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READ: Review, As Good As She Imagined by Roxanna Green with Jerry B. Jenkins

I admit it. Books written with a collaborative- or ghost-writer have a special place in my heart. That’s because when I’m not leaping tall buildings in a single bound, I’m often the words behind others’ stories. The task of capturing someone else’s heart is a terrible, beautiful challenge. So when the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian WritersGuild offered the opportunity to receive an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy) of As Good as She Imagined (Worthy Publishing, 1/2/2012), I responded right away. One of the special challenges of writing (and reading) the story of “the angel of Tucson,” Christina-Taylor Green, is that we already know how it ends. When news of the shooting broke this past January, we watched and listened in horror. Regardless of political affiliation, we prayed for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and mourned as the death and injury toll mounted. Other than Ms. Giffords, the victim whose death sparked an outpouring of compassion was nine-year-old Christina-Taylor. Born on 9/11/01, her life was bookended by tragedy but bathed in significance. In As Good As She Imagined, her mother and Mr. Jenkins pour intense effort into making that message plain. The book combines a strong narrative thread with italicized comments from Christina-Taylor’s father and others who knew this bright, confident child. The additional perspectives add credence to her parents’ claim that their daughter was born for greatness. The news-like feed that fronts each chapter adds a powerful, creative element without glorifying either the killer or his crimes.  As expected, raw grief makes its presence known, tempered by a strong faith that seems natural rather than forced. I applaud both Mrs. Green and Mr. Jenkins for their work to complete this book so soon after the tragedy that birthed it and for sharing the personal truth behind the public reports. Only God knows the potential for good cut in the lives cut short by a misguided marksman. But as President Obama challenged those who heard his memorial tribute to Christina-Taylor, we have potential of our own. Read this book and receive a challenge to become “as good as she imagined.” Watch the book trailer here: Find a local Christian bookseller here:  Or order the book on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, or Christian Book Distributors.(FTC disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book free from the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. I was not required to post a review or a positive response.) Do you have a memory of either  9/11 or the day of the Tucson shootings to share? Is God urging you to new challenges for 2012? Please share your thoughts in a comment below. Also, the winner of my Christmas prize pack is reader Judy B, who serves as her mother’s caregiver....

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WRITE: The Accidental Ghostwriter, Part I

(REMINDER: Read and leave a comment with your email address on my previous post, “READ: Words of Comfort for Times of Loss” for two opportunities to win!)“What kind of ghosts do you write about?” Someone once asked me that question after she heard that I was a ghostwriter. Some of you know that although my business cards say, “Book Doctor/Writer/Editor,” quite a bit of my work is ghostwriting. What does that mean? I write for others. I take their messages or stories (via interviews, printed or audio materials, or a rough manuscript) and turn them into books. Their names go on the covers, mine (generally) doesn’t. I prefer the term “collaborative writer” since I wouldn’t have a book to write without the author’s message, and he/she wouldn’t have a book to sell without my writing. But true collaborators generally share cover credit. So far, I’ve been more hidden than not–hence the “ghost” part of the term. A friend wrote the other day to ask another, more common question. “Why do you ghostwrite? Why don’t you just write on your own?” Because so many people have asked me this, I decided to turn my answer into a blog post. I ghostwrite, first of all, because God has led me to do so. I call myself an accidental ghostwriter because I never set out to become one. I’ve loved to write since my early childhood (I blogged about that in February). After I came to know Christ in college, he told me he’d use my writing someday. That’s why I went to seminary for a theology degree and took as many writing classes as the school offered (one). As a pastor’s wife and homeschool mom of five, I then took a long hiatus from publishing. I kept writing and writing because writers write, but I didn’t pursue publication. From 2000-2005 my writing dream took a more visible form. I wrote and published a number of homeschool articles and sermon illustrations. A dear friend and professional editor mentored me as I took on some editing work. But I knew God wanted more, and I prayed about my next steps. In August, 2005 I became involved in a prayer project for a young man who was critically ill. The day he died, I volunteered to help his parents get his passionate message of surrender to Christ out in any way I could. I had no idea what that would entail, but that offer became I Would Die for You (Revell, 2008). This project is the one that has brought me all the rest. It became a Young Adult bestseller, earned back its modest advance, and is now in its fourth printing. I’m so...

