Category Archives: Blog

A Teachable Spirit Takes Discipline

Do you want to be successful? Of course you do, so what’s the secret? A teachable spirit—because if you are willing to admit your weaknesses, learn from your mistakes, and seek out wise counsel, with God as your guide, you will develop the skills necessary for success.

For at least a year, I’ve been praying for one of my children to have a teachable spirit, a couple of weeks ago as I literally wrestled him into his soccer uniform, I had a revelation. God was going to use me to instill this virtue in this stubborn child. Would someone please tell me why God always works like this? I really would’ve preferred he just transform my son’s attitude, but alas, that is not to be, so if you hear me shouting, please know I am doing the Lord’s work.

Proverbs teaches us the necessity for a teachable spirit. “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Proverbs 1:5.  “Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.” Proverbs 9:9.

Seems pretty simple, but sometimes it is easier said than done. When we have poured our hearts and souls into our works, the critiques feel harsh. I think a teachable spirit requires not only a humble attitude but also thick skin. Let’s face it, it’s hard to listen to your work being picked apart line-by-line or even word-by-word. But we can’t grow as writers or God’s servants if we don’t possess this quality. In all likelihood, we will find that we have to change a lot and work tirelessly. Criticism is hard to accept, but when we allow it to refine our work—our lives, we will be stronger, more effective writers and servants.

It is the secret of the wise and successful. They are constantly seeking instruction from experienced teachers and learned text. Proverbs 2:2-6 teaches us to “turn your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.”

God gives us human teachers and earthly resources to improve our writing and our lives. It is up to us to listen and read. We must take this instruction and apply it. An instructor at a writing conference told me about the number of writers that argued with her about her comments. Now, let’s just be clear, this person is an expert in the field from a number of angles, and she was trying to help budding writers. It boggles my mind, why anyone wouldn’t be writing down everything she said and begging for more. What a blessing from God to have this person willing to help and encourage me as a writer.

I know I need a lot of work. My bookshelves are filled to overflowing with writing craft books, Bible studies, and Christian living texts. Usually, I’m reading one from each category plus a novel and several blogs. When friends or family members have problems, they will often receive a book from me. (whether or not they want it) Obviously, seeking God’s guidance from the Bible is a must. It is the greatest instruction, story, poetry book ever written. Craft books and novels help me hone my writing skills. Sometimes I can read the same concept in book after book, but it takes just the right author to turn the light bulb on for me. What an incredible feeling to grasp a concept, and I apply it to my own writing and life—surely, a gift from God.

To me having a teachable spirit, is not only listening to advice, but actively seeking out the best ways to write, live, and serve; praying for God to provide me with wise and experienced mentors; and being grateful for the opportunity to learn something new each day that will improve my writing and my walk with Him.

King David wrote, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches him his way.” Even the powerful Kind David, a man after God’s own heart, knew the value of developing a teachable spirit. Psalm 25:4, 9.

 

In what areas of your life do you need a teachable spirit?

 

 

Giving Thanks brings Perspective

There is a television commercial that starts about this time every year. The voiceover says, “we are thankful,” or “we give thanks.” Something along those lines, and every year, I think and sometimes say, “to who?” Who provided the bounty on the table in the commercial? Do they really think they provided it, and if so, does that means they are thankful for themselves? Seems a little narcissistic and selfish for Thanksgiving, and as you can tell, it really gets under my skin.

I mean, I am as thankful as most Americans for the convenience of the modern supermarket. Although we (and by we, I mean my husband who thinks he’s a farmer instead of a hospital administrator) keep a small vegetable garden and rarely buy beef because of our supply of venison, I really like being able to find almost any food from around the world at my local store. Not to mention the frozen food section, pizza sustains life around here sometimes.

But the Hebrew author of First Chronicles wasn’t confused about who provides for us, and we should listen to his words.

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what He has done.

“Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.

“Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced.”

