Tag Archives: Love Letters from God

Five Things I Never Imagined as a Children’s Author, and a Third Giveaway!

One of the most marvelous things about becoming an author is what happens next. And it’s marvelous because what might happen is totally unpredictable.

Time after time in this publishing journey, I have seen the principle of Ephesians 3:20 at work in my life. And don’t you just LOVE how The Message Bible puts it?

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

Oh, yes indeed! Here’s five things I never, ever, in my wildest or craziest of dreams, could possibly imagine happening:

  1. That when I sat down to pen the very first words of Love Letters from God, that book would one day become a series with its own brand.
  2. That I would walk in to a little British Primary school one May morning to see the walls literally covered with children’s love letters to God. IMG_2985
  3. That I would hear, time and time again, how adults have been impacted by these books, not just little ones. (Which I guess just goes to show that although my target audience is children, God’s target audience is the world.)
  4. That I would be able to dedicate Little Love Letters from God to my very first           granddaughter.
  5. That Christina Embree, a United Methodist Children’s Ministry Director in Kentucky would take Christmas Love Letters from God and work out the perfect way for families to use it to journey through Advent and into Epiphany together. (I am the author, and I have never thought of using the book in that way!)

I don’t know what your dreams are… for yourself, or your children, or your future, but what I DO know is this:

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!

There is nothing that our great God cannot do.

So keep believing! Let the wonderful, mysterious Holy Spirit keep working quietly and deeply within you.

Keep believing.

Read about using Christmas Love Letters for Advent and enter the GIVEAWAY.

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Christmas Love Letters from God Giveaway!

I know you’ve only just put your shorts and summer tops away; I know the trees are only just starting to turn orange; I know your Christmas tree is still tucked away in that big box in the attic… but the publication date of Christmas Love Letters from God is almost here! Six short days from now, in fact!

So, to celebrate, we’re giving away two brand-new, hot-off-the-press copies. It’s your chance to cross a gift off your Christmas shopping list.

If you live in the USA and don’t have a PO box, you can enter. Just fill in the contact form below and tell me which of these seven stories contained in the book might be your favorite.

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My favorite is the one you’ll hear me read, right here…..

Pre-order Here

Enter the giveaway by completing the form below. (And if you want your name to be entered twice, share this post on Facebook or email to a friend, and just let me know in your comment.) I hope you win!

5 Not-to-Miss Tips to Make Your Writers’ Conference Worthwhile

Congratulations! So you took the plunge, as I did, and registered for a great Writers’ Conference, like Maranatha.

Now what?

Now you prepare, as thoroughly as you can. Here’s my top five tips to help make your Writers’ Conference worthwhile:

  1. Pray. Prayer should be the foundation of everything you do, as a writer, and a Christian. From the first words on your page, to the last step inside that conference door, PRAY. I love what Mark Batterson says about the role prayer played in the journey to publication of his first book:

I don’t just write books; I circle them in prayer. To me, writing is praying with a keyboard….I didn’t write that book; I prayed that book.

Pray: about the right conference to attend; the right people to see; the right words to say.

2. Research. Once you have chosen the right conference, do your research thoroughly. Research the faculty and staff in attendance. What publishers or agents might be interested in your genre? If they are offering one-on-one consultations (as Maranatha does), make sure you are booked in with them. If you can only attend for one day, choose the day when they will be there. Research the workshops offered. Sign up for all that interest you.

3. Prepare. If you have paid to attend a conference, you need to be wise about your investment. The last thing you want is to return from that conference saying, I wish I’d taken this, or, if only I’d done that…

Carefully prepare your book proposal to share with publishers and agents. For my book, I used a template from Michael Hyatt:

Write a Book Proposal That Leaves Publishers Begging to Publish You

This free nonfiction book proposal template by Karen Porter is also very useful. Once you’ve written your proposal, consider having it edited by a professional. Children’s book author Crystal Bowman  edited my proposal and offers a great editing service to children’s writers.

Once you’re satisfied that your proposal is the very best it can be, print off several copies on good quality paper and be sure to attach your business card, preferably one containing your photograph. (Publishers and agents are meeting with many people. You want yours to be the face they remember).

