Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Meet Allison

Continuing in our series of interviews, today I would love to introduce you to Allison.  She is a member of the Voices: Write To Be Heard leadership team.  She is also the one behind the new blog God's Girls.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.  
I recently married the man of my dreams and my hero.  Hero, you say?  Yes, hero...simply because he unselfishly, without question became not just my husband but an instant father and he is GREAT at it!  We have three boys ages 15, 11 and 9 and FINALLY another female in the house, our sweet pup Gracie!

When did you first develop of love for writing?  What topics do you most enjoy writing about?  

I didn't even know I enjoyed writing so much until a couple of year ago.  July 2010 to be exact when the LORD called me to write.  I had just started a blog because I thought other people could laugh and probably more so cry with me at my crazy, messy life.  I was praying one day about what God wanted me to do with my blog and He led me to 1 John 1:1-4 ~ That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we PROCLAIM concerning the Word of life.  The life appeared; we have seen it and TESTIFY to it, and we PROCLAIM to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We PROCLAIM to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.  And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We WRITE this to make our joy complete.

The words in all CAPS are the words that hit me like a ton of bricks and when I got to the last verse the LORD very clearly gave me a call to write.  So I did out of obedience and am still writing out of obedience.  Sometimes, I get in the way and then I am not being so obedient but thank God he forgives!

What kinds of differences do you notice with your writing when it's for a blog versus writing something that you have had (or hope to be) published professionally?
I don't notice any differences.  I really do try to write what the LORD places on my heart and again, I sometimes get in the way and write my own ideas and when I do, I just ask Him to forgive me.  My blog is mostly devotionals and I am in the process of writing a book which is more personal testimony and lessons from life.

You recently launched a new blog called God's Girls.  You say in your inaugural post that you see this as a new ministry opportunity.  Can you tell us a little bit about what this means for you and what you see as your vision for this new venture?  

Yes, I am so excited about this.  I attended a writers/speakers conference a couple of weeks ago and really sensed that God was calling me to make it less about me and more about Him.  So I am moving my personal blog
allisonherrin.com over to gods-girls.net simply because I can't do both. Please don't get me wrong, I think it is great to have a personal blog and follow many who do, I simply can't do both. I am not that good!

You mention having attended the She Speaks conference which is put on by Proverbs 31 Ministries.  There are so many conferences out there to choose from - from women's conferences to blogger conferences to writer conferences and so on.  What was it about She Speaks that drew you in?  How valuable was the experience for you as a writer?  

Honestly, I chose this particular conference simply because I had the opportunity to meet with several publishers.  Wow, that sounds really selfish putting that out there but it is what it is...I am a sinner just like the rest of you :-)

Really, it was a phenomenal weekend but not because I learned great, unknown truths about speaking or writing but because I had some one on one girl time with the LORD.  It was like any other conference where you meet with God and hear some great speakers.  Yes, I learned a few things of value as a speaker/writer but I truly believe if we are called by God to write, speak or whatever it is that He is calling us to, then He will annoint us for the task and our wisdom will come from Him.  Now this doesn't mean that we can't learn from others, we can, but God is the greatest teacher of all.

You are part of the leadership team of Voices: Write To Be Heard.  What has being a part of this group and leadership team meant for you?  

I think more than anything the new friends that I have made and the deeper relationships that have been developed along the way.

Pet peeves.  We all have them.  What are some of your pet peeves in the world of writing?  What do you think writers can do to avoid these problems?  

First let me say that I will overlook my own pet peeves in my own writing at times.  None of us are perfect... However, my biggest pet peeve is mispelled words.  I can focus in on them in a skinny minute (except in my own writing of course).

If you had to give one bit of advice to someone who is an aspiring writer, what would it be? 

This is probably going to sound very cliche but I think the best place to start, no the only place to start, is with God.  I think we need to ask Him several questions and let Him answer:

  1.  What do you want me to write?
  2.  Who do you want me to write to?
  3.  How can I bring Glory to you in my writing?

I know this sounds overly simple, but it really is.  Before I write anything I am asking the LORD what He has on the agenda.  Again, sometimes I miss the mark BIG TIME, but thank God He redeems everything.

Thank you so much, Allison, for sharing with us here today!  You can learn more about Allison over at her blog, God's Girls!

Friday, July 27, 2012

How To: Blog a guest post

This week one of our voices girls Bonnie, wrote a blog about what she has learned in the first four months of blogging. The post has some great information and is perfect for this weeks How To.
 How To: Blog

I have been blogging for approximately 4 months now, and I have learned A LOT!  I really had no idea about the blogosphere before I started. Sure, I have had a few blogs in the past, but nothing I was serious about. I was not a consistent blogger either.

Once I decided I wanted to get serious about blogging I really didn't know where to start. I started seeing things called blog hops, and the word linky being thrown around. I was seriously at a loss.  If you are new to blogging I have a few tips for you.  I'm no expert by any means, but I can tell you what I have learned so far and maybe I can be some help to you.  So lets get started, shall we?

Be consistent

 You don't have to blog every day, but you do have to make a presence. My goal is to blog 3 days a week. A good week is when I can blog everyday, but I don't always have the time, or anything to say.

