Monthly Archives: November 2008

How Nonfiction Started My Career

I mentioned in my last post about attending a writers’ conference. I had prayed asking God to reveal to me if my feelings about venturing into the writing for publication realm were from him or my own desire. I asked God to reveal his will for me at the conference.

I made appointments with three children’s editors. Fear gripped me as I sat down to share my fiction manuscript with the first editor. He smiled, looked at my work and complimented me. He DID NOT ask for the manuscript. He asked if I had anything else. I only had the re-told Bible stories I had thrown in at the last minute. I pulled them out of my briefcase and handed them to him. He liked them!  He asked that I send them to him after the conference. Wow! I was beyond excited.

I went to my next appointment. This time I handed the editor copies of the re-told Bible stories, along with my fiction story. Want to venture which she liked? Right! The Bible stories. She took the copies.

Two down. One to go.

I spoke with the third editor about my fiction, then handed her the re-told Bible stories. She, too, asked that I send her copies after the conference.

My feet hardly touched the ground all day!

I had entered a story in the adult short story contest. During the assembly time the winners were announced. I almost fainted when they called my name. I was third place winner in the contest!

After the conference, I sent the requested material to the three editors. I waited and prayed. Two editors wrote to say they could not use the material. HOWEVER, one wrote and said she was excited about publishing the stories. Four books printed in both English and Spanish were published as a result of that conference.

Would you say God spoke clearly to me at that conference? I had no doubt I was to pursue writing for publication. Non-fiction was the avenue God used to lead me into this new adventure.

Perhaps God will use something you did not consider, such as nonfiction, to be the catalyst to thrust you into the published author category. You never know!

Still amazed at the working of God, Gloria


More Tips from a Conference

Things to Include in a Non-Fiction Book Proposal:
One sentence summary that captures your book. Should be more “hook” than description. (We are calling these pitches.)

Brief overview, similar to back-covers on books.  3-4 paragraphs. Exciting, informative, and make someone want to read your book. Tells publisher in succinct form what the book is about and who the market is.

Felt need—What needs will your book fulfill that your audience is already aware of? What  questions are they asking that your book will answer? What do they want that you can give them?

About the author—1/2 to full page on author, why are you qualified to write this book? List any previously published books or articles along with sales figures. Are you the best possible author for this type of book?

Author marketing and platform—(something we all try to overlook but publishers are interested in).

Competition—Other  books in print alike? List 4-8 books within the last 5 years. How is your book different and better? A couple sentences comparing them to yours.

Word count and completion time.

Chapter outline—titles and a couple of sentences capturing each chapter’s theme.

Sample chapters.

-Contributed by Shirley Shibley

Tell of God’s Glorious Deeds!

O my people, listen to my teaching.
Open your ears to what I am saying,
for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past–
stories we have heard and know,
stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children
but will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord.
We will tell of His power and the mighty miracles He did.
For He issued His decree to Jacob; He gave His law to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children,
so the next generation might know them–
even the children not yet born–
that they in turn might teach their children.
So each generation can set its hope anew on God,
remembering His glorious miracles
and obeying His commands.
-Psalm 78:1-7, NLT

-contributed by Nancy I. Sanders

I Shall Not Want

When I was around eight I memorized the 23rd Psalm. This was an assignment given by my Sunday school teacher. Memorization was easy for my young, fresh mind and I had it down in no time. There was just one problem. The Psalm didn’t mean anything to me. How did those words apply practically to my life as an eight-year-old?

Sheep? Mine enemies? He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake? Thou anointest my head with oil? No one explained these truths in words that helped me understand a loving God. Adults simply assumed it was self-explanatory. They were wrong.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” especially troubled me. I distinctly remember having the following conversation with myself…”But I WANT a lot of things, so that must mean the Lord is not MY shepherd! Oh, no! And why is the Lord called my Shepherd? I’m not a sheep. And what does He do with that rod?”

At this point you’re either saying, “My goodness, what a deep thinker for an eight-year-old,” or more likely…“She certainly wasn’t the brightest bulb on the tree.”

