that was killing my inspiration. So I thought outside the box and put my desk in the corner facing out. Now I have a view of the room and out the two corner windows directly across the room. This part of the house gets lovely natural light for most of the day, which is important to me. I periodically change my inspiration boards to please my eye and imagination.

Whatever your creativity lends itself to (writing, painting, sewing, crafting, music, you fill in the blank), it deserves a space. You’ll find you will do it more if there is a space for it that is Personal, Practical, and Pleasing. When you make room for it in your space, you’ll also make room for it in your life.

 

Lest You Forget

We all have stories. Whether we record those stories or not is up to us. I am a huge believer in writing down personal testimonies. I believe God values it. His Word reflects that. God knew it was vital that His Story be recorded so every generation would know Him. He also told His people  to record their story. He told His people to remember all the things He had done. Why? Because He knows how easily we forget.

In the book of Joshua God parts the Jordan River so the Israelites can cross through it to the Promise Land. It’s a miracle. And when they got to the other side God told them to gather stones from the river and set them up as a monument to mark what He had just done for them. He wanted them to remember that miraculous moment because they were about face to some seemingly impossible trials of faith: battles, giants, being outnumbered, taking over a new land, establishing their nation. God knew they needed to remember that miracle to bolster their faith for the future.

The Bible is full of passages where God tells us “remember”, “write my Words”, “talk about my deeds with your children”, “do not forget”! Throughout my life I have set up many “Jordan Stones”. When I was in a terrible car accident, I kept a journal of my two-month recovery time. I wrote down how God sustained me. I wrote down how He miraculously grew my kidney back together, though it had been lacerated in two. When I battled with infertility before our first child, I wrote down the scriptures that comforted me. I wrote how God answered my persistent prayer to be pregnant. And years later, when I was worried or anxious or faced a trial, I went back to the journals and read them and remembered what God had done for me. And my faith was bolstered.

Are you married? Record your love story. Do you have children? Record your birth or adoption stories. Have you lost a loved one? Record their story. Have you traveled? Record your adventure stories.

Writing is not the only way to chronicle your story, or to remember life.

Art Journal: I’ve shared my art journal idea before (see May post) In it I record the seasons, holidays, Scripture, and meaningful quotes through fun doodles and calligraphy. At the end of the month, I write a quick one-page summary of highlights and lowlights of life.

Prayer Journal: This year I set out to record my prayers and God’s answers in journal form. Since I communicate/process best through writing, this method of praying has kept me focused, present, and intentional about my prayer life. And since I am forgetful, it’s exciting to read past prayers and see how God answered them.

Line-A-Day DiaryThis little diary is set up for 5 years. At the end of the day, I record a line or two about life. I’m on year 3 now, so it’s really fun to read the past two years as I fill in each day. I’m surprised by how many things I’ve forgotten already, or how many little things have changed. I’m encouraged by how much God has been doing in my life and those I love. While I do record big exciting things, I try to record the little everyday things, like how my 3-yr old calls Chapstick “Chopstick” and says his lips are “so chopped!” Because one day he’ll just stop saying that and I’ll forget.

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Book Diary: It’s fun to keep track of what I’m reading this year (especially since one of my 2018 goals was to get back to reading more.) I enjoy giving my own feedback and things I learned so I can go back and remember them. It also comes in handy when recommending books to people.

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Sermon Notes: I find it very helpful to take sermon notes each Sunday. For one, it keeps me focused and keeps my mind from wandering to, say, story ideas! Later I’ll find a great Scripture or great quote from the sermon and record it in my art journal in a fun font. When I need to rehearse the Gospel, I can go back to my sermon notes and be strengthened.

Personal PlannerI actually am not sure what this genius thing is called! My sister-in-law called it my “brain on paper”. I found this at Michael’s Craft Store. You buy the cover, then you buy whichever insert booklets you want. They had tons: sermon notes, calendars, prayer requests, doodle pages, personal goals, etc. Then you insert the booklets into the cover via elastic bands. You can take them in and out, put them in different orders, etc. I have a calendar I use for this blog, sermon notes, and a blank notepad. Everything is all together and with me all the time.