Get started on a site that helps women grow their craft

The Sits Girls have an awesome sight. They have a daily featured blogger, and tons of tips on their sight on how to make your blog better. They have tutorials on how to do all kinds of things from making your own blog button, to having images on your sight that are pinnable to use on Pinterest.

Participate in blog hops

 What are blog hops? Many bloggers host blog hops. Blog hops are a way to get yourself out there, as well as meet other bloggers. It's really quite simple. All you have to do is type your web address into the designated area on that persons blog and boom there you have it. A link to your blog is there for everyone to see. Other bloggers can go to your site, and if they are interested in what you have to say, then they can follow your blog.

Have an appealing blog design

This brings me to my next point. Design. For me blog design is very important. You know how they say you only have one chance to make a first impression?  If a persons design is not visually appealing to me then I usually won't stay very long. You might think it's expensive to have someone design your blog, but it really isn't. Their are a ton of bloggers out there who are really good, but just starting out and want to do some pro bono work, or do a design for really cheap.  So far I have been really pleased with some of the designers I have worked with. Please check out Yours Truly,  Royal Daughter Designs, Naptime Diaries Little Homemade Housewife, and Mrs. Pate Writes.These ladies have produced awesome desings for me, from full blog design, to blog buttons, and I highly recommend them, especially Yours Truly who did my recent blog design.


Comment, comment, comment. I have learned that commenting on other peoples blogs, as well as responding to the comments that people make on your blog is very important. If you comment on someone else's blog, they will usually visit your blog and comment back. The more traffic you get, the better. If someone comments on your blog, try to comment back. I kind of think of it as proper ettiquete. If someone calls you and leaves a message, or sends an email, or shoots you a text and you don't respond, it's kinda like hey why didn't you respond to me?? If someone takes time out of their day to read your blog, comment back. I don't always get around to it, but I do try.

Particiapte in social media

Social Media is important. I adamantly believe if you are a blogger, then having a Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest account are vital. You can use these resources to let poeple know when you have posted a new blog. There are many social networking sights that you can sign up for such as HelloCotton.  I think those sites are helpful too, but I have seen the most traffic from Twitter and Facebook.

Advertise on someone else's blog

Last but not least sponsor a blog. Sponsoring a blog means paying for advertisement on someone elses blog who has a lot of followers. Sponsoring a blog can get pricey, but you can find some really popular blogs out there that don't ask you to pay an arm and a leg for advertising. After all, it is just a blog people! I have found out through trial and error who is awesome at helping to promote you, once you sponsor them. Some bloggers have not been helpful, and it's been a waste of money. Here are the bloggers who I have sponsored so far, and who I would recommend and definitely sponsor again in the future. Covered in Grace, Mom 4 Real, and The Fontenot Four. I'm going to do a post in the future on what makes a good sponsor, so stay tuned.

Last but not least, don't take yourself too seriously. If you can't blog as often as you want to, then that's fine. I'm a wife and mom so blogging takes a back seat to all my other responsibilities.  Remember to have fun. This is an outlet for most of us to express ourselves. Once it isn't fun anymore then what's the point? 

I hope I have been helpful. If you have any more questions you can comment below or email me at bonnboutiuqe@ymail.com

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Which on is your favorite? {Weekly Writing Propmpt}

Welcome to Voices: Write to be Heard weekly writing prompt!  After you have written a post or article inspired by our writing prompt, link up so we can all read each other’s work.  Even if you aren’t a blogger, writing prompts are great practice, or start a blog so you can link up with us!  Don’t forget to link up by Monday.  One post will be highlighted on the Voices blog every Thursday.    

Happy Writing,

Do you ever feel like your writing is going to just dry up one day? 
Like you’ve already written the best post you will ever write?
Like it’s all downhill from here?
Sometimes when I’m trying to fall asleep this crazy fear grips me.  I know (hope) it’s not true.  Writing is a skill that gets better and better with practice.  Writing everyday is important.  It keeps you strong and limber.  This weekly writing prompt is a great tool for expanding your craft.   
But, it is also good practice to look back and remember what you have created in the past.  Take a few minutes this week to read back over your blog posts, articles or even journal entries.  Be encouraged by all that you have accomplished.  Laugh at how far your writing has come.  And share with us your favorite

Monday, July 23, 2012

I Like the Way You Talk

I think one of the hardest things to write has to be dialogue. In theory it should be simple, right? We’re just writing a conversation and we all have conversations. 

But the trick is making the writing sound like an actual conversation. I’ve read works in which the dialogue sounded forced and stiff. You also have to keep in mind accents, cultural references, connotations and slang.

So, what are some ways to write dialogue well?

This article at About.com has some good tips, including this one:

Alfred Hitchcock said that a good story was "life, with the dull parts taken out." This very much applies to dialogue. A transcription of a conversation would be completely boring to read. Edit out the filler words and unessential dialogue — that is, the dialogue that doesn't contribute to the plot in some way.

