Teaching Tools for the Writer: Become a Dynamic Speaker by Adding SPICE!

Recently, I wrote a post for ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) called Teaching Tools for Writers: 4 Steps to Building a Public Speaking Platform. Check it out here.

The focus was on building a speaking platform focusing using four steps.

Today I’d like to focus on sharpening our public speaking skills and wowing our audience with engaging and interactive presentations.

As a 7th Grade World History Teacher, I’ve learned a few things about how to make an audience fall asleep and drool during class, and a few things that keep them on the edge of their seat wanting to know more.

Figured we don’t want to bore our audience to the point of drooling, so let’s add some SPICE, aka The Key To Awesome Presentations:

Short

Passion

Image

Color

Experience

 

S: Short

If using a slide format to present, or providing handouts, keep the information as short as possible. We’re offering snippets, thoughts, bits of info, not a dissertation. Wordiness is killer on the attention span—even for adults. And, it’s insulting. Give one word, no more than six words per slide, and let the reader/student/attendee take notes based on what they find significant.

Fewer words also increase the likelihood of remembering.

Caveat: Some slides may include more words than six words. For example, a slide focusing on a particular scripture, or a slide with group discussion questions. But as a rule of thumb, work to keep the great majority of slides as short and sweet as possible.

 

P: Passion

Sometimes we need to tell our face that we’re having a good time. If we aren’t into what we’re speaking about, our audience won’t care either. Add passion. How? Well, sometimes it’s a fake it ‘til we make it thing where we are consciously making ourselves move around the room/stage. We are consciously adding dramatic pause, changing the pitch of our voice, adding facial expressions, even cracking jokes.

That may mean writing out the lesson word for word, and then reading over it aloud in order to get a feel of where elements of passion can be added. Over time, and with practice, passion will flow—we can’t help it, and when passion flows, it’s contagious!

I: Image

We are visual, and many of us are visual learners. We connect ideas, beliefs, and concepts to an image. That old saying “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” is pretty spot on. However, adding an image(s) to our presentation can evoke emotions. And when an emotional connection is made, coupled with a passionate presentation, and short snippets of info, BAM—something happens in our brain. Things stick better, which brings us to the C in SPICE:

C: Color

We should use color, and boldness, in our presentation.

For starters, no slide background should ever be plain ‘ole white. In fact, avoid a white background all together. Go with a colored background, and use white as the letter for a bold, memorable effect, if white is a must have.

Bold and enlarge the points we want our audience to remember, not the title. We don’t want them to remember the title of the presentation, but the concepts. So Bold, underline, and enlarge the font for those points.

Let’s recap.

Add SPICE to a Presentation

So far, we’ve learned to keep our presentation short using one word per concept, no more than six words per slide.

Adding passion is a must, and including an helps our audience make deeper connections to our presentation. We’ve also learned the benefits of using color and boldness. Now let’s look at the E in SPICE.

E: Experience

We want to allow our audience to experience the lesson or presentation. A mental field trip of sorts. How?

Tell stories. Tell stories that appeal to the senses: touch, sound, smell, taste, and site.

Stories, especially stories with drama, intrigue, romance, and action activate more parts of our brain allowing us to experience what we’re learning, which allows us to remember better. Jesus knew this, and taught with stories.

Where can an analogy, or personal story or testimony be added into the presentation?

Want to add a deeper level of audience experience? Add even more crowd interaction with Quizlet Live! Oh friends, the fun we have with this little gem! Used it not long ago while speaking at a Military Wives’ Conference, and it was a hit!  Any topic can be created from Bible Trivia, Elements of Plot Structure, The Point of This Lesson etc.  Want more info?

Stay tuned for my next post on Quizlet Live for the Speaker!

So, there it is! SPICE up your presentation and rivet your audience!

 

Want example of a presentation?

Check out one I recently used Here

 

Not sure what presentation format to use when prepping a talk?

Check out these Free or Nearly Free Presentation Formats that Rock!

  • PowerPoint is an oldie but goodie. Images, audio, and video can be added, and PowerPoint also has fun features that can add animation to each slide and/or point. Stick to the SPICE model, and it will provide a presentation that kicks, pops, and sparkles.
  • Google Sides is free on Googledocs and works very much like PowerPoint. I was raised on PowerPoint, so I’m not as savvy with Google Slides, but my students are pros at it, and actually like it better than PowerPoint. Not sure how to get started with Googledocs, which is awesome? Sign up for a Gmail email account…that’s it.
  • My personal FAVORITE presenting format is Prezi! It adds movement, color, images…oh I get all goose-pimply thinking about how great it is! It works very much like PowerPoint, and will admit there’s a little bit of a learning curve there, but it’s worth playing with. LOVE IT!

 

Prezi has a free version, and a paid version. So far I’ve only used the free templates. Check this one out!

 

Hope you found this post helpful!! Feel free to share this post, leave comments or questions.

 

Many Blessings,

Hannah R. Conway

Military Wife, Momma, Author, Speaker, Teacher, Lover of coffee, chocolate and books!

Join my Letting Freedom Newsletter Here!

