Sunday, September 30, 2007

SomeOne Cares Conference

Someone Cares Conference

Be sure to tune in later this week for When I Was Just a Kid...Carmen Leal, who hosts this conference. An interesting story and an interesting lady with a heart for those who care for others. You won't want to miss this conference, so register if you can.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

When I Was Just a Kid...Nancy J. Ring


Anchors,Signposts and Wanderings

Forks, bends, detours, scenery, and fellow travelers I've discovered while Exploring the Path Home.

This is what you'll find on freelance writer and community mental health counselor Nancy J. Ring's blog. That, and a whole lot of wisdom and truths that just leave you breathless. I am having a tough time telling you just one post to read, so let's just say that you should read the whole thing including quotes, favorites, and  things.

Last year she graduated with a Master’s in Community Counseling  and now has her Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) certification. She works with adults who have severe and persistent mental illness, so she knows a lot about how it can be tough to find the path home. She's worked at the same place for nearly 10 years and loves that her work focuses on helping people achieve their vocational goals, as well as working on emotional health and well being.

When asked about how all of this affects her writing she said,"Helping people become who they are meant to be is a theme that runs through my writing, my counseling, and my ministry."

I know I gain many insights into myself and my own writing from Nancy and her blog. Plus, she has been a writing buddy in my Struggling Artists of Literary Talent (SALT) for many years, so I love her as a sister.

Nancy writes nonfiction articles for women, adults, and teens on all kinds of inspirational, Christian living topics. She's  also written Sunday School curriculum for her church and award-winning grants for her vocational program at work.

Her blog started as a way to get back into writing after she had finished graduate school.

Nancy says, "It’s helped me find my voice, connect with other writers, and helped me identify writing topics I might not have otherwise considered."

Now let's delve into Nancy's past as a kid. You'll see why I absolutely love her and her writing, too:

Childhood Ambition: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor, a gymnast, a scientist, and an artist. Sadly, I wasn’t very good at any of these things. When I discovered how much math with required to be a scientist or doctor, I ditched those goals right away.

I still like gymnastics and art, and I’m still not good at either one of them.

Fondest Memory: Ok, I’m having trouble coming up with one stand-out memory. I think it’s mostly the little memories that I’m fond of. Our family Christmas traditions, getting ice cream or Gene & Jude’s hot dogs when me & my brother had good report cards, having my aunt’s family over for brunch after church on Sunday. I’m sure there’s more extraordinary memories, but these are the ones I recall at the moment.

Crystal Editor comment: I love it that Nancy remembers food. Me, too!

Proudest Moment :A lot of my proudest moments seem to be related to academics. I guess I’m a nerd. When I was in 7th & 8th grade, I won 3rd place in a spelling bee. At the time I was disappointed that I didn’t place better, but I’m proud of that now. I was also a finalist in a regional story writing contest. I’d been interested in writing ever since I’d read The Hobbit back in 3rd grade, but this was the first time I received real, genuine, encouraging feedback about my writing. Even though I was only a finalist, I was proud of this at the time. Go figure.

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen: Most people would think my biggest challenge was growing up with a disability. Spina Bifida has always been a part of my life. I’ve never known life to be any different, and being disabled is only an issue when it’s an issue. Snow on the ground creates an unpleasant experience, but it’s hardly the biggest challenge I’ve ever encountered. The quadratic formula, now that’s a challenge. Does anyone know why we needed to learn that thing anyway?

Crystal Editor comment: Ok, raise your hands: How many of you had to go look up quadratic formula? Much less has learned it?

My First Job: My first job was as a telemarketer for a basement waterproofing company. Cold calling at the age of 14. Despite the fact that most of the calls were rejections, we had fun in the office. Our boss was young himself & would do all sorts of goofy tricks to try to keep our spirits up. He taught me to think outside of the box when you need to address a problem. And if that doesn’t work, go next door to the Hostess shop and buy everyone Twinkies.

Childhood Indulgence: As a kid I was always asking to stay up late to read “just one more chapter.” Also, when my dad was working overnights as a paramedic, on Fridays Mom & I would get pizza and a movie. I looked forward to those nights all week.

Favorite Outfit as a Child: Well, there’s the tea bag Halloween costume my mom made me out of pillowcases. (No, I do not have a picture). I also had a mint green Easter dress I loved when I was about 5 or 6 years old. It had pink ribbon, and lace, and a layered, pleated skirt. I loved that dress.

Favorite Childhood Movie: I loved The Muppet Movie. I still do. Kermit the Frog is wonderful.


Favorite Childhood Book: I read all the time when I was a kid. My mom would buy me chapter books at the beginning of a shopping trip to keep me quiet and by the time she finished shopping I was always asking for another one to sustain me over the car ride home. So while it’s hard to pick just one book, I’d have to say my favorite is The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. This was the book that made me decide I wanted to be a writer. I remember reading the opening paragraphs and trying to figure out what the magic stuff among the words, what made those words do what they did.

Favorite Childhood Activity: Well, there was reading of course. And playing on the swings. I still loved to do that. The neighbors across the street had a swing set, but we never did. When my parents did some renovating in the backyard I lobbied for a swing set. Instead, they put up a 2-car garage. My beloved lilac bush was also sacrificed in favor of this ugly, mustard yellow & brown monstrosity. Mom would say that it was “her” lilac bush, but it’s not like she lobbied to save it from the invasion of the garage.

Childhood Hero: I think my favorite childhood hero would have to be Jim Henson. I mentioned this at work the other day, and several of my clients laughed at me. I just think the guy was a creative genius. Kermit the Frog & I seemed to understand each other, and that was very important to me at times when I was growing up.

Favorite childhood Ritual: Well, there’s the pizza & movie nights with Mom that I mentioned. At Christmas, our family would also hold auctions, where the kids would get to bid on dime store items. For some reason, that was almost as exciting as opening presents. I think I liked knowing that it was something special about how our family celebrated the holidays; something other families didn’t do.



Book Lovers on Shelfari, a note from Nancy: 

My screen name on Shelfari is Njring121. Come find me & I’ll be your friend.

Sample of Nancy's Writing Expertise:

"The Need to Be Needed," reprinted for Ministry in Motion

She has also written for Discipleship Journal, Young Salvationist, Christian Standard, The Christian Communicator, and other publications.

Nancy says about her development as a writer, weaving in all aspects of her life and her philosophy behind it:

"Both my jobs (writing & counseling) are driven by a passion for communication. I’ve also recently discovered the art of making handmade books. I’m very interested in how making books can be used in a therapeutic manner. I think handmade books can be a great bridge between my interests in writing and counseling."

