Hola, Writer Peeps!
I knew I was a serious writer when I won a humorous poetry contest. Before then, I volunteered writing newsletters for a nonprofit, published an informational website, and got a couple of bylines in national glossies. But winning a contest in 2007–being chosen, not because of availability or willingness to work for free or because a space had to be filled, but because someone actually liked my work–was a game changer. It made me feel legit. And it made my queries stand out a little. The prize money was icing on the cake.
Contests open doors, get you noticed. Even if you don’t win, you may get some valuable feedback from first-class editors. So, check the guidelines, polish your manuscript, and take a shot.
Where to Find Legit Contests
The May/June issue of Poets & Writers magazine just came out with the summer of 2022 writing contests, including some with unusual prizes, and articles on how to choose a contest and submit your manuscript. This blog isn’t sponsored, but I recommend Poets & Writers and subscribe to it myself. Poets & Writers is at pw.org. Another good resource for legit contest information is Winning Writers at winningwriters.com. And Writer’s Digest at writersdigest.com/wd-competitions.
Some Legit Writing Contests for 2022
Click titles for links to more information on each contest.
North Street Book Prize
Submit your self-published print or e-book of up to 200,000 words in literary/mainstream, genre fiction, creative nonfiction and memoir, poetry, children’s picture book, graphic novel and memoir. Grand Prize is $8,000, marketing analysis, one-hour phone consultation, $300 credit at BookBaby, and 3 free ads in the Winning Writers newsletter. Prizes for top winner and honorable mention in each category. Every contestant receives valuable publishing resources.
Entry Fee: $70 per book; Deadline: June 30, 2022
Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest
Submit your poetry, up to 250 lines maximum per poem.
Tom Howard Prize: $3000 plus 2-year gift certificate from Duotrope, for poem in any style or genre.
Margaret Reid Prize: $3000 plus 2-year gift certificate from Duotrope, for poem in traditional or rhyming style.
Ten Honorable Mentions in any style receive $200 each.
Entry Fee: $20 for 1-3 poems (unlimited submissions);
Deadline: September 30, 2022
Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction
Enter a manuscript compilation of short fiction stories that adds up to 40,000 to 75,000 words. Grand Prize is $1000 and publication by University of Georgia Press.
Entry Fee: $30; Deadline: May 31, 2022
Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition
Submissions accepted for rhyming and non-rhyming poetry (up to 40 lines), short story or genre short story (up to 4,000 words), and personal essay (up to 2000 words). Grand prize is $5,000, an interview in Writer’s Digest, and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in NYC. Five honorable mention prizes of $1000 plus publication.
Entry Fees: Poetry: $25 first poem, $20 per additional poem;
Prose: $35 first entry, $30 per additional entry
Deadline: June 6, 2022
Crook’s Corner Book Prize Foundation
This contest is for a debut novel set in the American South (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, or Washington, D.C.). Prize is $5,000.
Entry Fee: $35; Deadline: May 15, 2022
Halifax Ranch Fiction Prize
Submit a short story (2,000-6,500 words) to American Short Fiction. Prize is $2500 and publication in American Short Fiction. All entries are considered for publication.
Entry Fee: $20; Deadline: June 1, 2022
If you have submitted to contests in the past, please share your experiences with us–both good and bad. If you never have, why not? Scroll to the top of this blog to post comments. If you have any questions, just ask. We’re all in this together!
In How to Choose a Church – Part 1, I talked about the basics of finding a good church. Hopefully, you found one or more. If the church seems to meet your needs, if the doctrinal statement aligns with your beliefs, the church has built-in accountability, and it’s near enough to your home, it’s time to consider whether or not to visit regularly and make this place your spiritual hub.
CONSIDER YOUR FAMILY Will you be going to church by yourself, or with a partner or children? Are your partner and children equally welcome? My own nephew was turned away from a Sunday School program because he had Down’s Syndrome, and the leadership said they didn’t want to “be responsible if something happened.” You can bet my sister did not return to that church! I’ve heard of church leadership quietly approaching mixed-race couples and suggesting another church where they “might feel more comfortable.” And, if you’re married to a same-sex partner, I suggest calling ahead to prevent a hurtful confrontation. Bigotry is not Biblical, but you know, bigoted people exist, even in churches.
