Monday Mentor: Kaye Dacus

Having just returned from the Middle Tennessee Christian Writers (MTCW) conference in Bellevue this week, I’ll have to admit I’m pumped about all the information I gleaned from this conference. I’m just about to set sail on the most intense writing adventure of my life, two back-to-back conferences, one in Indianapolis (ACFW) and the other here at home in Nashville (Midsouth SCBWI). I signed up for these conferences totally ignorant of what to expect. I am a newbie, afterall. However, after attending (and joining) the MTCW group, I feel much more sure of what I need to do to prepare. I’m not there yet, but I now have a very clear picture of what I’m aiming for.

Kaye Dacus

This week’s Monday Mentor is Kaye Dacus. Kaye is an accomplished writer, an experienced editor and the current president and co-founder of the MTCW. She is, in her own words, a woman whose life is dedicated to “hope, humor and happily ever afters.” I am especially grateful for Kaye’s dedication to make the MTCW conference a wonderful success. I also appreciate her taking the time to visit SerendipiTeeBlog.

Just who is the REAL Kaye Dacus?

I’m the daughter of Mike & Judy Dacus; sister of Michelle Dacus Lesley; aunt to Josh, Caleb, Michaela, Jordan, Benjamin and Jacob; and granddaughter of Crawford & Julia (Caylor) McLellan and W.C. and Edith (Bradley) Dacus—and cousin to a bunch of people!

I’m the author of humorous, hope-filled contemporary and historical romance novels with Barbour Books and Harvest House Publishers. I served as an officer with American Christian Fiction Writers from 2003–2005, and have served as president of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers since 2006. Even though I write romance novels, I love action movies and football and am not afraid to admit that I’ve never been kissed!

If we look closely, I believe we might catch a glimpse of your super woman cape. You seem to have found the right touch for writing books that readers can’t wait to read. You’ve had two books come out this summer. Please give us a taste of what’s waiting for us.

Ransome’s Crossing is the second book in the Ransome Trilogy from Harvest House publishers. Charlotte Ransome, desperate to reach Jamaica to see her secret fiancé, disguises herself as a midshipman for a convoy led by her brother, Captain William Ransome. Meanwhile, William and his new bride, Julia, face the rough swells of the sea and of marriage as they try to adjust to life together. When yellow fever befalls Charlotte and her identity is discovered, she begs first officer, Ned Cochran, and Julia to keep her presence and illness from her brother. But could this secret create insurmountable waves between Julia and William? And will Ned’s tender care of Charlotte change the tide of her affections forever?


Love Remains is the first book in a new contemporary series, The Matchmakers, with Barbour Books. Every grandmother wants to see her grandchildren happy, especially when it comes to their love lives. Join five active senior ladies—and one gentleman—who take a great interest in the lives and loves of their single grandchildren and become The Matchmakers. Zarah Mitchell and Bobby Patterson become the first focus of meddling grandmothers when he moves back to Nashville to work for the Tennessee Criminal Investigations Unit. Will Zarah be able to forgive the man who years ago chose a military career over her—especially when she learns he is investigating the historic preservation agency for which she works?

 What do you believe is the greatest conflict writers face today (especially writers who do not want to compromise their faith)? How do you believe they can overcome these obstacles?

I think the greatest conflict for most believers who are novelists is a conflict of reconciling the business side of the industry with what they believe is a personal ministry through writing. Publishing houses, whether publishing Christian fiction or general-market fiction, are in business to make money. Many believers feel they are called to write fiction as a way of ministering to or evangelizing others—and the lose sight of the fact that publishing houses aren’t there to support their ministry, but to publish books and make a profit from them so that they can continue to publish more books.

The best way to overcome this is to keep everything in perspective. If God has truly called a writer to write, then God will determine how that writing is to be used for His glory. We have to remain open to the possibility that, while He may have called us to write, He may not be calling us to be published—or to be published within our own timeframe. We just have to keep faithfully doing the work He’s called us to do and let Him handle what’s out of our control.

Why do you write?

My heart is, as it has been for more than twenty years, focused on writing light-hearted romances—romances that cast a ray of hope into the lives of people who’ve been told their situation in life is hopeless. I like writing characters who represent a growing segment of the population that seems to be increasingly left out in Christian circles: women in their late-twenties, thirties, and early-forties (and even older) who have never been married and who want to be loved and accepted for who they are, not pigeon-holed into a category, labeled, or, as happens most often, shoved to the side and ignored/forgotten about by their churches, coworkers, or even friends and family. I’m writing to the women who, like me, expected to be married before they turned twenty-five (-six, -seven, -eight . . .), but who may find themselves now in their mid- to late-thirties or forties and have never even had a date or meaningful relationship.

