Coming soon – “How to Write a Book” as a series of blog posts!

At the conference, several people asked me if I had a curriculum or a book about how to write a book. My talk was not very in-depth and moved very quickly and in many ways I feel like I only scratched the surface. So… starting next Sunday evening, I will be putting out a blog post every week for eighteen weeks about how to write a book! This won’t be just for people who want to write books but for anyone who wants to learn how to write short stories, as well. The sixteenth week will specifically talk about short stories, and the eighteenth week I will leave open for a time of Q&A.

Please subscribe to my website by typing your email address in on the right side of the website. This will make sure you don’t miss anything that I send out over these next months.

If you are a parent, or someone who wants to start writing, this will be the perfect opportunity to write a part of your story each week as I talk about how to do it in my blog posts. I will put “suggested homework” on the bottom of each blog post for those interested in using the blog posts for this purpose.

If at any point anyone has questions that you don’t feel like I answered please email me or comment on my blog posts. My email address is: hope@hopefulstories.com.

I’m looking forward to this blog post series and hope that you will be blessed and learn a lot by it! Happy writing! :-)

What Happened at NCHE – Part 2

Continuing from the last blog post…. :-)

So, after the whole emotional experience of holding my book for the first time, it was time to buckle down and prepare to run the booth. After some crazy things – like trying to find keys to boxes and finding out that the credit card machine battery had died – we were ready for business when the book fair opened. It felt like only a couple of minutes and then I had to go get ready for my talk.

I stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom, adjusting my necklace and taking deep, slow breaths. I wasn’t too nervous now, but I wanted so badly to say what God wanted me to say and make sure the talk was for His glory that I couldn’t help but be a little worried. I grabbed my water bottle, feeling suddenly thirsty, and then headed with my family to the room where I would be speaking.

The room I was speaking in was a beautiful ballroom. It was very long and had a low ceiling, which made me feel a bit claustrophobic for a few minutes. We got everything set up and people began to trickle in. Then came the worst part – the waiting. I had to sit on the stage and wait for the session to start. Since this was the first session of the entire conference, not many people were there until the last five minutes. So there wasn’t really anyone to talk to. I just had to sit there, smile, and wait. My room monitor and sound person came and talked to me to get everything set up. Two sign language interpreters came up to me and asked me about the message and theme of my talk. It was so cool to know that there were going to be people sharing my talk with a deaf person! Even during the talk, I stole little glances over at them to see what they were doing.

After that, I was just sitting, waiting, and praying. But then I even ran out of things to pray. I had been praying so much for so long that I knew God had heard me and His will would be done and I just had to leave everything up to Him. Finally, it was time to start.

I walked up onto the stage, all confident, and started speaking. To my horror, I realized that my mic wasn’t on. Thankfully I discovered this in the first few words I said and the sound person came up immediately to fix everything. It only took a few seconds, and I tried so hard to not let it get to me, but my nerves definitely flared up a little bit then. One of my best friends told me, “I was probably one of the only people who could tell, but you were a little nervous for those first few slides, and then after that you were fine.” And I was! At least, I felt fine. Once I started talking I knew God would help me and I could see the people in the audience listening intently.

Everything seemed to go by so fast, but in a good way. I actually ended before the allotted time and was able to have some time for some Q&A, which is what I had hoped would happen. After the talk I had a few people come up to me and either tell me I did a good job or ask me some questions about their story. I got to talk to a young man, around twelve years old, who had started a book club for underprivileged youth in Winston-Salem.

I didn’t get back to the booth right away. All of my friends working the booth were so excited to see me. They said that right after my talk ended people filled the booth. There was a line when I got there and I started signing books and talking to people. It was a little overwhelming trying to sign books, talk to people, and make sure what I was saying was bringing glory to God and pointing people towards Him.

The most exciting part of the experience was talking to other young writers. Several young people talked about how much they were encouraged by my talk. I talked to people and heard so many amazing book ideas! There were ideas for mysteries, fiction, and sci-fi! I’ve been able to see some of those story ideas written out since then. But what touched me most was people telling me, “Yeah, I’m going to make sure that I add a spiritual journey to my story, or make sure my plot and characters brings glory to God let you said.”

