Meet Best of the Best Runner-Up Gerald Shuler


Graham and his wife

First of all, have you seen the interview with our Best of the Best winner, Graham Insley? Check it out at the Challenge page – and learn about his winning entry A Horse’s Rear End, the benefits of a challenge buddy, and his love for FaithWriters (and his Aussie home). Don’t miss it. :)

And now, let’s move on to the interview at hand.

Gerald Shuler has been a member of FaithWriters since 2007. And this year, his entry for the Expire challenge, Use Before…, was the second-highest rated entry the entire challenge year. Wow! Read on to learn about his reaction to being second place in Best of the Best, his love of FaithWriters, and how his little sister inspired him to create his first ebook – and more!

JOANNE SHER: First of all, Gerald, congratulations! Can you tell me what your reaction was when you learned that you got second place in Best of the Best this year?

GERALD SHULER: I knew my simple entry didn’t stand a chance of winning because there were so many super choices this year. I was just curious which one of those marvelous choices won. When I saw my name I thought “No, this can’t be… it should have been…” Then it dawn on me that I was the choice. But I actually decided NOT to tell my wife just in case it really was a mistake. (I finally told her I placed two days later.)

JOANNE: You are lucky you weren’t MY husband, Jerry – you’d be on the couch if you waited that long! ;) Your winning entry, Use Before.. resonated with quite a few people. I think many of us – especially those on the older part of the spectrum – have felt ignored or rejected because of our age. And you approached the issue masterfully. What was your inspiration for this piece? Do you remember how it came together?

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Need a Contest to Enter?

FaithWriters has several contests going on this summer – ones for just about every type of Christian writing – from short to long, from fiction to nonfiction.

Let’s start with short writings. With the success of FaithWriters’ first testimony book (click here to see it and purchase), FaithWriters is planning to put out a second one. If you did not have your testimony in Trials and Triumphs, and you are a gold or platinum member, why not write it up for the new book? Check out details here (scroll down a bit) – but don’t wait too long. The deadline is August 15. You could be published – and receive royalties!

Also, the FaithWriters Writing Challenge comes back from its short break in just two days. Here is an opportunity to practice writing to a deadline, a topic, and a word count – and get feedback from fellow writers. Be sure to check the challenge main page on Thursday for the new topic!

If novel-length writing is more your cup of tea, we’ve got a couple contest for you -whether you are working on a novel or a work of nonfiction.

For non-fiction writers, be sure to enter the 2014 Page Turner Contest – open to any platinum member at no charge. All you need is the first chapter of your non-fiction manuscript, as well as a synopsis of the entire book (no – the book does NOT have to be completed to enter!). The winner will receive $800 cash, free editing of your manuscript,  and more. But don’t delay – the deadline is October 31, 2014, with winners announced in December.

And all you novelists, we have a contst for you as well! FaithWriters and Xulon Press are giving away a Xulon Bestseller Package and free premium publicity and marketing on all FaithWriters’ sites to the best platinum member submission of a Christian fiction entry with a sound biblical message. Just submit your first chapter and a synopsis/outline of the book and you could be the winner of this package, worth over $2,000. Check here for more details on this contest.

Which contest will you enter?

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New Challege Book -Mixed Blessings Simple Pleasures- Is Out!

At last! The long wait is over. The first of the new “Writing Challenge” books, Mixed Blessings Simple Pleasures, has been released, and what a book it is. With one hundred bite-sized stories, articles, and poems, by over fifty fantastic FaithWriters Challengeers including the talented Jan Ackerson, Kenn Allan, Teri Wilson, Beth LaBuff, Melanie Kerr, and a whole lot more, this makes a perfect bedside book or gift. There really is something for every Christian reader in a Mixed Blessings book.

Simple-Pleasures-Cover_Final-200x300Simple Pleasures is the first in the constantly growing Mixed Blessings series from Breath of Fresh Air Press. Each book is compiled almost entirely from our Writing Challenge Editors’ Choice winners over the last seven years. To date, there are over 460 authors involved in this massive project, with 2,900 articles in 29 books. Each quarter of the Writing Challenge will add more authors to the list, and another hundred articles.

Writing Challenge Coordinator and owner of Breath of Fresh Air Press, Deb Porter, says, “These books have been a long time coming, but I wanted them to perfect, and our first book, Mixed Blessings—Simple Pleasures, is worth the wait. I love everything about it. It is a delight from start to finish. I have too many favorites to list.”