Author Alice Kuipers suggests reading the dialogue aloud, a sure way to determine if it sounds realistic. She also cautions that dialogue should move the story forward. So don’t add in dialogue just for the sake of dialogue.

What are your tips and techniques for writing good dialogue? 

Friday, July 20, 2012

How to: Klout

Today we are going to be talking about Klout. Klout is an up and coming site that links all your social media and ranks your influence across the board. Many people are using Klout to see "where they rank".

Here's the catch. A Klout score is on a scale of 1-100, with the average score being 20. How can the average of 1-100 be 20? Well Klout is set that once you hit 20, it takes more "influence" to move up then before you hit 20. So if you had four new people follow your blog and that moved your score up a point, once you hit 20 you need 10 more people for your score to move up (this is just an example and not actual numbers). The higher your score is the harder it is to get a higher score.

So what is in a score? It is a combination of all the social media outlets that you link up, and how many people you can get to give you k+(K+ are similar to a facebook "like"), how many mentions you have on twitter, likes on instagram, followers on you tube, ect.

Klout is marketing. Flat out marketing. It is a tool to get your name out there. It is not the end all be all of where you "rank". It will not track how many readers you have on your blog, who is a new reader, who is returning. It will not show you where your readers are coming from. It sole links up and 'scores' your social media usage.  Basically, if you want a way to have more of a social media presence Klout can help with that, but know its "score" doesn't really mean anything in the way of actual impact.

Klout can be fun, for example companies gives out "perks". Perks are awarded for using Klout. I have received free business cards from MOO (which did have a small Klout logo), a photo book, and I know a friend received a herb garden, all for just using Klout. Know there is a "dark" side to it.
There are somethings about Klout I don't like, for example there is an option to "rank" your friends. It places two friends "against" each other and you are suppose to pick who has more influence on a certain topic. It also tells you how you "measure up". As in it compares your influence to that of your friends. Klout shows you who tweets more than you, who has more k+ on topics, and who is just "influential" than you. For me it just creates unnecessary competition so I leave those options alone.

If you are wanting a way to really track your online presence, you want to use Google Analytic, and we'll set that up next week.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Day Would You Relive? {Weekly Writing Prompt Link-up}

Welcome to Voices: Write to be Heard weekly writing prompt!  After you have written a post or article inspired by our writing prompt, link up so we can all read each other’s work.  Remember, even if you aren’t a blogger, writing prompts are great practice, or start a blog so you can link up with us! 
Happy Writing,

If you could relive any day of your life, what would it be and why?

Earlier this week, I read this question on a link up happening over at My Beautiful Crazy Life.  This prompt immediately brought a movie screen into my mind where scenes of my life flashed.  Good days, bad days.  Mostly bad days that I would go back and change.  I have a list of days, moments, choices I would change if I could.  Don’t you have a list like that?  I’m sure we all do.
But that is not the question, is it?  What day would you relive?  Without changing a single minute.  I still haven’t decided what day I’m going to choose, but it won’t be my wedding day (the day I almost lost my mind) and it won’t be the day Ty was born (emergency C-section, an ambulance ride, breathing tubes.)  These are days I survived  but I am happy to be married with a healthy baby.  I will be remembering good days.  Writing about the best one.  And isn’t that like reliving it?           

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Slaying the Social Media Giant

Confession: When I was in school we did not have computers in our classrooms, there was no internet, and people had pen pals rather than Facebook friends. 
Yes, there are dinosaurs like me still roaming the earth. 
But nowadays, thanks to the World Wide Web, social media provides us with the easiest means of communication in world history. It offers us an invaluable vehicle for interaction and relationship, and yet it can also set the stage for the quicksand of comparison. Having our news feeds filled with the successes of others, their exciting opportunities and adventures, their photographs of beautiful homes, clothes, or children on display while we sit on the couch in our PJ’s with a sink full of dirty dishes as our children misbehave...suddenly social media has flung wide open the window for comparison to slink it’s way in. Comparison breeds a spirit of inadequacy, and inadequacy births the sin of self deprecation. These three amigos are poison. Silently, they can turn us toxic before we even know it.  
Comparison, inadequacy, and self deprecation date back light years before social media. While these ancient vices have a broader platform than ever before, they are just as septic as they were in Biblical times. 
Goliath stood and shouted a taunt across to the Israelites. “Why are you all coming out to fight?” he called. “I am the Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul. 
When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken.
For forty days, every morning and evening, the Philistine champion strutted in front of the Israelite army. 1 Samuel 17:8, 11, 16
For some, social media has become the modern day Goliath. Our news feeds may resemble this belittling giant whose words touch that unspoken place where our self doubts and fears are locked away, and we log out feeling small and incapable rather than connected and informed. 
Goliath assaulted the Israelites with his fiery words as he came forward twice a day for 40 days, shouting his criticism and proclaiming the impotency of Israel. Sadly, Israel merely stood by each day and listened. Worse. They believed. 
Eighty times over the course of forty days, Goliath declared Israel unfit and unworthy. And with that, these mighty men forgot who they were, forgot that they were "the armies of the living God" dressed in armor and trained to fight. They forgot the mission and the anointing of God Almighty. Because they forgot, they lined up every day in their battle formation and in their armor...only to NOT declare battle on this roaring giant. No swords or weapons were needed. Goliath defeated these men merely with his words. 
At first they listened to what he said. Then they believed. Eventually they became. 
Why is it so easy to hear and believe whispers of inadequacy, rather than see ourselves as trained and fully armed members of the army of the Living God who is able to do all things by the power of Jesus Christ through us, in us, and around us? Why do we just stand there, believing some bellowing giant rather than the words of our Father who loves us, who has equipped us and called us to do mighty works in His name? Believing we are less than who He created us to be is self-deprecation, and it is the opposite of God’s Truth. 
It is a lie. 
Do not let yourself be defined by the empty words of an angry giant shouting at you. Be defined by the words and promises of God. He has equipped you with unique talents, gifts, and skills. Whatever those are, they are for His glory and they are for such a time as this. Do not let social media become Goliath’s platform to speak comparison, inadequacy, and self deprecation into your life. 
Don’t just stand there, do something! Heavy weaponry and warfare aren’t required. Merely select your stones of Truth and Faith. Pick up your slingshot. 
And go slay that shouting Giant. 
David replied to Goliath, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. 
Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit Goliath in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.
So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone... 1 Samuel 17:45-46, 49-50
Written by Carrie Davis. For more of her work go to www.thatsathought.wordpress.com

Monday, July 16, 2012

Go Ahead, Punch It!

Make it punchy. Have you ever heard that about your writing? In short, it means to tighten up a sentence and select words with “punch” rather that “fluff.” 

Of course, that’s easier said than done, but one idea is to take a selection of your work – a chapter, blog post or a couple pages of a short story – and circle the adverbs in red and the adjectives in blue.

Does your work resemble an American flag? Then you may be relying too heavily on adjectives and adverbs to do the work strong nouns and verbs can do. Our grade school English classes did us a disservice by requiring a certain number of words or pages so in typical 14-year-old fashion we added a bunch of adjectives and adverbs to get to the needed word count or page limit. Everything was suddenly “pretty,” “very” and “really.” And it was really very boring.

Look at the words you circled and work toward eliminating half of them. This means spending more time selecting the best word or series of words. It’s much harder to write tight, but short sentences pack a punch.

I’d love to hear your techniques for adding punch to your writing. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

How to: Link your blog to Facebook

Facebook is a great way to get your writing out there. You already have a captivated audience, so why not use it? There is a very simple and easy way to link your blog to your Facebook. Once your blog is linked it will automatic publish a link to your blog on to Facebook.

Log on to your Facebook and in the search bar (where it says search for people, places, things) type in NetworkedBlogs. Fill out the information- Your name, the blogs name, and the url.

Volia your linked!

Now your blog will be automatically linked to Facebook, and any one who uses Networked Blogs can also find your blog.  Its a simple and great way to advertise your writing!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Are You a Writer? {weekly writing prompt link-up}

Welcome to Voices: Write to be Heard weekly writing prompt!  After you have written a post or article inspired by our writing prompt, link up so we can all read each other’s work.  Remember, even if you aren’t a blogger, writing prompts are great practice, or start a blog so you can link up with us!
Happy Writing,

Most of the time I don't feel like a writer.  I don't tell people I'm a writer.
Can you relate to this?  It is a struggle to create my art and a struggle to see myself as an artist.  As a writer.  Because what defines a writer anyway?  Is it being published?  Is it selling your work?  Is critical acclaim?  Is it wealth?
Of course these things can mark someone as a writer, but if you constantly use money or publishing alone as a measure of success, you will soon come up short.  A writer is someone who writes.  Who writes in her head as she is taking a shower, making dinner, falling asleep.  A writer is someone with sentences floating around in her head.  A writer writes.  It’s as simple as that.  Hopefully your writing will touch someone.  Hopefully your writing will be published and you will make stacks of money.  But if that doesn’t happen, please keep writing. 
What do you think makes someone a “real writer”?  Do you feel like a writer?  Do you use different criteria to judge yourself as a writer than you use to judge another?  Has anyone ever referred to you as a writer or an author?  When was the first time?  How did that make you feel?   

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Meet Tiffany

Last week, we introduced you to Holly of HAF Creative.  Today we would love to introduce you to another member of the Voices: Write To Be Heard team.  Meet Tiffany, the blogger behind Mrs. Pate Writes!

Tell me a bit about yourself and your family.
Chris and I meet at church six years ago, while I was on vacation. After going to Seacoast the first time, I couldn’t leave this place. Although I think if you asked Chris he would say I stayed for him, I’m not sure if I could disagree.  Chris is a full blown Texan and I’m a Charlotte girl by way of Pittsburgh, so needless to say we’re quite an opposite pair! We have been married for almost four years, we have two boys. Holden is 2 and Guy is 4 months, so yes my hands are very full. I have a blog named Mrs. Pate Writes and I do blog and print design.

