Thursday, December 22, 2011

1st Writes - Jan. 18

1st Writes meets again starting Jan. 18 at 6:30pm. All writers welcome!

First United Methodist Church
225 S. 2nd St.
Chambersburg, PA 17201

Webpage  Questions:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas

Wishing each of our bloggy friends and followers
a joy-filled Christmas and a blessed New Year!
The crew at 1st Writes will be taking a much-needed break
till after the first of January.
Please stop back then for some new posts.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Teardrops by Cheryl Andreus, 1st Writes

Cheryl Andreus

With each teardrop that I shed
I sense a bit of hope.
For I know that my Lord Jesus
will be here to help me cope.

When my mind begins to wander
and I begin to fear
I can stop and pause a moment
and know instantly He’s here!

Some days my faith is not as strong
and I need to stop and pray
That Jesus Christ will fill me
with more Presence on that day!

At night when I am tired
and feel I can’t go on
He comes and lies beside me
until the morning dawn.

He sends His earthly angels,
my family and friends
Through THEIR loving kindness
my soul He gently tends.

He knows that I am struggling
and feeling very weak
He gives His blessed assurance
which He knows that I now seek.

Yes, the tears will still be present
and my heart is filled with pain,
But I must keep on believing
that JOY will come again.

JOY has come! Cheryl’s husband, Frank, underwent an Analogous Stem Cell Transplant and it was a success! His multiple myeloma is now 99% in remission!
Praise God for His tender mercies!
They are new every morning!
Great is His faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:23

Monday, November 21, 2011


See*Photo*Write Every Monday!
An interesting, amusing, or startling photograph
has the power to spark creativity
and arouse the writer within.

Join us in writing about whatever the photo prompts you to write. We would love to read your story. Please share it with us by providing a link to your blog in the comments section.

Since this is a busy week for most of us, if you are running short on time, feel free to simply share what you are grateful for in the comments section.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

1st Mentions . . .

1st Mentions . . .

Our Favorite Blog Posts of the Week!

Brianna's Favorite: God Can Use Our Scars @ Bible Love Notes. I am so grateful that Gail wrote this post. Her words offer great comfort to me.

Dawn's Favorite: erin summerill's blog...she is so fun! Just look at her profile photo and you'll be hooked! For a smile, visit her blog!

Pam's Favorite: Check out The Ways of the Ant at De's blog Carpe Vas! We all desire wisdom. I agree with De who says we can become
 wiser by studying the life and behavior of godly examples, including those shown in nature. Read what God can teach us via the ant.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What I learned from MG Books - #3

I just read a GREAT book! Here's what I learned...

No Castles Here by A.C.E. Bauer. 270 pages. Random House.

*Sweet story with happy ending (inner city neighborhood, bullying turns to friendship, empowering youth - saving school and community) This is an all-around feel-good story that all kids should read.

*Great book cover. I mean GREAT! It made me wonder what the story was about. I had to read it.

*Great opening 
    Great opening hook -- “Augie snuck out.”
    Great opening descriptions -- 
“Camden…armpit of the world.” 
“tall building…like a fortress with its drawbridge up.” 
“He felt his t-shirt unpeel from his back.”

*Two Stories in one, entertwined. One is Augie’s life in run-down city neighborhood. One is the fairy tale he is reading. Later, the two stories intersect in a neat way.

*The boy, Augie, grows and learns as the book progresses.

*Great role models (hard-working mom, Big Brother, teacher, bookstore owner)

*Great sense of community and belonging (chorus, neighborhood, school)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


This fall I've had the honor and privilege of being a Confirmation Mentor to a wonderful, smart, funny, and beautiful candidate. As part of the Confirmation experience, candidates are required to submit a written statement of what they believe backed up by scripture. Although mentors are not required to write an 'iBELIEVE' Statement, I made one to show my student and decided to share it here and on my blog as well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Evangelizing Through Writing


"But how can they call to him for help if they have not believed? And how can they believe if they have not heard the message? And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed? And how can the message be proclaimed if the messengers are not sent out? As the scripture says, 'How wonderful is the coming of messengers who bring good news!' But not all have accepted the Good News. Isaiah himself said, 'Lord, who believed our message?' So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Christ.” Romans 10:14-17

 “So, how did you come to know Jesus?” Karen Beilharz, Christian writer, asked in conversation with an older gentleman who had a very interesting life story that spanned three continents.