Now as an adult, one of my passions is writing retold Bible for children, ages 4 to 8. I think you can figure out why that is (o; God’s truths CAN be comprehended by little ones if written in words that children understand. I want children to relate Gods words to his or her own experience.

In my first book, Psalms for a Child’s Heart, I paraphrased Psalm 23 this way:

Dear Lord, You take good care of me,
the way a kind shepherd cares for his sheep.
You give me the things You know I need,
and always do what’s best for me.

You give me a warm bed to sleep in,
and watch me through the night.
If I were Your lamb, You would find the softest grass for me to lie in.
I could sleep all night and not be afraid, for You would watch over me.

When I am hungry, You give me wonderful food to eat.
If I were Your lamb, You would lead me to the greenest pastures.
You give me water when I am thirsty.
If I were Your lamb, You would take me to a clear, cool stream.

Lord, knowing You makes me feel good and safe inside.
I love to do what pleases You.
If I am in a scary place,
or all alone,
or in the dark,
I know that You are with me.
Lord, You are right next to me.
It is like You are holding my hand.
I don’t need to be afraid at all.

If I were Your frightened lamb,
You would pick me up and hold me tight.
You would carry me to a safe place.

When others are unkind to me,
and it seems as though I don’t have a friend,
I know that YOU love me. Lord Your kindness to me will never end.

Every morning when I wake up, You are there, Lord.
You will spend the day with me.
And You will be there even when I sleep at night.
There will never be a moment when You will not be with me!

Lord, I belong to You,
just as the little lamb in the shepherd’s arms.
Someday I will live with You in Heaven,
and it will be our home together…always.
I love You, Lord!


“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus Luke 18: 16a (ICB)

Sheryl Crawford, c 2008

Crafting Non-Fiction, Part 2

In my post two weeks ago, I talked about my experiences producing original needlework and craft designs for the craft magazines and indicated these guidelines could possibly be used for kids’ crafts, too.  Here are some specifics about the 5 points I mentioned.


#1.  Be original.  Anything submitted to an editor must be your own idea and your own work!  Of course, certain skills, such a knitting stitches or paint brush strokes, are universal, but many times beginning writers/crafters are tempted to modify, or even copy a craft or design they’ve seen elsewhere and claim it as their own.  Also, no part of a poem, rhyme, or motto seen on a greeting card, poster, or anywhere else can be used without permission.  Not only are these practices unethical and dishonest, they can also cause big trouble with the copyright office!   Even if a writer/crafter doesn’t go that far, editors often say that when a new craft or hobby takes hold, hundreds of people will send in that same idea, with very slight variations, believing they will actually be paid for such copying and duplication.


#2.  Study each magazine in detail.  You need to make sure you’re submitting to the right publication, i.e., needlework, tole painting, scrapbooking, etc., but within those genres, there are differences to consider.  Even two similar-sounding magazines like Crafts and Crafts ‘n Things (I’ve sold to both) have different editorial views.  The first prefers more involved projects while the second wants quick and easy ideas.  For kids’ magazine, it’s essential to read and learn exactly what kinds of crafts each one is looking for and using.


#3.   Think seasonal.  Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s Day are always popular and lend themselves to all kinds of crafts.  Editors are usually receptive to unique projects for these big days.  However, they’re delighted when contributors send in ideas for the “lesser” holidays, such as Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, and Father’s Day.  Anything original and well-done for these and other “days” throughout the year can usually result in a sale.  Remember, too, that as with written manuscripts, craft magazines work at least 6 months ahead of a certain date, so keep that in mind before you submit.


#4.  Understand the craft technique and know how to write instructions.  When I began submitting to the crafts market, I had many years experience knitting, doing needlepoint, etc., and reading instructions, so writing the instructions came easily.  However, if you’re new to crafts, you can still be successful by putting in some time learning to do the craft you want to specialize in.  This is not too time-consuming if you’re doing easy kids’ crafts, and it will give you an idea of problems readers might encounter as they work.  It’s a good idea to take notes as you go along. Then study how the directions are written.  Most often, they will follow a formula, such as Materials Needed, How to Do It, and Finishing.


#5.  Be familiar with the unique submission process for crafts.  In most cases, editors require that you complete the craft you are suggesting and send in color photos.  Then if they think they can use the design, they will ask you to send the completed project.  Editors seldom, if ever, consider a query based on an idea you’d “like to develop.”  You need to have it finished before you query, with photos.   However, this process should be simpler today with digital cameras and sending photos online.


As you can see, designing and selling craft designs is time-consuming and doesn’t usually yield high financial rewards.  But, if you enjoy doing these hobbies anyway, it can be fun and gratifying to see your work in print.  And, you could introduce new generations to the fun of doing crafts.





 Contributed by Marjorie Flathers

Researching What You Already Know

When I began to write inspirational articles for such varied magazines as Today’s Christian Parent, Listen, Guideposts, and Farm Wife News, I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. After all, I was simply telling about things that had happened to me — or things I had observed. I would simply tell the stories (non-fiction) and add details (also non-fiction) that I hoped would be meaningful to the reader. My aim was to get people to look within and see undiscovered possibilities in themselves.

Then an editor suggested that a collection of these published articles, combined with others that I had yet to write, might make an “art of living” book. The idea intrigued me, especially because I thought I could put a book like this together in record time. Half of it was already written, and I wouldn’t have to do any reserach because the rest of the chapters would all cover things I knew about.

I realized how wrong I was when I began the introduction to The Pearl Is in the Oyster. I had heard somewhere that pearls were composed of layers, just like onions, and I decided to make a comparison. I was familiar with onions, having cried a bucket of onion tears in my time, and I thought I was familiar with pearls. After all, I had a pearl necklace and earrings, didn’t I? But when I started to write, I discovered that a description of a pearl wasn’t enough. It wouldn’t get people do look inside and see those undiscovered possibilities that I wanted to write about.

Because this was in my pre-computer writing days, I spent hours at the library researching pearls. I found out that no two pearls are ever the same (like people), that sometimes an imitation can be mistaken for the real thing, but not for long. I learned that a pearl is made from the inside out. Its luster doesn’t come from surface shininess. It comes from layer after layer of rich translucence, formed a little at a time: a living process of development and change. Is that impressive or not?

Then I decided to go a step further, and I researched the greatest source of all, finding in the Scriptures verses from the Beatitudes that illustrate the steps we take in growing to be what we were meant to be.

Are you thinking of writing an “art of living” book? Here’s my advice. Get busy and research those things you think you already know. And don’t stop with Turn to the Scriptures, and you will find more than one “pearl of great price.”  (Matthew 13: 45-46)

Contributed by Marilyn Donahue

Doable Research

Some authors shy away from non-fiction because they don’t like research. Perhaps they missed their elementary school’s field trip to the library. Maybe they get frightened by the daunting task ahead. Even if you only want to write fiction, research is a vital tool that must be tackled if you want your writing career to flourish since you may need to research a location of a story or an occupation for your character.

Libraries aren’t as scary as they look. Go make friends with the research librarian and he/she would be happy to walk you through and show you all the great tools available at your fingertips: statistics, census data, government documents, newspaper archives, magazine archives, almanacs, atlases. The lists are endless. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Your new librarian friend can suggest ways to help.

Sometimes you already have a list of books you want to research, but your local library doesn’t have a copy. Go to www., type in the title of the book, enter your zip code, and it will show you the nearest library that has a copy.

I have found that my local library is limited on some of the topics I’m looking for, so I researched the colleges and universities in my area to see if any will extend loan privileges to non-students. I had to pay $50 for the year at one university (some are higher), but it was worth the cost to check out books that I would have otherwise not been able to read. Worldcat was vital in this determination also, since I was able to see which university had more of the books I was looking for.

Need to do a market analysis to show what other books are similar to yours? Go to the Library of Congress at, click on Library Catalogs at the top, and you can do a subject search on your topic. Make sure to read the instructions carefully to narrow down your topic so a gazillion books don’t pop up when you hit the “Search” button.

Research isn’t as frustrating as it used to be. Take advantage of your library, local universities, and the internet to find valuable information in a record amount of time.

Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio