How it All Began

Harriet E. Michael

Many authors and writers will tell you that they have wanted to become a writer since childhood.

That is not my story.

For me, it all began with a crisis in the life of someone I love. My friend faced the challenge of her life and I found myself walking beside her, praying and wanting to understand prayer better.

As I pondered the topic of prayer, I happened to be reading in the book of Psalms in my personal devotions. I noticed something about prayer. The petitions the various psalmists make to God are almost always centered on God, rather then their needs. If you look for this trend you will find it there, and throughout the Bible.

If someone prays: “Help me because ___,” or “Answer my prayer because ___,” the reason stated usually has something to do with God rather than the psalmist. (Because of one of God’s traits, like His love, or faithfulness, by His power, or for His glory.)

An example of this would be asking God to heal someone because He is the Great Physician, full of loving-kindness, or because He is faithful and answers His people when they call on Him, rather than because of whatever issue you may be dealing with, or pain you may be suffering.

This discovery was a “Wow!” moment for me which prompted me to conduct my own personal Bible study, from Genesis to Revelation, looking at all the instances of prayer I could find. I kept a journal as I did this.

Four years later, I had a book written.

The manuscript was named a finalist in a national contest, “The Women of Faith” (2011). The manuscript won me a writing contract with Pix-N-Pens Publishing (PIP), the nonfiction arm of Write Integrity Press. Once the book was published, my friend Shirley Crowder wrote a study guide for it, which won her a contract with PIP as well.

IMG_0487 prayer book and study guide

Shirley is a lifelong friend of mine. She lived across a dirt road from me in Nigeria. Now, she’s a Biblical counselor and also leads Bible studies with women’s groups. When she read one of the first copies of my book, she whipped up the study guide for it, fully intended for use only in her own personal ministry. She sent it to me for my approval and I loved it, so forwarded it to my publisher, who also loved it. She contracted with Shirley to publish it.

After that, Shirley and I decided to do some co-writing. To date, we have a four-book series on prayer—Prayer It’s Not About You, Study Guide to Prayer: It’s Not About You, Glimpses of Prayer (a devotional), and Prayer Warrior Confessions (an anthology compiled and partially written by us). We are also under contract for a 5-book devotional series, only one of which is currently out—Glimpses of the Savior.

Harriet with Shirley Crowder, signing a writing contract!

… and it all started with adversity—a crisis, pain, anguish as I stood by a hurting loved-one. God is in the business of turning ashes to beauty. That is exactly what He did when He turned my friend Shirley and me into authors.

Click to Tweet: “…it all started with adversity—a crisis, pain, anguish as I stood by a hurting loved-one. God is in the business of turning ashes to beauty. ” Harriet E. Michael via @InspiredPrompt #MarchMadness #amwriting #giveaway

Today, my loved one is doing well, and my book is blessing many. Since its publication in May 2016, several groups in various parts of the US have used this book and study guide for their Bible study. In fact, this month, a Sunday school class of around 30 people are just beginning a Bible study using it.

It can be used in a group setting or for individual study. Here is the link to my author page where you can purchase these books or any of the others that Shirley and I have collaborated on: Harriet’s author page.

Apples of Gold

Apples of gold in pictures of silver.

golden apple

This is the way Proverbs 25:11 describes what it calls “a word fitly spoken.” It says these words are like apples of gold in pictures of silver. But what, exactly is a word fitly spoken?

There are many possible answers to that question. The New American Standard Bible says it’s a word spoken in the right circumstances. It is a word or words spoken to another person that helps them in some way. Maybe it encourages them, or eases their pain, lifts them up, or sympathizes with their pain. However the fitly words are intended, the end result is that they land on open ears and touch the listener in some significant way.

I am an eclectic writer—I write many things: fiction, nonfiction, full length books, short articles, and devotions. Yes, I am a devotional writer. I absolutely love writing devotions! I have had hundreds of them published in magazines, online, and in books. I teach workshops on devotional writing. Devotions helped to build my writing resume and payment from writing devotions supplements my writing income. But this is not the reason I write devotions. I write to touch the hearts of others with words that cause them to ponder on God’s word. My goal is that they will be “fitly words.”