I’m writing for them (me, actually) so we can hang on to the hope of finding a well-adjusted, loving, marriage-minded Christian man out there somewhere and having a “happily ever after” ending with him (with the hope that he may be closer than we realize). I’m writing for the woman who, like me, feels most alone when she goes to church and sees all the married/engaged couples and families sitting together; who has to endure the family-focused activities, Bible studies, Sunday school lessons, and sermons (if you’ve never noticed, start keeping track of how often your pastor talks about families and/or marriage); who begins to feel it isn’t just the church that has pushed her aside and forgotten about her, but that maybe God has too.

How do you find joy in your creative journey?

Because I’m single and I write romance, the most fun part of writing for me is falling in love right along with my characters. It’s that fantasy of what could be, and what I hope God will one day bring into my own life.

Everybody has misadventures on the road to success. What is one of the wackiest things you’ve ever done to find your fifteen minutes of fame?

Hmmm . . . I’m one of those people who lives in a perpetual state of being anxious that I’m going to embarrass myself, so I try to avoid situations like that. I guess I’d have to say that the closest I’ve come to anything like this was when I got up in front of 500+ people at the 2008 ACFW national conference to give a devotional and told everyone that I was stalking James Scott Bell.

What is the best advice you can give a writer just getting started?

Above all else, finish your first draft. Spend more time working on your story—on developing the depth and breadth of your plot and characters—than on anything else. It’s less important to have a trunk full of rejections than it is to have a great story that will catch the eye of your dream editor/agent. And don’t rest on just one or two completed manuscripts. Once you send something out, start writing your next novel—and be planning the one after that. The best way to prepare for being a multi-published novelist is to write multiple manuscripts before you ever sign that first contract.

Please answer the question I didn’t ask but that you wish I did.

My great-grandfather was a multi-published author. John Caylor, Sr., held degrees from Howard College (now Samford University), Oklahoma Baptist University, the University of Alabama, and was awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree from Louisiana College. He served as Editorial Secretary of the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and he was editor of Home Missions magazine, which, at the time, had a circulation of 175,000. He was listed in “Who’s Who” in America, and was a much-beloved pastor. Amongst his published titles were America Needs God, In Evangeline’s Country, A Path of Light, Ways of Witnessing, and, my personal favorite, The Great “I am’s” of Jesus (published in 1957 by Zondervan). Unfortunately, DeeDaddy died of cancer several years before I was born. But I’m pretty sure it would have made him proud to know that I’m (sort of) following in his footsteps.

Finally, please leave us with your favorite Bible verse, inspirational quote or song lyric. Tell us what it means to you.

My favorite passage is Hebrews 12:1-3:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NASB)

To me, this is my Christian journey in a nutshell—I wouldn’t be anywhere if it weren’t for those who’ve gone before me, who now surround me, and who will come after me; I must persevere in the tasks God has set before me—and I can do so only by living on faith in Jesus, who endured so much more than I will ever be asked to go through.

If you want to be a writer and are ready to take the first steps, you absolutely MUST begin your journey with a visit to Kaye’s website. She has a passion to unselfishly encourage beginning writers (like me). I can tell you first-hand that when I made up my mind to become serious about honing my writing craft,  I visited Kaye’s blog and found just what I needed to give me a clear understanding of the expectations of a serious writer.

I also highly recommend the Middle Tennessee Christian Writers group, which meets every second Saturday of the month in Nashville, Tennessee. If you live in the Middle Tennessee area, you should consider a visit. You’ll meet wonderful people who share your passion for writing and your love for Jesus Christ.

Memphis mojo

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.”   Samuel Johnson

Maybe it was three years ago when I took my newspaper staff on a writing adventure, a change of scenery. We took our notepads and writing utensils to an outdoor spot where no other students, staff and faculty were around, and we sat. And we listened. And we wrote.

My goal was for my students to listen to nature and to listen to their own imaginations so that they could find the story that lay dormant within their minds. I never imagined that I would be the one to benefit most from the excursion. Sitting there in the quiet of the outdoors on the bleachers in front of a ball field, I came up with an idea for a story that refused to go away.

