Odd Ducks on the Move

Hi and welcome,

For the sake of simplification, I’ve moved all blogs under one roof. So if you like what you see here and want more up-to-date stuff, please come on over to my new home Encouragement for Today’s Christian

Be sure to sign up to receive all my posts in your email and receive a free download for greeting cards for kids. We all know how hard it is to find great greeting cards for kids, right? My greeting cards include a hidden picture (my own design), a story, and an encouraging verse. These cards are great for birthdays, celebrations of any kind, get well cards, or a simple, “Hey, how are you doing?” greeting.

Hope you enjoy the cards and my new site.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

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Writing Guidelines

Pray

As writers, we are all familiar with the importance of following guidelines. Every periodical and publishing house has their own unique standards they expect to be followed to the T. Word count, double spacing, one-inch margins, age appropriate top the list. Add to that what they publish and what they do NOT do. It all ends up to be quite a cumbersome task. But, if we hope to be published, we oblige.

However as Christians, we have an even higher standard to follow. Whether we are called to write for children or adults, fiction or non-fiction, prose or poetry, the Bible specifies guidelines for us to follow starting with

What to write on

  1. The ground

    —cards and emails seem to be at the ground level of writing. If that’s your area of expertise, rejoice, Jesus wrote on the ground causing conviction on many legalistic people.

  2. A stick

    —letters to the editor perhaps rank at this level, but are nonetheless significant if you’ve been commissioned by God to be the active voice of His people. Write on.

  3. A rock

    —newsletter for your church or for the company where you work or a newspaper column provide an outlet for the message God has place on some of your hearts.

  4. Tablets

    —remember the day of the pen and paper? Now, young people think laptop computer at the mention of the word tablet. Still, we are called to write our message on tablets. What’s in your hand? A magazine, a book?

  5. Bill Board

    —Perhaps you are into the computer scene—the World Wide Web is you bill board. Start a blog or website. Join Facebook, Tweeter, or another community based site and contribute something worthwhile every day. I have a connection with a man who writes a beautiful Bible study on Facebook every day. He has a following of over 4500 people, and his goal is to become the largest group on Facebook. That’s quite a goal, but he’s taking God’s commission to publish His word seriously.

  6. Regardless of your avenue, we are all called to write it on the hearts of others and to do so for the glory of God.

Target Audience

Moses wrote to God’s chosen nation. Paul wrote to fellow believers, young preachers, and elders, John wrote to “dear children” and “brothers in Christ”, Jesus wrote to the hypocrites. Others wrote to those with little understanding, those with higher education, even to their enemies.

How to write

And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by (Habakkuk 2:2).

What to write

Encouragement, sound doctrine, the truth. We don’t have to mention God on every page to be a Christian writer. In fact, we don’t have to mention Him at all. In the Bible, the book of Esther never mentions God, but we know He provided the means of escape for  the Hebrew children through the queen. Write wholesome, pure, worthy-to-be-read books, articles, newspaper columns, newsletters, emails and God will be seen in your writing and will receive the glory.

Why write?

The world needs to hear what is faithful and true. We write because we have been created for the task and given a gift to use for building the kingdom of God.

Hone your craft. Go from here a different way, refreshed, prepared, and eager to publish the word God has given you by the means He has established for you.

And all of God’s children said, “Yes and amen.”

Overcoming the Fear of Submission:

 What You May Not Know About Rejection

by: Frances Gregory Pasch

As the leader of a Christian writers’ group for the past 20 years, I find that most writers love putting words on paper, but many of their finished pieces remain in their desk drawers

Mailing or e-mailing my work has always been a fun experience. When I submit regularly, waiting for a response is a highlight of my day. When my mailbox or my inbox is filled only with advertisements, bills or junk mail, I know I haven’t been using my writing gift.

I’ve had over two hundred devotions and poems published and have resubmitted many of them as reprints. But I still get rejections.