It’s autumn again, a time of year when apples are in abundance. We enjoy apples in so many forms during this season—cooked in pies, coated in candy, squeezed into juice or made into cider, and so many other ways.

apple-fall

Because of this verse in Proverbs, the abundance of apples makes me think of devotional writing. Let’s be writers whose words are fitly. Let’s have our words be apples of gold in pictures of silver.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Proverbs 25:11 (KJV) [Click to Tweet]

Writing prompt: write a devotional about a time someone spoke words you needed to hear.

Freelancing: Writing for the Upper Room

By Harriet Michael

The name of this post is supposed to be “Making Money Writing for The Upper Room” but truth-be-told, a writer does not make much money writing for The Upper Room, or any other devotional, for that matter. Devotionals are low-paying work so if you are writing to make money, perhaps you should learn how to tap into some of the more lucrative writing markets. I hear romantic fiction is a pretty solid market.

However, if you are like me—a mostly nonfiction writer with a passion for writing devotions—then yes, you can make a little money writing devotions which will help supplement your other writing income.

Money can be made in two ways when you get a devotion accepted for publication in The Upper Room.

The first of these ways is the check they send you as payment for your devotion. It is only $30 but that is actually pretty good pay as devotions go. (Did I mention that devotional writing is not a particularly high-paying market?) Some publications pay less, and many are actually not paying markets, offering exposure instead. The exposure angle is the other way a writer can make money when his or her work is chosen for The Upper Room.

Yes, the second way to generate money from your The Upper Room devotion is through the exposure you will receive. This is not just a vague, “it will help over time” monetary benefit, though that is true, too. No, there is a specific way that the exposure from an Upper Room devotion can benefit a writer.

The Upper Room has a practice of asking the person who wrote the devotion that day if they would also write a blog post for the blog on that same day. A few years ago, the devotion they chose happened to be about prayer, since prayer is one of my interests. The selection process for the Upper Room takes a long time and between the time I submitted that devotion and when it came out in their magazine, my book about prayer had managed to get picked up by a publisher and had just recently released. Naturally, writing more in the blog post about prayer, telling how I came about writing my book, and posting a link to it, seemed like an obvious thing to blog about, so I did.

That day I sold a lot of books, both print and e-books, and my author rank took a major jump. It climbed to 15,000 out of about a million writers on Amazon.

I mentioned earlier, there are better ways to make money than through writing devotions, but devotional writing pays off in so many other ways. I have been writing devotions in numerous publications since 2010 and have had so many times when a reader contacted me to tell me how God used what I had written to touch his or her heart in some way. This is the biggest reward in devotional writing—the ability to share something God has shown you with others and then watch God amazingly use it again in a reader’s life.

Nonetheless, if you do happen to get a devotion accepted for publication by the Upper Room, they do offer a huge, international moment of exposure for that one day when your devo is spotlighted.

computer, writing

 Click to tweet: Writing for the Upper Room. #freelance #amwriting

 

Kids and Summer

Ty as shark

Kids, pools, and shark fins! Summer doesn’t get much better than that.

This is my youngest son about fifteen years ago. He is grown now and sports a beard, but I will always remember him like this and treasure this picture.

Here at Inspired Prompts we are breaking from our usual more serious writing related topics to share some personal pictures and information with our readers so I will tell you a little about my family.

I have been married for over thirty-nine years. My husband and I have four children. We had three, waited a long time, and then had the fourth. Our children currently range in age from 36-21. And now we have two grandchildren. Oh, what joy grandchildren bring! I know all grandparent think their grandchildren are special but ours truly are—in one way, anyway. Our first grandchild is bi-racial and our second is Marshallese.

K G Hilton Head

Here is a picture of my first grandchild with his mother, my daughter, on a family vacation. (He is her biological son.)

Robert Ellie

And here’s a picture of one of my sons and my second grandchild, his daughter, whom he and his wife adopted from the Marshall Islands. They traveled to Hawaii to get her.