 “I read this book,” he said.

“Really? What book was it?” Possible titles flashed through Karen’s head—A Fresh Start ... Mere Christianity ... Simply Christianity ... More Than a Carpenter. But it wasn’t any of those.

“A biography—well, an autobiography—of a monk.”

That got Karen to thinking about the advantages of evangelizing through writing, “You can evangelize someone on the other side of the world twenty years in the future. Writing allows you to take your time in crafting a phrase or fashioning an argument. Writing gives the reader the opportunity to read and re-read at his or her leisure.”

For books and articles outside the specific Christian publishing realm, try these suggestions:

Non-Fiction Writers:
  • Offer faith-based opinion pieces on local hot topics and submit it to the editorial page or religious section of your newspaper.
  • Reference the Bible if a quote is needed for a piece you are writing. (Chicken Soup for the Soul often requests a quote for stories that are submitted.)
  • In letters or emails, again without preaching, share how faith has made a difference—carrying you through a tough time, offering hope in a hopeless situation, providing guidance in a specific circumstance, etc.
  • On your blog, post a meditation based on a Scripture that God has brought to life for you. You could also email it to one of the publishers of devotional booklets.

Fiction Writers:
  • Portray characters upholding Christian principles—refusing to cheat or lie, showing love, remaining faithful in marriage
  • Allow characters to exhibit Christian behavior in response to conflict—serving others above self, praying for enemies, seeking guidance from clergy, etc.
  • Place scenes in Christian settings—a church, a fellowship group, a praise team practice, etc.
  • Discuss faith-based issues in dialogues between characters.

When evangelizing, Mike Bechtle, in his book, Evangelism for the Rest of Us, recommends we keep these strategies in mind:
  • If we know Christ, we are qualified to evangelize, for we have firsthand experience.
  • Be faithful in delivering God's message when called to do so, but trust God with the results.
  • We don't have to convince people to come to Christ. God does that.
  • Evangelism is a team effort. We may not see results from our writing alone.

Karen Beilharz reminds us that “no matter how brilliantly [we] might argue or how eloquently [we] might wax, it is God who changes (or does not change) the hearts of men and women, not us. The pen might be mightier than the sword but nothing is mightier than the Lord of all.”

Blessings as you write for Him!

©2011 Pamela D. Williams

Monday, November 14, 2011


See*Photo*Write Every Monday!
An interesting, amusing, or startling photograph
has the power to spark creativity
and arouse the writer within.

Join us in writing about whatever the photo prompts you to write. We would love to read your story. Please share it with us by providing a link to your blog in the comments section. (Our linky went kaflooy.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

1st Mentions . . .

1st Mentions . . .

Our Favorite Blog Posts of the Week!

Brianna's Favorite: 10 Ways to Pray For Your Blog

Dawn's Favorite:

Pam's Favorite: 

A little way to have a better day

Friday, November 11, 2011

What I learned from MG Books - #2

I'm reading MG books in the attempt to define what makes a good book. I'll share what I learn.

Book #2: The Lost Children, a MG fantasy, by Carolyn Cohagan. 

Here's what I learned (and what I learned not to do) from this author/book. 

  • Do write a great first line that catches a reader’s attention.
I was intrigued by the first line “Josephine Russing owns 387 pairs of gloves”. I wanted to find out why, so I checked the book out from the library. Sadly, that line was the best that I read.      
  • Don’t create a silly, unbelievable story.
I couldn’t connect with the story or the characters. The silliness ruined it.
Examples of silliness:
Josephine’s father, Mr. Russing had a law passed in their town that every person must wear gloves in public, even seamstresses in his sewing factory must sew while wearing gloves. Can you imagine sewing while wearing gloves?

Mr. Russing’s factory makes the gloves. His factories are in the shape of ducks. Ducks? Really?
Then, there is back story about a little boy. His dad, a light house keeper, allowed his light to go out, then called the son to get the coal, and then shoveled like mad to get the light going again. Meanwhile, a ship wrecks and the boy is basically blamed for it. His family was then taken away when they could not pay for the replacement of the ship and crew. How is this the boy’s fault? And why is this important?   
  • Don’t create cookie-cutter bad guys.
This book has two nasty ladies in it. Kitchen Maggie is the fat one. Stairwell Ruth is the thin one. Both are cookie-cutter and unbelievable as characters.

I forced myself to read to page 55, but then I had to stop. The reading was that painful. Maybe I shouldn’t do a review on this one since I didn’t read it all, but I did learn what not to do, so I’m sharing it. Having said all that, the reviews on Amazon were pretty good, so that leaves me wondering if the book got better. 55 pages was enough for me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Write From The Heart or For The Market?

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.

“What’s the point of writing a book if it’s just going to sit in your desk drawer?” Mary Sue Seymour asked us several times during the Susquehanna Valley Writer’s Workshop. I didn’t volunteer an answer at the time because it’s a complicated issue with arguments for both sides.

For instance, Dean Koontz writes in On Popular Fiction that a professional writer writes for the market. There was a point in his career when the ‘SciFi’ market took a down turn. Although Koontz “simply did not like Gothic novels” he wrote one successfully. His point was that a professional writer writes what sells. It’s a valid point; however, I personally think that ‘Gothic’ is not too far from the style of Koontz’s regular work, and therefore, I’m not completely convinced that a good writer can or should write in any genre.

First of all, I believe a good book is written with passion and if the writer is not passionate about her work, the book is going to reflect it. I also believe that the market is constantly in flux. Trying to write for the market is like a dog chasing its tail. If I research today what publishers are desperately seeking and set out to write that book, by the time it’s finished, there’s a good chance the publishers have changed their minds.

Die-hard fans of mysteries and thrillers aren’t going to suddenly stop reading them. Like I said in my post last week, love of mystery and suspense is deep in my bones. I’ve not been swayed by the current popularity of the fantasy genre and I have to believe there are other suspense lovers like me out there who crave edge-of-your-seat thrills and mysteries.

I’m not saying I’ll never write a Christian Romance. Actually, during a run last week I was hit with a promising premise for an Amish Romance and I may see where it takes me, but only after I finish the book of my heart - a supernatural suspense.

What side of the fence are you on? Do you write what sells or do you write what you love?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

David on Writing Psalms

In our Wednesday evening 1st Writes group we are studying one writer of the Bible each month. In November we took a closer look at David as a writer. Given David’s honest outpouring of his soul in his writings, it's no wonder that Psalms is one of the best loved books of the Bible.

For centuries, people have turned to Psalms to give voice to their deepest feelings, both in times of great trouble and of great happiness. Serving as a boundless source of inspiration, courage, and hope, Psalms can unlock our hearts and point us to God.

HOW TO WRITE A PSALM: Have you ever wanted to write your own psalm/prayer letter to God? David can teach us a lot about pouring out our hearts to God through a psalm.
  • Seek God first and pray as you write.
  • Open up to God as a friend.
  • Be transparent.
  • Be honest.
  • Be descriptive.
  • Be concise.
  • Evoke feelings.
  • Specify your goal. Is it to praise? To draw closer? To ask for help?
  • Write to God as you envision Him—loving Father, sovereign King, mighty Savior, embracing Comforter, or gifted Teacher, etc.
  • Write from life’s experiences.
  • Write from your passion.
  • Write from the heart. If God has answered a prayer or blessed a loved one greatly, we will naturally want to praise Him. However, it would be phony to try to write a beautiful love song to God when we are angry or hurt.
  • Stay focused. Ignore the urge to get sidetracked by cadence, spelling or grammar.

With a little practice, we will soon see how writing psalms helps draw us into a closer walk with Jesus. It is no wonder David wrote so many!