As I sat on the bleachers in the silence, I watched my students drift away on their on journeys, and then my own thoughts flooded my mind. What if a couple of teens snuck out to the ball field behind their school to find a quiet place to write? What if they saw a couple of teachers sneaking out too? What if the students caught the teachers doing something that was clearly against school rules? What if what they were doing was so bad that it was a crime?

I didn’t actually write that story, but I did write a story about a couple of student journalists who witnessed their peers and their teachers take part in activities leading up to the deaths of three of their classmates. Actually, when I first made up my mind to seriously pursue my heart’s desire, I had two other stories in mind as well. I even started one of them, but the YA story wouldn’t go away. It latched onto my heart.

When I knew that I could not NOT write my YA story, I decided to learn as much as I could about my characters. The main character, TJ, grew up in Memphis, probably my favorite place to escape, so I went to Memphis and followed TJ’s tracks wherever they led. I’ve been to Memphis quite a few times, but I wanted to see Memphis with fresh eyes, my character’s eyes.

I started with Beale Street and headed straight for the soul food, Blues City Café and then Miss Polly’s. I go to both on a regular basis, but I’ll never forget my first visit to Miss Polly’s. I have sweet memories of greens, catfish and Joe Walsh. No, he wasn’t there.

If he were, I probably would have written a totally different story—from within my cell. I’m sure I would have stalked him the rest of the trip. Joe was playing on some West Coast stage, and I watched him on a little TV as I sat at my table that paid homage to one of the blues greats. But my laid-back experience allowed my mind to wander so that my story could develop.

During my journey I met an old man at Memphis Music, who had the warmest smile I’ve ever seen. I could have talked to him for hours. Then I stepped outside and put a few dollars in the tip bucket after watching the Beale Street Flippers do their thing.

The sun had set, and the moon had risen. I ventured into Tater Red’s, probably the scariest store in all of downtown. I don’t think I would ever buy anything there because I believe you can take the “bad” with you, but I saw what I needed to see.

Picture mojo and voodoo and then mix it with the crossroads and Robert Johnson. You see where I’m going. There’s a lot of other gimmicky, crass items in there as well, but I can’t help but wonder if evil truly lurks behind the voodoo shrine in the back of the store. I may never know, but should I write a sequel, perhaps TJ will return to his roots and tell us all.

I couldn’t miss hanging out at the Pepsi Pavilion to check out the band, and the later it got, the louder the women sang. Not the band, mind you. I’m talking about the older “girls” who had partaken in their own spirits—and I’m not talking about the ones at Tater Red’s. I wouldn’t have minded staying there until the band members packed up their equipment, but it was getting late.

I had to get back to my hotel, but before I left I took a carriage ride with a driver from Austria. He didn’t have a dog. Most of the other drivers do, but he had a cool accent and shared lots of cool stories about his life and about the history of Memphis. I could have ridden in one of the lighted carriages shaped like pumpkins, but I chose to save it for another trip. (Yes, I did go back and try out the pumpkin. How could a romantic like me give up the chance to play Cinderella?)

I haven’t taken my current students on a writing journey this year. But maybe I should do that as soon as possible. I can’t help but think of a quote by St. Augustine:

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

It’s time for me and my students to set out on another adventure. Even if we only go a few steps beyond our classroom, there is no limit where our imaginations will take us.

Queen of (dis)grace

“Why do you write?”

“Because I have to write.”

I hear this comeback every time I question an author about his or her motivation. But what is it that really compels us to write what we write? Why are some people drawn to historical romances? Why are some people drawn to thrillers? And why are others drawn to speculative fiction? What we write isn’t always what we enjoy reading, so what compels us to do what we do?

I think my first manuscript turned out to be YA fiction because there is a part of me, deep down in my gut, that can empathize with the adolescent, particularly a girl, who finds herself in the most awkward of situations. At least I have material that I can use.

Here’s a taste:

I’ve never really looked my age. That’s great, you say. Maybe now, but back when I first graduated college and took on my first substitute teaching job, my “baby face” got me into a heap of trouble with the dreaded lunch ladies at Central Middle School. There I was eating lunch in the cafeteria by myself, the teacher. Afterwards I returned my tray to where I thought it was supposed to go, and then I was stormed and read the riot act for putting my tray in the wrong spot. Those little ladies in hair nets and buns attacked  like a small army, pinning me against the wall ready for a firing squad. The whole cafeteria witnessed my public humiliation. For crying out loud, they thought I was a middle schooler!  I was a college graduate. I held a teacher’s license. I’ll bet no other adult has ever been mistaken for a MIDDLE SCHOOLER!

