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May 30, 2006

I went to a writers’ conference last weekend sponsored by American Christian Writers. It was more like a retreat for me — being surrounded by other people who love books, words, and growing in our faith always puts me in good company.

This was my third ACW conference — and it was a great one. I really enjoyed getting to meet one of my blog readers! When I found out she lived not too far from me, I invited her to come. And she did!

I counted up, and this was the seventh writers’ conference I’ve attended in the past two years, plus I also went to CBA Advance in Nasvhille, which is where all the Christian publishers display their lines of books for retailers.

I’ve been to two large conferences sponsored by Lifeway, one sponsored by SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), three American Christian Writers, and another local writer’s group that had a one-day conference that brought in a novelist I really wanted to hear speak.

So, why do I keep going to these things? Am I just not getting it? Well, except for one, they were all within driving distance from my house. Four of them were within an hour of my house, and every time I’ve gone, I’ve invited family members or friends to come with me. For example, last spring, I invited a high school friend to come with me, and I helped her get her feet back into publishing. She’s writing regularly now for several magazines and a PR firm.

It’s also encouraging for me to meet other people who are as wacky as I am about Christian books. Here’s a picture from the Nashville CBA where I met with several people from one of my online writing groups. (I’m in the back row, second from the right.)

On the back row, far left, is Cecil Murphey. He’s one of the most prolific writers around — do you remember me telling you about him when I reviewed 90 Minutes in Heaven? He was the writer God used to tell Don Piper’s story. At the conference last weekend, I sat through over six hours of Cec’s teaching! He has such a gift for mentoring writers.

I think he knows a thing or two about books — since he’s published 104 of them and has about half a dozen under contract now. I’ve taken away so many nuggets from his teaching. And I also got to meet with him one-on-one and listen to his advice for me personally.

This is the best part about these conferences. You get to make appointments with editors, authors, and agents. What better way is there to learn about publishing than to meet the people who make the decisions behind the scenes?

The truth is — last weekend’s conference was where I realized this “writing thing” is not going away. It’s not something I’m going to abandon, like I’ve abandoned countless other hobbies that I got bored of. By writing, I don’t mean scribbling away in a secret journal. I mean seeking publishers who need content and are willing to pay for it.

I’ve learned that to be published, you have to do more than write whatever you want and send it out in an envelope with postage and a prayer. That’s the quickest way to get a rejection letter, probably from somebody’s assistant (yes, I know about this first-hand!).

At every conference, I’ve learned something new. The main thing I’ve picked up is that marketing goes hand-in-hand with writing. Before you even begin your article or book, think about who you’re writing for. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time finding anyone to buy it.

For example, Gina Holmes of the awesome Novel Journey blog recently interviewed mega bestselling author Allison Bottke. She has published over 20 books in the God Allows U-Turns Series and Christian Living genre, as well as her debut novel. Major success story.

How did Allison do this? In the interview, she explained how she’d wanted to write a memoir of how her life got turned around when she became a Christian at age 35. But she thought, “Who’d want to read my story?” Then she decided to tell it as part of a series of other people’s stories. An agent loved it, and the rest is bestselling history.

And just in case you think these conferences might be boring, think again. Here I am at the Nashville CBA Advance doing a little clowning around. If you like to write, maybe I’ll see you at a conference someday!

By: Heather Ivester in: Books,Writing | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)



May 27, 2006

Beth Moore
I loved watching the Beth Moore Living Beyond Yourself video this week on the topic of “Faith” (I’m a little behind). We’re on Week 9 out of 10 (I think), and we’ve worked out a few kinks behind the scenes with our group. We now have a real “list” that is private, and we’re able to exchange emails and share things that we don’t even dare blog about. It’s been a great source of encouragement for me.

First of all, I want to tell you I’ve become a very quiet blog reader lately. For those of you who are wondering if I’m still around, I’ll tell you that I’m reading your blogs in my Bloglines, and I’m just not commenting. Forgive me. The end of the school year is CRAZY busy around here.

I love all the things I’ve been learning through this study. It’s beyond eery how I’ll hear or read a verse from Beth Moore, then I’ll read it again in a book or hear it from a sermon. The same day! God is speaking to me in so many ways.

A few months ago, I had a crisis of faith. I really had some major doubts — about EVERYTHING. Do you ever feel this way — like you’re being tumbled around in a dryer full of wet clothes? Well, it started with lightning striking our computer, despite those surge protector things. It zapped our modem, printer, and hard drive. I was disconnected for about four days while we got some things fixed.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. After spending months of scribbling down design ideas and agonizing over every detail, I’d finally sent off my design order to start my blog! I had used PayPal for the first time ever and even signed up for my hosting service. Then — ZAP! Computer gone.

I was so worried my designer would call me with a question! And I’d set the goal of starting my blog by the first of October so I’d have a few posts written before the Glorieta writers’ conference in late October.

