Monday, June 25, 2012

Writing from the Heart

    Today Laura Smith shares the inspiration behind her book 
      In All Things: Giving Thanks When Hope Seems Lost.

What inspired me to write and actually have my story published was an accumulation of numerous events. My original intent was never to publish a book however; when I had one person read it and then another, and another, the feedback was amazing! It was like a sense of urgency that the message within was something people needed to hear. And even the men who have read it have been profoundly affected.

When I was very young, I remember sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen on the floor while my grandparents and their friends sat at the table playing cards. They would play for hours and hours and often times into the night. While I would sit there on the floor, I was very content in doing so because I was in my own little world doing what I never imagined would be my heart’s desire later in life. I was writing stories and songs and reading them or singing them out loud for my card-playing family to adore. Now, thinking back to that time (I was only about 4-years old and had no idea how to even write my name let alone a story or a song), I have concluded that it had to be God planting within me the inspiration and desire to write.

The life events that sparked this book began in my teen years where I remember wondering why I was even on this earth, or why would God put me in a family that didn’t seem to even want me. I was always called a mistake and they would tease me when I was younger saying that they found me on the streets of St. Paul. It’s no wonder that I married the town rebel two weeks after my high school graduation! Finally someone loved me and I wasn’t going to let that go. Fast forward 18 years, two daughters later and a divorce, I re-married. I had found out that my youngest daughter was molested by her biological dad when she was only two years old. She was diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and Bipolar disorder. My oldest daughter was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis and she faces numerous back surgeries and many other trials.  Then I was told that my husband and I would never have a child of our own. But wait! After weeks of being sick and a random pregnancy test to rule out that possibility, I’m PREGNANT! A miracle! It took us weeks to absorb this miracle and the growing excitement from our entire family. But, I lost the baby 3 months into the pregnancy.

While some write to entertain, I found the writing process was very healing for me. Journaling through trials helped me to empty the pain of the day from my heart onto paper so I could start fresh the next day. This was the case when I initially started writing In All Things. It was simply in a journal and was a way for me to try and process the grief of going through miscarriage. I write very honestly and hold nothing back. I believe that by the power of our testimony others can find healing. I also believe sugar coating things makes for a nice story but has no impact. The first editor I contacted to go through my book wanted me to remove a lot of life events because it wasn’t “Christian” like.  Well, I’m sorry but I’m a real person and I experience real life issues and others need to hear the real stuff.

Since the publishing of this book, I have had inspiration for another book to be the second in the “In All Things” series. The next one will be In All Things: Expect A Miracle which will be an account of the amazing two years going through my dad’s cancer journey with him. Also since publishing, I have been asked to speak at a few local events and my desire is to be able to do that more. I feel that when you can share your story in person, it can touch people more profoundly.  At one of the events where I shared my story, there was a lady in the audience that was healed instantly from the pain of miscarriage she was suffering from for two years! I would love the opportunity to see others find that same healing and freedom to live again. I encourage others with a personal story to get it out there. The reward and I don’t mean monetary is far greater than the fear. 

Author Bio: Laura works as a medical coding and reimbursement specialist in Northern Minnesota. In All Things is a witty and raw account of an otherwise normal life filled with incredible challenges that will make you laugh out loud and cry tears of joy and tears of sorrow. Her little family had no idea that the life experiences they walked through early on and one life altering event would prepare them for the near death of her oldest daughter.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Deliver What You Promise

When I first receive a nonfiction article submission, I glance at the title.  But if the title fails to promise what it plans to deliver in terms of content, I’ll ask the writer for a new title.

Recently, I had a submission with a title that led me to believe that the piece would be about specific scientists helping people in unique ways.  Instead, the article centered more on the inventions than on the scientists.  So the author had two choices:  either change the title to reflect an emphasis on the inventions or revise the article to focus on the scientists. 

Titles should reflect what the piece is about.  They can be straightforward, but a creative title works better when writing for young children.  For example, I titled one of my own nonfiction pieces “Wild Thing.”  The title entices children to read about the unruly plant known as kudzu. 

Titles should ideally pique a reader’s interest.  My article “Below the Sidewalks of Pioneer Square” makes people wonder:  what lurks underneath the city streets?   An article written by Erin K. Schonauer and Jamie C. Schonauer and published in Stories for Children Magazine was titled "The Cresent's Ghostly Guests".  Makes you curious, huh? 

Here are some tips in choosing titles:

Choose a title after you’ve written the article. 
Keep the title short.
Use playful titles and alliteration for a very young audience. 
Use snappy titles for older children.
Create intrigue.
Read your article again and see if the title is a good fit.

Nonfiction article titles don’t have to be boring.  Aim to create a title that will pique the interest of an editor and of course, the audience.  Above all, remember to relate the title to the content of the piece.  That way, you won’t disappoint your readers by promising them something you haven’t quite delivered.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Worms and School Visits

Not long ago, I volunteered again at the Children’s Garden at the Arboretum.  My station was set up to teach kids about recycling and to show them live worms.  Every kid—even the girls—stretched out their hands to hold a slimy wiggly worm.  And they loved it.  They giggled and squealed.  Holding and feeling the worms helped the children connect with the mini lesson.

What does this have to do with writing for children?  Plenty!  Imagine you’re doing a school visit.  You sit before a group of children.  You open your book, read a page and then show the illustrations.  But halfway through the story, a kid or two loses interest.  Soon more kids are talking, and only a handful is paying attention.  How can you avoid this?  How can you guarantee that you’ll have an entire captive audience? 

Several days before your visit, locate items that are mentioned in your picture book which are easy to transport and light enough for children to hold.  You can bring items that are interesting to touch, taste, and smell.  Take small musical percussion instruments so that children can make sounds that may relate to the story.  Put the objects in a colorful box in the order in which they appear in your story, so that when you reach for them, you can easily pass them out.  Reinforce listening by having the children raise their hands if they are holding an object that is mentioned in the book. 

By using their senses, children will connect better with the story.  More, they will actually be involved in the story.  Children will not only enjoy your presentation, they will remember you.  (And if your book is about worms, you’ll have a giggly, squealing audience—just don’t forget the wipes!)