Anchors, Signposts, & Wanderings

Nancy's Dog, Nika: "Well, as Kermit the Frog would say,'Time's fun when you're having flies.'”


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Bryce-Bryce Baby

Happy Birthday, My Kid!

My Bryce-Bryce Ba-beee's day. Nineteen with guitar in hand!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


There are changes in the air. The setting sun glares directly into my eyes as I drive west. Kids leave home, but they're still part of my daily breathing in and out. Last week it was 39 degrees, this week is 91 degrees, but next week will be 50. (This is Indiana.) My When I Was Just a Kid feature of this blog has exploded. I like it. I hope you like it, too. However, I was thinking about transferring all of the interviews to its own separate blog. I'll still have nostalgic tastes from the past here, and direct you to the new interviews with My Kids. It will just make things easier for me.I'm having some trouble with blogspot today. My compose mode isn't showing up(which means I can do nothing.) When I get it taken care of I hope to post the last When I Was Just a Kid interviews of September. I'm already lining up more for you in the coming months.So stay tuned for more blasts from the past.(And pray my blogspot stops hiccupping.)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Where to Get the Poster

Ok,Richard said he wished I would remember where to get the 12 1/2 Writing Rules poster and I never remembered. But I did go on a search and found it again. Go to this poster site ( you can order it for $12.99 (18 X 24)

In fact there are a lot of cool posters at this site! I was looking at the punctuation one, the one about burning books (you don't have to burn books to destroy a culture--just don't read them--or something like that.)

That reminds me, did you have posters on your wall as a kid or a college student? I did! (ha, you knew it.) It was cheap and kitschy art. Because I was an elementary education major, I also made my share of posters and bulletin boards.

In college the guy I was dating from another university (I married this guy) bought me this huge poster of Snoopy for Valentine's Day instead of a card (or it was his creative card.) I loved Peanuts, particularly Snoopy. One of the things I wanted to be when I grew up was a cartoonist. I still collect cartoons and cartoon books. Anyway, I still have this poster. It is in my basement in a dark corner. I need to go get it and put it up again. It is now vintage! I also have a poster of the Gone with the Wind movie.Also given to me by my now-husband-then-boyfriend.Also in college.Also, vintage, though then it was a new copy.

I have a page ripped from a magazine that should be a poster. Monica Sheehan is an author/artist who is the 11th of 12 kids in an Irish/Catholic family and she's the artist/writer of this page. She has books, but I never have read/looked at them. Maybe I should. She grew up funny, but she jokes(but it's no joke) in this bio I've linked: "For breakfast,I have a cup of coffee and two cigarettes. I stare out the window just long enough to get an anxiety attack. "

But you would never know any of this anxiety from this page I ripped from Real Simple magazine. (Love that magazine, by the way.)On this page (the last page) she has 12 drawings of a woman doing things that essentially spell out the title: Be Happy.Things like "Read Books. Face Your Fears. Do Things You are Good At." So simple. Things we skip doing everyday because we are so uptight, anxiety-ridden/fearful and full of Puritan ethics (and don't think I throw Puritan ethics out the window or look down on them--I don't,)we can't do something creative or fun or nice for ourselves. Yet we strive to "be happy." But we do forget to laugh at ourselves and have fun because of "all the starving kids in China." (My starving kid in China whom I ate for I named Chao,and he said it was ok not to eat the canned asparagus because he didn't want it either.)

We forget to do the things that we really are good at. We need to know what we are good at and do it our way. (The way God designed us to operate.)

One of my four boys recently said, "Well, I can't do that for a job;that's something I do for fun and a hobby." Whoever made up the rule that a job had to be tortuous or "not fun?!" Ok, after I bit off my tongue and then sat on my hands to keep from slapping the sense back into him,I, Queen Mother of the Boys, granted him permission to go after a career that might feel like a hobby because it is so insanely fun.(Just get paid for it and not live off me. ha)

Someone said to me one time, "You read books? And get paid to do it??" (gasping) "Man, I would love a job like that!"

Well, duh, me, too. I worked hard to get to the place where I'd not only get a free book, but would get paid to read it.(Granted, I didn't get paid a lot.) It's not an easy road just because you like to do it. You have to choose happiness, but that doesn't mean it is won easily.

And yes, even in jobs that we love and it feels as if you would pay to do the job, not someone pay you, even then, we have days that feel like work. But what's that old saying? Something about when doing your hobby and having frustrations, it's still better than working!

Going back to Stephen King's quote from yesterday, somehow you need to be doing the thing you're given to do--if you are paid for it or not. And don't ever say to me, "Oh, yeah, I could write if I just had time." You make time, make choices every day. If you should be writing, make priorities. In Delia's blog today, Camy Tang talks about this very thing. Hop over to Gatorskunkz and Mudcats and read how Camy protected her creative time.

If you could do anything, and get paid to do it, what (specifically) would it be? If it is writing books, what kinds of books? Then, do a little of that everyday. If you look over at Bonnie Bruno's site, you know what I mean about finding the joy in what you do.

(Yes, leave a comment about what you would love to do and how you're making steps to do it.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Writing Rules

I have no idea where I found this poster. If you know, let me know. But it is cool.

On one of my writer lists we are talking about writing rules--mostly to do with grammar. Like, do you use their or there? Its or it's? My husband and I or my husband and me? I don't think about these things too much because I think I had so many English classes, it was beaten into my brain. Most of the time I can even spell. My biggest hang up in writing is leaving out words (I just read right over the missing word.)

I am not a primary visual learner like most writers. I process by auditory or kinesthetics most of the time. I have to say stuff out loud to understand some things. Or go through the motions--feel it. When doctoring a manuscript, I have actually laid it out, chapter-by-chapter, on my dining room floor and walked and talked through it. (Works for me.)

I have hundreds of writing books on craft. Of course, I have my favorites that I pull out whenever I want. I think my favorite advice on writing came from Stephen King's On Writing: "If God gives you something you can do, why in God's name wouldn't you do it?"

Now, some of you may be offended by his use of "in God's name," but overlooking that--what is he saying? (You know I'm going to 'splain it in my own way, Lucy.)He's saying if God gives you something you CAN do, it is incredulous to him that you'd tell God that He didn't know what He was doing when He gave it to you to do. Whoa. A little jolt of conviction, huh? Can I get an amen from the choir?

I hope you can see the writing rules above. They are the only rules you should be paying attention to for now. Yes, learn to know when to use their or there. That comes with time and study, or having a good editor or a really good crit partner who is strong in such things. But be writing every day. Stephen just wrote because that is what he was given to do. He wrote in a dark place, sticking his reject letters on a nail, using a crummy desk (when he could afford a great big nice one, he had trouble using it!)