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WRITE: Firm Foundations, Fulfilled Dreams: An Interview with Author C.J. Darlington (Part IV)

Today, I present the final portion of my interview with 2008 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel winner C.J. Darlington. Homeschooling parents and writers who seek publication will want to pay special attention. This comes with a shoutout to C.J. for all her helpful answers and to Homeschooling Today for permission to reprint. C.J.’S TIPS FOR YOUNG WRITERS AND THEIR TEACHERS:How homeschooling helps writers learn and grow: If it weren’t for my parents’ choice of homeschooling, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Homeschooling taught me how to teach myself. But after I graduated, my parents were still there to help me pursue my dreams. I believe the homeschool experience fosters individual thinking. That’s so important. I never want to swallow what someone tells me is truth without asking questions. How homeschooling can build creativity: Mom required us to journal every day. We could write about whatever we wanted, and she promised she would never read our entries. That was a freeing experience. I was thirteen when I started and still keep a journal. Mom also built assignments around our interests. For example, she turned the newspaper Tracy and I started into an entire journalism course. Through The Monthly Dart, we learned how to write editorials, limericks, fiction, news articles, and more because those areas intrigued us. How to achieve your writing dreams: Never give up. If God has put the desire to write in your heart, He has a way of fulfilling it. I had the dream of being a published author for more than fifteen years before my first book released. Was it worth the wait? You bet. But you’ll never reach your dreams if you give up on them. PUTTING IT IN PRINT: 1. Learn to type correctly. This is the one homeschool requirement I use every day. If you want to be a writer, it’s imperative. 2. Read great books. The best way to learn how to write fiction is to read great novels. It’s learning by osmosis. You’ll pick up concepts like how to structure a story, craft dialogue, and master point of view without realizing it. 3. Write about what you love. You’ll write best if your topic interests you. Do you love horses? Write a story about a girl and her horse. Are airplanes your passion? Create a story that features a pilot. My sister, Tracy, started writing articles about Christian musicians for youth publications because she loved Christian music.4. Be patient. Writing is an apprenticeship. It can take years to master the craft and achieve publication. Allow this to encourage you on days when the words don’t flow. Originally published in Homeschooling Today® magazine, January/February 2010, used by permission. All rights...

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READ: Firm Foundations, Fulfilled Dreams: An Interview with Author C.J. Darlington (Part III)

Here we go with Part III of my Homeschooling Today interview with author C.J. Darlington. Although this concludes the main portion of the article, be sure to check out Wednesday’s post for C.J.’s hints for breaking into print as well as her tips for young writers and their teachers. I’m a bit late posting my blog today because we were shopping for our family mega-cooking in which we prepare meals to stock our freezer. On a morning trip to Sam’s Club in Sanford, Florida, I made my customary visit to the book section. I was thrilled to see Thicker than Blood among the stacks of novels! M.P.: What would you say to encourage today’s homeschool students? C.J.: First, recognize the gift homeschooling has given you. It’s hard sometimes (especially for students like me who never knew anything else) to see what you’ve been spared by not attending conventional school. You don’t have to face peer pressure and temptations other kids encounter daily. If someone says you’re sheltered, be thankful. Then show them that your knowledge reaches far beyond your home. You’re not missing out. Really! Also, realize that it’s okay to have many interests. I used to feel like a failure if I didn’t master everything I tried. But my mom always reminded me that I had to explore many areas so I could discover what interested me most. It’s fine to have a hobby for a few months and then move on. That’s how you develop into a well-rounded person. M.P.: Do you have words of encouragement for homeschooling parents who may be weary in well-doing? C.J.: By homeschooling, you’re giving your kids an awesome gift. On those days when nothing seems to go right, know that you are not wasting your time. It will pay off. Homeschooling works. I’m living proof. Also, be willing to adjust your curriculum for each child. Change gears if necessary and try different techniques until you find one that works. And don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t excel in every subject. I was a horrible speller. But now Tyndale House is publishing my first book! M.P.: Tell us about your family’s response to your winning the Operation First Novel Contest. Were they present when you received the award? C.J.: My dad wouldn’t stop crying, my mom wouldn’t stop screaming, my sister wouldn’t stop talking . . . for a week! And yes, Mom was with me when they announced the winner at the Christian Writers Guild’s annual Writing for the Soul Conference in Colorado Springs. The second I left the stage, Mom and I ducked into a hallway and called my dad and sister who were waiting beside the phone. M.P.:...

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WRITE: Firm Foundations, Fulfilled Dreams: An Interview with Author C.J. Darlington (Part II)

Today, I continue my conversation with C.J. Darlington, homeschooled author and winner of the 2008 Operation First Novel award from the Christian Writers Guild for her novel, Thicker Than Blood. Watch for parts III and IV next week! M.P.: Let’s discuss your school experience. Do you have a favorite homeschool memory? C.J.: It’s hard to pick just one! Here’s a favorite: at age twelve, Tracy and I became licensed amateur radio operators. This was back when Morse code was required, so we had to study hard. When we finally passed our exams, our parents (who got licensed too) bought us a ham radio. I remember hurrying through my schoolwork so I could run downstairs, fire up the radio, and make contacts with people across the world. This was before we had a computer and before the Internet, which made it even more exhilarating. M.P.: What was the most difficult challenge you faced as a homeschool student?C.J.: I can’t think of any. Like any student, I had subjects that challenged me. But overall, homeschooling was a great experience. Even as a kid, I was aware of the privilege I was being given. Mom made sure we understood that if there was ever anything we wanted to learn, she’d go out of her way to give us the materials to learn it. We were literally on the frontlines of the homeschooling movement and knew people who’d had their kids taken away. People would say to my parents, “Homeschooling? What’s that?” M.P.: What further education (formal or otherwise) do you have beyond your home high school experience? C.J.: Because my interests were creative writing and entrepreneurial business, I never saw the need for college. I knew I could teach myself anything I didn’t know. With the support of my family, I taught myself to write fiction through how-to books, magazines, and great novels. When Tracy and I decided to build, we learned the code and design skills necessary to create it from scratch. If we didn’t know something, we asked questions and searched the web for insights. Homeschooling taught us that the world lay at our fingertips. M.P.: What foundation(s) did your parents have in place for your family and homeschool that helped you become the person you are today? C.J.: Our family’s firm foundation is without a doubt our Christian faith. Our courses always focused on the biblical aspects of a subject. We studied constitutional law from a Christian perspective and American history from textbooks that didn’t have all the God stories removed. Science focused on creationism and journalism on free speech. One course required us to read the Bible through in a year. My parents also emphasized treating each...

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READ: Firm Foundations, Fulfilled Dreams: An Interview with Author C.J. Darlington (Part I)

Homeschooling Today magazine recently published my interview with homeschooled author C.J. Darlington. I’ll share it with you in four parts over the next four “Read” and “Write” blog days. In spite of its homeschool slant, I believe non-homeschoolers will be equally blessed to read about this gifted young writer who’s also become my friend. Enjoy! Keep the foundations strong.Our family watched this principle come to life when faulty construction forced a neighbor to vacate her home. Within two years of its construction, huge cracks appeared in the floor. An improperly laid foundation threatened the home’s integrity and its owner’s safety. Today, the house sits abandoned—beautiful on the outside, hopelessly flawed within. Homes that endure time and testing provide encouragement to keep the foundations strong. In the same way, we find hope when we look at longtime homeschool families and the fruit of their labor. Often, this fruit comes in the form of people: students who succeed, parents who persevere, and lives that are changed. As a writer and veteran homeschooler, I took particular delight in the news that homeschooled writer C.J. Darlington had won the prestigious 2008 Operation First Novel Award from the Christian Writers Guild. C.J.’s prize, presented by CWG owner and bestselling author Jerry Jenkins, included $20,000 and a contract with Tyndale House for her novel Thicker than Blood. Homeschooled throughout her school years, C.J.’s story offers unique encouragement to parents and students alike. Although Thicker than Blood releases in January, C.J. and her identical twin sister, Tracy, have already earned a strong reputation in the world of Christian publishing and entertainment. In 2006, they began to promote Christian books, music, and other media. The Darlington family also runs an online store dedicated to the same type of book search featured in Thicker than Blood. But I’ll let C.J. tell that story herself. Marti Pieper: Can you tell us about your family? C.J.: The cool thing about being a twin is that I had an instant fellow classmate. We were in the same grade with similar interests, which made homeschooling a lot more fun. It was also easier for Mom since she only had to teach one grade level. But although Mom did most of the teaching, our dad taught us science and took us on most of the field trips. I’m not sure who had more fun, Dad or us. M.P.: Please describe your interest in antique books and explain how that developed into a business.C.J.: For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to read and visit the library or bookstores. At age seventeen, Tracy and I became book scouts who bought used books and resold them to retailers. As the Internet dawned,...

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