Pic for website 2012Hello! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly CAN blog about writing. Today, I pose a question, "Messy Desk, Pristine Prose?" or, "Does your writing environment help you or hurt you?"

I recently saw a picture of a writer at work. Everything about her desk and surroundings was streamlined and clean. Not a pencil out of place, not a book up-ended. There were no sticky notes affixed to the computer screen, and no cork bulletin board groaning with mock-ups of book covers, flyers, and a scribbled-upon calendar. Even this writer's shirt looked as if it had just been ironed!

If this is you, I say, "Bravo!" or "Brava!" How you do it, I know not, but my proverbial hat is off to you for being so tidy.

As for me and my workspace…well…not so much.

Oh, please understand, I can find everything I need. In files on piles for miles. Nohing is dirty or smudged or ripped or torn, but everything looks, well, "in process." And, you know what? I like it this way.

When I'm working, I thrive in an environment that looks like it's working, too. I seem to have an affinity for visual reminders – the scribblings on the tiniest scrap of a Post-It note can forever be imprinted on my mind and come in hand at exactly the right moment. Color-coded folders call to mind if something inside is adminstrative or creative. And various notebooks with floral or patterned covers contain specific subject matter.

To the outside observer, all of this might seem unnerving. I understand that, for many, the workplace needs to be "just so."  Recently I was at a doctor's appointment, and the physician spent several minutes rearranging the ophthalmologist's lenses so their stems were facing in the same direction ("They were offending my OCD," the doctor told me as I watched.) So, yes, I get neatness.

I just naturally don't DO neatness, at least not while I'm working.

Unless, of course, it is within my manuscripts or my internal organization. Then, I strive for utter clarity. So, specific projects have their own files,and these files have their place. Content within manuscripts is well-ordered and follows, one fact upon another, so that the beginning, middle, and end make sense individually and collectively. Those scribbled-over legal pads order my thoughts, and the Post-Its stack up just so to show the most important information first.

To look at my living room and kitchen, and then see my office, a person might surmise that different individuals inhabit them. The person with the desk overflowing couldn't possible be the same person whose magazines perch neatly on a coffee table near a neat and carefully-arranged kitchen.

Ah! But, they are! And this, too helps my writing. I can go from the scene of much creativity to a domestic locale that helps me relax, rest, and revive.

It's taken me ages to understand and become comfortable with the appearance of my "writing lair." Even now, in the back of my mind, I hear a voice say, "Pick up your room." (don't we all?!) But, I have come to realize that environment for the working writer is very important. We need to feel at home when we work, whether in a corner of the family room, at the kitchen table, or in a crowded cafe. If we support our need for the "just so" physical writing space, we can be more free with our imaginations. We just might turn out better work!

When my work-in-progress is over, edited, and accepted, I go full circle. I gather my papers, notes, and file folders,and tuck them away. I sweep clear remnants of the just-published piece. I record contact information I've collected, and update my email address lists. Before I know it, my office looks like the rest of my home – neat, tidy, clean…and just waiting for the next project to explode in a happy chaos of paper and possiblities!

Blessings to you in Our Lord, Jesus Christ!




Pammeyers1Hi, all. Pamela S. Meyers here, freshly back from the ACFW National Conference in Dallas, with another installment about marketing your new novel.

During my year of blessings in 2011, I received a three-book contract with OakTara Publishing, and a single-title contract with Summerside Press. This fall, the second book in the three-book series is coming out, and next spring the Summerside Press title is to release.

When I received final cover art for both books within days of each other, I didn’t have any time to waste if I were to have a promotional
item to take with me to Dallas. This was important, since Thyme for Love would be available in the bookstore, but obviously not the other two titles. What better way to get the word out than a colorful postcard to place on the table next to the current book? The picture shows the front and back of the postcard. It’s not very clear, but you can get the idea. The front features the beautiful coPostcard Fall 2012ver of my Love Finds You book, and the back, both covers of the OakTara titles (the third in the series is yet to come), along with personal info about me.

The cards arrived within days of my departure, looking gorgeous. As soon as possible I went to the conference bookstore and placed them on the OakTara table next to Thyme for Love and also put some on the Summerside table. I kept the rest of the cards in my conference tote bag and I gave them to editors during appointments, along with my business card—an easy way to show them what I already had contracted. I also gave the cards to authors whenever we shared information about our writing.

Sunday arrived and I was off to the airport, but opportunities still came up for me to share my cards. First with other ACFW members while waiting to board, and later on the flight home when I sat next to a man who was traveling overseas with a Christian singing group. He mentioned his daughter has always wanted to get into writing fiction. Before we went our separate ways, I gave him my card and one of the postcards to give to his daughter, suggesting that she contact me via email if she wanted information on writing fiction or ACFW. He tucked both pieces into his Bible. (Can’t think of a better place to be LOL)

I have come to the conclusion that postcards can be great promo pieces. They are easy to carry around, and they offer more design/information space than a bookmark. You can be sure I’ll be using postcards a lot more for future books.

While in Dallas, I attended marketing workshops, and can’t wait to share in future posts some of what I learned at the conference. So stay tuned!!



Davalynn Spencer
here, from colorful Colorado, excited to visit with Mona Hodgson. I met Mona a
few years ago at a Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference and have been awed
by her maneuverability between children's books and historical fiction. Mona has
some great tips for first-book authors.

Welcome, Mona.
Will you tell us how you became a writer?

For as long as I
can remember, I was going to be a nurse like my cousin Irene. That's what I
told my parents and that's what we all expected. Although I had been more
successful in English classes than in other classes, and I had always preferred
words over numbers or science projects, becoming a writer hadn't crossed my
mind until I was nearly thirty.

Read More →


Sundin #D70 ©2008 Linda Johnson Photography web (2)Greetings from Sarah Sundin! Today I have the honor of interviewing Eleanor Gustafson, who has been published in fiction and non-fiction since 1978! Ellie recently had the book of her heart published, The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David, which has an accompanying study guide, the perfect blend of her fiction and non-fiction background.

CAN Eleanor GustafsonEllie, how did you get into writing? How many do you have published?

As a child, I loved stories and read myself into needing glasses, then began making up stories in my head. When I finally started writing them down, my mother and others advised me to stick to music. Didn’t. Persevered and finally got a number of essays and short stories published – which gave me hope for writing a novel. Did that. My first, Appalachian Spring, was my most successful in terms of sales, but subsequent novels taught me a lot, mostly what not to do. By the time I got to the novel I always wanted to write (The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David) I had it mostly figured out. David is one of my favorite characters in the Bible, and even though sales haven’t been terrific, the response has been excellent. Check out the Amazon and LinkedIn reviews. (Please note: Sales are not the only or perhaps the best criterion in defining success.)

CAN Gustafson bookAbsolutely not. And how did you get your first book contract?

I attended a writers’ conference at Gordon College, manuscript in hand. One person read the first page and muttered that I wrote in Mandarin English. He didn’t elaborate on that. Another well-known author, right after lunch, nearly fell asleep on me. I hadn’t bothered talking with the Zondervan editor, thinking it hopeless, but after she left, someone encouraged me to send her the first chapters. Did. She wanted the entire manuscript, and Zondervan took it on. They also accepted my second novel, Wild Harvest, but because I insisted on a “difficult” ending, the book didn’t sell well. Learning Experience #1. We won’t talk about Learning Experiences #2, 3, 4, 5 – all in my third novel, Middle Night (self-published).

Read More →


Bigger smile - close up 4th of July 2012

Hi from Gail Gaymer Martin at www.gailmartin.com. I hope you had a wonderful summer and are ready for the beauty of autumn with cooler weather and burnished colors in the trees.

Did you ever think how much you say without saying anything at all? Body action tells the truth more than words spoken. It can get people in trouble as easily as what they say. As you write fiction, keep this thought in mind as you bring your characters to life with action beats. Don’t neglect this effective tool to deepen characterization and emotion and add greater conflict to your stories.

Read More →