I’ll end with a quote from my favorite current-day poet Tyler Knott Gregson:

Tell your story in the language that makes the most sense to you. Be it words, be it photographs, be it tattoos of ink. Tell your story, truthfully, and maybe they will listen.

Most importantly, record your story because it is just a little part of God’s bigger Story. Record it, lest you forget.

SPOTLIGHT: Bethany Espino

Screen Shot 2018-09-27 at 2.06.06 PMAge: 37

Genre: Young Adult

Info: Facebook Bethany Espino

How did you first get into writing?

I’ve always loved writing when I was younger, but never considered it as a possible career until my husband challenged me to write my own story. He saw how much passion I had when retelling a book someone else had written, and he saw a possibility I never thought of. I realized if I put a lot of energy and work into it, I could be a writer too.

What do you love most about it?

I love being lost in a world that has endless possibilities of my own making. I love thinking how to describe something whether it be an abstract concept or an everyday occurrence that seems ordinary. Seeing things from a writing perspective allows me to really appreciate the mundane and challenge a reader to see these mundane things in a new beautiful way. 

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Do you have any aspirations for your writing?

My ultimate goal is to publish many different types of stories that inspire people, give them hope, or just light up their imaginations. My small goal right now: finish the YA fantasy novel I’m currently writing!

Are there other areas of your life where you exercise creativity?

For me, creativity is a fluid-living God-given thing that I can express in many different ways through many different types of media like painting, drawing, writing, or simply just appreciating the beauty of God’s creativity in His creation all around me. 

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My Current Book List

One common question I get as an author is “What is your favorite book?” I HATE this question for the simple reason that it’s too hard to answer! There’s no way I can pick just one favorite book or author. Usually my answer depends on who’s asking: kids, moms, fellow readers, other authors, etc.

I do have a running book list of faves that is always evolving and reshuffling in my heart of hearts, which is what I’ll share here. To date, here’s my list:

Children’s Books

Picture Books

IMG_0864I grew up on these Adam Raccoon books. The author/illustrator Glen Keane has worked for Disney Animation studio (on such titles as The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under, to name a few). A few years ago he won an Oscar. But he’s a believer who wrote these books that are allegories for Christian truths. When I was a kid, it was a big treat for me and my siblings to get one for a special occasion. Now I read them to my kids.

 

Middle-Grade

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Anything by Jonathan Auxier! His stories are full of bright characters, whimsy, and so much heart. And they’re just incredibly well-written. His book The Night Gardener is the only ‘horror’ story I’ve read that is both appropriate for readers 8-12 yrs old and captures all the nuances of that genre. He is also the author of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic EyesHe wrote one of my favorite openings of any book in his Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard: 

“It has often been said that one should never judge a book by its cover. As any serious reader can tell you, this is terrible advice…Sophie loved books beyond reason…It was the very thing that made her unique, until it made her dangerous. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, which is also dangerous. So light a lamp and find a comfortable chair, and I will tell you her story.”

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly is a beautiful coming-of-age story that is more “quiet” and literary than plot driven. But it reminds me of a classic already. And the author’s descriptions make me swoon.

“By 1899, we had learned to tame the darkness but not the Texas heat. We arose in the dark, hours before sunrise, when there was barely a smudge of indigo along the eastern sky and the rest of the horizon was still pure pitch. We lit our kerosene lamps and carried them before us in the dark like our own tiny wavering suns.”

Adult Fiction

IMG_0874I’m a Sherlockian. So I have to include the original Sherlock Holmes fiction by Sir Author Conan Doyle in my list. My love for Sherlock Holmes inspired me to write my own children’s mystery series. I bought my first complete volume when I was in high school. I put an ad in our local town’s paper called the Green Sheet asking if anyone had a hardback of the complete volume. An elderly man answered me and sold me my first copy for $20! My favorite Holmes story is the Adventure of the Dying Detective.

