July 31, 2018

My First Books - Colleen McCubbin

I have two first books: the first book I wrote and the first book I published.

The first book I wrote was in a brown Hilroy scribbler: rags-to-riches meets Little House on the Prairie. Every evening I would write a little more; every morning I would get on the school bus and tell my seat mate, Rhonda, all about my life as a writer. It felt so glamorous.

The little, brown, hand-written novel was heavily edited. Perhaps a better word is “redacted.” I second guessed two or three pages and obliterated everything with ball-point scribbles. Looking back, it was rather a violent process. I don’t remember telling Rhonda about that. Not very glamorous.
Who knows where that scribbler is today. I remember showing it to my mom and my aunt and probably my grandma – all the women who lived on our farm. I remember them praising it. But I don’t remember where it got to. Sigh. It could have been a best seller. Of course, inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder, it could have been an instant classic. Now we’ll never know.

The first book I published was written by my friend Kathleen McMillan. (I interviewed her for the Winter 2018 FellowScript.)  She and I had gone on a private writing retreat—just the two of us—to a cottage in the Okanagan. She was working on an adult novel and I was crafting a song to record at the end of the week. We worked quietly alongside one another, and in between we would cook and eat and talk. Kathleen is a preschool educator who loves to tell stories. She told me about this story she had written, inspired by two of her students, about well-loved bear who goes on adventures and gets into lots of trouble.

My strategic strength started pulsing and I said to Kathleen, “I think we could publish this.”

That was the end of May. We started planning. We used Facebook to gather applications for an illustrator and chose one who went beyond our dreams. We got a quote from Friesens Printers in Altona, Manitoba. Friesens helped us set the timeline. Kathleen took out a small loan and bought a domain name, www.openeyes.ca; I designed a website. I had been working for a small-town newspaper, so I was able to do the layout in Adobe InDesign. I discovered that ISBNs are free in Canada, so registered and got an ISBN. I wish I could remember how I generated that lovely bar code. All bar codes are not created equal! Maybe Friesens provided it. (In the middle of all this, I met and began dating the man I would marry.) I organized a photo shoot and designed some promotional materials. By the end of July, we had our first print run, the first in a series of books about BlueBeary. Kathleen hosted a launch with her preschool, visited blueberry farms in the summer, and we both spoke at schools throughout that year to promote it.

Now I know that publication timelines rarely go this smoothly or this quickly! Beginner’s luck? The grace of God? Definitely the latter! We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we sure had fun in the process!

Unfortunately, we ran out of marketing steam before we ran out of books. They still sell, but very slowly. Very few things sell themselves without some help.

It might be too late for the brown Hilroy scribbler, but I think it’s not too late to generate new interest with a clearance sale on BlueBeary books and then maybe even continue the series. What do you think?
Colleen McCubbin is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Siretona Creative (www.siretona.com). She has been writing since elementary school, with her publications being poems in the Young Cooperator pages of The Western Producer. She has gone on to write songs, record two albums. While she enjoys writing her own material, she loves editing and publishing other people’s work. So far in 2018, her publishing company has worked on at least seven projects.

July 29, 2018

Ornament: A First Book by Bob Jones

My first book was the outcome of an emotional roller coaster of a journey.

The journey began on an August Wednesday in 2011 when an email appeared in my inbox – “things aren’t good.”

Kristen Fersovitch, a twenty-eight year old wife of an Edmonton firefighter and mom of three preschool boys, just heard from her doctor that kidney cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.

“I’m scared.”

Kristen was a seven-year old bundle of energy when we first met. I was the Children's pastor at Central Tabernacle in Edmonton. God gifted Kristen with spunk and the singing voice of an angel. A pastor’s greatest pleasure is staying in the same charge to watch kids grow up, graduate high school, spread their wings, get married and have kids of their own.I got to do that with Kristen.

That August afternoon I called Kristen rather than reply. She cried at her end of the line and my tears were right there with her. We prayed. And then she asked if she could sing and share her story on the following Sunday at church. Singing was Kristen’s way through the ups and downs of her life and this cancer journey would be no exception.