No one likes being turned down, but I’ve learned that a large percentage of all submissions will be rejected. Here are some of the reasons:

The magazine just printed a similar article.

Your piece may be well written, but subscribers don’t want to read the same subject matter within the same year.

You didn’t follow the guidelines.

It’s important to send for a copy of the writers’ guidelines for each magazine and read through a few sample copies.

Your article needs to meet the criteria the editor expects: suitable topic, correct word count, right slant, etc.

Inaccurate Research

Be sure to double check your facts. You don’t want to lead your reader astray.

Wrong Format

An editor recognizes that you have done your homework when you submit your piece following the standard format used by writers. If you don’t know how to send in your manuscript, check your local bookstore or library for material to learn the proper procedure. Writing classes and conferences are also great places for learning.

One of the best investments you can make is “Sally Stuart’s Christian Market Guide,” published yearly by Shaw Books. Visit Sally’s website at http://www.stuartmarket.com.

1. Sally’s guide lists magazines by type of market, i.e. women, children, teens, general adult, etc., and their needs. There is also a topical index.

2. Editor’s names, addresses and e-mail addresses are included so you can get guidelines and a sample copy.

3. Sally lists the circulation of each magazine, whether or not the market pays, and what rights it buys. She also states whether the editor prefers submissions by regular mail or e-mail.

4. The guide contains locations and contacts for writers’ groups, workshops, and conferences in each state. Getting together with other writers is a great motivator. If you can’t attend any of these groups, you can meet other writers on line or consider starting a group of your own.

5. Sally lists other resources: editorial services, book publishers, correspondence courses, websites geared to writers, writing instruction on tape, and more.

Locating a suitable market for your polished piece will take time, but when you find one, immediately send your manuscript, along with a short cover letter. If submitting by regular mail, enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE).

If you are sending poems, devotions, or short pieces, I suggest including more than one. That gives you a better chance of acceptance.

Keeping track of your submissions is an important part of the process. Record the name of each piece you submit, the date you sent it, and the rights you are offering. Be sure to note the results when you receive an answer. If the publication cannot use your piece, state why. If accepted, jot down when it will be published and what they will pay. Some magazines pay on acceptance, others on publication.

I still keep track of my submissions on index cards. You may find it easier to use a notebook or set up a computer file. Whatever method you choose, be consistent. Many publications take at least ninety days or longer to respond, so while you are waiting., start on your next piece.

Editors are looking for good writers like you and me. Don’t be afraid of them. We just need to use our God-given writing gift to the best of our ability for His glory.

I believe that if you take advantage of these tools and follow these rules, one day you will see your name in print.

Three Keys to Creativity

By: Brenda K. Hendricks

Writers and Illustrators belong to the Odd Duck Society

Throughout my trek as a writer/illustrator, I have discovered there are keys that propel our vehicle forward.

1)  Surrender unlocks opportunities to improve.

Surrender to the demands of hours of solitude. As writers/illustrators, our lives are not our own. We have audiences who deserve the very best we have to offer.

Surrender to research. Authenticity is a must whether we’re writing non-fiction or fiction, children’s books or adult literature, curricula or short stories, articles, essays, or poems. The more we understand about our topic of interest, the richer our writings will be.

Surrender to the fact that we are just one piece of the puzzle. There are others like editors, publishers, and agents who are vital to the production and circulation of our work. Let everyone add their piece of the puzzle, and the picture will turn out exactly right.

Surrender to critiques from other writers, illustrators, and readers who are willing to tell you the truth. The ability to cast our thoughts onto the page and project them into the minds of our readers doesn’t come naturally, at least not for most of us. Guess what! Not everyone thinks alike. What appears clear to us may not be that obvious to our readers. We all have “blind” spots when reading our own prose therefore, an extra set of eyes is essential.

Surrender to revisions, rewrites, and manuscript mutilation. As rose bushes bloom better through regular pruning, manuscripts flourish through serious rewrites. It’s inevitable. Our babies are NOT perfect at the moment of creation. They need to be shaped, trimmed, and polished.