My other two sons—the oldest and the youngest—do not have children so from them, I am still a grandmother-in-waiting, or rather a Lala-in-waiting, since my grandchildren call me Lala.

Yep, they call me Lala, and you can call me a happy grandmother, who can’t wait to play with her grandchildren again!

Click to Tweet: Join us for some Summer Fun via @InspiredPrompt as we share our favorite summer fun photos and stories. #summer #travel #adventure

Writing Prompt: Caption this photo!

Do you Know your Rights?

Google search

I am an author, but I’m also a multi-published freelance writer. In fact, I got my start in writing by freelancing small pieces such as articles, devotions, stories for anthologies, etc. I have been freelancing successfully since 2010 and now have somewhere around 200 published pieces in numerous publications. I also teach workshops on freelancing at writers’ conferences. When I do, I always start with a brief lesson on writer’s rights. Understanding the different types of rights is so important!

These rights are true regardless of whether you are negotiating a contract for a small piece or a larger work. It’s always good to know what your contract says; what rights you are selling the publication / publisher and what rights you are keeping.

Types of rights:

First Rights also called First American Serial Rights (FASR): If you sell a publication First Rights, it means you are selling them the right to be first to publish the piece. (In other words, you are telling them that it has not been published before, and you will not allow it to be published until after whatever time stipulated in the contract. Contracts differ on this—many say one year after the date it appears in their publication, others say six months, and a few say it can be published again immediately after the date it first appears in their publication.)

When you sell first rights, after the time stipulated in the contract, the rights revert to you as the author and you can use it any way you like (you can post it in a compilation of your own, or sell a reprint to it.)

First rights can only be sold once—the first time it is published.

Reprint Rights sometimes called Second American Serial Rights: If you sell a piece that has already been published, you are selling the new publication reprint rights, i. e. the right to publish a reprint of your work. Not all magazines will purchase reprints and those that do often pay less. Not always though; my highest paying article the first time for .25 a word (it was a 1500 word article so that came to $380), the second time as a reprint for another $375 to a magazine that paid just as much for reprints as it did for 1st rights, and has sold two more reprints since then (for $75 & $240) and I’ll sell it again if the opportunity presents itself.

You can sell reprint rights as many times as you can find someone to purchase them. You own the rights to the piece.

One-time Rights are a little tricky. They work more like reprint rights in that the writer owns the rights to his or her piece and can sell them as often as possible. Some well-established writers sell these because there is a demand for that writer’s work. Most publications do not buy these, though. Most stipulate in the writers’ guidelines what kind of rights they are willing to buy, and it is usually first rights, reprint rights, or all rights.

All rights or Exclusive Rights: I generally caution against selling all rights or exclusive rights to a piece. If a magazine buys all rights that means they will own the piece if the writer is willing to sell it. Personally, I do not ever sell all rights to my work. It feels to me like I am selling my babies. They are mine, created from my head and though I am happy for someone to publish it, I do not want that entity to then own it. I want to own my own work! All rights you sell only once, because then it is no longer yours to sell. Selling all rights do, however, tend to pay more and some writers are happy to sell them.

Work for Hire is a term that also refers to the kind of rights a writer will have to a piece. It means the publication has hired you to write for them. Therefore, that publication owns whatever you write. Many journalism jobs are work for hire—where the writer writes for that newspaper, or magazine and as such, writes whatever that magazine wants them to write, and the magazine then owns the content.

I do take some work for hire jobs. I have taken and will continue to take assignments from a couple different devotional magazines. These assignments are considered work for hire, so I do not own the devotions I have written for them. The two I write for are Open Windows (Lifeway) and Reflections (Smyth & Helwys) These are the only instances where I give up ownership of anything I write.

That’s it in a nutshell. Usually you find the rights a magazine wishes to buy in their writers’ guidelines.

Click to Tweet: From @harrietemichael Do You Know Your Rights? What you need to know about writers’ rights. @InspiredPrompt #devotional #writer


Writing Prompt: Write why you would or would not be willing to write on assignment where the publication keeps the rights to your work.