Have a Way With Words? Here’s How You Can Put Your Writing Talent To Good Use

Are you naturally gifted when it comes to the written word? Perhaps you’ve been told from a young age that you excel in this area, and teachers and parents have commented on how you’d make a fantastic author. While writing is something that you can continue to improve on all the time, some people are naturally eloquent with words and find it easy to put thoughts to paper. If this sounds like you, chances are you want to nurture and expand on your gift, and are on the lookout for ways you can become more well-versed as a writer. Here are a few ways you can go about it.


Blogging has exploded in popularity over the last few years, and that’s because it’s so flexible. A blog can be anything you want it to be: it can be used to document your life, it can be used to share your knowledge on a topic with others, many businesses even use them to promote their site and products. It’s free to sign up, and once you do you have this incredible platform where you can express yourself any way you like. As well as improve your writing skills, blogging will also encourage you to improve your photography (even if it’s just with your smartphone- you need beautiful pictures for your posts after all!) You’ll learn the basics of coding and HTML and can even use free online editors to design and create your own banner and graphics. When you’re writing regular content for your blog, you will quickly find your ‘voice.’ This is something that you never get to do in formal, academic writing, with blogging you can just be yourself. You’ll expand your vocabulary, improve your writing and have fun in the process. Blogging also has a fantastic social side to it, you can speak to other likeminded individuals on platforms like Twitter. Join in with group chats, and even attend meetup events.

Write a Journal

Unlike blogs which are generally public, journals are for you rather than for an audience. The benefits of journalling have been well documented, they can help improve stress, evoke mindfulness and even improve your IQ. Because they allow you to explore your feelings they can help you to improve your emotional intelligence too, this is your ability to understand the feelings and emotions of others. Which is of course a fantastic skill to have in life! We’ve all experienced troubling times, and when your mind is racing, it’s difficult to make head or tail of the situation. Writing things down can really help you to work through and understand any issues that you have, and it can be extremely beneficial for your mental health. The practice of writing every day will certainly improve your writing skills, even if you plan on no one ever reading the journal you

Write a Book

Have you always dreamed of writing a book, but put it off as something to do when you’re a little older? Don’t delay, writing a book now while you’re young could be the best time to do it. Sure you don’t have as much life experience as someone older, but your thought processes, creativity, and imagination right now are bound to be incredible. When you finish education and get into the workplace things can get a little monotonous, and you might find that creative spark you once had dwindling unless you really invest in nurturing it. You could always start your book now and continue to work on it over the years if you don’t feel like it’s quite there. Either way, there’s nothing stopping you as a younger person.

Do Some Freelance Writing

Many students choose to get a part-time job while they’re still in education, so they have their own money to spend, and aren’t living entirely off their parents. But instead of going out and working in a shop or fast food joint, why not do some freelance writing? Many websites will require you to take a short test before you can sign up, but if you get through and are good enough, this is an excellent way to earn some money in your spare time. You get to make some cash, improve your writing and do something you know you’re good at.


Chit Chatting with Shana Schutte


Written by Jill Sheets

I was excited when I got Shana Schutte’s new book Two Minutes in the Bible for Women. Even with a busy schedule, I knew even I could take two minutes out of my day to go over a Bible lesson. Whenever I read it, it seems liked Shana is talking to me–not like someone who has a degree in civil engineering, but in a language that is not over my head. Read on and learn more about Shana’s new book, why it is important to give God thanks, and what her favorite verse is.


R: Tell us a little bit about yourself and about your new book Two Minutes in the Bible for Women.

S: If anyone reading this feels like they are unqualified for a particular task, I hope my life is an encouragement. I come from a little town in Southern Idaho. I have no formal education in journalism. I just learned how to write by practicing. I had a little dream in my heart to write books and when I started to move in that direction, God met my desires with circumstances that validated that was what He had for me to do.

The book is designed to encourage readers to get into God’s Word. One thing about it is that you can just read the devotional. Or, you can also look up extra scriptures at the end that are listed for reading and you can also think about the devotional by reflecting on how it applies to you.

All the topics are those for the feminine heart: faith, relationships, and purpose. I have written about waiting on God, trusting Him when life falls apart, and everything in between. It’s really just a book about dealing with life.


R: How did you come up with the idea for the book? How long did it take you to write this book?

S: That’s a common question. I wish I had an incredible story about how I was lying in bed one night and got the revelation to write a Two Minutes in the Bible book, but I didn’t come up with this wonderful idea. The Two Minute brand was actually developed by Boyd Bailey, who is the president of Wisdom Hunters. Boyd had already written several books under the Two Minute brand for Harvest House publishers, and he asked if I would be willing to write another for women. I immediately said, “Yes!” I love Wisdom Hunters and I highly respect Boyd, so it was an easy decision.

I didn’t sit down and focus on writing the book in a short period. I feel that devotionals are best written as one experiences life. That way, the words I share come from real-time lessons I am learning with Christ. So, all together, it took about a couple years to write the book.


R: Why is it important to give God thanks?

S: Many people see gratitude as being kind of a fluffy thing, sort of like cotton candy. They think it’s a feel-good practice that is nice to do if you want to be a nice Christian. But gratitude is a whole lot more than that. It’s actually protection for the human heart. When you’re feeling down about life and the enemy of your soul starts to beat you up with negative thoughts, gratitude raises you above the trouble to His perspective. It guards your heart against despair.


R: This is hard for me to do, but how can one let go of fear and worry by trusting God?

S:  This is a moment-by-moment thing, but I believe one powerful thing to do is to look forward to what God is going to do with anticipation. When you look forward with anticipation and faith, then the worry of the moment vanishes. If we are focused on what bad could happen, worry overtakes us. But when we choose belief, even though our emotions might be saying otherwise, it makes life a whole lot easier.


R: How can one practice gratitude?

S: You can practice gratitude by telling God out loud what you are grateful for. You can practice gratitude by telling others that you thankful for them. You can make it a daily habit to notice the beauty around you. And, when things don’t go the way you’d like them to, you can “reframe” what happened to you by asking yourself, “What good has come out of this situation? How have I learned? How have I grown? How can God change me for good because of what happened to me?”


R: What can one do to achieve their calling? How does one know what their calling is?

S: Sometimes people think of a calling as one thing they do in their life. And they think that a calling is something that only happens at one particular point in time. However, a calling is like a journey. If you aren’t doing what you believe is your calling right now, a good thing to remember is that there is preparation time before you will complete a particular task. And the preparation is as important as the actual calling. God is always at work in our lives. I think remembering this is good because it will prevent you from experiencing sadness or despair if you feel like you haven’t “arrived.”

We can have multiple callings in our lives: to be a good friend, to serve at church in the choir, to be a teacher. We may do those all at once, or at different seasons.

All of God’s kids can use their gifts to glorify God. One way to know what God has called you to do is to look at the intersection of your passions and your talents or God-given abilities. If you like to do something and you are pretty good at it (or at least you have the seeds of the gift that you can grow), then you might have a calling in a particular area.


R: What do you want people to take away from this book?

S: My hope is that women and young women who read the book will become more encouraged to spend time in the Bible. Sometimes, we feel like we have to spend lots of time in the Bible, and then when we can’t we feel guilty. But no one has to spend an hour in the Bible every day. If you can, great. But God isn’t grading us. It’s nice to take the pressure off and spend just two minutes a day with Jesus. God can speak to our hearts in a second.


R: What is Beyond Imagination?

S: Beyond Imagination is an organization I founded in 2008 that is dedicated to helping people with everyday life through biblical truths. Through Beyond Imagination, I do speaking, I write blogs and devotionals, and I have had a nationwide radio platform.


R: Tell us about Blueprint for Life and Wisdom Hunters.

S: Blueprint for Life is an organization based in Atlanta that helps people discover and live out their calling. It was founded by Mike Kendrick, and I wrote devotionals for them for a couple years. Wisdom Hunters is dedicated to improving biblical literacy. I have been writing for them for a couple years as well. Both organizations publish daily devotionals and can be found online at blueprintforlife.com and wisdomhunters.com.


R: What is your favorite verse and why?

S: I don’t really have a favorite verse, as so many of them have been so impactful to me over the years, but I particularly love Isaiah 61:1-3.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

When I was in my early twenties on the way back from a young adult retreat, the Lord gave this passage to me while on a bus. I sensed that He was revealing to me that I would spend my life working with Him to bind up the brokenhearted. For a long time that didn’t make sense to me, but a few years ago, I looked back and realized that’s exactly what I have spent my adult life doing—and continue to do through the words He gives me.


R: Tell us about your blog and about some of the topics you talk about.

S: I have been blogging and writing devotionals regularly for five years. I didn’t sit down and decide ahead of time that I would write about particular topics. However, the topics I write about are generally about faith, purpose, and relationships.

I usually write from the things that God is teaching me through life, or what I am learning through the Bible. I have always thought that the most powerful lessons we can share with others are those that we have experienced ourselves. So, I try to be a funnel and be pretty transparent.


R: Tell us a little bit about you other book.

S: I have written several other books: Betrayed by God? Making Sense of Your Expectations. It’s about dealing with the disappointment we all face when life doesn’t turn out how we would like. I’ve written 30 Days of Hope, which is another devotional inspired from the blogs on my website. I’ve also contributed to several God Hearts Me devotionals for tweens and have ghost-written a couple books for a good friend who lives in Georgia. One was self-published, The Fulfillment Factor, which is about finding fulfillment through discovering and living out a calling God has for your life, and also Blueprint for Life, which is the same idea, published with Harper Collins.


R: What are you currently working on?

S: I actually just started creating new content for singles over age thirty. I am working on an online course for that group as well as a new website. We will see where God takes me. There are over fifty percent single adults in the U.S. for the first time in history, and many of them want to marry and are hurting. I didn’t marry until I was forty-six, so I understand that pain of being an older single, so I want to encourage that group.


R: Where can people get your books?

S: They can get them at shanaschutte.com.


R: Shana, thank you for the interview. Have a great day.

S: You are so welcome. It was my pleasure.


Chit Chatting with Authors Andra and Morgan Ebert


two-people-in-front-of-treeRecently, I had the honor of interviewing Andra and Morgan Elbert, the authors of the adorable new book Winnie the Mini Horse. This mother-daughter duo is also involved with Heartland Mini Hoofs, a nonprofit organization using miniature horses to provide therapy to nursing homes, hospitals, schools, etc. Read on to learn more!


R:  Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing.

E:   We are a mother-daughter team who shares a love of horses and reading. Both of us always have a book nearby that we are reading.


R:  Tell us about your new book Winnie the Mini Horse.

E:  Our first book is the introduction of Winnie to her new family (or herd, as it is called in the horse world). Winnie is beginning her journey to learn how to become a therapy animal.


R:  How did you come up with the idea for the book?

E:  We thought that this would be a great way to introduce the public to the new therapy avenue using miniature horses.


R:  What would you like your readers to take away from the book?

E:  How everyone, including horses, are faced with new situations every day. Through practice and patience, many obstacles can be overcome.


R:  Who drew the pictures for the book?

E:  An illustrator at the publishing house.


R:  Where can people get your book?

E:  Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Archway Publishing.


R:  At what age did you find your love for horses?

E:  Morgan began riding at 11, and within a couple of weeks she was jumping horses over rails! Now she is a seasoned horsewoman with years of experience. Currently she is riding in the discipline of Eventing (Olympic riding events).