Surrender to rejection without accepting defeat. Not everyone is going to want to print our work. Rejection is a useful tool to the serious writer. It forces us to examine our work more intently, to search the market more diligently, and to strive for excellence.

2)  Concentrate on our craft. It’s the secret of every successful person, whether their area of expertise is science, finances, sports, music, or the arts. Deep thinking goes into every experiment, every calculation, every play, every performance, and every stroke of the brush until the very act of concentration is ingrained in the subconscious.

Concentration opens the door to adventure.

Writers perform their duties at their day jobs, thinking about their next manuscript. While their spouses snore beside them in bed, writers lie on their backs plotting their next novel or organizing their next how to article. Muse isn’t always easy to come by nor does it always show up at opportune times, but it does come. And when it does, it compels us to write.

Many great writers remain mediocre because they refuse to commit to the needed practice of concentration. And who can blame them for being reluctant? Exercising concentration can cause temporary insanity. We are caught talking out loud to ourselves and even laughing at a private joke in the bathroom. We answer questions with irrelevant tidbits of information or we don’t hear the question at all. We leave notes all over the house so we don’t lose those really important thoughts. Or worse, those of us who write novels leave notes to our characters on the table, vanity, and counter.

3)  Fascinate, not our audience but ourselves with the process of writing. According to the dictionary, it means to hold one spellbound by some irresistible charm. How long to do we stay with anything that doesn’t fascinate us? People lose all track of time surfing the Internet. Body builders work out six to eight hours a day. Skydivers jump out of airplanes. Why? Those pastimes captivate the participant.

Likewise, the process of painting a picture with words holds writers spellbound. The correct word placed properly in the sentence, strategically located in the paragraph, and positioned just so in the article written on the blank page fascinates us. If it didn’t, we’d be Internet surfers, weightlifters, or skydivers.

Fascination releases a child-like curiosity that inspires us to continue on the journey.

While there may be others on our key ring, these keys are essential to the writer’s and/or illustrator’s odyssey. As we utilize them, may every opportunity unlock powerful improvements, every assignment open doors to adventure, and every child-like curiosity release inspiration not only for us but for our audiences as well.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Author/illustrator of the Bumbly Bee Books

Are You Stretching Yourself?

By Dave Fessenden

 
There are many times in my ministry as a Christian writer in which I feel like I’m becoming stagnant, like I’m writing with my eyes closed. When I feel that way, I try to counteract it by delving into a genre of writing with which I am unfamiliar. Though this is hard, it can be a great growing experience.
 

No, I don’t always come up with something publishable that way

, but that’s OK; the purpose of the exercise is not necessarily to produce great writing, but to retrain your writing muscles in a new way — to stretch yourself.
 
For me, the stretching often takes the form of switching from non-fiction to fiction. I’ve published three nonfiction books, dozens of articles and hundreds of newspaper stories. So I consider myself something of an expert in the nonfiction area. But when I switch from nonfiction to fiction, I’m really just a rank amateur; it’s good practice for me to wrestle with a short story or novel.
 
I was thinking for instance, of how we often use the passage about Jesus standing at the door and knocking (Rev. 3:20) in an evangelistic sense, calling people to open the door of their heart to the Lord. But the interesting thing is that John was writing to /Christians/! I wanted to write something about how we crowd our Lord out of our lives with so many selfish things that He has to knock on the door and ask to be let in. I was stuck on how to express it in nonfiction, so I switched to fiction, creating a flash fiction piece entitled “A Knock on the Door.” (Which points up another reason for stretching yourself into unfamiliar genres — it’s a sure-fire cure for writer’s block.)
 
Stretching myself is also good for my soul. Anytime I start thinking I’m pretty hot stuff, I just look at my fiction, and it knocks me down a peg or two. Humility is one of those virtues that only seems to come the hard way. When a piece of steel gets heated up, it turns a bright cherry red and glows proudly, but that’s the point at which the blacksmith dunks it into the water and returns it to its true color — a dull gray. It may seem cruel, but it’s the only way to temper the metal.
 