My husband put up with my calling him two or three times a day and asking him to check my email. After the fourth day, I walked to the mailbox in complete despair. I’m sorry I sound so shallow — but I keep up with everyone by email — even my parents, siblings, and local friends!

I remember walking back from the mailbox, and I was letting my thoughts run away with worry. What would we do if I could never get online again? What if I missed my deadlines? What if my husband’s car wore out?

We have a long driveway, and my fears raced even further. What are we going to do when our kids discover we’re the only people around who don’t own any video games? What if they start realizing their clothes aren’t name brands? How will we ever put five kids through college? What about weddings?!!

Aaggghhhh!!!

For just a minute, I thought, Is God real? Is He really there? If He cared about me, then how come I’m feeling so lost and disconnected?

I know this may sound a bit kooky, but at that moment, I looked up, and the sky was completely clear and blue except for a white slash of clouds that were shaped perfectly like a cross. And I felt this impression in my heart of the Holy Spirit saying, I’m Here.

That was one of those moments I’ll never forget.

The next day, we were back online, and I had an email from someone inviting me to send a resume pronto for a possible devotional project. The editor was passing out assignments, and I might find a spot. So I sent it (by email of course). And I somehow got offered an assignment to help three other writers work on a book.

The title? Faith for Each Day.

So my crisis of faith led to an open door for me to help write a book on faith! Even more amazing, a friend invited me to join Beth Moore’s Believing God Bible Study, so I was suddenly surrounded by godly awesome women and the richest teaching I’d had in years.

I turned in my work on time, and the editor asked if I’d write a few more. I ended up writing over a hundred devotionals for this book. It’s being released soon — so if you see it, maybe my name will be written somewhere teeny-tiny along with a bunch of other people on the back of the title page.

Here’s what the publisher says about the book:

Like a daily energy boost, these inspiring entries begin with an insightful scripture followed by a powerful, relevant-to-the-day devotion that will remind readers that God truly longs for us to start the day with Him, that He is present in our lives even when things seem hectic, and He desires to richly bless us.

Hmmmm … So that’s what happens when I have a crisis of faith. From now on, I’m “Believing God,” and “Living Beyond Myself.”

Addie Heather* Carol
M Rach Jeana
Jenn Amanda MamaB
GiBee Boomama Maria
Blair Heather Nancy
Janna Flipflop Robin
Sherry Patricia Tara
Lauren HolyMama! Faith
Christy Eph2810 Karin
Leann Rachel Janice



May 26, 2006

When I went to the Life in Balance conference a few weeks ago where I heard FlyLady speak, I bought a few things from her table. She didn’t bring her products with her — you ordered them and they were sent out free of shipping charges.

I told you about the ostrich feather duster that I ordered — well, that was quite the exciting tool around my house for a while. My 3-year-old was so cute helping me dust … he dusted everything. And that duster really works! The thing is — he liked it so much he carried it off somewhere, and now I can’t find it. Oh well. So much for the duster. I’m sure it will eventually show up, probably out in the sandbox.

But I’ve been very protective of my new FlyLady timer. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve already got a stainless steel timer I bought for a few dollars at Target that I keep next to my kitchen sink. I wasn’t really sure I needed another timer, but I decided I’d buy one at the conference to support FlyLady, and I thought it would be nice to have another timer next to my COMPUTER. Yes! (Don’t you need one there too?)

Well, this one is totally different than what I expected. It has a clip so you can attach it to your waist. It’s not wimpy, like those cheap pedometers I kept losing (I’m admitting that here — I somehow lost two of those things before I gave up.) This timer STAYS attached. It also has a little stand on the back, so you can sit it on a desk or windowsill.

Here’s what I do with it. I clip it to myself, then I go do something I don’t want to do for 15 minutes. It’s a digital timer, and it beeps after the time is up. So, I force myself to go put away a load of laundry, and I play a game to see if I can get it all done before the timer goes off. I know that seems LAME — but it’s working for me!

My biggest struggle lately has been my realization that I’m addicted to sugar. I crave it. I feel incomplete if I don’t eat something sweet a few times a day. Of course, this is leading to all kinds of problems, mainly pounds around my hips.

So I’ve been attaching this timer to my waistband and making myself go walk 15 minutes twice a day, even when I don’t feel like it. My motivation for now is because — in some silly way — I feel like this will make FlyLady proud of me that I’m “obeying” my timer. What happens is after I walk I’m thirsty. So I go drink water. And that fills me up. And then I’m not as interested in sweets.

I have a long way to go. And I still see the most changes taking place at Curves. But I can’t always get there — and walking is something I can do anytime, anyplace — with my children and pets all around. So this is why I like this new FlyLady timer.

Care to join me?

