Inspirational thoughts and random writings from the alumni and friends of Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

20/20 Sunlight/Son-Light

The source is always the same, in degree, in size and in power, yet the effect on earth can be vastly different. 

Moments ago, the buds on the bush by my window glowed spring green, translucent as first light of the day shown through them.

Now their color deepens as the light moves from behind them to above.

The source of the light remains the same, but as the earth rotates, its effect on objects below is different.

Yesterday’s cloudless sky reflected my face clearly in the windowpane.  Today, there is just a thin misty vapor; no face, no reflection, no glowing leaves, only a grey fog drifting, and obscuring the unchanged light of the sun.

I consider and thank the Lord  for reminding me that though at times the twists and turns of life may cloud or blur my vision, His Son-Light is as certain, as strong and powerful, and even more unchanging than the sun.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?

By Lisa Lickel

That biography—scares a lot of us new writers. Yet it's a vital part of your craft. Think about it: you fiction writers create characters all the time, but when it comes to using words to describe you panic. "I'm boring," I heard at a class I recently taught. "What if I don't have any publishing credits?" "Why does anyone care if I have any interesting hobbies?"

Let's visit the situation.
I'm a mystery lover and just dying to feed my passion this weekend. At the book store and I have $12.73 with me. Read the back of the potential book cover with me:
In one hand I have Bats In the Belfry, a cozy by Saint Gail; it's new to me, but book 2 in the Manse Murder Mysteries. Saint Gail was the daughter of a pastor, is married to one, and the mother of another. She has a master's degree in Momhood and likes to race stock cars on the weekend. Visit her website for More Momhood Racecar stories and sign up for her newsletter which is full of tips on how to murder someone without leaving a clue.
In the other hand I have Everybody Hated Roger, a cozy by Cec the Curmudgeon. I've never heard of him either, but I like the cover and it's the right length book and price. Cec the Curmudgeon is a stay-at-home househusband who only drives his Rabbit hatchback to church on Sundays. He pecks out his stories on his Royal Underwood by day and dreams up stories in Technicolor by night. He plans on getting e-mail someday so he can interact with his fans.

Um—not really a choice there for me. Saint Gail is going to have the more interesting story because she lives an interesting life. But the only thing she didn't have control over was being born a pastor's daughter. We all start somewhere, usually at ground zero. Putting yourself out there for the public is scary—there's just no getting around that, but authordom is show business, folks!  "I'm nobody - a PTA, mini-van driving soccer mom." Yeah, so? Bet you got a zillion stories of back seat and sideline humor. Pick a couple and focus on your momhood qualities. "There's no way my life is interesting. I drive semi-loads of shopping carts from one side of the country to another." (Quick hit: how many shopping carts to a semi-load? 500. Ask me how I know.) Well, golly-gee – there's another zillion stories about angels on your shoulder, traffic tales, dictating your books on tape. Pick something: "Semi driver Royal Underwood got his writing career off to a start while driving cross country, listening to stories of fellow travelers in untold diners, watching other long-haul goodbuddies deal with the loneliness on the road and meeting his future wife at a monster truck rally in Omaha." Now, that's interesting.

Anybody can be interesting. One of my favorite authors writes about his life in rural Wisconsin. How boring can a short bald guy who married late, lives on a run-down farm and is not-mechanically inclined, be? Here's the beginning of his bio: Raised on a small dairy farm, Perry equates his writing career to cleaning calf pens – just keep shoveling, and eventually you’ve got a pile so big, someone will notice. Perry further prepared for the writing life by reading every Louis L’Amour cowboy book he could get his hands on – most of them twice.
Yep – it's Michael Perry, author of several books; the first one was his take on moving back home and being an EMT.

Maybe you can't do better, but you can be just as good.
Me? Why, Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her novels include mystery and romance, all with a twist of grace. She has penned dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, magazine articles and radio theater. She is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin Magazine and loves to encourage new authors. Find her at

I didn't start out this way – took me a while to get there, and I'm still growing.
How about you?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How I Know I'm a Writer

By Shelly Akins
How do I know I’m a writer?  

I’m know I’m a writer because the words flow from my fingers onto the blank screen filling up the white spaces.  On those days, my message is clear, my descriptions brilliant, my characters do just what I tell them to. 
I’m know a writer because I sit down and do it even when the words don’t come easy, or I’m tired, or I feel like what I have to say isn’t worth anything, or when my characters act like the rebellious teenagers they are and refuse to follow my directions.  

I’m know a writer because I enjoy reading and learning from other’s writing both published authors and my critique group friends.  
I’m know I’m a writer because other people ask me about writing and take my opinions and advice seriously.  
I know I’m a writer because I have a story in my heart and I want to tell it to the world.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Location, Location, Adaptation

By Kristi Paxton

As our two kids got older, we became smarter, and then thrilled when they asked us for advice on choosing first apartments—one in New York City, the other in Denver, Colorado.

At age 57, I couldn’t help but obsess about their choices, wanting to impart upon them my hard-earned real estate wisdom: location, location, location.
 In the end, each chose a place that was more value than location.
Frantic about this, I lost sleep over their picks until I woke up to one important fact: we all have a right to learn from our experiences.

Our own first love nest was an ancient rented farmhouse, our backyard literally a stinking cattle feedlot, our entry decorated with three fly-covered pest strips fluttering like windsocks above the door.

We were in  Heaven

In a let-go-and-let-God moment, I notice a wren singing joyously atop a rotting birdhouse hung from the soffit above our deck—the kids will be fine.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Life Marriage Weekend

by Brenda Lysak

I am in my third marriage that has less potential then the previous ones. How do I handle the pressures of running a business out of my home while simultaneously teaching and directing a Preschool? Do I turn to vigorous self help, via counseling, books? Fake it until I make it? Is it even reasonable to expect success in any of the above?

Awhile back I submitted the story of how I was miraculously born again by reading and rereading Romans chapters 1 through 6.  When I first became aware of the reality of my marriage, no potential for good, and plenty for evil, the thought of going through yet another unforgiveable divorce, paralyzed me with fear. I sunk into the depths of despair.

After I got tired of being in the pits I turned to the scriptures again. After all 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says;  The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is God’s way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone.  I had already experienced miraculous faith to believe on God and be saved; wouldn’t his salvation include other levels, such as my marriage? So back into the word I went. I read huge portions every day. Soon I was out of the pits. I felt God speaking in my heart that everything was going to be alright if I would trust Him.

Over the next four or five years I vacillated between hope and despair, to the degree I was in or out of the Word. As the years rolled on I became aware of my husband’s downward spiral.  Through a friend I realized my role of enabling the situation. I was still here so he was comfortable, no need to seek God as he had when we met. I believe it was a direct answer to the cries of my heart when I stumbled onto Andrew Wommack’s ministry. He preaches a radical gospel. Because of the time I had spent in the Word it made sense to me. It suddenly made sense to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. I knew I needed God’s power to even be a light to others let alone to my husband. I was just too human, so frail I worried there was no difference between me and unbelievers except perhaps that they were happier then I! 

I vacillated through the years desperately wanting out of this marriage.  But what I really wanted was to experience God. I wanted to see firsthand his power in this impossible situation. I knew all too well the flatness of escape and all the host of other problems.

I began downloading and listening to various message series from Andrew Wommack’s web site.  While listening to the Authority of the Believer I was moved to move. I emailed a letter to my husband stating what I would need from him if he wished me to remain in the same house. I let him know that I was not going to be a part of this decent into evil anymore.  I emailed him because he would not let me finish a sentence or thought in person. He refused to hear anything I had to say.

His response was to look after details of separation immediately.  He stated that we may as well make everything legal and I agreed. The following Sunday I fell off the wagon of “I am not going to be depressed or full of fear for one moment. I am going to dream about my house, garden and the loveliness of living without all the negatives associated with my husband.”  But three days later I fell apart. My tears may have started with grieving but quickly turned into panic, fear, and self pity. About 10AM I received a call from Denis inviting me to lunch. That sounded nice, maybe there was hope yet. By noon my eyes were so purple that I certainly wasn’t going public with them. Denis called to warn me that he would be late. I informed him that I couldn’t go. He could tell I was crying. Usually he seemed strangely content with me in the land of despondency. I decided that he wasn’t worth tears and hadn’t fallen apart over him in months, maybe years. His response this time was a complete surprise.

