Writing is easier when you have this…

24 Mar

What inspires you to write?

What gets your juices flowing?

What helps the ideas and the words and the magic form?

For me, a little bit of loveliness helps.

Here’s a peek at what I saw from my lodge this past weekend at the writing conference.

It was quite a backdrop.

Quite a masterpiece.


“Virtual Handouts,” Part Deux

22 Mar

Here’s the second portion of my session at the Mountain Valley Writers Conference, in which I talked about how to find markets for my article ideas.

(P.S.: It’s not brain surgery. Or rocket science.

Getting published just takes some research, and time, and energy, and more energy.

Learn as much as you can about the process, then go for it.)


Marketing 101:

Finding places to publish, and writing query letters


How do I find markets for my articles?


Read regularly


Stay informed on industry news


Use the Writer’s Market


Use writing guidelines


Follow marketing websites


Use the actual publications


Use social media


Establish relationships with editors and other writers


Do multiple marketing





Marketing Checklist for each of your possible ideas


My idea:

Type of article into which this idea might develop:

Audiences who might be interested in my idea:

Categories of magazines that members of these audiences read:

Possible target magazines for this article:



How do I write a query letter?

A query letter is a one-page letter that attempts to sell your article idea to a magazine editor. Query letters are better than complete manuscripts because they save time for both you and the editor.


  1. An attention-getting introduction



  1. Information about your proposed article



  1. Information about yourself



  1. Closing



*Submit your query by email unless otherwise specified.

Workshop notes from the Mountain Valley Writers Conference

20 Mar

I just spent a lovely two days at the Mountain Valley Writers Conference in Lake Guntersville, Alabama. It was a much-needed (albeit brief) getaway with nature, new friends, and lots of inspiration.

I did a session on writing query letters, which evolved into talking a lot about how we come up with ideas to write about and then how we do something with those ideas in a practical, marketable way.

Since you didn’t get to attend the conference with me, how about some “virtual handouts”? (I may trademark that term. Virtual handouts. They could become a thing.)

Here’s what I talked about in the first portion:


First, let’s consider the reader’s needs. What does a reader need from a feature article?

  1. Readers want to be entertained.


  1. Readers want to know how to make their lives better (physically, relationally, emotionally, spiritually, financially, etc.).



  1. Readers want to be informed.


  1. Readers want to be inspired.



Sources of article ideas:


What You Know

Personal Experiences

Personal Interests and Passions

Areas of Expertise


What You Don’t Know…Yet

Personal Interests/Dreams

Publications’ Needs



Other People

Well-known people

Ordinary people with extraordinary stories

People in the news

Family and friends


Things you Read


Newspapers and Magazines



Seasons, Holidays and Anniversaries


Evergreen topics


Trending Issues


Creative Exercises






Day 30: I love March

10 Mar

March is just about my favoritest month.

(And, yeah, I know that ‘favoritest’ isn’t really a word. But it’s totally appropriate in this situation.)

A lot of my favoritest people have birthdays in March.


my late Grandma Sloan

my late Mamaw Stuart

my best friend



the new granddaughter


and a whole lot of other people that my mother always reminds me of, but that I soon forget.

And, in addition to birthdays, there’s awesome stuff like…

the beginning of softball season

lots and lots of basketball (it’s madness, baby!)

St. Patrick’s Day


warmer weather

longer days.

It’s just a really beautiful, wonderful, life-affirming, special month.

And I’m so glad it’s here.

Day 29: A part of the answer

9 Mar

Last night at church, one of our pastors gave a prayer and eventually turned to people who were sick or hurting in some way.

He said something to the effect of how they needed answers to their struggles.

And then he said something that so struck me:

“Help me be a part of their answer,” he prayed.

Praying is awesome, of course.

But praying, hand in hand with DOING SOMETHING, is super awesome.

When we pray for healing and wholeness for a situation…whether it’s for a physical sickness, or an emotional struggle, or even for the hungry people we see on the other side of the world…we can make those prayers so much stronger if we put feet to our praying hands.

So, I’m asking myself:

How can I help be a part of someone’s answer today, and this week, and this month,

and really for the rest of my life?

I don’t want to practice my piety for piety’s sake.

I want to be part of the help that a real Christian should be striving for and actively seeking after.

Help me, Lord, be a part of






Day 28: I thank you, Cadbury

8 Mar

Easter celebrates the resurrection of our Savior.

But it’s also…just a little bit…about all things Cadbury.

This season provides us with the very best that candy has to offer.

The candy we get is better than at Christmastime, better than Halloween, better than Valentine’s Day.

The season gives us Reese’s eggs, and those lovely luscious Peeps, and all  manner of Herseys-turned-Easter-shaped-goodness.

But, more than anything, it gives us the Cadbury creme egg.

And the Cadbury mini egg.


I don’t know who you are, Cadbury.

I don’t know where you came from, Cadbury.

(I could do some quick Googling and discover the Cadbury story, I’m sure.)

But I thank you.

I thank you for that creamy filling  inside your chocolate egg. I bite into the thick outside chocolate layer only to find another, better interior layer of–get this!–fake, creamy, decadent, pretend “yolk.”

It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

And then.


I thank you for those perfect little mini eggs that first capture me with a crunchy outer shell only to discover that the chocolate on the inside is the perfect flavor and consistency to make me forget what I just ate.

It’s like an M&M. But way, way, way, way better.

I would challenge you, Cadbury, to take all of this to another level. To add more to your egg repertoire.

But I don’t really think I could handle it.


Day 27: It’s All About the C

7 Mar

For today’s writing exercise, I decided to once again go to an online source for creative writing prompts.

This is what I found (in an entry on the awesome Writer’s Digest website).

“Write a 10-line poem where every line begins with the first letter of your first name.”

I have a feeling this will be quite difficult, but I shall give it a try.


Captured by thoughts that won’t let go

cloying, clawing

craving my attention.

Cacophonies of sound that won’t ease up

crashing, clanging

commanding my mind.

Certainty turns to worry.

Confidence turns to fear.

Can I do this?

Can I break free?



(I wrote that quickly and with quite a bit of ease, actually. It’s not really that good. And yet it really sums up a struggle I’ve had a lot in the last year or so; I’m trying to remain confident in myself and to be hopeful. I don’t want to lose my sense of optimism. I want to capture worry and fear, and kick them out of my heart. This poem says something about that. It’s messy and the words aren’t all right, but it still rings true for me. And each of the lines start with C. That’s something.)