Collaborative Writing

By Crystal Bowman

Crystal Daughter
Crystal Bowman & Teri McKinley

I’ve had a few co-authoring projects over the years that were one-time contracts with no further commitments to another author. But now that I’m writing with my daughter, Teri McKinley, this could be a long-term collaborative relationship!

Teri was only 8 years old when my first book came out. I often brought her to my book signings where she enjoyed being my “side-kick.” She studied journalism in college, but decided that wasn’t her thing and majored in interior design instead.

After she finished grad school, got marriage, and settled in TX, I began sending her my manuscripts, asking for her feedback. I was amazed at her insights, suggestions, and creative ideas, and she was amazed at how much she enjoyed being my personal editor.

When My Grandma and Me was published in 2013, I told my editor at Tyndale that my daughter’s name should have been on the cover since she helped me so much.  My editor said, “Well let’s get her name on the next book!” And that’s what happened. Teri and I co-authored My Mama and Me which received the 2014 Logos Bookstore Award for best picture book. Our next book for Tyndale was M is for Manger—an alphabet book which tells the Christmas story in chronological order. We’ve also been co-authoring for Discovery House and have helped them launch children’s products for Our Daily Bread.  The first two books are Our Daily Bread for Kids and Our Daily Bread for Preschoolers. Two new board books have just been released to launch Our Daily Bread for Little Hearts. Adam and Eve’s 1-2-3s and A is for Ark hit the shelves in March.

People often ask what it’s like working as a mother-daughter team. For us it has been a dream come true. We love how it keeps us connected since we live in different states. With our close relationship, we can push each other to do better because we don’t have to worry about hurt feelings or walking on eggshells. Our board books and picture books are written in rhythm and rhyme, so it’s good to have double input. If one of us feels the rhythm is off or the wording is awkward, we revise until we are both satisfied. We can be open and honest and just have fun with these wonderful projects that allow us to teach children about God.

I’ve been writing children’s books for over two decades and never imagined writing with my daughter. But it’s no surprise to God—to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or think. (Ephesians 3;20)

CrystalBowman100

 

Crystal Bowman

www.christianchildrensauthers.com

 

 

Bringing Big Doctrines Down to Kid Size

How can we teach Bible doctrine to children in ways that they can understand?

By Crystal Bowman

CrystalBowman100As a Christian children’s author, my main message to children is that God loves them and cares about them very much. But I believe children can understand some deeper biblical truths as well. The word ‘doctrine’ describes what we believe and why. So how can we teach Bible doctrine to children in ways that they can understand?

  • Is God Real? Children can be taught that there’s a God in heaven, but we can go deeper when we explain the evidence of God’s existence in nature. In Our Daily Bread for Kids (Discovery House) I wrote a devotional “Can You See It?” which explains that even though we cannot see the wind, we can see what it does. Wind blows a sailboat across a lake. It blows the leaves on a tree and carries a kite through the air. Children understand these examples from everyday life. In the same way, we know God is real because we can see what He does. We can look at the sun, moon, and stars He created. We can see God’s beauty in rainbows and sunsets, and we can see His power in a mighty ocean. Children can have a greater awareness of God’s existence by learning to see Him in the world around them.

 

  • What Is Grace? The way to teach grace is to help children understand that God already loves us and we don’t have to earn His love. God gives us blessings we don’t deserve. It’s like getting a present when it’s not your birthday, or getting an A even though you got the answers wrong. One of my picture books Do You Love Me More? features a child who is trying to do everything right to earn God’s love. The mother finally explains to the child that God already loves him, but by doing good things we can show God that we love Him back.

 

  • What Is Faith? When teaching a concept such as faith, a writer needs to give examples of what that looks like, since concepts are concrete objects. Noah had faith when God told him to build a boat even though it had never rained. Abraham had faith when God told him to move to another country, even though God didn’t tell him where to go. Through sharing stories like these, children can learn what it means to have faith and trust in God.

Of course, there are many others Bible doctrines that young children can understand if they are taught with age-appropriate examples and kid-friendly language. Whether it’s kids’ devotionals, Bible story books, or picture books, writers can reach little children with big doctrines by using carefully chosen words—and that’s one of the challenges of writing for children!   

CrystalBowman100Crystal Bowman is a former preschool teacher, award-winning author, national speaker, and Mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). She has written more than 100 books for children, three books for women, numerous magazine articles, and Bible study materials. She also writes stories for Clubhouse Jr. magazine and lyrics for children’s piano music.

She has written books for many popular children’s series, such as Little Blessings, The Berenstain Bears, and I Can Read. She is the co-author of Our Daily Bread for Kids, Our Daily Bread for Preschoolers, My Mama and Me, and M is for Manger. She and her husband enjoy living in both Florida and Michigan (wherever the weather is best!)

 

 

 

 

Most Significant Books Part 1

a3-thin-copy-973-x-200I follow the A3 blog-“Almost An Author.” Several weeks ago a post challenged me to list the ten most significant books I have read. At first I thought of that question “If you were stranded on an island alone what three books would you want to have with you?” I would have extreme difficulty picking just three, I think.

So I started my list. I quickly thought of ten, then another one, then two more…you get the picture. I scanned the spines of almost every book On My Shelf and finally settled on the list that follows.

Most of them are not about writing. They are about living. I hope you’ll be challenged to read a few of them for yourself. If you do, please let me know on my Facebook author page or by email at jean@jeanmatthewhall.com.

AND please share with us (in a comment) or (on my Facebook author page) a few titles that have impacted your life.

Roughly half the list follows. The next half will be right here waiting for you next Tuesday. Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

book-1209805_1280The Bible

God’s infallible, authoritative Word is the guide for my life. It lead me to salvation in Christ, and is the source of (hopefully) all of my decisions, and shapes my belief system and my worldview.

 

 

Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund51fksy6rcpl-_sx316_bo1204203200_1

Helped me to organize and prioritize my life and my choices into three areas (God, Family, Others) which I later refined as two priorities; (1) My relationship and responses to Christ; (2) My relationships and responses to other people.

 

 

 

51csysefe3l-_sx302_bo1204203200_The Principles of Spiritual Growth by Miles J. Stanford

I read this the first time a few months after I accepted Christ. It revealed to me the depths of the Christian life and God’s desire for me to be more than “just” a Christian; and both challenged and equipped me to grow into a deeper relationship with Christ.

 

 

 

Keep a Quiet Heart  by Elisabeth Elliot91fk-cgvcgl-_ac_ul115_

This was one of the first devotional books I used as a maturing Christian. I’ve read it several times. Each entry encourages me to seek quietness and rest in my life.

 

 

512bzielreylDescending Into Greatness by Bill Hybels

Cemented for me one of the pillars of my life: the only way to greatness is to become a servant to God and to all the people who intersect my life.

 

 

 

 

Honest to God by Bill Hybels51wdafk7lzl-_sx326_bo1204203200_

Challenges me to live authentically and transparently before God and other people.

 

 

 

 

41ccck3jjel-_sx326_bo1204203200_Fit to Be Tied by Bill Hybels

Helped me to release the shame and guilt I lived with because my marriage wasn’t beautiful and harmonious. I am responsible to God only for MY part of our marriage. My husband is responsible to God for his part. The book also gave me hope that God will use our broken marriage for His glory.

 

 

 

Scribbling In the Sand by Michael Card51pci1e94kl

 

Challenges me to live and work creatively, and to allow God’s creativity to flourish in my life and overflow to bless other people.

 

 

Called To Write-Part 2

Called To Write: Biblical Truths For Bloggers and Authors

By Rev. C.M. Logan and K.M. Logan

Has it been a while since you signed a writing contract?called-to-write-logan

You know, for that incredible novel on your hard drive? Or for your adorable picture book? Maybe a magazine article? Devotional?

Me, too.

It’s not difficult to become discouraged and feel you are just wasting your time. Or maybe thinking that you must have misunderstood God’s call to write. I mean, being called to write DOES mean being published, doesn’t it?

Ready to quit?

Then you need this little FREE Kindle book.  Called To Write: Biblical Truths For Bloggers and Authors is a concentrated dose of the reality of God’s call to write and the purpose for which He calls us. A quick read that was a welcomed reminder of what-in-the-world-am-I-doing thinking I can write! And did I tell you that it is FREE?

Don’t give up. Rush over to Amazon and get the Kindle book Called To Write: Biblical Truths For Bloggers and Authors. It will remind you, inspire you and get you out of the mulligrubs, and back into rhythm with God’s call for you as a writer.

 

Called to Write-Part 1

called-to-writeCalled to Write: 7 Principles to Become a Writer on Mission

By Edna Ellison and Linda Gilden, published in 2014

Called to Write: 7 Principles to Become a Writer on Mission identifies seven key competencies required to become a writer on mission for God. Each competency is explained in its own informational chapter. Then readers are challenged in a “how to implement” section for each skill.

I found this volume to be a quick read, but I’ve been practicing writing for publication for almost thirteen years now.

 

(My goodness! Has it been THAT long?)