1 Chr. 16:8-12

A few years ago, I participated in a gratitude study with a small group of friends. As part of the study, we were supposed to keep a journal, listing at least five things we were thankful for every day. After family members, I’m pretty sure dark chocolate and cabernet were next on my list, just in case you think I’m a super-deep thinker.

Now, as I look back at that season of my life, I remember that it was also a very stressful time. I remember telling a friend about all of the crazy, bad things that were happening to me and my family, and she couldn’t believe I was still functioning. At the time, it seemed like bad was chasing us down from every direction. From problems with our children’s school, to problems at work, to problems with family members. Seriously, our air conditioner and dishwasher even jumped in on the action. But with hindsight, I’m certain God sent that study and those girls at just the right time to help me remember that He has always provided, and He always will. I certainly wasn’t wandering in the desert, praying for manna, but just like the Hebrews, God faithfully provided everything I really needed.

Keeping track of God’s blessings is such an important practice to help me keep my perspective. It also gives me the opportunity to remember how God has been faithful. I love to see the big ways He shows up and gives us more than we asked for, and in ways we never dreamed. I don’t always write it down in a journal, but I try to meditate daily on God’s provision.

Next week is Thanksgiving. What things are you most thankful for this year? I’ll tell you today, I’m very grateful that I stockpiled blog posts and flash fiction pieces because I’m able to spend more time on my books. Every day that the Lord blesses me with a healthy family and words to write, I give Him my thanks. This journey would be impossible without Him. He blesses me so far beyond what I need and in ways, I often don’t even comprehend. Thank you, Jesus, for letting my greatest worry be a leaky sink. (Don’t tell Carlton, I forgot to call the plumber today. I was so caught up in my characters’ lives, and their sinks don’t leak.)

I’d love to hear what you are thanking God for this year. Leave your comments below. Let’s give God our thanksgiving this year.

Just Jack – a Flash Fiction Story

This month’s flash fiction piece presents a meet cute, a first meeting.  Will it turn into more? We love to remember the experience of meeting the person that makes our heart do somersaults and tingles dash over our arms. I met my husband on a blind date, and we were talking about engagement rings within a month.  What attracted you to your love? How did you meet? I’d love to hear your stories. Please comment below.

Here’s a snippet from Just Jack. To read the rest, click on the link at the end.

Brady flipped his truck keys in the air as he sauntered across the tarmac. His buddies played cards in the open bay of the firehouse. The clank of a metal door slamming shut, pulled his attention to the nearby hanger. Bright sunlight bounced off the white paint of a medivac helicopter, stinging his eyes, but the woman with her hands on her hips and two perfectly toned legs held his attention. The woman slashed her hand through her short, dark hair as she circled the helicopter.

Energy surged through Brady, as he turned to the burly guys hunched around a piece of plywood on an overturned five-gallon bucket scattered with poker chips and cards. “Wow. Who’s that? Y’all been holdin’ out on me.”

“That’s just, Jack.” One of the medivac pilots he recognized tossed over his shoulder as he drew a card.

“Doesn’t look like any Jack I know.” Brady shaded his eyes as he surveyed Just Jack’s ripped arms tugging a bag from the rear of the chopper.

“Dude, you don’t want to mess with her, especially not today. We just found out we’re stuck here waiting on a part for our bird, and she’s not happy.”

As if on cue, Just Jack kicked one of the landing skids.

“Obviously, but that’s never been a problem for me. I don’t mind being her shoulder to cry on.”

“Dude, she doesn’t cry, she punches. I’m warning you, steer clear. She’s not like the sweet, southern girls you’re used to.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Southern Sands Newsletter

Big news for this month, Matt Damon followed me on Twitter, and I don’t need you to tell me it’s not the real Matt Damon. I’m happy living in denial; however, I also experienced a Twitter hater. Yikes! More about that later but still waiting on Prince Harry to follow me.

As October comes to an end, hopefully, it is starting to feel like autumn where you live. My family traveled to Athens for a UGA football game, but alas not so much fall there either. However, winter came to Jacksonville overnight this weekend. I guess we will just skip fall this year.