Need something else to do? Why not Help me Launch my latest book, Up in Smoke, coming out this Summer! You’ll get a FREE Advanced Reader ECopy!  Join the Launch Team: Conway’s Convoy here!

Looking for a Speaker at your next event, conference, book club or conference? I’m in! Let’s chat! Contact me here!

 

Author Interview with Lauren Brandenburg & Book Giveaway!

Hey y’all! Today we’re getting to know fellow author, speaker, and educator, Lauren Brandenburg! 


Lauren will be giving a copy of her latest release “Orlo the Created”. Be sure to enter to win below!

Welcome Lauren!

Lauren is a speaker and advocate for home education, as well as author of the middle-grade series The Books of the Gardener and creative writing curriculum, The Engaged Writer. Her novels are recognized as a “Top Safe Read” and “Top Read Aloud” for young readers in the homeschool community. She is active in ACFW and Masterpiece Ministries. Lauren and her husband, Jamie, live in Nashville, Tennessee with their two children.

Tell us about your latest novel, writing project etc and any personal inspiration behind it.

Oh, how I would love to give you all the details! But as it is currently being shopped, I think it wise to hold off a bit. I will say that it is an adult contemporary and probably my most favorite piece I have ever written. There are glimpses of my own story in the midst of massive financial loss, sprinkled with some larger than life characters, a lovely town, and a flea market . . . and macaroons. Yes, macaroons are very important!

Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

Happy to share! I am currently cleaning up my fifth children’s novel—Orlo: The Burdened, outlining the sixth in the series—Orlo: The Chosen, and brainstorming the follow-up to my adult contemporary (it’s my happy place).

What is your favorite scripture and why?

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

When I am afraid or worried, the Father reminds me to think on what is true—it has helped me through many dark moments. Recently, the idea of dwelling on things that are lovely has consumed me in such a fun, calming way. I have found peace in thinking on the lovely, finding the joy in simplicity, and looking beyond that which is not glorifying to our Father. Think lovely thoughts!

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them? (ie I can’t stand to fold socks. Torture!)

Folding! I am 100% guilty of leaving clothes in the dryer and running it multiple times until I finally feel like folding them. I’ve also been known to stuff said clean dry clothes in a laundry basket then three days later-ish have to put them back in the dryer for fluffing and wrinkle releasing. Oh, and the words “Have you checked in the dryer?” have come out of my mouth on multiple occasions as my kiddos search for martial arts uniforms, socks, undies, etc. (The dryer just now buzzed as I am typing this! LOL It’s a first round dry, but since there are wet items in the washer, into the basket the dry clothes will go!)

Are you a veteran or do you have someone in your family that served in the Military? Tell us a little bit about your service or their service; it’s our way of honoring you/them. 
I’ve always told people that I grew up I a military family even though my dad was unable to directly serve. My brother currently serves in the Navy, my grandfather served in the Army during WWII, my uncle is a retired Army Ranger, and my other uncle serves in the National Guard. As a young child my dad contracted hystoplasmosis  (my entire childhood I was forbidden to pick up a feather or play in our attic because of it). The illness left my dad’s lungs so scarred that on an x-ray it appeared that he once had tuberculosis. Because of the scarring, my dad was not permitted to actively serve our country in the armed forces. However, he raised me to honor our leaders, respect our military, and respect our country’s flag—I’d say he served his country well.

If you could switch genres in your writing, in which genre would you choose to write your next novel? 
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I thought that I would always write for children. I had accepted it as my identity and envisioned many book signings chatting with young fans. Not once did I see myself writing for adults, but then . . . But then I shared a wild idea with my agent. She encouraged me to get it on paper and test-drive it before several publishing houses. Along the way, I think I found myself. I had many real conversations with the Father about who I was trying to be and the design he actually had in mind. So a genre switch . . . how about Children’s Speculative to Adult Humorous Duel Timeline! I’ll finish my children’s series, but I have a feeling I will land somewhere else.

Let’s play a game of favorites! Feel free to elaborate.

Favorite Dessert: Chocolate. Oh wait, I should be more specific . . . Chocolate Cake (unless it is winter and then a cozy cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate will do the trick). But if it is my birthday, Red Velvet Cake (It’s really chocolate cake dyed red with a unique cream cheese icing, so it counts as chocolate, right?)

Favorite Restaurant: Banana Leaf Modern Thai in Cincinnati! (BEST CURRY EVER!)

Favorite Branch of the Military (I won’t judge you if say anything other than Army) : Navy (Shout out to my baby brother!)

Favorite Genre of Music:Alternative (Is that still a genre?) My daughter and I are on a Twenty-One Pilots kick right now! Rumors that make it okay to listen to this band: One of them was homeschooled. One was a youth pastor. Their music has Christian overtones.

Favorite Subject in School: English (I have no fun comments on this, just English.)
Connect with Lauren:

Email – Lauren@TBOTG.com

Amazon (Orlo: The Created) – https://goo.gl/j0F25R
 We’ve had such a great time getting to know Lauren! Enter to win a copy of “Orlo the Created” below!

