Author Archives: Sheryl Crawford

Our Critique Group Gems and What Makes Them Sparkle!

Have you joined a critique group?  Are you even looking for one? The right critique group can bring out your strengths as a writer and help you grow.  It’s true that your weak areas will be out in the open, but look at it this way—everyone’s in the same boat!  As writers we all have strengths and weaknesses.  We all need to grow in some way.  Writers need to mentor and encourage one another. Don’t go it alone!

I’d like to tell you about the special critique group I belong to. We’ve called our group of eight writers, “Wordsmiths.”

A ruby, sapphire, opal or amethyst are lovely in a single setting ring, but together they compliment each other and help bring out the radiant individuality of each stone.  I liken the writers in our critique group to a ring with assorted precious stones—a group of “Gems.”

These are our critique group “Gems”:

MARILYN (Aquamarine): Marilyn has lots of experience in writing great YA novels as well as magazine stories.  She is the author of 31 books and recently signed several more contracts! Marilyn is our grammar and sentence structure expert, is an English teacher, and has her own editorial service. Marilyn, you are one of the nicest editors I’ve ever known. (o: Your warmth toward others andwillingness to help is one of your trademarks. Hug!

NANCY (Emerald): Nancy writes practically everything from spell-binding historical middle grade chapter books, to nonfiction and fiction magazine pieces. She writes poetry, mini-plays, rebuses, curriculum, and devotionals. Nancy is the author of over 75 books!  She is an expert at market research and digging up accurate historical facts. Her wonderful editing and organizational skills are evident and help keep our group running smoothly. Nancy, you encourage us to grow and you keep us informed about new writing opportunities. You are our humble leader and a loving friend to each of us. Thank you!

MARJORIE (Diamond): Marjorie has written over 300 short stories for children’s magazines and newspaper kid-pages. Whew! Marjorie knows her stuff.  She can write tight! She also writes wonderful middle grade chapter books. Marjorie has many talents, one being a knitting marvel. Her articles have appeared in knitting magazines and her finished pieces are incredible. Marjorie, you are a delight to know and your smile is contagious!

SHIRLEY (Yellow Topaz): Shirley writes retold Bible stories, Christian school curriculum, and non-fiction pieces for magazines. She also writes exciting you-are-there middle grade historical fiction, as well as devotional material for adults.  She’s a natural. Shirley, you are known for your sweet, SWEET spirit. You are such an inspiration and encourager to all of us!

VERONICA (Amethyst): Veronica is our professional illustrator and designer. She is an absolute artist with words as well. Veronica writes non-fiction and really does her homework.  She can envision illustrations as she writes, which adds to her creativity. This is helpful as she reads the manuscripts of others. Veronica, you have TWO wonderful gifts to share with us, and we are so glad to know you!

GLORIA (Zircon): Gloria is our writing comedian. You never want to have any liquid in your mouth when she shares one of her hysterical manuscripts! She writes picture books, poetry, drama, and magazine stories. Gloria, your Southern accent is music to our ears, and you liven up our group with creativity and humor. Gloria, you’re just plain talented and fun!

CATHERINE (Pearl): Catherine is amazing. Oh, how I wish I had Catherine’s brain! Her first non-fiction picture book was released recently! She writes cliff-hanger-hold-your-breath middle grade fiction, devotionals, and magazine pieces.  Catherine is also an expert at doing research and so willing to help others. Catherine, thanks for your step-by-step instructions! You lift our spirits and we learn so much about good writing from you!

There’s one last member—Sheryl. That’s me, and I’m a Zircon. I write books for the educational market, fiction and non-fiction picture books, magazine stories, retold Bible stories, rebuses, poetry, and mini-plays. I’m working on a beginning chapter book—new territory in my writing journey. Looks like I’ve got a few experts around to help me!

During our meetings, I try to soak everything in from the experience and expertise of the seven “gems” around me— every one of them as special as the next.

If you belong to a critique group, you’ve probably realized that each member has something unique to offer. A different perspective. A creative idea. A thought provoking challenge. That ever-needed grammar help! I’ll say it again, every serious writer has strengths in one area or another. A good critique group can bring out those strengths—strengths that some of us never knew we had. Isn’t that what a critique group is supposed to do?

You may be lovely gem in a single setting. Yes, YOU! If so, I hope that you will seek out and find a critique group that will surround you with an assortment of precious stones. It will stretch you and help you grow as a writer. I’m so glad there was an empty setting waiting for me. What a stunning ring we’ve got!
Sheryl Ann Crawford

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A Most Unusual Workspace

What is your writing workspace like? It is all you’ve ever wanted, or is it a cramped workspace in the corner of an already crowded den or family room? Perhaps it’s the kitchen table or a small desk in your bedroom. If you are a Christian and God has called you to write, even if your workspace doesn’t seem “ideal”—He will provide the workspace that’s HE knows is right for you. In my case He chose a most unusual and unexpected first workspace…a Sealy Posturepedic. My bed.