Of course, you know I'm talking to myself here, not just to you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

When I Was Just a Kid...Delia "Gatorskunkz and Mudcats" Melton

What a little cutie. Delia has a way of warming you just by her happy, positive talk, and she could've grown into a bitter woman, but Jesus came into her life and well, it's a happy story, in spite of the ups and downs. Her famous blog, Gatorskunkz and Mudcats, is like a serial addiction for me. I have to get a dose of Delia whenever I'm having one of those days.

She is passionate about her family (and they are in her blog as "characters," like her husband,The Honey, and The Kiddos) and she promotes causes that most of us relate to. Delia just makes the world a better place. She is open and honest (check out her frank discussions on child-raising!) and I wish she lived closer (wanna be a Hoosier?) so those of us in the Indiana ACFW could have her.Delia is precious and you will see why I adore her so. What is not to love with someone like her?

I wanted to know what made her into the writer she is today (and she's also working on fiction these days,too.)

Childhood Ambition:
When I was a kid I wanted to do everything. I went through all the phases; doctor, lawyer, police officer, truck driver, etc. Yes, at one time I wanted to be a truck driver. There were also quite a few members of my family who had joined the military and I even went through a phase where I wanted to join the Marines. Then, about halfway through my teens I decided I wanted to be a nurse and that stuck with me until I got older and worked in a nursing facility. I soon realized that I just was not cut out for it. I loved caring for people but the other, more medical side of nursing just wasn’t for me.

All of my life there was the love of writing, which I'm sure stemmed from my love of reading, but it never seemed like it was something I could do. Authors were like celebrities to me (they still are) and I didn’t think that just an average Jane like myself could do it. It never occurred to me that I could be a writer and write the stories that I love and try to get them published until just a few years ago. Then I kept my aspirations to myself. Everyone knew I loved writing but it was something just for fun and no one suspected that I would ever want to do anything with the stories that I wrote. I still haven’t had anything published but I’m doing what I love and that’s what matters.

Fondest Memory (then):
When we were younger we weren’t close to our real grandparents and we sort of adopted an older couple to play that role in our lives. I’m not exactly sure how we knew them but they were always a part of our family. We called them our Mom-mom and Papa. My mama was a single parent who worked a lot and they were our main babysitters. Then when we got too old for a babysitter we would go visit them as often as we could and during the summer I would sweet talk Mama into letting me spend a couple of weeks at a time with them.

Papa had an old swing house right smack in the middle of the yard and when I would go visit he and I would sit out in the swing in the evenings and discuss anything and everything that came to mind and then sometimes we would just swing. I learned a lot about God and life in that old swing house with my Papa and it was a sad, sad day when it was torn down.

Proudest Moment:

I have so many proud moments in my life but my proudest moments would have to be when each of my children were born and I saw the beautiful babies that God was entrusting me with.

Biggest Challenge as a child or teen:
My Mama got mixed up in a bad marriage when I was a kid and we saw a lot of things that children shouldn’t have to see. Overcoming the feelings of anger and shame that it all induced took a long time for me and it was definitely the hardest challenge I had to face when I was younger.

My First Job:
My first job was in a sewing factory when I was seventeen years old. I accrued enough credits that I was able to graduate in the middle of my senior year so I decided to get a job and try to save some money. There was a sewing factory in town hiring and I figured I could make more money there then I could at a fast food restaurant so I eagerly applied. Ha! It was a horrible experience and I didn’t work there long.

Childhood Indulgence:
I don’t know whether to tell you that my indulgence was books or to tell you that it was those little candy necklaces with all the candy pieces strung on a piece of elastic. Because back then both were equally important to my child’s mind. Books took me on so many wonderful adventures and let me see into so many different worlds and I was constantly reading something. (Now don’t laugh…) But those candy necklaces made me feel like a princess. Think about it, only a princess could have such a colorful necklace that not only made her beautiful but when she needed a little snack, she could just lift it up and take a bite! I’m sure my mama would’ve liked it if I’d just stuck with the books then she wouldn’t have had to cart around a child with a piece of elastic wrapped around the big colorful ring stain on her neck all those times when the candy was gone and I refused to give up my princess necklace.

Favorite Outfit as a Child:
My memory isn’t all that grand Crystal, but I can vaguely remember a dress that I once loved and some red patent leather shoes that I tried to never take off.

Favorite Childhood Movie:
"The Neverending Story"

Favorite Childhood Book:
Oh, there were so many; The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary (what little girl didn’t love Ramona?), and everything else I could get my hands on to read.

Favorite Childhood Activity:
Dancing. I loved to dance and would only need the music in my head. I never cared where I was or who was watching me, if I felt like dancing- which I did most of the time- I would dance.

Childhood Hero:
My mother.

Now you know some of why I love Delia and hope I can meet her in person one day. (I'm still laughing over the candy necklaces, and I love it that she danced to the music in her head.)Delia, write stories that you fictionalize about YOU. We will read them!
Best Blog Name in Blogdom:
Gatorskunkz and Mudcats

100 Things About Delia

Monday, September 17, 2007

When I Was Just a Kid...Paula Lindstam

Imagine waking up and finding a moose looking at you through your window. Imagine throwing apples at said moose to get them to leave your harvest alone. (Imagine telling this story at meal time at Mt. Hermon Writers Conference and winning a free book for it and forever being known as the moose lady.)

Or how about a bear clawing at your windows, leaving marks where he could've easily come in?

How about that time that the kids had to take a different route to school because moose were scrounging around the bus stop?

And oh, yeah, the time your car blew across the ice in the school parking lot because of a winter storm.

Who can forget watching your kids play in a huge state soccer tournament at midnight because that's when the Midnight Sun is most beautiful?

Yeah, well, if you are like me, you are fascinated by the life of Paula Lindstam, wife, mom,Bible study leader,writer, real estate agent and general-all-around adventurer. Her husband, also a real estate agent and a pilot, flies people around--because sometimes that is the only way to get there. I've been in a critique group with Paula for years and this woman has written some of my favorite stories. Her characters, settings and voice are rich with the experiences she has lived and observed as a lifetime resident of our huge state to the north--Alaska.

She thinks nothing of hopping a plane and traveling the world. Her kids are confident and independent. And why wouldn't they be? Check out a recent photo of Paula taking a ride (which she loved) on a canopy rip-line!

So, what is it like growing up in last frontier--Alaska?

Tell us about the places you have lived in Alaska.Where did you live?

Around the state of Alaska, mostly.(A little time in Washington state.) I moved from house to house seventeen times by the time I was nineteen years old. My dad worked for the Weather Bureau on and off for over thirty years and we moved from town to town for his job. The highlights are that I was born in Nome, have lived in Anchorage three times, (including the present,) lived in Fairbanks and, briefly, in Delta Jct., graduated from high school in Naknek while living fifteen miles away in King Salmon (twice).

Childhood Ambition: I just can't think of anything. I'm not one who has always known what she wanted to be when she grew up and worked toward that end. Life unfurled as I went along.

(Crystal Editor note: Life unfurls as an amazing adventure for Paula. OY!)

Fondest Memory (then):

I can't say that I really enjoyed picking berries with my mother at the time, but as I look back it was a really sweet time. No matter where we lived in Alaska we picked local berries and my mother made jams and jellies and all manner of delicious things. I learned the names of the berries and where they grew, what they looked like. Black currants in the dark, dim woods near the Anchorage airport. Raspberries in sunny spots along the gravel road up on the hillside. Blueberries in the muskegs. I was very good about putting the berries in the bucket and not eating them. If I ate them it meant we would be picking longer and I usually wanted to be doing something more active.

Proudest Moment:

I took a scuba diving class in Sitka, Alaska when I was going to college there. My proudest moment was when I got my open water dive certificate. Years later, the first time I ran into my diving instructor, he told me I was his first female student. It was a different world then.

Biggest Challenge as a child or teen:

Learning to drive the motorcycle I bought when I was sixteen. It was a Honda 100 and learning to drive the clutch was an agony I thought would never end. It took a good day, at least. I didn't learn to drive a car until a couple years later and the how-to-use-a-clutch lessons from the motorcycle stood me in good stead. In the Alaska Bush the state offered an Off-System Driver's License in order to legally drive there. No driving test was required. The only road was fifteen miles from King Salmon to Naknek in one direction and King Salmon to Naknek Lake in another direction. I got my first real car driver's license when I moved to Anchorage in 1981 when I was 24 years old.

My First Job:

I was a maid at the hotel in King Salmon, Alaska. The clientele were nearly all men, usually villagers stranded by weather, construction crews, or German sport fishermen. I still fold my towels the way I was taught at the hotel. The Germans would leave Swiss chocolates on their pillows for the maids. Mmmm. I don't think I'd known what real chocolate tasted like until then.

Childhood Indulgence:

Reading, reading, reading. My favorites were biographies of first ladies. I also liked the Narnia series. In 1970, when I was thirteen, we moved to Fairbanks and lived in a small apartment for the summer. In an effort to find something for us to do my mother would take us to the library once a week. I think I read every book that a girl might want to read and was begging for more. There wasn't much to do and I just ate them up.

Favorite Outfit as a Child:

Girls weren't allowed to wear pants to school so my mother made all my clothes, which were dresses until I was in junior high. When I was six, she bought me a dress to wear for a picture taken of me and my brothers. I loved it! A store-bought dress. We still talk about it. (That's the dress in the above photo: Ralph, Duane and Paula in 1964.)It was the only studio picture ever taken of our family until we were adults. It was taken in Olympia, Washington where we lived my first semester of the first grade. We finally had access to a photographer/studio.

Favorite Childhood Play Time Activity:

Swinging through the trees near my house in Anchorage. Someone set up a trapeze-like swing in the trees. We'd run and take a flying leap at it, hopefully grasp it, swing aways, and then let go and drop onto the dirt path below.

Favorite Childhood Movie:

I went to a movie theater for the first time to see Mary Poppins. I was a young adult before I watched many movies. In the places we lived where we had television my favorites were Get Smart and My Three Sons.

Favorite Childhood Book:

Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle. I also liked The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright.

Childhood Hero: My dad was and is, the smartest person that I know.

Anything you would like to add that my readers might be interested in knowing about you as a child or how your childhood may have influenced your writing as an adult:

My childhood was filled with such interesting people. It seems that if someone runs away from their life, they go to an exotic locale and start over. Alaska is one of those places they run to, so when I was a child my family tended to meet and befriend people with the most varied backgrounds. I like to weave those incongruous tidbits into my characters' personalities. The skinny old man wearing overalls as he swamps out the vacant apartment probably owns the building and used to be a top defense attorney in another state until his wife left him and his secretary embezzled all his money. I met people with outrageous stories like that all the time growing up. It really helps one not to leap to conclusions based upon looks.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

It's Sunday...I Took Some Goofy Tests

Which Disney Princess Are You?

You are Jasmine. You are loyal and would visit the ends of the earth for what you believe. You would never let obstacles stand in the way of true love.
Find Your Character @

Which Winnie the Pooh Character Are You?

You are Winnie the Pooh. Oh, bother. You are sweet, simple, and popular for your honesty and goodwill. Though you may be the biggest personality in the woods, you sometimes need the help of others in the brains department!
Find Your Character @

What Should You Have Done After High School?

You should have traveled the world. You're outgoing and you like to try new things. You'd do great in a college environment, but you won't be able to focus on school until you fulfill your inner desires to get out and see the world.
Find Your Character @

Which College Major Should You Be?

Your major should be Art. You are sensitive, creative, and you don't follow established rules. Unfortunately, you'll have to follow some rules if you ever want that promotion at Starbucks.
Find Your Character @

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Writing in the Danger Zone

(High School Sports Editor, Cris Warren)

Everyday I hear from some struggling writer--some published, some not. They tell me stuff about the struggle, but sometimes I think they forget just how much they have already overcome. Reminds me of my bootcamp class I took a few years back. We had an ex-Navy S.E.A.L.-trained instructor and he would actually turn red telling us what he wanted us to accomplish. He took it as a personal affront anytime we said, "I can't," or in his view, "I won't." So far, no one is holding a gun to our heads here to write something. Where did we get that feeling that someone is? But I understand better these days why Instructor Brown turned red a lot. I feel like him sometimes.

How did you come into writing? Who encouraged you? (I hope some of you feel that I have encouraged you.)I'll tell you about some of my story in writing. Maybe you can encourage me by telling me what seems to be my best path in this business? I still haven't quite figured it out. I think in encouraging others, we often figure it for ourselves, so maybe this is how. (That giving-out-comes-back-to-you.)One thing I've noticed since starting this blog is that I see how the writer came to be by examining their past. My turn. Maybe it'll help you, too.

I probably had the most negative experiences in writing before high school. In elementary school I was a fabulous actress(I was also voted best actress of my high school,) good in art, an "A" student. I was often picked to tutor other kids or to monitor/encourage other kids to "be good." Something about my presence evidently was a good influence on other kids. I will never forget Mr. Rosen making me sit in the nest of bad boys of our class. There was Gene Cohen, Gene (why were all the "bad boys" named Gene?) Black and Miles Kendall*.(I'm sure they grew up to be model citizens.) Well, maybe this is another story. The point was, teachers recognized many things in me and I had much encouragement for those traits/gifts, but writing didn't seem to be one of them.