P.S. I FOUND my beautiful ostrich feather duster this morning — under the couch!! Not in the sandbox! Now, I must set my timer and go dust for 15 minutes … if I can get it away from my 3-year-old who is now dusting the baby’s head as I type …

By: Heather Ivester in: FlyLady,Wellness | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)



May 25, 2006

We had a victory in our house yesterday when we found a MISSING library book. Huge cheers from Mom! But when I was just about to close the lid of the drop-off container at the library, I noticed … a torn page! In one of the picture books!

What to do … what to do …

I had two kids in my car, and our dog, Jasper. (He gets excited about riding in the car with us.)

What would Jesus do? I know. I know. But Lord, I’ve got kids in my car, and I’ve got three more errands to run. And a million things on my mind. And it’s just one torn page. And they may not even notice. What would Jesus do?

OK. So I didn’t leave that book in the drop-box. I drove to the Dollar Store, bought a roll of scotch tape, taped the page back on both sides (Man, did that thing look shiny and sharp). Drove back to the library. Left the book. And no guilt! Whew.

Maybe God smiled on me because later in the day when I brought in our mail, there was a surprising check addressed to me. But oh no — it was from the church that is sponsoring a marriage retreat I’ve signed us up for this summer. I’ve always thought marriage retreats sounded dorky and boring, but after 12 years of marriage, the whole concept seems fascinating to me. We’re moving to a new season, a new chapter, and I’m excited about all the things God has in store for me and my husband as a couple.

So! Why did I get this check? It was for over half the cost of the retreat! There wasn’t a note of explanation with it, so I emailed the pastor right away and asked if the retreat had been cancelled. He wrote me back and said, “No, we’ve just decided to lower the price, and we’re sending out refunds to those of you who have already paid.”

Wow — so this is really a great deal. Thank you, Lord.

Here’s what else is going on in my life. My kids are out of school tomorrow — summer is here! Today is my kindergarten daughter’s SIXTH birthday (got that, all you aunts and uncles who read my blog?) She’s growing up!

This morning, my fourth grade son is going to receive an award at a ceremony at his school. Here’s a child who hated doing his phonics with me. We homeschooled him three years, and I didn’t know if a more reluctant reader ever existed. Today he’ll receive an award for having won the “Readers Digest Word Power Challenge” for the whole fourth grade. And he said, “Mom, I may get another award for AR points — I think I was pretty close to finishing first, but I’m not sure.”

Yeah. I’m proud. God’s been good to us lately. Sometimes a mama just has to brag. Ain’t that the truth?

[Edit: We just got home, and what a good blogger I am. This is for the grandparents, who are allowed to brag without having to blush: Your grandson got awards for earning All A's the whole year, 3rd highest average in Language Arts, 2nd highest average in Math, 2nd highest average in Science, Silver Medal in Math Olympics, Top Accelerated Reader points, Super Lion Award, Readers Digest Word Power Challenge, and (my personal favorite) Most Dependable Award. The "most dependable" honor is going to come in very handy when it's time for him to feed the dog and cats.]




May 24, 2006

We’re blessed today to be visited again by T. Suzanne Eller, author of several books for teens and parents of teens. She’s a popular speaker and media advocate for family issues.

If you missed our interview yesterday, you’ll want to check here first and read about Suzie’s nine-month-long conversation with hundreds of teenagers!

*****

Welcome back, Suzie. Yesterday in the comments, you said that you had three children born within 19 months of each other. WHOA! So you obviously have some secrets on how to stay sane while raising kids close in age! Can you tell us a little about your family now?

I’ve been married to an amazing guy for 26 years. We have three children and a brand new son-in-law. Leslie is 24 and studying law at the University of Oklahoma. She wants one day to be a family judge. Our twins, Melissa and Ryan are 22.

Ryan just graduated from Northeastern State and is pursuing a career in sports broadcasting. He loves sports! Six years ago, he was critically injured by a drunk driver, and it stopped his sports activities. He was in the hospital for six weeks and in rehabilitation for a year, but he’s healthy and whole now and can’t wait to report on his favorite subject.

Oh, that sounds like a scary experience. I’m sure he has a powerful story to tell of God’s healing. How about your other daughter?

Ryan’s twin sister, Melissa, is a newlywed and is in graduate school at the University of Oklahoma studying community counseling. Her husband, our new son-in-law (son!), is also studying counseling at OU.

Wow, so you made it through the teen years, and your kids all turned out great!

They’re all pretty amazing people and we’ve entered the friendship stage of our relationship with is very, very cool.

Well, Suzie, back on this topic of parenting teenagers — what are some issues that teens are facing today that are unique for this generation?

Our young girls are accepting much less than they should in relationships and image. Their role models have changed, and the character traits modeled for them are about material things, physical sexuality, and your 15 minutes of fame. Most of the celeb role models in the public eye (MTV and others) don’t talk about strength, integrity and dreaming about what you can do as a woman.

