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* This book is now available for purchase HERE.

ENDORSEMENT (By Janice L. Dick)

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.

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REVIEW

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 Productions, 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 Funk 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.

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

For more on Katie Funk Wiebe and her many published books, click HERE.

Whether introvert or extrovert, a writer often requires long periods of self-imposed isolation in order to create an ever-expanding body of writing. But every now and then, we need INPUT—remember Johnny-Five in “Short Circuit”—and one of the best places to find it is at a writing workshop or conference. Besides being a solitary species, we are also often misunderstood by non-writers. Finding renewal and refreshment from like-minded individuals is very likely to happen at writing events.People attending a Congress

One of the suggestions I offer new writers is to join writing groups, either online or in person. We often hear about workshops and conferences through memberships in various writing groups. As a Canadian who writes from a Christian worldview, I hold membership in The Word Guild. TWG offers many offshoot groups including listservs, editing groups, conferences, workshops across the country and contests.

Another of my memberships is with InScribe Christian Writers Fellowship. ICWF offers similar events to TWG, and their annual conference is geographically closer to where I live, so I can afford to attend most years.

A couple of years ago I also rejoined our provincial writing association, the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild. SWG offers me excellent financial support for author readings and workshops that I present, as well as exposure to local groups seeking a writer/presenter.

Besides these Canadian groups, I also belong to the American Christian Fiction Writers, and one of their affiliates, International Christian Fiction Writers.

Once you choose your path (obviously, mine is primarily Christian fiction), there are many opportunities to continue to learn, grow, teach, market, and generally find support from other writers.

Organizers, promoters and presenters spend much time and effort preparing for these writing events, and we, as attendees, should also be prepared. Here are ten simple tips:

  1. Book travel in order to arrive in plenty of time to settle in before the conference begins
  2. Book accommodations near the conference venue (there are often discounts for attendees)
  3. If possible, share travel and accommodation costs with other attendees
  4. Study the schedule, analyze all information and decide what best suits your needs
  5. Study up on presenters and their areas of expertise; if possible, read some of their work
  6. If you have publishing credits, prepare a one-sheet
  7. Bring business cards to distribute as you meet other writers (make them yourself to save on cost)
  8. Check if there are opportunities to sell your books. Inquire as to selling fees.
  9. Prepare manuscripts for hands-on workshops, or for readings, or for editor / agent interviews
  10. Get enough sleep before the conference, and take time to review everything immediately after the conference, with plans to follow through on your commitments.

So join, listen, plan, prepare, attend, and look forward to some great INPUT!

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Up to several years ago, I would easily have been able to outline the best method of submission for your manuscript. My suggestions would have looked something like this:

  1. Categorize your completed, edited manuscript
  2. Research markets, guidelines
  3. Acquire an agent (many traditional houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts)
  4. Query the publisher through the agent or on your own, depending on their guidelines
  5. A concise outline of submission format is available on The Editor’s Blog.
  6. Upon request, send a synopsis, the first three chapters of your manuscript, and a cover letter including a few things about yourself as a writer, your target audience, your qualifications for writing this story, marketing ideas and contact information.
  7. Wait, repeat if necessary.

But times have changed. Attitudes and actions have changed. Writers are no longer willing to wait endlessly at the whims or time constraints of editors and publishers. Readers are unwilling to wait, or to drive to brick and mortar stores to buy books. They want instant access. Everyone, including the writer, wants immediate turnaround of product.

Yes, there are still traditional publishers out there, but their bottom line is tighter because of the many options available to readers, and the publishers are less willing to take risks on new and unproven talent. It’s not impossible to be traditionally published, but it’s definitely more difficult than it used to be.

Besides the large traditional publishers, there are many small houses that have sprung up around the globe. Many of these are reputable, but you must research and discern. If you have to pay a fee, it’s not a royalty publisher. If it’s is a glorified book printer, you might do better on your own (see below).

If you are willing and able to pay, there are many publishing businesses with options for everything from editing to cover supply to printing and distribution, but count the cost first.

So what happens if you’ve tried the round of traditional royalty publishers to no effect? First consideration: why was the book rejected by trad publishers? Does it need editing? It may prove worthwhile to hire an editor. There are editors available everywhere, but know what you expect and how much you can pay for the service. Some writing organizations offer quality editing at very reasonable cost. Some groups swap editing for other writing skills. Ask around.

If you are confident your book is worthy of publication, consider publishing it yourself. In the past, self-publication carried a negative connotation, but with the increase of indie (independent) publishing and simplified templates, many authors who formerly published in the traditional method have branched out to take charge of their own publication. Technology has made the process easier, as long as we remember quality. With perseverance, most of us can learn to format our own digital or print books, choose (or hire out) a professional cover, and produce a quality finished product.

Then we’re stuck with marketing on our own, you say, but in most cases on the traditional route, we have to do most of our own marketing anyway.

If you decide to go indie, it’s important to become at least moderately comfortable with social media (I will be discussing this next month). This requires a fine balance. On one hand, if you want to sell your book, readers must be able to find you. On the other hand, you shouldn’t sacrifice all your writing time for social media time.

Back to the original intent of this post: submission and publication.

If you go trad, follow the instructions at the beginning of this post.

If you go indie, go to Google or to a friend or indie group and start learning.

  1. Edit your manuscript or have it professionally edited. This step is essential to a quality book.
  2. Compile a publication kit: author info – bio (short, medium, long), photo, writing credits, etc.; book info – summaries (back cover, short, long), synopsis (for agent or publisher only)
  3. Decide whether to find/buy a cover or to hire it out. Please don’t ask your friend’s sister’s niece to paint a cover. 99% of the time it will look unprofessional and hinder sales.
  4. Create or purchase a template to set up your book for digital / print format. I would suggest putting it up digitally first. They are different processes, and you will save yourself a lot of time and grief if you recognize this. A concise how-to book that I recomend is Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors by Carla King.Unknown

*Remember that if you go the indie route, you remove several layers of filters (agent, editor, publication group), so you need to be advised and professional in all areas of publication.

  1. Ask people who have traveled this road to give you pointers. Most of the time, writers are very willing to help each other. They’ve been helped along the way too. And make sure you help others who are following a few steps behind you.

P.S. I welcome feedback from other authors who are a step or three ahead of me. If you differ in opinion in some point, let me know. If you have additional tips to pass on, send your email and I’ll be glad to publish it here or direct writers to your site.

**Don’t forget to read the comments below for tips and experiences shared by other authors. One reply came from clfergusonblog.wordpress.com. Lots to see on her website. Also check out  the story gal at http://www.carolynwilker.ca.

Practice of the Presence of GodBesides conversations recorded by others, Brother Lawrence also connected with friends via letters. Some of these have been included in the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. The following are thoughts gleaned from the second letter.

 

 

 

SECOND LETTER

Concepts:

Thoughts of death, judgment, hell, heaven and our sins remind us of our insufficiency.

God is our King. And yet this King “embraces us with love, in spite of our many sins,” because he is full of mercy and goodness.

When we apply ourselves continually to the presence of God, who is always with us and in us, we will see that:

— we are not as devoted to God as we wish to be

— we realize the seriousness of our sins

— we know we do not deserve the unmerited favors God continues to shower on us

Although these thoughts may cause us suffering, they need not be discouraging. When we accept the truth, we may rather experience “a profound inward peace.”

“An habitual, silent, and private conversation of the soul with God…gives much joy and contentment.”

“I desire Him to make His perfect image in my soul and render me entirely like Himself….When I apply myself to prayer, I feel all my spirit lifted up without any care or effort on my part.”

God treats me as his favorite.

Allow me to add a personal vignette here:

            My father passed away at the age of 76, and we—Mom, my older brother, my younger sister and I—felt a strong sense of loss and grief, as well as joy that he had moved so gently into eternity. On one of the surreal days between Dad’s death and his funeral, my brother took me aside.

            “I feel badly,” he said. “Dad always treated me special and I don’t want you to feel hurt.”

            My response was, “Oh. I always thought I had a special place in his heart.”

            I called my sister. “Bill says he feels bad because Dad always treated him best.”

            She grinned. “No, we all know I was his favorite.”

            What a legacy of love my father left us. Even though he had only come to know the Lord personally later in life, Dad’s love was a picture of God’s love for me. I am His favorite. You are His favorite.

“The soul which enjoys God in this way wants nothing but Him.”

Our Responses:

We need to be real before God, to recognize our failures, shortcomings, sins, and to think on them.

Our hearts can be filled with thankfulness that in spite of our sins, the Lord God loves us and opens His arms to us. Remember the story of the prodigal son.

Practicing continual communion with God results in peace, joy and contentment. I think if we live in this way, we have great influence on the people around us. The blessings overflow.

I personally wish to revel in my relationship with the Lord. I am loved with an everlasting, unfathomable love. One of my favorite quotes from Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack is the Father’s statement: “I am especially fond of you.”

These thoughts remind me of a song. Give a listen, if you wish.

lightbulbIdeas. We all have them. The point is to capture those ideas and use them to inspire, motivate, encourage and entertain others.

Some people claim to have an endless cache of ideas, which they form into stories, articles, speeches and blogs. Others bemoan a dearth of ideas, claiming they have nothing to write about. I believe the key is to grab and record the snippets that run through our minds and let them steep until they become rich with meaning and fullness.

In my opinion, there are three basic skills required to make effective use of our ideas. One is the habit of observation. What do we see, hear, smell, taste and touch that is unique, interesting or identifiable to others.observation

The second skill is analytical thinking. This requires training ourselves to see beyond the surface of what we observe, to ask the oft-hidden questions: who, what, when, where, why and how.

Our pastor is particularly skilled in observation and analytical thinking, but he also practices the third skill: application. How can an idea be translated into inspiration, motivation, encouragement, call to action? This is also a matter of habit, training and thought.

One of the chief challenges to effective and efficient use of ideas is to focus on one idea at a time. When our son was in his teens, he and several other young men were invited to present sermons in church on Sunday morning. He struggled for days with his ideas, wrote them out, practiced them in the privacy of our farm’s open spaces, but he couldn’t find the sweet spot. Until he realized he had too many tangents. When he focused on one main idea, he was away.

I would suggest that we all have enough ideas to fill our writing obligations and opportunities. What we need to practice is observation, analytical thinking and application. When we do this, we will be able to effectively and efficiently use the ideas God showers upon us.

 

Many authors dread writing a synopsis. I admit it takes time and effort, but with a few pointers, a synopsis can become a useful tool for both the editor and the author.

Definition

A synopsis is a concise but thorough summary of a story, an overview that includes all main characters and high points.

Note: A synopsis is not the brief summary for back cover copy. That is much shorter and has a unique function.

 

Purpose                                                                                                                                                                                                           

A synopsis is a selling tool for writers, a way to pitch their story ideas to editors and agents. Properly executed, it reveals not only the storyline and book idea, but also the author’s style and ability to complete the project.

 

Content                                                                                                                                                                                                            

* “The Hook” to catch the reader’s interest from the beginning, just as in the manuscript.

* The synopsis should employ a similar “voice” to the story itself.

* A synopsis follows the storyline as it is laid out in the book, not necessarily chronologically.

* A synopsis always includes the ending. Don’t be coy with the editor by withholding the outcome.

* While we strive to “show” in the book, the synopsis requires us to “tell.”

* As in the story, we should not allow author interruption but remain in omniscient point of view.

* We may use a brief quotation or two from our story, but this is not required.

 

Format                                                                                                                                                                                                             

* In my experience, the best synopses run no longer than two (2) pages, single-spaced.

* I single-space mine, but the final answer on single or double has not been declared.

* A synopsis is always written in third person (he, she, they), even if the book is not.

* A synopsis is always written in the present tense (she runs, she sees…), even if the book is not.

* A synopsis is written in omniscient point of view.

* The first time a character’s name is used in the synopsis, it should be capitalized (SARAH DINSMERE).

* Use the same character name throughout; no nicknames in the synopsis.

* Write (POV) after the point of view character(s)’ name in the first usage.

 

Synopsis Checklist:

– Does opening paragraph have a hook to keep the reader reading?

– Are your main characters’ conflicts clearly communicated?

– Can the reader identify with your characters?

– Can the reader relate to them and feel concern about them?

– Have you obsessively checked grammar, spelling and punctuation?

– Have you included all major scenes and plot points, including the ending?

– Did you resolve all important conflicts, as in your manuscript?

– Did you use present tense, omniscient point of view, third person?  

 

Resources

* http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/how-to-write-a-synopsis.html

* http://janefriedman.com/2011/10/25/novel-synopsis/

* http://www.marissameyer.com/blogtype/6-steps-for-writing-a-book-synopsis/

* Here’s another great resource I found after the fact (since this was posted). It’s by Erin Buterbaugh, posted on Chip MacGregor’s blog:  http://www.chipmacgregor.com/conferences/craft-for-a-conference-part-2-a-synopsis-that-tells-not-teases/

 

Top Ten Mistakes in Writing Synopses (from http://home.pcisys.net/~pammc/Synopsis.htm)

1.  The format is incorrect.

2.  The synopsis concentrates on the first three chapters of the novel.

3.  The tone is inconsistent.

4.  The writer speaks directly to the reader.

5.   The synopsis ignores market considerations.

6.   The synopsis lacks emotion.

7.   There is too much detail.

8.   The synopsis leaves questions unanswered.

9.   The characters aren’t interesting or sympathetic.

10.  The synopsis lacks transitions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UnknownFrom the introduction to the final page, Threaten to Undo Us is an intense and fast-moving historical novel. Even though the story covers several decades, the author seamlessly connects time lapses and points of view without interfering with the storyline. In the introduction, we see Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt discussing the redrawing of Poland after World War II. At the receiving end of their dictates, war-weary Poles live with the aftermath. Consequently, millions of Germans living east of the “Oder-Neisse line” are forced to leave their homes, to be treated inhumanely by their new Communist overlords. It’s obvious from the first pages of this novel that the author has done extensive research on World War II and the post-war period, creating a story both realistic and credible. Ernst and Liesel are happy to live quietly and securely in their home. The house is solid, the barn stalls occupied, the garden flourishing, and their children happy. But things have not always been so. Liesel remembers hiding from the Bolsheviks during her childhood back in 1919, and the memories terrify her. Now, a man named Hitler is determined to change the world. Ernst resists enlisting in the German army, but his resistance is suspect, especially from his brother, who is an active member of Hitler’s Nazionale Socialist Party (Nazis).  When Ernst is eventually conscripted into the Wehrmacht, Liesel is left alone to care for the farm and the children. Life is difficult. Polish neighbors reject them because of their ethnicity, and their food supply dwindles. Then Liesel, pregnant and terrified, must flee with the children into the unending night of turmoil. When the tide of war shifts against Germany, the army suffers at the hands of the Russians. Ernst is listed as missing in action somewhere in Russia. Liesel is homeless and desperate. As months turn into years, they move from hope to despair, wondering if they will ever find each other again. How will the re-configuration of their home country affect their lives? Will their faith remain intact? Author Rose Seiler Scott does an exemplary job of keeping the reader in the story. Intensity is ratcheted up by character dilemmas and constantly escalating conflict. Every scene is woven into solid setting without excess description. People suffer and are forever changed. Threaten to Undo Us is skillfully shown, finely crafted. I believe this book will have a substantial impact on readers of historical fiction, as well as people whose families have gone through war and its aftermath. Rose Seiler Scott

Rose Seiler Scott is the author of “Threaten to Undo Us” which is due for release May 1, 2015. She is also a contributing writer to “Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon,” due out September. Says Rose: “I live in Surrey, BC with my husband and our two youngest who aren’t really children anymore. Until our daughter was born, I was the lone feminine voice in a crowd of loud and louder, but the older two are married, which nicely evens the male-female ratio when everyone comes to dinner. “I knew when I was about ten I wanted to be a writer, but life being what it is, I sort of forgot for a few years and did stints as a bookkeeper, piano teacher and PAC President at my kids’ school. “I never really stopped writing, if you count church newsletters, parent advisory council minutes and raving letters to the editor. But what really brought me back was the compulsion to tell a story, a complex, but compelling tale that has unfolded over the course of many years… “I am also a Christ-follower and a student of God’s Word. My Christian worldview will colour my perspective; I sincerely hope in a gracious and God-honouring sort of way. “In between writing, I like to sing, read, scrapbook, play the piano and bike ride.” For more information about Rose, check out her website at http://roseseilerscott.com.

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