Don’t fall for the common propaganda that all Christians are racist, homophobic, or ablest. It isn’t true. Pray for guidance, do your homework, practice patience, and you can find a group of believers that welcomes you as Jesus welcomes you—unconditionally.
Jesus said: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17, NIV
And speaking of family, does the church have programs that suit your family? Many churches have excellent teen programs, but not much for empty-nesters, or children’s programs, but nothing for single adults. You can find churches with sports programs, music programs, respite days for caregivers, date nights for couples, an open-to-the-public library of Christian books, or whatever else you’re into.
CONSIDER YOUR WORSHIP STYLE My bestie, Gloria, of blessed memory, and I prayed together and talked about the Bible, but we went to different churches because our worship styles were so different. Traditional music and a quiet, reverent, predictable service helped her enter into a calm and worshipful state to experience the presence of God.
I like to keep moving. New music, new presentations, and new points of view get me thinking about the Bible and my walk as a believer in new and different ways, and that helps me to experience the presence of God. Different strokes for different folks.
READ: No One Lied to Us
CHURCHY BUZZ WORDS The following buzzwords are often (not always!) used to let you know what to expect. Remember, these are generalities. Check the church’s doctrinal statement, talk to someone at the church, or watch a few streaming services to get a bead on the specific church you’re considering.
Affirming – Gay friendly
Contemporary – Not stuffy or extremely traditional, relaxed
Diverse, Multicultural – Actively seeks to integrate people of all races and economic backgrounds.
Interdenominational – Welcomes people of various denominations. Accepts differing worship styles and differing beliefs. Usually, not always, non-traditional and interprets the Bible non-literally.
Messianic – Incorporates elements of Judaism with elements of Christianity, believing that Jesus (called Yeshua) is the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world. Interprets the Bible from a traditional Hebraic perspective. A Messianic congregation where Jews and Gentiles worship together can be a great fit for a Jewish-Gentile blended family. I suggest looking into one affiliated with the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA https://mjaa.org).
Warning: An unusually large number of “Messianic Synagogues” spring from Christians embittered by their churches. These “rabbis” spread division, contrary to the teachings of the Bible, and seek to cut their converts off from loved ones and Gentile traditions. If you’re unsure, ask the rabbi about his or her qualifications. If they’re humble and qualified, as a leader should be, they’ll answer plainly, in language you understand, and without hostility.
“Righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
Romans 3:22-24, NIV
Nondenominational – Not connected to any denominational institutions, like Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. Usually (not always) conservative and believe the Bible literally.
Spirit-filled/Spirit-led/Charismatic – Emphasizes miracles and miraculous gifts, such as speaking in a non-human angelic language (“tongues”), physical healing, visions from God, and financial prosperity for the faithful.
Between Part 1 and Part 2, we’ve just scratched the surface of finding a good church fit. I hope you find what you are looking for. In the meantime, you can talk with God in privacy of your own mind. It’s astounding, I know, but I truly believe that.
I’m moving on from this subject now, but I’ll leave you with this verse, in case all you really wanted to know is how to “get saved.”
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Acts 16:30-31
Scroll to the top of this post and click the link to leave comments.
It’s almost Easter, and you may be looking for a church to visit for the holiday. With so many churches in the US, and so much publicity highlighting…ahem…”unacceptable behavior” going on in some churches, choosing a church to fulfill this beloved Easter tradition can feel disheartening.
Or maybe you’re reading this at another time, and you’ve been burned a time or two (or more) by taking a church at face value, only to find they could not be safely trusted. Don’t give up. You deserve a safe, loving community of faith.
I’m here for you. I’ve been blessed and I’ve been burned, and I’ve come up with a list of some things to look for to help you and your family find a good fit and a safe church home. There’s lots to consider, so this will be part one of two.
Whether you’re watching a livestream service, or checking out a church website or in person, ask God to guide you, and look for the following.