R:  When did you start riding and showing horses?

E:   After placing in her first show, there was no turning back for Morgan.


R:  What is your favorite thing about being around horses?

E:  They are the most loving, loyal and non-judgmental animals. When you ride, you truly develop a lasting bond of mutual respect.


R:  Tell us about Heartland Mini Hoofs.

E:  We are a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization providing animal assisted activity and therapy visits using miniature horses. With our special animals, Winnie, Bailey and Jasper, we provide smiles, laughter and love to nursing homes, hospitals, libraries, schools, Alzheimer’s units, senior communities and other special groups.


R:  Is Winnie one of your horses at Heartland Mini Hoofs?

E:  Winnie is the newest member of the family. The other two horses are Bailey and Jasper.


R:  What are you currently working on?

E:  We have outlined the second book and are currently adding details.



R:  What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a writer?

E:  Make sure you have a way to record or write down your thoughts. Most importantly, never give up!



R:  Are you or your books on any social networking sites? What about an official website?

E:  We are on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/winniethemini/ Twitter – http://tiwtter.com/winnieminihorse, and we have a blog – http://www.winnietheminihorse.com!wednesdays-with-winnie/


R:  Is there anything else you would like to add?

E:  Reading and horses are a wonderful combination for children. We try to make it extra special by having Winnie “hoof” sign any books that we donate to schools and libraries.


R:  Thank you for the interview. It was an honor. Have a great day.


Written by: Jill Sheets

All photo credits:  Bettis Photography of Taylorville, IL

Dear High School Self

Dear High School Self,

Hello, my friend. I see you will be graduating in the spring. You’ve had trials, drama, and success the last few years. I know you still aren’t quite sure where you fit or what part you will play in life, so be patient. It will reveal itself along the way. It has been and will be worth all the effort you have and are making. Sometimes we race across the finish line with fanfare and cheers. Other times we seem to barely survive and crawl across. HOW you finish matters a lot less than THAT YOU FINISH. Keep giving it all you’ve got, and you’ll get somewhere worth being.

I know you have often wondered if you have what it takes to become something more than you are right now, or if there is even anything MORE out there. Trust me, you can do it. I know now that you will never be alone, especially on those long, dark roads you have and will be required to travel.

Treasure the remaining few months of high school. Don’t allow what you don’t have to rob you of what you do have. Attitude and what you choose to dwell on can make a difference. Don’t allow the “can’t do, so don’t try” people to control your life. There are great things out there for you to accomplish, and wonderful people to meet. Keep yourself in the game so you can be on the field when the really interesting stuff happens.

You think you’ve done some cool stuff. You will always remember your experiences in football, swimming, and music fondly. Having such passion and endeavors has kept you on your feet. I know you are planning to swim in college. You will have a great experience. It may not last long, but it will help set a pattern you will follow the rest of your life. Never hesitate to go for your dreams, or try to accomplish really hard things. Strength and learning are more often found in the path and the effort rather than in the end result.

Hold on and continue to develop that growing faith in the divine. It will become a solid foundation during some of the storms that lay ahead, and it will also allow the sun to shine all the brighter each day. He is there for you.

My young friend, I stand at the other end of the path, looking back over 43 years with a measure of envy. I am happy that you have so much in front of you. Life is a wonderful adventure and will take you amazing places. I see clearly the events that separate us and, with some insight, can say that who I have become is due to all the experiences combined. We don’t get to skip over the rough spots, and we shouldn’t want to. It is the good and the bad, the success and the failure, the joy and the sorrow, things lost and things found, that blend together to give our lives depth, color, and meaning. I see more clearly the meaning of your life, and it has been worth it. All of these experiences make it possible for us to become the wonderful and interesting people that God intended. One day you will see to live…truly live, love, and aspire to be something more…is glorious.

What more can I say? Thank you for making me who I am. As a result of all that has happened, I have found joy and meaning. You will too. I believe in you.

Your friend,

Clark Burbidge is an award-winning YA author, especially known for the trilogies “Giants in the Land” and “Star Passage.” In this letter he writes about what he wishes he could have told his teenage self. Clark talks about being patient because even if you don’t feel like you fit in now, one day you will find your place in the world. He also discusses learning to enjoy the moment and not to not spend your time worrying about the next thing. You can read more about him here: About Author Clark Burbidge

Chit Chatting with Author of the KARE KIDS ADVENTURE Series Charles A. Salter

kare kidsWritten by Jill Sheets

Recently, I had the honor of interviewing Charles A. Salter. He is the writer of the “Kare Kids Adventures” series. Read on to learn more about Charles, his book series, how many books he plans on writing, and what advice he gives to someone who wants to become an author.


R:  Tell us about yourself and how you got your start in writing.

C: Growing up in a writing family, I suppose it was inevitable that I would want to become a writer myself. My earliest memories include Dad pounding away at his Olivetti portable typewriter for hours at a time, producing copious numbers of poems, short stories, novels, nonfiction articles, stage plays, and various autobiographical journals over his entire life. Also at that time we had as a family friend one of the most famous Southern writers in America: Walker Percy. With encouragement from both parents, I wrote my own first illustrated children’s book at the age of 8, a family newspaper by the age of 9, several short stories and mini-plays (which I, along with a younger brother and sister) produced for our parents’ enjoyment between age 10 and 15. That summer of my 15th year my brother and I started writing film scripts and produced a number of these with family, friends, and neighbors serving as cast members. By age 16, I had finished my first novel, though it is important to realize none of the above were formally published or reaching more than a local audience. Not long after college, however, I began to write professionally and for regular publication. I first achieved success in nonfiction, publishing hundreds of articles in journals, magazines, and syndicated newspapers. I also published some textbooks, reference books, and general nonfiction books, including a series of teen nutrition books which became very popular in school libraries and won awards. In more recent years I have turned to fiction, producing both an adult action series and the current “Kare Kids Adventures” series.