One girl came up to talk to me. She was very quiet and shy. I could tell she really wanted to talk to me but was also kind of scared. I smiled really big and tried to be extra warm and welcoming because I could tell that this girl had something on her heart. I asked her about her story idea. She smiled a little and seemed to relax a bit as she told me the general idea. It was a ghost story. I felt the smile get tight on my face. Please Lord, I prayed, help me know how to encourage this girl to write for God’s glory but not crush her spirit or her hopes and dreams.

The girl finished telling me her idea and before I could say anything she hastened to say, “But in your talk, I realized that my story didn’t bring glory to God at all. So… I actually came up with a new idea in your talk that I wanted to talk to you about.”

A practically sighed in relief but was also so happy that this girl was willing to start something completely different just because she was convicted by scripture! Really, that’s all I had done was quote scripture in my talk. The scriptures I used are below:

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (emphasis mine)

1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” (emphasis mine)

1 John 2:15-16, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”

Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

People are so hungry for the Word of God. The Word of God is often watered down or simply not taught in churches today. And we know that in the world they try to leave out God and His truths whenever possible. When people are presented with the Word of God, it is truly as powerful and as sharp as a two-edged sword, piercing to the heart and convicting in ways that we can’t even imagine.

Recently, as I’ve been talking with family, friends, or aspiring writers, I’ve been trying even harder to incorporate pure scripture or spiritual truths in my emails of encouragement, knowing that the Word of God is more challenging and convicting then my words alone could ever be. The world and the people in the world are so lost and so in need of God’s love and forgiveness. I pray that through my books that it will give people a hunger for God’s Word and a desire for the truth.

What Happened at NCHE – Part 1

At the end of May, my book was released to the world! I was attending the North Carolina Home Educators conference as a speaker and a home school graduate. I’ve spoken in public before, but usually for only five to fifteen minutes at a time. I’ve also given a few sessions with my dad as my speaking partner. But this was the first time that I was going to be speaking by myself for almost an hour. I didn’t even know where my room was or what it looked like. I was a bit nervous until I performed my talk for some of my friends a few days before the conference. Once I got that initial run down I felt so much better and started to get really, really excited. Then I saw the pictures of my book on the Internet and I practically screamed with joy. My dream if getting my book published was finally coming true. Everything was happening so fast that I couldn’t really process it all!

Then the big day came. Thursday. This was the day I was going to see my book and hold it for the first time. It was the day I would be making my appearance as a published author. And it was the day that I was going to give my talk. My stomach was all fluttery but I was still grinning ear to ear, so happy and yet so nervous that I wasn’t quite sure how to think or respond to anything.

My brother and I left for the conference around 8:15 in the morning, picking up our friends Christian and Caleb on the way. We had a great car ride, which definitely helped to calm my nerves. We cranked up the volume and played Toby Mac songs. Going down the highway at 70mph in a Buick le Sabre blasting Christian rock music definitely isn’t the coolest thing to do. :-) But we had a wonderful time. Christian and I sat up front and discussed theology and eschatology. Caleb read the first chapter of the gospel of John to us. We all saw that chapter from the Bible in a completely new light. It was so comforting to realize that Jesus, the Creator and Savior of all, cares so much about each one of us.

After lunch at Cici’s pizza, we arrived at the conference. Everything was a bit chaotic as I tried to figure out how to get myself registered, my brother registered, and then get the vendor packet for running the Great Waters Press booth. My publishers, the Youngs, had left Christian and I in charge of the booth for one day while they attended the graduation of their eldest son from college. We both took this responsibility very seriously and were a bit anxious as to how everything would work out.