DOCTRINE A doctrinal statement is a written declaration of what a church believes and teaches. Also called a Statement of Faith or simply What We Believe. In any group, you’ll find people who have differing viewpoints, but the doctrinal statement covers the basics of what the church teaches and most of the congregation believes. They will expect you not to undermine their doctrinal statement during services and church-sponsored classes, though a good church will welcome questions during discussion times, and will have answers for why they believe what they believe—whether or not you agree with those answers.
Before you join a church, it is a good idea to think about what you believe, what you are open to considering, and whether your faith lines up with the doctrinal statement of the church you’re looking into. Do you believe that the Bible in its original form is the inspired and inerrant word of God? Some churches do and some don’t. This should be covered in the church’s doctrinal statement.
Most churches post their doctrinal statement on their website. If not, you can call a church and ask them to send you one, via e-mail or snail mail. If they won’t, if they don’t have one, or if they want a “donation” for it, that’s a red flag.
MISSION Just like a well-run business, a church will have a mission statement. Is it too vague? (For example, “outreach” could mean anything from providing meals for the hungry to standing on street corners asking for money.) Is it specific and doable? Does it line up with your personal values? Is the church involved in any political movements? If so, how do you feel about that?
PROXIMITY Though some people travel for a special Easter or Christmas program, it will probably work better if you first look into churches near your home. If you decide you want to go regularly, you don’t want the distance to be prohibitive. Some churches that have the budget offer bus service for both adults and children. Ask about that, if you need it. Ask about the driver’s credentials. They should have a CDL (commercial driver’s license) to drive vehicles with air breaks, and a clean driving record. The church should carry insurance in case of accidents.
ACCOUNTABILITY Don’t fall for the common misconception that all large churches are corrupt, and all small churches are sincere. It’s not true. Large, small, or in-between, in any group of people—sports teams, social clubs, schools, and churches—someone will do something wrong. It’s inevitable. Accountability is what helps prevent bad things from happening, and, if something bad does happen, accountability can stop it from continuing. Make absolutely sure that the church you consider has multiple layers of accountability—financial, spiritual, and physical.
Financial accountability Under US law, churches don’t have to report how much money they receive or how that money is spent. Look for one that does anyway. A church that is transparent with their finances and has nothing to hide will generally have a printed statement of the previous year available for you to inspect. For an added layer of accountability, check to see if the church you’re interested in is a member of the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability, a US-based organization that oversees the finances of nonprofits and ensures they’re handling money responsibly.
1st Timothy 5:21 instructs churches “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others.”
If you walk into a church building for the first time, and, without knowing you, someone in charge asks you to teach, that’s a red flag that the leadership bestows spiritual authority without getting to know the character or faith of the teacher. A panel of leaders is more accountable than a single makes-all-the-decisions pastor or elder. And, of course, all leadership should be well versed in the doctrinal statement and follow it. When new spiritual leaders are being appointed, there should be a time, either during installation or before, for church members to ask questions and bring up concerns. If not, that’s a red flag.
Follow up with Part 2, and scroll to the top of the post to leave a comment. We’re in this together. Have a blessed holy season.
Hola, Writer Peeps!
Are you ready to up your fiction writing game today? Here’s some easy-peasy, but super effective tricks of the trade. I’m sure you’ll be able to do these.
Without specificity, your setting becomes a two-dimensional backdrop, like the forest of nondescript trees in an elementary school play, hastily painted and obscure enough to use over and over from Cinderella to Little Red Riding Hood.
Bring your writing to life with specifics. Envision your world and describe it. Compare the following.
A patch of trees hid the back of the house from view.
A grove of fruit trees ruffled with blossoms hid the back of the house from view. (Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin)
2. ENGAGE THE SENSES
A writer may create lovely imagery and dialogue. But if the story contains only things seen and heard, the writing falls flat. Readers may not even know why they lose interest, but it’s because they’re only partway engaged. To fully immerse your reader into your story, use all the basic human senses—sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.
(Yes, there are other senses [eg, balance and the relationship of our body parts to one another], but let’s stick to the primary senses for the purpose of this blog.)
Notice how author Laura Ingalls Wilder employs four primary senses in one paragraph in the following.