Finally, practice, practice, practice your pitch to the professionals. You don’t want to be stumbling over your words. You only get one chance to make a first impression… make it a good one.

4. Network. Once you’re at the conference, take advantage of every opportunity to network with other attendees and professionals. Swap business cards. Learn from others. Mix and mingle. Make connections. These folks will become invaluable contacts who will support and encourage you in your publishing journey, as you do the same for them.

5. Take Notes. You are a writer…. write everything down, whether on your phone, iPad, or whatever works best for you. I personally am one of those old-fashioned writers who use those two ancient tools beginning with p. Whatever you use, take notes on what you hear. You will quickly forget all that information once you return home.

And one final piece of advice… if you do manage to get your proposal in the hands of someone who’s interested, be sure to enquire (politely) when and how you can expect to hear from them. If they tell you to contact them after a certain period of time, make sure you have their contact details. ( I didn’t do that…and it was an agonizing wait).

I just registered for Maranatha. It’s not too late… perhaps I’ll see you there! And you never know, that one book offer might just turn into five, because after all, God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.  Ephesians 3:20

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What other advice would you give to aspiring authors? What tips have worked well for you? 

The Best Piece of Advice I Could Give to Aspiring Authors..

I’m often asked, by aspiring authors:

What’s the best piece of advice you could offer as we try to break into the publishing world?

I’m usually tempted to say, learn to speak in a British accent, (since it’s done wonders for me). But instead, my singular piece of advice for those who don’t have an agent is:

Attend a Writers’ Conference.

I personally never wanted to.

I’d heard about writers’ conferences before, but I didn’t need to go to one. I decided I could do this myself. The thought of attending a writers’ conference intimidated and overwhelmed me. I’d seen the photographs of packed stadiums, brimming with people and bustling with activity. I was shy. I didn’t need, or want, to network with lots of agents, publishers, or other writers.

But it didn’t take long for me to figure out that there were only two ways to get my manuscript into the hands of Zondervan ( which was my goal). I either needed an agent, or I had to attend a conference.

That’s when I felt God nudging me to look at the Maranatha Christian Writers’ Conference, taking place in Muskegon, on the picturesque shore of Lake Michigan.

Not only was this conference in a beautiful setting, but it appealed to me because of its size. Although described as the largest writers’ conference in West Michigan, it was ‘small enough to be personable,’ promised excellent faculty in attendance, and was able to offer individual attention to writers through consultations with agents and editors. I plucked up courage, prayed, and registered. It was a decision I would never, ever regret.

Maranatha really did have an impressive faculty list. As I prepared for the conference, I scanned through the names, and saw that a well-known children’s author would be attending, to offer workshops, and meet one on one with writers.

I checked out her website and noticed she also offered editing and critique services. So I contacted her and before we’d even met at Maranatha, she had critiqued and edited both my proposal and the entire manuscript. I signed up to attend her workshops, registered for individual consultations with several faculty, and printed off my newly edited proposal. God had been with me every step of the way.

I was ready to attend my first writers’ conference.

My experience at Maranatha was everything it promised to be. Not once did I feel intimidated or overwhelmed. I was welcomed with genuine warmth; found fellowship with new friends; attended life-changing, informative workshops; heard inspirational testimonies; walked barefoot on the beach; and prayed with a small group of writers on a wooden balcony overlooking Lake Michigan, as God’s voice whispered through the wind and the waves.

The children’s author who had edited my work agreed to endorse my book, and most importantly, I was able to meet one on one with an editor from Zonderkidz- a ten minute consultation that would forever change my life.

She went back to Zondervan carrying my proposal. I went back home carrying my dream—a dream that was about to become reality.

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Little did I know that on a beautiful fall day, in that quiet, friendly, charming atmosphere of the Maranatha Christian Writers’ Conference, a new chapter of my life would begin. Little did I know….but God knows it all.

God – the giver of the writing gift; the creator of dreams; the planter of seeds; God knows it all. Writers… pick up your pens, open yourselves to the creative power of the Holy Spirit, and register.

Next week on the blog: 5 Not-to-Miss Tips To Make Your Writers’ Conference Worthwhile.