This is affecting our 12-to 15-year olds. As I minister in my home church and travel, I find myself talking with very old 13-year-olds who are already cynical about relationships, about family, and about sex.

So, it seems like there have been rapid changes in the lives of teens brought on by society and the media.

Yes, this is a change from our girls of just five years ago.

Their role models show the spin of cash and flash and quick hookups, but fail to show the emptiness of that lifestyle. When our girls try to imitate that, they discover the reality and then they feel burned.

How do you reach out to encourage teen girls to stay pure in the face of all these worldly temptations?

My ministry with young girls has become very much a conversation about self-worth and value in the eyes of Christ, and how to set boundaries no matter what our culture says or doesn’t say. I don’t so much teach the “don’ts.” They understand the term “my baby’s daddy.” They see the girl walking down the hall with her backpack and diaper bag. What they need to hear are the “do’s.”

I’m in constant contact with teens through my Real Teen Faith website and blog. The questions they ask might stagger some parents, but the harsh truth is most of these questions are coming from 13-and 14-year-olds.

I’m so glad you’re out there on the front lines, helping teenagers to deepen their faith. Does it help having a blog to communicate with teenagers?

Yes, I receive e-mails every day from teens, so my new blog allows me to stay current. Xanga, Facebook, Blogs, and MySpace are where teens live, so I want to park on that cyber street. My blog will have a new look very soon.

Some of us know about bloglifts! Suzie, I read in your Real Teens, Real Issues book that you call today’s youth a “generation of seekers.” What do you mean by that?

If you call yourself a Christian, you are subjected to close scrutiny. Are you a hater? Are you intolerant? Are you judgmental? Why do you believe the way you do? That has caused our teens to think carefully before they commit to their faith. When they do commit, they run after God. They aren’t perfect, but they want to carry their faith outside the pew and into real life.

Teens are looking for people to love them — not so much to fix them — but show them Christ’s love and the meaning of destiny. They are also looking for real relationships. They want to know that people can really know God and see what that means. They hear a thousand different messages about faith and truth, and it’s all very convoluted, but when they see someone who really loves God and is committed and intimate with God, they want to know what’s up and how to get plugged in.

That is so cool. Now, do you have any recommended resources to help parents of teens know how they can get their kids plugged in to a right relationship with Christ?

I write a monthly column for parents of teens at cbn.com. My latest column was titled: “How to Have a Good Fight” and can be found here.

That sounds like an oxymoron — I’d like to hear what you have to say on the “good fight!” haha.

I also have a new book out for parents who were raised in dysfunction and want to give their children something greater. It’s called The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future. It will be released in July through Harvest House, but is available for preorder from Amazon right now.

Another book I wrote is called Real Teens, Real Stories, Real Life, which is written FOR teens. It’s stories from teens about faith and real life. It can be given to any teen at any stage of their faith walk.

It shares powerful messages from their peers about God and things like self-injury, family, image, addiction, peer influence and more. They can read one story or poem or chapter at a time. It’s written just for them, like Chicken Soup with an edge.

My earlier book for parents is the one we talked about yesterday, Real Issues, Real Teens: What Every Parent Needs to Know. It’s also useful for youth pastors, and anyone who loves teens.

All these books are available on amazon.com, bn.com, christianbook.com and more. They should be in bookstores; if not, ask them to order it.

Or if you want an autographed copy, my e-mail address is tseller@daretobelieve.org. I charge $10 for the teen book and $13 for the parenting book, Real Issues, Real Teens, and media mail shipping. You can pay through paypal or send a check. If the book is for your teen, be sure and tell me their name so I can personalize it to them.

If someone wants to buy in bulk (10 copies or more) I’ll pay the shipping. I really would love pastors, youth pastors, and organizations that love and work with teens to have a copy in hand for their parents and staff.

Do you recommend any Bible studies that would be useful for teens to get together and talk about their faith?

Yes, I wrote a discipleship series that will be coming out in Winter/2006 through Kregel. The first book in the series is called Making It Real: Whose Faith Is It Anyway? It’s in-depth, but written just for teens to take their faith to the next level. These are not fluff d-books, but designed for teens hungry for God and truth and real-life application. There will be six books in that series.

Six books! Wow — you must be busy working on these! Well, Suzie, we can’t thank you enough for visiting here and for giving us your advice, encouragement, and resources! You make me look forward to the teen years.

Thanks for letting me hang out with you guys!

*****

Suzie Eller does a lot of speaking, so if you’re looking for a retreat leader or have another function in need of a speaker for teens, be sure to stop in and check out her speaking schedule at Real Teen Faith!




May 23, 2006

A couple of months ago, we had a discussion here about Teens in the Blogosphere. That post is still one of my most highly viewed from the search engines.

Yet I feel completely inadequate to be any kind of authority on raising teenagers, since my own children are all much younger.

Since I know there’s a real need for wise advice on raising teens who have good character and love God, I asked author and speaker T. Suzanne Eller if she would come visit. And she said yes!