I am excited to share updates on my writing journey with you. In November, I will have my second flash fiction piece published in Spark magazine. It is titled Waterford Crystal Dreams. Carlton and I visited the Waterford factory on our trip to Ireland in 2016, so it was fun to revisit it as I wrote this story. If you would like to read Waterford Crystal Daydream, click on this link: Spark Magazine

You know you’ve arrived when you get your first hateful comment on Twitter. This happened to me last month over a re-tweet from Proverbs 31 ministry on prayer. I was stunned, but I figured I must be doing something right to get this kind of response. Are you on Twitter? If you are, I would love to have you follow me and say nice things to combat the bad. Leslie’s Twitter Profile

As I meet more authors and learn more about the publishing industry, I am learning how important good book reviews are for success. Hundreds of books launch every month, so a new author needs help to get noticed. If you read a book and enjoy it, I encourage you to leave a quick review on Amazon and Good Reads. It can be one sentence or just a couple of words. It won’t take you long, but it will pay dividends to the author. (By the way, if you didn’t like the book, it would probably be best to follow the time-honored advice: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.)

Lastly, I want to say thank you to Amy and Joey Baldwin, owners of Boulevard Café and my mother Tina Kirby for hosting wonderful parties for my friend and mentor Lindsey Brackett author of Still Waters. It was a lovely day on St. Simons Island visiting with old and new friends. Also, thank you to my friends who read Lindsey’s book and came to our first book club meeting. It was such a treat to have Lindsey here to talk about her story.

My next newsletter won’t come out until January, so please follow me on social media for more updates on life and writing and please share things you find interesting with your friends.

Faith in Seasons of Waiting by Lauren Luckhart

Lately, it seems, my life moves from one season of waiting to another. I would be willing to bet, too, that most people would share that sentiment. Maybe it’s because there are deep-seeded longings in my heart that are still at arm’s length, or maybe because I’ve reached the age where big milestones are spread farther apart, but I am keenly aware of the waiting seasons in my life right now.

Full confession? Learning to surrender my timeline has been hard. Really hard. I’m a work in progress. We live in a world of instant gratification and self-entitlement and I’m often guilty of impatience. There’s an old saying that says something to the tune of, “While your waiting for an open door, praise God in the hallway.” Waiting is difficult, especially when what we’re waiting for is a desire so deep we can think of little else. But the greater dependence on God that waiting creates is something I’m learning to be grateful for. When I realize there is nothing I can do but pray and trust God in a situation I can’t control, it draws me closer to Him, and renews my spirit to the truth of His provision and goodness.

One of my favorite books of the Bible is James. If you’ve never read through James, I encourage you to take 20 minutes and read it today. James 1:2-4 is a life verse for me. It says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV) In this verse, we are challenged to view our trials with joy. Waiting can so often be a trial. Yet when we rest in the truth that God meets us in those trials, equips us to stand, and supplies our every need, our faith grows.

Can waiting be a testing of your faith?  Absolutely! But let’s refocus our prayers from seeking what we want, to seeking God’s will, no matter what. We must be careful not to let our desires become idols. If God places something in our hearts, and His word teaches that, “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 NIV), then we must believe that even if His answer is different than our desired outcome, it’s for our good. That takes big faith, friend, and surrender. God moves in His timing and for His glory, and as I look back and trace His hand in my life, I’m grateful for His perfect leading.

What are you currently waiting and praying for while you’re standing in the hallway? Is there a job you’ve been working toward and you’re praying for an interview and offer? Is your raw and aching heart praying for that pregnancy test to finally read positive? Have you put everything within you into the manuscript that’s now in the hands of an agent, editor, or publishing house, and you’re waiting for the email that could change the course of your writing journey? You’re not alone. I’m in the hallway with you, praying for you, and hoping this season reveals to you in new and mighty ways, how good and loving our Father is.

