Sustainable Writing Workshop This Saturday, May 20

On Saturday, May 20,  from 1:00-3:00, I will be presenting a workshop entitled “Sustainable Writing: How to Pursue Your Passion Without Busting Your Budget” for Christian Writers of the West, the Arizona Chapter of  ACFW.

 The Sustainable Writing workshop focuses on the business side of writing for the fledgling author. If you love to write, but have questions about how to remain solvent while pursuing that passion, this workshop is for you!

In order for a writing business to succeed in the long term, it must be sustainable; it can’t consume more resources than it brings in. How do you achieve that goal? Through careful stewardship of the money available to you. Learn how to evaluate the difference between a beneficial business investment and a frivolous expense. Get tools for tracking your writing income and expenses so that you have an accurate picture of your bottom line.

Years before you can afford to quit your day job, you can have a sustainable writing career!

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Sustainable Writing: How is the Pre-Professional Writer Like a Garage Band?

Many young musicians out there dream of one day being discovered and making it big. Do they become legitimate musicians only after they are offered a recording contract? No. Any musician who is playing regularly, honing his skills, and gaining industry experience is a “real” musician, even if he isn’t getting paid yet.

The aspiring garage band will probably begin by doing free performances at local fairs and festivals. Eventually, the group might get hired to play local gigs where they will be paid a small amount to perform. Down the road, they may be given the opportunity to open a concert for a more famous band. Sooner or later, if they keep at it, they may be scouted by an agent and offered a recording contract. Or they may choose to publish their music independently.

Although they are not professional musicians until they get paid to play, the band members have been legitimate musicians all along. On their journey to stardom, they will have to invest in equipment, instruments, and probably music lessons.

Being a writer is much the same. You need to keep learning about writing as you hone your craft. You will need to make investments in your writing career, like taking college courses or attending conferences. The thing that makes you a “real” writer is not getting published, but writing.

You will probably see small successes, like published short stories or articles, long before you see big ones. That’s okay. The important thing is to keep your writing business sustainable. Otherwise, you could easily spend so much on writing that you can no longer afford to pursue your passion.

Like the garage band, an aspiring writer needs to develop an online presence. Without a website, the band won’t get any gigs. Potential fans won’t be able to find them when searching the internet.

An author website is your most important online asset because it is under your complete control (unlike social media platforms). You can tailor it to suit your needs. It provides the means for your audience and colleagues to contact you and to read your work.

While an author website is important, be realistic about how much you spend on it. An author who is just starting out needs a modest website that won’t cost an arm and a leg. A pre-professional writer can’t yet afford to hire a professional company that specializes in creating and maintaining author websites.

If you ask around, you can probably find a high school or college student who is interested in web design. Ask him or her to help you get started. Offer to pay only as much as you can afford.

The best rule of thumb for business expenses like a website is this: will it cost more money than it will bring in?

One final word of caution: remember that as an aspiring writer, you are a garage band. Beware of anybody who wants to take your money to make you feel like a rock star.

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Sustainable Writing: Setting a Budget

How can you place a price tag on the realization of a dream like seeing your very own book in print?

This sort of sentiment makes aspiring writers easy prey for the unscrupulous parasites on the fringes of the publishing industry. Authors who want to have a sustainable career must be wary.

My husband’s Grandma Bruner used to tell the story of her first visit to a new Mercedes dealership in a neighboring town. When she asked the salesman the price of a car that she and Grandad were interested in, he said, “It’s a Mercedes, ma’am. You don’t ask the price.”

Grandma Bruner responded, “You ALWAYS ask the price.” She and Grandad walked off the car lot then and there.

They were able to pay cash for several Mercedes during their lives (though that particular salesman never got their business) because they were careful with their money and always mindful of the bottom line.

Aspiring writers need to be equally careful with their money. Even before they have sold any of their work, fledgling authors need business budgets for their writing.

Once your work has sold, you can be classified as a professional writer. Before that point you must recognize that you are a hobbyist, or if you prefer, a pre-professional.

There is nothing wrong with spending money on a hobby. Skiers, scuba divers, and quilters all spend a considerable amount on their hobbies. Issues only arise when hobby-related expenditures exceed what a family can realistically afford.

So how do you set your budget as a pre-professional writer? You need to sit down with your spouse or significant other and take a serious look at your finances. What is your disposable income?  After considering the cost of tithing, taxes, debt repayment, periodic bills, monthly household expenses, and saving for the future, what amount of discretionary income is actually available?

How much can you afford to put toward your writing? Are there other hobbies that you could scale back on in order to invest more in writing? How much are other members of your household spending on their hobbies?

