Recite or Relate

by Carol Hamilton

Have you ever been to a piano recital and noticed the student who has all the technique mastered? Her fingers arched, back straight, she strokes each key with precision and doesn’t miss a note, yet she’s not feeling the music and neither does the audience. She plays the score without emotion.

Next a child pounces on the piano. She whirls through a simple song, missing a note here and there, but completely captivating the crowd. She feels the music in every cell. The tune reverberates from her soul. At times she’s lost in the melody and seems to forget anyone else exists. Rather than merely playing the notes on the page, she lives the music, allowing the audience to experience it with her.

My niece, Elle, as a nine-year-old actress, played the lead in a local dance production. In the previous two years she performed in several plays. Her poise and confidence improve with each one. She delivers her lines calmly, clearly, and with conviction.

Also in the show, another niece, twelve-year-old Haley Smith, danced in four numbers. Many of the girls on the stage got all the steps right. They moved to the correct spot at the appointed time, but most of them went through the motions, probably counting in their minds, some mouthing the numbers. But Haley danced. She flowed with grace and had me in tears. As she danced I felt lifted, ethereal, and encouraged.

Since Haley learned to toddle she’s been bouncing to music. My parents like to tell of her ability as a grade school student to switch the cable music station to a wide variety of genres. After listening for a few seconds, she would make up a dance to go with the music. She has a natural gift, but she enhances it with hours of heartfelt practice. Watching her on the stage in this performance, I could see how she took the choreographed steps and turned them into soul-felt dances. Because she put herself into the rhythm, with a genuine grin, my spirit buoyed and rose and I became a part of the music myself.

As speakers we have the same gamut of levels. Some speakers practice words and present them. Their facts often fall flat because they recite rather than relate. Graphs and research can be interesting, but how much more gripping if something personal is interspersed with the presentation. What has the speaker learned that will help the audience? What pertinent story can be woven into the details? When we include a piece of ourselves, spoken from the heart, with the intent of helping others, we can bring the audience into the speech, get them to feel the emotion, and bring them along with inspiration. When we share with depth something we believe, we move from reciting words to meaningful, memorable speaking, and the audience relates.

Carol Moesta Hamilton is from Western Pennsylvania. Her passion and delight is to speak and write to uplift women and teens reminding them of their strength in Jesus. For the past four years, she presented Bucketfillers for Life, Inc.  anti-bullying programs in schools, encouraging students and adults to choose to be kind. She also enjoys teaching writing workshops.

She is associated with National Speakers Association, Toastmasters International, St. Davids Christian Writers Association, American Christian Fiction Writers, Mission to the World Disaster Response Ministry and others.

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Waiting for Inspiration

by Joanne Brokaw

“Writing lies in the vast space between those two poles of brilliance and desolation, in a space called work.”


An acquaintance, we’ll call him Joe, recently told me he’s a writer. “I have several books in the works,” he said. When I asked if he was close to finishing any, he replied with a chuckle, “Not yet. I’m still waiting to be inspired. You know how it is.”

I do. In fact, there probably isn’t a writer out there who hasn’t waited for the writing gods to rain down inspiration so he could finish a project.

This was on my mind as I sat down to write this guest blog post, partly because it was close to the deadline and I hadn’t yet come up with a topic. I’ve been really distracted by writing projects, travel, and the fact that I just found Dr. Who on Netflix. I wasn’t feeling inspired.

No, wait. That’s a lie. I was being lazy.

When Joe talked about being inspired, I shared with him something I’ve learned over the years: “If you’re a writer, you write. Even when you don’t feel inspired.”

A lot of writers find themselves waffling between two ends of the writing spectrum. One end assures you that anything worth writing must pour from the pen as if God himself was etching another ten commandments. Yes, you tell yourself, you are the most amazing writer in the entire universe. Life as we know it will change for eternity because of the sentence you just wrote.

The other end of the spectrum insists that, without divine inspiration, anything you commit to paper or computer screen is drivel, trash, a crime more heinous than murder. And so you do a million other things while you wait for your muse to strike, because without it you are nothing. Lower than nothing. You are, in fact, not a writer. Go get a real job.