And then there was the time when I worked on campus at MTSU in the education office. My job was simple:  Make three copies. I went to the copy room and faced a machine the size of a small SUV. I punched in three copies. Nothing happened. I punched in three copies again. Nothing happened. I punched in three again. THEN the machine started spitting out 333 copies—during a time of a paper shortage. I was in TROUBLE. I ended up hiding 330 copies in trash cans all over campus.  It took me a long time. Oh, the humility.

And then if you really want to talk humility, there was the time I was sent to do inventory in an almost abandoned education building. The task was simple:  Write down the number of the item found on the bottom of the item, be it table, desk or chair. Everything was going fine until I had to write down the number of the conference table, the HUGE conference table that filled the room. I had to crawl under the table, lie flat on my back and write down the long number. No big deal. But then the janitor walked in and saw me there. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t say anything. I just looked at him and smiled. He left. I can only imagine what must have been going through his mind.

I could go on and on. But my more vivid memories involve the time I was the only teacher in charge of the Satan’s Legion Death Metal Shindig in our school theatre. I was young and naïve, emphasis on naïve. I like music. I get along with the music kids. “Will you sponsor our band when we play in the theater during Homecoming,” they asked. “Sure,” I said. “Why not?” When I showed up to a packed room, I was horrified to see 500 kids in gothic attire. Then they turned the lights out. In the front I saw what appeared to bodies thrashing about, flailing wildly into one another. (I don’t know what they were doing in the back. I don’t want to know!) I thought they were possessed. I was terrified. I worked myself into a frenzy, ready to take on any evil doer. That’s when I saw the guy with the cigarette—or what I thought was a cigarette. I tackled him from behind and pulled him over the back of a seat. He was surprised but not as surprised as I was. I had just manhandled my camera guy from the newspaper staff. The red light I saw I saw was the light for his flash, not the end of a cigarette. And speaking of red, my face was about a thousand different shades. Thank goodness it was dark.

I think I’ve figured out why I write what I do. Because I get it. I am the queen of awkward situations, the one with the shirt on inside out, the one with the paper stuck to the shoe, the one going the wrong way down a one-way street. I write what I know. And I want to encourage others like me, especially those struggling through their teen years, those who always seem to find themselves in the most awkward of situations. It’s not all bad. We do survive. These crazy moments of days gone awry are what make life a story, something to write about.

For those of us who have failed

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”  ~  C. S. Lewis

Man, this quote gets to me. You might say it even changed me. I used to have a quick fix to any emotional let down. I shut down. And I shut out. I wouldn’t let anything (or anybody) in, and I wouldn’t let anything out—especially love.

I always thought if you allowed yourself to be vulnerable you made yourself weak. I always thought that if you never allowed yourself to be vulnerable you could never get hurt. But if you don’t allow yourself to become vulnerable, you can never love, not really—or be loved.

Love comes with a price. When you give it away, you risk opening yourself up so that others can see the real you underneath the surface. It’s impossible to love with abandon, without tearing down the walls, without making yourself vulnerable.

Loving someone or something unconditionally means you are give away your most valuable possession, your heart. You have to go into it knowing that your heart may be taken for granted. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t love behind a brick wall. You have stand in the open and risk being wounded.

I’ve always been a runner, not a fighter. In the past whenever my heart was wounded, I didn’t stick around, hoping it would be mended. I preferred a clandestine, under-the-radar rescue mission. I got in, got out, grabbing up the shattered pieces and disappearing, if not physically, emotionally.

But maybe retreat is not the best idea.

Maybe meeting and overcoming each obstacle head on by the most efficient method is the best way to approach the pain that comes with vulnerability. Maybe our scraped and bruised hearts (and egos) will eventually make us stronger so that we can be more useful to others.

It takes a strong person to love unconditionally, to love without expecting anything in return. I’m not just talking about romantic love. I’m talking about the love one has for family members, for friends and even for the craft of writing or the craft of creating music.

Can a person really love writing or creating music?  Maybe. It’s a different kind of love, if you can call it love. I don’t know what else you might call it, but if it’s not love, it’s almost a supernatural state that’s as close as you can get to love.

Those of us who are passionate about creating art pursue our passion as naturally as we breathe. When we write and allow others to read it, for example, we give away part of ourselves. We take a risk. When our writing doesn’t come across as we hoped that it might or if it doesn’t get the results we envisioned, our reflex instinct may be to shut down, to retreat, to give up.

