Friday, January 31, 2014

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

So, I’m sitting in our old, drafty Victorian house, reminding myself that, during the spring and fall, it’s a lovely place to be – not too hot, not too cold, gentle breezes blowing...

But this is January, one of the coldest ones on record here in Western Pennsylvania, and half of the fifty-three windows in our house are missing the outside storm window. The twelve-foot ceilings look stunning on warmer days, but today they’re just taunting me. I know all the heat we’re paying for is hovering somewhere up around that twelve-foot-high mark instead of down here near my five-foot-high head. 

I have proofreading to do. I have student papers to grade. I’m behind on my reading. And, I really should be writing. 

But all of those activities involve sitting still in the house at these ridiculous “polar vortex” temperatures. That means three or four layers of fleece clothing, two pairs of socks, warm slippers, fingerless gloves (though I may switch to gloves with fingers or mittens if it gets much colder in here), and a space heater under my desk.  And don’t forget the lap blanket. 

When I start to see my breath around the computer monitor, I get up and jog downstairs for another hot cup of coffee.  I sail right past the thermostat. I don’t want to see how warm it isn’t in our house. But, if things don’t improve, I may have to use the hot coffee to thaw out my toes. Can you get frostbite inside your own house?

Several Facebook friends keep posting how many days it is until spring … every day. Instead of being an encouragement to my soul, I find it a mocking, deliberate attempt to make me regret buying this house.

And then this morning, I wake to find my husband downstairs with every light in the house on. He’s traipsing up and down the cellar steps with a flashlight, and he’s got out the manual for the thermostat he hurriedly put in last year when the other one went kaput. With temperatures outside hovering around -5 degrees Fahrenheit, I don’t want to hear him say he has to replace the thermostat again. I brace myself for that hot-coffee bath I may have to take today. I put the phone number for the local burn unit near the phone.

He tells me that he missed a setting for two-stage heating when installing the thermostat last year. This house has two (count ‘em, two!) furnaces, and we had assumed that they just weren’t efficient enough to keep up with this cold snap. But no, what has really been happening is that one poor furnace has been on for days at a time with no let-up, because the thermostat was never telling it to use the second furnace when it needed to.

And let me tell you, it needed to.

So now, with the weather forecast now set to hit 41 degrees in the next few days, and with a touch of the thermostat’s touchscreen, we are finally warming up in here. I may be able to sit at my desk and write today without having to worry about my fingertips freezing to the pen like that kid’s tongue to that pole in A Christmas Story. That novel may inch closer to “The End” today after all. 

Kinda makes you feel all warm and toasty inside, doesn’t it?

Figuratively speaking, I mean…

--Linda M. Au

Friday, January 24, 2014

Announcing the 2014 Faculty for St Davids Christian Writers Conference

This year, Saint Davids Christian Writers Association is happy to announce the 2014 faculty members for our upcoming conference in June. 


Cheri Cowell, an accomplished speaker and author with more than 300 articles in such magazines as Marriage Partnership and the Lookout, draws upon nearly 22 years in both professional and lay Christian ministry and a Masters degree in Theology from Asbury Theological Seminary to address the unspoken questions of faith. Through her books, Direction: Discernment for the Decisions of Your Life and See For Yourself: 52 Weeks of Devotion, and with her Following God™ Bible study on the New Testament parables, Cheri challenges her readers to build their lives upon a solid and firm foundation—the Word and character of God. However, it is through her work in Word Weavers and teaching at writers conferences Cheri is able to make her big impact for the kingdom. Says Cheri “Through teaching at writers’ conferences I’m able to give back what I’ve been so generously given. By encouraging writers to share their passions and gifts with excellence, I’m able to impact the Kingdom exponentially.”
Joyce Ellis

Not long into her writing career, people in the writing and publishing industry began to encourage Joyce to pass along her insights and writing skills in workshops at writers conferences and seminars. Later, Jerry Jenkins (author of the Left Behind series) invited her to serve as a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild (CWG) correspondence courses. Over the years she has shepherded scores of writers through several of the courses the CWG offers. "It's a great way for people interested in writing to get started or grow in their writing skills with personal feedback from a seasoned writer assigned to them," Joyce says.
She now serves as contributing editor to the Christian Communicator magazine, writing a monthly grammar column called "Your Writing GPS" (Grammar, Punctuation, and Style). A couple of those articles are available for purchase in the store, and another is yours for free!
Joyce teaches at writers conferences and seminars across the country and internationally, and also serves as assistant director for the Write-to-Publish Conference on the Wheaton College campus (Chicago area) every June.
She is also the editorial assistant for Prayer Connect; speaker; Gold Medallion Book Award and EPA Higher Goals Award recipient.

Jim Hart
Jim Hart is a musician/songwriter/worship leader with an ever-growing library of fictional titles, as well as books on Christian growth, ministry, and biographies of the Heroes of the Faith.
Jim is looking for authors who can write unique and engaging fictional suspense, romance, women’s fiction, spiritual warfare, YA, and some sci-fi. He is also interested in some non-fiction regarding church growth, Christian living, and self-help. Keep in mind that non-fiction topics require a certain level of credentials, experience and expertise.
Philippians 4:8 is the filter in which Jim uses to select any material“….whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Jim gets excited when Christians use their creative spark to fire the imagination of others. He is also passionate about the local church, its role in the community, and in seeing people becoming mature followers of Christ. Jim is a credentialed minister with the Assemblies of God, and serves part-time as Worship Pastor in his local church in Southwestern Pennsylvania. He holds a degree in Production Journalism and worked for twenty years in direct mail advertising before taking a job with an urban social services agency, where he worked for twelve years. All during his professional career, Jim has served with the local church doing youth ministry and music/worship ministry.

Lin Johnson
Lin Johnson is a full-time freelancer, whose business includes editing, writing, proofreading, and training. She is managing editor of Christian Communicator, a monthly magazine for writers and speakers; Advanced Christian Writer, a bimonthly newsletter for published authors; and Church Libraries, a quarterly magazine for church and Christian school librarians. Plus she proofs and edits for Friends of Israel. Lin also owns and directs the Write-to-Publish Conference in the Chicago area and teaches at writers conferences around the world. 
            The author of more than 70 books, Lin specializes in Bible curriculum and is a Gold Medallion Book Award and an EPA Higher Goals award recipient. Her books include Everything the Bible Says about Money, The Smart Guide to the Bible: John, Encouraging Others, Christian Education: Foundations for the Future (co-editor), 2 Timothy & Titus: Fighting the Good Fight and 1 Timothy: Standing Firm (with John Stott), Mark and Ephesians (with N. T. Wright), and the Extracting the Precious series of Bible studies (with Donna Partow). She has also contributed to several books, including A Complete Guide to Writing for Publication and The NIV Quiet Time Bible.
            She has a B.A. in Christian education from Cedarville University, a B.A. in Bible-theology from Moody Bible Institute, and an M.S. in adult and continuing education from National-Louis University. She is a former special instructor of Christian education at Moody Bible Institute and a current adjunct professor of writing at Taylor University.

Anne Slanina
ANNE MARO SLANINA, Ph.D - CHILDRENAnne is the author of The Adventures of Annie  Mouse children’s books, which include a chapter book:  Annie Mouse’s Route 66 Family Vacation, and five picture books:  Annie Mouse Meets her Guardian Angel,  Baby Brother Goes to the Hospital, Annie Mouse Meets a New Friend, Where the Rainbow Touches Ground, and Annie Mouse’s Route 66 Adventure: A Photo Journal.  She is an associate professor of early childhood education at Slippery Rock University and previously taught in several schools in the Youngstown and Cleveland areas.  She holds a Ph.D in Curriculum and Instruction from Kent State University, a Master’s degree in Reading Education from Youngstown State University and degrees in elementary education and early childhood education.  You can learn more about Anne on her website:

Shirley Stevens
Shirley Stevens is the author of the Academy's home study Poetry Series, and she critiques assignments for the Poetry Series and the Story series. She has been a frequent teacher at Writing Academy seminars and other conferences, including the St. David's Writer's Conference in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Whether attending a literary Victorian Tea or dressing up like Cat-in-the-Hat to lead a Seussabration, she is always doing something that sounds like fun.
Shirley is the author of Pronouncing what We Wish to Keep, a book of poetry, and her work has appeared in such publications as the English Journal, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Poet Lore, Time of Singing, and the Christian Century--to mention only a few. She has won awards from the Westmoreland Arts Festival, The Pensylvania Poetry Society, the Pittsburgh Poetry Society, and the West Virginia Poetry Society. In 1990 she received the Lois Henderson Award, given by the St. David's conference for excellence in writing. 

Linda Windsor - 2014 Faculty
 With over a million books in print, Linda Windsor is an award-winning author of  sixteen secular historical and contemporary romances and fifteen award-winning romantic comedies and historical fiction for the inspirational market. Her switch to the inspirational fiction in 1999 was more like Jonah going to Ninevah than a flash of enlightenment. Windsor claims God pushed her, kicking and screaming all the way. In retrospect, the author can see how God prepared her for His writing in her early publishing years and then claimed, not just her music, but her writing when she was ready. At that point, He brushed away all her reservations regarding inspirational fiction and she took the leap of faith. Windsor has never looked back in the fifteen years since that leap. The author lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and enjoys a music and speaking ministry in addition to writing. 

You can also find this information and more at our website
In the following weeks we will be announcing class offerings, editor and agent appointment availability, and other important information and updates leading to June's conference. 

I hope you are as excited as we are for this year's conference. Don't forget to mark your calendars for June 17 - 21, 2014.  Registration will open in March!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Creating Moments or Finding Peace?

Well here it is, January 17th. 

Can you believe we’re half way through January already? Me neither. If you’re like me, you’re thinking “Where did that time go?” It seemed like just yesterday I was planning my Christmas holidays and now—it’s over. This time of January is always the dreariest for me. The holidays are over, the weather is typically bad in this part of Pennsylvania and there isn’t another holiday in sight until Valentine’s Day. No hope—just snow and cold.

Isn’t it odd how we wish our lives away that way? When there aren’t any holidays in sight we long for the weekends, but they come and go so quickly that we’re soon longing for the next, and the next. When holidays are on the horizon, we wish they were closer. We make plans on how to spend the special day, we get ourselves all worked up with stress about how we’ll spend the day and with whom—creating that perfect joyous moment, only to be slightly disappointed when the moment comes and goes too quickly, or is not all that we hoped and dreamed it would be. Too soon, the moment is past and we’re looking ahead to the next special day, never learning how we can deal with it better and never living the moments in-between.

Are you aware that there are other days in-between holidays and weekends? I know—I’m shocked too. What do we do with those days—where do they go?

I’ll tell you—we flounder them away wishing on the next great holiday, great weekend or spectacular adventure that we’re trying to create.

I’ve been writing about finding the joy in the little things, finding joy in even the smallest moments of life—even if it isn’t a holiday, weekend or special occasion. I want to stop squandering my life away wishing on the next big thing and the next big holiday. I want, instead, to find the next big thing in the everyday, small moments of my life. It’s not easy. It’s really a bad habit to say “I can’t wait for the weekend!” Many of us do it, but it’s worth breaking out of that rut.
You want to know why?

Because when we stop wishing away our week for the weekend, we actually might enjoy the times in-between instead of wishing them all away and then wondering where did the time go.
For example: Today I went out to lunch, by myself, to a local restaurant. It’s typically not my favorite place, but it was warm, on a cold day, with decent food. It’s not my favorite place mainly because it’s frequented by older clientele and I feel out of place. However, today, I noticed that the older folks, who must go there frequently, had chemistry with the servers. The waitresses laughed, joked and called people by their names. It was like a family meal. Although I wasn’t included, being new to the scene, I felt the warmth of their exchanges. It made me smile.