How long have you been blogging?  What are your favorite subjects to blog about?
I have been blogging on my current blog, Mrs. Pate Writes for just over a month but in all I’ve been blogging since 2003. I blog about different things, my kids, what God is teaching me in this season, random thoughts, and causes I love. I try to keep the poop post to a minimum. 

You have several years of experience in the blog world.  What types of changes have you seen with regards to blogging over the years?
There are so many changes. Now blogs have ads, giveaways, bloggers have shops, are writing books, doing tv interviews, and being “sponsored” by companies and non-profits. Blogging is a totally different world than it used to be. The good thing about all these changes is bloggers are really starting to see that their little piece of internet can be impactful. Many bloggers are starting to really grab onto that and make a difference.

As the writer behind "Mrs. Pate Writes", how do you feel that your writing can influence others?  In what ways do you think that having a blog can make an impact in the community?
I try very hard to keep two things in mind as I blog - would my boys be proud of what their mom did and am I adding to the negativity of the world or fighting against it. I think if something ever happened to me and I was gone would my boys be able to read my blog and know who I was. Know what I stood up for. Know how much I loved them, their dad, and wanted to make a difference. I write to influence my babies, there is a very good chance that they will be able to one day read everything I ever wrote. That is a powerful motivator.

Having a blog is having a voice online. It might not seem like that important, but it is still your voice. Recently I really have been digging into wanting my voice to be impactful. I want to do something good is this world so why not use my blog? That is a big reason why I started Mrs Pate’s Blogger Bra Drive. There are ladies all over the USA and Canada holding bra drives to collect gentle used bras for Free the Girls. Free the Girls is a nonprofit that provides these bras as a means to give women rescued out of sex trafficking a way to make a living by selling them.  Every day, there are women all over tweeting about the bras they collected, emailing me wanting to know more info, or telling me what their running bra totals are. I have sat and cried that so many women jumped into some because I asked. You can influence others with your voice, especially if you are passionate about what you’re saying.

Share a little with us about what being a part of Voices: Write To Be Heard means for you.
Being a part of Voices is huge for me. With this group you have women in your corner wanting you to be better, to succeed, and to push yourself in your writing. Having a group that wants you to get better at what you love, and love what you love is a huge benefit. I’ve always wrote and wanted to be a writer, but like many writers I have that little voice in the back of my head telling me I’m not good enough. Having a community of women that are able to call themselves writers not only gives me the guts to call myself a writer, but makes me want to write better. I really am truly blessed to be in this group.

There are all types of blogs out there - faith based, DIY, parenting, cooking, and so on.  Regardless of the "niche", behind every blog is a writer.  In the years you have been blogging, what have you seen in other blogs that you would regard as a writing "pet peeve"?  How do you think writers could avoid falling into these habits?
My writing “pet peeve”, oh goodness. My biggest pet peeves are actually something that I find myself doing all the time. One is a “writing” issue and one is a “blog” issue. The first would be starting every sentence with “I”. I did this. I did that. I went here. It drives me crazy, but it is a problem for me too. When you write in the first person it becomes so easy to use “I” over and over.

My “blog” pet peeve is another issue for me, it is when bloggers lose their voice.  I’m totally guilty of this. When a person reads your blog, they get connected to you; they come back wanting to read more about you, more of your writing. Stick with your voice. A sweet blogger lady friend of mine gave me the wisest advice “just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to.” Really take time to figure out what you want your little piece of the internet to be like. You are not always going to be consistent with it, no one is, just know where you are going and try stick to it. Whatever your voice is, stay strong in it. Just because the blog trend is to do giveaways, ads, and run a shop does not mean you have to. Do not blog for follower, blog for yourself.

If you had to give one bit of advice to someone who was an aspiring writer, what would it be?
It would go back to taking time to find your voice. Your voice is going to change as your grow and that’s okay, but be true to yourself, whoever that is. Grammar and sentence structure can be changed and the heart of your writing can still be there.  Also, write. As simple as it sounds it is hard. For me it can be exhausting to write, or I can be too exhausted to even think about writing. What helps me is to keep a list in my phone of those little “great” sentences that randomly pop in my head. 

Thank you so much, Tiffany, for sharing with us here today!  You can learn more about Tiffany over at her blog, Mrs. Pate Writes!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Write When You Can

As a full-time freelancer, I spend my days researching and writing newspaper and magazine articles, blogging for my social media clients and copywriting for businesses. And I have the work of running my own businesses (sending invoices, putting together client reports, looking for new publications I can pitch). 

Oh, I also have a husband, a 4-year-old daughter and a love of sleep. So when exactly do I have time for the “me” writing, the time to write witty and engaging blogs posts for my own website or finally get to Chapter 2 on the nonfiction book I’m writing?

My challenges aren’t unique. Many of us are overwhelmed with our day jobs, families, social obligations and volunteer work so our writing often falls to the bottom of the to-do list. Our Voices leadership group was discussing this at a recent meeting and one comment really resonated with me: to get over the idea of having to carve out huge blocks of time for writing.

I tend to think I need to sit aside at least two hours to work on my book, but more often than not, two minutes is more realistic. Why don’t I take advantage of the moments I do have to write a few lines or jot down some ideas?

We all have 10 minutes when we’re waiting for the kids’ soccer practice to wrap up or sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room. Use those moments to do a little writing. Carry a notebook in your purse or use the notepad app on your phone.

I do a lot of thinking in the car. I’ve occasionally used the recording app on my phone to capture thoughts and ideas. Or once you get to your destination, grab your notebook and scribble down the ideas that came to you while driving.

Yes, I’ll still need those chunks of uninterrupted time to really develop my book, but at least I can feel like I’m making some progress if I make the best use of the time I do have.

How do you make time for writing? Do you work in blocks of time or squeeze out a sentence or two as you can? 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Please Not Me LORD...Ok, Here I Am

...But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” ~ Exodus 4:13

Do you ever feel this way? Completely inadequate for the job God has called you to? I know I do. I used to feel this way often in my role as a parent until Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo taught me how to be a better parent. I still feel this way at times, but I keep going back to the truth of God’s word and the biblical principles that the Ezzo’s taught me. No matter how inadequate I feel, I am reminded that God entrusted these children to me and he is bigger than any feeling I have. He will either make up for my shortcomings or he will equip me more than he already has for the task. But this is what I do know. I am inadequate without him!

The season I am currently in is different however. This feeling of inadequacy seems to be where I live lately. I can't seem to shake it. God is calling me way out of my comfort zone professionally and I don’t feel equipped for the task.  As I was sitting with my boss the other day, I began telling him how unequipped I feel. Honestly I thought he was going to confirm for me that I am not the right person for the job and fire me; or at the very least demote me. But as any great leader does, he simply encouraged me. He said “Allison, you are in a good place right now”. “You are right where Joseph was when he was sent to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph’s response to Pharaoh was I can’t interpret your dreams, but God can. Allison, you can’t do your job adequately. Neither can I, but God can”.

I also feel inadequate and ill equipped to write this book that I know with every ounce of my being that God has called me to write. I can’t remember the last time I felt so confident about something. But feeling confident about God’s calling and feeling confident about our ability to accomplish it are two very different things. In Exodus chapters 3 and 4  Moses is at the burning bush where God is calling him to go rescue the Israelites from Egypt. I am convinced that Moses was confident that God was speaking to him. How could he not be sure when the bush was on fire yet was not being burned by the flames, but Moses still responded with “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” Moses! One of the greatest men in history, responded with I am not equipped God! So I guess I am in good company. God then responds with several signs and wonders to show Moses what he will do in Egypt and Moses still pleads with God in chapter 4 verse 13: “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” That is exactly how I feel sometimes. While I am humbled that God would choose me to parent these children, to serve him in ministry and to write this book, sometimes it is so overwhelming that I want to plead with him to choose someone else because I just can’t do it, however as my boss reminded me, I can’t, but God can.

What is God calling you to do that you feel unequipped to accomplish? Is he calling you to parent, to be a great spouse, to go on a mission trip, to witness to your neighbor? He calls each of us to something different because we are each one part of the body of Christ and each part has a different job to do.  Even if it is the same job, he calls us to do it differently.  That is how he displays his uniqueness and creativity.

Through this season I have learned that if God calls us he will equip us and our only job is to respond. God equips us for our calling by allowing us to bear fruit as we become more like him, but we must stay attached to the vine so that our fruit doesn’t wither and die. No matter how we feel about the calling and no matter how much we wrestle with God about it, our answer should be “Here I am God”. That response still intimidates me but I trust that God will take care of the details in the midst of my obedience. I can promise you this; no matter how you feel about the task, if you obey, he will not let you down! God wants to use every one of us to show others his power through the events and circumstances of our everyday lives. He is calling you my friend; the question is what are you going to do about it?

Dear Heavenly Father.  Thank you that you do have a calling for my life.  Thank you that I can trust you even when it feels overwhelming.  I believe that you have and will continue to equip me for your calling and I will respond with "Here I am LORD".  In Jesus Name ~ Amen!

Godspeed Girls,
Allison ~ www.allisonherrin.com

Friday, July 6, 2012

How To: Follow a blog

Have you ever started reading a post from someone, loved their writing, but then forgot the name of the blog when you wanted to go back and read it again? Wonder what GFC, Hellocotton, or Bloglovin is? Wonder what "follow" even means? Today we're going to go over following a blog. There are many different ways to follow a blog, or set up a blog for others to follow you. 

Google Friend Connect
The most universally used method is Google Friend Connect (GFC). GFC is a gadget (see here) that allows readers to follow your blog. By selecting 'follow' the reader selects how they want to sign in to GFC, you can use a google account, yahoo account, or twitter. When you sign into blogger the blog will be added to your blog roll. Then every time you sign in you can see the updated post.

Hellocotton/ Bloglovin
Hellocotton & Bloglovin are both second party blog follower sites. The blog owner has to register their blog with one of these sites before you can follow using them. I really like using these to follow blogs because you can set them to send you a blog update email. Every day I receive an email telling me what blog updated and links to read them. You can set these to email you, every day, once a week, or never. 