But we’ve got to remind ourselves that the risk is worth the sacrifice. Today I had to be the bearer of bad news to members of my journalism staff. My wonderful, creative, amazing students unveiled their ideas—and I had to tell them that they could do better.

I despised the words as I was speaking them. I saw the hurt in their eyes. I recognized it. I’ve been there—recently and many, many times in the past. But I know something they don’t. I can see the potential they have locked away. I know that if they could see the potential that I see within them they wouldn’t be happy with mediocre either. Tomorrow my goal is to help them find their treasures. They may have to dig for them. Writing doesn’t always come easy. You have to work for the good stuff.

I just hope they aren’t so discouraged that they lose hope. I’ve been there too. I’ve wanted to give up and lock away my desire to write because the criticism was almost too tough for me to bear. Lewis’s words inspire me to think of what might happen should we choose to keep the words locked away in our hearts.

“But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” 

Of course, Lewis is talking about love. But for those of us who see writing as God’s gift to us, a talent we’ve been given, surely it is a sin for us to keep our writing locked away, hiding behind our selfish and cowardly attempts at remaining invulnerable. Let us consider the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:24-30).

 24“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

 26“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

 28” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

It is my prayer that if you are a beginning writer, artist, songwriter or musician who is afraid to use the talent that God has given you, especially if your first attempts have not been perfect, that you will find the courage to walk by faith, to run the race, fight the fight, so that God can use your ability for His purpose.

Monday Mentor: Kathy Harris

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

Jeremiah 29:11

For the last several weeks my Christian journey has been teaching me more about faith. I’m the type of person who feels awkward in new situations. I like to know where I’m going. I like to plan ahead. But God doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t want us to depend on ourselves. He wants us to rely on Him.

Writer and blogger Kathy Harris can relate. Kathy’s blog Divine Detour features interviews with people who have experienced their own “divine detour.” Although we may think we knows what’s best for us, God always has the quintessential plan for our lives.

Please tell us a little bit about your background.

I’ve wanted to “be a writer” since I was a young child, and that dream followed me through high school and college. I’ve always loved words and linguistics. The college I attended, Southern Illinois University, didn’t offer a creative writing program, so I majored in communications and minored in English. My specialty was actually advertising, so I learned some about marketing in college as well.

 How did your journey land you in the entertainment industry?

 I sang semi-professional Southern Gospel music during high school and college. Our group was made up of two of my cousins, my best friend, her sister and me. We sang mostly on the weekends, traveling in a three-state area. My love for music continued to grow to the extent that I began searching for a career opportunity in the field. About a year after I graduated from college, God led me to a position in Nashville.

 What can you tell us about your latest projects?

Early this year I completed my women’s fiction manuscript, The Road to Mercy. My agent is currently shopping it, along with two subsequent books I have planned. I’m currently revising the second book. All three books have a music business setting, because that’s what I know. But the stories are completely unrelated and tackle a variety of women’s issues and inspirational themes. I especially love to write about the power of prayer and finding faith and forgiveness in the midst of difficult times.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer just getting started?

Have patience. God’s timing is always perfect. And, enjoy every step of the journey.

What advice can you give to writers who are interested in working in the entertainment industry as a publicist?

First of all, I highly recommend attending a college that offers music industry courses, such as Belmont University or Middle Tennessee State University. A huge chunk of music industry jobs are held by grads from those schools, many now executives in their fields.

Start by getting your foot in the door. Write artist bios. Submit freelance articles for music publications and websites. Volunteer to do publicity for a music-related charity—there’s always a need for that kind of thing, and it will give you the opportunity to network and to showcase your talent. Start slowly and develop contacts. A publicist’s job is as much about networking as writing.

 What writing skills are important in your vocation?

I’ve had the privilege of working in many aspects of the music industry, beginning at the reception desk years ago. I used letter writing skills back then—and still do. The ability to write a good letter is quickly becoming a lost art, but it’s a valuable skill.

My current job is more about marketing than publicity, but through the years I have relied on my journalism training to write press releases, newsletters, tour book text, and web copy. People might be surprised how many publicists don’t know how to write a press release. It’s a marketable skill. In fact, some writers make a good living freelancing press releases and artist bios.

 A publicist needs people skills, too. I am inherently a shy person, so that didn’t come easily for me. If you excel at meeting people and putting them at ease, you are way ahead of the game.

 Why do you write?

Because I can’t NOT write! I’ve heard so many writers say the same thing. We’re all hopeless at giving it up I think. 

How do you find joy in your creative journey?

There’s nothing more fulfilling than connecting with people. I love it when something I write makes a connection with someone.

 And I really try to enjoy every step of the journey. That includes learning the craft of writing, meeting published and unpublished writers—and helping other writers. It’s been my experience that most people who work in Christian fiction and most people who work in country music have one thing in common—a genuine desire to give others a hand up. It’s all about “passing it on.”

Have you ever had a divine detour?

Thanks for asking.  You can logon to my website,, for a more complete answer, but the music industry is my biggest divine detour in life. And it has been a wonderfully blessed one. But, I’m happy that I am now writing again too.

Please answer the question I didn’t ask but that you wish I did.Hmmm. That’s an interesting question. I suppose I’d have to mention my dogs.  Actually, I chose my penname, Kate Shiloh, through my love of the Shiloh Shepherd breed. Right now, my husband and I have two Shilohs, a male and a female.

Finally, please leave us with your favorite Bible verse, inspiration quote or song lyric. Tell us what it means to you.

There are many Bible verses that speak to me personally, but one of my favorites is Luke 12:31.

 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

I wrote about it in my devotional that was included in Tyndale’s One Year LifeVerse compilation. As a young Christian when I first moved to Nashville after college, I didn’t understand how much we are to fully rely on God. He is sufficient for ALL of our needs. One of the first people I met in the music business lived his life with that kind of all-encompassing faith, and his life provided an incredible witness to me. The interesting thing is that he probably never knew he had that impact on my life.

Please be sure to check out Kathy’s blog Divine Detour.

Curse of the Baja tacos

A starving writer travels 30 miles to her favorite Mexican restaurant just to order her favorite Baja grilled shrimp tacos, but when she takes her first bite, she realizes the cook has betrayed her. What will she do? Should she send the plate back to the kitchen and demand what she ordered? Should she just keep quiet and avoid causing a scene. Everything’s a little fishy down at the old cantina, and it’s up to her to make sure this perfect day doesn’t go south.

Okay. I know I’m taking this writing thing a little to the extreme. I can’t stop thinking in blurbs. I haven’t mastered the one sentence yet, but I’m getting a little closer with the one paragraph. For the last three months I have dipped my toes into the wading pool of Beginner’s Marketing 101, and now I’m ready to take the plunge into the deep water of the serious writing conferences. I didn’t realize how hard these writers have to work to turn out well-crafted works. I want to be like them.

I’m a decent writer. My modifiers don’t dangle, and my infinitives don’t split unless I want them to. For the record, my sentences are generally in agreement. I’ve never been much of one for conflict anyway. My pronouns and antecedents tend to get along, and my subjects and verbs haven’t bickered in years.

But there is so much more I need to learn about writing. I’ll keep working. However, it seems just when I feel good about what I’ve learned, I compare myself with a master who has published numerous books, and then my confidence dwindles.

I’ve spent so much time learning the ins and outs of the publishing business that I miss the creative aspects of writing. I can’t wait to get back to my lap top and a coffee shop and meet with my characters and just write. But I have to do my homework first. Fortunately, I’ve had some wonderful mentors who have been very willing to share their secrets.

Even though the publishing market is highly competitive, the writers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting have offered me nothing but encouraging words. They seem to say, “Come on in. There’s always room for one more.” (I doubt you’d find such unselfish attitudes in other professions.) So I’ve taken their advice and worked, worked, worked.

But even a good student needs a break. So as I mentioned earlier, I decided to take a trip to the ‘Boro to get a good meal and to do a little shopping. How could I resist? Last week I received an e-mail coupon from the Gap for a free pair of $60 trousers.

I picked up my pants and bought a Gap tee for under $5 and was having a great day until the border incident involving the tacos. I was one step away from crossing the line and losing my cool. Instead of grumbling, I politely explained that for the second time in two visits my treasured tacos had missed the mark. The restaurant manager promptly set a new plate in front of me, and all was well—very well. Muy bueno.

My trip to the ‘Boro was a success! Not only did I take home a pair of free trousers, but I also received a free meal, compliments of the restaurant manager. I didn’t expect that. My taco curse actually turned out to be a blessing.

There’s a lesson to be learned here. So often we let the little things in life bring us down, but sometimes our disappointments can be blessings in disguise. As cliché as is sounds, it’s true. As Christians, we don’t have to fret about controlling every situation so that we win. There is freedom in just letting go and just running, knowing that we don’t have to worry about the competition.