Laura pushed ahead between the thick clumps of grass-stems that gave way rustling and closed again behind Carrie. The millions of coarse grass-stems and their slender long leaves were greeny-gold and golden-green in their own shade. The earth was crackled with dryness underfoot, but a faint smell of damp lay under the hot smell of the grass. Just above Laura’s head the grasstops swished in the wind, but down at their roots was a stillness, broken only where Laura and Carrie went wading through it. (The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Sight: slender long leaves were greeny-gold and golden-green in their own shade
Sound: rustling, swished in the wind
Touch: pushed, thick clumps, coarse grass-stems, dryness underfoot, wind, damp, wading
Smell: faint smell of damp lay under the hot smell of the grass
Just the mention of food can engage the sense of taste. Even in outer space.
They were serving Earth food today—among other things—enchiladas with kimchi, mashed potatoes and gravy that looked like consommé, hummus and an egg roll, and red soda pop.
(No Road Among the Stars by A. Walker Scott)
3. CHOOSE YOUR COLORS
Life is filled with a rainbow of colors. Your story doesn’t have to be. Don’t go all willy-nilly, tossing random colors all around your story. Instead, deliberately choose colors in shades that create a specific mood, whether that mood is bright and fun, pale and peaceful, dark and depressing, or whatever your story needs. Use color to your advantage.
A.J. Finn brilliantly uses color in The Woman in the Window. Dark halls, leaded glass, black-and-white movies, black-and-white umbrella, dim lighting, neighbors named Gray, all work together to give the reader a dark, closed-in feeling of isolation that accompanies agoraphobia. Other themes are supported with complimentary colors, but the author stays within the same color palette throughout. Even when talking about sunshine, the author is careful not to disturb the color scheme.
I peer into the dark at the top of the stairs, into the gloom above. During the day, sun drops through the domed skylight overhead; at night, it’s a wide-open eye gazing into the depths of the stairwell.
(The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn)
Recommended article: Color Psychology: Does it Affect How You Feel?
I hope these pro tips help you in your writing journey. Do you have more examples? Tips? Questions? Leave a comment and we can talk about it. On some screens, a link to leave a comment is at the top of the post. It’s good to be back. I’d love to hear from you. We’re all in this together.
Hola, Writer Peeps!
Watch any silent movies lately? If you’re a writer, you should. Using extremely limited narration and dialogue, silent films communicate story, motivations, and emotions. The defined visuals, expressions, action, and reactions show the audience only the essentials of the story. And no one did it more brilliantly than Charlie Chaplin. Watch this scene from his biggest hit, City Lights. [Blog continues after the clip.]
Chaplin reshot this one scene 352 times, until it was just right. Notice how the scene is set, how the people move, when the shot closes in and when it opens up. That’s storytelling at its finest.
Study silent movies, especially Chaplin. In the scene above, how do you know the man is attracted to the woman? How do you know she is blind? How do you know she misunderstands? What parts are funny and what parts are tender? Why?
Today’s “talkies” do more with dialogue and with music and sounds, and we can learn from that, too. But that’s a different lesson for another day. Silent film music was added live in individual theaters and varied according to the skill of the musician, so the story itself relied entirely on silent imagery.
Do you have a favorite silent movie? If so, please share in the comments. We’re all in this together.
UPDATE ON PASSOVER FREEBIES: Passover is four days away! You can get your free printable and downloadable Messianic Passover Haggadah on my freebies page. The artists who are working on the free coloring book have not yet turned in all the pages, but I’m told it will be ready before Passover. I’ll post ASAP, so keep checking back. Thank you for your patience. If you have free Messianic coloring pages for Passover, leave a link in the comments, please. We’re all in this together.
Hello, Writer Peeps!
It’s great to connect with you again! Recently someone asked the question, “Why shouldn’t we use verbs ending in -ing in our writing?” In fourteen years of professional writing, this was the first I’d heard of this “rule.” Maybe it’s new. Has anyone said that to you? Did it help your writing?
The writer said her editor told her to look out for verbs ending in -ing and avoid them. I don’t know the editor, but I came up with some reasons to support the admonition–with a caveat.
-ING does not necessarily mean active. The main reason to pay attention to (not avoid) verbs ending in -ing is because they are not always active. That’s because they aren’t always true verbs. A verbal is a word that looks like a verb because the root word is a verb, but its function in a sentence may be noun, adjective, or adverb.