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Breathing on Her Own: Lessons from My Firstborn “Bookchild”


Today we welcome Author, and Speaker, Rebecca Waters! Rebecca has valuable insight to share, and a FREE COPY OF HER NOVEL, Breathing on Her Own. Rebecca, thank you for joining us today!
Breathing on Her Own: Lessons from My Firstborn “Bookchild”
Publishing that first novel is akin to raising your firstborn child. You do your best, make a few mistakes, and learn along the way.  Now that Breathing on Her Own is a three-year-old, I’m prepared to offer other fledgling parents of books my sage advice.

Lesson 1 Birthing a “Bookchild” Requires Preparation

First time parents want to do this whole baby thing right. Moms exercise and eat healthy. Dads dutifully paint the nursery. The couple reads everything they can about raising children and they spend long hours discussing the child’s name. 

In the same way, writers seeking to be authors need to exercise their writing muscle in order to draft that sweet manuscript. They must purposefully study the craft of writing and nuances of publishing. Writers need to identify their strengths and weaknesses and create a plan to improve as a writer. Choosing the title will emerge as the story unfolds. When I embarked on crafting that first novel, I created a business plan for my writing. I budgeted my time to study writing and publishing and engaged daily in writing exercises.

Lesson 2 Nobody’s “Bookchild” is Perfect

You wrote it. You love it. I get it. However, nobody births a perfect “bookchild.” Even the best of the best authors must revise and edit their work on a constant basis. I worked hard on that first novel to write a compelling story. I was sure I nailed it. When my publisher introduced me to my editor I waited for her to rave about the book. Fortunately, she knew her job was to polish my work not to caress my ego. Working with a professional editor may be painful or even costly. Think of it as putting braces on your child to correct the overbite. Healthy straight teeth improve speech quality, digestion, and physical appearance. A professional edit will allow your voice to be heard. It will give your manuscript the look and feel of a successful book.

Lesson 3 Not Everyone on the Playground Will Choose Your “Bookchild”

Once I decided to become an author I attended a writing conference. I hadn’t finished the first draft of Breathing on Her Own but was very close to the end. I pitched the book to agents and acquisition editors for publishing houses. I practiced what is called an elevator pitch. The first two agents interrupted me about halfway through my pitch. The next one and a couple of the publishers offered a kind word but a firm no. My last appointment was with Eddie Jones of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He listened. He read the chapters I sent him. Two months later I had a contract. Not everyone will choose your book, but it only

takes one.

March 24th marks the third anniversary of the release of Breathing on Her Own. In celebration, my publisher is offering a freecopy of the book today! Grab it nowon Amazon.

Are you an aspiring author? I would love to hear from you. How are you spending these months of preparation to birth your own “bookchild?”

Interview with Rebecca: 

1: Tell us about your latest novel, writing project etc and any personal inspiration behind it.

My husband died in a bicycle accident a few months after Breathing on Her Own released. That has been the hardest experience of my life. I put my novels on the back burner. I have a strong following on my blog, A Novel Creation, a background in education, and experience as a speaker. I’m often asked to speak to groups about the writing and publishing process. As a result, I recently published three handbooks for writers: Designing a Business Plan for Your Writing, Marketing You and Your Writing 101, and Writing with E’s. Proceeds from these books go to the Thomas R. Waters Memorial Scholarship for Ergonomics Research set up by the CDC Foundation.

2. What is your favorite scripture and why?

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, do it heartily as for the Lord and not for men.” I claim this verse in every area of my life. In school I applied it to every assignment, always trying to do my best. Even if I didn’t like the teacher, I wrote the paper for God. What a difference that made! As a young wife I could sometimes feel unappreciated by my husband who tramped across the newly scrubbed kitchen floor with his muddy shoes. But when I scoured the floor for God, my feelings changed. He appreciated what I did. I now apply this to my writing as well. An agent may not like my book, but that’s okay. I didn’t write it for him!

3. I love hearing how God has set people free. There’s so much more to freedom than patriotism. Would you share a time with us when you experienced God’s freedom? 

I love this question. It is interesting to me because of the timing. As I’ve shared, my husband died quite suddenly in 2014. He and I had been married for 43 years. I’ve clung to passages about God’s care for me and that He has a plan for me. It’s been hard.  I relied on Tom for so much. Recently I heard a message about Lot’s wife. I never had much respect for Mrs. Lot. After all, she was told to not look back but did so anyway. She deserved being turned into a pillar of salt, right? Curious. The minister mentioned that aspect of disobedience, but said it wasn’t that she looked back with her eyes. She looked back with her heart. She looked back and longed for a life she couldn’t have. For me, a life I had enjoyed but one that could never be again. Don’t misunderstand. I will never forget Tom. He will always be a part of me, but now I am leaning on God more. I’m seeking His counsel and trusting His judgment more. I’m no longer looking at the plumber and wondering what Tom would do. There is a newfound freedom in that. Knowing that God has my back and He is all-powerful to care for me? Yes, that is true freedom. 
ABOUT REBECCA

Rebecca Waters’ freelance work has resulted in articles for Chicken Soup for the Soul, the Lookout Magazine, The Christian Communicator, Church Libraries, and Home Health Aide Digest. Prior to publishing her first novel, Breathing on Her Own, Rebecca was a college professor and speaker on the Ohio Writing Project circuit.

 

CONNECT WITH REBECCA

 

BOOKS by REBECCA


Just Start: Giveaway & Writing Advice from Guest Blogger, and Author Cyn Taylor

Today we welcome guest blogger and author, Cyn Taylor! She’s got some great writing advice to share, AND she’s giving away a copy of  Book 1 in the Smoky Mountain Mist series, “Blue Mountain Sky”!! Enter to win below!

JUST START
Many folks live by the mantra that life is all about the journey. As a writer, I disagree. The journey to becoming a published author is fraught with perils. Who wants to live like that?
Your book begins with joy and elation; much like bringing a first child into the world. (Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration — but it’s my analogy, and I’m sticking to it.)
Soon we come to the middle of our tale. Let’s correlate this period of writing with the teen years of the child you birthed earlier. Joy and elation gives way to gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair. This may be why there are so many bald authors.
We make it through the meat of our story. Whew! Now let’s wrap this up. However, finding the perfect ending can be as elusive as that candy bar that keeps sliding just out of reach under the seat of your car. Sure, you’re the one that hid it there due to a complete inability to share. However, you didn’t know at the time how far into the clutches of darkness a car floorboard could go.
Finally, the perfect words fly from your brain, down your arms and to your fingertips as you tap the computer keyboard as fast as the Flash can dart. The beginning is tempting, the middle moves the story along and the ending, well, IMPAC Dublin Award here we come.
Have a nice cup of tea and take a moment to catch your breath, because now the real work begins; finding a publisher that agrees with your assessment of the book. Once that happens (yes, sometimes fairy tales do come true) it’s on to the world of marketing. Let’s leave that experience for another day.
I wrote my first novel more than twenty-five years ago. I rewrote that book ten years ago. Then revised said book a couple of years ago. It wasn’t that I wanted to keep changing the story. I just wanted to be published.
Having first written the book as Romantic Fiction, I submitted it to Harlequin. Their response was along the lines of “We have numerous books at this point. We’ll get back to you.” They didn’t. Hence, the next rewrite.
Inspirational Romance was hitting the market big time. I moved my characters into a Christian setting, added suspense and a bit of humor. I got to know my characters better and felt an attachment to them. I submitted to various Christian publishers. Responses varied from “Not what we’re looking for at this time” to “We would love to help you self-publish.” BLAH!
When I took a job as a photojournalist for a community paper, I began looking at my book through the eyes of a reporter. Hence the next revision. That one was a mistake.
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My characters needed more depth. I tried reading Christian Romantic Fiction and found myself falling asleep. While this was good for my health, it did nothing towards helping me become a better writer.

A friend suggested I read Stephen King’s book On Writing.” I always found his stories terrifying and was never a fan. Now when I’m asked what helped me most in improving my writing I recommend this book. King is entertaining and the master at turning a phrase.
As I worked on redeveloping my first book, I had the idea of making it into a series set in the Great Smoky Mountains, my area. Before I had rewritten book one I was well on my way through books two and three. I had found my niche. I finished book one. Again. I started searching for a publisher. Again.
During this search, I received an assignment to interview a local author. I was impressed with her book so I bought it and saw her publisher listed.
I submitted my first book Blue Mountain Sky”to Mantle Rock Publishing in October of 2015. Editor Kathy Cretsinger liked it enough to send a contract. The book released July 2016. Book two in this series “Red Morning Glory” released January 2017. Book three “Dawn’s Gray Light” should be available later this year or early 2018. The genre is Faith-based Contemporary Romantic Suspense.
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So here we are at the end of this particular story. That of a published author. How do we wrap this up? Let’s not. As a believer, I know that our stories are never ending. We all play a small part in the greater story woven by God.

If you have words stuck in your head, get them out. Put them on paper. Record them. Share them. Open yourself up to change. Don’t be afraid to self-promote. You may write the next great American novel. You’ll never know if you don’t start.
Happy writing!
Cyn Taylor
Weaving fiction, speaking Truth

ABOUT CYN:

Cyn Taylor lives and plays in Knoxville Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. She and husband Brent live on his family farm at the peak of Thunder Ridge along with a feral cat and other woodland creatures who come round to visit. They have two adult children and seven grandchildren. 
As a former freelance photo journalist, Cyn has written faith, community and feature articles.  
Cyn gets some of the best inspiration for her books when she accompanies Brent on fly fishing excursions to the Smokies. He fishes. She writes. Life is good.

CONNECT WITH CYN: 
Email:  cyntaylor2016@gmail.com
Web: cyntaylor2016.wix.com/blog
Instagram: Cyn Taylor author

ENTER TO WIN A COPY OF CYN’S BOOK 1: BLUE MOUNTAIN SKY

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Writer Tips: The Why’s & Where-fore’s of Self-Editing


Today we welcome, Author Sara R. Turqnuist! Not only is she giving us some GREAT writing advice, but she’s also GIVING AWAY an eCopy or Print version of her latest release, Off to War, to ONE LUCKY WINNER! Enter to win below!

Writers Gotta Write, but Writers Gotta Edit Too! 

Hello! It is a privilege to be on Hannah’s blog today. And I want to share with fellow writers something that I find quite difficult, but rather necessary and very rewarding: self-editing.
In general, I find it, frankly, to be a time drag. It’s time, I think, that could be better spent creating new work. Imagine if I didn’t have to do any editing? How much quicker could I produce work? Wow! But the fact of the matter is, we all have to self-edit. It’s a vital part of getting the manuscript ready for an agent/publisher.

WHY SELF-EDIT?

It makes your manuscript stronger. Editing helps catch mistakes we may have made in earlier drafts and alert us to gaps in the work. It basically allows us to present the best to a publisher or a potential agent/editor (whomever is reading your work). Especially if the manuscript was written a while ago and it has been resting. Or there has been more learning about craft in the meantime through online courses, workshops, or conferences. Bring that back to the manuscript – enhance and hone the work.

It is required by many publishers before they send it through their editing process. My publisher requires that a round of self-editing with their criteria and my own skills before I submit it to their three rounds of editing (content, line, and proofing). I have been surprised how many things I’ve caught between my editing before the initial submission and then self-editing with their criteria. And what they ask me to look for is basic stuff. It’s just stuff that a newbie (like me at the time) wouldn’t have thought about.
HOW DO YOU SELF-EDIT?

Look for Grammatical Errors. This one is a no-brainer. One of the things I have found that is helpful is to run your document through a couple of word processors. For example, I used to write in LibreOffice. Well, LibreOffice catches a certain set of things. Word will catch a set. Some of these things overlap, but some do not. Word will catch things that LibreOffice did not. So, it behooves me to put my document through Word also. And that’s only one example.

Check for flow. Another thing that is helpful and is great for checking flow is to read it out loud. It is equally amazing what can be caught that way. I know, it doesn’t seem that it would make that big of a difference. But it does. When going through the manuscript, make sure words are not repeated. Make sure to vary sentence beginnings. These are things that help with flow.

Double check for inconsistencies or content flaws. Be ever watchful for things missed when writing. Have eyes like a hawk when it comes to this. We all know in our heads how our story works out, but try to look at it as a reader, fresh to the page. If it’s not clear in the document, it’s not clear. If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist. A reader can’t ask for explanations.

Tighten where you can. There needs to be some flow to your manuscript, but it also need not be extraneously wordy. Jerry Jenkins gives wonderful tips about tightening, especially dialogue. You can check out his blog here. Extra words are sometimes that – extra words.
There are more, but these are the biggies. I also strongly encourage everyone to get more eyes on the work. Be that a critique group, critique partner, or beta readers. Someone else should look at it for the purpose of giving honest feedback. 

And that, my friends, is my two cents worth on self-editing. Happy writing!

Sara is the author of The Lady Bornekova, The General’s Wife, Hope in Cripple, and Off to War. A native of Middle Tennessee, Sara attended the University of Memphis where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology. In the years that followed, she utilized every opportunity she could to travel and she fell in love with history, as the many places she visited inspired the stories she would write. Though she is an avid reader, Sara enjoys many creative outlets – music, art, and drama. You can usually find her either writing or into her latest art project.

Connect with Sara:
 Website http://saraturnquist.com/   
  Email  sara.r.turnquist@gmail.com 
  Facebook AuthorSaraRTurnquist (https://www.facebook.com/authorsararturnquist/
  Twitter @sarat1701 (https://twitter.com/sarat1701 )
  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/saravturnquist/



 Get to Know Sara:

1: Tell us about your latest novel, writing project etc and any personal inspiration

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behind it.

This book, Off to War, is about a young woman who must watch her best friend and beau leave for war. But she is not satisfied to stay behind. She sneaks off into the night and joins his camp’s Sanitary Commission (the women who followed the camps and cared for the men). A history program I saw that talked about women during the Civil War and their involvement in the war effort, specifically the Sanitary Commission, inspired me. I find that history itself provides plenty of inspiration!
2: Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

My work in progress is called Second Chances. It is about a woman in 1870s Arizona (during the time of Billy the Kidd) whose first husband dies and she is left with no other option to provide for she, her son, and her late husband’s small herd of cattle, but to remarry. Brandon, the man she marries, needs the cattle to increase his herd and raise his profits at auction in order to save his ranch. The inspiration for the story was a wondering about second marriages when the first spouse dies. Does the surviving spouse memorialize the first in the sense that she would glaze over the “bad” memories and only remember the good? Many people tend to do that. Could a second spouse, even when love blossoms between them, compete with that?
3: Do you have a favorite time of the day to write? What about a favorite place?
I don’t really have a favorite time of day to write…other than when my children are not around. That means that they are out of the house or unconscious (that means napping). I find I am more productive at a local coffee shop called Lasaters. They have these really comfortable booths that allow me to spread out my research and everything I need. I also have an office in my house that has proved productive. More than anything, it has been the discovery of Scrivener and it’s “Compose” mode that really helps. It blocks out the desktop and any pop ups. Wonderful!!
EXCERPT from Off to War
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        “I need you to be strong for me now, Lizzie.”

She wanted to. Breathing deeply, she attempted to rein in her emotions.  
All the while, he continued to rub her arms, her shoulders, pressing kisses to her forehead and her hair.
Why did he have to be so wonderful? Tears threatened to break through again, but she held them back.
Once she calmed, he used his finger to tilt her chin so she looked up at him. “Can you be strong for my parents?”
She knew what he meant. He spoke not only of today, but also if something were to happen to him. “Yes,” she lied.
“I know you can, even if you don’t,” he assured her, cupping her face.
She hung her head, fighting more tears.
“Write to me?” He hooked her chin with his finger so she had to look at him.
“Every day.”
“Wait for me?” he asked, his voice as tender as she’d ever heard it.
“Forever.”
John’s face broke out in a slow smile at that.
Elizabeth allowed herself to get lost in his eyes. They belonged together. In that moment, she knew… that’s why he wasn’t afraid. He would return to her because he had to.
His lips met hers again in a gentle kiss.
She returned his kiss with everything she had, longing to communicate all of her love, all of her hopes and dreams in that one kiss.
 
When John broke contact, her head still spun.
“I must go.” He blinked, moving toward the door, his step wavering.
Was the room spinning for him, too?
“I carry you with me, Lizzie. Always and forever, remember?”
“Always and forever.” She fought down a fresh wave of emotion, refusing to cry in front of him again.
He reached over and pulled her to him for another quick kiss. 
Then he was gone, and she was alone.

Readers can purchase Off to War HERE, or enter to win a copy by entering below!

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Thankful: Awe-filled Moments from God


Teaching, while writing novels, is a lot like giving birth while trying to read & comprehend the IRS’s 60,000-page tax laws.  Good times, ya’ll.
The crazy thing is, I honestly enjoy both writing and teaching. There are these treasures… these awe-filled moments God decides to toss my way, because He loves me. Moments like:

*Getting an email from a reader who’s a new Army Wife and was encouraged by my books. Wow!

*Doing a happy dance with a struggling student after they conquered the exam! Victories feel amazing!

*And sitting at a parent/teacher meeting with a couple who have taken it upon themselves to care for someone else’s child’s grades and well-being because “this child is worth it.” Moved. To. Tears.

I’m overwhelmed by the way God loves me. His gifts are perfect, and come at the perfect time. 

What awe-filled moments has God tossed your way?
ABOUT HANNAH: 

Hannah Conway is a military wife, mother of two, middle school teacher, and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns sure to thrill, and encourage. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and My book Therapy. She and her family live in Tennessee

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Tips for Returning to Work After Staying at Home: The Juggle is Real!

My youngest child started first grade this year, and after eight years of staying at home to raise my kiddos, I decided to return to teaching full-time…while still writing…Did I mention I’m crazy?

By the grace of God, I successfully survived my first 9 weeks back to teaching. No students were lost or injured…SCORE! However, my beautiful meal planning and preparation skills took a fatal blow, and we’ve gone into survival meal mode/ aka anything I can stuff in a crockpot. Writing has been a struggle as I no longer have 3-4 hrs of uninterrupted writing time 3 or 4 days a week…sad sigh…sniffle, sniffle. The house is messier than usual, and I’ve had to say no to volunteer opportunities I’d normally take. It’s been a change…A BIG CHANGE. But not bad. Difficult, but not bad.

This new stage of my life is just that…a new stage, and it requires getting used to, and a whole lot of other tools & tips. These tools and tips are a work in progress for me as I weave my way through this part of life, and I hope and pray you find them useful.

PLEASE feel free to let me know any other tools and tips you have for transitioning back to public work, and or balancing mom-life, with work-life, and home-life.   

1: Jesus Time

WE MUST make time to read the Word. I struggled to find that time after returning to work. My Bible time was at 6:30am before my kiddos woke up, but now I’m up at 5:00am and get to school by 6:15. Getting ready, and sitting down to read? How would that work? The best solution right now is to listen to the audio option on my Bible app while getting ready. So far, it’s been a good fit for me, and maybe you as well.

2: Crockpot Recipes & lots of them:

I could hug my crockpot. The thing cooked a whole chicken for me—enough for chicken & dumplins, chicken tacos, and chicken noodle soup! 3 meals, bam! JWorking moms should invest in a crockpot for sure!

3: To-Do Lists:

If you’re anything like me, our brain can be a little…well…full. So many things to think about with so little time! J Therefore, a To-Do List for each category of my life is a must: School/Work, Writing & Marketing, Kid’s List, Home/Cleaning etc. Some of the lists, like those pertaining to home & the kiddos go on my kitchen cabinet door. School & writing to-do lists will stay in a spiral binder I carry with me.

4:  An Agenda:

An agenda, or calendar, is a MUST. When are Fall Festivals? When is football practice, church meetings, parent/teacher conferences, the next writing deadline? When am I going to go to the grocery store? Bills due? All these things need to be listed out and placed on the calendar in plain view…on the fridge…cabinet door…some place where it will be seen frequently.

3: A Reusable Meal Schedule:

For now, my love for from-scratch meals, and new dinner creations, has to be pushed to the side…it is what it is. Sigh.

