Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Writers' Collectives, Are they worth it?

Posted by Eileen Astels Watson

I have heard plenty about writers' groups and critique partners through the years, so when I was presented with the idea of getting involved in a local Writers' Collective run as a program through our library, I squinted, wondering why the weird name.

Turns out it's called a Collective for a very good reason. It's basically like working with a critique group only in person, but none of you have each others email address, phone number, or even full name, so you keep the "stranger" aspect intact. The Collective takes the personal aspect out of the whole process. With the exception of meeting in a designated room to discuss your submitted work once a month, you don't interact. For me, turns out that "strangers" who are also writers, prove to be the best no-nonsense, here's-how-it-is, critiquers. As a result, I'm all for Collectives now.

If your library doesn't have such a program, and you're in desperate need of a slap upside the head regarding your writing, beg, plead, and/or petition to your library's events planner to start working on such an opportunity for writers in your area.

Here's the just of how our events planner runs this program.

Each collective has a minimum of five, and a maximum of eight participants. Rooms in each of the library branches are booked from 6:30 pm to closing on the fourth Monday of each month for a "neutral" meeting place. The events planner is the staff liaison between the Collective members, so not getting chummy with one another is totally doable. You have no interaction other than at those set meetings.

The week before your scheduled meeting you send in to the events planner your five page double-spaced submission, with each paragraph numbered (turns out that although this is a pain to do, it works wonderfully in the round robin critique time), or a maximum of 2 poems, with just your first name and last name's initial on the top of each page and in the document name. The staff liaison then sends the submissions out to each member of your Collective to look over, critique, and bring with them to the monthly meeting.

I've got to say, that the single most blessing of this type of Collective is the DISTANCE we have from one another. That may change over time, as we become familiar with one another in those concentrated meetings, but I hope that's a long time coming. No one in my group was mean spirited, or belligerent, but they were HONEST and FORTHRIGHT with their assessments and told it like it was. They shared openly what bugged them about each others piece of writing. They threw in some niceties of course, too, but I glossed over them, and just clung to the eye-openers they passed along. Talk about seeing through unbiased eyes. There is no greater way to learn if you're serious about honing the craft than through the eyes of strangers who are also writers.

What about you, have you ever been involved in a Writers' Collective? If so, what did, or do you find the most beneficial? How does yours run?

Surrendering to Him,


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's My Profound Pleasure...

to introduce you to my lovely and talented critique partner and friend, Jenness Walker!

See, told ya she was lovely!
Jenness and I have been friends for oh, about four years now. We met in the strangest of places. If you know us, you'll guess pretty easily, but I'll go ahead and tell you - it was through an online forum. Yep, we were both going to be attending the American Christian Fiction Writers conference for the first time, we were on the boards talking about our writing and how to pitch (neither one of us knew how and we were terrified) and we started shooting pitches back and forth. Next thing we knew, we were meeting up in Dallas. We became critique partners shortly after the conference, and the rest, as they say, is history. She still can't get rid of me.
We both became agented authors in the same year. We used to dream about publication together. Now I'm happy to say, I'm the only one who's still dreaming. Jenness has realized her dream with her debut novel, Double Take, published through Love Inspired Suspense.

I had the pleasure of critiquing this novel in all its various stages, and I have to say the finished product is pretty darn good. I won't give a review here, because I'm biased, but here's the blurb, and when you're done reading, go on Amazon and order Double Take! You won't regret it!
Cole Leighton can barely believe his eyes. A woman on his bus has just been abducted—in an exact reflection of a scene from the bestselling novel he's reading. Someone is bringing the book to life…and isn't above forcing an innocent woman to follow the story to its tragic end. Using the novel as his playbook, Cole catches up with the beautiful victim—but rescuing Kenzie Jacobs doesn't keep her safe for long. The killer is writing his own ending, and none of the twists and turns lead to happily ever after.

Jenness Walker fell in love with books before she could even read them. Growing up, she read while she walked in line, ate lunch, played the clarinet, showered and brushed her teeth. Unfortunately she still hasn’t figured out how to clean the house with a book in hand. Blessed with a vivid imagination—sometimes too vivid—Jenness loves to create her own stories as well. Her writing journey has spanned over twenty years so far, from the contest she lost in first grade to the creative writing correspondence course she took through high school and the first novel she penned in college. Now Jenness lives in Florida with her beloved Web site–designer husband and almost-equally-beloved laptop.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Writing Between the Lines

Guest posting is quite an honor. Someone is trusting you to connect with their readership. They trust that what you have to say is valuable and interesting.