Deb also mentioned that through the preparation of this first book, she has rediscovered the amazing talent of some old FaithWriters members, and is now working on book projects with three of the authors featured in this first book.

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Congrats to 2014′s Writing Challenge Best of the Best!

Out of the thousands of FaithWriters Writing Challenge entries submitted over the past year, only forty were first place Editors Choice winners and contenders for Best of the Best. And of those, only one entry – and writer – can be chosen and crowned the 2014 Best of the Best. That person wins a cool $300 in cash, and the proverbial BoB crown. Second and third place winners get $100 and $75, respectively.

FaithWriters has crowned its new Best of the Best, as well as second and third place winners. Drumroll, please… :)

1ST PLACE  ($300)
The Horse’s Rear End by Graham Insley

(Topic: Straight From the Horse’s Mouth)


2ND PLACE  ($100)
Use Before… by Gerald Shuler

(Topic: Expire)


3RD PLACE  ($75)

Nature Speaks by Kenn Allan

(Topic: Example)


That’s right – for the first time in the ten-year history of Best of the Best, the guys have swept it! Watch for interviews with BoB and the runners-up on the site and here on the blog. The Writing Challenge starts up again on, July 10 – in just over a week. Plan to enter – YOU could be 2015′s Best of the Best!

Congratulations, Graham, Gerald, and Kenn!


Congrats to Spring 2014 Writing Challenge Cash Winners

(I’m not generally one to toot my own horn – especially on this blog – but it looks like I have no choice :::blush::: )

The FaithWriters’ Writing Challenge is on a break right now, with the last winners of the “Evolution of Language” quarter announced just last week. And that means it’s time to announce the four winners of the quarterly level awards. The highest scoring entry in EACH LEVEL over each entire ten-week quarter receives a $50 cash prize.

And the winners for the second quarter of 2014 are:

Level 1 – Beginners: The Misanthrope’s Practical Guide to Avoiding Close Friendships by Diane Bowman (Bestie Challenge)

Level 2 – Intermediate: My Side of the Wall by Gracie Sparks (First World Problem Challenge)

Level 3 – Advanced: Digital Despair in Denmark by Gregory Kane (Digital Detox Challenge)

Level 4 – Masters: An Ode to Technology (Or Not…) by Joanne Sher (Digital Detox Challenge)

Watch this spot (and others) for the winners of Best of the Best – the top three challenge entries of the entire challenge year (July 2013-June 2014) – they will be announced on July 1. AND the new challenge year will start up on July 10 – make a point of entering (and YOUR name could be here in a few months!).


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Deadline for Blog Contest a Week Away!

Have you entered FaithWriters’ latest blogging contest? You could win paid writing assignments – or a free gold membership. But the deadline is coming up fast – so don’t delay!

The current contest is for the Pocket Testament League, a 120+-year-old organization whose main focus is leading people to a saving knowledge of Christ and equipping others to do the same.

To enter the contest, you need to write a 750-word-or-less promotional review of their site/ministry whose goal is to encourage readers to click on the links to PTL’s website. Your article must include at least four links to the PTL website tied into certain key words (contextual links). And it must be posted in at least three places – on the “What’s In Your Pocket” post in the FaithWriters forums, in FaithWriters’ regular articles section, and one other place. See this page for the general guidelines, tips, and instruction on entering these contests, and this page for more details on this particular contest.

The deadline for this contest is 6pm ET on June 30, 2014, with winners announced as soon as they are determined. That’s this coming Monday!

So, are you wondering about prizes? Well, here they are:

1st Place (Upgraded member): Two paid writing assignments from Pocket Testament League ($150 total) and publication on 100 Christian blogs.

2nd Place (Upgraded member) One paid writing assignment from Pocket Testament League (worth $75)

Best Silver member entry: free one-year FaithWriters Gold membership

So, check out their website for ideas (or see the winners of the last PTL blogging contest a couple years ago) and get writing! You can do it :)

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How to Get The Most from A Critique Group

NOTE: These tips also work for individual critiques. Check out The Critique Circle at FaithWriters. :)

How to Get the Most Out of a Critique/Critique Group

By Suzanne Hartmann

1. Realize that your writing isn’t perfect.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. You have spent so much time and poured so much effort into your writing. You have read up on the craft of writing. You have revised and polished your work until it shines. What can your new critique partners possibly find wrong with your writing except minor typos? It’s easier than you think to fall into the trap of thinking that there’s not much wrong with your writing.

