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Congrats to our Writing Challenge Quarterly Winners!

Well, we have finished up another year of the FaithWriters Writing Challenge. Congratulations to everyone who entered in 2019 – just submitting something is an accomplishment!

Some writers, however, rose to the top – and this post recognizes them for this past quarter, which ran from October to December. With nine topics and three levels, one post in each level earned a top rating each week. But which post for each level rated highest overall? That’s what this is about. Let’s give a cheer to these three writers, and their entries, that got the highest ratings in their level for the entire quarter.

October-December Writing Challenge Quarterly Winners

Don’t Worry, God Will Provide by Sandra Allsworth (Thankful Challenge)

Invitations by Marilyn Borga (Generous Challenge)

The Six Jolly Church-Goers by David Butler (Thankful Challenge)


The Writing Challenge starts up again on Thursday, January 2, 2020. Won’t you join us?

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Announcing our Writing Challenge Quarterly Winners!

Congratulations to these Challengeers – whose entries scored the highest for their levels for the entire Summer Quarter. Give the entries a read (click on the title) – you WILL be blessed!

BEGINNERS/INTERMEDIATE:  Skies Open by Caryn Jacobs (Surprise Challenge)


ADVANCED: Declaration Dilemma by Arlene Baker (Clear as Mud Challenge)


MASTERS: The Weird World of Wigs by David Butler (Hair Challenge)

Congratulations, Caryn, Arlene, and David!

Watch for the Writing Challenge to start up again on October 3. Hope to see your entry!

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Meet 2019 Best of the Best Runner Up Sally Hanan!

See the interview with first place BoB winner Mariane Holbrook here, and second place winner Allison Egley here.

Sally Hanan has been a FW member for a VERY long time (almost 15 years!), and though she hadn’t entered the Writing Challenge in a few years, she submitted an entry this past March. That entry took the top spot that week, and NOW has been recognized as third place in Best of the Best. Read on to learn more about Sally, her entry, her publishing successes and dreams, and her connection to the people of FaithWriters – and more.

JOANNE SHER: First of all, congratulations on your BoB win! What was your reaction when you found out you were third place in Best of the Best?

SALLY HANAN: I was very surprised, to be honest, as I hadn’t placed at all in the quarterly ratings. It was a lovely notice to get in my inbox.

JOANNE: Your winning piece, Royalty Enshrined, is such a beautiful, imagery-rich poem. How did it come together for you? 

SALLY: I’m a bit of a dreamer when it comes to what goes on in my head, and I saw it before I put the words down. The correlation of seeds heading off matched what was going on in my own life—our baby (age 24) was making plans to leave and our oldest child has already been gone for a few years. It’s like a wind blows through and carries them off, and it’s now up to them to plant where they will and become who they will.

JOANNE: Ohhh – can I relate (guessing I’m not the only one!) You have been at FaithWriters since 2005 – though your presence over the past nine years or so has been felt more in the FaithWriters Facebook group than on the actual site. What motivated you to enter for the first time in several years? Will you be back? What is it about the FaithWriters family that makes you stick around as you do?

SALLY: The FaithWriters family has truly been a lifeline for me, a lovely fit in so many ways. The talent, encouragement, laughs, and ongoing celebration matches no other social media group I’ve joined since, in that I started as a baby writer and wrote my way into better writing alongside incredible people.

I’m not sure what made me enter after so long. I think I was tired of doing boring work stuff and wanted to remind myself of what else was inside me, scratching to get out. Another part of it was that I’d gotten back into reading some really great fiction again, and it was inspiring to fill up with so many beautiful words. I wanted to see if I could write something as descriptive.

I’m sure I’ll be back from time to time. FW has a piece of my heart. 😊 

JOANNE: We love you too 🙂 Have you always enjoyed writing, or is it something that developed later? What is your favorite genre to write in?

SALLY: I’ve always loved words. My English teachers encouraged me all through my school years, but I stopped writing for many years while I raised my kids. Once they were fairly self-sufficient, I jumped straight back in. Writing makes me feel more alive.

I like writing women’s fiction because of the way the words can dance and reach into the soul, but I also love writing Christian nonfiction because words can give people so much understanding to a confusing topic, and they can also give great encouragement to someone feeling stuck or not good enough.

JOANNE: So true! How about reading? What’s your favorite type of book to read? Who are your favorite authors?

SALLY: I love good women’s fiction. Not too wordy, not too smarmy or too loaded with romance that it blocks a good story, not too depressing. I’m averaging about a book a week now that the kids are gone.

My current favorite is Diana Gabaldon. Her writing is magical, and I just haven’t found anyone else who can match the way she breathes life into every scene. Other writers I’ve enjoyed lately are Fredrik Backman, Gregory Boyle, Olivia Hawker, Rachel Kadish, Tara Westover, and Liana Moriarty.

JOANNE: Tell us a bit about you and your family.

SALLY: I’m an Irish immigrant. We moved here in 1995 after winning a lottery visa, and our kids were five months and three years old at the time. We moved to Austin and have never left. The weather here is fantastic compared to the temps and constant rain of home. I was a stay-at-home mom for many years and now I’m free to do what I want when I want. It feels divine. 

JOANNE: Sounds wonderful! What are your hopes and dreams for the future, both personally and professionally?

SALLY: I’d like to write many more nonfiction books. I already have three out in the big world, but I’m always planning new books in my head. We’ll see which ones make it out. 

I’ve written a few novels too, and I thought the latest one had a chance of getting published, but it never worked out. I might go back to it at some point and iron out the things that didn’t work in it. I’ve started three new ones….

I love doing heart healing ministry and life coaching with people, so I’ve been thinking a lot lately of starting a video course on it. Maybe that’ll grow into speaking opportunities.

I’ve had a writing and editing business for about ten years now, and it’s going well. The last few years have been more interesting in that I’m also doing typesetting and cover design. It’s always exciting to help an author see his/her book on websites and to be able to feel the real product of possibly years of effort in one’s hands.

 Long term, my personal Scripture is that God will make me a blessing to others. That’s my biggest hope and dream for my daily and future “being.”

JOANNE: Where can folks connect with you? 

SALLY: FaithWriters Profile

Facebook: Personal Page    Writing and Editing Business: Inksnatcher    Pick Your Life

Inksnatcher website

Pick Your Life website



JOANNE: Anything else you’d like to share?

SALLY: Overall, life is about trying everything and then keeping on with what is enjoyable. No one is great at anything starting out, but there is always a way to get better, learn more, understand more, and enjoy it all in the journey. Hard stuff always happens, but when it comes to writing and beautiful words, they make everything better. They infuse the soul like a hot cocoa on a snowy day. We can be those writers serving up the cocoa.

JOANNE: Love this! Thanks so much, Sally, for sharing with us. Congrats again, and i am praying your ministries, and everything else, will be a success and glorify the Lord.

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Meet 2019 Best of the Best Runner-Up Allison Egley

See the interview with first place Best of the Best Mariane Holbrook here

Allison Egley has been around FaithWriters for a VERY long time, entering the Writing Challenge and encouraging others in their writing pursuits. And now, her poignant piece Strength and Dignity has brought her a second place Best of the Best “crown.” Join us as we learn more about Allison, her winning entry, her writing journey, and her life outside of FaithWriters.

JOANNE SHER: First of all, congratulations on your BoB win! What was your reaction when you found out you were chosen as  second place in Best of the Best?

ALLISON EGLEY: Well, once I found out this piece was judged “Best of the Quarter,” I was hoping it might find its way to the top three, but I was still definitely happy and a little surprised when I found out. 

 JOANNE: Your winning piece, Strength and Dignity, is well-structured and very thought-provoking. How did this entry come together for you? Any particular struggles getting it the way you liked it?

ALLISON: To get ideas for a topic, I often play what I call “The Alphabet Game,” where I try to come up with something related to the topic for each letter of the alphabet. For C, “cult” came to my mind immediately. Then, the idea went back and forth. At first, I was going to write a story about a cult that is very “proper” and where much is forbidden. Then I played with the idea of the opposite — a cult in which vanity is not only encouraged, but the main value of the cult. But I didn’t think I could really pull that off. And then I realized… I could combine the two, in a roundabout way – a cult that says that vanity and pride are forbidden, when, in reality, they think they are better than everyone else, which can be both pride and vanity.

As far as actually writing the piece, this came together pretty easily, and actually turned out better than I had thought, which is a rarity for me. I continued Esther’s story a few weeks later and have been encouraged to try to write more of her story. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until after I wrote this story that started reading a couple of non-fiction books about people who have been caught in cults. Unfortunately, even in the modern day, the extreme corporal punishment I mention in my story is not uncommon in cults.

JOANNE: Thanks so much for sharing your creative process. You have been at FaithWriters for almost 15 years – and this is your second time being recognized for Best of the Best (the first time, you got first place in 2012 for Upload Complete – a VERY different entry than this one 🙂 ) What has kept you around FaithWriters, and what do you most like about it?

ALLISON: What I like most about FaithWriters is the people. Honestly, if it were just the writing, I probably wouldn’t have stayed around. It’s the people and the community, and the support from the people and community, not only in writing, but in all aspects of life. I have met so many amazing people on FaithWriters. Some of them I’ve had the opportunity to meet in person at the various conferences we’ve had in the past. Others I’ve never met in person, but I still consider them dear friends.

JOANNE: I absolutely second that! Have you always enjoyed writing, or is it something that developed later?  Continue Reading…

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Meet 2019 Best of the Best Winner Mariane Holbrook!

Marianne Holbrook has been a Faithwriters member for many years, and has been a big encourager to many. And now it’s time for FaithWriters to encourage her – with FaithWriters’ 2019 Best of the Best win for her moving entry Come and Dine. Read on to learn about Mariane, her winning entry, her (embarrassing) writing debut, and more.

JOANNE SHER: First of all, congratulations on your BoB win! What was your reaction when you found out you were chosen as  Best of the Best?  

MARIANE HOLBROOK: Thank you.  I was both surprised and shocked.  I hadn’t been following the BOBs and didn’t know of my win until Verna Mitchell sent me a congratulatory Email. I called to my husband to read Verna’s Email with me so I could be sure I wasn’t dreaming.

JOANNE: Your winning piece, Come and Dine, is so incredibly inspiring, especially knowing it was a true story. Was “Daddy” your father, or someone else you knew? How true to the actual happenings did you stay? How did this entry come together for you? Any particular struggles getting it the way you liked it?  

MARIANE: It’s a true story of my father who, even into our adulthood was always called “Daddy” by his five daughters. The story was told to me by the members of my family and several neighbors who were aunts and cousins.  Daddy was a godly man who taught Bible studies to fellow workers on the railroad during their lunch hour. He also was lay pastor of a small church in an impoverished nearby village whose residents begged him to preach on Sunday afternoons. That way he could still attend our church in the mornings and evenings.  Since he never owned a car, he would walk three miles down the railroad tracks for the 2:30 pm service, then walk back home in time for our church evening service. My sister and I often accompanied him. Over the years, relatives added details of the “Come and Dine” story that I hadn’t heard before, like the picnic held in our back yard. 

JOANNE: What a wonderful man! You have been around FaithWriters for a long time, but took a break from the challenge until recently (in fact, “Come and Dine” was your first challenge entry back after seven years!)  – and you have been faithfully entering since then. What does FaithWriters mean to you, and how has it impacted you? 

MARIANNE:  I took a break because my health was declining.  After my sons and my relatives asked me to write down the stories I often told of my family, I could think of no better venue than FaithWriters.  It provides the impetus and motivation to complete a story each week. I am keeping them in a file for my family to enjoy when I’m gone. Since I am 85 years old, I realize I have a limited amount of time left so I’m committed to writing for as long as I can.  My health hasn’t improved but my coping mechanism are better. Every day I thank God for strength He gives me for each new day. Continue Reading…


Congratulations to the 2019 Best of the Best Winners!

After twelve months of Writing Challenge topics and entries, we had our 30+ contenders for the Best of The Best.

The annual Best of the Best awards are announced July 1 each year, the awards going to the three highest rated Editors’ Choice winners for the previous twelve months. First place gets $100, second place $50, and third place $25.

Congratulations to our three awesome winners:

1ST PLACE Come and Dine by Mariane Holbrook (Feast Challenge)

2ND PLACE Strength and Dignity by Allison Egley (Vanity Challenge)

3RD PLACE Royalty Enshrined by Sally Hanan (Blessed Challenge)

Watch for interviews with the winners on the blog soon.

Congratulations, Mariane, Allison, and Sally!

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Writing Challenge Quarterly Winners – and Change for Next Quarter

ANNOUNCEMENT: Starting in July, the FaithWriters Writing Challenge will have nine topics each quarter, with a one-week break between weeks five and six.

Congratulations to the FaithWriters Writing Challenge entrants whose entries scored the highest in each level over the entire Spring quarter. Be sure to give these entries a read (click on the titles) – you WILL be blessed!

BEGINNERS/INTERMEDIATE: The Final Salute by Robin Newberger (RAIN challenge)

ADVANCED: Daddy by Arlene Baker (QUESTION(S) challenge)

MASTERS: Ginormous Love by Rachel Burkum (IT’S CHILD’S PLAY challenge)

Congratulations to Robin, Arlene, and Rachel! Keep your eyes open for the announcement of the 2019 Best of the Best winners (the highest rated entries for the last four quarters) on July 1.

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Permission to Be (write) Bad

Permission to Be Bad

By Randy Ingermanson

Writing a first draft is hard. You have to create a group of interesting characters in an interesting storyworld, force them into conflict in scene after scene, and never let the story go flat.

For some writers, writing a first draft is also fun. They write with abandon, pushing out the words, getting the story down on paper. But the problem is that when these writers finish the novel and actually look at what they wrote, they usually find that the first draft is bad. For other writers, writing a first draft is torture. They labor over every single sentence. They sweat the small stuff and the smaller stuff. And then when the story’s finally written, and they actually look at what they wrote, they usually find that the first draft is bad.

There’s a pattern here.