Let me tell you a little about T. Suzanne Eller (Suzie). She’s been married for 26 years and is the mom of three 20-something young adults. Not one to sit around an empty nest, Suzie is the author of three books, with two new books to be released in 2006 and five more in 2007!

Besides books, she has written over 500 articles for magazines such as Today’s Christian Woman, Pray!, Guideposts, Woman’s World, and numerous others. She has also published several essays in Chicken Soup books. Suzie is a nationwide ministry speaker to teens, parents of teens, and women. She’s an advocate for teens and family and has been featured on over 100 media programs such as Focus on the Family, Mid-Day Connection, Aspiring Women, KLove, Prime Time America, and many others.

In her spare time (haha), she’s a youth culture columnist, as well as a parenting teens columnist for CBN.com. You can reach T. Suzanne Eller at her website, Real Teen Faith. Her contact information is here.

*****

Thanks so much for visiting us here at Mom 2 Mom Connection, Suzie! You’re an amazingly busy woman. In your book, Real Issues, Real Teens, you present such a positive view of today’s teens. It’s a refreshing viewpoint. Why do you feel there’s something special about this generation of teenagers?

They’re so open and honest — and intelligent. They’re also troubled, many of them, but that makes them very open to spiritual matters. They aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions or open their lives for inspection. Sometimes that puts people off — their honesty — but I love it!

Can you tell us how you went about writing this book?

I’m always amazed at speakers and writers who talk about what’s going on in youth culture and with teens, but who never actually spend any time with them. I don’t mean to be critical, but I think that underestimates what teens can bring to the conversation.

I wanted to write a book that was a collaboration between me and as many teens as I could talk with. It ended up being a nine-month conversation with hundreds of teens from around the nation.

A nine-month conversation. That sounds like an eye-opening experience!

It was. There were times when I would receive an e-mail or a survey and put my head down on my desk and weep. It’s that honesty again! I received an in-depth view of youth culture, family, relationships, church and faith, and more from a teen’s point of view. Some of it was heartbreaking.

Did your research and writing have an effect on you personally?

This conversation not only changed me as a youth worker, it changed me as a mom. One day I was reading something a teen had written and I saw myself in it. I sent an e-mail to my oldest daughter and apologized for something I had done her senior year. She responded with an e-mail saying, “Mom, it’s not a big deal, but the fact that you recognize that is so great!”

That sounds like the writing process itself was powerful. Have you always had a heart for working with teenagers?

I grew up in utter dysfunction. I didn’t believe in God, so when I was 15 and discovered faith, there were adults who poured into my life and taught me about God. They may never realize the extent to which they shaped my faith. They had no clue about the hardships I was facing at home. They simply loved me and pointed me toward Christ.

I wanted to do the same. I’ve been working with teens for over 18 years. I recently moved from a volunteer in the youth department (youth staff and discipleship) to discipleship leader for college age and twenty-somethings. We were graduating lots of teens each year who were in love with God, but who lost their way after they left.

Our church wanted to create a strong network for students after high school so now I’m helping with a Saturday night service and teaching discipleship on Sunday mornings. I miss my teens, but I love this new role.

Does your book offer any practical tools for parents of today’s teens?

Yes, it’s a practical book with step-by-step helps at the end of each chapter. It’s also an in-depth look at issues that matter to your teen. This book allows you to hear the heartbeat of teens. Here are just a few of the topics found in the book:

— Five reasons a teen doesn’t always talk, but what he/she would say if they could
— How to foster effective communication with your teen
— What you teach your teen about God – positive and negative – and what they say they need to make it in today’s culture as a believer
— A reality check over the pressures teens face and how badly they need a safe place to talk about them (and they want that to be mom or dad). This is an eye-opening chapter that EVERY parent needs to read.
— Five things that make home a great place to live – and the things that make it difficult
— How to mend broken relationships with a parent/teen
— How to have a GOOD fight
— How to really listen and freak out later
— And so much more. . .

I still have a few more years until I’ll have a houseful of teens, so I’m very glad to have people like you going before me clearing the path. Do you have any advice to encourage parents who are raising teens today?

The single greatest need of teens is acceptance. If they don’t find it at home, they’ll look for it at church. If they don’t find it at church, they’ll look for it with friends. If they don’t find it with friends they’ll keep looking until they find it and that’s where they get in trouble.

It’s not easy raising teens. There were times when I sat in my bedroom in the dark and told God, “I don’t have a clue.”

I had to set boundaries and set reasonable consequences and pay attention to details. I had to learn how to communicate effectively and LISTEN. But most of all I needed to let my kids know that I loved them. Even when they screwed up. I believed in them. We were their safe place.

It’s important that we not forget that parents are the most powerful influence on a teen. I think we forget that sometimes especially when we consider all the other influences. Don’t give up. Don’t underestimate the thumbprint you are leaving on your teen’s life. One day when the dust clears you’ll see the results.

You matter in your teen’s life, even when it seems like you don’t. They need you and love you, and even when they don’t say it, they are thankful you are part of the process.

Thank you so much, Suzie! Your words have been so inspiring!

I’ve enjoyed it. Thanks for letting me share one of my favorite topics!

Tomorrow, Suzie will be back to tell us about some changes she’s seen take place in the lives of teens in the past five years. You won’t want to miss this. She’ll also tell us why she calls today’s teens a “generation of seekers” and how we can see this in a positive light.

By: Heather Ivester in: Parenting | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)



May 22, 2006

Before I read this book, I’d seen it for sale at the grocery store, but it didn’t interest me. I had no desire at all to read about a man who supposedly died and went to heaven, then came back to earth to tell his story. Yeah, right. I was skeptical to say the least.

But I felt compelled to buy the book at a Christian writer’s conference last weekend because I attended several classes taught by Cecil Murphey, the writer of this book. Cec told us the story of how the book came into being, about how Don Piper had tried to write his own account for years, how misunderstood he felt, and how he ended up seeking the help of a professional writer to help him tell his story.

Cec was also skeptical at first, until he began to uncover documentation that proved this man really was telling the truth. So he spent several months getting to know Don, interviewing him, researching the accident and recovery thoroughly; and he wrote the book.

I read it in one night. I absolutely couldn’t put it down.

Here’s the story: Don Piper was a healthy, 38-year-old father of three, who was driving home from a statewide church conference held in Houston, Texas. It was a cold, drizzly morning on January 18, 1989. When he reached a narrow bridge that had no shoulders, an 18-wheeler crossed the center line and plowed into Piper’s red Ford Escort. There’s a picture of his wrecked car in the book.

The EMTs arrived on the scene within minutes, checked Don’s pulse, and there was nothing. No pulse. They determined he died instantly on impact around 11:45 a.m. They covered him with a waterproof tarp and felt in no rush to extract his body from the vehicle. They began helping other people who were also sideswiped by the same 18-wheeler that hit Don’s car. Later, the EMTs came back to his car and checked him again. At 1:15, he still had no pulse.

Meanwhile, a pastor and his wife, Dick and Anita Onerecker, were also on their way home from the same conference and got stuck waiting in traffic because of the accident. After a while, Dick wondered whether he could be of any help, so he and his wife hiked half a mile up the highway and asked a police officer if anyone needed prayer. He was told there was no need to pray for the man in the red car because he was already deceased, and the other people were a little shaken up but were fine.

Now here’s the part of the book that gets me more than anything. Dick heard God’s unmistakable Voice saying to him, “You need to go pray for the man in the red car.” The impression from the Holy Spirit was so strong, he couldn’t ignore the prompting. But when Dick told the police officer he wanted to go pray for the man involved in the accident, the officer looked at him like he was crazy, reminding him the driver was officially pronounced dead. Dick persisted, and the officer finally allowed him to go, telling him that it was a real mess under the tarp.

So Dick crawled through the trunk of the Ford Escort, reached over the backseat and checked Don’s pulse. He was dead. But he still felt like God was telling him to pray for Don. So he put his hand on Don’s shoulder and began to pray with all his might. He prayed that Don would be delivered from all unseen internal injuries. Then he began to weep and to sing a hymn. Before he could finish singing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” Don Piper returned from the dead and began singing with him. After over 90 minutes of death, he came back to life.

At first, the EMTs didn’t believe Dick when he emerged from the crumpled car shouting, “He’s alive! Get this man out — he’s alive!” They told him they were professionals and knew more than he did. The ambulances had already come and gone. But Dick persisted, and finally the EMT checked Don’s pulse one more time and discovered he was alive! Then they ordered the Jaws of Life to be sent so they could remove him from the vehicle.

The rest of the book relates Don’s recovery, as well as a brief account of what Don experienced while he was dead that hour and a half. He describes heaven in a way that is totally beyond my comprehension. His amazing description of the sights and sounds of heaven spans two chapters. The majority of the book is grounded firmly on earth, relating the excruciating pain Don Piper went through as he began the slow process of healing — physically and emotionally.

Now, 17 years later, Don Piper is still telling his story. The book has been a surprising runaway bestseller, published by Baker Books. It’s already been through at least eight reprintings and has sold over a million copies. You can purchase a recording of Don Piper reading the book, telling his story. Readers have been powerfully moved by this account, which gives hope of an eternal afterlife. Since the day of the accident, Don has had over 34 surgeries and hasn’t lived without pain a single day. Many people can also relate to the agonies of living in pain.

I’m thankful a writer as gifted as Cec Murphey was entrusted with writing the story, which is told through Don Piper’s first-person point-of-view. Cec has published over 100 books and has spent most of his adult life perfecting the craft of getting into someone’s mind to tell their story. His connections also helped to ensure this book got the attention it deserved from a major publisher.

