Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Chat with Author Diane Stortz (A CAN Blog)

Greetings, everyone, from Kevin Thompson! We’re in full summer mode in Florida. Wake up. Already hot. Muggy all day. Afternoon thunderstorms. Go to bed. Wake up. Rinse and Repeat. So, I’m inside where the A/C is cool, the air is dry, and the Lay-Z-boy is comfy. It’s here that we welcome children’s book author, Diane Stortz!
Diane Stortz

Welcome, Diane! Tell us about your book, I AM: The Names of God for Toddlers.
Bible stories, verses, and prayers help toddlers and preschoolers get to know God by discovering the meaning of twelve different names for God, such as Creator, Savior, Healer, Teacher, and Friend. It’s an 8×8-inch board book with a padded cover.

Want to read the rest of the interview?

Click HERE!

Friday, June 22, 2018

An Author’s Forum on the Four-Letter Word We Have All Grown to…eh, Love? Marketing! (A Seriously Write Blog)

Return on Investment. It’s called R-O-I in the business world. Well, actually, it’s called that everywhere these days. I’m an educator by day, and we use it. It speaks of whether or not what you spend your money on has the old “bang for the buck.” The same can be said of time we spend. And as I get older, the former is just as critical as the latter!

So, as a writer, what are your ROIs? Think of what you spend and what you spend it on, and ask yourself this simple question: Is it giving me the bang for my buck?

I just read an article recently that said authors (not just people, but authors) spend an average of two hours and twenty minutes on social media a day. No doubt, much of that is marketing stuff. And no doubt, some of it is that “Squirrel!” moment when you went to that social media site on a mission and found yourself sitting there thirty minutes later laughing and shaking your head at the internet’s latest version “The People of Walmart” photographs.

Want to read the rest? Click HERE!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Author Behind the Story Series - Dawn Owens

As I write this, it's Saturday, June 9th. What a great time of the year. School's out. My Gator team is defending their national championship in baseball (they just beat Auburn in Game 1 of the super regional), and I had a great writer's critique group meeting this morning with a great group of writers. Love posting this blog series, too, because it also allows me (and you!) to get to know some awesome writers! Writers you may not have heard of before, but have now (Oh, and that reminds me...don't forget to subscribe to my blog via e-mail! Then, you'll get a notification each time I post here. Then you won't miss any of these!)

This brings me to the next guest in my Author Behind the Story series. Please welcome to the Florida front porch, Dawn Owens!

Dawn, in fifty words or less, who is Dawn Owens?

Dawn Owens, founder/executive director for The Link of Cullman County, a relational ministry to the poor in Cullman, AL. I also host a Radio Show where we talk about how to help people grow out of poverty. Most recently, I published my first book Like Me or Not: Overcoming Approval Addiction.

So, let us get to know you better. You know, the person before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author. How old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?

I have had a love for reading since I was a child. Learning how to read at a young age, it came easy to me and once the skill was learned I could not get enough. I spent many a summer on a sofa or in a car with a book in hand and my mother trying to encourage me to go out and play. With it, I also found an affinity to writing. My writing started in journals and later through schooling turned into school papers. However, writing has always been a bit sacred to me. Writing took the form of journaling, which was more for me than it was for anyone else. I used it to process through the circumstances I was living through at the time.

What educational background do you have?

I grew up in a Suburb of Philadelphia called Havertown where I attended Haverford Senior High School. College was a desire of mine since Middle School, but when my parents got a divorce I thought I was going to have to let the dream go. Thankfully, I had cousins who grew up in poverty and already knew how to navigate the financial aid process. I applied to five schools, got into four of them and chose my college by the number of other people I knew going there, which was next to no one. I attended Kutztown University for both undergraduate and graduate school and then later attended Cincinnati Christian University to obtain a Masters of Arts in Religion, Pastoral Leadership. I am still two courses shy of completion.

After four years of trying to figure out what I was going to get my degree in at KU, I declared Professional Writing as a major and graduated with two minors in Public Relations and Speech Communication. I have also obtained a M.Ed. in Student Affairs in Higher Education from KU.

Are you married? Single? Have any children?