But if I had just been thinking about the weekend, what I was going to do, what I was planning, how fun it would be—I would have missed the exchange. We spend so much time with our noses in our computers, our phones and our TVs, that we miss out on what’s going on around us. We miss out on the joy that’s happening right now.

Put down that phone! (I’m really yelling mostly at myself here people…)
Later, I sat by their fireplace in an overstuffed sofa, watching snow drift silently down outside. I was thankful for a place on my lunch hour to sit and rest and be warm. No thoughts of the upcoming weekend assailed my thoughts—I just sat peacefully and was thankful for the comfy seat and warm fire.

It gave me a moment to breathe—something I haven’t truly had since before the holidays began. And even though it was snowing outside—I thought it looked lovely. So pristine and beautiful—a real gift from God. (Even if, ten minutes later when I was driving in it, I didn’t feel the same.)
Take time today to be thankful for the moment you are in…take time to breathe it all in. Stop thinking ahead to the moments you want to create and find moments throughout every day that just happen. I think we will all find more peace in our lives if we do.
God bless.

Sue Fairchild was born and raised in North Central Pennsylvania where she now lives with her loving, supportive husband and their four legged, furry “kid”. Her blog, Sue’s Simples Snippets ( is about searching for the bigger meaning, or even the small meaning, in the simple, and not so simple, moments in life. She has been published numerous times in the Christian devotional The Secret Place and just recently in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book “The Dating Game”.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Round and Round We Go; Where We’ll Stop, Nobody Knows

I have been thinking and wondering and pondering for at least a week on a topic for this blog. Maybe it was holiday overload on the brain, maybe I’ve finally lost my brain; but ultimately I think I’ve been infected with a massive case of writer’s block on the brain. I thought about working through some creativity exercises to get the juices flowing again, but other very important tasks demanded attention such as cleaning the bathroom, wiping six month’s worth of doggy nose prints off my front windows, and reading the last couple of issues of our local weekly newspaper so they could go out in last night’s recycling bin.

Then I read a devotion on how perfectionism paralyzes us and keeps us from doing what we are called to do. That’s always been a problem for me as I was taught from little on that if something is worth doing, then it’s worth doing right. The converse then, must also be true: if it can’t be done right then it should not be done at all. For many of us writers, this speaks to our inner editors who love perfection and want nothing more than to stop us in our tracks. It convinces us that any of our efforts at any stage of the writing process is the worst drivel ever to appear on the face of the earth.

How do we conquer this inner editor? Dorothea Brande in her book Becoming a Writer talks about how writers actually need a split personality, the writer stifling the editor at times and the editor pushing aside the writer at others. One of the best ways to practice this, I’ve found, is to do National Novel Writing Month in November where the emphasis is on eliminating the inner editor and write with abandon for the entire month. No worries about perfection; it is in fact forbidden. But then I’m stuck with a 50,000 word manuscript that isn’t done right, and therefore must not have any worth. This year I struggled to come up with an idea and then kept changing it until in mid-November I stopped because I had writer’s block. 

Writer’s block? That’s how this whole mess started—without a decent idea. Then I believed that any writing for the SDCWA blog had to be both brilliant and perfect. Then I pushed my inner editor aside to write anything that came to mind. Then I realized that what I’ve written is nothing more than delirious drivel. Then I searched for an idea. . . Is anyone else on this merry-go-round with me?
 (Photo: Forest Park Carousel in Glendale, New York.)

O wretched writer that I am! Who will rescue me from this endless, circular trap? Me—with a lot of help from the Lord and fellow writers who encourage me to exercise the discipline I need to show up at my computer each day—ideas or no ideas, good writing or drivel—and pursue my calling with the dedication it needs and deserves.

Susan Reith Swan is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Pittsburgh, PA. When she was little, she loved visiting Forest Park by her grandmother’s house with its German hand-crafted carousel in the middle. Since then, she has always found it hard to get off of carousels.