When You See Your Book Published in Korean…

A wonderful surprise plopped onto my doorstep recently. It was four copies of Love Letters from God….in Korean.

Korean Love Letters

I tore away the packaging and eagerly opened the book. Of course, I couldn’t understand a word. But on the other hand, I knew everything it said.

My Korean translator is called JongRak Hong. He diligently pored over this book and spent hours translating it into his native language.

Last year, I got an email from him. It was very polite. It went like this:

May I ask you a question? Don’t worry. It’s a very simple question.

In Acknowledgments, you say thanks to your brother Trevor.

Is he your elder brother or younger brother?

Because In Korean, there are different words for calling elder/younger brother and sister.

His message made me smile. Here was I, thinking that a computer would be translating my book, when all the while, JongRak was poring over its pages, working diligently to make sure every single word was translated correctly.

Trevor is my older brother, I told him.  (The one who first saw the potential in the pages of this book, the one who is a wonderful writer himself….but I didn’t tell JongRak that.)

It was several months later when that amazing package arrived at my door. I tried to find the name of my brother, Trevor. It’s hard, but I know it’s somewhere near the top of this page:

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My name looks like this:

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And this is the name of God:

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And while I’m turning the pages in the USA, struggling to make sense of the words, I know there’s someone on the other side of the world, perhaps a mom, or a dad, or a grandma, or a grandpa, cuddling their little Korean child on their lap, who’s also turning these pages and smiling as they read God’s love letters to them.  And every word makes complete sense.

Go into all the world, Jesus told his disciples, and preach the good news to all nations. Wow…perhaps I’m a tiny part of that, and so is JongRak Hong.

I Wish You Knew. (A Tribute to My Mum)

Her name was Isabella. She hated it, and preferred to be called Isabel. But she hated that too. She thought it old-fashioned.

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I wish she knew now how popular that sweet name is, and how, when I meet that little girl called Bella, she always makes me think of her. But there’s a lot I wish she knew now.

I wish she knew that I married David, whom she adored.

I wish she knew that he became a pastor…how surprised and thrilled she would have been!

I wish she knew that I had four wonderful sons, that my family has grown to welcome three daughters-in-law, and four adorable grandchildren.

I wish she knew that I went into teaching, and eventually became a children’s book author.

Because it’s really due to her.

Those who know me well would never, ever believe that I was a naughty girl at school. But I was. My poor parents were constantly hauled into the headmaster’s office, as he tried to rein in my unruly behavior.

I remember one of those occasions more than most.

I’m sitting in his office, while he glowers at me from behind his big important desk. His black gown is as dark as his mood. I’m sure I deserve to be there. I probably deserve to be shouted at too, but I can’t remember what I’ve done. Perhaps I got caught smoking again, or perhaps it was the time when I nicked someone’s bike from the bike shed and rode off down the road with my best friend. But we had only sneaked away from boring science class to get some fish and chips… what’s wrong with that?

Whatever it was, I’m upset. And that’s unusual too… because I’m a bit of a rebel, and I have a hard exterior. But the headmaster in the black cloak has no hope at all for my future; in fact, he thinks I’m heading for failure.

And perhaps I was.

But that’s when I hear Mum come to my defense. To be honest, I can’t remember her exact words, but they went something like this:

But did you know, Mr Ellis, that she is SO very good and patient with children? I wish you could see Glenys at home. She takes her little niece, stands her on a chair, and they bake dozens of wonderful fairy cakes together. They line them all up on the kitchen table, and fill them with custard and jam. Glenys is so good with her! I just know she’s meant to work with children.

Mum didn’t know that she had just sowed a seed in my heart, that I would one day become a teacher, and out of that, my love for writing for children would grow.

She didn’t know because she took her last breath the day I sat my final exam at college. She never saw me wear the cap and gown, or pick up the pen to write Love Letters from God.

Mum has been walking those gold-paved streets for thirty-five long years. This month, I will turn fifty-seven, the age she was when that cruel illness stole her from us.

I wish she knew how thankful I am, what a privilege it was to be raised in that wonderful home, a place full of laughter, and busyness, and song.