It took a while, but sticking to a simpler, consistent dinner plan has helped lighten my load. Feel free to copy what we do:

M: Crockpot meal Monday, with salad/veggies & fruit
T: Taco Tuesday, or Mexican Themed
W: Soup/Chili & Sandwich
Th: Leftovers w/ side of veggies or salad
F: Pizza
Sa: Noodles (Asian, Italian etc) Salad
Su: Out to Eat or a kid friendly (Chicken Nuggets, Mac & Cheese)
4: A Cleaning Schedule:

The house just isn’t going to be perfection…big sad sigh. So, in 15 minutes each night, what area of the house are we going to work on? Is it dishes, taking out the trash & tidying the living room? Wiping down bathroom sinks?  Allow Saturday morning, evening, or afternoon to be for the heavier cleaning. Throw in a load of clothes on Mon, Wed, & Friday.  We’re not the best at keeping up with a cleaning schedule, but we’re getting there.
Recently a sweet friend introduced me to FlyLady, an organizational/cleaning whiz who sends daily tasks via email that can be done in 15 minutes each day. I’m excited to give this a whirl! Check her out here: FlyLady.net
5: Exercise:

Exercise? Because we have so much free time, right?! Ha, I know!  Exercise releases the happy chemicals in our brain, and Lord knows that’s a good thing. J I have missed going to the gym! MISS IT LIKE A LONG LOST FRIEND! And now that I’ve finally stopped complaining about not having time for the gym, and an extra ten pounds later, it’s time to make time to work out.

Can we make 20-30 minutes 3 times a week to exercise? YES! It may not be the gym, but what about a walk around the neighborhood, or squats in the living room? Get creative! Where can the time be carved out?

I’ve decided to stay after school for 20-30 minutes 3 times a week to work out with some teachers in the school’s auxiliary gym. Wish me luck!

6: Friendship & Accountability:

If it weren’t for my friends holding me accountable to my writing goals, praying for me as I struggle to juggle it all…I’d fall apart. God knows we need friends. We were made to care for each other. It’s good to share goals with someone trustworthy, and let them hold us accountable.

7: Delegate:

HELP! The housework is overtaking me, the clutter piles about to spill over…and my to-do list is growing fangs.

Glance over that list and check off the items that can be delegated. Are the kids old enough to mop the floor, wipe the counters, do dishes? Can someone do a guest post for your blog?

We may be able to juggle a lot, but we can’t juggle it all (CLICK TO TWEET), and we need help…we need to delegate.

8: Let Go:

This could mean a lot of things, but for our current season of life it means letting go of the need to be in control of all aspects of life, and having things done exactly the way I would want them done. For a planner, who enjoys planning and carrying out those plans, this is hard, so letting go is a work in progress for me.

9: Shut it down & Cuddle:

There’s nothing on our to-do list, or any writing goal, that’s worth missing out on a cuddle from our family. They too feel the strain of this busy life, and if we can put aside our important stuff for them, then it’s a win for all.

I’ll admit…this can be a struggle when I really have to get grades put in, or I really need to get 500 more words in on a scene, but in the end, our families come first. They are our first priority. 

10: An ample amount of Grace:

BUCKET loads of grace.

We will fail, and fail again, and forget to send a signed form back to our child’s teacher …or mix up dates on the calendar…or subject our children to chicken nuggets twice in one week! Listen, the world is full of negativity without beating ourselves up. God says we are more than conquerors, we are loved, and He delights in us. We need to remember that and give ourselves grace, just like He gave us.
I wish I could say I’ve mastered these 10 tips, but the truth is…I haven’t. They are all a work in progress, something to apply to my life on a daily basis. And that’s okay. 🙂 

Any tips and tricks, or crockpot recipes you’d like to share? Be my guest! Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!


ABOUT HANNAH: 

Hannah Conway is a military wife, mother of two, middle school teacher, and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns sure to thrill, and encourage. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and My book Therapy. She and her family live in Tennessee

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A “God Book” Review from the Sweetest Source: A Child’s View of Jesus

I’ve had the privilege to write books, read incredible works by many authors, and the honor of reviewing them on my blog, or vendor sites like Amazon, Goodreads, etc. However, my reviews have NOTHING on the book review my little girl gave last night of her “God Book.”
Absolutely PRECIOUS. MELT MY HEART PRECIOUS. A TREASURE to hear the gospel coming from her sweet voice. What a beautiful sound from a child’s simple perspective. To view the wonder of who Jesus is through her eyes caused such awe & wonder…amazement in me! And there’s a new-ness, even a sparkle in the way she presents Jesus—an almost giddiness! I love it, I want it! It helps me remember what it was like when I first became a follower of Christ, and how exciting it was!
I went to bed smiling, and watched her review at least ten times!
“That was fun, mommy. Can we do that again?” She’s hooked on video book reviews, and I had to nod my head.
I’m POSITIVE this child’s review of anything she reads will be better than what I could ever write. PLEASE ENJOY this absolutely beautiful “God Book” review.

One proud Momma here!

RELATED ARTICLES: 
The Theme of Your Life & Writers Conference Take-Away
A Captive Impsoter by Dawn Crandall: Book Review! 
Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof: A Book Review!