Be Specialized, But Not Petrified

 
Even when I stay in the nonfiction realm, I find that there are particular genres that I am less experienced at, and so it is helpful for me to delve into those areas once in a while, as a change of pace. Many of us get into a particular specialization in our writing, and that is a fine approach. But by all means, do something outside your expertise occasionally. Are you good at devotionals? Try your hand at a how-to article. Do you specialize in biographies? How about writing a Bible study?
 
It may also reveal a hidden talent for a certain type of writing that you never realized you had. Joy Jacobs was a devotional writer with a very poetic style. But she was also a counselor, with a strong burden for the problems of single women. Her publisher encouraged her to team up with an editor, Deborah Strubel, to write /Single, Whole and Holy/, a Christian living book that had a profound ministry in the lives of many women. And all because she dared to try something different.
 
So go ahead — stretch yourself. Step out in faith and let God teach you something new!

Never Give Up!

Writers and Illustrators belong to the Odd Duck Society

By
Fran Fernandez

 
 
When you’ve sent your manuscript the rounds and received rejection after rejection, don’t give up. Check it again, tighten it up, and then see if, perhaps, there’s another slant you could give for a different market.
 
Rejection is always a good time to remember the famous words of Winston Churchill, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never, in nothing, great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”*
 
I had sent an essay around seventeen times—and received seventeen rejections. I think writer’s insanity hit, and I decided—one more time. I took out the fact that I was a mother with children (which didn’t change the point of the essay at all) and tightened it up some.
The incident about which the essay was written had happened on a college campus, so instead of sending it to another woman’s magazine (if there was another left), I sent it to a Christian singles magazine.
 
It sold!
 
Even Pearl Buck’s, The Good Earth, went around over thirty times until a publisher picked it up. It became a best seller, and now is a classic.
 
Bryan Davis, the bestselling author of the Dragon in Our Midst series was told time and again that Christian fantasy doesn’t, and won’t sell, and “No thank you, we are not interested.” At the Montrose Christian Writers Conference in July, he showed his audience a big folder stuffed with rejection slips, which Bryan viewed as proof that he was writing. But, Bryan never gave up. Because he didn’t give up, he not only got a contract, his books are selling great worldwide, and going strong. Did you get Bryan’s title – bestselling author? You don’t become a bestselling author by quitting.
 
If you believe in your manuscript—don’t give up.
 
My first book, The Best Is Yet To Come, was published 26 years after I started to write. And I now have four proposals making the rounds—and until there is no place left to send them—I’ll keep on keeping on. Each time one comes back, I make some changes and send it out again. I believe one day each one will find a home. Meanwhile I keep honing my craft.
 
Hey, when each manuscript gets published it will be that much the better for my having tweaked them after each rejection.
 
In His precious Word, God tells us, Let us not grow weary while doing good (as in to keep on writing and sending around no matter how many rejections you receive), for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)
 
It took from 1981 to 2007 until I got my first book contract and an agent. I now have in my hands a beautiful book and a wonderful agent. What if I had given up writing in March of 2007 and said, “Why bother?” What if I had decided not to go once again to Montrose? I would have missed what God had waiting for me, my Christmas in July that year.
 
Whatever God has put on your heart as a writer, illustrator, or artist, He will bring it to pass unless you give up. God will do it—just be patient. (Yes, patience. Now that’s the hard part).
Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. (Psalm 37:4-54 NKJV)
 
Tyler Perry the Christian actor, writer, and producer knew God had given him a dream. Ninety days before selling his first play that took off, Perry had been living in his car and sleeping in a motel only when he had enough money. Because Perry didn’t give up and followed his God-dream, from 2007 to 2009 his personal earnings were 125 million dollars and growing. He was an African-American writer who was told he’d never make it. But with God, and Perry’s faith in his dream, he kept on writing and trusting God to bring it to pass.
Stir up your dream again to touch the world with your words. Get passionate about the ministry God has given you and don’t give up!
Looking forward to seeing your byline soon.
 