He came home and announced that he would go to a New Life Weekend with me.  That was one of two choices for counseling that I had listed in my email.  I continued through the remainder of the day feeling very low even as I was handed a credit card to reserve hotel, tickets, and airfare. As the dollars began adding up for the weekend, I saw my husband mourn the loss of money. I stopped and said “if you are doing this to placate me so I have nothing to say about anything, you are wasting your money!” I had already reserved tickets for the conference. There was silence for awhile and finally he said, “go ahead and finish.”

The next morning I woke up feeling optimistic again. Suddenly I realized what an attack from Satan all my sadness on Sunday had been.  I realized how important it is to resist the evil one. This was a huge step towards overcoming another slippery slide into depression.  There are many roads to depression. I have mourned and mourned the loss of my marriage on a dozen different angles, I do not need to go there one more time in Jesus Name.

Well, Thursday found us enroute to Washington DC for Steve’s first, all Marriage conference weekend. I kept thinking how Denis had no idea what he was getting himself into. He was avoidant of any and all wisdom and locked away inside at the age of 60 since 14. He misunderstood his family sending him away to a better school. There was a language barrier at school which he interpreted as rejection and vowed never to let anyone hurt him again. He was incapable of empathy or compassion and very defensive. He could not sooth himself with people, instead escaped with work, and sports, on and off TV.  However, neither could I.

A few of my friends and relatives informed me they would pray for us. I asked for specific prayers that Denis would not feel uncomfortable at the conference for a minute and come home out of that stuck place where he was locked away.  Both of those impossible prayers were answered before the weekend was over.

When it comes to describing the quality of that weekend, words escape me. The level of wisdom, the way we were helped to discover it, the power of group therapy and the hope and comfort of eight weeks of follow up.  Experiencing it myself and observing Denis was a study in contrasts. I had been to a weekend before and therefore was accustomed to the format. I have also had some counseling throughout my life that I would say 99% has been God ordained. I love getting wisdom so the wisdom dispensed this weekend had a foundation to land on. Not so for Denis, everything was new. Usually he would feel drained and hate learning so much so fast. That was not the case here. For one thing there wasn’t this huge drop of knowledge. Instead, the root problem was discovered and then solutions were modeled. Immediately after, we discussed and practiced in group therapy.

Before the weekend was over I sensed a happiness and peace of mind in my husband for the first time since meeting him. I was still slowly thawing out and wondering how long this would last. In spite of my coolness he remained and remains in this place of peace and perhaps even joy.

This is the power that I crave. This can only be of God. If our marriage ever looks like a marriage, that will be a miracle because we have zero potential. (It appeared to me from group therapy that potential has nothing to do with marital success.) I am excited to be a part of Denis coming out of his locked away place. I feel God’s powerful love towards me, another miracle.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


By Sharon Wilhite

Buzzzzzzz...Like the industrious bees buzzing around summer's blooms,
I buzz busily from duties to deadlines to summer activities, etc. etc.

Bees have instinctive rest times,
while I have to choose to slow down, to be calm and not habitually frenetic.

God reminds me that to"BE" spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:6)

He tells me to "BE" still and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10)

To not "BE" weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9) I have to draw close to God and renew my strength daily from Him and His word. 

Let this be our best summer ever.
Busily "BEE-ING" Christlike...
quietly "BEE-COMING" Christlike.

(good website for slowing down and contemplating:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Facebook is a Vicious Circle--A Seven Sentence Example

By Charis Seeley

On Facebook, Mary did her laundry, Johnny is ‘Getting Ready 4 A Seriously Sick Night!’ and David posted a link about the new season of Survivor.

This reminds me that I’m too busy to watch the premier live, so I grab the remote and DVR all new episodes.

At my convenience, I watch the first few episodes, laugh at Russell and wonder if Phillip Shepherd is really so self-unaware.

I Google him on my smart phone, but while surfing CBS’ page, I accidentally touch an ad for

JustFab loads and this website’s shoes are so fabulous I join and buy a pair of heels on the spot.

The shoes are amazing, and JustFab offers rewards points that turn into store credit when members they make a purchase or refer a friend.