Over the next twenty-four months Kristen would record an album and grace the platform of the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium as a featured soloist, not once but twice in Canada’s premier Christmas event – the Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree. She sang with an American Idol winner and brought tears to the eyes of thousands who witnessed her courage in the face of a terminal cancer diagnosis. 

She was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and her story was shared on CTV, Global and every print media outlet in Edmonton.

Kristen passed away just before the Thanksgiving weekend of 2013. Her funeral – attended by family, friends, politicians, media and strangers whose lives she touched - was the lead story on Global Edmonton. Her oldest son was six.

Along with so many others, I prayed, fasted, and believed for God’s mercy in Kristen’s life. Her husband Mike was desperate for her to be well. Her sons needed their mom alive. Her family and friends spared no effort to support her. But death was God’s answer.  

Ornament: The Faith, Hope and Joy of Kristen Fersovitch became a way of dealing with my grief and disappointment.

Kristen’s life was on display for all to see – just like a beautiful Christmas Tree ornament. She touched so many people who asked similar questions – “How are you holding it together? Where are you finding your strength?”

When life was at its worst, Kristen was at her best. And she gave all the credit to Jesus. “I believe Jesus will heal me but even if he doesn’t I trust God with all my heart.” The book became a way of helping others find the same kind of faith she had. At the end of each chapter, thoughtful questions shone a light to help readers encounter Jesus.

Generous friends of Kristen and mine funded the project. Word Alive Press designed and published the book as a legacy piece – hardcover, with a texture made especially for readers to feel the gentle strength of Kristen when they held the book. Ornament includes pictures of Kristen’s Christmases, including her favorite Christmas tree ornaments. Through sales of the book over $30,000 was raised for an Education Trust fund for the boys.

Ornament was awarded the Canadian Word Press Life Story of the Year in 2016.

Copies are available through Chapters.ca or by emailing bob.pb.jones@gmail.com

Bob is a recovering perfectionist, who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks Iced Tea. His office walls are adorned with his sons’ framed football jerseys, and his library shelves, with soul food. He writes to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose.

Follow his writing at Pointes Of View.

July 28, 2018

When a Man Loves a Rabbit - Bruce Atchison

"You should write a book," coworkers and friends of mine often coaxed. Back in the nineties, I never expected to be an author. But the advent of print-on-demand technology changed all that for me.

Six years of weekday, freelance writing proved to me that I wasn't going to be the next Pierre Berton. I became tired of endlessly reading and querying magazines. A course on writing memoirs seemed to be my escape route from that tedium.

After writing what I thought would be a good autobiography, I realized that it was far too lengthy for a paperback. That's when I hit on the idea of writing a memoir featuring all my long-eared friends.

I worked hard on the book for two years and it was finally published in 2006. When a Man Loves a Rabbit sold a few hundred copies, chiefly because I knew more than six-hundred folks who loved house rabbits as passionately as I did.

I must admit that I wasn't entirely happy with that memoir. A writer friend offered to edit it for only a hundred-and-fifty dollars. She did a decent job but she also made the book sound like she had written it rather than me. That taught me a good lesson, namely not to accept cheap help.

Even so, I'm glad my editor didn't expunge any of my references to Christianity and my faith. Believing in Christ permeates all aspects of my life so having to censor my core beliefs would have forced me to find another editor.

And though we volunteer to follow Jesus, we still are his and must obey him. It isn't an irksome chore either since Matthew 11:30 (KJV) says, "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Our rest is knowing that Christ will take care of us in whatever situation we find ourselves.

July 27, 2018

Get Those Contest Entries In!

Yes, inScribers, it is THAT time of year again! Polish up your prose, poetry, or even a song and enter this year's Fall Contest. It's a wonderful opportunity to refine your work, get feedback, and maybe even win a cash prize!

Here are the categories:
            Devotional – Up to 300 words, including scripture.
            Poetry – Any style, up to 40 lines
            Nonfiction Essay to Conference theme, “The Art of Words”, up to 1500 words
            Adult Fiction – Any genre, up to 1250 words
            Songwriting – Any genre, MP3 recording & 1-2 pages lyrics with chords

For more details, check the website.   

The deadline to send your entries is September 1st, 2018, and you will email your entries in an attached Word document to contests@inscribe.org

Do you have questions? Please contact the contest coordinator at contests@inscribe.org

Happy writing!

(And of course, don't forget to register for Fall Conference, too! It will be a fantastic time of encouragement and learning.)

July 26, 2018

Books on My Shelf - Marnie Pohlmann

I glance over to the bookshelf in my writing room, to the area reserved for my own published books. A frog bookend leans against them, holding them in a neat line against the edge of the case. I admire the spines of their jackets, smiling with both pride and awe.

The first book on the shelf is a devotional. The spine shows balloons stretching out from the front cover where a clown wearing big red shoes and a flower squirting waterdrops is holding the balloons high. A circus tent is in the background of the cover, and the title is in a circus-poster font.

Next to the devotional is another book. There is a whitish cross on the spine of the satiny black cover. If I run my hand over the cross I know it will feel a little raised and rough. The cross is phosphorescent, gathering light throughout the day so it can faintly glow in the evening dark. At least, that is what it is supposed to do. Mass production does not lend itself well to such a special effect, but the idea was there. When readers open the book they soon understand the glowing cross is significant to my life story contained within the pages.

A third book has recently been placed beside these first two publications. My eyes don't focus on the title that stretches across the spine. Instead, I pull the novel from the shelf to look again at the cover. Another cross, but this one sitting in a pool of blood. Marijuana leaves grow up behind the cross. I flip the book over to see my photo on the back with the author’s blurb. Above this, endorsements praise the writing and describe the mystery enclosed within the pages.

If you have not guessed by now, these books only appear on the shelf in my mind and dreams. One day, I trust they will appear in tangible reality on my shelf. Right now, though, they are scattered here and there in various notebooks and computer files, waiting to be gathered and sorted and rewritten into something resembling manuscripts that will then be filled out in the thin parts, coloured in the obtuse parts, and pruned in the parts that don't belong.

Slowly, very slowly, these books will be written - are being written. Occasionally the content changes, but the writing does not stop. And while I walk slower than many, I am learning with each step. These are not just dreams, they are goals because writing for me is a calling by God.

My books are not on my shelf but they are further along than they were last year and the year before that. So, I thank you, my writer friends of Inscribe Fellowship, for being such a “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before me, walk beside me, or are coming up the trail I have been sauntering along. Each of you inspires and encourages me.

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running (or writing)— and never quit!   (Heb 12:1 MSG)

July 25, 2018

Words Matter By Vickie Stam

I suppose some people might think that I'm an unlikely candidate as someone who could ever write a book. I'm here to say that they're wrong. I may not have a book published yet but I do have other pieces of my work in print. 

A magazine article which shows beyond doubt that I have been published, an anthology documenting my father's sudden stroke and a letter of mine is in print between the pages of my good friend's first book. All of these I consider wonderful stepping stones to making my dream of writing a book become a reality.    

Over the past few years I have been penning stories that reflect the different events I've experienced in my life. So you  might wonder how the word, 'unlikely' even entered this story since the word is surrounded by an ugly shadow of skepticism. The answer is simple - there are times when I allow it to. 

Of course like many other writers I am fearful of rejection.  Life has shown me that not all people are encouragers. Not all people think I will succeed. Not all people are in my corner.  

Words can be both good and bad. I've been on the receiving end of some of the most hurtful words, words that fell from the lips of people I trusted. 

I was so frustrated when I was enrolled in a class with other fellow writer's - a critiquing class. I placed my stories into the hands of strangers and allowed them to offer their feedback. Even though it was a critiquing class I didn't realize just how harsh some people would be. I was totally naïve in thinking that all feedback would come as encouragement since we were all in the class with the same motive - to write a book. 