I was a great(you might can see why I'm not a successful writer--if I were judging this piece, great would have to go! That, and exclamation points) English student, but I was rejected over and over for writing "jobs." In junior high, though my English teachers adored me, even inviting me to their homes, I wasn't picked for the school newspaper or told "You should be a writer." I got so-so comments for everything I wrote except my "journal." And I held back in my journal. You should've seen my personal journal I kept at home! (You can't; I burned it just before going off to college in case I died.)My biggest gift was being a reader, summing up and criticizing already written stuff. And I could explain it to other kids.

My freshman year I wrote a poem that was published in a book. I can't even remember it except what it was about--something about God and the sea and how God commands the sea to toss waves that kill. Sheesh. I was a dark kid.

But finally, my big break came.

Mrs. Bragg, my teacher in my junior year HS journalism class picked me to be the sports editor for the weekly school newspaper (also the art editor--my main interest was art, but I was interested in teaching P.E., too.)No girl had ever been the sports editor before and she said I could handle it, because I was tenacious,stubborn and good at English.(Ha.) Lots of tough under that transparent skin and long blonde hair. I don't think she chose me for my writing skills. I think it was because I still had a way of controlling behaviors of other kids--especially boys.(All that previous experience with the Genes.)

So, I interviewed and wrote under major criticism from the guys and the male coaches,"she can't write about sports--she's a girl!" (This was back in the day.I also played on the first girls basketball team as that was the year they started organized girls basketball in Indiana.)

The football coach, "Crazy Joe" Gallo (really, his name was Paul)
probably was the worst.I can't even remember what he taught. Maybe auto shop or something. I kept up his scrapbook for him, too, in the library where I also worked in HS, and he never once said thank you.He did growl at me--a lot! (I didn't have him for class, however.)He would squint those black eyes at me and something gutteral would come out. His wife was the business teacher and our sponsor in booster club--and I was president. I figured if she was married to him, I was somewhat safe because I figured she was the only one keeping him from running amuck on kids.

About half-way through my senior year Mrs. Bragg came in with guidelines for a journalism scholarship at the university in the next county over. I had to take all of my articles and compile them into a portfolio to try out for the scholarship. I won the scholarship and that determined where I went to college, being a kid with no money.

Though Mrs. Bragg was the one who encouraged me to write(and write "under fire,") it was really those harsh critics (the coaches and the guys of my high school) who taught me the most about writing.I not only wrote, but was the only one who wrote under extreme criticism. I was breaking new ground, and I probably deserved some of the criticism (though not for being a girl writing about sports.)Criticism,as anyone who has spent any time churning out words for public consumption, is the main thing in writing. You can be Hemingway and still get criticism. (Gene Hemingway was probably mean. Thus, Mean Gene being a common nickname and if Ernie was named Gene, he probably changed to his pseudonym.)

That time as sports editor, however, cemented in me a "no fear" attitude. I used to think, "Hey,what can you do--kill me?" (And if not, I wrote and tried to prove to them I could do ok at it.)As a kid, I was always concerned about getting killed since every weekend I somehow survived my dad's down days. Getting to Monday alive was a major accomplishment for me. Maybe that was how I got so good at keeping mean boys in line--I already had practice every weekend. Writing a stupid article in a newspaper was non-threatening to me as I had already had a whole weekend of being told how worthless I was, but still seeing the truth was, I was not as bad as I was told.

I did wonder if Crazy Joe might smash me like a grape, though, when
I'd ask him what happened after a game. That year they had a 2-8
season, so I was probably flirting with the edges of his patience.Mrs. Gallo always smiled at me and even gave me a silver I.D. bracelet with my name on it. How bad could Crazy Joe be if he was married to an angel?

Mrs. Bragg, however, made me feel as if I could do anything,
and her confidence gave me a healthy check for my college education,
too. Bless her. She was short, but mighty. I always thought I won that writing scholarship for my writing. Years later, (like now) I have come to conclude that maybe it wasn't for my writing, afterall. Writing is a tough job and you can be a wonderful writer, but still not get published. So, how do you get published? You have to get tough.

I will have some posts on this topic in the coming days. Stay tuned.

*names have been slightly alterred

Happy Birthday, JareBear

You're all grown up, and I'm still as delighted in you as the moment I first laid eyes on you!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

When I Was Just a Kid...Camy Tang

Let's see, a little girl growing up in Hawaii, probably shy and backwards, really into anime characters and she wants to be either a physicist or a novelist. Well, we've come a long way, baby (you have to be old to get that one...)--you can be it all,play volleyball, write about it and turn from backwards and shy to loud and fun! (And I doubt that her little girl photo looks much different from this one.)

Yes, this is what happened with a shy little girl named Camy. And being a genius(don't let her throw you with that lame story about a fiery death of her physicist dream--she is a mad genius and has degrees and trappings to prove it,) she also knits(my favorite: toliet seat cover)and writes blogs, and probably can do almost anything, like run huge fiction contests and help other writers. Just thinking about Camy makes me tired. She kicks with wasabi! (And my boys think she is cool. Or whatever the terminology for she rocks is.But none of my boys can marry her because she's married to Captain Caffeine.)

Let's see what made Camy into one of my new favorite fiction authors--a sharp-witted and the self-professed Loud Asian Chick (love her new book): (By the way, I knew she was great from the first time I met her at an ACFW conference when she was just a gleam in her agent's eyeball:)

Childhood Ambition:
I always wanted to be a novelist, as soon as I knew what a "job" was.
Mom, thankfully, didn't dissuade me even though she knew it was a
longshot. Of course, I also wanted to be a physicist, which just goes
to show you how wild my ambitions were (the physicist dream died a
fiery death in my first college physics course where I met REAL

Fondest Memory (then):

I wrote to Anne McCaffrey and she wrote back to me! From Ireland!

Proudest Moment:

Getting the call from my agent that I'd sold.Actually,it was an answering machine message which is still on the machine, plus my husband(AKA Captain Caffeine)recorded it onto an MP3 for me (yes, I'm that pathetic).

Biggest Challenge as a child or teen:

I was very shy as a child and very awkward socially.I was also extremely insecure in my personality and it wasn't until after college that I started realizing I can be who I want to be and not apologize for it.That's about the time I stopped being shy,too.

My First Job:

Assistant at the local library

Childhood indulgence:

Mom always bought me a book when we went to the mall.

Favorite Outfit as a child:

Shorts, T-shirt and zoris (flip-flops to you non-Hawaiian people)

Favorite Childhood Movie:

It's actually not a movie but a TV show--Star Blazers (Japanese anime show)

Favorite Childhood Book:

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Childhood hero:

Voltron (another Japanese anime show)

Anything else you'd like readers to know about you as a child:

I was shy, awkward and short. Luckily, now I'm just short.

You must check Camy out on her web site and read her blog to get to know the true Camy. (And she's a praying girl--check out Sundays on her blog.)You definitely want to hit her blog because she's always giving away books and all kinds of stuff like iPod Nanos. From her site: (Have you heard about my huge website contest? I'm giving away baskets of Christian fiction and an iPod Nano! Only my newsletter YahooGroup subscribers are eligible to enter, so join today !) (I joined. Haven't won but am always hopeful.)

Sushi for One? (Zondervan) September 2007

Only Uni (Zondervan) February 2008

I love Christian Chick Lit and Camy has her list here.

Other people talking about Camy this month!

She is also a Story Sensei and will help doctor your ailing manuscript if you are an aspiring novelist, like Camy as a little girl.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Eyeball View from the Kitchen

I snagged this photo (yes, I have no shame) from The Loud Asian Chick who will be in my Kid column tomorrow. Isn't it adorable? (And she--Camy-- is, too.)

Camy is one of my favorite bloggers, so check her out and stay tuned to find out what's cooking in the Chat 'n' Chew Cafe'. Tomorrow we get a "kick of wasabi!" (which happens to be the name of my friends' oldest daughter's dog! Wasabi. Funny.)

When I Was Just a Kid...Camy Tang

Sushi for One? (Zondervan) September 2007

See this post for interview!

Only Uni (Zondervan) February 2008

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

When I Was Just a Kid...Bonnie Bruno

When Bonnie Bruno was three, she "stole" a grape and her dad gave her a penny and made her pay the clerk. It was her first lesson in honesty and the first of many lessons from her parents and older siblings. Bonnie was from a family of 8-is-enough. She remembers for three-fourths of her childhood only having one bathroom. Let's see, one bathroom, 8 people. Bonnie, master of understatement said,"Mornings were interesting, especially when four of us six kids reached our teens."

Bonnie says as a child she decided to surprise her mom and pulled a chair up to the kitchen sink, dumped in a whole bottle of dish soap and tried washing the dinner dishes.

"One by one, they slipped through my fingers onto the floor. She and my dad were so shocked, they thanked me and said they’d been wanting new dishes anyway."

To me this shows just what loving parents Bonnie must've had, and may be why she is such a kind person herself. And Bonnie didn't have a grandmother for long, but she is a doting and loving grandmother. Her dad’s mom died before her parents met, and her mom’s mother died when she was four. But Bonnie learned what it meant to be a grandmother from her beloved weekends at "Grandma" Bessie’s house.

"She was the widowed grandmother of my best friend, and lived by herself on a farm. She taught us how to milk cows, gather eggs, and swing from a rope and drop onto a hayloft."

Bonnie is a gifted, creative writer and photographer. If you have not seen some of her nature photograpy, you are missing a rare and beautiful treat. First, let's get a snapshot of Bonnie's childhood that shaped the woman who can bring poignancy to any small moment of the day:

Childhood Ambition: I wanted to become a teacher, a mommy, a writer, a forest ranger, and an archaeologist. I just didn’t know that I couldn’t wear that many hats.

Fondest Memory (then): I come from a large family of eight. Every other summer, we’d take a cross-country vacation—all of us stuffed in a station wagon (I know this dates me) without A/C. Two weeks! My parents were very brave people.

Proudest Moment (then): When I realized I could read all by myself. I was four years old and my third-grade brother, Ted, taught me the alphabet and all the letter sounds. Every afternoon after school, I’d ask him to teach me how to read his book, and he finally got tired of me pestering him. He gave me the book, told me to practice, and that’s what I did—under my blanket every night with a flashlight.

Biggest Challenge as a child or teen: Finding time alone with a parent. Our household of eight was like a freeway interchange.

My First Job: I worked part-time for an insurance broker who talked nonstop about his state business awards. I left the office every day with a headache.

Childhood Indulgence: Chocolate milkshakes so thick, the straw stood up by itself

Favorite Outfit as a Child: A white dress with an orange butterfly print, which my dad bought for eighth birthday. I liked how the skirt twirled when I spun around.

Favorite Childhood Movie: Tarzan (second: Bambi)

Favorite Childhood Book: Angus and the Ducks, by Marjorie Flack. This is the very first book I learned to read myself (borrowed from my brother). Later, I found it at the library, and was amazed to learn that the author had written other books. It was the first time I thought about how real people write the books we read—it’s all about good ideas. When I was in my forties, I looked everywhere for a copy of Angus and the Ducks, and couldn’t track one down. My husband Nick found one at a used bookstore for me. When mainstream publishers began bringing back some of the classics from the fifties, Angus and the Ducks resurfaced.

Childhood Hero: My brother Gary, who accidentally shot a bird with his new bb gun and cried when it fell to the ground. He works as a charge nurse for a busy ER at a California hospital – no surprise, because of his compassionate heart.

Nicknames as a child? My mom sometimes called me Birdy Brain because I’d daydream and would lose track of what I was suppose to be doing.

Favorite Activity as a Child: Playing in the orange orchard behind our house with my two older brothers. Our imaginations ran wild, and we’d build forts or tiny “farms” in the dirt with popsicle sticks, sprigs of plants for miniature trees, plastic farm animals, and a garden hose for irrigation. It was life in miniature. Now I capture life through macrophotography—nature up close. I look for “hidden treasures” that sometimes go unnoticed because we’re in such a rush, it seems.

From Bonnie's web site:
Bonnie Bruno has been writing professionally for 27 years, specializing in children's books, articles, columns, and stories for both the inspirational and general marketplace. Her work has been published over 450 times in 40+ different magazines and newspapers, and she has written books for Zondervan, Standard Publishing, Cook Communications, Intervarsity Press, and No Starch Press.

She sold her first two stories to a children's magazine while she was a student at The Institute of Children's Literature, and returned many years later to join their faculty as an instructor. A former family computing columnist for Newsday (1997-2000), Bonnie has also written technology-related columns for ParentLife and Living with Teenagers magazines.

Her love for variety led her to work with several greeting card companies, where she produced 150 greeting cards, posters, postcards, calendars, and gift items. Her cards have appeared on the retail racks of Hallmark, Oatmeal Studios, Paramount Cards, and Argus Communications.

These days Bonnie is a nature photographer as well as a writer,though she is mostly pursuing the photography. If you would like to have the Photo Buffet on your web site or blog, look at the logo to the right and click on it to download the widget.

Bonnie's Photo Buffet

Bonnie's just released book,When God Steps In

Her main writing/photography website
And you will be blessed when you stop in regularly to Bonnie's blog, Macromoments (one of my personal favorites)

When God Steps In: Stories of Everyday Grace,Standard Publishing.

Bonnie writes a monthly column for Christian Women Online called “Retrospect”.

Bonnie says: "It has been a great experience, and God has grown the e-zine by leaps and bounds into a special ministry. The founder/editor Darlene Schacht has a keen eye for detail and has pulled together a unique group of writers." Take a look at Bonnie's column and look through this ezine (see the cover to the right.)

Bonnie, who is open about her experiences in publishing, shares:
Light & Life will be publishing several of my photos for an article about the life of a vineyard, written by the son of a vineyard keeper. It will be in the November/December issue of LLM. I spent a full year gathering photos of the different stages of vineyard growth for this assignment, which ties in with the Scripture passage about 'I am the Vine, you are the branches...' It was a good reminder for me as I worked--a blessing."

And do you have kids? Take them to Bonnie's WonderKorner: Where Education Meets Fun!

Bonnie's Books

Do you need to find a quote? Here's Bonnie's reference page.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Eyeball View and Book Winners


The winners of the book drawing for Judy Gann's

The God of All Comfort: Devotions of Hope for Those Who Chronically Suffer (AMG 2005)

Ann Knowles and Katherine!

You will need to email me at heavenscrystal[at] (You will need to type in the address using the @ sign.) I need your names and addresses as Judy will be signing the books and mailing them to you (and I won't give your names or addresses to anyone else.)Judy is generously providing these books and signing them for you, as she was delighted by each comment (and so was I!)


If you notice to the top right I have listed the people I have lined up for September interviews in the When I Was Just a Kid feature. Please drop back by for more stories. I want to try and blog at least 3 times a week. My schedule and the weather have prevented me from posting more often (we have satellite internet.)I will try to be more deliberate.

I love to read and I'm a fast reader when I set my mind to it. I used to review books for magazines and I still have stacks of those books that I never was able to get to--until now. At the right, scroll down to my September list. What's the best book you've read in recent times? I'm currently finishing up Lauren Winner's Girl Meets God. We're going to discuss this book in my writer's group.

I always laugh when I ask authors what their favorite book was as a child for the When I Was Just a Kid feature. I get these deer-in-the-headlights cyberspace looks and a pitiful, "Just ONE??" Look, I am not listing your entire library as a child. It is a well-known fact that authors as children loved to read and some were writing before they could read (I did!)

I am an analyst by nature (and by profession.) I was curious as to how a beloved childhood book could influence the writing of adult authors/writers.With exception to one author, almost all remembered a book that influences their writing today. Let's see what have been the favorites of the featured authors so far: (The links go to their interviews)

Colleen Coble: Bambi's Children

Deb Raney: Little Black Sambo

Diann Hunt: Lad, A Dog

Jim Watkins: Magic books

Judy Davis: Dick & Jane

Judy Gann: Betsy-Tacy Books

Karen Wingate: Favorite Childhood Book: My favorite was the one I currently held in my hands – with a few exceptions.

Kristin Billerbeck:Are You There,God? It's Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume

LeAnne Martin: Corduroy by Don Freeman

Lucy Adams: Favorite Childhood Book:
Since I stuttered I did not like to read.
(Editor Crystal's note: In Lucy's day, children were often made to read aloud.For a child who stuttered, this would've been grueling. No wonder she didn't like to read!)

But I do have one special book with my 3rd grade handwriting. "Annie Louise Neeley" written in the front with my address (Lucy is my nickname.)The title is HYMN STORIES AND PICTURES.About 40 years later, when I began telling on the radio "The Story Behind The Song," I was amazed that I had saved that book from childhood.I believe God was directing my steps toward this wonderful music ministry.
(Crystal Editor's note: I do, too!)

Marti Kramer Suddarth: Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Mary Connealy: Trixie Belden series, Nancy Drew series, The Hardy Boys series, Happy Hollisters

Mary DeMuth: Do not recall any titles that stand out

My Mother Lillian: A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter

Nan Snipes: The Haunted Hound

Robert Elmer: The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

Sarah Sumpolec: The Shoe Books by Noah Streatfield

Sharon Dunn: Nancy Drew and Rifles for Watie

Sharon Hinck: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

Susan Page Davis: Miss Pickerel Goes to Mars (and thousands more!)

Teena Stewart: Little Black, A Pony

Tobi Layton: Miss Suzy and Little House books, and Nancy Drew series

Tricia Goyer: Little House on the Prairie books

Trish Perry: My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Virginia Smith: Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

Terry Whalin: McElligot's Pool by Dr. Seuss

Wendy Lawton: Little Women

I think some day I will ask for the writers' favorite book lists during turning points in their lives. I noticed that in my own thinking about my favorite books, ones that stood out to me also came at significant times in my life.

Now, leave a comment(and tell all of your friends about it) to tell me what your favorite childhood book was (or author) AND your current favorite book (or author.) If I get any comments, I'll leave my favorites in the comment section. If I get more than five comments, I'll draw a name for a $5. Amazon gift certificate next Monday!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Somebody Thinks I'm Nice

Over at The Edgy Inspirational Author, Michelle Sutton gives away tons of books. That makes her really nice in my book. Yesterday, aw shucks, she went and bestowed me with a Nice Blogger Award. I want to thank my mother, whose birthday would've been yesterday, for raising me up right nice. I'd have been a mess if she hadn't worked on me.

“This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you’ve been awarded please pass it on to 7 others who you feel are deserving of this award.”

I'm now passing the salt shaker of all things nice, because I'm so nice, and giving this award to seven nice fellow bloggers (which if you scroll down to My Writer Friends in the sidebar to the right, you will note that ALL of them deserve this award, maybe far more than I do.) It was hard to choose just 7, so I shut my eyes and these are the ones my benevolent finger landed on:

Nancy J. Ring at Anchors, Signposts and Wanderings where she invites readers to join her on "Forks, bends, detours, scenery, and fellow travelers I've discovered while Exploring the Path Home." She has been my friend and even a critiquer for many years, seeing me through many stages of my development.

LeAnne Martin at Christians in the Arts is my next choice. This award probably won't show up on her blog, because she is too busy being nice by featuring some of the best artists in the nation on her blog. LeAnne, like Nancy, has been in my critique/friendship group, helping me along, adding SALT in my life.

Teena Stewart, another friend from my SALT group with whom I've even co-authored articles,is over at Whispers in the Dark, a blog about suspense writing. Teena has a book coming out on Small Groups soon, and I'll be featuring her when that happens. I'll also be talking about her move across the country to open a coffee shop ministry with her husband.

Delia at Gatorskunkz and Mudcats is really nice and was one of the very first people to post a comment here. She inspires me to be a better person and to write more. I can't imagine blogging without Delia.

Sabrina Fox is my Hoosier writing and reader buddy who helps to navigate while I'm driving my Jeep, too. She speaks kind words about everyone, even when they are a little ouchy. I've never heard her speak ill of anyone.

Cara Putnam is a controlled F-5 tornado! She has more energy in her little toe than I have, well, in my whole foot (and then some.) But she always takes time to share her joys and prod slowpokes, and work on my perfectionism in a nice way. She has several books coming out over the next few years.

Mary Connealy was my first victim, er, interview in the Chat 'n' Chew Cafe'. Not only is she a good sport, she shares with us her techno-disasters (I'm not sure why she isn't writing disaster movies--remember Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, the Titanic, and Airplane? Stuff like that? Mary kind of lives it in cyberspace.)She makes me laugh and pats me on the head once in a while.

Now, ever'body mind yer manners and pass that gravy over here.

P.S. Some of the above will be featured in When I Was Just a Kid this month, so be sure to check back for those!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

When I Was Just a Kid...Susan Page Davis

Susan Page Davis grew up in Belgrade, Maine, a tiny town that touches several lakes and is therefore a resort area. The population doubles its size in summer as people from every state come to stay at their “camps.”

Susan says, "My father was the game warden there for many years, and our family had lived in town for seven generations."

Susan always made up stories and enjoyed make-believe play.

"I have a few stories I wrote as a child, including Marooned on an Island and House of the Dead. Oh, yeah. Nowadays my books have titles like Frasier Island and Homicide at Blue Heron Lake."

(Anyone else recognize a pattern set here?)

Susan was the youngest of five children, and admits to feeling an extreme rivalry with the sister next to her in age.

Susan explains,"Now, in our adulthood, I can see that it was mostly in my head, and Mim and I are very close. But there were times when we demanded that our bunkbeds be dismantled so we could sleep on opposite sides of the room and drew a line down the floor between."

Susan also has a nickname.

"They tell me that when I was very young I saw the Disney cartoon 'The Water Babies,' and I insisted on being called “Water Baby” for quite some time. When my siblings want to get a rise out of me 50 years later, they still call me 'Water Baby.'"

Susan remembers a wonderful childhood in a big old house with loving parents and tolerant siblings.

And what makes you into the writer you are today?
Susan says,"We had lots of books, and both my parents were avid readers. We had space to ramble, play Indians, build tree houses, and keep a horse when I got older. I always thought we were poor, but now I see we were very rich, though the income was small.

Let's get a peek into the childhood of Susan:

Childhood Ambition:
When I was very young, I thought I’d like to own a hotel and be able to put mail and keys in all those pigeonholes behind the desk for guests. Later I thought I’d like to follow my father’s footsteps as a game warden. In the 8-to-10 age period, I salvaged outdated report forms from his den wastebasket and filled out dozens of fictional boating accidents, crop damage, and night hunting reports.

Fondest Memory:
Going with my Dad in the old station wagon and bringing home ten sheep (nine ewes and a ram) to add to our small farm’s livestock. Also, my oldest sister Pat used to “play school” with me in the evening when I was about four. She started teaching me French, geography, and other subjects that I thought were just wonderful and very grown up.

Proudest Moment:
Then—When my kindergarten teacher wrote my mother a note (and I could read it) saying she thought I should skip into second grade the next year.

Now—There are so many to choose from! Seeing all of our six children together again at our older son’s wedding was great. He went off to college a week before our youngest was born, so they haven’t all six been together much. Seeing what our family had become was priceless.

Biggest Challenge as a child or teen:
I always felt I was the uncoordinated one. Of four sisters, I was the only one who never made the cheerleading squad in our tiny school, never could do a real cartwheel, and never could whistle right (only breathing in). Eventually I came to terms with this and found there WERE things I could do (swimming, horseback riding, etc.). I was horribly shy, but have gotten over that by working as a news correspondent, which forces you to buttonhole strangers with the most embarrassing questions! (I still can’t whistle or do a cartwheel).

My First Job:
Picking strawberries for 8 cents a quart.

Childhood indulgence:
Mickey Mouse Club paper dolls. I still have Karen and Cubby.

Favorite Outfit as a child:
White T-shirt with a blue color block on the left third of the front, and two little fish swimming in the blue part. With shorts or khakis.

Favorite Childhood Play Time Activity:
Playing “Bonanza” in the upstairs of our barn. We used old bed headboards and footboards for the false fronts of buildings in our own Virginia City. And jumping in the hayloft full of hay.

Favorite Childhood Movie:
The Wizard of Oz. We didn’t have a TV at first, but our mother let us go to the neighbors’ and watch Oz when it came on once a year.

Favorite Childhood Book:

Miss Pickerel Goes to Mars (and thousands more!)

Childhood Hero:
That would be a toss up between my Dad, Teddy Roosevelt, and Little Joe Cartwright (we got a TV later.) I guess Dad wins, because he was really there. My father taught me a love of history and heritage. He instilled in all of us respect for family and forbears. I’ve written eight historical novels so far for Heartsong Presents, and I often think of Dad as I’m researching. In his last few years, if I told him what time period I was writing about, he would scour yard sales and used book shops to bring me appropriate material.

You can find more about Susan on her web page. And you will want to visit this page as she gives away one of her books each month. The winner chooses the title preferred.

She's also a host at Keep Me In Suspense, a site for writers of Christian mystery and suspense.

And today is the release date for Finding Marie (Harvest House,) a romantic suspense sequel to Frasier Island.Frasier Island was the October 2007 featured selection in Books-A-Million’s Faithpoint Book Club.

Finding Marie
Marie Belanger finds a computer flash drive in her luggage at the airport and learns the woman she sat beside on the plane from Tokyo was murdered. Her journey from San Francisco to Maine becomes a nightmare. Marie runs for her life, not knowing the significance of the data she carries. Her husband, Navy Lieutenant Pierre Belanger, contacts his best friend, George Hudson, and together they set out on a search for Marie that spans the country. Knowing the stakes—Marie’s life and betrayal of an international plot—drives them. But they seem to stay one step behind their enemies, who are a step behind Marie.

The next book will be Just Cause (releases January 2008 from Love Inspired Suspense.)

Homicide at Blue Heron Lake, written with her lovely daughter, Megan Davis(releases February 2008 from Heartsong Presents: Mysteries).

The Lumberjack's Lady is now out from Heartsong Presents. (Susan's bio from Heartsong.)