I think this is a life-changing story that every Christian should read. Anyone who has doubts that God still speaks to people and performs modern-day miracles will emerge with a stronger faith. It’s also helpful for those who live in suffering, with daily chronic pain, or for those who wonder if there is hope for an afterlife. Don Piper’s story, along with truth found in scripture, will encourage readers that life must continue beyond tragedy, and that the kingdom of heaven is real.




May 20, 2006

Donna Shepherd passed along a wonderful link from CBN.com that contains the most information I’ve ever seen on the Biblical misinterpretations found in The Da Vinci Code, a work of fiction.

Check it out here — The Da Vinci Code: A Biblical Response.

By: Heather Ivester in: Books,Faith | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)



May 19, 2006

Author Donna Shepherd is joining us again today to tell us more about her experiences in the field of Christian devotional writing. If you want to learn more about her work as an author of picture books, please see our interview here. You can also say hello to Donna on her blog at Devotionals by Donna.

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Hi, Donna. Thanks for visiting us again.

Thanks for having me back.

Can you tell us how you got interested in devotional writing?

When my children were little, I didn’t have time to sit and read for long periods, so I got into the habit of reading devotionals. I’ve taught Sunday School for many years, and I’m studying for a Theology degree, so expounding on a Scripture is a fun exercise for me. I came up with the slogan “Lessons Learned from Everyday Life” because I want to emulate the teachings of Christ. He taught using everyday objects and events.

I like that slogan!

I started posting my devotionals on a blog. Someone saw them and recommended me to an editor. (Thank you, Elece!) That’s how I ended up with a contract to write devotionals for Daily Grace for Women: Devotional Reflections to Nourish Your Soul, which was published by Honor Books in April 2005. I’ll also have devotionals in the upcoming book, Anytime Prayers for Everyday Moms, which will be published by Warner Faith in November this year.

Wow — congratulations! Those sound like great books! Do you recommend any resources for moms or others who want to learn how to write devotionals?

Alyice Edrich, editor of The Dabbling Mum, called on me to write an article on writing devotionals. It’s called Help! I Want To Be A Christian Devotional Writer. I included links to many resources. My main resource is the Bible. It’s vital that you don’t take Bible verses out of context and that each scripture has a clear and supportive connection to the devotional. Quote scripture briefly and be sure to include proper references. To me this is of utmost importance.

Thanks for telling us about that article — it’s full of great links! I notice you mention The Upper Room, which has always been one of my favorite daily devotionals. Do you have any more tips for aspiring devotional writers?

Devotionals may be short, but that does not mean they are simple. Write a short, vivid article focusing on one theme – a single, spiritual teaching. My best recommendation would be to re-read your favorite devotionals. What touched your heart? What made it memorable?

Can you tell us a few places that publish devotionals?

When I first started putting devotionals on a blog, I was criticized for sharing them freely, yet I felt led by the Lord. Because of the exposure, I ended up writing for pay doing something I love; so don’t overlook nonpaying markets – at least not in the beginning. When you’re ready to find paying markets, look through Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers Market Guide or Writer’s Market. Other possible markets are The Upper Room or The Secret Place.

OK, one of my favorite devotionals of yours is Smelly Saints. Can you tell us a quick version of this funny story and how you found spiritual insight from burned popcorn?

Oh, my! The smell of burnt popcorn lingered in our home for days! I thought there had to be a spiritual lesson in this experience, and then I remembered the verse that says sin is a stench in God’s nostrils, and wrote “Smelly Saints.” What has been so wonderful about that devotional is how it has been seen by so many people searching for a way to rid their home of burnt popcorn odor. I guess my husband isn’t the first person to make that mistake!

Why do you think it’s good for parents to write down things our kids say and do?

When your children are young, be sure to write down everything. Don’t delay. You’ll forget the cute details, the facial expressions, and the darling statements. If I have one regret, it’s that I didn’t do that. God has blessed me with many memories, but I’m sure there are many more I could have written about. Keep a notebook in the kitchen (I seemed to spend a lot of time there when my children were little!) and a file on your computer.

I know that you’ve had several speaking engagements lately. Do you have any tips on helping people overcome the jitters about public speaking?

I’ve sung in church for many years, and gotten used to being up in front of people. The first time I spoke, I sang first which helped me overcome my jitters. I’ve had people tell me they can’t imagine that singing calmed me, but it did. When I speak in church or at women’s conferences, I always incorporate music. At a writers’ conference, I have to rely on my words. I make tons of notes, an outline I can refer to as I speak, and work to make sure the time spent with me has takeaway value. Handouts are good, and if you do a PowerPoint presentation, the eyes in the room are on the screen more than you!

Well, this has been so inspiring chatting with you, Donna. Thank you for your time!

