Category Archives: Writing

Guest Post: Writing a Memoir of Restoration, Renewal, and Rediscovery by Marilyn L. Davis

Guest Post: Writing a Memoir of Restoration, Renewal, and Rediscovery by Marilyn L. Davis

Thanks to Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog and to Marilyn L. Davis for this insightful article.

Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog

By: Marilyn L. Davis

“It has always been on the written page that the world has come into focus for me. If I can piece all these bits of memory together with the diaries and letters and the scribbled thoughts that clutter my mind and bookshelves, then maybe I can explain what happened. Maybe the worlds I have inhabited for the past seven years will assume order and logic and wholeness on paper. Maybe I can tell my story in a way that is useful to someone else.” ― Nancy Horan, Loving Frank

While Nancy Horan’s book is a novel, this passage helps explain the power of memoir or reflective writing. I’m a huge fan of the genre, in part, because it began my recovery from substance abuse, but more importantly, this type of reflective writing healed me in ways I could not imagine when I first started writing.


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Guest Post: Book Giveaway – In the Red Canoe

Guest Post: Book Giveaway – In the Red Canoe

Thank you to Kathy Temean of Writing and Illustrating for this guest post about Leslie A. Davidson’s new release.

Writing and Illustrating

Congratulations to author Leslie A Davidson on her new book IN THE RED CANOE. She has agreed to participate in our book giveaways. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.


Ducks and frogs, swallows and dragonflies, beaver lodges and lily pads―a multitude of wonders enchant the child narrator in this tender, beautifully illustrated picture book. A tribute to those fragile, wild places that still exist, In the Red Canoe celebrates the bond between grandparent and grandchild and invites nature lovers of all ages along for the ride.

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Helping Children Learn to Write

Helping Children Learn to Write

Doing Life Together

girl-writing-2Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic used to be called the 3 Rs—the three basic skills necessary for success in life. Your children’s teachers will thank you if you encourage your kids to write. Here are eleven ideas to help you:

  1. Child as young as two years old: Give her a pencil and paper and encourage her to “write”—even if it looks like scribbling. (Watch her to be sure she writes on the paper and doesn’t accidentally poke her eye.)
  2. Three years old: Go through a wordless picture book (preferably one you’ve “read” him before—a good one is Peter Spier’s Noah’s Ark) and ask him what’s happening in each picture.
  3. Four years old: Have her practice writing the alphabet and her name. (Call your local school and find out what handwriting model they use. I grew up with the Palmer method; my children were taught D’Nealian. You can find D’Nealian alphabets…

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Review: Writing the Heart of Your Story by C.S. Lakin

Review: Writing the Heart of Your Story by C.S. Lakin

I read a lot of writing books. This is one of the best I’ve ever read.

I’ve long been a big fan of C.S. Lakin’s website, Live Write Thrive. So when a deal came along for the Kindle edition of Writing the Heart of Your Story: The Secret to Crafting an Unforgettable Novel, I ordered it.

The books we remember years after we finish the last page are the ones that connect with us on an emotional level. Lakin’s book takes us on a journey to discover what’s at the heart of the story we’re writing, and how to make that heart connection with the reader.

The thirty chapters of the book are divided into five sections, defining heart, and explaining how to heighten it in your characterization, plot and theme, scenes, and more.writing the heart

Lakin encourages writers to put a lot of thought into the very first page of the novel. She’s devised a checklist of 13 items that should appear on page one. The list turns some common writing advice upside down, but will compel the reader to turn to page two. “Think about the emotion, feeling, or sensation you want to evoke in your reader…establishing immediately…the drives, desires, needs, fears, frustrations of your protagonist. Not only do you need to show her in conflict…you also need to reveal her heart, hint at her spiritual need, show her vulnerability, and what obstacles are standing in her way. In the first scene? Oh yes.”

Latin is a plotter rather than a pantser, but she plots strategically, planning how she will impact the reader before she even starts her manuscript. She tells us to RUE: resist the urge to explain. She challenges writers to take out all but maybe three short sentences of backstory.

Lakin also sends us to our bookshelves to reread our favorite books and analyze them for the elements she presents. There we find proof her strategies work.

She shares hints she’s gleaned from other writing books that help writers identify elements of heart. For example, she recommends Elizabeth George’s practice of free writing about her characters. “Call it muse or divine inspiration, but freewriting, like journaling, can draw from a deep well of experience and emotion. Things float to the surface of the mind when you do this, and I will guarantee that some of your best ideas for your character will come through this exercise. You are delving into the mystery of your character, and this exercise will bring out their secrets.” (I can’t wait to try that idea!)

I love the questions Lakin raises in Chapter 19 for building conflict and complications:

  • What’s the problem about? How can I make it bigger? If I take my protagonist out of the story, what does that problem look like in universal terms?

  • How can I make this problem the protagonist has harder? How can I make things worse in the outer world and in his personal life?

  • How can I make the effects of this problem worse for other people as well? How can I broaden the scope of this problem so it affects a greater scope?

  • What does this problem push people to do that they wouldn’t normally do? How can I blow that up bigger and make them do worse things?

  • How can I make it harder for my protagonist to solve this problem? How can I raise the stakes so more is at risk? If I have just one thing at risk, what other things can I add and put at risk?

Lakin gives special consideration to the setting of each scene:

Where is the best place I can put my character to have this scene unfold and lead to the important moment revealed in this scene? Rather than pick something off the top of your head, which is what a lot of writers do in their rush to put a scene down, you will find that if you deliberately and judiciously choose a setting that will best serve the interests of your plot and your character’s need for that scene, you will have a much more powerful novel.

While reading Writing the Heart of Your Story, I found myself running to the computer to rewrite sections of my work-in-progress.

I’m currently reading Lakin’s novel Intended for Harm. It’s interesting to see how she uses her strategies in her own work.

Writing the Heart of Your Story is a book I intend to reread often—whenever I start writing a new novel and whenever I start editing it.

Monday Morning Wisdom #101

Monday Morning Wisdom #101

“Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.”~Henry David ThoreauMMW

Creative Juice #40

Creative Juice #40

Twelve sources of inspiration for your creative endeavors:

Guest Post: How To Make A Collage To Inspire Your Work-In-Progress


This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

Finding yourself at a loss for words? Unable to chip away at your writer’s block? You’re stuck in the winter doldrums—what you need is some writing inspiration!

One of the most effective ways to spark creativity is to try something new, and we have the answer: Make a collage. Creating a collage can be a great help to writers of all genres—books…short prose…and even poetry, which can be a very visual medium. Once you’ve prepared your collage, hang it above your writing desk and let it inspire you while you’re working!

Elements To Include When Making A Collage To Boost Your Writing Creativity

Colors and textures that set the mood of your writing. Is the piece you want to write exuberant and uplifting? Try bright, bold colors! Is it more sad, scary, or mysterious? Dark hues and shadows might be better to set the tone. Be creative and search until you find the right colors to match the tone of your piece.

And don’t forget to consider texture: Rich velvets, rough tree bark, and smooth plastics all offer their own unique inspiration.

Images of people who resemble your characters. As writers, we can usually picture our characters using our imaginations. But if you’re stumped, or you’re unsure of how to bring the image in your mind to life, search for photos of people who look like the character you’re trying to create. Drawings or paintings of people who embody the look you’re going for can help too—and if you can’t find any, why not try to draw them yourself? Visualizing your character’s physical appearance will help you write him or her more convincingly. 

Photos or items that remind you of your setting. Photos, paintings, or even a leaf or a pressed flower can help you focus on your setting and more accurately describe it. Ask yourself: Is your writing set in the present or past? Where does it take place? Even if you’re writing a fantasy piece and trying to create a new world—finding images can still help! You can be as broad as searching for pictures of your character’s country, or as specific as looking for pictures of her or his home. 

Quotes—or even single words!—that fit with your theme. If you’re writing a romance, you may find the words of Nicholas Sparks inspiring: Romance is thinking about your significant other when you are supposed to be thinking about something else. For a short story filled with action and adventure, you may find Gandalf’s words to Frodo will help set the mood: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. There’s a quote to suit every genre!

Making a collage can get your creativity flowing, and looking at your finished artwork can continue to inspire your writing. If you’re having trouble making a collage that’s specific to the piece you’re writing, consider making a more general collage filled with motivational quotes to help get you started. Pinterest is a great resource.

Here are some collages you can check out to get you started:


And if you like the idea of making art to inspire your writing, consider making a dream board, keeping a reading journal, or checking out some visual writing prompts!

Writer Questions

QUESTION: If you were making a collage of pictures to help with your writing, where would you start?

Review: The Story of With by Allen Arnold

Review: The Story of With by Allen Arnold

In January, I attended a writers’ mini-conference given by Christian Writers of the West. The guest speaker was Allen Arnold, former fiction editor for Thomas Nelson. He spoke at length about inspiration and creativity and how the desire to create comes to us from God as an invitation to closer intimacy with Him.

Arnold’s presentation was so refreshing and invigorating and so full of ideas I wanted to explore further, that I bought two copies of his book, The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love, and Create. One was for myself, and the other for my friend Tom, who is struggling to finish writing a very important book. I gave it to him a few days later.the story of WITH

In the meantime, I began reading it.

A large part of The Story of With is an allegory, the story of Mia, a girl whose father disappeared long ago. I found the allegory kind of hokey.  Each chapter ended with an explanation of that part of the allegory, which was necessary—I wouldn’t have understood the allegory without the author’s commentary. Which made me wonder—why would Arnold devote so much time and energy to the allegory if it didn’t clarify his premise (and instead required him to interpret it for the reader)? I regretted giving Tom the book before reading it myself.

But before I finished the book, I saw Tom again, and he shared that he had read the book straight through, moved to tears because it affected him so deeply. When I mentioned my disappointment with the allegory, he said for him, it didn’t detract from the message.

These passages from The Story of With especially resonated with me:

  • [God’s] motive in giving you specific talents isn’t primarily so you’ll be productive…It is so your desires can find their fulfillment in Him…God doesn’t need your help as much as He wants your heart (page 120).

  • The door will find you when you are ready (page 205).

  • True success means you create with the Creator, in fellowship with others, as you engage with the community your creation serves. With. With. With (page 213).

  • Living like this ushers in an atmosphere of abundance and freedom. There’s no longer a need to try and control your Story. You know God has even bigger plans than you for what’s ahead. So you are content to ride with Him wherever the path may lead (page 243).

I recommend this book for creative people, but with two caveats. First, if you have no use for God, The Story of With will make no sense to you; it will just be jibberish. (But if you are searching for God, you can find Him here.) Second, if you are looking for the way to make lots of money or fame from your creations, that goal is not addressed here. But if you desire freedom, high quality of creative life, and intimacy with God, you must read this.

Have you already read The Story of With? What is your opinion of it? Share in the comments below. And if you read the book later, come back and let us know what you think.


#ALCGC2017 May Check-In

#ALCGC2017 May Check-In

“The ARHtistic License Creative Goals Challenge for 2017” is quite a mouthful. I’ve created a shorthand nickname for it. Let’s use the Twitter hashtag #ALCGC2017 to tweet about our goals.

Another month down. How are you doing on your creative goals?

I missed a few days of Scripture reading. I’m back on track now.

I haven’t gotten a handle on the clutter in my study. ARG!Palette bing free commercial

I’ve written no poetry in National Poetry Month.

I’ve done no artwork.

I’ve focused on getting a month ahead on my blog. I’m close.

I finished my rewrite of The God of Paradox into a Bible study, just working on it on Saturdays since the first of the year. I’m planning to test-drive it with my Bible study group, when we finish our current book (Hebrews).


I’ve made good progress on rewriting The Unicornologist this past month.

And I received two paychecks for articles this month—my first writing paydays in seventeen years. “How to Hold a Writers Retreat” is in the May-June 2017 issue of Christian Communicator. (I forgot about that one—submitted it eighteen months ago.) And Primary Treasures bought my article, “Putting on Full Armor” for a future issue. (I originally wrote it twenty years ago. I’ve been spending my Sunday writing time rewriting and submitting manuscripts in my file cabinet from back in my freelancing days.)

guitarI’m up to page 42 in Essential Elements for Guitar and Unit 12 in The Sweet Pipes Recorder Book. Making slow but steady progress on guitar, recorder, and piano.

So, I’ve had some successes and some failures this month—par for a creative’s life.

If your progress this year has been mixed, it’s okay to reevaluate your goals and adjust them. I set ambitious objectives this year, and I’m not doing as much as I think I’m capable of, but I am working my little buttinsky off.

Now it’s your turn. ARHtistic License was created to help foster growth among the creative community. I’d love to know how all of you are doing so far in 2017, so I (and ARHtistic License readers) can encourage you. Don’t be shy! If you’re keeping accountable on your blog, paste a link into the comments below. Or if you don’t have a blog, just tell us your successes and your challenges this past month. Check in on June 1, 2017 to share your progress during May.

Monday Morning Wisdom #100

Monday Morning Wisdom #100

Found on Twitter:MMWkipling