The First Draft is Usually Bad

I suppose a few lucky writers don’t write bad first drafts. But most writers do. And that’s OK. For most writers, a bad first draft is the necessary step to writing a fairly good second draft. Which is the necessary step to writing a pretty good third draft. And eventually, after enough drafts, the story turns into a very good final draft.

What If Your First Draft is Good?

That’s great, if your first draft is good! Super, actually. Amazing. You are not like most writers. If you are lucky enough to write awesome first drafts, be happy. But don’t tell anyone, because most writers don’t, and some of them will get downright snippy if you tell them your first drafts are amazing.

Some of them will sneer at you and say that if you really can’t improve on your first draft, you can’t be much of a writer. Pay no attention to those naysayers. But do get your manuscript edited, because even good manuscripts have issues. But the fact remains that most writers write awful first drafts most of the time. I certainly do.

Is It Bad to Be Bad On the First Draft?

No, it’s not bad. It’s uncomfortable. It’s discouraging. It can be downright debilitating. But it’s normal.

If you just remember it’s normal, that may keep you from beating yourself up. You have permission to write a bad first draft. You have permission to be awful. You have permission to write the worst drivel ever. Because you can fix it in the next draft. Or the one after that. Or the one after that.

But you’ll never fix it unless you first write it. So get it written, as the old slogan goes, and then get it right. And you have permission to take as many drafts as you need to get it right.

Homework—A few questions to think about

  1. Are you working on the first draft of a novel right now?
  2. Is it coming along more slowly than you’d like?
  3. Are you worrying too much about making it perfect?
  4. Would it hurt to leave some work for the second draft?
  5. Would it speed things up to give yourself permission to be bad? (Just for this draft?)

It may be that none of these questions apply to you. If not, then keep doing what you’re doing. But I’m betting these questions apply to a lot of writers.


This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

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Congratulations to FW’s Quarterly Challenge Winners!

Congratulations to these three, who had the highest ratings in their levels this past quarter!

BEGINNTERS/INTERMEDIATE My Marine by Jenny Miller (Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder Challenge) … p?id=57636

ADVANCED Milestones and Millstones by Stephen Kimball (Shop Challenge) … p?id=57387

MASTERS Power from Beyond by Tracy Nunes (Shop Challenge) … p?id=57391

Great job, Jenny, Stephen, and Tracy!

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Writing Challenge Change

Important Change in the Writing Challenge

Effective with April 4th Entries

“I could write a fantasy piece with a lion and a witch and no mention of God, and yet be firmly Christian,” C.S. Lewis

About a year ago, we made a change to the Challenge submission rules after some had expressed concerns about the direction of the entries. The concern was that the entries were gradually drifting further away from FaithWriters’ mission to improve Christian writers and put out good Christian writing. We agreed and made the change that has been in effect for the last year. This made some happy, and some not so happy.

Recently, we have talked to several members who approached us with knowledge of the change. We discovered that it was not necessarily the submission guidelines that they viewed as an issue. Their concern was that the guideline that entries come from a Christian worldview was not always being upheld, especially for winning entries. All agreed, from both sides of this matter, that they want to put forth writing that honors God.

Therefore, after many discussions with members, we have decided to adjust the guidelines to more of a middle position based on these talks, while asking the judges to pay closer attention to this matter. We have asked the judges to keep in mind our desire to promote Christian authors and Christian writing. We believe it is important that especially those entries selected as winners in the Challenge should not only offer great writing, but also be from a Christian worldview. Our goal in doing this is to continue to produce great articles from a Christian worldview while encouraging more members to enter again. FaithWriters is obviously a Christian writers’ website, and we trust that our members as a whole desire to honor God with their writing. In my opinion, members are writing for God and not FaithWriters.

The new submission guidelines are somewhere in the middle of where they were from the beginning of the Challenge and where they have been this last year. These new guidelines will commence in the second quarter of this year, starting April 4, 2019. We appreciate your support.

The guidelines will state:

Entries may be in any style or genre, and they do not need to be overtly Christian in message. However, they must, at minimum, come from a Christian worldview/outlook. The entry may be directed to readers in general, the Christian reader, or may be evangelistic in nature. Entries can also be simply clean, fun and humorous from a Christian point of view, Christian Soup for the Soul style, provided they fit the topic. In the case of fiction, the Christian worldview/outlook may be subtle or allegorical, but it should still offer a fairly clear Christian viewpoint. While it is not required, adding a scripture verse is always encouraged to clarify a message. Entries that are clearly outside of a Christian worldview will remain on the list, but will be not eligible for judging. Entries with offensive language or content, that are overly violent or sensual, and/or are deemed inappropriate for the Challenge and Christian readers, will be removed, even if these elements are used in the portrayal of a non-Christian character. 

Go HERE for some guidance on a Christian worldview.

Thank you to all of those members who helped in this matter.

We are the body of Christ, not perfect in the flesh, but always loving each other and working together.


Michael Edwards
Owner, FaithWriters
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