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


One Reason to Blog

A Writer 3Many people within the writing industry insist that writers develop an online presence. One of the first things they suggest is to write a blog.

My question is why. Why blog when there are already millions if not billions of blogs on any given topic you dare to imagine. Here are some of the answers I’ve received.

  1. Blogging connects you with your readers and gives them opportunity to interact with you on a deeper level. Readers like that. And if they like you, they’ll buy your books.
  2. Blogging gives you an outlet to express your thoughts and ideas. It even gives you input from your readers. If they feel they’ve contributed to the content of your books, they’ll buy them.
  3. Blogging provides you with the opportunity to prove yourself as a well-crafted writer. If you write well with a clear message, they’ll buy your books.
  4. Blogging develops your brand. It tells the reader who you are and what you’re about, not only your next project, but you as an author … what you represent. If readers understand who you are and what you represent, they’ll buy your books.
  5. Blogging builds your audience. If you get people reading your blog on a regular basis, they’re more likely to purchase your books.
  6. Blogging creates interest in your cause/message. If you create interest in your cause/message, they’re more likely to purchase your books.
  7. Blogging reaches people around the world with your message. If you reach people world-wide, your books will sell world-wide.


At writers’ conferences, the blogging issue can come across with the mindset of selling books. But that’s not the reason why the majority of authors blog. At least I hope it isn’t. The vast majority of authors blog for the pleasure of connecting with their readers and the other part A of the aforementioned reasons above. If our readers buy our books, they have blessed us with more than we deserve. And we should be eternally grateful for their readership.


See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

My Quotes of Encouragement

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

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.


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”!


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.”


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.”


acknowledgment (no e between the d and the g)

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.




Mariam Davis Pineno

            You play “Duckling-with-inquisitive-nature” and I’ll naturally do my best to play “Old Wise One.” Naturally, because I already have “Old” down pat and “wise” attributable to a teacher’s history for leading while ruffling the fewest feathers.

So waddle to the edge, shove off, and start paddling. Why not? Of 700-words (max) you may read one answer here that resonates in your fine-feathered head.

  • You have a story to tell and a desire to see it in kids’ hands being read in your lifetime. If accepted by most main-stream publishers, your book will remain submerged for years.
  • You have requisite skills and you like controlling the whole process from registering the ISBN (for a fee) to authoring your own front and back matter (i.e. Dedication, Succinct Synopsis and such). You will search your text and sometimes fuzzy head for a best-selling title.  (See Lisa Lickel’s February article)
  • You have kept your beady bright eyes on the latest and best kids’ books, observing and experiencing enough to claim confidence in your ability to write in age-appropriate voice.
  • You promise yourself with every downy feather on your body that you will not “quack” down-to or in didactic tones but rather leave young readers with a suitably subtle message, if any, and with satisfying take-away, for sure. Make it grow out of your test—your story.
  • You think economy of words throughout, clarity your watchword.
  • You build in effective page-turns and repetition (word, phrase, action) for Early Readers.
  • You will give thoughtful consideration to your Dedication and Bio (without telling your life story) and will compose a unique signature for signing your books. Example: When signing my chapter book IT DOESN’T GROW on TREES, I draw from the theme with “May your motivation work wonders,” as does Brenda Hendricks when signing her new picture book WHAT’S the BUZZ, BUMBLY BEE? with the phrase “Fly high and trust God!” As writers, not waitresses, we find “Enjoy!” lacking.
  • You will seek out fellow Odd Ducks’ help or will pay a Pro for experienced line-editing and/or proof-reading. Critiquing (welcome well-intentioned criticism) will roll off like water off… (you know).
  • You don’t mind going without a few bags of grain, realizing full well that it’s rare as orchids in a creek to make a great profit from sales. Quack! “I can afford this.” Quack it often.

(Note: Honest self-publishing companies will even tell you upfront, before accepting your manuscript, that you aren’t going to get rich quick—if ever. So plunge in and sink or swim at your own risk.)

  • You have (or someone you know who won’t charge you a wing and a webbed-foot has) studied and acquired the considerable skills to properly paginate, lay out text and illustrations to complement, and to scan into your computer. In other words, you, Odd Duck Designer, are about to assume the role of at least eight editors with no guarantee you’ll savor a single crumb.
  • You may set your own unit price, knowing the standard, universal arrangement is 60% for the Odd Duck and 40% for the owner of the pond.
  • You researched enough to know the term “self-publishing” is ambiguous. It encompasses various styles from do-it-all-yourself (from disc to printer, as are all of my picture books), to submitting manuscript, paying, and dealing with no less than twenty-five people. I’ve done both. So I can say, “WHY NOT?”

Detailed explanations and answers to your specific quirky quacks can be had by e-mailing Writemuse@webtv.net. Friendly-reader e-mail makes my heart sing. I always quack back.




Mariam has authored one chapter book entitled IT DOESN’T GROW on TREES for Grades  3-6 (Ages 8 and up). In collaboration with daughter/professional artist, Martha Pineno Hess, she has published four full-color young reader picture books: TALENTED TABBY; LEONARDO’S LESSON; A HAT for HANNAH; and A BOX of BEARS just released in October, 2009.  

Mariam’s delightful books can be purchased at the above links, www.CYGNETSTUDIOS.com, and Cygnet Studios in Elizabethtown, PA. IT DOESN’T GROW on TREES can also be found at the Walden Books store in the Susquehanna Mall, Selinsgrove, PA.


By Marsha Hubler


Done wrote me a book on a whim or a dare,

Published it then with explosive fanfare,

So what should come next in the writing game?

Marketing, of course, to broaden my fame.

But where to begin? And where do I start?

Peddling downtown with my books in a cart?

How about the TV, radio, or online?

If I sell just ONE tome, oh, twill be so fine.

Ah, yes, the marketing game.

I’ve met hundreds of authors over the past twenty years since I’ve started writing to publish, only a handful ever telling me that they enjoyed marketing their work. I think those few had some kind of degrees in business and were quite successful in their financial stratosphere before they ever considered tackling writing as a profession.

Then there’s the rest of us. We who love to think, and stew, and write, and rewrite. We who detest promoting and marketing our books because it’s such a waste of our precious time that could be spent in front of our computers. Our minds are constantly aggravated with this daunting question: how can we budget our time successfully so that we can exercise our creative juices, yet get out there and sell a book or two?

When Zonderkidz released my Keystone Stables Series in 2004 and 2005, I looked for ways to promote and market the six books without investing much money. Why? I didn’t have the bucks. Even though the books were published by a well-known Christian publishing company, I knew that my sales depended mostly on my efforts. So with a shoestring budget, I set out to peddle my wares.

Over the course of the past six years I’ve found that I could “sell a book or two” without investing a lot of cash, but I did have to invest a lot of time. I must have done something right because the first book in my Keystone series, A HORSE TO LOVE, has become a best seller.

Borrowing a handful of notes from my writers’ workshop Power Point presentation, I’d like to share with you some marketing ideas. Perhaps you can fine-tune these strategies to fit your specific needs. I guarantee that if you convert a few of these ideas into action, you will sell your books. Remember, it doesn’t take much money. It does take a lot of time, but I believe you’ll find that it’s time well spent.

  1. As soon as your book comes out, call all the local newspapers and radio

stations.  They are usually very interested in doing an interview or feature

article with photos about a local author and his/her book. If you live near a TV

station, try your best to connect with them for an interview, news flash, or

guest appearance on a talk show.

  1. Print your own business cards with your book cover featured on it. Put the cards in envelopes when you pay bills and leave the cards with tips in restaurants.
  2. Start your own website, get on Facebook, and look for “free advertising” websites.
  3. Link your website with other authors’ websites for more exposure and look for writers’ websites that do book reviews.
  4. Offer speaking services to your target audience. This venue has sold more books for me than any other. The first two years my books were out, I spoke an average of about once a month in churches, schools, and community groups.
  5. Offer special deals such as “Buy two books, get one free” or offer a small token gift with book purchases. I offer plastic horse models with the purchase of four books or more. I have a friend who gives out daffodils with each purchase of her book. Another author friend gives a fancy curly-Q bookmark with each purchase.
  6. Offer to do book signings at bookstores and businesses that would attract your readers. However, always ask to have your signing on a special sales day or before a holiday. Last fall, I had a book signing at a COLE’S HARDWARE store on their big sales day of the year and sold more books than at some bookstore signings.

As you analyze these suggestions and plan your own marketing strategies, be as creative with this necessary part of writing as you are when you’re pecking away at your keyboard.

So load up your cart, put a smile on your face, and hit the highways. Your own best seller is right around the corner.