The truth is that you submit your writing for critique to find your mistakes, not to receive affirmation that your writing is perfect. Yes, there will be some affirmation and encouragement along the way; we all need that too, but the main reason we participate in a critique group is to find our mistakes and learn how to fix them. Your critique partners will point out the imperfections you are unable to see.

2. Understand that the people in your group want to help you.
Receiving critiques can be hard, especially when you are a new writer and receive critique after critique that points out flaws in your work. It can be tough. But your partners are not trying to make you feel bad or putting you down to be mean. They point out the flaws in your writing for your benefit.

Sometimes it can be as hard on critiquers to point out something they see wrong as it is to receive the information. Sometimes they worry that you will take it wrong or that you will hate them or that it will put you over the edge and make you want to quit. Generally, they will risk being hurt by your reaction because they know the information is for your benefit and that changing your writing to fix the problem will make your work better.

Yes, critiques can hurt, but It is much better for a critique partner to point out your mistakes than a potential agent or editor somewhere down the line…in a rejection letter (if they take the time to explain why they are rejecting your work).

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Marketing for Christian Authors

Marketing your books can be scary, and difficult, for writers – perhaps especially Christian ones. Well, Sarah Bolme knows all about it. In fact, she wrote an award-winning book on the subject – a book that she is offering to FaithWriters’ members for a discount (click here for details).

Read on to learn about Sarah’s journey, her award-winning Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace (with a foreward by Sally Stuart), and marketing tips you can use now!

JOANNE SHER: Hi Sarah, and thanks for talking with us. Tell me about your experience with publishing and marketing Christian books.

SARAH BOLME: I remember from the time I was in high school, that one of the goals for my life was to be a published author. I’m not sure why I had that goal, since I never really was into writing—but very into reading. I had my first article published in a professional journal after college. Later, I had some colleagues encourage me to get a curriculum I had developed on anger management published.SarahPic

Thus, I began the process of attempting to get a book published. Not knowing much about what I was doing, I mailed my manuscript to numerous publishers, received many rejection letters, and one acceptance letter. One acceptance letter is all it takes. My first two books were published by a traditional publishing house that paid royalties.

After my first child was born, I was frustrated because I could not find board books for babies that talked about Jesus. Most were on Old Testament stories. My husband and I came up with a set of four board books on Jesus for infants and toddlers and attempted to find a publisher. When we were unable to secure a publishing contract, my husband suggested that we self-publish the books. From there, CREST Publications was born, and Baby Bible Board Books: Stories of Jesus was published in 2003.

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Proactive and Reactive Scenes

Proactive and Reactive Scenes

By Randy Ingermanson

It sounds horribly old-fashioned to say this, but once a month, I go to a critique group with real, live writers.

These days, it seems that most writers communicate electronically. That’s all fine, but it’s just more fun to get together in person, so we do it.

One of the most common questions I ask after somebody reads a scene is, “What happened in this scene?”

Something needs to happen in every scene. Otherwise, there’s no reason for it to exist. Something needs to change. The lead character for the scene needs to be better off or worse off at the end of the scene than at the beginning.

There are two common patterns that scenes fall into—Proactive Scenes and Reactive Scenes. Of these, Proactive Scenes are more common, but all novelists need to know how to write both.

Proactive Scenes
Proactive scenes are goal-oriented. The lead character for the scene is called the point-of-view character (POV character) and she wants to achieve some goal by the end of the scene.

But fiction feeds on conflict, so there is some reason your POV character can’t get what she wants. Maybe another character gets in the way. Maybe it’s something inanimate. Maybe this character is her own worst enemy, and she’s keeping herself from reaching her goal.

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Casting God

Casting God
By Sydney Avey

In A Praying Life, author Paul E. Miller suggests that we consider carefully who we think we are talking to when we pray. I often cast God in benign roles that focus on what He can do for me. Example: God is my boss, and if I serve him well he will give me good things.

When praying about my writing life, I consider the seeds I am sowing on the path that meanders before me. Laying the seed before God, I entertained thoughts that if I just keep trying different things -  a new market, a different writer’s group, a daily blog, a writer’s conference – one day God might say “Cha ching! You have chosen Door Number Two! You win!” Then I realize that I have just cast God as a game show host.

God is not a boss to please or a game to win. Daily I must remind myself of who I’m talking to — the great I Am — holy, righteous, lover, judge, creator, sustainer. That casts a different light on my role in this relationship.

Holy God, I offer up these characters I have created and ask that You, the creator and sustainer of life, find worlds for them to live in. May they give you pleasure. May they amuse and inspire readers. Amen.

**Sydney Avey writes and blogs in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.

Article Source: WRITER

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