Why write active sentences? Neither active nor passive sentences (or verbs) are either correct or incorrect, but active language generally engages the reader more easily, and makes for more interesting and concise language.
Here is a simple way to tell if a verb is passive or active: Find the subject of your sentence. Does the subject do the action of the verb? If so, the verb and the sentence is active. But if the subject receives the action, the verb and sentence is passive. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy!
ACTIVE: Poindexter scoured the archives for more scholarly papers on werewolves.
PASSIVE: The archives were scoured all night for scholarly papers on werewolves.
In the active sentence, the simple subject is Poindexter. The simple verb is scoured. Poindexter does the action.
In the passive sentence, the simple subject is archives. The simple verb is were scoured. Archives does not do the action. The action is done to the subject.
In the second, passive, sentence, we also see the hint of the helping verb were. Whenever you see any form of the verb to be, (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) the verb is passive.
Verbals as participles. Participles are words that have a verb for a root word, but they act as adjectives. A participial verbal describes nouns or pronouns.
The howling beast was surely a werewolf!
In this sentence, the word howling describes the subject (noun) beast, so it acts as an adjective. The verb in this sentence is was. Passive.
Gerunds look like verbs and they usually have an -ing ending, but they act as subject, direct object, or object of a prepositional phrase rather than giving action to the subject.
Gerund as subject of the sentence.
Fighting werewolves is hard work.
Fighting is the subject; is is the verb. Passive.
Gerund as direct object.
Ludwig’s plan to escape the werewolves was running, screaming, and crying.
Plan is the subject. Was is the verb. Running, screaming, crying is a compound direct object.
Gerund as object of a prepositional phrase.
Michelle is thinking of leaving the werewolf-hunting business.
Michelle is the subject. Is thinking is the verb (passive, because of the helping verb is). Leaving is the object of the prepositional phrase of leaving.
My caveat is to write how you want your writing to sound. If you’re going for passive, do it. If you’re going for active, do it. The best writing, in my opinion, is writing that mixes it up and sounds interesting.
Have you been told a rule for writing that you don’t understand or that you choose not to follow? Do you know an easy-peasy lemon squeezy way to remember a grammar rule? Let us know in the comments, so we can learn from one another.
By the way, I’ve added a new page to my website, where I will be posting freebies for you. Head on over and check it out! The first freebie is a printable and reproducible Messianic Haggadah for Passover.
We’re all in this together.
The Four Questions of Passover 2021:
1. On all other Passovers, we invited people to join us. Why this year do we isolate in small groups?
2. On all other Passovers, we greeted fellow believers with a hug or a handshake. Why this year do we not touch?
3. On all other Passovers, we smiled at strangers and saw them smile back. Why this year do we not see smiles?
4. On all other Passovers, we ceremonially dipped our fingers in water before taking the matza. Why this year must we wash with running water and soap for at least twenty seconds?
Let’s face it: 2020 was a bust, and 2021 seems to be bringing more of the same. According to the American Medical Association and the Center for Disease control, nearly 41% of American adults are experiencing negative mental health issues as a result of this ongoing pandemic.
Not only have we been socially isolated for longer than we’d ever imagined, many of us are facing fears related to health, social unrest, weather disasters, loss of income, increased responsibilities, and bereavement. And in the midst of this mental health crisis, when we need them the most, support groups and mental health professionals have suspended or limited care available to the public, due to Covid-19 restrictions.
People of faith are not immune to Covid-19, and we are not immune to the psychological effects of living in prolonged crisis. Holidays always seem to intensify our feelings. But they can also intensify our faith. This may be the first Passover that some of us have spent without our congregations, our extended families, or friends, but we know that we are not alone. We are united in spirit with all people of faith–past, present, and future–who endure hardship. And our Father God walks with us in this journey.
When the Jews living in slavery in Egypt cried out in their affliction, God heard their prayers. “The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:7-8, NIV)
During this trying season, be assured that God still hears our cries. He is still able to deliver us. He is still able to sustain us in the midst of the storm, too. If you experienced a spiritual strengthening in this pandemic, or another prolonged crisis, please share your story in the comments below.