*Part of address given as Prime Minister of England on Oct. 29th 1941 at Harrow School

PUGS Tips for Odd Ducks

By: Kathy Ide

Words and punctuation marks are the tools of a writer’s trade. To be good writers and illustrators , we need to know how to use our tools effectively. While content is important, of course, proper Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling (what I call “PUGS”) can mean the difference between rejection and acceptance from a commercial publisher. It also reflects positively on you in your self-published works.

 
It’s important to use the industry-standard references. Book publishers (and many popular magazines) use The Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Newspaper and journalistic-style magazines use The Associated Press Stylebook and Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Christian publishers also use The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style. Be sure to get the most recent editions so you’re using what the publishers are using.

 
As a full-time freelance editor, I see a lot of PUGS errors. Here are a few of the most common ones I see in the manuscripts I edit. In parentheses after each heading, I’ll give the rule numbers or page numbers for the reference books so you can look up the rules if you want more details.

PUNCTUATION

1. Serial Commas

The “serial comma” is the comma that comes before a conjunction in a series of three or more elements (“his, hers, [comma here] and ours”).
For books, always use a comma before the conjunction. (CMS #6.19 and CWMS page 151.) For newspaper articles, leave out the serial comma unless doing so would cause confusion or ambiguity. (AP pages 329–330.)

2. Restrictive vs. nonrestrictive clauses

A word or phrase that restates a noun or pronoun in different words should be set off by commas. If the word or phrase identifies the noun more specifically, it should not be set off by commas.
For example: “My husband, Richard, took me out to dinner when I sold my first article.” But “My son Michael was born eight years after his brother.” From the context, you know I have more than one son, and “Michael” identifies which one is being referred to.

3. Capitalization of Family Relationships (CMS #8.39 and AP pages 91-92)

“Kinship names” (father, brother, etc.) are lowercased when used generically (“the youngest mother in the group”) or when preceded by a modifier (“my mom”). When used before a proper name, or alone in place of the name, kinship names are capitalized.

4. Terms of Endearment

Terms of affection (honey, sweetheart) are lowercased. (CMS #8.39 and CWMS page 112.)

5. Quotation Marks with Other Punctuation (CMS #6.8–6.9 and pages 344–345)

Closing quotation marks always come after a comma or period. For example:
Placement with question marks and exclamation points depends on whether the punctuation is part of the sentence as a whole or part of the quotation in particular. Examples:
Candy asked, “Do you know the way?”
How can we motivate teenagers who continually say, “I don’t care”?
Tiffany shouted, “Fire!”
I can’t believe he said, “Your story is boring”!

USAGE

1. any more/anymore

any more (adjective) means “any additional.”
“I don’t want to hear any more backtalk from you!”

anymore (adverb) means “any longer.”
“I don’t want to listen to you anymore.”

2. a while/awhile
a while (noun) means “a period of time.”
“Marilynn spent a while editing her manuscript.”

awhile (adverb) means “for a period of time.”
“Mallory asked me to stay awhile.”

GRAMMAR

Dangling Modifiers
When you start a sentence with a modifying word or phrase, the subject (usually the next thing in the sentence) is what must be modified by that word or phrase. A “dangling modifier” is a phrase that does not clearly and sensibly modify the appropriate word. For example, “Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, the Mustang seemed to run better.” A Mustang cannot change its own oil. So you’d want to rewrite that as something like, “Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, Sandra found she got much better gas mileage.”

SPELLING

acknowledgment (no e between the d and the g)
by-product
good-bye
mind-set

Incorporating the PUGS is important for writers and illustrators alike. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. For more, check out my book Polishing the PUGS: Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling. It’s available through my Web site, www.KathyIde.com.