My husband and I have one child, Sawyer, who is almost 9 years old. Sawyer is the joy of our lives and wants to be a scientist and preacher when he grows up. After that he’d like to be a paleontologist and then he says he’ll play golf.

What a vast array of jobs. :-) I’m going to give you a shotgun list of favorites. List your favorite in each category and then tell us in one sentence why it is your favorite.

Favorite Song of All-Time: Good, Good Father
Chris Tomlin is a favorite artist of mine, but this song just reminds me no matter what my circumstances that my Father is Good.
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible):  Breaking Free by Beth Moore
Breaking Free was one of the first non-fiction, Christian Living books that I read as a new-believer, and it’s stuck with me.
Favorite Bible Verse: Ephesians 3:20
I have seen God reveal this verse to me over and over again in the ministry He has given me to steward and in my own circumstances.
Favorite Movie: Pride and Prejudice.
I have probably watched it hundreds of times
Favorite Actor or Actress: Huge Anne Hathaway fan
Anne is such an animated actress, and I love how versatile she is her roles.
Favorite Novel: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
The love of God is overwhelming as it is but to hear it through the message of Hosea.
Favorite Author (other than you): Beth Moore
Because I was saved under Beth Moore’s ministry, she has become like a Momma to me in the faith, and I get discipled by her through her writing. God has used her in a powerful way in my life over and over again.
Favorite Sport: Tennis – played in high school
I played from freshman to senior year going to Regionals twice for doubles.
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): University of Alabama. Roll Tide.
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: English and Criminal Justice
I always loved my English classes, but as I went into high school, criminal justice and the criminal mind became more intriguing to me.
Favorite Subject Now: British History
I love period movies and shows, especially ones that depict the monarchy. British is my favorite, but I do enjoying learning about others as well.
Favorite Teacher in School: Miss Angelo
She was my sixth grade homeroom teacher and English teacher. She always saw the potential in me, even when I couldn’t see it in myself.
Favorite Time of the Year: Fall
I love it when the air cools, the leaves start to change and the landscape becomes bright and colorful.
Favorite Place to Vacation: The Beach
Growing up not far from the Jersey Shore, I am a beach girl through and through.
Favorite Drink: I’m a coffee lover
Put me in a coffee bar, and I am near to heaven. Love me some coffee.
Favorite Food: Sushi
I could eat Sushi once a week but now I save it for the times that I want to celebrate something that the Lord has done.

For all the pet lovers out there, answer this question: Do you have any?

I used to have two dogs and one cat. Unfortunately, we found out my husband and myself were allergic. Though I did enjoy them, the freedom that I have without them outweighs my need to have the critters in my home.

What makes you cringe?

Lack of care for the dignity of human beings. As an advocate for the poor in my community (I am the executive director of a ministry to low-income families), it can get me pretty fired up when I hear people refer to those in poverty as “those people.” It almost sounds like they are second-class citizens. But God made us all in His image, so we should never refer to any other human being in such a tone.

Well said. Everybody seems to have a bucket list. Do you? If so, what’s on it? If not, why not?

Oh, I most certainly do have a bucket list. Two of my big ones on there are returning to England again to tour the countryside. I want to visit locations where Pride and Prejudice was filmed, visit Jane Austen’s home, stay in the hotel near where Downton Abbey was filmed and tour the castles and great homes in the area. After that I would want to extend my journey to Scotland and Ireland, and then to the rest of Europe to do the same.

I also want to visit Seattle, Oregon to visit the Fish Market, visit and eat in the Space Needle, and have coffee at the original Starbucks.

My wife and I have been on a British/Irish/Scottish/Welsh crime drama binge of late. We've been watching shows on Netflix like Broadchurch, Shetland, Hinterland, and Wallander (although it's set in Sweden and based on novels by a Swedish author, it has British actors and actresses in it...even "Loki" from The Avengers and Inspector Lestrade from Sherlock). Because of this, we now want to visit those places in the British Isles more than we already did. So, we get it. 

When the words aren’t flowing, what is your favorite comfort food and why?