Author Bio:

Lauren Luckhart is an aspiring Christian author of Historical Romance. Having been born in the South but raised in the North, she now calls Chattanooga, TN home and is loving every minute of Southern exposure.

An avid history and movie buff, she can be found regularly geeking out over historical facts and blockbuster films. In addition to spending time with her close-knit family, Lauren is a coffee and travel enthusiast, crochet hobbyist, graduate of Bryan College with a B.S. degree in Business Administration, hair stylist of eight years, and loves to connect with others on social media.

Social Media Handles:

Facebook: @authorlaurenluckhart

Instagram: @authorlaurenluckhart

Website: laurenluckhart.com

 

Research Makes a Good Story Great

In the South, when we invite you to a barbecue, the only meat being served will be slow smoked pork, so if you’re expecting hot dogs or hamburgers, you’d better head to a cook-out. What does this have to do with writing fiction? Everything because nothing is more distracting in a story than when an author gets the facts wrong.

When I started writing fiction, I never dreamed I would spend so much time researching, but accuracy is important. I just finished reading a book that is supposed to be set in coastal Georgia less than two hours from where I was born and raised. I’m already a little irritated that the characters have yet to utter a “y’all”, but then they say they are looking forward to the barbeque, and I’m expecting pulled pork sandwiches or ribs. But no, they are eating hot dogs and hamburgers. It is so wrong. It would be fine if they were somewhere else in the country, but barbecue is an important part of Southern culture. You just can’t get something like that wrong. And now that I think about it, those characters haven’t once eaten grits or pecan pie.

Lately, I have spent hours learning about helicopter pilots. So much so, my daughter asked me if I was going to become a helicopter pilot. Did you know a helicopter can cost over $300,000.00? I didn’t, but it changed the plot of my next book. This girl wasn’t going to be able to afford to buy her own helicopter, so I needed to figure out how I was going to make the story work. When I wrote my flash fiction piece, Waterford Crystal Daydream, I wrote lists of Irish slang and watched videos of glass blowing, taking copious notes. I probably spent more time researching than I did writing the seven-hundred-word story, but I loved it. (And now for a shameless plug, if you want to read Waterford Crystal Daydream, go to www.splickety.com and register for a free subscription. Spark will arrive in your inbox next month with my story. Yes, I said free.)

Of course, all this research is good news for me because I love it. I did spend several years as a research attorney. Although sometimes, I probably go a little overboard, going down rabbit holes or getting bogged down with an insignificant detail. Like the day I spent two hours trying to figure out what kind of flowers are at the beginning of My Fair Lady. I had my answer in five minutes after I put the video on Facebook.

Research for fiction writing isn’t just about an online search. It is about experiencing all aspects of your characters’ world, and it can be a lot of fun. For example, when my heroine wanted to learn to stand-up paddleboard, I bought a paddle board and learned how. That being said, I have been on a helicopter, and it resulted in terrible motion sickness, so I won’t be experiencing that again, but won’t it be funny when my big, strong firefighter finds himself trying to keep down his breakfast while impressing the female pilot. Oh, I can’t wait to write that scene.

Research is also great for brainstorming, not to mention, it’s a legitimate way to procrastinate. It can supply material for new scenes or even new stories. You might find an interesting blog post to share on social media. As writers, we spend a lot of time in front of a computer, but research takes us out into the world, engaging with God’s creation in all its forms, so we can share it with our readers.

What factual errors irate you the most when you’re reading fiction? What are some fun things you have gotten to do in the name of research?

A Work in Progress

Some days I feel like such a fraud—as a writer, as a mother, as a Christian. How about you? I remember the first time I thought this. I was listening to a speaker at a Christian writers’ conference. A lot of people there thought I must be successful because I’d won a few awards and had an agent, and I played along like I was the confident person they believed I was. Meanwhile, all I could think about was the rejection from an editor and the likelihood of my award-winning novel ever being published slipping away.

