Monday, November 15, 2010

So Long for Now!

Dear Blog Followers,

This post is in the form of a letter because that's how I've communicated my plans with my other friends and colleagues.

The Lord and I have had a few come-to-Jesus moments in the last month, and He finally won. My husband Mike is in 100% agreement.

After much thought, prayer, pushing, and prodding, I have cancelled all freelance work, workshops, conferences, and blog postings for this next year. In short, I'm retiring . . . for now.

Some of you may know that I battle fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, and probably chronic fatigue syndrome, but what you don't know is that those conditions aren't under as much control as I wanted people to believe. Over the years I've learned to compensate and push through the pain and disguise it from employers and friends.

But I never know when I'll have a bad day or week, and when I do my life comes to a grinding halt. Not a good thing when I must work on deadline. Work stress has played a large part in exacerbating my problems.

Rest and restoration will be my bywords for the next year.

I'll finish out the 2013 contracts for Abingdon, and then after selling our house we'll head to Florida to live near our granddaughter. I wish I were there now walking on the beach.

I don't know what God has for me on the other side of this season, but the Lord has made it abundantly clear this is the right choice. A dear friend and author, Cynthia Ruchti, shared a Scripture with me that will carry me through.

"But we encourage you . . . to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands . . . so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone."
--I Thessalonians 4:10b-11, Holman Bible.

I've never given myself permission to lead a quiet life; hard work is all I've known since I was 19. I'm now 62.

The NIV version of that verse reads to make it your "ambition" to lead a quiet life. I’m seeking a quiet and peaceable life. It’s a foreign concept in today’s world where position and money are the yardsticks of success. Yet Jesus encouraged His followers to store up treasure in heaven.

Interesting . . . my decision to retire comes during our 30-Day Prayer Challenge for the Christian publishing industry, which ends tomorrow. As I’ve prayed, I’ve changed, and I've observed a few major changes in the book business:

  • Christian books sales have dipped for the fourth straight month.
  • Summerside Press has been sold to Guideposts.
  • The sales of digital books are increasing.
In Christian Retailing, David Almack, U.S. Director of CLC International, which publishes books and runs CLC Bookcenters in the Philadelphia area and New Jersey, has called on book sellers to return to their first love.
"In our current economic environment, I have come to the conclusion that we must all become avid readers or we will die," he said.
He challenged book sellers to turn off their televisions, put down their cell phones, and take a fast from Facebook. I would add, if you don't read, how can you sell books?

Doom and gloom? Not at all. I think the CBA industry faces challenging times, but bold new leaders will emerge. They will take the baton and run the next lap of this race. Will one of them be you?

So long for now, dear friends. May the Lord bless and keep you and make His face to shine upon you. In Jesus name, amen.

Blessings,
Barbara

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This is day #29 in our 30-day Prayer Challenge for the Christian book industry. What changes have you noticed? Please share your prayers and thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mark Twain and the Topic of Weather

Recently, my friend and Abingdon author Rita Gerlach (Surrender the Wind) introduced me to a little known book by Mark Twain titled The American Claimant published in 1892. The only parts I’ve read so far are the prologue and his appendix, and I must confess, they are the most innovative I've ever read.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Editors tell you to never write a prologue. That’s because most authors use them as a back story dump, and most people don't read them. If you can write a prologue like Twain’s, have at it.

In this post, I’ll kill two birds with one stone—yes, a cliché I know—but quite apropos in this circumstance. Editors also tell you to never start a novel describing the weather. Who cares if giant raindrops reflect back your tears?

And an appendix is usually unnecessary in fiction. But I didn’t realize that Mark Twain felt as vehement about the topic of weather as I learned in his prologue. This is unusual, but I want you to read the whole thing. I needed a laugh this morning.

* * *
THE WEATHER IN THIS BOOK

No weather will be found in this book. This is an attempt to pull a book through without weather. It being the first attempt of the kind in fictitious literature it may prove a failure, but it seemed worth the while of some dare-devil person to try it, and the author was in just the mood.

Many a reader who wanted to read a tale through was not able to do it because of delays on account of the weather. Nothing breaks up an author’s progress like having to stop every few pages to fuss-up the weather. Thus it is plain that persistent intrusions of weather are bad for both reader and author.

Of course weather is necessary to a narrative of human experience. That is conceded. But it ought to be put where it will not be in the way; where it will not interrupt the flow of the narrative. And it ought to be the ablest weather that can be had, not ignorant poor-quality, amateur weather. Weather is a literary specialty, and no untrained hand can turn out a good article of it. The present author can do only a few trifling ordinary kinds of weather, and he cannot do those very good. So it has seemed wisest to borrow such weather as is necessary for the book from qualified and recognized experts—giving credit, of course. This weather will be found over in the back part of the book, out of the way. See Appendix. The reader is requested to turn over and help himself from time to time as he goes along.
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How clever! How wry! How sardonic! Mark Twain in all his glory. In the Appendix to The American Claimant he offers the reader “Weather for Use in This Book.” Evidently, writing about weather was a problem in his era too.

Did I ever tell you that my paternal grandmother was his second cousin? Yep, Missourians all.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! (And yes, I know the exclamation point police are on their way. I just heard the sirens.)
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This is day #19 in our 30-day Prayer Challenge for the Christian book industry. Please share your prayers and thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Don't Forget to Vote Today

The future of our country may depend on your single vote. God bless America!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Life of a Freelancer Takes Faith

This will be a short posting today because I'm feeling a bit puny, as my mother would have said, so I'm sacked out on the sofa watching Fox News and election coverage. I spent the last week working for Abingdon, and this weekend, I finished a children's book about Joseph. I have two other projects waiting in the wings.

Deadlines are deadlines. Delivery of a quality project is essential. If the work takes longer than you anticipate, you still need to come through for the customer. For me, it took rolling out of bed at 5 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

My goal is to manage my time better and take weekends off. It might not be possible. Every freelancer I know works weekends, nights, early mornings, and rarely takes time off. When they have a lull in business, they play and pray for more work.

Tomorrow I'll finish up a short edit and the day after I start on a manuscript-length macro edit. I also have the possibility of writing a work-for-hire fiction book for teens. The pay is good, but I won't receive any royalty, and I have a feeling the deadline will be short. I can see more 5 a.m. start times even if I get the job. It takes faith to walk this road.

But enough about me.

Are you still praying for the CBA book industry? I expect to see movement in this area with all of you praying for owners, executives, editors, authors, marketing and sales people, production people, and book buyers and sellers.

These are tough times for the book business, but I have great faith that prayer makes a difference. We may not know the outcome in our lifetime, but I do believe the God of the universe has made adjustments because of our pleas. May He bless each and every one of you now and forever. Amen.

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This is day #15 in the 30-day Prayer Challenge for the Christian book industry. Please share your prayers and thoughts with us in the comment section below.