A place where a hard-working lady called Isabel did her best to raise eight children, and saw the good in them when others couldn’t.

I wish she knew.

Blog Stop #2!

How exciting for me to participate in a tour for the release of Little Love Letters from God from the comfort of my own home!

Little Love Letters Cover

This week’s stop in the virtual world is with Jenn, a homeschooling mom of eight! (Did you know that I’m one of eight too?)

Jenn blogs at Treasuring Life’s Blessingswhere she agreed to post a review of the book. Be sure to stop by to read the wonderful review and enter the book giveaway too!

Jenn started writing during one of the darkest times of her life, when she found out that her baby son was going to die. Jenn and her family held little Noah for just nine precious hours. So it’s really not surprising that her favorite story in the book would be this one…..

Inside Noah's Ark

I know that Jenn has already claimed the wonderful words contained in God’s love letter for that story, which say:

Just like I carried Noah, I will carry YOU too.   With All My Love, God.

No matter how long or short our days, God carries each one of us, in those big strong arms that hold us tight, even when we don’t know it.

I’m Going on Tour!

To celebrate the release of Little Love Letters from God, I get to go on tour…without ever leaving my home!

Little Love Letters Cover

For the next six weeks, I’ll be making stops at eight different websites…visiting with authors and pastors, home-schooling moms and children’s ministers…. wonderful colleagues who will help to launch my newest title, from now until February 15th.

We’ll explore ways of using love letters in children’s ministry; there’ll be author interviews, book reviews; new ideas for family Valentine’s Day traditions and crafts, and best of all, a Little Love Letters from God giveaway at every stop.

I hope you’ll come on tour with me! It starts today, with Vanessa Myers, where I’ll be sharing Five Ways to Use Love Letters in Children’s Ministry.

Here’s the schedule for the next six weeks…..join us, and win yourself a copy of Little Love Letters from God… just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Jan 4:    Vanessa Myers: Five Ways to Use Love Letters in Children’s Ministry

Jan 11:  Jenn: Treasuring Life’s Blessings: Book Review

Jan 18:  Children’s Book Author, Diane Stortz: Author Interview & Book Review

Jan 21:  Pastor Traci Smith:  A New Family Tradition for Valentine’s Day

Jan 25:  Noelle Kirchner, The Ministering MomFive Ways to Bless Your Family With Love Letters Beyond Valentine’s Day

Feb 1:   Kelly: Our Everyday HarvestBook Review

Feb 8:   Laura Sassi, Children’s Book AuthorAuthor Interview & Valentine Craft

Feb 15: Christina Embree, Refocus Ministry: Book Review

Why You Might Want to Listen to that Little Voice that Prompts You to Action…

On a crisp autumn morning one year ago, I drove to Kalamazoo, a little town in Michigan, on my way to present a workshop at a Children’s Ministry event. Nestled in the back of my car were two boxes holding treasure:  hot, off-the-press copies of my newly published children’s book, Love Letters from God.

box of books!

That autumn day would be the first time I would sell my book; the first time I would read a story out loud to an audience; the first time I would sign the inside cover; the first time I would meet Jess.

She was young, and quiet. We didn’t get to talk much. She was in her second year of children’s ministry. She listened intently. She made notes. She asked questions. And she bought a book.

She would tell me, later, that she didn’t have much money that day. But a little voice inside whispered that she should buy a book anyway.

Who is it for? I asked, as I always do when I sign the book.

Jess didn’t know. Perhaps she would give it to a niece, or perhaps she might use it in her children’s ministry. She left, with the book tucked under her arm. Inscribed on the inside cover, I had written the words: May the one who turns these pages be blessed.

And the rest of the story belongs to her….

Well later that day, my husband and I had a sweet surprise. We had been trying to get pregnant for a few months, waiting on the Lord’s timing… I was a few days late – so off to the store I went (to buy another pregnancy test.) Sure enough, the Lord’s timing had arrived. We were almost in disbelief. To be honest, my husband didn’t believe me right away. We were so excited!!!

Lo and behold, God had wanted me to purchase “Love Letters from God’ for my very own son, Josiah!  What’s so cool is that this book walked with us through our entire pregnancy. Mr. Josiah and I read the stories together over the next 9 months as we waited to meet each other. I would flip through the pages, usually reading one or two stories at a time. We would talk, and pray together – I’d fill in the blanks with “my precious child.” I’d describe to him the pictures on the pages (that’s the Art Teacher in me)…

I remember one specific day, maybe 21 weeks in – I read “The Little Boy Who Listened.” We had just found out we were having a son and we couldn’t for the life of us decide on a name… I’d ask my little man what he wanted to be called, I pleaded with the Lord to give us the perfect name… My husband and I just couldn’t decide. It seemed that the pressure was too great!  I read this story about 3 times, all in a row. Something about it stood out to me. It was the last paragraph:

“What a wonderful night for Samuel!” It read. “God knew his name. As the candles flickered and the shadows danced, a happy little Samuel closed his eyes and finally fell asleep.”

It was that paragraph that brought peace to my heart — God knew my son’s name, just as he had known Samuel’s name! I opened my bible and highlighted Isaiah 43:1: “I will send for you by name. You belong to me.” My son, my Josiah, was already named by my Father in heaven, and soon, very soon, I would get to meet him and know his name too!

Called by Name

My husband ended up naming our son, Josiah Thomas, just moments before he entered this world. He said God had just put it on his heart! It was, and is, the most perfect name for our little one.

Here we are, 11 months later, and my little man can just start to see. We flip through the colorful pages of the book, and talk about the love that God has for him, and for me, and for our friends and family! It’s something very sweet. “Love Letters from God,” was just as much a gift for me, as it was to my son!

The inside cover of my book is signed by Glenys: “May the one who turns these pages be blessed.” We were blessed. We are blessed, by the truth on these pages, and with a beautiful son!

baby Josiah

Jess & Josiah

The Story of Half a Book

It’s summer 2010. My first children’s book manuscript sits on a shelf. Half finished. Gathering dust. It’s been there a long time.

And it would have stayed there, had it not been for my husband.

Where’s your book? he asks one day.

Oh, that. It’s on the shelf.

Why?

Because it’s a waste of time, that’s why. Who gets to write a children’s book? Who gets to write a children’s book and have it published by Zondervan?

I had started Love Letters from God several months before, inspired by the beautiful words of Sally Lloyd Jones, as I read her Jesus Storybook Bible.

Every morning I would eagerly grab my pen, pour out my soul on the page, and be swept away by the beauty and mystery of the creative process. What began as an empty, blank sheet of white was somehow filled with life.

On those mornings, I think I knew how God must have felt when, from a desolate void of nothing, came a wonderful world of everything. It was good.

Then I stopped.

I stopped because I had a visitor one day. I never saw him, but I heard his voice whisper in my ear as he tapped me gently, but persistently, on the shoulder.

What are you doing? You can’t write a children’s book. You’ll never get it published. You’re wasting your time.

I listened to that voice. It was hard not to. Obediently, I put my half-finished manuscript on the shelf, where it sat. For a long time.

Enter David, my husband, whose middle name is Encourager.

me & David on cliff

Glenys, do you believe that God called you to write that book?

The answer to that was easy. I had known the truth of that since the very beginning.

Do you believe God wants you to finish it?

The answer to that was easy too, even though I didn’t want to say the word.

And then David says something I will never forget. It’s simple, and silly, and utterly life-changing.

Well why would you not finish it…

What would have happened if Noah had only built half a boat?

One of the reasons I married David is because he could always make me laugh. I laughed at the thought of all the animals falling off a half-constructed boat, and the impossibility of such a vessel floating. But even though I laughed, that silly statement was exactly what I needed.

I pulled out that half-written manuscript, blew the dust away, picked up the pen, and began to write. The rest, as they say, is history.

Love Letters from God would be published, four years later, by Zondervan.

And I think about all those abandoned manuscripts, half-written, lying on dusty shelves, in hope-robbed rooms, and how God cannot possibly publish half a book.

I think about Jesus, and what might have happened if, half way through his ministry, he had given up. But he didn’t. He completed fully the work to which he was called, until finally, one day, he was able to say:

It is finished.

And wasn’t it only when Jesus had finally finished, that God could really start?