It's an excellent marketing benefit, but takes additional time out of your day to research the blog, write the post to fit the unique ambience, and go back to respond to comments. Sure, you can just send over a guest post, but what if it doesn't fit the blog theme?


Take the time to read several blog posts where you will be "visiting." Become familiar with the blog author's followers.

When guest posting, I've always felt more blessed than those I'm supposed to be blessing. I'll admit I'm always surprised that what I wrote helped someone else. Not that I don't expect to help people--I do. But writing a guest blog is a little tougher because on any given day, no one really knows if people will come to read and comment.

Rest in the writing. No one can guarantee writing a guest post will be the most amazing thing ever. But when we write, the story is in God writing through us.

What is it God is trying to teach?

Is God teaching it to others or to us?

What's the message between the lines?

May God use your writing as a guest poster to bless and encourage others while blessing and encouraging you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Meet Maggie Brendan, author of No Place For a Lady

by Molly Noble Bull

Today I am interviewing author Maggie Brendan about her wonderful new western romance series Heart of the West. By the way, Maggie’s first book in the series, No Place For A Lady, received a fantastic rating of four and one half stars from Romantic Times magazine, and that book is still available. Book Two in the series, The Jewel of His Heart, will be published this month, received a 4 Star from Romantic Times, and A Love of Her Own will be published in June of 2010.

Maggie, tell us a little about each of these books, including their settings, and then give us your web and blog addresses so our readers can learn even more about you.

No Place for a Lady is a story about a Southern Belle who leaves Georgia for Colorado where her Aunt has a cattle ranch. A proper Southern Belle, Crystal is determined to hold her own in this wild land—even if a certain handsome foreman named Luke doubts her abilities. Just when she thinks she’s getting a handle on the constant male attention from the cowhands and the catty barbs from some of the local young women, tragedy strikes. Rising to the challenge, she struggles to save the ranch or return to Georgia defeated.

The Jewel of His Heart is a about Juliana Brady, drawn to a handsome gentle sheepherder, Josh McBride in Montana. When Josh discovers a rare kind of sapphire on his property and considers striking out on his own path in the world, he is forced to decide what’s most important to him: the world’s riches or the eternal value of love in a woman whose eyes rival the rarest of gems.

A Love of Her Own is about April McBride who’s used to having the world revolve around her. Life becomes a real hardship when she has to learn to do without and do things for herself that she always took for granted. Besides having servants care for her every need, her father doted on her and gave in to her every whim. She is high-strung, argumentative as well as manipulative and spoiled rotten. But who wants to tangle with her type?

When she decides on the spur of the moment to take a trip to see her brother, Josh in Montana, she finds more than she bargained for in the form of a contrary cowpoke named Wes, who’s rough around the edges clear down to his dusty leather cowboy boots and spurs when it comes to finery and manners. He’s used to getting by with very little and sees no need to live any other way, until his path crosses tall willowy April with her silky long blond hair and striking blue eyes that belies her stubborn mind-set.
John Barnum is more her type; refined, educated, good-looking, and most importantly to April, wealthy--All the components that appeals to her. Her life would be nearly perfect, or would it? Has April met her match? Will she lose her prideful control and learn that material possessions will not give her happiness? Will she finally learn that true love only comes without a price tag attached?

I’m presently working on a new series about mail order brides. The series title is The Blue Willow Brides. It’s about a young woman and her two younger sisters who come to America in the 1800’s. Catharine Olsen feels responsible for her two sisters and answers a mail order bride’s ad. She’s leaving behind a tragic past that will re-surface when she goes in search of hope and a better future. I’m really excited about this new series.

Readers can find me on my blog or at Bustles and Spurs were I am a resident blogger.


I know you are a southern girl. So tell as much about your background, home, and family as you are willing to tell. Then tell us why you decided to write western novels.


I had many dreams as a child, but was from a large family and the youngest of eight, so I had a hard time growing up and those dreams never happened. My father was an alcoholic and was hardly ever home, which left my mother working and playing both parental roles. (Side note-Molly’s book, The Winter Pearl, helped me see the other side of an alcoholic and be more understanding of my father). In the same way as Molly’s book, I had to forgive my father and God has blessed me above and beyond what I deserve. Since I was a child I always had a fascination with the West even as a child. I loved westerns like Roy Roger, The Lone Ranger, John Wayne movies, Wagon Train, and the like. I used to tell my mother that I was born in the wrong century. I wanted to be a cowboy!

When did you know you were a writer? And tell us about some of the people and books that inspired you to write and sell novels.

Even in the third grade I could see myself as a writer and would craft stories. My teacher gave me paper to use once I told her what I was doing. She encouraged me a lot.
I think reading Zane Gray books impressed me with the code of the west and a lure to the Rocky Mountains which did come true for me after I had two children. I loved Gone With the Wind and I was greatly inspired by LaVyrle Spencer’s romance novels. Though not Christian novels, she was a wonderful historical writer and I wanted to emulate her writing style. My brother, Jess McCreede, who wrote historical westerns, was huge encourager of my writing. He passed away five years ago quite suddenly which made me see how short my time on earth is so I worked even harder than before to get published.


I know that a faith in God is important to you. How do you present your person moral and religious beliefs in your novels?

I try to do that through my character’s roles in making decisions that will impact their lives and how they relate and treat others in my story. I want to elevate them to use their faith even in times when it seems impossible.


What else would you like for our readers to know about you?

I love researching my novels, even though it’s work for me. I adore my children and grandchildren and love spending time with them. All of them are truly a gift from God.
I love singing with my church choir and have sung since grade school. My husband and I once sang with an ensemble back in MS and went around to different churches performing. I’ve acted in many Easter Story performances and worked in the Worship and Music office handling among many things, our pastor’s sermon orders and compiling a ten year catalog for his radio ministry, Right From the Heart, now heard across the world. I’m a private “prayer warrior” which continues to build my own faith and trust in God when I receive answers to those prayers. Many people have no idea that I’m praying for them, but that’s okay by me because He knows. One of my little quirks is that I have started nice collection of different versions of the Bible, and I’m about to purchase the latest one, The Apologetic Bible. I recently bought myself a small Celtic Bible engraved with my pen name. I enjoy getting to know other authors and don’t mind helping aspiring writers because so many encouraged me along the path to publishing my books.


Molly: Thanks for sharing with us this month, Maggie. Your books sound great, and I know our readers will think so, too.
And remember, to find Maggie’s books at an Internet bookstore, write Maggie Brendan in the search slot.
Next month, author Tish Perry will pay us a visit.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Survey Says...

Okay readers, bloggers, friends, countrymen...I need your help!
Some of you may know that I am the Director/Moderator for the Beyond the Borders group, within American Christian Fiction Writers. BTB consists of those of us who belong to ACFW but happen to live outside of the United States. Most of us are not American.
Lately, we've been having a discussion (passionate at times!) about the strange phenomenon that books with a foreign setting are a very difficult sell within the Christian market. Many of us have written stories that take place in different countries, and have yet to place them with a publisher. It would seem that the majority of readers who buy Christian fiction only want to read about stories that take place on American soil.
What gives?
We know that it's possible for authors to write (and sell) books that take place in foreign lands, but most of the time these are well-known authors and not such a risk to the publisher. We also know it comes down to numbers, and the publisher will not take a chance on a new author if they don't think the book will do well. They have the facts and figures we're not privvy to obviously, so it would seem that right now there is no market for the kind of books we're writing.
But I think what I'm struggling to understand is the fact that Americans only want to read stories about Americans, in America. Really? Is this true? If so, why?
I grew up in Bermuda in a heavily British-influenced society. My reading was as varied as possible. I read British authors, American authors, stories that took place all over the world, and I loved them! Still do.
I have to wonder if there is an untapped market out there. Perhaps there are folks who wouldn't set foot in a Christian bookstore because they do want something different, and it's not there. Yet.
I wonder if someone were to create a website dedicated to giving a taste of what we 'foreigners' can write about, how would it do? Would you read the stories and give honest feedback?
So I'm curious and I want to hear from you and everyone you can possibly pass this information along to. Tell us what you're reading and why, and whether you would buy a book that had a foreign setting. If not, why not?
Let the games begin!
(This is cross-posted on my blog CatherineWestBlog).