But I was met with some pretty harsh words, two of which still have left a pang in my heart. "Who cares!" a classmate spewed out over a specific line in my story. These two words didn't offer me any wisdom on my strength or weakness as a writer. 
Proverbs 15:4 "A tender answer turns away rage, but a prickly reply spikes anger." Quoted from The Voice - reader's bible     

Of course I wanted to defend my story, instead I just stared at my classmate, not taking my eyes off of her for a second. In that moment I refused to show her how much those two little words had hurt me. Just because I was surrounded by others who had a love for writing didn't mean that we were speaking the same language. 

After some discussion with other writer's, not in my class, I came to realize that critiquers will misunderstand, make wrong assumptions and miss the things that seem totally clear to me as the writer. It's the harsh reality of allowing my work to be seen by total strangers. Still, our words are the direct evidence of where our heart is at. I can only listen to what others have to say and  then be willing to let it go. 

What's important is what God has intended for me. Indeed, I have a passion for words even thought they have the potential to build a person up or tear them down. 

My book consists of pages, pages filled with words that will one day be sewn together, bound between a cover that bears my name. My book will be finished when I am ready to let it go - let my words matter to someone who does care. 


"God will meet you where you are in order to take you where He wants you to go." Quote from Tony Evans   


July 22, 2018

A Hope To Yet Realize by Alan Anderson

“Okay you abcs keep the noise down. I’m trying to write my blog post for our InScribe blog.” Oops, sorry reader friends, I was using my inside voice talking to the words in my head who are eager to get out. The little rascals can get a bit over rambunctious.

The writing prompt for this month asks writers to “Tell us about your first book.” My first book hasn’t been published yet. I guess I could end this post right there but readers may want to know more. Well, ok, since you asked I’ll say more.

Like I said my first book hasn’t been published yet. Did you catch it? I used the word “yet” at the end of the previous sentence. It is indeed a hope to have my first book published as a sole author. Did you notice my tricky use of wording in that last sentence? Okay, I’ll explain.

I had the honour of having four stories published last year in a book I co-authored called Good Grief People (Angel Hope Publishing). I mean it was an amazing experience to have wordy babies of mine sent into the world. It has motivated me even more to persevere in having a book, short stories and articles published.

When I was a healthcare chaplain I remember sitting by the bedside of an elderly woman. During a visit she told me about her life (I’ve heard a lot of life stories from people) including her love of writing. When she informed me she was a writer I became even more excited about her story. In a matter of fact way she said, “I used to love to write but now the words in my head are all muddled. I can’t put them together anymore.”

After hearing those sobering words I realized I must keep on writing. My calling to write is sweet and I love it as much as breathing. My dear writing friends I hope you agree with me. Perhaps you say with me, “I must write!”

I write for a particular audience. They are those who feel hard pressed by the burdens they struggle with in life. They are those screaming at God for the unfairness that has violated their lives. I write for those who grieve everyday that their children have been robbed of life. I write for those trying to make their way through the tunnel of depression. They deserve a voice to encouraging them to know they are not alone.

Without trying to sound melodramatic or heroic, I am one of their voices. I am acquainted with grief over the loss of children. I know the darkness of the tunnel. I know that God loves us even when we believe we are lost and without hope.

Hope without cleaning up the muck of life is what I write. That’s what my blog, Scarred Joy, for instance, is all about. That is what the voices of the words in my head and heart are all about. They are the stories often not heard in this crazy world and society we are part of.

My writing as I persevere may not be the most endearing to people. On the other hand, I know some will resonate with such a voice. It is for those I have mentioned that my hope to be published again will be realized.