In the early 1990’s I was bedridden with a mysterious illness. The pain was excruciating at times. My cognitive abilities were impaired as I went in and out of a mental fog. For seven weeks I was for the most part, bedridden. The exhaustion was overwhelming. My parents graciously cared for our two young sons during the day until my husband came home… while I made a major dent in our mattress.

It was during that time that I felt an intimacy with God unlike I had ever experienced. I read the Psalms for comfort and spiritual strength. Thoughts of how God had comforted me throughout my life filled me with an overwhelming passion to write a book…a book on the Psalms for children. Was this mental fog clouding my judgment? I had never written a book before. Was I crazy? Write a book from bed?

My writing supplies consisted of pens, legal pads, and every version of the Bible my family could spread out over the covers—my “desk”.  I pulled myself up, leaned against pillows, and wrote my first book from the workspace that God had chosen for me. Alone in that quiet room, I heard that still small voice in my heart urging me to write.

Dear Christian writer, is your writing workspace less than ideal? If it is, do not be discouraged. Is it the kitchen table? A little corner in your dining or living room? Is it your bedroom, or even your bed? No matter. If He has called you to write…you will!

Today, I have my own office. I have a comfortable chair, a good computer, a large window, a nice desk, file cabinets, stuffed bookshelves, and a paper tiger! It’s a blessing to have this office, but I have to say that my first workspace holds the dearest memories…and as I look up at a framed book cover of Psalms for a Child’s Heart on my office wall, I’m reminded why.
Sheryl Crawford

Character Development and One Little Girl

Our Wordsmiths theme for this month has been Strategies for Character Development. The Wordie-Girls have given some wonderful insight and just about covered it all. I asked myself, what’s left for me to say? So, I thought I’d try something different. I’d like to tell you about what great character development meant to one little girl.

I recently asked myself this question—Why, as a young girl, did I love those characters? They were so different from each other and (so I thought) from me.

I’m thinking especially of two characters, Pippi Longstocking, and a Native American girl named Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins.

This is what I loved about Pippi Longstocking:
* She was daring, funny, and confident in the person that she was. Pippi loved her flaming-red braids. Her freckles were her glory. She was adventurous and free-spirited. Adults did not run her life and she did just fine on her own, in a crazy sort of way!  Pippi was whom I wanted to be like at that time in my life. I even drew big, brown freckles on my nose and cheeks with my mother’s eyebrow pencil!  My braids weren’t red but I made them stick out with bobby pins when I pretended to be the magical Pippi—a girl who accepted herself in all her uniqueness and made amazing things happen. I wanted to accept my own uniqueness. Pippi helped.

This is what I loved about Karana:
* She was incredibly courageous in spite of living in fear, and constant danger. Karana suffered horrible loss and yet she rose above it through her intense will to survive. She used her brainpower to be creative, and overcame enormous obstacles without an adult to help her. Karana discovered her own inner strength.  This character amazed me and made me want to be smart and creative. I especially longed to be courageous, even with an occasional bully in elementary school.  Karana helped me.

The authors of these books obviously had great strategies for character development, or little girls who grew up wouldn’t be talking about them today.

As I write my picture book manuscripts and magazine stories, I like to remember what drew me to characters I loved, as well as characters I enjoy in newer books for children.

Wouldn’t it be spectacular to know that a special character YOU created would be remembered and even loved by children for years to come? What if one of your characters helped a timid young reader dare to take steps toward being courageous? What if your character helped a self-conscious little freckle-faced, redheaded girl decide to love her hair and perfectly placed freckles? Silly characters. Serious characters. Everything-in-between characters. Just develop them so your reader  identifies, latches on, and doesn’t want to let go.

Sherri (one little girl)

Sensory Detail for the Very Young

Sensory detail for the very young child can be presented simply in a board book or a magazine.  I had a poem published years ago in BabyBug (for infants and toddlers.)  Green Grass was only 23 words and believe it or not, it took me a while to write!  I had to remember what it felt like to play in the grass! This simple little piece was about a young child (age 2-3) experiencing the joys of sitting, playing with, and rolling in the grass.

Here’s my try at the topic of WATER.  I wonder if this would help a little one “experience” some aspects of water?

WATER:

Drip, drop! Plink, plink!
Water dripping in my sink.

Splish, splash! Splish, splash!
Water sloshing in my bath.

Spraaay! Spraaay! I run and play,
through sprinklers on a sunny day.

Foaming, tickling, waves that reach
my two feet on a sandy beach.

Rap-a-tap-tap! Rap-a-tap-tap!
Water hitting my rain cap.

Sip, sluuuurp, from my cup.
Good, cool water. I drink it up!


I’m working on one about WIND because it’s good practice! Whooooosh has got to be in there somewhere (o;
c 2010  Sheryl Crawford

Tuna Fish and Chocolate—What?

I’m trying something new. I’ve decided to keep a sensory detail journal—a small notebook with lots of blank pages! No stress. Just a fun way to practice sensory detail writing, and a great writing exercise.  For some reason my mind occasionally likes to think in rhyme. That’s how I’ve written my first two entries.

So, the other day I opened a can of tuna. The smell of tuna fish gets to me, but after I mix it together will all the good stuff, I enjoy a tuna sandwich.  I wrote about tuna in my journal.  It’s not profound. How profound can tuna be?

Tuna:
The pungent stench of tuna fish
assaults my sense of smell.
It saturates my sinuses
now stagnant, putrid wells.

Oh, wafting trail of rottenness.
You oily fish-foul-scent.
My kitchen fan escorts you out.
Whoooosh! There you went!

After the tuna incident, I allowed myself  (deservedly so) to linger over a piece of dark chocolate.  I wrote another silly rhyme in my journal. It’s not profound either–but chocolate IS!

Chocolate:
I finger the delicate square with care.
There’s a reverence in the room.
This dark, mysterious morsel
is about to chase away my gloom.

It coats my mouth with happiness,
this slick and velvety gem.
I cannot speak—just umm, umm,
Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
The world is right, again.

Silly, huh? But it was fun!

Try keeping a sensory journal.  You don’t need to write a novel and you certainly don’t need to write in rhyme—I just can’t help it!

Hmm. I’m thinking of writing about chocolate again. Perhaps today. You know what that means (o;

Sheryl

My Cornerstone Writing Scripture

Like many of you reading this blog, I’ve been called to write.

One day the Lord surprised me. He held out an unexpected gift. “For me, Lord?” I had to take it.  It was right there in front of my face. That’s what you do with gifts. You accept them graciously even if you’re not sure you can use them.  When God gave me this gift, it wasn’t my birthday. It wasn’t even Christmas.  It was an ordinary day that turned extraordinary!

When I realized what this gift was, it nearly shocked my fuzzy socks off! “Me? A writer? But, but—HOW? Really, Lord—I don’t think I can use this gift. It‘s just not ‘me’.”

God gives each one of us unique gifts to be used for His glory. They’re chosen by the Creator and I’m pretty sure gift-return receipts aren’t included (0;  Sometimes they come when we least expect them. When they do, God gives us the ABILITY to develop those gifts for His purposes.  Remember Moses?

Someone once said, The Lord doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. It’s our responsibility to develop the skills needed to perfect those wonderful gifts He planned for us before we were born! That takes a work—HARD work.

There’s a cornerstone Scripture from II Timothy that I apply to the  things God has called me to do. He’s called me to be a wife, mother, friend, nurse—and (surprise!) a writer.

II Timothy 2:15 says: “Do your best to present yourselves to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of truth.”

This Scripture is in the forefront of my mind when I write. I want to be a writing-workman who will never give the Lord a reason to regret giving me this gift.

When writing for the Christian market, I want to be certain I don’t stray from the truth of God’s Word. When writing for the secular market, I want to honor God by never compromising and going against my God-given conscience.  II Timothy reminds me of these things as I write.

So, if you’ve just realized that the gift God handed you is to write–put your fuzzy socks back on and get busy! Remember II Timothy 2:15. Be a writing-workman for HIM and honor the blessed gift-giver with your best work.

Sherri

W.R.I.T.E.R.

Each day, I look to, and pray to the One who has completely changed my heart and mind.  Thoughts of my wonderful Lord are with me before I drift off to sleep at night.  When I awake in the morning, thoughts of His presence in my life–come what may— are immediate.   The Lord’s guidance, wisdom, peace, love, and more, lift me up through the never-ending challenges in life—that includes the challenges I face as a writer. How about you?

Here’s a Scripture acrostic that I hope will encourage you, my writing friends:

W. R. I. T. E. R.

W –  Wait. We certainly know about waiting, don’t we? No explanation needed, right?

Wait on the Lord be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait I say, on the Lord.”
Psalm 27:14 NKJV

R Requests. Pray about every writing endeavor, every manuscript, every writing decision—and don’t forget to pray for your writing friends!

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18 NIV

I – I will.  He WILL guide you in every way through the twists and turns of your writing journey.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8 NIV

TThanksgiving.  Thank God for all that He’s blessed you with as a writer. How about thanking Him for giving you the GIFT of writing?  He didn’t give it to everyone but He chose to give it to YOU. Put on a favorite Christian CD and sing thanks to Him with your voice of praise.

Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.” Psalm 95:2 NIV

EEncourage.  We all need encouragement from others who understand this writing life. I know I certainly need to be picked up off the ground now and then.  My Wordsmith sisters get an A+ in encouraging! Don’t forget to be an encourager whenever possible.

Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

RReap.  This is a PROMISE. Don’t give up!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galations 6:9 NIV

I pray you’ll have a great  W.R.I.T.E.R  day, as you contemplate these awesome Scriptures!

Sherri