I have a huge sweet tooth. So I tend to grab for sugary treats, which feel like a bit of a burst of energy too. Last night I was writing and ended up nibbling on some sour-filled Twizzlers, they are just enough zing to keep me going.

If your life was a story, and you were the lead character, what kind of role would you play?

I think I would be the underdog. My life has been filled with one challenge after another and each time I have learned (with and without God) how to press through. However, since coming to know the Lord at age 26, while going through a divorce, I realized going through these challenges with God is way more comforting and strengthening than without.\

If you had one person you could meet (think outside the Bible here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be?

Beth Moore is the first person that comes to mind. I was saved by her ministry nearly 17 years ago and she is still one of the women in my life that I constantly look to for biblical wisdom.

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?

Hmm. This is hard. I have two favorites, my go to guys are Moses and Paul. I would love to hear more from them for different reasons. But because my life has been one challenge after another, I relate to Job on so many levels. So I think my final answer would be Job because I would want to hear the rest of the story. How did he stay close to God, what did he learn from his trials, what would he have done differently.

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

Cliff jumping is the first thing to come to mind. I was in college and of course, all the “cool kids” were doing it. Ha. I had a boyfriend who loved it and wanted me to go with him. Well, I did and never thought I would actually take the leap, but I did, and it was exhilarating.

Why do you live where you live?

I am a Yankee living in the deep south. The only two things that could lead me to live her were my God and my man. So when my husband started to talk about wanting to start a church in his hometown, I started asking God whether it was His will for us to move. Over time God not only laid on my heart the desire to move, but gave me a passion to love the people of Cullman, AL. So when the church launched and closed within 6 months, I knew the reason we were here was greater than a local church. That was 8 years ago, and I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else.  This is home.

We know “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers.” Is there a book you’ve read in the past five years or so that has helped you become a better you? If so, which one was it, and how did it affect your life?

The book that has had the biggest impact on me in the last year is A Secret to a Wife’s Happiness by Jen Weaver. This book taught me how I was supposed to be responding to my husband in the area of submission. Most of the time as women we are told we need to do it, but its rare, if ever, that we hear someone explain how to do it and what it looks like on a daily basis. Jen Weaver accomplished that and in doing so gave me the “ah-ha” I needed to start responding to my husband differently.

When you look for a new home, what are the things that are important to you?

Aesthetically pleasing to the eye, has a layout that is conducive to our family’s activities, only needing a little renovation, and that we can live well within our means with the payment.
When you look for a new car, what are the things that are important to you?

Comfort, style, and functionality are my big three.

When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you?

Book reading can happen in many different ways for me. Sometimes I read a book because of its cover sometimes because I know or have heard great things about the author. Other times is purely the subject matter and my desire to learn or improve in that area. Or just for the pure entertainment of the book.  But I would say more often than not, a book cover does help me to make a decision to purchase, unless I know for sure the content within is better than the cover itself.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

Isaiah 61:1-3 were the scripture verses that my husband and I originally felt called with when we moved from Cincinnati, OH to Cullman, AL. Today I feel like God is using me in that capacity in this community and now, through my book and beyond. Although there are many other scriptures that have impacted my life these are the verses that I believe God is transforming my life upon so that I can be used for His kingdom.

Besides the usual things authors face, has there been an unusual event that changed your perspective about being an author?

Writing for me has been a challenge since college. When I was about to graduate I had to turn in a portfolio of my work to my Senior Thesis professor. In doing so, he was going to grade me and let me know whether or not I had a chance in this field. I had not been a professional writing major all five (yes, I was a five-year student) years of college and therefore had a tough time coming up with pieces over the last several years to add into my portfolio. However, when my I met with my professor for my review, his words stung me and changed me forever. He said, “This is just what we thought. You do not have any potential in this field and you will never be a published author. No one will ever pay you for your work. You should find another career altogether.”

That was many years ago, and God has done much to redeem those words meant for my harm. But the change for me was as I was writing Like Me or Not, it hit me that my writing this book was not a want to anymore, it was a had too. I was not longer going to worry about what other people thought, what my professor said, or whether or not the writing would be published. As I wrote I could sense the power of God in the words and I knew that someone else needed what I was sharing. It was in that moment that everything changed. It wasn’t for me or about me anymore, it was for someone else.