Blog: scarredjoy.wordpress.com

July 21, 2018

Who is Talking Out of My Head? by Jocelyn Faire

Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that is wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons? The MSG Matt 23:24

Tell us your story ... Taken out of context the above verse inspired me to hit Publish with a grin!
Truly, my first (and only book thus far) was written by a reluctant author. Walking along the pathways in my prairie home town—possibly two months after the accident that ripped apart my well ordained and blessed life—there was a knowing, a voice inside my head telling me that someday I would have to tell my story. This knowing made me aware that I was to walk through the grief journey in a way that would honour God. But I never found the
instruction manual on how to do grief well, the Good Grief Book 101. Surely God, after allowing two children to be taken away from their parents, would want their marriage to survive? Surely God, would orchestrate that. So I tried bargaining. I will write IF there is a happy ending. I wanted the “and despite of their loss, they lived happily ever after, with a deeper understanding of God's love for them.” I wanted the story to conclude that way. Instead God reminded me in the Message that God, not your marital status defines your life. (1Corinthians 7:17) And I said—let's tell some of your church people that. All I felt was judgment on top of loss. And God said I will love you with an everlasting love.
Over the years He has reminded me that, No one who hopes in me ever regrets it. (Isaiah 49:23)
The voice persisted, and in obedience I began to write my story ... the conviction grew that God was with me in the writing. He provided signs and encouragement along the way for this reluctant author. 
My writing began in earnest in Australia in 2009. My first writing class happened there, an eight week evening course on writing your own story. My opening chapter was penned in that warm second floor classroom at the University of Western Australia. The instructor gave valuable feedback on showing versus telling. In my apartment kitchen I set up my laptop computer on my concocted desk created by balancing a flat piece of wood across the opened cupboard. And there I punched down the first few chapters. I received excellent advice from my brainy sister, who has published articles: Get it professionally edited, she told me. As I did not know anyone in writing circles, I prayed about this and searched online for a professional editor. I made contact with an editing service in Calgary and after my manuscript was submitted, the chief editor suggested I would benefit from a second read. I did not feel I had the money for this, and this wonderful Crystal wrote back to me to say ... “I share your faith, and I believe your story needs to be told. I will finish the process without the extra fee.” I was humbled, encouraged and very grateful.
What began in Australia was concluded in Canada over a period of three and a half years. It was five years ago that I officially launched Who Is Talking out of my Head? Grief as an Out of Body Experience.
I also suggested to God, that He be in charge of marketing. He encouraged me to sign up for a Social Media class ... It was very difficult to promote a book that you hardly want to talk about. A book that left me feeling quite vulnerable. Now that more time has passed, I do not feel quite as exposed.

My granddaughter at the book launch
People have often asked me if writing the book was cathartic. I would have to say No. Writing in my journals was, that was where I could freely express myself. But in the process of getting a book ready, it was the editing and re-reading that I found painful. I do not think I ever got through the first chapter without tears. In the process of showing not telling, there was a lot of re-living the deep pain that happened. I know the experts often suggest a ten year gap between the experience and the writing. I knew that I would not be able to sit on this story that long. So in that sense perhaps the healing did happen with the writing of it.  
I also did not want the tragedy to be the final mark on my life. I do have another manuscript in the works. What will become of it? I'm uncertain. This is a quote from the introduction of BECOMING:

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

My, isn't she BECOMING ...
But becoming what?
Life in the Aftermath

Becoming is a spiritually reflective look at life, in the Aftermath of disappointment. Disappointment comes in all shapes and sizes. From the moment we are born we are trained to expect disappointment, trained to overcome it. But there are times it overcomes us. And where do we go from there? What will become of us when it overwhelms?
As part of an ever-changing life landscape, it intrigues me that becoming is adjective, noun and verb. As an adjective, becoming describes a person with attractive qualities, as a noun it means “the process of coming to be something or of passing into a state,” and as a verb it indicates transition.

This series of reflections arise from a woman who has experienced deep trauma, and who is coming to terms with the aftermath of dramatic life changes.

This is the story of a life rebuilding process, of becoming someone new, a becoming change. 

Jocelyn is the author of Who Is Talking Out of My Head, Grief as an Out of Body Experience