Often, in families with children, there are no limits placed on money devoted to the kids’ activities, leaving precious little for mom or dad. Maybe little Janie doesn’t need to play soccer, and softball, and tennis, and take gymnastics, and dance, and art, and clarinet lessons.

You and your family should evaluate how the household discretionary income is being spent. Discuss reserving a sliver of the pie for writing expenses.

Having a writing budget will free you up to spend money on the things that are important. Once you have the family’s blessing for your hobby-related expenses, then you won’t need to feel resentful when your spouse goes scuba diving, or feel guilty about attending an occasional writers’ conference.

Suppose you can only afford a conference every few years. Save up and make the most of the opportunity when you can go. Perhaps you may want to apply for scholarships, or supplement your income with seasonal work to reach that goal. Having a working budget will help you make those kinds of career-advancing decisions.

Next time: How is the Pre-Professional Writer like a Garage Band?


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What is Sustainable Writing?

Like sustainable fishing or farming, sustainable writing does not consume more resources than it brings in. The writer consistently breaks even,  instead of losing money .

Most writers have the eventual goal of turning a profit through their writing. They may dream of the day when they can quit their day jobs and live on royalties alone. However, if financial irresponsibility drives them out of the business prematurely then they will never achieve that goal.

Aspiring writers are often told that, “It takes money to make money.” This axiom is true only up to a point. It is possible to spend far more than you can afford on frivolous business expenses that do not yield a profit in the long-term, as many a bankrupt entrepreneur can tell you. Writers need to be especially wary of this because there are unscrupulous vanity presses, bogus agents, and other parasite industries that feed upon the hopes and dreams of writers.

Since the whole business of writers is to let their imaginations run wild, it is hardly surprising that they have big dreams. Maybe you recognize some of these:

  • To have your name on the cover of a book you can hold in your own hands
  • To see your book on display in a bookstore
  • To be the featured author at a book signing gala

There are plenty of unscrupulous people who will be happy to make these dreams a reality, for a hefty sum.

This is why it is so important for aspiring writers to be wise and discerning when it comes to investing in their careers. Some good questions to ask about any writing related expenses are:

  • Can I afford it?
  • Is there a less expensive way to achieve the same result?
  • If I must pay for a marketing opportunity, how many books will I need to sell to recoup that investment?
  • How realistic are my expectations?

Next time: Setting a budget for your writing business.



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Reflections on Palm Sunday

God has reminded me recently of the many things He has accomplished in my journey as an author over the last few years.

Just three years ago in 2014, I spent Palm Sunday weekend at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers conference. God had provided the “Promising Beginnings” scholarship, which paid my way.

Though I believed my completed manuscript for A Wife of Valor was ready to go, the non-fiction mentor track at that conference showed me just how much work I had yet to do. In the years that followed, I devoted many hours to revising and rewriting the book using all I had learned.

Last year, on Palm Sunday 2016, the Indiegogo campaign for A Wife of Valor came to a close with just over 100% funding. By means of the generous donations of many supporters, God had provided the $3,500 needed to fully underwrite the costs of publishing A Wife of Valor

By Palm Sunday this year, A Wife of Valor had been chosen as one of ten finalists in the competition for the Excellence in Editing Award.

It’s both heartening and humbling to reflect back on all God has done. I look forward with invigorated expectancy toward what He may have in store for the years ahead.

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Try Christianity, Risk Free

There’s something I’ve got to get off my chest. If this turns into a rant, please forgive me, but I’ve run across this basic argument so many times lately, that I’ve just got to respond.

The argument goes like this:

Atheists believe there is no God. From the atheist’s perspective, there are no eternal consequences to your actions, either positive or negative. When you die, you rot. End of story.

Christians believe that there is a God, one who will hold everyone eternally accountable for their actions in this life. Their belief in God motivates them to be more kind and giving to their fellow humans and provides them with hope.

If the atheists are wrong, they will one day face eternal consequences for the wrong things they have done.

If the Christians are wrong, they lose nothing because they have lived lives filled with hope and been better people all around because of their belief in God.

On the face of it, this argument sounds really convincing. The Christians have nothing to lose and everything to gain from adhering to the theistic position, even if they turn out to be wrong. The atheists have nothing to gain from their lack of belief, but if they are wrong there will be hell to pay, literally.

There’s just one massive problem with this tidy little argument: it’s unscriptural.

The apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 15:19 that “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” Why? Because faith in Christ is not about making your life better, or making you a nicer person; it’s about truth, plain and simple.

Jesus said that, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

The fact is, Christ never said people could try Christianity risk free. To become His disciple is to risk everything, to surrender complete control of your life to Him. To willingly die for Him. That’s what it means to take up your cross–to prepare to be executed as He Himself was executed.