 

My next top favorite is a mystery series by Charles Finch, who I believe is this generation’s Arthur Conan Doyle. Set in the Victorian era, his Charles Lenox mysteries are clever while also bringing in human complexities to his characters. He is also so well-researched–I have learned so much about life in this time period! In addition to writing these great books, Charles Finch is also an intelligent yet down-to-earth person who was extremely generous to me by reviewing my latest Sherlock Academy book The Holmes Brigade and writing a blurb for it!

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Adult Non-Fiction

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Tyler Knott Gregson is a modern-day poet and photographer who started writing poetry on an old typewriter. Typing on scraps of paper (receipts, napkins, old library cards), he expresses emotion and passion and all the nuances of life so beautifully. His Instagram @tylerknott is super inspiring to follow too. Both of his poetry compilations are lovely: Chasers of the Light and Wildly Into the Dark. 

 

For any homeschoolers out there, you must read Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie. This books changed my entire view on homeschooling, education, my kids, and myself. Earlier this year I co-led a book study on this book with some other moms and it was so encouraging. I read this book at least once a year, if not more now.

“The daily mundane is holy ground because the ordinary tasks of a monotonous Monday are where we meet our Maker.”

Theology

Besides the Bible, the next book that changed my life is Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification by Sinclair Ferguson. It brought about a spiritual awakening, filled in the holes in my theology, cut me to the very marrow, and made me wept in repentance and gratitude. Be warned: this book is not for the faint of heart, for it is meaty and heady, but totally worth the time and effort.

“God is with us; God is behind us;…God the Trinity has determined to pour His energy into making us like Jesus Christ. It is His settled purpose.”

No Little Women by Aimee Byrd addresses all the hot topics of women in the church, women’s ministry, popular Christian movements based on bad theology, even the trend of Bible journaling. Get ready to have your thinking challenged, but you will come away with great clarity on these very important topics.

“No matter what our different circumstances and vocations may be, every woman is a theologian.”

If you’re a mom, please read Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full by Gloria Furman. It’s a quick little book packed with Gospel truth reminders that address the struggles and also the holy calling of motherhood.

“Whenever mothers choose to give of themselves, it is evidence of God’s preserving grace in our fallen world.”

My favorite devotional of all time for the past 15 years is Streams in the Desert.It’s a day-by-day devotional that delivers a quick punch. Each day starts with a Scripture, then commentary compiled from all the Faith Hall of Famers: Charles Spurgeon, St. Augustine, FB Meyer, etc. I love that poetry and old hymns are added in as well.

So there you have it. The long answer to that most dreaded question: “What’s your favorite book?” To which I really should respond, “Well, how much time do you have?”

“Who rang that bell?!”

IMG_B4F2CF48A1A8-1When it comes to submitting my work to the publishing gatekeepers of this day and age, I sometimes feel like Dorothy ringing the bell to the Emerald City. The responses are usually curt and oftentimes refusals. I have a great story that I’ve poured my heart and soul into and I think it’s good enough to publish. And the gatekeepers say, “Prove it.” So I give them my work.

It’s hard to give your work to a stranger. It’s hard to get a rejection letter. It’s hard to be ok with it all. After all, why should these professionals get to hold such power over our creativity? Why do they get to call the shots on what’s “good” and what’s “not right for us”?

I do believe that every product of creativity has value simply because it was created by that person. I believe that we should share our creativity with others and build community from that and inspire each other with it. So how do we live that out in conjunction with the professional gatekeepers of creative avenues?

I’ve wrestled with this a lot, and I discovered some distinctions that have been helpful. Here I’ll use writing as the example, though most other creative expressions can be applied as well.

First, we must draw a distinction between Personal and Professional. 

Personal: This is where we start. We have a story idea that excites us or reflects us, and we write it for the joy, therapy, and fulfillment of it. We may even share it with our spouse or a friend or in a writing group. Most likely the feedback is positive because the people we’ve entrusted to read it love us. While they may have some suggestions or questions for our story, they’re not experts in the professional field of writing, and that’s fine. If someone does have a negative critique it’s easy to dismiss it as their opinion. After all, everyone is entitled to like or not like something, but in this realm a final stamp of approval isn’t relevant. All that matters in a Personal arena is our opinion of our own work, which should see the value of our story because it’s our creation. And it’s good.

Professional: Then we may venture here. Some of us have a desire to share our story beyond our little world, and dream of strangers reading our books. In order to achieve this, we have to give our work to the gatekeepers of the publishing world. We also have to abide by the rules of professional writing that are the rubric by which the gatekeepers operate. Examples of these rules: first page must hook in reader; by page 10 the problem should be presented and the catalyst for the protagonist set; plot must reach a climax; characters must change by the resolution, etc. Creativity is not a business, but publishing is. The gatekeepers know what will appeal to readers and what will sell. In the Professional realm, they decide what is “good.”

The sooner we recognize this distinction the better. When it comes to submitting to the gatekeepers, we need to not take their rejection personally. Taking rejection from a publisher as a personal attack on our creativity does us no favors. It definitely stings–don’t get me wrong! But remember: a gatekeeper doesn’t reject a story simply because they were in a bad mood that day and just didn’t like it. A professional gatekeeper rejects a story because it didn’t hit the right points on the rubric. So our response should not be to shove our manuscript in a drawer and never write again. Rather it should be to roll up our sleeves and go edit our manuscript with fresh eyes; and more often than not we find new ways to improve it.

It takes time and maturity and experience in the writing field to not only make this IMG_77427E178163-1distinction between Personal and Professional, but to also be okay with it. Keep in mind that on a Personal level your creative expression is valuable and good. It’s perfectly fine to keep it in that realm. But if you so dare to ring the bell at the Emerald City, you must understand and respect the gatekeeper’s rejection. And you might just hear the gatekeeper say, “Well, bust my buttons! That’s a horse of a different color! Come on in!”

SPOTLIGHT: Tracy Murdock

ZIDTbiopicAge: 32

Genre: picture book

Info: yourtwinmom@gmail.com

www.yourtwinmom.com

Facebook: yourtwinmomgroup

Instagram/IGTV: @yourtwinmom

Twitter: @yourtwinmom

How did you get into writing?

A couple of years ago at bedtime, I was standing in the hallway in my pink fluffy bathrobe, holding my 2-month old son with my 2-year old twin girls running around me, all while trying to get them into their beds. And in this crazy moment, I felt called to write to other moms and share my story. I got the idea for my first children’s book Zoe in Double Trouble to bring a positive spin to the first year with twins, and help families get excited about their new baby or babies joining their family. I added an online ministry Your Twin Mom to uplift kids and families in faith and fun. I questioned how I would ever do this as a busy mom, but I knew with God holding my hand, He could make the impossible possible. So I continued to write, and learned to illustrate. 

Each step was new and scary, but every time I tried to set is aside and tell myself it was just too much, God brought it back to the surface of my heart and I kept writing, learning, and growing. He brought beautiful connections and people who helped me along my path. Looking back, I see that I was writing since I received my first journal when I was 9 years old and I never stopped. My first public article as a kid was one in which I wrote an advice column for my classmates. I also wrote prayers for our school, and loved reading them in church. I think those were a couple of God-winks in my childhood. Becoming a twin mom re-awakened this passion in me. 

What do you love most about it?

I am inspired to write fun moments with my kids, but also in moments where I struggle as a mom. I love that writing my little story can uplift moms, kids, and families in great love and hope. And the twinkle in my kids’ eyes when they read my book is priceless. Kids who read Zoe in Double Trouble will see that no matter what messes they may make or how crazy our days may be as a family, they are still SO LOVED. 

I also love the connections I’ve made with other moms and writers. I love how my trust in God is strengthening through this journey because I know this writing dream came from Him and that He was the only one who could make this happen in my life. 

How do you keep yourself motivated and inspired to write?