ABOUT HANNAH: 
Hannah Conway is a military wife, mother of two, and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns sure to thrill, and encourage. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and My book Therapy. She and her family live in Tennessee

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Growing Where We’re Planted: Living Life to the Fullest

Growing where we’re planted…

As a writer I’m all about some metaphors, and as I dig more into the Bible, it brings a huge smile to my face to know that God is all about some metaphors as well.

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:3

I’m a HUGE fan of these plant/growing analogies!

Seasons in our lives come and go… the dry times, the desert places…the times of laughter, and love…friendship, and fun…the times of plenty and the times of “we gotta stretch this dollar.” Times of slow growth…some times fast growth.

But this is LIFE, and life is GOOD! God calls us to grow–to live, flourish, and impact those around us, wherever He has put us, and no matter the season of our lives.

Sometimes it’s just plain hard to grow, especially if the conditions in our lives don’t seem right. I’m not only a writer, but a military wife, a momma, and a middle school teacher. Yeah, like most of y’all, we could swap stories about hard or trying times. But those times are from God too…the good and what we may see as bad are actually growing us in our faith while allowing us to help along those around us. A very cool concept!

As we go about our day, and whatever season we find ourselves in, let’s grow.

How do we grow?

We shift our focus from our lives and look for ways to help & serve others. Jesus was the master at this, and so let’s take a page from his book and apply it to our lives. In what ways can we serve others? Small ways, big ways, any way.

We will find that taking the attention from our own lives will actually make our lives fuller, and our walks with God closer, and to me, that’s reason enough to grow.

Have a wonderful day!

RELATED ARTICLES: 
Building a Strong Marriage: Happiness Isn’t the Goal
5 Ways to be Blessed in the Stress
A Fighting Faith: Justified War from a Biblical Perspective

ABOUT HANNAH: 
Hannah Conway is a military wife, mother of two, and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns sure to thrill, and encourage. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and My book Therapy. She and her family live in Tennessee

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CLICK the Links Below The Image to Download Your eCopy of WEDDING A WARRIOR



Giveaway! The Theme of Your Life & Writer’s Conference Take-away!

Hello my Dear Readers!

It’s been a week since the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference in Nashville, TN! Time flies! AND SO MUCH TO PROCESS!

What was my take-away? I’m thinking it’s about THEME.

God places a theme in our lives, and ultimately as writers that theme comes out in our writing whether we realize it or not. Amazing, right? It’s the same theme over and over, telling the same story over and over in a variety of ways. 
In one writing workshop led by the very talented author, James Rubart, we were challenged to find the theme of our lives with this fun little exercise: list our top 3 favorite movies, find the theme all three movies have in common, and this is an indicator of our life’s theme.
Silly as it may sound, it was surprisingly accurate! Rubart encouraged us to grab hold of that theme, write it over and over in different ways giving God the glory in the story and in our lives.
What were my top 3 movies, and life theme!? I knew y’all would want to know! 
1: Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows part 2
2: Divergent
3: Ever After
Strange combo, but the theme that ties them together is “stepping into one’s destiny” or becoming the person they were always meant to be. Ribbons of resiliency and perseverance are threaded throughout this theme, and I admit this theme and these ribbons are most definitely evident in my writing, and in my life.
Not gonna lie…it took some time to find the theme, and fellow authors/friends helped me piece it together, but we figured it out. 🙂 

REALLY wish there was an ACFW Conference every week…sigh. 🙂

Truly, it’s an incredible experience to worship with fellow Christian authors, learn from these insanely talented people, and be encouraged by them!  I had some serious gushing fan-girl moments…no shame here! And this year I seized the opportunity and worked up enough nerve to actually TALK to some of my favorite authors! Yeah, I’m still fan-girling!
SO, while ACFW is over, and I can no longer properly stalk my favorite authors, hehehe, the fun doesn’t have to end, meaning, I COME BEARING GIFTS, Y’all!!
And what better way to celebrate Labor Day Weekend, God & the themes He puts in our lives, writers, readers, and all people who LOVE 3 day weekends (aka TEACHERS!!!), than with gifts!!??
GOOD STUFF TO GIVEAWAY!!
So let’s do this!! 
What am I giving away? Glad you asked!
·         A cute ACFW tote bag!
·         3 books!
·         Kcups!
·         My Book Therapy Scratch Off!
How to enter?
Well, I want to know the theme of your life too! Tell me your top 3 favorite movies, and see if you can find a common theme that holds them together. Like me, you may have to enlist the help of friends or family members to help you find that theme. Then embrace your theme, and live your story out in a way that gives God the glory! CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO ENTER 🙂 

CLICK HERE TO ENTER TO WIN!! 

Related Posts: 
All Because of One Woman: A Mother, Wife, Author, Speaker Point of View
5 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage: Building Intimacy, Not Walls
Loving My Soldier: Hindsights & Insights of PTSD
Army Wife Tips

ABOUT HANNAH: 
Hannah Conway is a military wife, mother of two, and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns sure to thrill, and encourage. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and My book Therapy. She and her family live in Tennessee

A / IBook /BN / K )

CLICK the Links Below The Image to Download Your eCopy of WEDDING A WARRIOR