Last weekend, I spent two scorching days melting in the oppressive heat and humidity of Orlando, Florida, watching my youngest son play in a soccer tournament. I’m telling you if you ever want to see me lose my religion in a flash, come to a soccer game. If it’s not the referee making a bad call, it’s the rude parents from the other team or the kid that keeps shoving my son. Before I know it, I’m confessing my behavior to our long-suffering Father and begging for forgiveness.  But then, of course, we have to get on the interstate and drive home, and well, you know the drill.

How can I call myself a Christian? What kind of example am I to my children? Sure, I lead two small groups and teach Sunday school to teenagers, and I have started calling bad drivers, “sweetheart and princess.” But what would the church crowd think if they saw me at my worst? More importantly, what will the new Christian think or the unbeliever? I say I’m faithful, and yet, I doubt and worry. I think judgmental thoughts with a self-righteous attitude. Gracious, by the time, I finish this post, y’all will think I’m an awful person, and I might lose my Sunday School teacher position, but I think it is important, to be honest—to be real. (And since most people are afraid of twenty high school students in close-quarters, I don’t have to worry about being fired quite yet.)

It is not enough to ask for forgiveness, so I pray every day to be a blessing to others, and God is working on me. We all have our issues. We all sin. We all make mistakes because like I tell my children, there was only one perfect person, and his name was Jesus. Yes, dear friends, we are all frauds at some point, but hear the good news: with Jesus, there is hope for transformation. The Holy Spirit can change us and our thoughts. We have to give it all to Him and seek His direction. We must earnestly repent, and then pray for those people who cut us off in traffic.

In First Corinthians 1:27-31, Paul writes encouraging words for all of us less than perfect people. “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

God gives us the strength and wisdom, and when we succeed, we give him all the glory. Surely, we understand that it is only through His power and love that great things happen. Friends, if you don’t know about this love, this power, this grace, and this freedom, please know it is a gift from God and all you need say is yes.

How has God used your weaknesses to do his work? How has God taken something small in your life and made it something great? Let’s share. I’d love to hear your stories.

Why We Need Critique Groups

A published novel is always the work of a team. One of my favorite parts of books is the acknowledgment’s page. Go ahead and call me a book nerd, but I love to see all the people that have contributed to a finished manuscript. Almost always the name of a critique group will be included with a list of names. At my first writers’ conference, I set out on a mission to find my group and prayed God the right people in my path.

 

My First Critique Group at the 2016 ACFW Conference. Photo credits Kailee Diaz. Also pictured Amanda Everett and Lauren Luckhart.

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a year since I met four aspiring authors at the AmericanChristian Fiction Writers Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. We live in four different states and are of all ages and stages of life. I fill the role of the old lady with three kids.  These talented women have provided much-needed critique, prayer, encouragement, and often just the right phrase or word. I credit one of them with writing the best opening line for my book blurb and pitch.

 

But one critique group wasn’t enough for me, I now have two more groups of writers to help me on my quest. I need a lot of guidance. One group is mostly for encouragement and has a cute name, but when one of us needs a quick edit, we can hop on our private Facebook group and someone is usually available. Plus, it’s nice to have a safe place to be honest, and let’s face it, vent about the ups and downs of the publishing industry, but only so we can pray for each other of course.

After attending my second writers’ conference, I learned about the Word Weavers critique group that met near my home. Last weekend, I joined them for the first time at the Panera Bread in Fleming Island. At this gathering, one person reads aloud what you have brought and the rest follow along, jotting notes and making suggestions on their own copy. Yikes!!! (Yes, that did deserve three exclamation points.) Nothing like having people you’ve only met once or twice discuss your writing. I certainly didn’t need the cup of Hazelnut coffee, the fear of their thoughts in this open forum caused adrenaline to pump through my veins like I was sprinting for my life. By the way, I forgot to mention as the writer, you are not supposed to respond to the comments. Good news, they were very kind and liked my piece, while they also made valuable suggestions.

This, my friends, is not always how my critiques go, and I’m usually very glad to be by myself and several states away from the person commenting on my work. I may, just may, call her a name or shout my disbelief at her opinion. But most of the time, after I take a few minutes or hours or sometimes days to process the critique, and even when I disagree with a comment, it points to something I need to alter. This is how we learn and grow, and sometimes it is a little painful but well worth the results.

In writing, as in life, the best friends are the ones that will tell you the truth even when it hurts, and trust me nothing hurts more than seeing a red line drawn through one of your brilliant sentences. But it also feels amazing when one of your critique partners starts her comments with “this is some of your best writing,” or “I love your voice.” The best part of my groups is that they care enough to point out the problems, but also pour on the praise when it’s warranted. We all cheer when one of us wins an award, signs with an agent, or publishes a book.

So, since, I don’t get to include an acknowledgment’s page with my flash fiction stories in Spark, and I’m waiting to hear back from an editor for my book, I want to say thank you to the fantastic members of my critique groups. Y’all are the best! Thank you: Kailee, Lauren L., Amanda, Lindsey, Kimberly, Hope, Kelsey, Anna Grace, Lauren C., Jenifer, Victoria, Kelly, and Shari.

How do you take constructive criticism? Do you have a group of friends or a person that will tell you the truth no matter what?

Success at the Florida Christian Writers Conference

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

This verse sums up my weekend at the Florida Christian Writers Conference. God truly ordained each moment for me. The joy I feel in writing for Him is overwhelming. I want to share a few of the highlights, but before I do, I want to let you know that 16 months ago, I got the results from a writing contest. They were terrible. I didn’t write for two months. I doubted everything, but also knew that I had a lot of work to do. I lost count of the number of craft books I read. I rewrote my first manuscript over and over. When I entered it again, I didn’t win, but I did get some high scores. I kept working and praying. I gave it all over to God, and these are the results of delighting in Him:

  • Thursday – At the first timers’ orientation, I meet a lovely woman from Jacksonville—Lauren Crews. We hit it off right away. When I registered, I asked to be assigned a roommate, and several times over the last month, I considered changing a single room. After hearing a positive story on Christian radio about sharing a room with a stranger and making a lifelong friend, I decided to take my chances. I’m so glad I did. Lauren was my roommate.
  • Friday – One of the most exciting things at these conferences is getting to meet with literary agents and editors and hopefully, get a contract. I didn’t plan to pitch at this conference until ten days before and decided to wait until Saturday for all of my appointments because I didn’t think I was ready. But on Friday, I threw caution to the wind and sat down for lunch with a potential agent. Right away he asked to read a few of my pages. He LIKED them. My heart raced like one of my characters. He was very interested in working with me. What!?! He told me to e-mail him my proposal and sample chapters, but I should keep my appointments.
  • Saturday – At my first appointment with an editor from Love Inspired, she suggested I chat with Lindsey Bracket about writing flash fiction. When I met with Lindsey, we found common ground in that we are from Georgia and write southern fiction. Ya’ll, she volunteered to coach me. For the rest of the weekend, she was my strength in the midst of overwhelming good news. Her advice is keeping me sane right now.
  • Saturday Evening – I had a mentor appointment with an agent to discuss and work on my current manuscript. After we went through her edits, she asked me send her a proposal. I couldn’t believe it—more than one agent was interested in my work.
  • Saturday Night – At the awards banquet, I won first place for contemporary romance novel, and Lauren (my fabulous, talented roommate) won first place for Bible study. Then the Lord decided to really lay on the blessings. Lauren won first place overall non-fiction, and I won first place overall fiction.
  • There were so many other amazing God winks throughout the weekend.

From Her Kids

“I would describe my mother as a funny who is serious at the right times.”  -Kirby DeVooght(9)

“I would describe mom by her being the best mom ever.”  -Charlie DeVooght(8)

“Our mom is so amazing.  She always believes in us and supports us in all of our crazy dreams.  She does everything for us and we are and will be forever grateful.”  -Libby DeVooght(12)

 

 

Compiled by Libby DeVooght