Eyes on Jesus

Anita Mellott writes to encourage others on their journey of life. With a background in journalism and mass communications, she has worked for more than ten years as a writer/editor in the nonprofit world.
She balances homeschooling and the call to write, and blogs at From the Mango Tree (http://amellott.wordpress.com/).

The line snaked through the lobby and the auditorium, spilling out through the doors of the Carter Center even though the book signing was well into its third hour.

“People have been here since 1 pm,” an attendant said as he laughed.

“Even though we only opened the doors at 3 pm,” chimed in another.

Several white, linen-draped tables piled high with books lined the walls. Secret Service agents stood at intervals along the way. Families and individuals milled around waiting for President Carter’s autograph. Muted chatter echoed through the building.

I moved the stroller back and forth to keep my toddler entertained as we waited. I noticed a familiar figure go through security and then begin striding purposefully in my direction. She drew closer and passed within inches of me, without a second glance to the left or right.

“Hi Deb,” I called. She hesitated and stopped mid-step. Turning around, her gaze fell on me. “Oh. Hi Anita.” She came up and faced me, with a rueful grin. “I’m sorry I didn’t see you. My eyes were on Steve.” And she pointed to her husband who was several feet ahead in the line.

We fell into an easy conversation and parted ways after a while. But her comment, “my eyes were on Steve” lingered in my mind.

What would my writing journey be like if my eyes were fixed on Jesus? Would I struggle as much with doubts and fears? How would I handle rejection? And publication?

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way…” Hebrews 12:1-2; The Message

Anita Mellott
From the Mango Tree

Music and Writing

Art inspires art. It amazes me how many master paintings have come from a scene from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poems. Or how many musicians will say they were inspired by a certain book or movie.

It seems that that creative community turns to itself when in need of fresh inspiration. When I want to craft a scene, I often find myself flipping through old copies of Victoria Magazine to find the “feel” I want to create. Others I know keep pictures of characters, rooms and even snap shots of movie scenes.

Once question I often hear among writers is, “Do you write to music?”

It seems many of us have discovered that music is a way to tap into the emotion one wants on page and keep it there during the grueling, writing, editing, polishing phase.

For this poll, I’m asking specifically about music?

Do You Write To Music?(survey software)

Guest Blog ~ Unconventional Success ~ Mindy Ferguson

Unconventional Success
by Mindy Ferguson

I confess that as a Christian writer, there have been times when I have been discouraged as I watched for measurable signs of success rather than choosing to simply write as God leads. In our results oriented society, where job promotions and public accolades are won by meeting tangible objectives, it’s difficult to accept that faithfulness to God and our calling is success.

In other words, regularly blogging messages God places upon your heart is success, regardless how many followers are listed or comments are posted. Prayerfully declining an opportunity to write an article for a trade magazine is success if it would distract you from completing a script that you feel compelled to write.

I recently studied the prophet Isaiah’s call to ministry. Interestingly, when the Lord commissioned Isaiah as a prophet, He made it clear that Isaiah’s messages would fail to bring repentance or healing in Israel. The prophet appeared to be a bit distraught by the Lord’s bleak assessment of his ministry results:

Then Isaiah said, “For how long, O Lord?” And the Lord answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land (Isa. 6:11-13 NIV).”

Wow! Not exactly the type of motivational message one might expect when being commissioned for the Lord’s work. It seems logical that if Isaiah was doing what God had ordained him to do, his ministry would produce desirable results. After all, if we are obedient, shouldn’t we expect success?

But Isaiah was to measure his success by his obedience, not by results. Sadly, conditions in Israel declined despite everything the Lord had Isaiah do and say. God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will (Eph. 1:11) and He was at work through Isaiah.

Isaiah was told that a “holy seed” would remain in Israel. The Lord said that remnant would be like a deeply rooted stump that remains after all the trees on a piece of property are cut down. By God’s divine work and plan, that stump that remained eventually produced the Seed, which is Jesus Christ, who was born to save not only the nation of Israel—but all nations.

When we faithfully deliver messages God calls and equips us to write, we too are successful in the eyes of our Lord. That means we shouldn’t be discouraged by what we perceive to be a lack of results. God is always at work and He is able to bring about results in His way and in His time. We never know what “holy seed” might be planted through our writing. Our God measures our success by our faithful obedience.

Bio:

Mindy Ferguson speaks nationally at women’s events and has been involved in women’s ministry for years, teaching Bible studies, writing curriculum, and coordinating special events. Mindy is the author of Hugs Bible Reflections for Women (Howard Books) and the in-depth Bible study, Walking with God: From Slavery to Freedom; Living the Promised Life (Hensley Publishing). She lives in a suburb of Houston, Texas with her husband of twenty-three years and their two children.

Guest Blogger ~ Sandra D. Bricker

Sandra D. Bricker has been publishing in both the Christian and general markets for years with novels for women and teens, magazine articles and short stories. With 12 books in print and another slated for publication in 2011, Sandie has carved out a niche for herself as an author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the inspirational market. The Big 5-OH!, her first novel for Abingdon Press, hits shelves in February 2010. Sandie was an entertainment publicist for 15+ years, an experience that fuels her penchant for promoting her books with flare and creativity. She currently writes while working a day job as a content editor in Tampa, Florida, where she resides with a free-spirited collie named Sophie.
The Keys to Unlocking a Killer Book Proposal
In recent years, I’ve received a lot of comments on my book proposals from editors and agents. They’ve been appreciated, and sometimes praised, for their clean look, concise delivery of information, and attention to the publisher’s concerns about marketing.
To be fair, I should reveal that my proposal-creating skills stem from a background that not a lot of authors have. I was an entertainment publicist for 15+ years, and I learned during that time how to write a great press release, create media kits and organize information in a way that appeals to “skimmers” (those folks too busy to read every word; they just skim).
So, with that in mind, what makes up a great book proposal?
BREVITY. Editors have very little time. There is a picture of an editor in some dictionary out there, positioned right next to the definition of Skimmer. Bear in mind that they have anywhere from a dozen to a hundred proposals on their To Do list on any given day, and you’re only going to get a minute or so to capture their attention. The quickest way to blow it? Ignoring this tip to Be Brief.
FOCUS. Sure, you’re a fascinating individual with a ton of great experience. But try to keep your target audience in mind with each and every word on the page. Ask yourself one question: What part of my experience is MOST likely to tell this editor that I’m someone they want onboard? For me, my marketing experience is always something I try to include, even if it’s just one sentence. In addition, three readers’ choice recognitions for my first novel in the inspirational market tells them that I’m building a reader base among their specific demographic.
ORGANIZATION. Be sure to organize the information in a clean, concise way.
1. Title Page
a. Include your name, contact numbers, email address, Web site and/or blog address. If you have an agent that will be submitting it for you, be sure to include their information.
b. Give them the basics.
• The title of the novel
• The approximate word count of the finished product
• The type of book it is (mine always say something like “A Laugh-Out-Loud Romantic Comedy for the Inspirational Market”)
• A log line for the novel (for Always the Baker, Never the Bride, the log line was “They say you can’t have your cake and eat it, too; but who would want a cake you couldn’t eat?”)
• A brief overview that reads like a back cover blurb, no more than a paragraph.

2. Author Information Page
a. A short bio, a half page at most. Remember: Brevity and Focus. What experience do you have that makes you the perfect author to round out this particular publisher’s list?
b. Add some brief marketing information. Be sure to demonstrate a clear understanding of your readership and how you plan to reach them. DO NOT present pie-in-the-sky dreams of what you want to do; instead, present what you’ve done before, and what you will do again.
c. It’s often helpful to include what I call The Short List, a brief mention of comparable books (successful novels that generated solid sales figures) already out there. If you can’t think of any, it’s better to skip this element than to say something like, “There’s nothing out there like this! It’s completely unique!”
d. If you’re a multi-published author, this will be the spot where you’ll include some sales figures to demonstrate your ability to sell books.

3. Synopsis
a. There are many schools of thought on the length of a solid proposal synopsis, but I like to keep it to about 2-3 pages because you want to capture the editor’s attention with the least amount of words.
b. You don’t have to worry about throwing in all of the unexpected plot twists. This is an overview of your story. One of the most important tips I can give you from the feedback I’ve received from editors is this: Be sure to write your synopsis in the voice and tone of the book you’re proposing. This is a very small but important stage where you can showcase you personality as a writer. For instance, my synopses are narrated with a present tense comedic tone.
• Example: When her father shows up for the opening at the same time, Emma suspects that Jackson’s so-called Family Circus is going to look awfully tame in the reflection of the Travis Cirque de Soleil!
c. I like to propose a question at the end of a short synopsis; something that makes the editor want to know more, while revealing just a hint of where I’m headed with the story.
• Example: Can these two ill-suited players master the high-wire act and make a go of their new business venture? Or will they take each other crashing downward, without a net?

4. Sample Chapters
a. A proposal will usually include the first three chapters; however, this is not a hard and fast rule. It is dependent upon your writing style and the length of your chapters.
b. A general rule of thumb: Include the first 40-50 pages of your novel.
c. Be very certain to format and organize these pages so that your excerpt concludes at a prime point that will make an editor really want to keep reading to see what happens next.
Olivia Wallace can’t remember a birthday that wasn’t marked by illness, tragedy or both. And now, as she approaches The Big Five-Oh, she is determined to change her course. Better late than never, right? That’s what Liv believes when she leaves a snowy Ohio winter behind and runs away to Florida to regroup. Amidst a crazy cast of characters that include a dog with a lampshade collar, a rogue alligator and a flirtatious octogenarian, Liv finds the biggest birthday surprise of all … A second chance at love.
To read a review of The Big 5-Oh! click here.