Have a lovely and meaningful Passover. And hang on. We’re all in this together.
Socially distanced air kisses,
DON’T MISS THIS! I’m introducing a freebies page to this site. You will want to bookmark that page and check back often. The first freebie is this Messianic Passover Haggadah.
FREE MESSIANIC PASSOVER HAGGADAH
This free and reproducible 25-page Messianic Haggadah is written in easy-to-understand language in English. It includes:
* How to prepare your mind, heart, and home for Passover
* Tips for including children in the fun
* Instructions for Bedikas Chametz (Search for Leavening)
* How to set up for the seder
* Seder items checklist
* Daily Jesus-focused schedule for Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread
* Messianic Seder script
* Glossary of terminology with pronunciation guide
Download or print .pdf Haggadah (NIV)
Download .docx Haggadah (NIV) editable
“Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us in life and enabled us to reach this day.” – Traditional prayer upon reaching a significant day.
Hi Writer Peeps!
Whew! We made it! I know it’s cliché, but it really did seem like 2019 flew by in a blur. I’m resolving this year–as I do every year–to keep to a schedule and use my time more wisely. This includes a number of specific goals that I won’t bore you with, and I probably won’t keep. But if you don’t shoot for the stars, you’ll never leave your own turf, right?
So let’s kick off this year with a generous free offer from Randy Ingermanson. If you’re a fiction writer, and you don’t know who that is, you should. He’s not only a bestseller, but his novel-writing method is used by tons of serious and successful writers.
If you have purchased Randy Ingermanson’s book, How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method (available now at Amazon for Kindle for 99 cents), or if you own an earlier version of the Snowflake Pro software, the author is now offering the latest version of Snowflake Pro for free. Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Score!
I don’t know Ingermanson personally, and I don’t make any money by referring this offer. I just wanted you to know about this terrific deal. I’m looking out for you and your writing goals. We’re all in this together.
Wishing you a successful 2020!
1. No Road Among the Stars: An Innerstellar Commonwealth Novel (Vol. 1) by A. Walker Scott
This book transported me back to the wonder and newness that first drew me to science fiction fandom. It’s well written and clean, and has believable, full characters with their own languages and cultures that the author (a real-life linguist and world traveler) created. All that and a high-stakes conflict in space. Keep an eye out for some fun Easter eggs, too.
2. Promise at Daybreak by Elizabeth Wehman
This novel is about two elderly sisters, cordial but not friendly because of their opposite opinions on faith and politics. They must cohabitate to face a promise that they made to one another at their mother’s grave site, though neither sister is sure she can go through with the promise. This is a feel-good relationship story with a mystery and a twist that I did not see coming. This book is clean and has specific Christian content.
3. Between the Bridge and the River by Craig Ferguson
This novel is raunchy and rude, filthy, funny, provocative, and spiritually insightful. I literally laughed and cried (and sometimes gagged a little) through the whole thing. And when I finished, I felt encouraged and thoughtful. If you’re offended by anything at all (not everything, just anything), it’ll probably offend you. But if you roll with the punches, it’s worth the ride.
1. Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller
I recommend this book at every opportunity for a reason: It’s one of those very rare books that I can honestly say changed my outlook on life. It’s riveting, clever, at times laugh-out-loud funny and at times mind-blowingly profound. If you saw the movie and it wasn’t for you, read the book anyway. As we old folks used to say back in the day, the book is a “totally different head.” Mostly clean reading. There’s some light cussing, if I remember correctly.
2. Is Jesus a Democrat or a Republican? by Tony Campolo
This book was first published in 1995, but I cannot think of a better time to read it than today. Without judgement, and with courageous love and truth, this book explores opposing sides of some polarizing political and social issues in light of the Bible–and why good and godly people can disagree with one another. It’s written in essay form, and delivers opinion with humility.
3. The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkle
This is the true story of a man who just wanted to be left alone. At the age of twenty, Christopher Knight parked his car and vanished. He lived alone in the deep woods of Maine–undetected and unattached to civilization–for twenty-seven years. This is a fascinating story.