Once we had everyone registered and vendor passes handed out, it was time to find the booth. And the boys had to film my reaction. I closed my eyes and my brother led me through the book fair. I felt a little stupid, but I was so giddy and nervous with anticipation that I didn’t really care. The boys placed me right in front of the booth and told me to open my eyes. I did. I’m afraid I didn’t have a great reaction. I didn’t scream or jump up and down or burst into tears. I was just stunned. Seeing my book and my name and picture on the big banner that was in the back of the booth made me suddenly realize that this whole thing was real. I really didn’t know how to respond. Holding my book for the first time, I realized how unworthy I was and how unequal I felt for the task before me of ministering to people and talking to them about writing for God’s glory and how to avoid pride in their lives. Now here I was stepping into the public spotlight and while I was excited, I was also scared. What if I didn’t know what to say to people who came to talk to me? What if I messed up my talk? What if everything got too overwhelming at the booth?

But then I started to flip through my book for the first time. I realized that God was going to work through it – not me. How much of that book had been written by Him? How much of it were His Words, not my words? How much of it was my own struggles that God had helped me through? And how much of it was written when I prayed and ask God to write through me? So I held my book, overwhelmed by so many feelings of joy, fear, excitement, nervousness, and delight. But I also felt a deep peace settle inside of me. I knew that this was where God wanted me and that He would give me the strength, wisdom, joy, and love for all people just when I needed it. If I emptied myself, He promised to fill me up. And He sure did.

At the NCHE Booth with my book!

I kept staring at my book, awed by how professional and perfect it looked. It was so different. It didn’t look like the book I had written. I kept saying, “This is so cool. Wow,” over and over and over again. I teared up as I looked at my book and knew that this was the culmination of a seven-year dream.

I guess what I want to say in this is that I’m just an ordinary young woman. I’m not anyone special or really talented. I just tried to open myself up to God’s word and God’s plan for my life. It’s really hard. It feels like you’re losing all control of your life. But actually, letting go is going to liberate you in so many ways because you’ll be doing GOD’S plan for your life instead of YOUR plan for your life. And ultimately you’ll end up being happier and more fulfilled because you are in God’s will and not fighting against Him. Open yourself up to doing amazing things for God’s glory, not your own.

To be continued in part 2……

What I Learned From One of My Characters

For the past few years I’ve had anything but a normal life. In many ways that’s a wonderful thing. After all, almost every single one of the influential people in the world that God has used for His glory had very difficult and abnormal lives. And while I’ve greatly enjoyed the busyness and excitement and the fact that I never get bored because there’s always something to do, some days there is way too much to do and I feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious. A couple of weeks ago I had one of those days. This is what happened:

My grandparents had just moved from New Jersey down to an apartment in North Carolina ten minutes from our home. My dad and I had been there until about midnight helping them get settled in. I had to teach piano early the next morning and I was dreading the fact that I was going to get about six hours of sleep before the next day rolled around. I got up as late as possible and was able to get downstairs to the basement where I teach, with food in my stomach, by 8:45am. I taught four students back to back, and they behaved well and worked hard. I was encouraged and my spirits were lifted.

At about 11:15 I sat down at the computer to work on content for my website and write several long emails regarding my story or suggestions for youth projects at church. About forty-five minutes later I was summoned upstairs to spend some time with my little six-year-old brother. I decided to tackle organizing the kids’ bathroom. Now, I try to be neat and organized. But my stuff usually ends up what I like to call “an organized mess.” At this point, our bathroom wasn’t organized at all. It was just a mess. But, you know how organizing projects always take longer than you planned? By the time I had finished with lunch and cleaning the bathroom, it was 2pm. I suddenly realized the predicament I was in.

I was supposed to plant a ton of plants and seeds in the garden in just two hours. I had been hoping to have at least three. And then my publisher called with the request to do a one-hour marketing meeting. I felt overwhelmed. I had just told my mom that I couldn’t pick up my fifteen-year-old brother from work because I needed to work in the garden. But now I didn’t even have time to plant seeds and I needed to be in a meeting at 3pm and then have from 4pm-5pm to get a shower and look presentable for the cast party I was attending for my acting class that night, finish making food to bring to the cast party, and pack clothes and cosmetics for my overnight stay at my grandparent’s new apartment.

Frantically I dashed around the house and got my six-year-old brother Josh to finish cleaning the bathroom and then come help me in the garden. Josh had helped me last year in the garden, but when I started to dish out instructions he just stared and me and didn’t seem to comprehend. He kept asking question after question and didn’t know where stuff was or what to do. As we finally started digging trenches, Josh kept messing things up. First, we couldn’t find our second little trowel and I was sure he had misplaced it (of course, it ended up being me that misplaced it). Then he was throwing the dirt out of the raised bed. Finally, when I had just laid out the tape measure for a second time, Josh accidentally knocked it over and the tape retracted. I had already been frustrated and upset, but now I was bordering on angry. And for those of you who know me, I rarely get truly angry. I can only think of one or two times in my life when I’ve been really, truly angry. This was the kind of angry that made me want to yell at Josh and cry and get upset at how horribly my day was going. But as I opened my mouth to yell at my poor little brother, a thought suddenly struck me. I instantly knew it was from God. This is what I thought.


“What would your main character, Jarah, do in this situation?”

I froze, thoughts speeding through my mind at one hundred miles per hour. I had never thought about learning anything from my characters. After all, I had created my characters! They were supposed to be learning from me, right? But this is what I suddenly realized.

First, Jarah, and probably all of the other Hebrew slave girls, had many days that were far worse than mine. I had never been beaten or abused or starved. In my story, Jarah has a very unloving mother and older sister. She is often bossed around and things don’t usually go her way – just like what was happening to me today. As I was thinking about it, when Jarah gets angry, she doesn’t yell at her siblings. She used to, but God had done a work in her heart. Instead of erupting into horrible, hateful speech, my little twelve-year-old character Jarah would stop, take a deep breath, and say a short prayer to God before responding. I knew that was what I needed to do.

Standing out in the garden, covered with dirt and feeling my chest constrict from stress and frustration, I stopped. I shut my mouth. I took a long, deep breath and prayed, “God, please help me not to be angry.” I looked down at my adorable, sweet, innocent little brother and felt the anger start to melt. Taking another deep breath I said to Josh, “Ok Josh. We’re going to stop now. We’re going to do something else.” We both agreed that we were just going to plant the broccoli plants instead of plant tons of little seeds. Even though it took me a few minutes to calm down, this job was a lot easier and Josh actually helped me. Neither of us were upset any more. And we got the little baby broccolis planted and watered just in the nick of time. My alarm for my meeting with the publisher went off just as I was turning off the hose.

I met with my publisher. I got all my stuff packed up for the evening (well… almost all of my stuff…). I had time to get a shower and look presentable and I finished dinner. And I left right on time to go pick up my sweet friend Tori and take her to the cast party.

On the way to Tori’s house, I was thinking about my day. Yeah, my day hadn’t been the best. But I thought of two things. First, I as a twenty-year-old author had just learned something from the twelve-year-old character that I had created. Wow. If that’s not humbling, I don’t know what is. Doesn’t God have an amazing sense of humor? But it’s so cool looking back at it and realizing that this book has really been such a blessing to me. I’m truly a better person because of writing it and delving deep into God’s word and learning what He wanted to teach me. I can just hope and pray that this book will have the same impact on many other young people who read it.

Second, my characters have some pretty rough days. Just wait until you read chapter six of “A Cry From Egypt”! :-) But none of what they went through, or what I’ve gone through, can compare to what Jesus went through. He died on the cross, a horrible, torturing, painful, humiliating death. And he died for us. He died to take away our sin and our anger and our pride. It all rested on His shoulders that day when He cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” Jesus went through the worst possible thing – death and separation from God – for every single one of us. Why? Because He loves us that much. As Jesus died His last words were, “It is finished.” His work here on earth was done. He took away all of our sin. And then He came back to life to give us a hope and a future, to tell us to spread His message to the entire world! He’s alive! He’s real! And He wants you to come to Him and get to know Him. He wants to be your best friend. And then He wants you to tell everyone else that He wants to be their best friend, too.

So, I just wanted to encourage you all that if you’ve had a rough day, or a rough week, or a rough year, just remember to stop and pray. And remember that Jesus went through things much worse than we could ever imagine, and He wants to help us through the hard times now. When you read my book I hope it will encourage you all to want a personal relationship with Jesus and that you will be inspired to tell everyone about Him. That is my prayer and my hope.