Are the eternal rewards sufficient to offset the temporal losses He asks us to suffer? Abosolutely!

In fact, Christ also says that there are rewards even in this life, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

Yes, Jesus tells us, following Me will be worth the price, but don’t forget that along with the benefits, there will be persecutions. Expect it!

So if we state that the atheist has got nothing to lose and everything to gain by becoming a Christian, we aren’t being true to the whole gospel. We are only telling one side of the story. Instead of urging the non-believer to truly count the cost, which is considerable, we are peddling fire insurance.

Likewise, if you yourself claim to be a follower of Jesus, but your Christianity is doing nothing to inconvenience you in the present, maybe you aren’t really following Him at all.

On the other side of the grave, I’m guessing that the people who will be most surprised that they were wrong may not be the atheists, but the ones who had claimed to be Christians, but had never truly counted the cost of being Jesus’ disciples, had never really taken up their crosses to follow Him.

Cleverly devised arguments may sound really good, but make no mistake, my friends; nobody can try Christianity risk free. It simply doesn’t work that way. Not for atheists, and not for us, either.


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Sustainable Writing Workshop

On Saturday, May 20, 2017 I  will be presenting a workshop  for Christian Writers of the West entitled “Sustainable Writing: How to Pursue Your Passion without Busting Your Budget.”

This workshop focuses on the business side of writing for the fledgling author. If you love to write, but have questions about how to remain solvent while pursuing that passion, this workshop is for you!

In order for a writing business to succeed in the long term, it must be sustainable; it can’t consume more resources than it brings in. How do you achieve that goal? Through careful stewardship of the money available to you. Learn how to evaluate the difference between a beneficial business investment and a frivolous expense. Get tools for tracking your writing income and expenses so that you have an accurate picture of your bottom line. Years before you can afford to quit your day job, you can have a sustainable writing career!

The meeting will be from 1:00 pm-3:00 pm at Denny’s in Scottsdale. I’d love for you to join us!

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Contest Finalist–A Wife of Valor

I’m thrilled to announce that my book,  A Wife of Valor: Your Strategic Importance in God’s Battle Plan, has made it to the final round of competition for the Excellence in Editing Award!

The contest winners will be announced at the closing banquet of the SoCal Christian Writers conference on June 24, 2017.  Since my book has made it into the top ten titles in the contest, I will also be allowed to sell copies in the conference bookstore.

I’m grateful for this honor and excited about this opportunity. My ongoing prayer is that God will  get this book into the hands of all the readers He desires for it to bless.

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As an author, there are few things I enjoy more than connecting with readers. I love meeting people and finding out what kinds of books inspire them. I love to tell them about my own work. It’s very exciting when new people decide to take a chance on my books. My hope is always that they will find the same joy in reading my stories that I have found in writing them.

For all of these reasons, I found the Tucson Festival of Books a wonderful opportunity. I was able to chat with many people who love to read. I met other new authors and discussed some of their interests and their journeys to publication.

When I arrived at the festival, I had plenty of time to find the Young Adult Author Pavilion where I was to sell my books. I met two of the writers who were scheduled for the time slot ahead of me. After introducing myself, I asked them about their books.

When I returned to set up for my own session, they both told me which position in the booth was the hot ticket. “Get that corner,” they said. I thanked them and took their advice. They didn’t steer me wrong. I certainly can’t complain about my sales.

 By far and away, the highlight of my day was reconnecting with Dr. Donna Swaim. Thirty years ago, I took her Humanities class at the U of A. It was one of the most stimulating courses I have ever taken. I will never forget the things we studied.

Donna also taught and lead a course called the “Voyage of Discovery.” Every summer, she took groups of students on adventures around the globe. In 1987, I went with her to Europe, and my life has never been the same. To say that trip transformed me would be an understatement.

She and I reminisced about the trip, remembering other people who had traveled with us, places we had seen, and experiences we had shared. It was fantastic to reconnect with such a wonderful woman after all these years.

In many ways, the writing life can be very solitary. Authors spend hours all alone, composing, revising and rewriting. Yet one of the greatest rewards of being an author is the opportunity to connect with others, not just via words on the page, but face to face.


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Tucson Festival of Books!

I’m very excited to be attending the Tucson Festival of Books for the first time ever! This is one of the biggest book fairs in the country, and I will have the privilege of selling my books there. I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to connect with new readers, as well as see some old friends. I will have a book table in the Young Adult Author Pavilion  on Sunday, March 12, from 2:30-4:30. The Y A Pavilion will be located on the U of A Mall just north of the main library. Please stop by and see me!

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