[Note: I don’t get sponsored or paid to recommend these, and I don’t get anything if you follow the links. They’re just books that I’ve read and like, and I linked to where you can find them on Amazon. Buy them anywhere you want or request them at your local public library. If you like one of my recommendations, and you’re feeling generous, I wouldn’t turn down a small donation. paypal.me/KAFrazier. ]
What are you reading? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? What books do you recommend for the summer? Please leave the titles of your favorites in the comment section, so I can find more awesome books to read. We’re in this together.
Hola, Writer Peeps!
What do you think? Can I say the N-word and other “bad” words in a historical context? Or are some words just not acceptable ever?
As an example of non-acceptance, my husband Frazierhead and I went to a family’s home for dinner. The children ate in another room so they could relax and be children and so the grownups could relax and be grown up.
Over soup, our hosts asked if we had seen the movie Amazing Grace, a biographical film about the abolishment of the African slave trade in England. We said that we had and that we recommended it.
The mom asked if the movie was appropriate for children. I answered, “There’s no overt violence but there’s language you may not want your children to hear.”
“Like what?” she pressed. “What do they say?”
Because I was among adults and because she asked me directly, I said that, in the movie, a slave owner refers to a slave as the N-word. Only I didn’t say, “the N-word.” I said the N-word.
Both husband and wife—in unrehearsed but perfect unison—audibly gasped and drew back as if I had slapped them. Silence fell over the room. I looked to Frazierhead for support. He seemed frozen in wide-eyed horror. I quickly started chattering about the historical accuracy of the film’s use of the N-word, avoiding saying it again, and then changed the subject. We were not invited back.
In retrospect, I should have apologized. Even though, in context, I hadn’t said anything deliberately cruel or racist, the fact that I said the N-word at all was offensive to that couple and shocking to my husband. The current American convention says to replace some cuss words—the really bad ones—with initials. We say “the N-word,” “the B-word,” and “the F-word.”
The problem, I think, with the initial thing is that all words are symbols. When I wrote, “the N-word,” I put that word into your brain. You didn’t wonder what I meant. I accomplished the exact same thing that I would have accomplished by saying or writing the word out in full. This seems pointless to me. I’d rather say the word or not say it. But seeing where that gets me in the real world, I’m hesitant to follow through.
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is full of the N-word. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird also uses it. Yet both books are clearly anti-racism. The racist words within the stories testify to racism’s cruelty within those cultures and in those times. Still, some people believe that the use of the word alone compels us to ban or censor these books–or at least let them drop off of reading lists. What do you think? Should books with bad words get put on the shelf forever? Should we “fix” art and censor history to make it conform to our current sensibilities?
As writers, we know that authentic characters make or break our story. But we also know to write for our target reader. And if our target reader is going to gasp and fall back, or—more importantly—stop reading if we let our characters use bad words, we need to make adjustments. Or we need to reevaluate our target reader.
In fiction, it’s easy to avoid cussing.
Marion slammed the vase to the ground, shouting profanities at no one in particular.
“Why, you’re just a no good, dirty–”
“Enough!” Alex pulled him back by the collar.
I’ve mentioned the 1964 film Lady in a Cage (bad title) before, but it’s still the best example of believable bad-guy dialogue without cussing that I know. If you write bad-guy characters and want to avoid cussing, it’s worth your time to see it. Don’t let kids watch it, though. Even without cussing or nudity, it’s violent and disturbing.
I’m currently writing a biographical book about ordinary family life during the Civil Rights Movement in the USA. A lot of racial slurs, sexist slurs, and homophobic slurs flew freely in those days. I’m tiptoeing around the words in my book, but I will have to make some hard choices. Do I spell out the sins of the past or just hint at them?
What would you do as a writer? As a reader, would you read an overall “good” book if it contains bad words? Or would you shrink back in horror? Let me know in the comments below. We’re all in this together.
UPDATE! Half Off Copyedits for NaNoWriMo Winners
I’ve currently booked 241,000 words of the 800,000-word limit. That means there’s still plenty of room to book your work in progress! Details HERE.
Your Story. Your voice. the best it can be.
A personal blog by John Parsons, author of the Hebrew for Christians web site.
Your Story. Your voice. the best it can be.
Your Story. Your voice. the best it can be.
Your Story. Your voice. the best it can be.
Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi