Filling Up Your Well

by Katherine Reay, @Katherine_Reay

Writers are readers. There is no way around that. To created deep and meaningful stories, to create fun and fast stories, to create any stories – one needs to read lots of stories. When pushed up against a deadline, it’s are hard to read many or even any books – and I will admit that during those last frenetic days, other writer’s books go away as I get deeper into my own. However, the minute my manuscript is handed in, I’m empty. There isn’t a shred of creativity left…

And that when what I call the “well of good stories” must be refilled. I dig into the world and words of others, relishing their creativity and getting excitement about my own – when it returns.

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Here are a few favorites I’ve come across recently. This list is by no means exhaustive; it’s more of a tasting of good books I’ve read:

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (Death is fascinating!)

Did you Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg (Incredible narrative voices and so many of them)

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Multigenerational tale with multiple POVs)

The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge (Delightful retelling/sequel to a beloved classic)

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Wonderful setting and cadence of language)

Please in the comments add your favorites. We should share because reading is an essential aspect to writing. And winter is a wonderful time to curl up with a good book.



The Austen Escape

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.
But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.
Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

Katherine Reay is the award-winning author of Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy& Jane and The Bronte Plot, an ALA Notable Book Award Finalist. Her latest novel, A Portrait of Emily Price, released in November 2016 and received Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and a Romantic Times TOP PICK!All Katherine’s novels are contemporary stories with a bit of classical flair. She holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, rehabbing runner, former marketer, and avid chocolate consumer. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine now happily resides outside Chicago, IL.

5 Ways to Nurture Your Creativity During Christmas

by Susan May Warren

First, I’ll just admit that I’m a bit of a writing addict.  I LOVE to write, even the rough draft stages and when I get an entire day to write it’s like, well, Christmas.  But I also love my family and just hanging out with them, doing puzzles, making cookies, chatting, laughing…so I love that there are mandatory breaks in my life to pry me away from my stories.  When I am in the middle of writing a book, up against a deadline, I’m so full of excitement it’s difficult to look up.  To eat.  To speak clearly.

But, because of Christmas, my brain gets a chance to breathe.

Letting your brain breathe is essential for creativity.  Even when I’m in the middle of a book, taking a day or two off to look up, get out in some fresh air, have a fun, no-stress conversation with friends can stir up a new perspective in my story, a fresh thematic thread, a undiscovered scene.  Letting my brain breathe also breathes new life into my novel.
So, while I won’t be writing, per say, over Christmas, I’ll still be working….and here’s how.
5 effective ways to breathe new life into your creativity while you let your brain cool off.
1. Get outside. Take a walk, run, go play on a playground…just breathe in the fresh air, the sunshine, listen to the wind, smell the snow/leaves/grass.  Somehow being away from the television, the football game (but TiVo it, because, well…it’s football!), the chatter, even the smells of the kitchen will allow you hear your thoughts.  And it’s these thoughts that will allow your creativity to stir to life.
2. Listen.  Here’s the truth:  I get in trouble when I open my mouth.  So, I force myself to listen.  And not just to the happenings in the family, but the stories of the past, and particularly the details of life in the days of our elders. Listen to the rich tales of the past and let it seed ideas for your novels (especially if you are a historical writer).  Take a few notes, ask a few questions and you’ll be surprised and delighted with the things you learn and the seeds of creativity planted.
3. Read a book. Preferably a novel. I suggest reading outside your genre because it will force you to relax and simply let a great novel nurture your creative side.  Turn off your internal editor and simply enjoy the characters, setting, plot points, even theme.  Even though you are not spending time analyzing it, the elements will sit into your brain like fertilizer, and allow those new ideas to grow.  Hey, it’s Christmas – give yourself the gift of reading!
4. Read your Bible, or some other spiritually nourishing book.  I read Oswald Chambers as well as my Bible every day and the daily nourishment of spiritual truth helps me sort out the focus of my daily tasks and even my novels. But when I have a stretch of time like Christmas break, I take extra time to read something that digs deeper – a longer Bible passage, maybe study the Greek of a verse, or perhaps I’ll read a commentary on a passage. (On my lineup for this year:  Jesus is better than you imagined.  I’m already three chapters in and love it.)  It’s like getting a deep tissue massage of my soul, working out the poisons of life and letting the truth flow.  In our busy worlds, if we don’t take time to feed our spirit, we will end up thirsty, and looking to quench it in quick, even unhealthy ways. Feed your soul now, while you have a moment.
5. Go to church. I’ve had the unique opportunity the past few weeks to attend churches different from my home church.  I love the freshness of a new worship situation – even a different denomination.  Over Thanksgiving, I attended a Lutheran church with my parents and soaked in the reverence the liturgy brings to my worship.  A few weeks before, I attended a fresh young church in the inner city with my daughter, and joined the exuberant praise of the college-age students. Their buoyant joy filled my heart with a new enthusiasm for praise.  Both pastors then offered sermons that gave me story ideas and answers for scenes I was struggling with.  I was able to go home, take notes on what I’d heard, and apply them to my story.  All that “breathing time” finally bore fruit.
I don’t know what your Christmas season includes, but give your brain time to breathe, and you’ll find that you’ll return in the new year ready to tackle those NaNoWriMo edits!
Merry Christmas!
Susie May
Susan May Warren is owner of Novel Rocket and the founder of Novel.Academy. A Christy and RITA award-winning author of over fifty novels with Tyndale,BarbourSteeple HillSummerside Press and Revell publishers, she’s an eight-time Christy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, and a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation, she’s also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: Contact her at:

A Poem for a Writer’s Heart

Available on Amazon

I receive
poems from the wonderful British poet, Malcolm Guite every week and they always
stir my soul. This week the poem he sent also stirred my writer’s heart. They are such good words to ponder as a writer or artist of any kind so I thought
I would share them with you today. Be blessed, Marcia Lee Laycock

As If  
by Malcolm Guite
Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that
would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 
The Giver of all gifts asks me
to give!
The Fountain from which every good thing flows,
The Life who spends himself that all might live,
The Root whence every bud and blossom grows,
Calls me, as if I knew no limitation,
As if I focused all his hidden force,
To be creative with his new creation,
To find my flow in him, my living source,
To live as if I had no fear of losing,
To spend as if I had no need to earn,
To turn my cheek as if it felt no bruising,
To lend as if I needed no return,
As if my debts and sins were all forgiven,
As if I too could body forth his Heaven.
Of himself, Malcolm says –
I am a poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge,
but I often travel round Great Britain, and to North America, to give
lectures, concerts and poetry readings. This autumn I will be speaking
in London, Salisbury, Winchester, and Needham Market. For more details
of these and other engagements go to my Events Page. You can read more about who I am and what I do on the Interviews Page

Visit Malcom’s Blog

An exciting recent project with Canadian musician Steve Bell:

Create. Create. Just Create.

By Michael Ehret

I haven’t learned a lot, comparatively, in my walk with God. Sometimes it seems like I’ve learned more, sometimes less. But there are a few things I’ve learned (and these aren’t all of them) over the years:

How do you create?

1. God loves me the way I am and wants me to allow Him to show me how I can become more like Him. (Sort of like how I loved my infant son when he was born but, man, am I glad I’m not still changing that almost 32-year-old’s diaper.)

2. The more I learn the less I seem to know about God and how He works. (This is OK, because it fuels my hunger for Him. By the time I die, I have high hopes of being a complete idiot about God.)

Then there’s this:

3. God won’t show you a truth in your life until you’re ready to see it. (Because, if you won’t see it, why show you?)

Recently a blog post by Esther de Charon de Saint Germain made its way around Facebook. The post, “Why Art Is Important for Highly Sensitive Persons,” opened a previously shut door into my personality for me.

In it, Esther wrote:

We (highly sensitive people) are the ones who remain seated in the movie theatre. Long after the move has ended. Because we need to compose ourselves before re-entering the world.

We are the ones unable to speak after that gloriously beautiful concert. It’s not because we don’t like you. Give us some time. We’re processing. There are no words yet. … We still are the music. We’re still living in the world of feelings, emotions.

Wait, hang on. I’m still in the moment.

She goes on to talk in detail about how being highly sensitive might look in real life—how it looks for her—how it might look if you are also one. Through it all, I’m nodding, nodding, nodding. Agreeing, experiencing the post.

Then, while reading, I see:


And that’s when I get that feeling in my gut I’ve come to identify as a nudge from the Holy Spirit: “Hey, if you pay attention here, you might learn something.”

Esther writes:

But … creating our own art is scary. We sensitive peeps have set some pretty high standards for (ourselves). We fear we are not good enough at it.

How can we get the multitude of ideas in our head on a sheet of paper? All we can see is how flawed it will be…

If you are a highly sensitive person—and not all writers are, by far—can I suggest that you try harder to silence the self-talk Esther writes about that is convincing you, even more than any negative outside voices you might encounter, that you’re just not good enough? Don’t work so hard to convince yourself you’re not good enough, creative enough, talented enough.

Create to live. Live to create.

She writes:

Because if that’s the kind of chatter that goes on in your head, it means you Most Definitely need to make art. Find a course, get those pencils out of the drawer. Use your trait.

If you’re an HSP, like me, sometimes you just need to create. You need to write without your internal editor. You need to garden giving no thought to practicality. You need to color outside the lines of your adult coloring book because that’s your creativity—your art.

Write your prayers. Sing them. Dance them. Read your daily devotional out loud in your best Donald Duck voice—do what your muse (or your whim) tells you to do. Open your mind to the possibilities. Just create.

Just create.

Question: Other than write in your latest WIP, what do you do to be creative? How do you feed your creativity?


Michael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian
Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a
marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for
The Indianapolis
News and The Indianapolis Star.