Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Running for LIFE

For runners, heading out for a run is more than logging in miles or training for a upcoming race. No, running is therapy. It's spiritual renewal. It's a way of life we can't do without!

Run for Your Life!

I am honored to have two running stories in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul book: Running for Good that has just been release in time for Global Running Day.

Years ago, I ran in high school track and on the cross-country team. I ran because it was fun and my friends were also on the team. But I never felt like a runner.

One day, it happened.

During cross-country practice, we ran eight miles. I had never run that distance before. Stopping to think about it, I finally felt like a runner... a real runner!

I haven't stopped since.

I always warn new runners that, the first time they run eight to ten miles, they will fall in love with running. They will experience that runner's high and never look back. It's tempting to run all the time, I warn them, but don't do it! Be sensible and rest to allow your body to heal. Those who listen, go on to experience fun and exciting running events. Those who don't listen to advice or their bodies, experience injuries early on.

The Spiritual High

That's why running is so appealing. Your body will speak to you as you run. You can have a long, deep conversation with your body while you're logging in eight to ten miles. At first, it whispers to you. And if you continue to ignore it, it speaks loudly to you. And if you still continue to ignore it...your body will scream at you!

That's what I experienced while training for my favorite race: The Marine Corps Marathon

I wrote about this race in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Running for Good. I trained and trained so hard for this once-in-my-lifetime race, that I ignored the warnings my body was sending me daily. I ignored it until it screamed at me and I couldn't take another step.

So, I rested and paid attention to my body's needs. It healed and off we went to the marathon!

I call this the Spiritual High because running allows you time to really listen. You can think deep thoughts while out on a run. I tend to write scenes for my latest writing project while I run. Sometimes, I work out problems I'm having at work or at home. Most of the time, I talk to God and seek His wisdom. Because I was bedridden during my pregnancy and afterwards, I went almost two years without running. Today, I appreciate every workout more than ever. When you've been forced to lie in bed for almost six months and experience atrophy, and then have surgery that keeps you from returning to normal life for another six months, getting your health back is priceless.

As I lay in bed, day after day, worrying about my unborn child and my own health, I prayed and bargained with God. "Lord," I prayed. "If you give me my health back, I promise I won't take exercise for granted ever again. If you get me back out there on the trails, I will always give you thanks. I promise."

That was 25 years ago and six marathons, eighteen half marathons, four ultra-marathons, and sprint triathlons later. After every workout, I thank the Lord for giving me my health back to enjoy.

My hubby is my main support! I couldn't do any of it without him.

Run for Your Life

In this book, I also wrote about how running helped me heal after suffering the tremendous loss of my older sister, Tammie. I have since lost my mom, aunts and uncles, grandparents, as well a beloved pet dog, and continue to use running as a time of therapy and renewal. I know my sister and my mom wouldn't want me to stop doing what I love. So, I run for them and all those who can no longer hit the trails.

Running is a way to enjoy life and prolong a healthy lifestyle. Smart training and planning can ensure successful race completion. I have found running to keep my health balanced and my body fit. In the book, you will read so many stories about people who found new health through running.

Their stories are so incredibly motivating!

Running through Rome in the 2018 Maratona di Roma

Last year, when I trained for the Rome Marathon, I had to have a complete physical as part of the race registration process. My doctor was astounded by the results of my bloodwork. "I haven't seen such excellent numbers in a long time."

"Running," I said. "Clean living and running will do that for you."

Running in the Across the Years ultra marathon
I run for pleasure and for life. But I know I won't be able to do it forever. So, I also ride my bike, swim, do Pilates, and hike. An active lifestyle goes along with spiritual health and mental health. Because I have learned so much about how running improves mental health, I plan on returning to school for a second Masters degree in Mental Health and Wellness at Grand Canyon University. Writing more about how running can improve emotional stability in addition to physical stability is my goal. Hopefully, more and more people will be inspired to try running.

I have a few more races to enter and complete before I hang up my running shoes. I also have more "metaphorical" races to enter and complete. Running has prepared me for the obstacles I will face in life. I hope to inspire others to try running and see for themselves how their bodies and mental state will grow stronger.

Running really is for good!

Your turn: Do you run? How has running changed your life? If not, what do you do to maintain mental health and renewal? 


Friday, May 31, 2019

Enter (Writing Contests) at Your Own Risk!

How to Prepare Your Work for Writing Contests

One of the most effective ways to get your work noticed is to enter contests. Even though you may not win or place, there's nothing to lose! Most writing contests offer helpful feedback on your work by talented, published authors, literary agents, and editors who act as contest judges.

