My Emigrant Father is much more than a memoir. It is a comprehensive revelation of Russian Mennonite history in general and Jacob J. Funk’s life in particular, a resource to be studied and treasured. This book is a buffet of foundational facts, personal anecdotes and author commentary, seasoned with recipes and visualized through photos, trimmed with citations for verification and further study.

Endorsed by Janice L. Dick, Author of historical Mennonite fiction

PRE-RELEASE REVIEW (currently no cover image)

My Emigrant Father by Katie Funk Wiebe

Jacob J. Funk lived from 1896 to 1986, but this comprehensive memoir by his daughter, Katie Funk Wiebe, reaches back further to the beginnings of Mennonite history in Holland. Wiebe’s most recent book, to be released in the summer of 2015 by Kindred Press, spans not only generations, but countries, continents and cultures. Through concentrated research, the author offers a personalized version of her father’s ethnic history, deftly weaving in family stories and events, photos gleaned from long past, and recipes both old and recent that have become part of the Wiebe family memory.

This memoir is not specifically chronological, rather it is a journey that stops along the way to investigate and discuss many thoughts, traditions, events and people, as well as faith and its adaptation to times and experiences. At times Wiebe leaps forward in an effort to explain what happened in the past. Other times, she reaches to the past to explain the present.

In this captivating treatise of Mennonite life in general and Jacob Funk’s life in particular, the reader is treated to word-pictures of an Eden-like existence in South Russia that is destroyed, its inhabitants fleeing to a foreign land they know nothing of, to forge a new life. Family separations are final, fears abound, and old ghosts often haunt the new land throughout that first generation.

Through it all, Wiebe portrays a family carried by faith. In spite of enduring hardships, the Lord leads to green pastures and quiet waters. I marvel at the way God placed the Wiebe family in a community populated by Russian immigrants who shared background experiences, language and many customs.

After reading the Advance Reading Copy of My Emigrant Father from beginning to end, I await the upcoming release. This volume will be treasured for years to come as an exhaustive resource for anyone interested in Russian Mennonite history.

Author Katie Funk Wiebe

Author Katie Funk Wiebe


A tool is something that aids our process.

I think TIME can be one of our greatest tools in the writing trade. Everyone has it. Everyone uses it. It’s how we use it that makes the difference between success and failure.clock

  1. Time to Plan

Preparing ourselves to write is a wise place to start, otherwise our progress (or not) might reflect Stephen Leacock’s Lord Ronald (from Gertrude the Governess) who “rode madly off in all directions.” What is our goal? How do we plan to achieve that goal (break it down into manageable pieces)? You’ve heard this before, but it’s worth repeating.

  1. Time to Think

As writers, we need time to imagine, explore our thoughts, mull over ideas. This is the brainstorming process, or mind-mapping, or whatever we choose to call it. Some writers think about a story for years, then sit down and write it. Some of us have the initial ideas or characters or setting in our minds, but the story only comes into its own once the words hit the page. Whether we think in silence or on paper or screen, we need time to analyze our imaginings. Schedule it.

  1. Time to Write

Whether this is point three or four for you, it’s still an important aspect of our trade. I need something to organize before I can set it to rights. I need to figure out what kind of story I’m writing, and that often only comes once the fingers start tapping keys. If you’d rather organize first, outlining everything down to the chapter, go for it. But eventually, we have to commit this to the characters’ viewpoints and show the story through them.

  1. Time to Organize

There are many methods of organizing our stories. Here are a few I’ve tried:

* Storyboard – buy a science project board for a couple of dollars. It’s already folded into three parts (Acts I, II, III) and works very well for visual writers who need to see the process. Outline your story, broken into acts, with turning points at the end of each act.

* Index Cards – outline each scene in a few words on an index card. You may include the Goal, Conflict, Outcome questions as part of this exercise. Once all scenes are represented on cards, lay them out on a very long table and arrange them the way they make the most sense. You may also use a different color card for each main character so you can see if there’s a proper balance of points of view.

* Sticky Notes – these can be used on the storyboard using different colors for different characters or storylines.

* Spreadsheets – if you have a mind that loves order and charts, use this form to set out scenes, characters, settings, synopses, etc. You can also employ colors for various areas.

NOTE: There are times when all our best-laid plans go awry. Edie Melson writes a helpful post on Novel Rocket that speaks to this: http://www.novelrocket.com/2015/02/writing-through-chaos.html Well worth reading.

There are charts available so you can record and plan every waking hour, down to fifteen-minute segments. If you’re a driven person, try it. If you’re not, save yourself the stress and allow for more latitude. (I use a couple hours each morning for social media and learning. In the afternoon I work on novel drafts or edits and blogs.) However we use our time, we must remember to live. As author Allen Arnold writes, we can be the biggest threat to our novel if we don’t take time to live a little.


To Edit or Not to Edit: This is Not a Valid Question!

I read a lot. I have also judged numerous writing contests in various genres, and I can tell if a book has been properly edited. If it hasn’t been, my level of confidence in the author plummets, as does the credibility of the story.editing


Types of editing:

  1. Substantive Editing: the big-picture edit. Does the story make sense? Do events happen via cause and effect? Do the characters act consistently with their characteristics? Do they evolve reasonably? Does the whole work hang together (cohesiveness)?

Does each scene have goal, motivation and conflict? Does every scene move the story along? Is the dialogue realistic, unique and consistent? Does it move the story ahead / aid in character development?

In my opinion, a self-edit at this point is possible, but it takes time, objectivity and copious note-taking. Character arcs, plot division, fact checks and many more areas must be subject to scrutiny. Key words here are cohesiveness and consistency.

  1. Copyediting: a closer view of the manuscript that includes what I call PUG: punctuation, usage and grammar. Does the work contain anachronisms?

If you’re a grammar guru or a spelling pro, go for it. If not, ask for help. Maybe a fellow author will copyedit your work if you return the favor. If you use Spell Check, please follow up with a read-through by you or someone else. One of my pet peeves is misuse of homonyms (sound the same but differ in meaning, e.g. die / dye) and homophones (sound the same but differ in meaning and possibly spelling, e.g. to / too/ two). It matters!

  1. Proofreading: “the detection and correction of production errors,” (Wikipedia). This is the time to fix minor mistakes such as the way numbers are used (20 / twenty), grammar, and generally catching anything missed in the previous processes. This is the polish.

*One method of self-editing at this stage is to read the entire work aloud. You may even choose to read it out of order so your brain concentrates on the words instead of the storyline. It’s also a great idea to ask several people with good English skills for feedback at this stage.

Where to find Editing Help

  1. Self-edit if you feel competent and are obsessive about perfection. A few great resources:
  1. Trade skills with fellow writers.
  2. Ask your writing group for feedback.
  3. Hire out the editing, one or more levels, to a professional.
  4. First readers – non-professionals who will read and give feedback on early drafts.
  5. Beta readers – non-professionals who will read your “next-to-final” draft.
  6. Final readers – professionals who agree to read the ARC (Advance Reading Copy) you send them. They may also write an endorsement if requested (payment usually a copy of the book when it’s released).

NOTE: If you plan to publish via the traditional route, don’t think your editing problems are solved. A poorly edited manuscript will not even be considered. There’s neither the time nor the budget for it. It’s up to you to submit a saleable piece of writing.

The traditional publishing industry is in constant flux right now. Many houses have closed or amalgamated, and there are editors out there who have formed their own businesses. They are well-qualified and experienced in editing, and for a fee, they will make your work much more publication-ready than you or your non-professional friends can make it. The choice is yours—ours.


This is the 3rd “first-Tuesday-of-the-month” post in the series on The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life by Brother Lawrence (1605-1691). This little book profoundly impressed me with its simplicity and encouragement.Practice of the Presence of God


Notice: I’m not a philosopher or a theologian; the following are my simple understandings of Brother Lawrence’s writings. I welcome your insights and comments.






About himself…

– When Brother Lawrence slipped up on his concentration on God’s presence, distracted by life’s duties, he immediately confessed his lapse and returned to God with even more fervor.

– Practiced obedience results in “unspeakable pleasures.”

About God…

– God neither deceives nor abandons the person committed to endure for His sake.

– God always provides strength to bear whatever comes, when it comes.

- Our trust honors God.

Our Response:

I’ve discovered over the years that my true disappointment is not with God but with myself. I fail often; I can’t trust myself; I am not dependable. Brother Lawrence confirms that fact, but holds up the reassurance that God never fails and is always trustworthy and dependable. He always provides, never abandons.

If we practice obedience because we are aware of God’s constant presence with us, we will have the strength we need as well as joy in serving Him.

“Many do not advance in the Christian progress,

because they stick in penances, and particular exercises,

while they neglect the love of God, which is the end…

There is needed neither art nor science for going to God,

but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him,

or for His sake, and to love Him only.”

Sometimes all the programs and methods and tools we employ to bring us closer to God actually detract from our true worship, which is always and only to love and delight in God. As stated above, all we need is a heart committed to God. To love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.


Last month I talked about Scrivener, a software tool that has enhanced my writing process. This month I will discuss other essentials.

When I present workshops on writing, I have a list of basic suggestions:

fascinated reader






  1. READ—All readers don’t write, but all writers must read. Read all the time and read widely. It doesn’t matter if you choose print, digital, audio or whatever is coming along. Just read. It will help you evolve as a writer. You will find some approaches to avoid and others to emulate.
  1. writerWRITE—It’s much easier to “have written” than to actually write, but if we want to be writers, we must write. Don’t create unreachable goals, but commit to writing regularly. Tip: I began blogging reluctantly, but it has been a great discipline because I’ve had to write to a schedule, whether self-imposed or committed as a guest blogger.
  1. MEET—We writers are a strange breed, often solitary, lost in our own worlds. It’s good to meet others of the same uniqueness from time to time, both online and in person. Writing groups are an excellent place to meet, share, learn and critique. There are many benefits to memberships including news of courses, contests, meetings, freebies, etc.

People attending a Congress

LEARN—Find out about courses, workshops, conferences and seminars. There are free and inexpensive options out there if you look for them. We’re never finished learning.


  1. GMC—In the writing world, this acronym stands for Goal, Motivation and Conflict. Make this personal:

– What’s your goal as a writer? Break it down. What do you hope to accomplish this year, this month, this week, and how will you go about it? How can you hold yourself accountable?

– Why do you write? Think about this until you have a good idea of your motivation. Without it, you will fizzle out when obstacles show up.

– Obstacles…it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” How important is your writing to you? Set your priorities and carry on, no matter what conflict looms on your horizon.

  1. And the bonus suggestion: If you are a Christ-follower, you have the added bonus of prayer to shape, guide and enhance your writing. Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and commit all your words to Him.praying_on_bible_red

Writers will differ in what they consider the essential tools of the trade. I found a terrific article on this at http://thewritepractice.com/creative-writing-tools/. Check it out.

Blessings on you and your writing.

Brentwood's Ward coverMiss Emily Payne is a spoiled young woman in nineteenth-century London, seeking fulfillment and security in a high-society marriage. She seems to care for nothing beyond the young man she has decided to win, and her purchases of bonnets and jewelry for the conquest.

When Emily’s father hires Nicholas Brentwood, a Bow Street Runner, to protect her while he’s away on business, Emily meets her match in strong-willed character. Nicholas has only one reason for accepting this awkward assignment, and that is to save the money to help his gravely ill sister.

Those are the goals and motivations of the main characters. The obstacles that spring from this premise are considerable. What stands between Emily and her father? Where has he gone and why has his business partner been murdered? And why has Emily herself become a target?

Nicholas is challenged to protect Emily from herself as well as the criminals who stalk her.

Inherent in this tightly written romance are faith in God and commitment to morality. In light of the situations the characters find themselves in, their convictions are severely tested.

Readers are held by the conflict until the last page, yet all necessary threads are ultimately tied and solved. While faith in God is rewarded, life is neither easy nor predictable.michelle-griep-headshot


Michelle Griep has been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes—except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager. She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. An Anglophile at heart, she runs away to England every chance she gets, under the guise of research. Really, though, she’s eating excessive amounts of scones while rambling around a castle. Michelle is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and MCWG (Minnesota Christian Writers Guild). Keep up with her adventures at her blog “Writer off the Leash” or visit http://michellegriep.com/about-3/

When I began writing, I came across the statement: “Write what you know.” Wise, but severely limiting if you’ve led a sheltered life. I reversed the adage to read, “Know what you write.” Even if I don’t know something from firsthand knowledge or experience, I can find out about it.

Research is not just for historical works. Even the simplest contemporary story begs those fascinating details and correct terminology. For example, my husband and I used to ride a 1977 Honda Goldwing, but I had to check whether the headlight was automatic or manual before I sent my character through a covered bridge. A mechanic friend told me that our Goldwing was called a “shovel head.” I used that for effect.Honda 77 Scott Francis writes, “Just because you’re writing fiction, it doesn’t give you license to make everything up.”



photo-1What’s our best source for research? Depends on what we’re looking for. The basic understanding for my stories is derived from books, but when it comes to filling in details or answering specific questions, I use the internet. How far can an average man walk in a day? How far could a horse go, and how fast? Where did the railways run? What points of interest existed in St. Petersburg in 1914? What do they call streets and avenues in China? I had endless questions and found many answers on Google.

Photo Credit Gerald Hildebrand. Appeared in Witness Magazine July 2004.

Photo Credit Gerald Hildebrand. Appeared in Witness Magazine July 2004.

But the best source of research is people. Who lives in the place you’re writing about? Who has memories about historic events? These are the people who will help us make our stories credible, and usually they are more than willing to share their knowledge/experience.

How do we go about researching? Research is an ongoing, step-by-step process. We can’t know all the questions before we get into the story. They’ll keep coming up as we write.





  1. Abraham Lincoln said, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” Nuff said.
  2. Sources won’t always agree. At times I’ve had four books open on my desk, each one touting a different “truth.” Then it’s up to me to decide on the most probable scenario.
  3. Research is for credibility, not to show off what we know. Only include what’s necessary.
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