This is honestly something I didn't fully understand until researching this post. It is very similar to GFC, and was one of the first ways to follow a blog. Connecting a RSS feed uploads the newest blog post into your feed reader. You have to have a feed reader to use RSS, but if you have a gmail account or a yahoo account, surprise you have a feed reader. The thing I like about RSS is that you can organize your feeds into categories, lifestyle, food, travel, faith etc. 

By Email
Google has another great gadget named 'follow by email'. Its super easy to install, and allows a reader to follow a blog by email. Its exactly what it says, you get a nice email containing the blog post. No links to click, just the post in email form. I really love this option. 
(Like I've said before, I'm a Blogger girl and have some knowledge of wordpress. I'm sure wordpress has a follow by email option. If you will like some help finding it please leave me a comment and I'll look it up for you.)

Yes, you can use twitter to follow a blog! Most bloggers have a twitter account, which they post links to their blogs. When I blog I can promise you, you will see it posted at least three different times on twitter.  Did you know, you can use twitter on the computer and on your phone? Sign up here!  Then you can follow voices here

I hope you feel like you can navigate the world of following a little better now! A few tricks I've found, if you have a blog go sign up for all of these. You want readers to be able to follow you in the way that they want. Another trick I use, I have more than one email. I know seems nuts but, I have one that is my email, one that's my blog email. My blog email is how I register my blog on sites and where all of my blogs that I follow show up. Having the two emails actually helps me stay on top of emails and organized. If you have two gmail accounts, you can link them and easily hop between the two emails.

Have anything you want to know how to do? 
Email us at voicescharleston(at)gmail(dot)com 
or leave a comment below!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Weekly Writing Prompt

Welcome to Voices: Write to be Heard weekly writing prompt!  After you have written a post or article inspired by our writing prompt, link up so we can all read each other’s work.  Remember, even if you aren’t a blogger, writing prompts are great practice, or start a blog so you can link up with us! 
Happy Writing,

July 4, 2012
Write about the Fourth of July.  What does the day mean to you?  How did you celebrate?  How do you feel about America?  What is your favorite patriotic quote and what does it mean to you?  Who is your American hero?

This post is a link up with Voices: Write to be Heard.  Come Join us for a writing prompt every Wednesday. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Meet Holly

We would love to introduce you to one of the writers on the leadership team here at Voices: Write To Be Heard.  Please welcome Holly Fisher!

Tell me a bit about yourself and your family.
My husband, Clint, and I will celebrate our 12th anniversary on July 22. We’ve been in Charleston almost 12 years as well, having moved here from Texas. We have a 4-year-old daughter, Kate, whose sharp wit and feisty personality keep us on our toes (and wondering if we have a little lawyer or politician on our hands). Our other “kids” are two Labrador Retrievers, Mocha and Belle. My husband and I are big into CrossFit and work out almost daily at CrossFit Mount Pleasant.

Can you share with us how you came to be a writer?  What do you most enjoy writing about?
When I was about 13 years old, I decided I wanted to be a newspaper reporter and I never once strayed from that dream. I studied journalism at Ohio University and worked at several newspapers around the country and here in the Charleston area. The best part of being a reporter is telling people’s stories – some of them happy, some tragic, some life-changing. Being a reporter affords you the opportunity to meet amazing people and bring their experiences to life.

You have several years of experience as a writer and editor.  What do you feel has been your greatest accomplishment in this industry?
Most people who go into journalism feel a calling to the profession. They have a desire to make a difference in the world, and I was no different. Sometimes making a difference means uncovering wrongdoing. Sometimes it’s reporting on the city council meeting others don’t have the time to attend. Sometimes it’s writing an article that makes people smile, laugh or cry. If someone takes the time to cut my article out of the newspaper and save it or share it with someone else, then I have fulfilled my calling.

Tell us about HAF Creative.
When I entered the newspaper business in the late 1990s, it was an entirely different world. Jobs were plentiful and the industry was thriving. Fast forward a decade and the profession I’d started in had changed dramatically. In fall 2008 as the economy was tanking, I was abruptly laid off from my job at a business newspaper. I was devastated. But since then I’ve worked to keep my hands in journalism and writing while carving out my own niche in this new media world. In November 2011, I started HAF Creative to have control over my writing work. I freelance for a number of local publications, handle marketing/PR for a few nonprofits and small businesses. I write website copy, marketing copy and assist businesses with their writing needs. If it deals with words, I can do it.

You recently helped to launch Voices: Write to Be Heard.  Share a little with us about what this writer's group means for you.
What an amazing group of women I’ve met through this group. I love how God puts people in your path for reasons that become so obvious later because that’s exactly what happened here. I’m honored to have been part of launching Voices and to have a role in inspiring women achieve their dreams as writers. Now that I’m diving into writing a non-fiction book – a completely different writing endeavor for me – I see how important it is to encourage each other. I hope Voices, while also providing resources and teaching, can be that source of inspiration and encouragement.