One of the most helpful tips I’ve received from a writing mentor was through the first-time conference attendee message loop. Sometimes we can work so hard to hone our craft that we forget who is ultimately in charge. The Lord will bless if it is meant to be. There is nothing I can do to make things work if it is not His will. So I might as well let go and just run the race (2 Timothy 4:7), knowing that all things will work together for my good because I do love God and I have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

MTCW One-Day Conference 8-25-10

The primary purpose of Serendipitee Blog is to encourage writers at all stages of the writing journey. If you are serious about your craft and are driven to do what it takes to ready yourself and your book for publishing, then you shouldn’t miss this conference.

Middle Tennessee Christian Writers Conference

Saturday, August 25, 2010

8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

Bellevue Baptist Church

Nashville, Tennessee

What is the cost?

The conference fee is $35.

When is the last day to register?

The last day is August 25. Registration fees are fully refundable until that day. Register early! Attendees are limited to 75!

What does the registration fee include?

Registration includes lunch, snacks and beverages in addition to the workshops.

Where can interested persons go for more information?

You may send an email to the following address: <>. Look for additional information on the website:

What do the workshop sessions include?

Participants can expect to learn more about the following elements of publishing:

  • How to win an editor’s heart and signature on a contract
  • The relationship between author and agent
  • How to write a professional proposal
  • How to work with the publisher in marketing your book
  • How to write a synopsis

Who are the featured workshop leaders?

MTCW president Kaye Dacus, along with author/editor Ramona Richards, Wheelhouse Literary Group founder/agent Jonathan Clements, Sheaf House author/publisher Joan Shoape, author/President of Glass Road Public Relations Rebeca Seitz, will conduct the five workshops.

Hope to see you there!

Please leave a comment if you plan to attend. I want to be sure to say hello!

Monday Mentor: Emily Wierenga

Dancer ~ Original Artwork by Emily Wierenga

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to be over.

It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.  ~  Author Unknown


Welcome to Serendipitee Blog.

I don’t know if you serendipitously stumbled upon this site or if you are a subscriber, but I’m glad you are here. Today freelance journalist, author, and artist Emily Wierenga offers a few words to encourage all of us setting forth on our own writing journeys. Emily lives in rural Alberta with her husband Trenton and their son Aiden Grey. Her work has appeared in Christian Week, Faith Today, Adbusters, Geez, The Anglican Planet and Focus on the Family. When she is not writing or painting, Emily loves to travel. She has been to the Dominican Republic, Australia, Korea, Lebanon, Jordan, Japan, China, Mexico, Holland, England and Germany. One of her most enjoyable trips was to a writing workshop in Lake Como, Italy. When she was a little girl, she lived in Africa with her parents, who served there as missionaries. As a firm believer in Jesus Christ, she encourages all to live in love.

What can you tell us about your latest projects?

I freelance regularly, writing articles for Christian publications across Canada. This involves finding story ideas, pitching the ideas, then fulfilling the assignments which are paid per word. Sometimes, due to familiarity with editors, I am sent assignments. My favourite kind of article is profile; then, feature, and finally, news.

I’ve been paid twice to write books; once, by an organization, and another, by a family. By doing so, I write other people’s stories—something called ghostwriting. One of my books, Save My Children, was published in 2008 by a small Christian Canadian publisher called Castle Quay Books (

I have a couple more manuscripts with my literary agent, Sandra Bishop, of MacGregor Literary Agency. There are many kinds of agencies; MacGregor only takes previously published Christian authors who have established a unique voice. My latest book, Chasing Silhouettes—how to help a loved one who refuses to eat, is currently with Standard Publishing. (

 I also blog, participating in various online communities and organizing my own community of literary writers, Imperfect Prose on Thursdays. My friend once told me, a blog is a way for a writer to minister to the world. So I use it for that purpose, while honing my God-given prose. I also use it to market my self-employed efforts. (

 Finally, I paint. I do commissions, and I sell prints. (

Why do you write?

I don’t have a choice. If I don’t write, my soul shrivels. I write, because I must. I write because God has given me a gift, and I believe, for me, it would be a sin not to.

How do you find joy in your creative journey?

Everything about the creative journey is joy. It’s the marketing/selling/corporate side that isn’t… and that’s where one must constantly return to a place of worship, remembering that He has called us to this work, and will carry it out to completion. He is doing a good thing through us, and we just need to keep creating. He’ll do the rest.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer just getting started?
Failure is a stepping stone to success. Rejection is merely a challenge to try again. It only takes one “yes.”