At the risk of bursting the bubble of creative self pity, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Writing lies in the vast space between those two poles of brilliance and desolation, in a space called work.

Painters paint and teachers teach and policeman police and truck drivers drive trucks. And writers? They write. They do it when they don’t feel like writing. They do it when everyone else is out having fun. They do it when their brains aren’t churning out a single good idea and a deadline is looming.

Yes, sometimes we need to take a break from a project, to get some clarity, stretch our legs or do more research. But if you’re waiting around for the time when you feel inspired to write, you’ll never finish anything.

Writer, inspire thyself. It’s pretty simple: Park your butt in a chair, put your fingers on the keyboard, and start writing.

Write anything. Copy a page from your favorite novel. Set a timer for 10 minutes and just start writing about what you did yesterday, putting anything on the page until the buzzer goes off. Write an email to yourself about why you don’t feel like writing.

I guarantee one of those things will spark an idea, which will make you want to write some more, which will make you feel … dare I say it? … inspired.


Joanne BrokawAward-winning humor columnist, blogger, and freelance writer Joanne Brokaw spends her days dreaming of things she’d like to do but probably never will—like swimming with dolphins, cleaning the attic, and someday overcoming the trauma of elementary school picture day. She’s been published in dozens of publications, including Refreshed magazine,, Fido Friendly Magazine’s blog, and Focus on the Family’s Breakaway magazine. Her book, What the Dog Said, a collection of humor columns, is currently available from Wordcrafts Press. She lives in Western New York with two dogs, a cat, six chickens, and one very patient husband.

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Mark your calendar for June 22-26, 2016

Did you enjoy this year’s conference? (New features included modern, air-conditioned, handicap-accessible housing, the daily “St. Davids Live” show, new Saturday self-contained track, etc.) Mark your calendar for June 22-26, 2016! And bring your writer friends for another educational, encouraging and entertaining conference.

Here are a few of the amazing agents, editors and speakers we have already booked for 2016:

Linda Glaz: Hartline Literary Agency
Wendy Lawton: Books & Such Literary Management
Amanda Leudke: MacGregor Literary Agency

Dawn Anderson: Kregel Publishers
Cheri Cowell: EA Books
Bonnie Rose Hudson: School House Publishers
Rebecca Irwin-Diehl: Judson Press
Jeff McDonald: Salvation Army’s War Cry
James Watkins: ACW Press and Wesleyan Publishing House
Terry White: BMH Publishing

Janyce Brawn: author
Roberta Brosius: author, speaker, puppeteer
Laura Christianson: Internet expert
Eva Marie Everson: author, president of Word Weavers
Bob Hostetler: author, speaker
Carol Hamilton: speaker trainer
Zena Dell Lowe: screenwriter, actress
Amy Mable: president of St. Davids Writers’ Association, news anchor
Anne Waterman Murphy: author
Rick Nowlin: newspaper columnist, jazz artist
Gayle Roper: author
Lora Zill: poet
(Stay tuned as more faculty members are added.)

And back in 2016, the continuing poetry track as well as many new features and old favorites.

Thanks to everyone who made 2015 one of the best conferences yet! We’re looking forward to an even better conference next year with more wonderful writers in attendance.

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From closing session . . .

Thanks to Marcia Gunnett Woodard for her prayer at the closing session:

      Prayer of Gratitude and Consecration

      Father of Lights,
      Giver of all good gifts,
      I thank You for the gifts You’ve given me.
      The unique blend
      Of talents and abilities,
      Interests and passions,
      That combined, make me
      My own unique self.

      Sometimes, Lord,
      I have mixed feelings
      About the role You’ve given me—
      One moment overjoyed
      At the challenge before me,
      The next, petrified,
      Certain that I will never accomplish
      My mission.

      Help me always to remember
      That just as the mission came from You,
      So, too, will come
      The grace,
      The strength,
      The ability,
      To run the course,
      The race You have set for me.

      Help me to recall
      That in success or failure,
      Fame or obscurity,
      Praise or criticism,
      It is not my aim to please those around me,
      But to glorify You.

      And to this purpose
      I will exercise all the abilities I have,
      With all the strength I have,
      For all the days I have—
      Walking through each door You open,
      Until the moment You open the door
      That leads
      Into Your presence
      And I hear You say,
      “Well done.”

And you can read or listen to Keeping Your Dreams Alive.

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Top ten lists from ‘St. Davids Live’


“St. Davids Live,” hosted by Lissa Halls Johnson and Bob Hostetler and produced by Jim Watkins, featured ten top lists provided by the “studio audience.”

Top Ten Signs You May Be a Writer

10. In high school, you were the kid who actually enjoyed writing term papers

9. Your favorite places to shop are discount book stores and office supply outlets

8. You’ve ever gotten so busy writing you forgot to pick up the kids at school

7. You’re standing in line at midnight for the latest Webster’s New World College Dictionary

6. You’ve ever been caught at the library sniffing books

5. You’ve maxed out your credit card to attend this conference

4. Your bumper sticker reads, “I’d rather be writing”

3. You proofread letters and emails from friends

2. You send them back with corrections

1. You cannot not write!

Top Ten Signs You Write Speculative Fiction

10. The door to your pantry is a portal to another world

9. You can’t go anywhere without your pet dragon

8. Your kids are named Luke, Leia and Han

7. Whenever you go out, you wear your hooded cloak

6. You miss your turnpike exit because you’re imagining a world without roads

5. You have created a potion to banish writer’s block

4. You can you turn back time to get better television programs

3. Some of your Facebook friends live in other galaxies

2. You are two-timing your boyfriend with his clone

1. You start all your conversations with “What if . . .”

Top Ten Worst Book Titles

10. Humble and Proud of It

9. Hair Care by Donald Trump, foreword by Kim Jong-un

8. Cooking with Pooh

7. The Bob Hostetler Workout Manual

6. The Good, the Bad, the Snuggly

5. All the Places You’ll Scratch and Sniff

4. Everything I Know About Women I Learned from My Tractor

3. Larry the Leper Needs a Hand

2. Left Behind in the Purpose-Driven Shack

1. Ventriloquism for Dummies

Top Ten Signs You’re a Romance Author

10. The plumber, pool man and paper boy are all potential protagonists

9. You deduct as business expenses candles, wine, and Victoria’s Secret purchases

8. You move in slow motion to the music in your head whenever you meet an attractive man.

7. Your wardrobe consists of long skirts and laced up blouses

6. You cry at Hallmark commercials

5. Your children are named Scarlet, Catherine, Jane, Heathcliff and Darcy.

4. You have a life-size cut-out of Fabio

3. Your favorite book in the Bible is Song of Solomon

2. You are on your sixth marriage

1. Your trembling fingertips nervously, tentatively touch with anticipation your keyboard

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God has something great planned

I am so excited about the 2015 St. Davids Christian Writers Conference which begins with registration Wednesday afternoon.

The board has been praying and fasting for the faculty and conferees for a year now.

• For faculty members as their prepare keynote talks and seminars.

• For safe travel for board (traveling Tuesday), faculty and conferees.

• For every keynote and seminar that conferees will learn how to communicate God’s Word with their words.

• And most of all, for lives to be changed whether writers or those who read their words.

God has something great planned! So as you come by car, plane, train or other mode, use your travel time to pray that God’s Spirit is upon everything from the time we leave our homes until we arrive back home.

Helpful links
Google map to Grove City
Campus map
Printer-friendly schedule

See you soon!
Jim Watkins
Director of programming

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The importance of brand, platform, social network

When I originally started reviewing manuscripts for Wesleyan Publishing House, I skipped the proposal and went straight to the sample chapter. I was most interested in good writing.

Now that I’m associate acquisitions editor, I go straight to the section in the proposal titled “Platform.” If you don’t have a well-trafficked website or blog, if you’re not out regularly speaking, if you don’t have a thousand or more “friends” on Facebook, I have to reject it.

As a editor, who is first and foremost a writer, I absolutely hate that. But I do understand that, with the current economic climate, your “brand,” “platform” and “social network” are also absolutely essential for your book to sell.

That’s why St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference is devoting an hour each afternoon for a panel of experts to answer your questions about these three essential elements of your writing career. You can do this and we’ll show you how.

It’s just one of the many ways that I believe that St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference is one of the most unique, cutting edge conferences in the United States. So, join us Wednesday June 24 through Sunday June 28. And if you can’t attend the entire conference, we have a one-day session Saturday, June 27, that will take you from concept to contract.

I can’t wait! I hope to see you there! Register today.

Jim Watkins
Program director

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Pray, promote, prepare

Harry Bohrs sent this prayer list to fellow board members:

      In ten short weeks St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference will embark on a new chapter a new venture, a new approach. The time for hoping for success must now be put into prayer for success. This week pray:

      • Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the Lord’s leadership and guidance.
      • Lift up the leaders who have, and continue, to work hard: Amy Mable and Jim Watkins.
      • Pray for the board members, that is pray for each other, as we take to our assigned duties and tasks.
      • Pray that God will sustain each and everyone who works, attends, or serves the conference.

Thanks, Harry! And thanks to each of you. Promote the conference by inviting your friends in person and on your social networks. Pray that God will use the conference for his glory. And prepare for God to use the conference to equip you to effectively and creatively share the good news!

I can’t wait!

Jim Watkins
Program director

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By Crystal Hayduk

Perusing the variety of notebooks and journals on display in the office supplies section of the drugstore, I wondered which type of blank paper would best meet my daughter Jessica’s needs.

Jessica had taken her three-week-old daughter to the emergency room in the pre-dawn hours of the morning. As the baby’s condition deteriorated and Gracie was hospitalized, we prayed for her healing and hoped for the best.

Anticipating that Jessica would want fresh clothing or toiletries, before leaving the hospital for the evening I asked, “What can I bring you when I come tomorrow?”

With unwashed hair and no make-up, wearing the same black yoga pants and T-shirt that she had thrown on 18 hours earlier, and holding her crying baby in her arms, she glanced around the room, then leaned her head onto the back of the chair and looked up at me. “I’d really like paper and a pen,” she said with a sigh.

I completely understood her request. As a concerned mother, she needed emotional relief more than she needed physical comforts. Jessica intended to use journaling to remember the facts, as well as to process the difficult experience and eventually make sense of it.

Whether she consciously chose to write because she had learned it from watching me write about tough times during her 23 years, or because she inherently gravitates to writing as one who loves words, the bottom line is that writing is therapeutic. I learned firsthand that journaling has benefits, eventually finding peace and healing after writing about my most challenging life experiences. My journals doubled as my confidante through the angst of youth, a divorce at the age of 28, the death of my parents, miscarriages, and other hurtful or traumatic events.

According to Maud Purcell, a licensed clinical social worker, writing utilizes the left brain, which allows the right brain to simultaneously create and feel. “Writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you.”

The following are the journaling steps that I’ve found most helpful:

  1. Write. Even if for only a few minutes a day, let your thoughts flow freely. Avoid censorship and editing. Get what’s in your mind out through your fingers. Before you know it, you will fill blank books. If you prefer, create documents on your computer instead of writing with pen and paper. Just write.
  2. Keep. At least for a while, keep what you’ve written. It’s valuable to be able to return to those thoughts – sometimes a short time after writing them, sometimes a long while later. Perhaps at some point, you’ll burn or delete what you’ve written, but reading the words again will allow you to begin to examine your past perceptions based on new information. Maybe you will see the answer to prayer and your faith will be increased.
  3. Wait. Depending upon the situation, it might be most helpful to have a lengthy period of time elapse before trying to make sense of the words and thoughts. Looking back in a month, or a year or more, will help you to assess emotional and spiritual growth. Allowing enough time for some healing to occur will minimize the chance that reading the words will be like ripping a bandage off a fresh wound.
  4. Rewrite. Now revisit the situation and write again with new thoughts and knowledge. Rewriting helps us to continue to process events and the ways we’ve changed. It’s similar to revising and editing to make a story better, except that, when journaling, the facts of the story don’t change—even though you do.
  5. Pray. Ask God to show you if sharing your personal experience will help others. Is this a story that will exemplify a spiritual truth to readers in a memorable way? Could this become a memoir, creative nonfiction, devotional, or inspirational story?