I think Called to Write is a great book for Christians who are fairly new to writing for publication.  Both Linda and Edna are experienced authors and writing coaches. Their advice is solid.

On My Kindle Shelf

I have more than one book shelf, you know. One is tangible—I love its ready accessibility and it’s physical beauty.

But the other—my Kindle Shelf—is so mobile and convenient that I love it, too.

Several of the books on my Kindle are for writers. I’ll chat about three of them which are by the same Christian author, Ed Cyzewski.

All three are quick reads that lead to some serious thinking.

faith-bloggerChronologically the first book is Become a Better Faith Blogger. The title pretty much sums up the purpose of this little book. Cyzewski share ten tips about becoming a better blogger while living out your faith. He offers inspiration, practical ideas and advice borrowing from ten notable people of faith who have successful blogs.

The biggest drawback of this little book is that it was copyrighted in 2012, and blogging has come a changed enormously since 2012.

 

 

The second volume is Pray, Write, Grow published in 2015. This book “offers life-giving practices that will help you grow in both prayer and writing and shows you how the two can work together…” Cyzewski’s premise is:

“If you want to improve your prayer life, try writing.pray-write-grow

If you want to improve your writing life, try praying.

The two require many of the same practices, disciplines, and virtues.”

That sounds simple. But Cyzewski’s words were provocative to me. I highlighted numerous passages that spoke to me regarding both my prayer practices (especially the practice of being silent before the LORD) and my writing practices.

 

 

contemplativeIn The Contemplative Writer Cyzewski weaves the practices of prayer, meditation and writing together. He emphasizes the calling of writing and the persistent, regular practice of writing as communication with one’s self and with God. He offers a “life preserver of sorts to writers of faith who perhaps feel like they are drowning. He defines contemplative prayer as resting in God and offers suggestions for making that happen.

This perspective was thought provoking for me. It made me mindful of using writing as a way to focus on my spiritual condition, improve my spiritual relationship to God, and use my writing as a gift of gratitude back to God.

Each book is a quick read—60 to 90 minutes—but offer plenty of things to think about for a long time.

The Way Back – Part 6 “Finale”

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I did it. It was scary at first, but I finally dove in.

 

Since last Friday I’ve been tossing weird “What if…” ideas around in my head. Nothing developed from them.

So, I cheated. Just a little.

On my laptop I keep EVERYTHING I write or try to write. I have a folder for each year. Inside those folders are sub-folders for manuscripts, publisher, shards (leftover scraps of phrases, sentences, paragraphs) and quotes, thoughts and ideas that I never developed. I also have a folder for poetry and children’s poetry – mostly containing incomplete works.

I usually start a writing session by warming up on poetry. I may try to create some new poem, or work on a poem that has been on my hard drive for years. Either way, working on poetry gets my writing muscles ready.

Like I said, I cheated. Just a little.

So, I scanned through my junk, thoughts, and ideas folders. I found a few things I had saved from years back. One was a brief conversation I had with my grandson about nine or ten years ago. (I know—I told you I keep everything!)

That little 50 words of conversation birthed the “new” idea I’ve been working on.

I tried framing that idea into poetry. The result is a trilogy of poems that I think have promise for some children’s magazine. I HOPE so! I’ll keep polishing them.

My second attempt was to recreate that conversation as a fiction story for a children’s magazine. That idea definitely needs a great deal of work. But I began that work in spite of my trepidation.

I dove in. I dog-paddled my way around the pool.

Since last Friday I’ve committed to a writing schedule that I think will work for me. I’m committed to one hour of “writing” each morning and one hour each evening.court-friends

It’s a start, right?

I have to admit the water feels great. Refreshing.

So, how did YOUR new idea work out last weekend?

The Way Back – Part 5

swimming-1265932_1280.jpgWednesday night I sat in front of my laptop and REWROTE something.

I started out revising a PB manuscript I’ve been working on for years. As I worked I could see LOTS of places that needed help – a lot of help.

So, I printed it out and took a blue pen to it. Circling things, scratching things out, moving things around. I was being creative. It felt good to stretch those writing muscles.

Each time I read the manuscript I saw more things to eliminate. Then, I got a couple of new ideas. The theme of the story that I’ve been chasing round and round for years rose to the surface effortlessly. I was excited!

I felt kind of like a swimmer who has been out of the water for a long time. When she finally gets to dive into the pool and starts reaching out with long, smooth strokes she feels strong again.

Wednesday night I felt strong again. I’m ready to jump in and start swimming.

 

Step #6 for me is DIVE IN. TAKE A RISK. START SOMETHING NEW.

