Friday, April 25, 2014

Are You Twitterpated Yet?

One of the biggest struggles I have as an author is social media. As a novelist, I’m not known for my short-windness by far. I write stories, long stories, with lots of words. 

Yet, what can I say when I’ve only got 140 characters to share? 

Most of the time, I watch social media flutter across my screen, a reader, more than an author of my own tweets. 

Did you know there are about 241 million monthly active users on Twitter?
Are you one of them? 

Imagine it. 500 million tweets sent per day. At 140 characters max per tweet that’s like…well, that’s too many zeros for me to even try to comprehend. It's like mini chunks of a a novel or even a series of novels. How would we keep up with all of them? 

We'd have to be twitterpated, right?

For many of us authors, it’s a love/ hate relationship with Twitter. We feel it’s our duty to tweet. We have to get our name out there, make a presence for ourselves. And we have to do it in 140 characters or less. 

As an active user, we can scan down the tweets on our feed glancing at the ones of interest and ignore the annoying ones. You know the ones where authors tweet every 5th tweet, “buy my book.” 

Every spring my kids and take peanut butter and bird seed and make feeders to hang on the only tree in our back yard. Throughout the following days, we watch from the window or on the back porch for the birds that visit our tree and enjoy the buffet we’ve left for them. 

We refill that feeder often; otherwise I know the birds would not return. We have even found a few squirrels hanging out and licking peanut butter goodness from their paws. 

I love sitting on my back swing and watching those birds. They’re vibrant beauty brings a smile and a little zing to my heart that lifts my spirits throughout the day. 

As an author, I think there is much we can learn from the birds that is applied so aptly to Twitter. Why else would we call it tweets? 

There are three basic principals we can all apply to our Twitter feeds as authors. 

1.      Feed our flock
2.      Refill often
3.      Respect them for who they are

Birds are an animal of survival. They’re looking for food like worms and birdseed. Those you find on Twitter are looking for something, too. They’re hungry for information and connections. They’re not looking for fillers, but meaty tweets with real information from real people. 

If all you ever do on Twitter is reply to other people’s tweet or retweet something you liked that was said by another tweeter, you’ll be so much more ahead of the game than just linking up to your book and saying “buy this.” 

Birds don’t like spam; neither do those who hang out on Twitter. 

Feed those who perch on your virtual tree. Most likely, they have the similar interest as you do or have found your writing interesting enough to want to hang out on a limb with you. 

Once they’re in the same tree with you, don’t forget to refill the feeder. 

Birds and followers are scavengers, they’ll soon wonder away if you no longer have anything of interest to them. 

As an author, it’s hard to know what exacta mixture of tweets will satisfy your flock. I like to keep mine fresh with quotes, photos, videos, random thoughts, and questions that allow others to give their input on a current project. 

Only you know what mix of tweets works best, but keep the feeder full unless it’s time for migration.
Like birds, your readers are of many species. Not all of them will share your faith, your ideals, or even your values. So when they decide to take flight, don’t despair. There are millions of birds out there looking to take that open spot on your branch. 

When one bird leaves, be grateful for the time they shared your feed. 

We are all birds of a feather as the saying goes. Some of us fly south for the winter, while others take formations of vee. Some birds can’t fly. Yet, all birds lay eggs and hatch their young. 

Just like I know that you, as an author, can hatch a flock of your own on Twitter.

Are you feeling twitterpated yet? 

 Romantic at heart, this crafty mom has written for various online and print magazines, newspapers, and online venues. Susan is the treasure of the Saint Davids Christian Writers Association and Director of the West Branch Christian Writers one-day conference. When Susan isn't writing, she enjoys crafting, visiting friends, and a good cup of tea. You can download her FREE ebook Emma's Dilemma when you visit her at

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why Is It Called "Good Friday"?

By Sue Fairchild

Tomorrow is Good Friday, a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. You can get a full explanation of the holiday here:
I’ve been a Christian my whole life… or at least as far back as I can remember. I know what Good Friday commemorates, but I have always been hung up on the word “Good” as part of the holiday’s title.
I understand that for Christians, it was technically a good day. In fact, for all of humanity it was a good day, because with the death of one man, it freed us of all our sin. No more would we be burdened with the need to sacrifice lambs for their sins… it was now all paid in full.

Good for us.
Not so good for Jesus as he bled and died the most painful of deaths.

It doesn’t seem like it would have been a good day for the apostles either. I’ve read many fictionalized accounts of this important day and I’ve pondered what it would have meant to be there, beneath the cross as my beloved mentor and friend struggled with the pain. It’s hard for me to watch those shows on T.V. where people get accidentally hurt. It’s hard for me to go into hospitals and nursing homes. It’s hard for me to look at the face of a loved one who is ill. How could I have stood there and watched the unspeakable agony of pain and death as it cut through Jesus’ body?
Certainly that would not have felt like a good day.

Our pastor recently spoke on the Fruits of the Spirit and focused one Sunday on goodness. In his sermon he mentioned that in Jewish tradition the title “The Good” was a title reserved for God. So people would not have been referred to as “good” and certainly a day would not have been deemed “good.” It was a word used for a much higher entity. Yet, today, we use the word “good” very often. Everything, it seems, is “good”: “Oh, this soup is good” or “How are you? I’m good.” It has become commonplace.
Of course, the event is not titled “Good Friday” in the bible. From what I can discern from my research it was probably the Roman Catholic Church that titled the day “Good Friday” because it leads into the day when Jesus rose from the dead. has this to say:

The Baltimore Catechism declares that Good Friday is called good because Christ, by His Death, "showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing." Good, in this sense, means "holy," and indeed Good Friday is known as Holy and Great Friday among Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox. Thus the answer given by the Baltimore Catechism seems a good explanation, except for the fact that Good Friday is called good only in English. In its entry on Good Friday, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes that:

The origin of the term Good is not clear. Some say it is from "God's Friday" (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English. Sometimes, too, the day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons; so today in Denmark.
If Good Friday were called good because English adopted the German phrase, then we would expect Gute Freitag to be the common German name for Good Friday, but it is not. Instead, Germans refer to Good Friday as Karfreitag—that is, Sorrowful or Suffering Friday—in German.

So, in the end, the historical origins of why Good Friday is called Good Friday remain unclear, but the theological reason is very likely the one expressed by the Baltimore Catechism: Good Friday is good because the death of Christ, as terrible as it was, led to the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, which brought new life to those who believe.

I have to admit… I’m with the Germans on this one—I think Sorrowful Friday is a better title. But it did lead to the Resurrection and so I can see that point too… now that I can see the big picture, of course.

On this “Good” Friday I would like for you to consider how it must have felt for Jesus’ friends to see him up on that cross. How it would have felt for his mother watching from the ground. I think it’s important for us to consider how it was in that moment. They didn’t know he would rise from the dead, despite Him repeatedly telling them that He would rise. They didn’t know that three days later they would be celebrating once again with him. They just saw his excruciating pain and suffering. If we don’t think about that moment, I think it can lose its powerful message. Do we truly understand what had to happen for us to be free from our sins? Although Sunday will certainly be a “good” day… let’s not forget what had to happen to get there.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Heart to Heart with Agent Jim Hart...

Jim Hart is an agent with the Hartline Literary Agency, and will be teaching workshops at St. Davids on “Why You Should Hire an Agent” and “Proposals that Pop.”  He also will offer free 15-minute appointments to conferees interested in pitching their books to him. Jim was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer the following questions.
—Audrey Stallsmith      

Why did you decide to become a literary agent? 

I really needed a job that I could be passionate about.

Is the job harder or easier than you had expected?

Parts of the job have been a challenge. Receiving eight rejections in one day from a single publisher can be hard!

In your experience, what is the biggest mistake that beginning writers make when approaching an agent?

Not doing their homework. Is your book even appropriate for the agent that you’re sending to? Have you looked at their preferred submission guidelines? Are you prepared with a convincing and complete proposal?

If you could change one thing about the Christian publishing industry, what would it be?

I think I’m struggling with the idea of turning some authors into ‘literary rock stars.’ I recognize the need for strong marketing – without it books would not be sold. But, as a follower of Christ, I tend to be uncomfortable with the pedestal that the Christian entertainment industry, as a whole, seems to put creative people up on.

Do you market only to Christian publishing houses or are you willing to approach secular ones as well?

I’m beginning to approach general market publishers.

What types of books and authors do you prefer to represent?

I have a very eclectic palate when it comes to books. I like nonfiction books that deal with church growth, evangelism strategies, and also biographies. For fiction I just like a good story, regardless of genre. I lean toward unique and quirky styles. It’s okay with me if it’s a story that I’ve already heard, if it’s being told in a fresh manner.

How necessary is it for those authors to have an online presence these days, and which of the following would you consider the most important:  a web site, online articles, social media, or a blog?

I personally like to see a professional looking author web page that is content rich with blogs, videos, and great graphics. Look professional and you’re more apt to be taken seriously. If you don’t have an adequate, substantial, national platform, then it’s going to be tough to have a publisher pick you up. If you’ve been published, you still have to be a major component in the marketing process, and that includes an ‘all-of-the-above’ mentality.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Shirley Stevens at St. Davids: "Participating in the Poem" Workshop

Shirley Stevens will be leading a fascinating new workshop at St. Davids this year, called "Participating in the Poem." I asked her what was going to make this workshop different, and she graciously shared with me some thoughts on her workshop. We urge you to try this fun and interactive way to learn new things about poetry ... and yourself.
—Linda M. Au

When I lead workshops, poets ask me if I consider poetry an oral form or a written one. Of course, my answer is both.

The earliest poets memorized and recited their poems since there was no written form. It is important to pay attention to both sound and sense.

I have found that dialogue poems are fun to write and perform. Paul Fleischman's "Joyful Noise" won the Newberry Award for poems in which insects interact. I have written poems in which animals speak to one another, objects interact, and humans dialogue with one another.

Jana Carman and Patti Souder, who were in my St. Davids workshop, went on to write two books of Poems for Two Voices in which Biblical characters interact, These poems were performed by a drama troupe in an Off-Broadway Theater.

I hope that you will bring your poems to class. We will read poems aloud by modern poets. You will write poems in class and read them in small groups as well as to the class as a whole.

This class is for a range of writers from the beginning poet to the advanced. Prose writers often profit from practicing the art of poetry writing. There is definitely a carry off to polishing your prose. After this workshop I hope that you will look for opportunities to perform your poems, ranging from poetry readings to church performances. Poetry should not be limited to a static form on the page. It is meant
to be heard.
—Shirley Stevens