Please answer the question I didn’t ask but that you wish I did.

My favourite genre to write is non-fiction. I like to take the day-to-day and put it to prose. I find no greater inspiration than the real-life stories happening around me. I try to seek simple moments of beauty, and to sing those moments into poetic existence.

Finally, please leave us with your favorite Bible verse, inspiration quote or song lyric. Tell us what it means to you.

 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)

Sometimes, when the rejection slips paper the walls and I have no seeming promise of “yes,” the only way I can produce more words is by turning to The Word. It’s in Him that I move and have my being. It’s He who gives me strength, not publishers. More of Him; less of me. Always.

Please take a moment to visit the sites associated with Emily’s work. You’ll be blessed, and you’ll, in turn, have an opportunity to bless another. If you have questions or comments, please add them. We look forward to your feedback.

Work in progress

I am a work in progress, a WIP.

I don’t know what God is going to do with me, but I’m sure He has a plan. Walking by faith is kind of like taking a step into a dark room, don’t you think?

If you’re like me, you’re kind of afraid you’ll bump into something, so you reach out for something to hold on to. You just aren’t sure what you’ll grab. Uncertainty is a scary place.

Right now I’m walking by faith. I have no idea where I’m going. I’ve written a complete manuscript. I’ve followed all the rules. I’ve poured my heart into it. I’m invested in conferences and workshops. I’ve made myself vulnerable. Now what?

Several years ago I found myself in a similar place—but I reached a dead end. Well, maybe not a dead end, but my journey didn’t take me where I expected to go.

Back then I sent out clips of my work to several Christian magazines, and I didn’t have to wait long before I received responses. Lots of them! Before I knew it, it seemed I was freelancing every spare moment. I lived on the adrenaline rush.

I still thank God He gave me so many wonderful opportunities. I met famous people, went to fun places and even saw my stories on the covers of these magazines. But I wonder if I lost focus of why I was supposed to write. The story wasn’t about me. Did I make it about me?

I think I was most excited the day I received a letter from a premiere music magazine welcoming me as a freelancer. I had dreamed of writing for this magazine for quite some time, and I was THRILLED my dream had finally come true. But it didn’t. For some reason, the magazine never again responded.

Did I get lost in the shuffle? Did I make a social blunder? Did I make God mad? I often wonder if God allowed me this disappointment to temper me, to keep me humble. I’ll never know. 

During this same time I also interviewed for the editor position for a new magazine located in Nashville. The interview lasted three hours! I thought I had a pretty good chance, but the magazine never launched. So close, yet unreachable.

And while we’re on the subject of disappointments, I can also add to the list the trip to New York City I won—but never received. Every week the Tennessean sponsored a contest in its Weekender section, so I entered and won the weekly contest—a free tee shirt and something else I’ve long forgotten. I was so excited.  My win made me eligible for the grand prize, a trip to NYC to see a Broadway play!

When I received my confirmation letter that I had won the grand prize, I was thrilled! But I never received it. The publication changed editors, and my information was lost. No one had any record of my win.

So here I am again, walking the bumpy road of publication. Back then I never dreamed of having the passion I possess today for writing for young adults. (I’ve never left high school. I’m still teaching in the same school I graduated from. I guess it’s only fitting.) Is God giving me a second chance?

This time around I want to do things right. I want to keep my focus on God. I want His will to be done, not mine. But I still find myself yearning to see my name in print on the cover of a novel. I want my dream to be validated.

Solomon prayed for wisdom. I’m praying for contentment and humility. I know what I want. I know how badly I want it. I pray, however, that God will change my heart so that what I want is what He wants for me.

I am a work in progress.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  ~  Philippians 2:3-4

Jen Stephens Book Contest Winner

Happy Friday everyone! I appreciate everyone who has visited the blog. Thanks so much for your comments and words of encouragement.

As I set forth on my journey to become a published writer, I’m learning a myriad of valuable lessons. The most important one I’ve learned so far is that I can’t there by myself.

First and foremost, I need God. Without Him, I can do nothing. Second, I need the encouragement, fellowship and mentoring of other Christians. I truly have been blessed this week. Thank you all.

By random selection, the winner of Jen Stephen’s book The Heart’s Journey Home is Vickie Giel. Congratulations! I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did, Vickie!

Next week writer and artist Emily  Wierenga shares her words of encouragement as our Monday Mentor. I hope you’ll stop by and “meet” our featured guest.

Enjoy your Friday! The weekend is almost here.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  ~  Phillipians 4:6