by Judith Couchman

It’s a few days before Christmas and honestly, we’re caught in the activities, expectations, and last-minute details before ribbons and wrapping paper decorate our floors.

But eventually, after gathering the torn and discarded, we sometimes participate in a quieter post-holiday ritual. How will we spend that gift card, cash, or check? If you’re blessed with plastic or money, I’ve a writerly suggestion. Purchase items to usher you into a new writing year. Items that affirm your calling and confidently usher you into the new writing year. How about these ideas?

A book that inspires your call and upcoming work. For over twenty years, one of my New Year’s goals has included, “Reading an inspirational book about writing.” Hopefully, in January. Not a book that improves technique, but rather, a title to reaffirm and inspire my identity as a writer. A book that says Yes, writing is an honorable profession. Yes, you are a writer. Yes, time spent writing is never wasted. Yes, readers want your work. The book might not declare these affirmations directly, but when I finish reading, I’ve absorbed the value, dignity, and pleasure of writing. I’m ready to roll. With a book about writing, you’ll hand yourself the gift of inspiration–a present that influences you throughout the year.

A journal for thoughts and plans. Also in January, I look forward to selecting a new journal for the year. I’m not frugal about this. The material, color, image, paper, and closure matter to me. I choose a journal unlike one I’ve previously owned. I use the journal to record ideas, plans, quotes, outlines, brainstorming, and anything related to my writing. This includes sketchy ideas and specific details for projects. I call it y DaVinci Journal, after the artist who left behind many pages of ideas and sketches. Each year I buy a new journal, even though I didn’t fill up the previous year’s book. For me, this assigns a dignity and importance to the journal. At this point, I’ve more than twenty writing-related journals in a wicker chest. At times I refer to them for ideas, clarification, inspiration, and reminiscence. Overall, each journal reaffirms my writing life.

An image or object to inspire you. An author friend hung a painting on her wall that represents her call to write for and help people who need hope. She draws inspiration from the peaceful work of art when beginning a project, and occasionally refers to it in conversations. It assists in explaining her passion. I keep a wooden sculpture of Frances de Sales (1567-1632), the patron saint of writers, on my desk. My mother gave it to me. It’s special because in my childhood, Mom believed in my call to write. The rustic statue encourages me to continue, and that I’ve an advocate cheering me on from heaven.

What could you purchase to inspire you in 2018? Even without a gift card or cash, I heartily recommend owning at least one item that represents your call to write and inspires you to passionately continue.

Judith Couchman is an author, speaker, and professor who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She’s traditionally published more than 42 books, Bible studies, and compilations. Her current work in progress focuses on writers: How to Keep Writing & Loving It. Learn more about her writing and ministry at

Watch what you research!
by Mary L. Hamilton
My husband, Wayne, doesn’t quite know what to make of my turn to the dark side as I write mystery/suspense stories. But when I was trying to figure out a good place to hide a body in our area, he arranged a meeting with a man he knows who has worked as a police officer in our area off and on for thirty years. For thirty minutes, this friend and I discussed ways and locations for disposing of dead bodies, while Wayne listened and wondered what had happened to his sweet, innocent wife. Finally, after I’d learned fifteen different ways to dispose of a body, my interviewee looked at Wayne and said, “If something happens to you, we’ll know who to look for.”
Not long after that, Wayne received a text message from his friend early one morning asking him to call ASAP. Upon answering, his friend sounded relieved.
“Oh good. You’re still alive,” he said. He’d found an obituary in the newspaper for a man approximately the same age and the same name as my husband. But what made it even stranger was the deceased’s parents’ names–Wayne and Mary Hamilton!
 Watch what you research! 😉
Mary L. Hamilton, Author
Rustic Knoll Bible Camp Series

BobHostetlerBob Hostetler here, offering another prayer for writers:

Abba, Father, Lord God,
thank you that I can type so fast,
that the internet makes research relatively easy (if dangerous),
that I can work at home or in a coffee shop.

Thank you that I can send manuscripts and galleys via email,
that I can quickly search a document,
that I can access, order, and download books online.
Read More →


Funny Headlines — that need better editing, lol.

Take a look at these headlines and tell us what you would have written…


The Naked-Fear Dream By Sydney Avey

Dreams come out our deepest anxieties. In a classic fear dream, you stand naked in a public place and no one hands you a cover-up. Often this dream calls you to face the unknown with a sense of confidence.

It was not my dream to sing on a praise team. I’ve been hiding in the church choir for years, but our choir aged and our numbers shrank. When the choir disbanded, I found myself on a small worship team…behind a microphone…in front of guitars and drums. Now I could really be heard!

Praise music and hymns have different rhythms. Contemporary worship songs go places I can’t always predict. It’s a challenge to invite our congregation into an experience I’m unsure about. Like a job retraining program, it requires new ways of thinking.

One Sunday after I’d missed rehearsal, a string of unfamiliar words appeared on the screen. I had no idea how to sing them. A still, small voice whispered, “Give yourself to the music. It’s a conversation. Sing it that way.”

In business, we refer to that sudden clarity as a paradigm shift. A song vocalized in a conversational tone instead of poetic meter becomes an informal prayer. One musical expression isn’t inherently better than the other. They are different worship experiences.

Singers unsure of their voices often step back from the microphone. “Lean into the mic,” our worship leader says. “The farther away you get, the more the sound distorts.”

As a writer I’ve learned when I step back in fear, my writing loses power. But I can lean in with confidence,  “…for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very time what you should say” (Luke 12:12 NIV). The Naked-Fear Dream no longer has the power, I do.

Sydney Avey, Author

Sydney Avey, Author

Sydney Avey is the author of three historical fiction novels that explore the passions that drive women to live unconventional lives. She enjoys theater, travel, and choral singing. She and her husband divide their time between the Sierra foothills near Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.