All week I’ve been thinking about writing, and reading about writing, and talking about writing. Now it’s time to actually DO what I’ve been blogging about.

Now it’s time for me to write something from that creative center that God gave me.

Time to stop procrastinating, stop staring into the water. Time to dive in.

bulb-40701_1280So, I’m making a pact with you. Before my next blog post (Tuesday) I am going to start a manuscript that is totally new for me. Something I’ve never worked on before.

I’m going to search through my imagination for an idea and go with it. It might turn out to be great. Or, it might turn out to be garbage. But it’s going to be something brand new from inside me.

How about you? When is the last time you wrote a brand new manuscript from nothing? Will you jump in with me this weekend?

animal-1851495_1280

 

Or are you going to be a big chicken?

Come on. I dare you!

 

 

 

 

The Way Back – Part 4

PTL!

IMG_4468I’m eager to share with you how the Lord provided for me last week. I mentioned that I’m somewhat isolated because of my recent move. Well, since that post I found the Louisville Christian Writers (or https://www.facebook.com/lcwriters/)  who meet monthly just ten minutes from my home.

Then, a writing friend contacted me on Facebook about a one day conference she’s organizing this spring in – you guessed it, Louisville.

AND, I was invited to join a small critique group of folks who write for children.

Isn’t God good? Amen! Thank you, Lord, for hearing our smallest requests.

Now, to return to step five of my journey.

Step 5-SPEND TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA EVERY DAYphiladelphia-224462_1280.jpg

Do you ever find yourself in the far left lane on an Interstate highway, then suddenly realize you need to be four lanes over in the far right?  You survey the hundreds of cars and truck zooming by and dread grabs you. How are you going to get from here to there?

I feel that way about marketing most of the time. But, I need to get my mind into gear for it. What good is one of my books or articles doing if no one reads it?

These days marketing begins (and sometimes ends) with social media. <sigh>

I admit that I do NOT enjoy maintaining a social media presence. I’m making some progress in that direction, but I keep easing off the clutch too soon and rolling backwards. I believe I resent the time I spend “socializing” instead of researching and writing. I’m trying to look at it from a different perspective.

I am learning to use Buffer.com to make better use of my time. But, it takes TIME to use Buffer (and such programs) to save time.

I’ve decided to use my writing time one day each week for learning how to use, and maybe enjoy using, social media.

I’m taking advantage of Buffer’s free educational videos to learn how to optimize the time and energy I put into it.

My agent, Cyle Young, is a media/marketing guru. His newsletter Almost An Author is loaded with marketing tips and advice. I’m determined to implement some of his advice.

But it’s kind of like taking cough meds with that horrible Guaifenesin taste. (BTW – the only way I’ve found to neutralize that taste is peppermint.) Time to be a big girl, isn’t it?

This week I’ll watch the Buffer videos. Next week, my goal is to locate and read Cyle’s posts about social media. And, of course, to try to understand what I’m reading!

auto-racing-558089_1280.jpgCan you share any tips you know, or videos you’ve viewed, or online courses you have taken on better use of your time on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and all of those other sites out there? Thanks. I’ll take all the  help I can get!

Okay. It’s time to hit the road.

“Jean, start your engine!”

 

 

The Way Back – Part 3

Step 4-USE ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

IMG_0785I need to review the basics, practice the intermediate things I’ve learned, and start learning something new to improve my writing and marketability. Easy-peasy, right?

Websites and blogs for writers in every genre abound. Many have great archives. I’m dabbling.

I also belong to a couple of organizations that offer ongoing free education and advice online. Just spending a few minutes on one of these sites gets my creative brain in the right lane.

Here are a few for you to sample:

Writer’s Digest offers hundreds of articles. Shucks! Maybe thousands of them.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/list-of-50-poetic-forms-for-poets

Evelyn Christensen offers gobs of information and education for writing nonfiction for children.

http://evelynchristensen.com/mags.

The Write2Ignite! blog posts practical and informative articles specifically for those who write for children. They also have a great Conference in SC in March.

http://write2ignite.com/blog/

Emma Walton Hamilton’s page of her favorite resources is great.

http://emmasfavorites.com/

Tara Lazar’s blog is jam-packed with informative stuff. Love it.

https://taralazar.com/

Julie Hedlund offers tons of informative blog posts plus her for-hire services.

http://www.juliehedlund.com/

One more – right here under my RESOURSES tab.

https://jeanmatthewhall.com/resources-for-writers/

And there are hundreds of thousands more online.

Browse them, decide whether or not each one will be helpful for you. If so, dig in. The banquet is free. Absolutely free.