So I post the link on Facebook.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Like Baby Bear

By Robin J. Steinweg

On Poppy Day Tom and I grocery shopped. We passed a Viet Nam vet in the entryway, poppies and an ice cream bucket with a slot cut in the lid on a card table. He was busy talking to some folks, so our poppy would have to wait.

On our way out, I shifted my grocery bags to dig in my purse for a donation. Tom took most of the food out to the car. The vet paused his talk with a lady to thank me, and I met his eyes as I responded, “Thank you.” As I did, the woman made an odd sound and nearly ran off. That was the last time I’m aware of that the vet stopped to breathe.

Our family has high esteem for war vets. Tom’s dad was wounded when in the Philippines and again on Okanawa, and my folks lost a couple of brothers-in-law to Hitler’s forces. I gave this man my respectful attention as he told of being stationed in Iceland (Greenland?), where the temperature was minus seventy-five degrees on a good day. He continued with a description of the vehicles that broke down and named all the mechanical parts it took to fix them.

I spotted Tom out in the car. The vet mapped out the terrain for a fifty mile circumference. Ten minutes and several SOS prayers it took before Tom got out of the car. I waved at him. He was coming to rescue me! I heard the automatic doors open behind me. The vet’s voice droned on. I turned to greet my hero, and he walked right past me to the community bulletin board. I sighed and nodded as the vet didn’t miss a beat. It took Tom five minutes to read every poster and ad. He came back toward me and this time I was ready for him. As he passed behind me I grabbed a fistful of jacket and refused to let go. He murmured, “We have frozen food, you know.” I whispered, “Help me,” but he didn’t hear me as the vet imitated an explosion. Tom took a step backward and my hand tightened its grip on his jacket. Something about an ice cave so dark it made your eyeballs ache. We both backed up a step, then two. Other people came and went. “An ordinary flashlight—Harriet, want to buy a poppy?—(Harriet flew out the door, calling, “Not today…”)—“Oh, tomorrow then, does she think I’m here every day, do you know what kind of flashlight we had to use?” Tom and I reached the door, which stood open because of the sensors. The recitation continued. My fingers had gone numb from clutching Tom’s jacket. I raised my voice, “We have frozen food melting.” No acknowledgment. We backed through the doors. Tom attempted, “Thank you, we need to go now.” We were several feet beyond the door now. “…the cavern was featured in a magazine…” “Thank you for serving our country,” I said, but he never hesitated. He was kind enough to speak louder so we could hear him right up until we started the engine.

Later I wondered how he could talk like that without stopping for breath. Maybe he’d learned circular breathing from trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. But more than that, how could someone be so completely insensitive to others as to talk them half to death? Then I recalled a neighbor lady from my childhood, and realized there is an opposite form of torture.

I was a young teen when I answered her phone call. Mom had told me to man the phone, as she’d been interrupted too many times that day. When I told her who it was, she shook her head rather wildly, whispered, “Tell her I went for a walk,” and abandoned me for the first and only time in my life. I picked up the phone and said, “I’m sorry, she was just going out the door.” Mrs. Schweigen said—nothing! I waited. Dead air. I looked at the phone and tapped it. “Are you there?” “Mm-hm.” Silence. “Um, I could have Mom call you back later, Ok?” “Mm-hm.” The quiet unnerved me. What should I do? I watched the kitchen clock. One minute. Two minutes. I’d been trained to respect my elders too thoroughly to hang up on her. I cast about desperately for another question to ask. I prayed Mom would return and rescue me from this deadly silence. I vaguely remember finally saying, “I’m sorry. I have to hang up now, I’m not allowed to stay on the phone this long. I’m so sorry, I’m hanging up now. Sorry. ’Bye.”

These incidents remind me of Goldilocks (except I could never be so rude as to walk into a stranger’s house uninvited!). Anyway, she found Papa Bear’s stuff too big, too hard, too hot, just too Too. Like the Viet Nam vet. Too many words. Mama Bear’s stuff was also too much—too big, too soft, too cold, too Too. Like Mrs. Schweigen’s too-few words. But Baby Bear’s things were just right.

That’s what I hope and pray my conversation will be. Not too much, not too little. Seasoned with the most satisfying amount of salt, the perfect mix of speaking, listening, sensitivity, caring for others. I want to be like Baby Bear! Just right.