I’ve enjoyed this too. It’s my desire that my children’s writing would impart joy and that my devotionals would teach, inspire, and encourage readers. I feel incredibly blessed to write – whether it’s about singing snakes or smelly saints!

By: Heather Ivester in: Interviews | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)



May 18, 2006

A few of you have written to ask me if I know anything about publishing children’s books, especially picture books. I wish! I’m definitely not an expert in that realm, as my boxes full of unpublished short stories can attest. BUT! I do know a wonderful picture book writer who is also a blogger who agreed to come visit! And she’s beautiful inside and out!

Allow me to introduce Donna Shepherd, who is one of the most prolific and versatile writers I know. She’s the author of several picture books and hundreds of devotionals, many of which have been published in the book, Daily Grace for Women, as well as in a wide variety of print and online magazines.

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Donna, many of us are parents who have been reading picture books out loud to our children for years. Sometimes we wonder if it might be possible to write a book for children. Can you tell us how you got started?

I’ve always been a voracious reader, and when my children were little, I enjoyed reading to them just as you do. In elementary school, my daughter set new records for the number of books she read, and my son followed suit. Shel Silverstein became his favorite poet.

I never really thought of writing for children until the summer of 2003 when I penned a short poem. I submitted it to Guideposts for Kids. The editor replied favorably with a couple of suggestions, but never formally accepted the poem for publication. I thought I might be onto something, and wrote a couple more stanzas, and then a few more. The end result was my first picture book, Topsy Turvy Land.

And in the meantime, I continued to submit to magazines, and GP4K published one of my first poems, “My Tooth Is Missing.”

My son and daughter still read everything first. If my son says, “I like it. Reminds me of Shel” I jump for joy!

What were your steps to publishing your first picture book?

I joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators), and starting looking for a critique group. I found one woman, Liz Ball, willing to meet with me and read some of my poetry. She saw potential and encouraged me to keep writing.

In the meantime, I met Kevin Scott Collier online when he joined a Yahoo group for Christian Children’s Writers (CCWL). I sent him the text of Topsy Turvy Land to get his opinion as an illustrator. We thought ebook at first, but when I took the ebook to a meeting at Liz’s house, we went to lunch afterwards, and she asked if I’d be interested in having it published as a print book. Would I! What I didn’t realize was that she had been considering branching out with her publishing company, and I became her first picture book author. I praised the Lord all the way home!

Did you always know you’d be a writer?

I can’t say that I did. I’ve never been one to journal, and besides a few things written for English class in high school, I didn’t write. But once I started, I wrote every day! In the last three years, I’ve written poetry and stories for children, devotionals, poetry, and articles for grownups. I feel like I need to make up for lost time, I suppose.

If you could give one or two pieces of advice to aspiring picture book authors, what would you say?

Read what you want to write. Then write. Don’t just talk about writing. Write every day if you can. Join a critique group, either online or in person, or both. Join SCBWI. They have excellent conferences where you can meet with other writers. And research and submit. It won’t get published as a file languishing on your computer.

What if I can’t draw? Can I still write picture books if my skills only include stick figures?

Unless the author is an illustrator, there is no need to draw stick figures. The text should stand on its own. Most publishers use their own illustrators, and unless you’re a professional artist, it isn’t necessary to send artwork along with your manuscript.

What age did you write Topsy Turvy Land for? Is it good for reading out loud in a group setting?

Yes! Read it aloud. Poetry is at its best when read aloud and shared!

When Suzanne Rae Deshchidn reviewed it for Christian Book Previews, she wrote, “Donna Shepherd’s Topsy Turvy Land is a fun, colorful book about God’s creation, imagining what things would look like with polka dot zebras and green monkeys, ultimately concluding God’s creation is the best.”

It’s a picture book for ages 4-8, and could easily be used in Sunday School. I love that idea since I became a Christian after hearing about Jesus during a Sunday School class. In fact, if someone buys the book, I have a handout that’s useful as a teaching tool. Email me through the link on the Devotionals by Donna site.

Here’s a blog for the publisher with all the different ways to order in one place:
Hidden Pictures Publishing.

Do you recommend any websites for the aspiring picture book writer?

Yes, I’d recommend all of these sites:

Verla Kay’s Website for Children’s Writers and Illustrators
KidMagWriters.com
The Purple Crayon
Write4Kids.com

Do you have any mentors who helped you along the way to becoming a published writer?

As for mentors for my children’s writing, I have to say I would have been lost without the expert direction of Liz Ball and a genius called Kevin Scott Collier. They’ve been heaven-sent, I have no doubt. And following my own advice, I have excellent critique partners!

Thanks, Donna! You’ve given us many resources and starting points for those of us who dream of turning our ideas into children’s books someday.

Everyone please join us again tomorrow, as Donna tells us more about how she got started as a devotional writer and how we can get started as well!

By: Heather Ivester in: Interviews | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)