Of all the stories/books you have written, which one is your favorite? And what compelled you to write this story?

Well, since Like Me or Not is my first published book, it is of course my favorite. But I do believe God had a MUCH larger purpose in it for me than just getting out my journey and His truth on the written page.

As the founder of The Link of Cullman County, I struggled with people-pleasing, insecurities, and fear of rejection. For God to complete His vision for the community I had to get in alignment with His Word trusting and obeying Him, rather than worrying about man at every turn. I was a foreigner (a Yankee) in this small southern community, a woman, and I knew next to no one. I was the last person on God’s green earth that should be pursuing this vision to minister to the poor. But God had another plan. It was our five-year anniversary and we were celebrating all that we had done. I did a one-take video of all God had accomplished through our volunteers, staff, board, and of course the thousands of people who were brave enough to start learning a new way to live. It was then that it hit me, what if I had said no. What if I allowed the fears of men to triumph over following God.

That is when I knew I had to write the book. I realized other people may be facing the same struggle of trying to overcome their fears of rejection and need for approval to do the dream God had called them to do compelled me to write for them and for the kingdom. Because really, when I do what I was created to do and you do what God created you to do, it’s then that we see the body of Christ acting, moving, and loving the way that it should.

As a writer, if you had one thing you would do over again, what would it be?

I would have taken more time to review the final edit of my book. The timeline of my final edit of Like Me or Not felt really rushed. I think I will read the entire book out loud prior to submitting to the publisher. There are places that the same word repeats itself (and in two close of corners) that I wish I had changed prior to it being published. It’s not the end of the world, but when I catch them it is super obvious to me.

Tell us about what project you are currently working on.

Currently I am working on another book that will address our need to sacrifice our comforts and walk in obedience if we want to see God use us here on planet earth.

Tell us about your writing day. How do you go about writing?

When I am in book writing mode I sacrifice sleep, Netflix, lunches. Whatever I can possibly give up I do. I will then get up earlier, go to bed later, and write through every other opportunity that I can get during those times. I am taking my edits with me to the nail salon (pedicures are a great time to re-read what you wrote), doctors visits, and any other time I am in a waiting pattern.

But since I run a blog and write copy for our ministry, I am pretty much writing daily. However, I still have to carve out time in my schedule to do these because I need time to be creative in a quiet setting, which is not my norm.

Knowing what you know now about writing, publishing, etc., what piece of advice would you give to the person thinking about writing that novel they have always wanted to pursue since they were young, or the person who believes they have a non-fiction book in them that would be helpful to others?

The publishing field is constantly changing and now there are various ways you can get your writing out to the public. But those ways take a lot of hard work and commitment. In recognizing that I think it is important that you ask yourself and the Lord some questions. Is this for you or is it for someone else? If it never published will you be okay with that as an outcome? How hard are you willing to work to get it published? When I say that what I mean is, are you willing to sacrifice time, financial resources, and sometimes relationships to accomplish this goal? Answering these will tell you whether or not this is the time for you to go for it.

Basically how badly do you want it or feel like it needs to be read by more than you and your Mom? If you say really bad, then go for it. If you are excited but have other areas of life that are pulling you, then focus on those for now.

Has your writing crossed over into other areas? If so, how? If not, will it?

Yes, it has already crossed over. I have written articles, I am working on a devotional, and possibly a children’s version of the book. My son and I have been “working” on a middle-grade series of books. We are at the very beginning stages of this, writing book one. But learning fiction writing is a change of pace. I don’t walk around with characters in my head so I am really trying to pull the characters and their stories from an eight-year old's mind and get them down on paper.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

Right now they are purely coming from my son’s brain and when we come to a new character, I allow him to name them.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

My writing journey has been one of redemption. My life has been much like Joseph’s in God giving me a heart for writing at a young age and the devil trying to steal it from me.

Dawn, I want to thank you for taking the time to stop by and allow our readers to get to know you. May God bless your ministry in Cullman and your writing ministry.

Dear Reader, if you wish to find out more about Dawn, you can find her at the following locations:

Until next time, may God bless you, and may you bless God!

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