Singer and songwriter Judy Collins said, “I write journals and would recommend journal writing to anyone who wishes to pursue a writing career. You learn a lot. You also remember a lot… and memory is important.”


Crystal Hayduk currently teaches nursing part-time at a public university. During nearly thirty years in obstetrics and public health, she has assisted many families through difficult situations.
Also a freelance writer, she has been published in local news sources and devotionals. Her real-life love story was published in the anthology “Falling in Love with You” (Oaktara Publishers).
Crystal lives with her family in Southeast Michigan, where she enjoys reading and music.

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Creating A Leading Character

By Patricia L. Stebelton

“You don’t like my heroine? Why not?”

I was stunned and more than a little insulted when one of my ‘readers’ (invaluable people who read and edit stories before they are submitted) told me this. After I’d spent months of writing my latest novel, she told me that readers would find it hard to relate to my leading lady—they wouldn’t feel any empathy for her difficulties or desires. Basically, this ‘reader’ found herself not caring if my heroine succeeded in the story or didn’t. She didn’t like her! Big sigh . . . I had to give my leading woman a ‘makeover’ from the inside out!


Julie glided across the crowded fairgrounds, her heart pounding so hard she couldn’t hear her own thoughts. It was the day the stunning brunette had prayed about for two years. Dan had called. The only man she’d ever wanted was waiting for her at the grandstands with a planned surprise. It could mean only one thing—a ring on her finger. Her face was flushed with anticipation. Julie knew she was breaking her promise to help her sister at the Kiwanis booth, but Angie would find someone else. She’d get over it—she always did. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Julie.

Dan turned; he’d seen her coming. She flashed him her biggest smile and ignored Janie’s wave from the bake sale tent. Julie could never let Dan know that Janie was her friend. His family was well-to-do and affluent. If she became his wife, she’d have to find new friends. Slowing her steps, Julie frowned. Dan had brought his dog with him again. She hated pet hair on her clothing. That animal would be the first thing she’d eliminate when they were married, but for now she’d pretend that she liked the beast. Running her tongue over her full lips, she fluffed her hair and hastened to Dan’s arms . . . and her perfect life. (music fade out)
Would you vote for Julie as a role model or even rush to make her your closest friend . . .? Maybe if Julie had stopped to speak with her sister at the Kiwanis booth or felt some remorse that she was ‘brushing her off’ . . . Perhaps Julie could have a moment of regret about her friend, Janie—struggling with keeping her old friends while shedding her former poverty and desperately wanting to fit in with her prospective husband’s affluent group . . . Then you, the reader, could struggle with her. Julie needs one redeeming quality! Maybe she could keep Dan’s dog and allow him to sleep in the hallway . . . ?

Many leading characters in movies and books these days are known for their flawed traits, but we have to give our readers hope for change—a reason to root for this character when life seemingly turns against them.

Although God can do surprising things in peoples’ lives, readers look for a way to relate to the main character in a story. When I recall Jonah of the Old Testament, I always smile. The Ninevites had acted so rotten that Jonah didn’t want to give them an opportunity to repent! He knew God would forgive them, and Jonah didn’t think they deserved it. That may not have been the right attitude, but unfortunately it’s human nature more often than not . . . Show a little tenderness and loyalty in your hero or leading lady—give readers hope for improvement in their future. Our leading characters have to have more going for them than strong shoulders or a pretty face . . . give them heart and a soul!

Patricia L. Stebelton: author of six Romantic Suspense Mysteries through Oaktara Publishing/

Short stories in compiled books “Whispering in God’s Ear”, “Angeles, Miracles & Heavenly Encounters 1”, and “Falling in Love With You” as well as stories in Guidepost Book stories and a devotional in “Love is A Verb”, Gary Chapman & James Stuart Bell.   Patricia and her husband live in a picturesque town in the heart of Michigan. Patricia enjoys family activities, her writing and commissioned art projects.


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