Happy Writing!
Pam Williams

Monday, November 7, 2011

See * Photo * Write

See*Photo*Write Every Monday!
An interesting, amusing, or startling photograph
has the power to spark creativity
and arouse the writer within.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

1st Mentions . . .

1st Mentions . . .

Our Favorite Blog Posts of the Week!

Brianna's Favorite: In preparation for our next 1st Writes meeting, I'm recommending an oldie but a goodie: Blogging Is The Path @ Confident Writing. I also recommend the newest post there: Permission To Be Ordinary - a good reminder when we begin to focus too much on being perfect in our writing.

Dawn's Favorite:

Pam's Favorite: At Inspirations from Phather Phil, you will find words to uplift and encourage you in your Christian walk posted in a refreshingly different format. Do you desire to hear God's voice and feel His presence guide you? Check out Phil's post, My Traveling Companion for a beautiful example of Phil's unique writing style.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Writing Devotions - Part 2

Susan Kane from The Contemplative Cat had some great questions about writing devotions, so I'm making a Part 2 to Writing Devotions. Thanks Susan!

Read Part 1.

Writing Devotions -- Part 2

How do you write a devotion?
1. Choose a publisher and follow their specific writer's guidelines.
2. Pray for God to help you write.
3. Think of one experience where you felt God's presence or guidance.
4. What is the theme of this experience (what did you learn)?
5. Write about the experience and stay focused on your theme.
6. Find scripture that fits the theme.
7. Write a short prayer that fits the theme. 
8. Have someone critique your devotion.
9. Pray that your devotion can be used by God to help someone else.
10. Double check that you've followed all writer's guidelines and submit to publisher.

Should a devotion have an overall theme?

Yes. Your devotion should not be a testimony or life story. It should focus on only one experience or reflection. Devotions are short, uplifting stories that will help a reader grow closer to God.  Theme examples: grace, love, tough times, depending on God, etc.

Where do you go to submit devotions?

Here are some publishers of devotions that I've looked into:

Upper Room
Weavings (by Upper Room)
Alive Now (by Upper Room)
Pockets (Devotions for Children by Upper Room)
Devozine (Devotions for Teens by Upper Room)
Wesleyan Publishing House (Vista)

Granola Bar Devotions (on-line)

For more on writing devotions, read Help! I Want To Be A Christian Devotion Writer by Donna Shepherd

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Call to Romance

‘Write a Christian Romance’ was the last session I had planned to attend at the Susquehanna Valley Writer’s Workshop held in Lewisburg, PA October 7-8, 2011. I don’t have anything against the genre, but I haven’t read a romance in at least five years. However, I did attend the session and it proved to be the most rewarding and thought-provoking of the other sessions I attended.

Before I go any further, I want to tell you that this session was lead by Mary Sue Seymour (The Seymour Agency), a writing agent listed as a top deal-maker for inspirational fiction on Publisher’s Marketplace. Everything I share with you is courtesy of her workshop on writing ‘Christian Romance’. She struck me as someone who knows her business. If you write Christian or Inspirational Romance, Mary Sue is the agent for you!

Although I originally didn't plan to attend the session, due to last minute schedule changes and a tiny nudge, I found myself listening to Mary Sue explain the secret formula for writing a romance novel revealed by Stephanie Mittman:

Take a wonderful, loveable, sympathetic heroine and a wonderful, loveable, sympathetic hero, throw them together in a dangerous, or difficult situation with insurmountable obstacles for them to overcome; break them apart so it seems they can never be together; add a complicating twist, and finally bring them together to live happily ever after.

Unlike in the other sessions that day, we did writing exercises in ‘Christian Romance’. And as is often the case with writing exercises, I learned something valuable about my writing (actually I already knew it, but the writing exercise confirmed it) –deep down I’m truly a mystery writer. Mystery is in my bones.

For the first exercise we were to create a hero and a heroine; then describe them in three sentences each. Here’s my first sentence:

Hunter Cayden moves to a small lakeside town after his wife is murdered and the police fail to find any suspects.

My mind immediately conjured up a troubled character with a mystery to solve. I didn’t consider Hunter’s appearance, and I struggled to create a female character to pair him with. At this point, although I wasn’t demonstrating the skills of a romance writer, I wasn’t bothered because I felt more confident in my mystery and suspense writing skills.

Throughout the session, Mary Sue stressed that if you read romance novels, you can write romance novels.

“Why not write a romance novel?” she asked.

I thought, “Because they’re predictable and it’s apparently not in my skill set.”

Mary Sue went on to tell us about a client who got a contract for a three book deal based on just 50 pages. Christian romances are selling. In fact, the ‘Market’ is clamoring for more Amish romance novels.*

This was a startling revelation to me. First, I wondered, “Why Amish romance?” Second, I thought, “Um, she's right! I could try to write a romance.”

The prospect of almost certain publication, a contract with a publisher, and an advance in the thousands of dollars is, needless to say, enticing to an aspiring author. But my sudden change in perspective raised the question: Should I write the book of my heart or a book for the market?

Join me next week as I consider the issue in more detail!

*Specifically, Mary Sue is looking for Amish or historical (1800s) romances around 85,000 words. Plan on making the book a trilogy –pulling main characters from supporting characters in the first book.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


See*Photo*Write Every Monday!
An interesting, amusing, or startling photograph
has the power to spark creativity
and arouse the writer within.

Photo credit: Stockbyte

Saturday, October 29, 2011

1st Mentions...

1st Mentions . . .

Our Favorite Blog Posts of the Week!

Dawn's Favorite: Granola Bar Devotionals
For a quick spiritual snack, check this site out!

Pam's Favorite: At 1st Writes this week we talked about submitting stories for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books. Anyone interested in writing for one of these books can visit their website at On the links at the left click on Submit Your Story. In the drop-down menu you will find Story Guidelines, Possible Book Topics, and the Submit Your Story submission form. Chicken Soup for the Soul credits their success to writers like you and me, who contribute wonderful stories of "inspiration, hope, overcoming life's challenges and realized dreams."

Brianna's Favorite: This week my favorite blog post comes from Tasha Seegmiller: Killer Characters: Better to Reign than Serve.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Writing Devotions

Right now I'm working on a devotion. In case any of you are interested in learning to write a devotion, here are the basic parts.

  • Title
  • Scripture that relates
  • Body of Devotion: Personal reflection on God/scripture/prayer. Share an experience or moment that drew you closer to God.
  • Prayer that relates
  • Thought for the Day

Each publisher will have their own specific guidelines (word count, format, etc.), but this gives you a quick look at the basics.

One publisher of devotions is Upper Room. These devotions are just 250 words each. Check out Upper Room Sample (devotions start on page 8-9) and Upper Room Writer Guidelines.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Characteristics of Creative Non-Fiction (CNF)


I write mostly creative non-fiction. So I was excited to learn that at the 2011 Susquehanna Valley Writers Workshop, Patti Souder would be teaching on Creative Non-Fiction. CNF is a relatively new genre of writing that uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives. Here are some of the characteristics of CNF that Patty shared. 
  • CNF is a true story, well told.
    • Although it expresses opinions, perspective and feelings through the author’s views of life, it must be anchored in real experience
    • May require research to verify facts and give accurate pictures
  • Literary Elements of Fiction Used in CNF
    • Theme: A central idea is woven throughout the work and reveals a universal truth.
    • Point of View: Personal presence is a hallmark of CNF and usually requires 1st person.
    • Setting: Time and place influences the action, character, or theme.
    • Characters: Well-chosen details bring the characters to life.
    • Plot: Conflict (struggle involving the protagonist and an opposing person or force) and the order in which things move or happen, combine to create plot.
    • Style: How the author says something—the choice of words and the use of language, sentence construction, and imagery—adds significance and impact to the writing.
  • Creative nonfiction contrasts with other nonfiction, such as technical writing or journalism. Forms within the CNF genre include:
    • personal essays
    • memoir
    • travel writing
    • food writing
    • biography
    • Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul type stories
    • other hybridized essays
Pam Williams at 
©2011 Pamela D. Williams