As a person with vast experience in writing and editing, name one or two things that you've come across that would be your biggest writing "pet peeves".  What can people do to avoid doing these things?
It may sound simple but proofread your work. Sloppy mistakes, grammar errors and typos will keep editors and other writers from taking you seriously. That’s not to say we all don’t make mistakes, but read your work carefully to catch most of those errors. And, know the difference between words like “its” and “it’s”; “there” and “their” and “your” and “you’re.” Those mistakes drive me crazy!
If you had to give one bit of advice to someone who was an aspiring writer, what would it be?
If you’re working on a book or a large writing project, I would say, “Don’t be discouraged.” At times writing can be exhilarating and at other times it can maddening. It isn’t easy and sometimes it isn’t even enjoyable, but stick with it and you’ll be glad you did. 

Thank you so much, Holly, for sharing with us here today!  You can learn more about Holly over at her blog, HAF Creative!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Faith in a Box

I made this in college more than 10 years ago. The assignment: To put your life in a box. As one who had just made a fresh commitment to Christ, I decided to make a box that represented my new-found faith.
My Faithbox survived more than a decade, more than a dozen moves, life with three kids, etc. Over time it got bumped, battered and bruised, and moved from a special place in my home to a dusty old space in the garage. Sadly, my own personal faith endured a parallel experience. Both of them slowly moved from being a center piece in my life to merely taking up space in the corner of the garage in my heart.
In 2010 while cleaning out the garage I made the choice to throw away my Faithbox. It was a conscience choice. I stood in front of the trash can, Faithbox in hand, weighed the pros and cons of keeping it, and ultimately lifted the lid and tossed it in.
And then I walked away and didn’t look back.
It wasn't a sad moment. There was no real emotion at all. After I moved the Faithbox to the corner of the garage in my heart, a detached numbness took it's place. Where my Faithbox had proudly sat for all to see and celebrate, emptiness filled the space. Dust collected.
How easy it was to discard my Faithbox as a piece of old sentimentality from my college days. It was hard to move it from the house to the garage. But that initial move made it easy to send it from the garage to the garbage.
The trash can sat swallowing my Faithbox like the giant fish that swallowed Jonah. I gave it no more thought. That is, until the next day when I discovered it sitting beside the trash can. Not in it, as I'd left it. Beside it. Like the giant fish "vomited Jonah onto dry land", my Faithbox sat beside the belly of the beast. (Jonah 2:10)
Stubborn little Faithbox.
I could hear a tender voice in my heart whisper,
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
My Faithbox was rescued from the trash can by my husband. The man appointed to lead me and point me toward Jesus Christ all of our living days salvaged it. He would not let me throw it away so easily.
He knew that at one time it had been precious to me. And even though he knew that I was tired of it being in the way and taking up space in my life, he had hopes that it might one day be valuable to me again. Maybe even bless our children.
In 2011 we made a career change and decided to move back home to our beloved Charleston, South Carolina. In true moving fashion, I had to make hard decisions about what to keep, what to sell, what to donate, and what to trash. Once again I stood in front of the trash can, my Faithbox in hand. And once again, I chose to lift the lid and throw it away. Sealed it in the dank, dark, dirty black abyss for someone else to whisk away. And then I turned my back and walked away.
Once again.
I left my Faithbox on the side of the road as forgotten memorabelia for some big smelly truck to take to the place of things discarded.
Just like the Jews stuffed the lifeless body of Jesus Christ in the dark, dank tomb, hopeful that he too would finally go away.
On trash pickup day I happened to be sitting on the front porch with my three children. I barely even paid attention as the the garbage truck pulled up to our curb, but something caught my attention. I turned around just in time to watch as one of the garbage men pulled my dirty dusty dilapidated excuse of a Faithbox out of the trash can.
No trash can could contain this battered little Faithbox.
But the garbage man didn't just put it on the ground next to the trash can, as I had found my Faithbox a year ago. Instead, he opened the lid to the recycling can, which was sitting next to the trash can, and put it in. Then he nodded at me and was on his way.
From trashed to recycled.
You make all things new.
I've tried to shed this little brown box that came into my life so many years ago. But it will not be discarded.
Jesus is not so easily discarded.
No trash can
or tomb
can contain him.
 My flesh may fail. My God, you never will. 
I wrote this as I was coming out of a very hard season of questioning my faith. I was a Pastor's wife, embedded in ministry and expected to have unshakeable faith. But I quietly questioned the goodness and Truth of the Gospel. 

As I wrestled, I went back to the basics on everything. Why did Jesus die for us? Couldn't there have been another way? How could God, a loving Father, allow His Son to die such a gruesome death? Did I want this same Father to be my Father? Is He truly a good and loving God? 

Wrestling made me ask the hard questions, which brought me to Truth. And Truth birthed peace. Now, two years later I no longer have a Faithbox. I threw it away. Because Faith cannot be kept in a box or on display, as mine had been for too many years. 

Freedom came when I realized that Faith in a box is not worth keeping. So, I kept the Faith and tossed the box. 

Faith belongs in a living, beating human heart where no dust can collect. 
And that's where I keep mine to this day. 

Carrie Davis is the wife of a sustainable farmer in McClellanville, SC and happy homeschooling mother of three. Read more of her thoughts and experiences at www.thatsathought.wordpress.com.