If you do place or win, you're immediately afforded the chance to put the contest details in any query letter you send to literary agents. This increases your chance of representation by an agent and landing your first publishing contract.

Woo hoo!

So, what steps should you take to enter? Keep reading...

Preparations Matter

But before you submit your work and hit "send", there's much to consider. Best-selling author, Gail Gaymer Martin, recently spoke to our Christian Writers of the West group about how to best prepare your manuscript before you hit "send." She ought to know! She's won many prestigious contests, including the Holt Medallion Award, the Golden Quill Award, and the National Readers Choice Award. I'd like to share with you some of the tips she shared with us:

First Steps

Begin by reading the submission requirements on the contest website. If they ask for the first 15 pages, then submit your first 15 pages. You may be tempted to send chapter four instead because you feel that's your strongest chapter, but don't! Instead, ask yourself why chapter four is your strongest chapter. Maybe you should make it chapter one!

Next, make sure your writing is polished to a shine. In other words, hire an editor! After it's edited, ask friends (preferably other writers) to read your work for critique. This means, someone other than grandma who loves everything you've ever written since you were five years old. You'll need someone who cares enough to tell you what works and what doesn't work in your story. Trust me, it's worth the pain of going back and revising.

Read the contest categories carefully. If your story is speculative fiction but the contest wants only romance, then don't enter it. Find the contest that best aligns with your writing style and genre. But don't be afraid to try a new genre. That's what I did recently and I placed third in the contest. It was a stretch for me to go from middle grade fiction to contemporary women's fiction, but I am all about change and improvement. I wrote a women's fiction story, found a contest with that category, and entered. So, give a new genre a try! 

Check your story. The contest judges want to see the main character, the inciting incident, and the possible resolutions in the first few pages of your story. If the contest wants only the first three chapters, but your inciting incident doesn't happen until chapter four, you have some revising to do. Most readers have the attention span of five seconds. If the action, the inciting incident, and the main character don't appear right away, readers will put down your book. Read and re-read your story to make sure these requirements are present right away. Judges will be on the look out for them!

If contest organizers require formatting (and they usually do), be sure to follow those formatting requirements to a tee! If they want your name in the upper left-hand corner, then don't include a fancy cover page. Obey their every command! Otherwise, your manuscript might be sent back for corrections or they may never even read your manuscript at all.

Enter Contests: You Have So Much to Win

Entering contests is about more than just winning. Even placing in the top three is desirable and beneficial. Literary agents and editors participate as judges in contests sometimes because they are on the lookout for the next BIG story and successful writer. That could be YOU. Thoughtful judges will provide you the feedback on your story that will make you a better writer. They will mention what you did right and what needs work. I was so blessed to have received excellent feedback on my work-in-progress when I placed third.

Most contests have reasonable entry fees and turn around times, so you really have nothing to lose by entering. You do, however, have so much to gain!

Our Christian Writers of the West Rattler's Contest opens in August. Please consider entering your work.

You won't regret it!


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Author Websites and You

Author Websites

A couple of years ago, I sat in a session offered at the ACFW Writers Conference in Texas. In this session, the speaker (a web developer) spoke about the importance of the author website. He covered the "dos and don'ts" about creating an effective website an explained why authors need a site to inform readers about themselves and to sell their books.

I walked away from that session inspired to create my own site. Being an artist, I understand about composition, principles of design, and navigating through a web host template. It was easier than I thought it would be. However, I know many authors don't possess these skills and need to hire someone to build their sites. This can be expensive.

Last month, at our Christian Writers of the West (the local chapter of ACFW in Arizona), we had web developer Gabrielle Koza speak to us about how simple it is today to design your own website. I couldn't agree more!

She explained to us the various web site hosts out there that offer FREE templates we authors can use. I, personally, use Weebly.com for my site. Here's brief video explanation about Weebly:


There are so many other free web hosting service providers out there. Gabrielle listed a few for us:

and many more!

You don't have to be an expert in design. These service providers walk you through the process with easy to navigate templates. Be sure to include the necessary pages to your site first:

  • Home
  • Services
  • News
  • About
  • Contact

After these pages, you can add a blog page, award page, or even individual pages for each of your books. Be as creative and informative as you can. Your author website is where your readers will go to learn about you and buy your books. It should be as detailed as possible but not overwhelming. Remember, less is more. Browse through some effective websites of authors you follow. Learn from them.

Lindsay Harrel
Sara Ella
Tina Radcliffe
Susan May Warren
Liz Johnson
Agent, Rachelle Gardner

Good luck and have fun building your author website!