At first, it was hard to be motivated. My husband was worried it would be too much for me as a busy mom. Once he saw how it enriched me, he created a writing corner for me. There are so many other pieces to being a writer than just writing, so every time I get overwhelmed, I pray. I take time to journal my thoughts to Him and it clears my mind. 

I am very inspired by my time with my children. I’ll text myself ideas I think of in the moment when I’m playing with them. I am very intentional about taking time to be with my children–holding them, playing with them, kissing them. At the same time, I create quiet time during the day for them so I have a chance to gather my thoughts and work. 

Are there other areas of your life where you exercise creativity?

Since becoming a mother, I have been fueled by creativity. Because of my twins plus one, I am writing children’s books, devotionals, and faith-filled mom life articles with kid activities and prayers. All of this has opened me up to illustrating, motivational speaking, “Twin Momspirational Tuesdays”, photographing the blessings in the chaos of motherhood, teaching fun lessons to help kids love learning, and writing songs with my kids which is helping me learn to play the guitar. 

I am blessed to be connecting with other creatives here. I welcome you to enjoy Zoe in Double Trouble and find faith and fun with Your Twin Mom!

Tracy’s picture book is now available on Amazon and her website.

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From Writer to Author

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I’ve been writing since I could read. I have notebooks and journals galore dating back to my early elementary years. From an early age I had no problem labeling myself as a writer.

But having the confidence to label myself an author came much later. By my late twenties I had written my Sherlock Academy series, dabbled in self-publishing, and was leading a writer’s group. Yet I couldn’t muster the nerve to call myself an author. The reason? I hadn’t really taken myself seriously as an author, so why should others?

Then a seasoned author, who also became a friend, told me to attend a big writing conference.  I had to make a choice to take writing seriously by investing time and money into it–aka going to this conference. So I sold my wedding dress to pay my way and spent three days in LA. And my life was changed. I found my tribe, I learned about the publishing industry, I heard editors and agents and authors talk about writing, and I got inspired.

From that day on, I owned being an author. I moved writing from Hobby to Profession. I invested time and money into professional development. And a funny thing happened: I got published.

Here’s the thing: while there is no guarantee to getting published, there are important steps to take if you’re wanting to pursue a writing career:

  1. Be Informed–whatever genre you write stay informed on what’s being published. Peruse Barnes & Noble, scour Amazon, read Publisher’s Weekly. You want to write a children’s book? Know who are the big names and what they’re writing. You want to write YA? Check the New York Times best-seller list or even the movie theatre list (YA books are constantly being made into movies these days!) Know what’s on trend and who’s your competition.
  2. Study the Craft–attend workshops on writing, read books on writing, follow authors’ blogs, listen to Podcast interviews of authors. You must have a firm grasp not just on on the mechanics of writing, but on the key parts of story. One of the first books I ever read was Keys to Great Writing that gives a good overview of story components. Recently I read Writing Irresistible Kid Lit that delves deeper into the nuances of writing.
  3. Understand the Publishing Industry–it’s important to know how submissions work, how the publishing world operates, what roles editors play, how agents work. Attend writing conferences because editors and agents lead workshops and speak on panels. Learn how to write a good query letter and synopsis and how to submit.
  4. Join the Tribe–there is acceptance, inspiration, and growth to be gleaned from the writing community. Tap into it. Join or start a writer’s group where you critique each other’s work. Attend conferences and workshops both large and small. If you’re writing for kids, join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators asap and attend their conferences. There are chapters of SCBWI all over the world, so find one in your area and check their calendar for events.
  5. Put Yourself Out There–create social media accounts for your writer/author self. Join social media writing groups. Follow authors and agents on Twitter (the publishing industry is huge on Twitter). When you attend a workshop or conference and there’s an option for critique, pay the extra money to submit your pages for an editor or agent to critique.  Get a hold of the current Writer’s Market for up-to-date publishers and agencies to submit to. I have used the blog Literary Rambles to compile my agents list for submission.

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Most importantly, just own it. If you’re serious about your writing, then take it seriously. Others will, too.