R:  Tell us about your book series “Kare Kids Adventures,” and how many do you plan on writing?

C: The “Kare Kids Adventures” are about preteen children who don’t merely care as an attitude, but translate their concern for family, friends, animals, and the environment into real action to solve problems and make their world a better place. In all of these books, the Kare Kids can’t rely on magic or super powers to solve their problems. They are realistic kids who live in the real world…BUT with the help of parents and other kindly adults, they know how to think for themselves and act independently. All the books are rated “G” with no bad language or gory violence. I have four volumes finished now and am working on a fifth. I have some tentative ideas for producing up to about 20 books or so if the fan response warrants that many.


R:  How did you come up with the idea for the books?

C: I get most of my ideas via dreams while sleeping. I keep a notepad and pen beside the bed to jot the key details of my dream stories down upon first awakening, before they fade away.


R:  What is your target age range?

C: About age 8 to 12 is the principal audience target. However, I have seen five- and six-year-old kids love having the books read to them. I think there is also enough intriguing background material about the adults in the series to interest parents who read these books to their children.


R:  Tell us about your first book in the series, The Secret of Bald Rock Island.

C: Book #1 of the “Kare Kids Adventures” is The Secret of Bald Rock Island. In it, 10-year-old Kelcie decides to solve the mystery of what happened to her missing fisherman father years ago AND what the mysterious creature on her island might be. Only recently published in June, it has gotten several excellent reviews already, which can be seen here: The Secret of Bald Rock Island – Amazon


R:  Tell our readers about “Charlotte and the Mysterious Vanishing Place.”

C: In Book #2 of the series, Charlotte and the Mysterious Vanishing Place, Kelcie is now grown up and her 9-year-old daughter is the star. Charlotte discovers a serious environmental danger in the woods and does everything she can to alert authorities and rescue two trapped puppies. This book was published on July 1 of this year. It is also available at Amazon.com:  Charlotte and the Mysterious Vanishing Place


R:  Tell our readers about your 3rd book “How Three Brothers Saved the Navy.”

C: In Book #3, How Three Brothers Saved the Navy, Charlotte’s three preteen cousins uncover a terrorist plot to destroy their Navy father’s ship. They show great courage and ingenuity in ferreting out the details and then thwarting the plot. That book was published in early August.

There is also a fourth book coming out around the end of the summer. Charlotte’s twin brother and sister star in The Travel Twins and the Lost Secret of the Vikings. This book’s plot unfolds on a scary (but real) train winding its way high in the beautiful mountains of Norway. Felons with mysterious motives have stolen the famed Leif Erikson Sunstone from their uncle’s Viking museum in Oslo, and the twins decide to get it back.


R:  Are any of the characters based on anyone?

C: Kelcie, the child heroine of the first book, is a composite of my two daughters. Out of the entire series so far, volume #1 is the only one set in the past—about one generation ago. At that time, my now-adult daughters were children and we often went to Maine (the location for this novel). We saw and experienced the kinds of places described in the book!  Kelcie appears in book #2 as a grownup in the current timeframe. The characters of all the kids in books #2 through #4 are based on my grandchildren.


R:  Tell us about your other books.

C: As a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) over the past 30 years, I have published a large number of nonfiction books, including textbooks and reference works, as well as an award-winning series on Teen Nutrition. In recent years I have published four volumes in an adult mystery/action series (The Ebay Detective and Brad Scout Detectives, about an Army officer who does special missions for the President), and now this middle grade children’s series.


R:  Where can people get your books?

C: These four books are available from the publisher, Outskirts Press, and also from all online books dealers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, etc. Please look up the titles in their search blocks or click on one of the URLs provided above.


R:  You also write for a newspaper. Tell us a little bit about that.

C: I used to write a weekly column on family issues that was syndicated nationwide by Suburban Features, part of the Scripps-Howard publishing network. I am sorry to say that Suburban Features went out of business.


R:  What is your writing process? Do you outline or just start to write?

C: I know some people like to outline their entire novel before starting to write, but I like to begin by dreaming up imaginative new characters and putting them into an exciting new situation or crisis. They soon begin to take on a life of their own and seem almost real to me, and they’ll tell me how they want to resolve the problem. Early on they will tell me what the ending is, but it is always an exciting adventure for us to discover together how they will get there.


R:  What are you currently working on?

C: I am currently working on Book #5 of the series, which brings back the three brothers of Book #3 in a new adventure. This time they help the U.S. Army. I am a veteran and military retiree with 28 years of active service in the Army. During some of those years I did considerable work for the Navy, even sailing on many different types of ships on actual deployments. Writing about military topics just comes naturally for me.


R:  What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a writer?

C:  Gosh, there are entire books full of good advice! I guess the most important are these two points: (1) Don’t get discouraged and give up when you get rejections by publishers.  Even the most famous writers generally were ignored at first.  From the time I wrote my first novel to when I published my first book was ten years!  (2) The creative process can be fun, even exhilarating, as you see those words pour out onto the page. But that is only the beginning—editing and revision are the keys to making any manuscript more readable and saleable. As one of my creative writing instructors put it, “The mastery of an art takes a lifetime.”


R:  Are you on any social networking sites? If so, which ones and what about an official website?

C: My primary author social networking site is:  https://www.facebook.com/CharlesASalter/

Among many other items, there are a series of autobiographical posts about how growing up in a writing family turned me into a writer.

I also have an author Twitter account filled with ideas about how to encourage more independence and maturity in youngsters: Charles A. Salter – Twitter


R: Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your readers?

C: The whole point of the “Kare Kids Adventures” series as a whole is to encourage young boys and girls to see their own heroic potential within. Youths need to become more independent as they mature, and our culture todays seems to recklessly disregard the fundamental truth that our society needs independent citizens capable of thinking for themselves and acting on principle. I like to think these books will not only entertain, but also inspire today’s youth.


R: Charles, thank you for the interview. It was an honor. Have a great day.

C: And thank you very much for meeting me like this and sharing my books with your audience! Bye for now.

Chit Chatting With Sara Jouret

Written by: Jill Sheets

 HeadshotRecently I had the honor of interviewing a very talented author Sara Jouret.

Sara wrote the amazing book “Mosaic of a Broken Heart,” which is a book that anyone who has struggles can relate or identity with. Continue to read on and learn more about the book and about Sara’s strong faith in God.

R: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

S: I love to create, which is why I enjoy writing, cooking, painting, sewing, photography, and art in general. I grew up with two brothers, but no sisters. This caused my interests to be more diversified. I also enjoy things like watching sports, camping, playing video games, etc. I can be quiet and a little reserved at times, but it’s simply because I like to take everything in first. I love meeting people and hearing their stories because it helps me to understand who they are like nothing else can. Most of all, I love God! He is my everything and the only reason I am still alive today!!

R: Tell us about your book “Mosaic of a Broken Heart.”

Sara Jouret book cover
S: Mosaic of a Broken Heart is about a girl who faced many difficult obstacles in her journey to becoming a lady. It walks you through her joys, struggles, hopes, and fears, but also shows how God was able to take her most painful life experiences and bring amazing good from them. It includes many things she learned during her journey and how she saw dreams come true in many unexpected ways.

R: Why did you decide to write the book?

S: For many years, I had been wanting to write a book because I love writing, but I didn’t want to write my life story because it felt too messy. I tend to be a perfectionist, and I was too ashamed to let others into the “messiness” of my life. Over time, God began working on my heart by showing me He can use the messiest stories and bring so much good from them if we allow Him to. Every time I began writing my story, I found it to be extremely difficult. Once I decided to turn it into fiction and use my personal journals, the writing process was less intimidating. The only things I changed were names and minor details in order to protect those in

the story. It has never been my intention to hurt or destroy anyone else by writing my story. I simply wanted to help others. I wanted them to know they are not alone in their life struggles and pain. So many are afraid to talk about their struggles because they don’t want to appear imperfect. Others are afraid to share what they are going through because they don’t want to be judged and ostracized by others. God showed me in so many different ways that writing my life story was what He wanted me to do. Even though it was scary and extremely difficult, I wanted to obey Him and do what He asked me to do.

R: How did you decide on which journal entries to use for the book?

S: It was difficult because I had twenty-three years of journals to consolidate. I typed every single journal entry and then sifted through them to see which ones would help share the story in a way which was understandable. I did a lot of praying throughout the entire writing process because I wanted to make sure the story was what God wanted it to be. Words are powerful, and I know I will be held accountable for the words I speak and write. I wanted to make sure the words in my book were honest, but also conveying what God wanted me to share with others.

R: Do you mind telling us about some of the things you went through?

S: During the first fourteen years of my life, I experienced a lot of different health issues (epilepsy, hearing loss, various illnesses, broken bones, etc…). When I was fourteen years old, I was in a serious car accident. The traumatic brain injury I sustained left me unconscious, and I was life-flighted back to a hospital in my hometown. I came out of the coma after three days, but spent the next five months in the hospital and rehabilitation relearning many things. Even though my doctors didn’t think I could, I was able to graduate from both high school and college with God’s help. Growing up, my worst fear was to be abandoned by my future husband. When I was thirty-two years old, I fell in love and got married. The day after the wedding, the abuse began. Over the next fifteen months, the abuse continued to get worse. Because I take my commitments very seriously, I had no plans on filing for divorce. After being abandoned by my husband, I realized he had no intention of working towards reconciliation. The divorce was finalized a year and a half after our wedding day. It was devastating, but something unexpected happened. Through my worst fear becoming a reality, God was able to bring amazing good into my life. Because I was in a time of transition after the divorce, I was able to live with and take care of my Grandma J. until she passed away. During the twenty months I took care of her, I had the amazing privilege of praying with her as she accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. The time I spent taking care of Grandma J. also gave me the opportunity to cultivate a wonderful relationship with my father, which is something I had longed for. Even though life hasn’t been easy for me, I know God has brought beauty from my pain. I am trusting He will continue to use my story to encourage others and draw them closer to Himself.

R: You have been through a lot. How did you keep your faith through all of it?

S: When I was growing up, I was very involved in a variety of church activities. Many of the activities included studying and memorizing scriptures. I truly believe God used the scriptures I memorized before and after the car accident when I was fourteen years old to help me through every difficulty I have faced throughout my life. The more I read the Bible, the more I fall in love with my Heavenly Father!! I am not perfect, and I will never have life figured out because it is so complex. There have been times when I’ve been frustrated, upset, hurt, etc. because of what I’ve been through, but God has always been faithful to help me endure the difficult times and learn from them. My constant goal is to become better instead of bitter, but I know I could never become better without God’s continual help and strength. He has been so faithful, and I am so thankful for His unconditional love!!

R: Do you have any plans on writing more books?

S: Yes! I am currently working on more, but they are all in the beginning stages. Writing makes me happy, and I love helping others. As long as I am able to help others through my writing, I will continue writing books.

R: Where can people get your book?

S: To purchase Mosaic of a Broken Heart (the ebook), they can go straight to my website (www.SaraJouret.com) and order their copy.

R: What do you want people to take away from reading your book?

S: I want people to know it is possible to make it through anything with God’s help and come out better on the other side of it. Life is full of difficulties, but we can make it through the most difficult situations because of God and His love. I want people to be encouraged and strengthened in their relationship with Him. I want them to know God is more than able to bring beauty from their deepest pain if they allow Him to. Finally, I want them to know they are not alone in their struggles!

R: What is your favorite Bible verse and why?

S: I have so many favorites!! It’s difficult to choose just one, but one of my all-time favorite verses is Philippians 4:13. I quote it often because I’ve found reciting scripture helps me make it through each day.

R: Who has been your biggest influence in your life?

S: My grandparents and my parents. They have all impacted my life in so many different ways that it’s difficult to single one of them out individually.

R: What are some of your future goals?

S: I love helping people, and I am always looking for ways to help others more effectively. I am currently working on a few different projects to help those aging out of foster care, domestic violence victims, and those with disabilities. My main goal is to honor God with my life. Even though I cannot tell you exactly what my future endeavors will look like at this very moment, my constant prayer is that I will honor Him in every way!

R: It is not easy being a teenager especially when Christian. What advice would you give them in general?

S: Stay close to God through prayer and Bible study. He is the only One who can help you endure the difficulties in life, but He also wants to be a part of your good times. Include Him in everything! Memorize scriptures. Write them in your journal. Recite them as you go throughout each day. I recite them as I’m driving, cleaning house, etc. My relationship with Him has helped me through every moment of my life. Finally, don’t ever be afraid to be the person God created you to be!

R: Do you have an official website? Are you on any social networking sites that you would like to share?

S: Yes! My website is www.SaraJouret.com. I can also be found on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook under Sara Jouret.

R: Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your readers?

S: Life is so short when compared with eternity. Live well. Love well.

R: Sara, thank you for the interview. It was an honor. Have a great day.


Review of “Prayer at Full Throttle”

Written by:  Jill Sheets
New-Book-Prayer-at-Full-Throttle-Not too long ago, I had the honor of interviewing the author of “Prayer at Full Throttle,” Robert Bakke for my radio show “Penguin Tracks.” The more I listened to Robert talk about his book, the more I wanted to read it.  As soon as I got off the phone with Robert, I contacted my husband and said that we needed to get this book.  When I got the book I dug into the book and started taking things to heart.

This book makes you think, not only about yourself and others, but our Heavenly Father.   Robert touches on the ways that we treat God. Ways that no one wants to be treated. For example:  How many of us have ever ask God how He is doing or even tell Him good morning. What about giving him thanks?  Not just for the big stuff, but the little stuff as well.  I admit, I had never thought about this until I sat down to read the book.

I do admit that there are a few things that I do not agree with in the book, but it is still a great book and well worth the read.

This book is a quick read book that also teaches you about “Performance based prayer.”

So Robert thank you for the interview that made me interested in this great book.

I have one more thing to say:  “Hi God, I hope You are having a great day.”

Chit Chatting with Author Elizabeth Naranjo

Written by: Jill Sheets

elizabeth naranjoRecently I had the honor of interview author Elizabeth Naranjo.  She is the author of the book “The Fourth Wall.” Continue to read on and learn more about her, he book and how she came up with the idea for the book.

R:  Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing?


E:  I’m a bit of a daydreamer; as a young girl I spent a lot of time in my room listening to music and visualizing the stories behind the songs. I started to write my own song lyrics, and then longer stories. And from as early as first grade, I remember my school teachers singling out my writing and really encouraging me. That was huge. It gave me this sense of identity, so I kept going with it.


R:  Tell us about your book “The Fourth Wall.”


E:  “The Fourth Wall” is about a girl named Marin who uses lucid dreaming as a way to escape reality after her mother’s death. Lucid dreaming means knowing when you’re in a dream. With that awareness, you can learn to control your dreams, at least to an extent. Marin thinks she has that control, but then she loses it, and in a sense becomes trapped in her own nightmare.


FourthWall_newCVR_MEDR:  How did you come up with the idea for your book?


E:  I was prone to nightmares as a child, and I learned to wake myself up from dreams. Eventually I learned other techniques, like changing scenes or flying instead of falling, which was fun. So when I was brainstorming this novel I imagined a young girl suffering from depression who has the ability to lucid dream. And I thought, what a perfect form of escapism. Instead of facing reality, she could create a whole alternate reality in her dreams. But that kind of denial would have to come at a price.

R:  When writing the book did you outline or just start to write?


E:  I didn’t really outline in the sense of breaking down chapters and doing elaborate character sketches. What I did was scribble down a few pages of notes that followed the arc of the story, the basic idea. And then I just wrote.


R:  If they were to make your book into a movie, who would your dream cast be?


E:  That’s a great question; who would make a good Marin? I’m so behind when it comes to watching movies; usually when I go to the theater it’s to see something animated. Maybe your readers can throw some suggestions my way?


R: Where can people get your book?


E:  On Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound. It’s also available on Kindle. Any bookstore can order it, and signed copies can be ordered through Changing Hands Bookstore by calling 480-730-0205.


R:  Where can people read your other writings?


E:  The easiest way to find my essays and short stories is to visit my website, because they’re in one place. I have a “published work” tab that lists the publications, and all but one are available to read online.



R:  What advice would you give someone who wanted to write?


E:  Start now. There’s no reason not to. You’re only limited by your own imagination; you can create any world you want. It’s fun, it’s freeing, and the more you write the better you get. If you’re stuck, or if you need some encouragement, email me.


R:  If you could pick any character in a book, which one would it be and why?


E:  If I could be any character I’d be Hermione Granger, because she’s brilliant and honest and brave. Also, I just want to live in the wizarding world—maybe teach at Hogwarts and pop on over to The Three Broomsticks for butterbeer on cold winter nights. Did I mention I like to daydream?


R:  What are you currently working on?


E:  I’m working on a novel about a 12-year-old boy who runs away with his best friend to find the friend’s father. The father is a volcanologist who went missing in the field. It will have a light paranormal element, like “The Fourth Wall.”


R:  It is not easy being a teenager.  What advice would you give them in general?

E:  Just to hang on. It gets better. What I remember most about being a teenager was how helpless it can feel, because there are so many parts of your life that you can’t control and so often you feel trivialized and misunderstood. So find your sources of strength—for me it was music and writing—and just hang on.


R:  What are five things people may not know about you?


E:  My first job was as a fountain worker in a hotel, making ice cream cones, malts and banana splits. In my twenties, I packed my car and moved to Arizona without knowing anyone here. I love baseball, and I don’t believe in designated hitters. I hate the cold. I’ve worn my hair long all my life and I still don’t know how to French braid it.



R:  Other than this one, what is the strangest question you have ever been asked?


E:  “Does this hurt?”


R:  Are you on any social networking sites?  If so, which ones and what are their addresses?  What is the web address to your official website?


E:  I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. My website is www.elizabethmarianaranjo.com


R:  Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your readers?


E:  Yes. Keep reading, keep writing, and thank you.


R: Elizabeth, thank you for the interview.  It was an honor.  Have a great day.

Chit Chatting with Author Sara Latta

Written by:  Jill Sheets

SaraLatta Recently I had the honor of interviewing author Sara Latta.  She wrote the book “Scared Stiff.”  Continue to read on and learn more about her, the book and what are some of her fears.

R:  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

S: I’m a scientist-turned-science writer. It was only when I was studying the immune system in graduate school that I realized I’d rather write about science than actually do it. Plus, I was kind of a klutz in the lab. I love words, and I love science, so this is perfect for me. I also love to read (of course!), cook, travel, and play with my dog Count Basie.



R: Tell us about your book “Scared Stiff.”

ScaredStiff_frontcoverS: As the subtitle says, it’s “Everything you need to know about 50 famous phobias.” That’s probably a little misleading, since some (like claustrophobia) really are famous, but some are pretty obscure. But I’m willing to be you’ve never heard of koumpounophobia (fear of buttons). I certainly hadn’t before I began researching the book. I try to look at phobias from many different angles, using psychology, biology, history, and even pop culture to explain why certain things scare us silly. I tried to make it fun to read without making fun of the many people who suffer from phobias.


R:  How did you come up with the idea for this book? How did you choose the fears that would go into the book?

S: My editor came up with idea, actually. He asked me if I’d be interested in writing a book about phobias, and of course I said “Sure!” As far as the phobias that made it into the book, I wanted to make sure I included some of the most common ones, including the fear of public speaking or the fear of spiders. But I also wanted to include some less-common or less well-known phobias that illuminate in some way our biology, our culture, or our history. For example, many people who fear blood actually have a genetically inherited condition that makes them faint at the sight of blood–and there may be an evolutionary basis for this condition. The fear of the number 13 has its roots in ancient mythology. Clowns can be scary because their painted-on faces hide their true emotions.


R:  How much research went in to the book?

S: Quite a bit! Fortunately, I love researching my books. This one was fun because there was a lot of pop culture and history to learn about in addition to the science.


R:  How long did it take to write Scared Stiff from start to finish?

S: It’s kind of fuzzy now, but I think it was around 9 months.


R:  Some of the phobias I suffer from are Lilapsophobia/astraphobia, somiphobia (sometimes) and ornithophobia.  What, if any, type of fears do you suffer from?

S: I’m afraid of heights, although I don’t think my fear goes to the level of being a phobia. I’ve forced myself to climb up (and down, which is worse) some pretty scary places. Public speaking is also difficult for me, but again, it’s not really a phobia. I find that some of the relaxation techniques I talk about in the book are pretty helpful.


R:  Where can people get your book?

S: You can get the paperback at any bookstore (ask them to order it if you can’t find it!); online retailers should have the ebook and paperback.


R:  What are you currently working on?

S: Right now I’m collaborating with an illustrator for a graphic novel about the 2012 discovery of the Higgs Boson, an amazing particle that basically gives matter its mass.


R:  Are you or your books on any social networking sites.  If so, which ones and what are their addresses/links?  Do you have an official website?

S: Yes!

Website:  http://www.saralatta.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/saralatta (or search for @saralatta)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sara.latta.7

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/zestbooks/scared-stiff-everything-you-need-to-know-about-50-/

Zest Books web page: http://zestbooks.net/scared-stiff/


R:  Is there anything else you would like to add?

S: If you have a phobia, you should know that you have plenty of company. If your phobia is getting in the way of achieving your goals and enjoying life, I urge you to get professional help–most people find that it really works. And thanks to my readers. I love you!


R:  Sara, thank you for the interview.  It was an honor.  Have a great day.

S: Thank you; it was my pleasure.

Chit Chatting with Author Brenda Janowitz

Written by:  Jill Sheets

Picture credit:  Tracy Toler

Picture credit: Tracy Toler

Recently, I had the honor of interviewing the author of  The Lonely Hearts Club, Brenda Janowitz.  Continue to read on about her, her books and who her dream cast would be.


R:  Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got your start writing.

B:  I’m a wife, a mother, and a writer.  I’m the author of SCOT ON THE ROCKS, JACK WITH A TWIST, RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE, and the new novel, THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB.  My work has also appeared in Publisher’s Weekly and the New York Post.

I’ve always been a writer.  I became a lawyer because I loved to write.  I thought I could turn my writing hobby into a career by going into law and becoming a litigator.  And I did get the chance to write a lot, but legal writing is just not the same as creative writing.

I worked for a large law firm, then clerked for a federal judge, and nothing ever seemed like the right fit for me.  I’d find myself wandering the halls, thinking of the stories I wanted to write.  When I got invited to my ex-boyfriend’s wedding, I thought to myself: this could be a novel.  So, I made it into one!  SCOT ON THE ROCKS debuted in 2007, and I’ve been publishing novels ever since.



R:  Tell us about your book “The Lonely Hearts Club”

B:  It’s the story of Jo Waldman, a young singer/songwriter whose personal and professional life have hit rock bottom… until a blog post she writes goes viral, making her the poster girl for an “anti-love” movement that sweeps Manhattan.



Lonely Hearts clubR: How did you come up with the idea for this book?

B:  After I finished writing my first novel, it was time to think about ideas for a follow up.  I wanted the protagonist to be completely different from my girly-girl lawyer protagonist from SCOT ON THE ROCKS, so I came up with the polar opposite: a punk rocker who couldn’t care less about shoes, whose only passion was music.



R: What is your writing process?  Do you out-line or just start writing?

B:  I’ve done both, actually!  For each book, I really just try to do what works.  Usually I’ll have a strong sense of beginning, middle, and end.  Beyond that, it really depends on the book.  With LONELY HEARTS, I did have an outline I worked off, but as I wrote, a lot of that changed.

I think it’s important to have a sense of structure for your book (whether you’ve created that before you start writing, or impose it after the first draft), but I also think it’s important to just write.  Let the words flow.



R:  Was Jo or any other characters or some traits based off of anyone you know?

B:  Every character, I think, is an amalgamation of everything I am, everyone I’ve ever met.  I usually don’t base characters on one particular person.



R:  If they were to make a movie for this book, who would your dream cast be?


B:  What a fun question!


For Jo, our punk rocker, I think it would be so much fun to have Taylor Swift.  Sure, she’s a beautiful pop princess, but I’d like to see her with her hair mussed up a bit, yelling and cursing.


Jo’s dad has gotta’ be Gene Simmons.  He looks just like Dr. Waldman, for starters.  But more important, he’s rock royalty (one of the chapter titles is even a Kiss song!), and we need a sense of history in the movie cast, I think!


For Max, our dorky computer guy, I’m thinking Nicholas Hoult.  If he’s good enough for Katniss, well, you know….




R:  Where can people get your books?


B:  Anywhere and everywhere books are sold!  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo Books, and independent bookstores.  You can check my website for links: http://brendajanowitz.com/Site/the_books.html



R:  Why did you decide to become a writer instead of staying with law and a federal clerkship?


B:  Writing a novel was a lifelong dream of mine.  I first decided to write a novel just to see if I could.  When I finished the first draft of SCOT ON THE ROCKS, it was such an enormous sense of accomplishment for me.  But then, I couldn’t stop.  There’s an expression: writers write.


And it’s true.  It was always there for me—that urge to write.  We writers are a strange breed.  We have to write.  It’s not really a choice.  I was complaining about some personal problems I was having to an old friend of mine and she listened and then asked: have you been writing?  And I had to admit it to myself and to her—I had not.  I told her so, and she looked back at me, no judgments, and simply nodded her head.

Writers need to write.



R:  If you could be a character in any book, who would it be and why?


B:  Natalie Marx from THE INN AT LAKE DEVINE by Elinor Lipman.  I love Natalie’s intelligence, humor, and ability to question authority, even at a young age.  She deals with anti-Semitism, love, and grief, all while staying true to herself.


I fell in love with THE INN AT LAKE DEVINE years ago, and it remains one of my favorite books.




R:  What are five things people do not know about you?


B:  I am a seriously good hula-hooper.  Seriously, I’ve won the hula hoop contest at Tortilla Flats more times than I can remember.


I love cooking.  Food has always been a big part of my life—it’s where we gather with friends, how we celebrate good times—but now that I have kids, it’s taken on a new meaning.  I love learning a new healthy recipe that will make my kids happy.  I love sitting down at the table to eat with my family.  I love cooking a meal and then watching my family enjoy it.


True confession:  I really didn’t love FIFTY SHADES OF GREY.  I know, I know, everyone else did, but clearly I missed something!  (Shhh!  Don’t tell!)


I’m terrified of insects.  Terrified.


I’m obsessed with superheroes.  Batman, Superman, the X-men… I love them all.




R:  What are you currently working on?


B:  My agent sold RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE in a two book deal to St. Martin’s, so I’m working on that second book now.  I’ve submitted a first draft to my editor, and I’m expecting notes any day now!


It’s another multi-generational story, but this time, I’m doing something I’ve never done before: I’m telling it in third person.  It’s enabling me to go even deeper with my characters, to get to know them even better.  I’m hoping we’ll have it done in time for a Summer 2015 release!




R:  What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a writer?


B:  Keep writing! It’s so easy to get discouraged or feel like you don’t have the time to write. But like anything else that is important in life, you have to work at it and make the time for it.




R:  Other than this one, what is the strangest question you have ever been asked?


B:  Ha!  When I was at the Union Square Barnes and Noble, I was signing their stock of my first novel, SCOT ON THE ROCKS.  A woman approached me and asked me if I was the author of the book.  I told her that I was the author, and I’d be happy to sign a book to her, if she’d like!  She thought about it for a second and then said: no.  But she DID ask me if I could sign one of the free promotional bookmarks I was putting into the signed books!




R: Are you on any social networking sites?  If so, which ones and what are their addresses?  Do you have an official website?


B:  Yes!  I love social media.


My website is: www.brendajanowitz.com


Twitter:  twitter.com/BrendaJanowitz

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/BrendaJanowitz





R:  Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your readers?


B:  Thanks for reading!  It was such a pleasure to be here.  Thank you for having me.





R:  Brenda, thank you for the interview.  It was an honor.  Have a great day.