Good Launch Weather

by Kristy Horine

My husband went into the hobby store for a battery tester. The tester was for the wireless stomp pedal that turns the pages on the iPad where he stores his music sheets for the trumpet he plays on Sunday mornings.

He’d been having trouble with the stomp pad. He attacked the problem like he usually does: a serious process of elimination.

First, he changed the batteries. Then, he played around at the angle his feet hit the silver depressor buttons. Then, he jumped online and waded into every forum he could find on stomp pedals. Then, he watched a few YouTube videos. Then, he landed in the hobby store to find all the right wires, gauges, and alligator clips necessary to test batteries.

“Ah.” He nodded his head, rubbed his chin a bit.

Turns out, there was something wonky with the wiring inside the stomp pedal connecting the batteries to the device.

Also turns out the warranty had recently expired.

My husband ordered a DC adapter. He can still use his devices and toot his horn.

Still, there was something that just wouldn’t let go of him. Something that kept him staring into space, rubbing his chin, zoning out on conversations.

It wasn’t long before I received a text. “I’m in the hobby store. Think Sadie would like to shoot off a rocket?”

And so it began.

Each step of the build, a grown man and his five-year-old daughter glued together much more than Part A to Part B. It wasn’t long they had a completed rocket. My husband opened an app.

“Good launch weather.”

We trudged over the fields – the rocket and we three.

A connection here, a countdown there, and the rocket was off in a whoosh of flame and a cloud of smoke. It reached an apex and began a descent. The parachute failed to deploy. The rocket plummeted to earth.

My husband shook his head.

“I’m sorry for the launch failure.”

My mouth fell open a little.

“Are you kidding?!? That launch was perfect. The landing was a little iffy, but the launch was fantastic!”

The rocket lived to launch another day – five more times, to date.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

Everything.

We have a problem, a need or a want, an assignment, or a story spark. Sometimes the writing comes fast, the words falling into perfect places. Sometimes there’s a distraction and one thing leads to another. We go in for a tester and end up standing in a field by a launchpad. T-10 and counting.

There are times we know the beginning. There are times we think we know the beginning. Often, we can only guess at where or how our work might land.

No matter the unknowns, dear writers, today there’s good launch weather. It’s T-10 and writing.

Click-to-Tweet: How is writing a story like launching a rocket? Good Launch Weather – @Kwriteone via @InspiredPrompt – The Emotional Highs and Lows of Writing


Writing Prompt – Using this story starter and photo, write an opening paragraph:   “The heather is blooming on the mountain,” Oriole said. “I’m longing to go.”

Miles Away

I sat at the kitchen table and laid both my palms flat on its surface. Fear pierced my heart.

What in the world was happening to me?

Everything tilted, though I hadn’t moved. Familiar sounds came at me as if through a long, steel tunnel. A dense fog invaded my mind. I couldn’t make sense of words or actions. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move.

Even worse, I was completely alone with our two-year-old strapped in her high chair. It would be hours before the older kids came home from school. And the dogs had no idea how to dial 9-1-1.

After several long moments, the episode passed. I was perfectly back to my kind of normal for a few days. The next episode hit on a Saturday with everyone in the house.

When I could speak again, I burst into tears. Within the hour, the emergency room doc had my head in a whirring, clicking machine, drew half my weight in blood, and connected me to so many wires and tubes I could have passed as steampunk.

While we waited for results, the doc grilled me on every aspect of my life.  I thought I had everything under control, but my body told a different story.

The results dripped in. Thyroid – normal. CT – normal. Blood sugar – normal. Vitamins and minerals and various counts – normal.

The doc sat and tapped her pen against her lips.

“I think you need to run,” she said.

Running shoe pic Inspired Prompt jan 2020

As I recall, I laughed so hard I snorted.

“I don’t have time to run!”

Hadn’t she heard a word I said about all the stuff on each of my To-Do lists?

“You don’t have time to NOT run,” she countered.

All the way home, I made my list of reasons why running was out. Too old. Too busy. Too slow. Too lazy. Too hot. Too cold. Too crowded at the Y.

No matter how much I tried to justify my Reasons Not to Run list, the three words on my Reason to Run list outweighed them all: Too Much Cortisol.

Cortisol, apparently, is a stress hormone. It’s normally released in our bodies to aid in those fight or flight situations we sometimes get ourselves into.

For me, though, I had made each day into a fight or flight situation. My stress levels were through the roof. While I hadn’t had a stroke as I had first supposed, the invisible beating my body was taking would eventually take its toll on my heart.

Running track pic Inspired Prompt Jan 2020

Way back in high school and college, I ran competitively. That was four children and almost as many decades ago. So this time, I started slowly. V-E-R-Y slowly. Eventually, I got faster. Each time I passed a milestone (get it? A MILEstone), I allowed myself a little treat.

When I could run a mile without stopping, I invested in an Iron Man watch to count the laps at the YMCA. Eighteen laps equals one mile at my YMCA track. That’s a lot of numbers for a writer to keep in her head, you know.

When I could run two miles without stopping, I invested in those fancy socks that I had my eye on. Fashionable and supportive.

When I could run three miles without stopping, I registered for a 5k run and paid the extra fee for a t-shirt to prove I had run.

It wasn’t easy, and it STILL isn’t easy, but it can be done. Here are some tips I used to help me stay on track and out of the hospital!

  • Find what works to get you moving and start. For me, I used the FREE part of the app C25K (Couch to 5K). For you, it might be weights, cycling, swimming, walking.
  • Find your first micro goal. Even marathoners have to run one step at a time. Set small goals and work toward them. Reward yourself when you get there.
  • Find the right, healthy priorities off the track. Pare down that schedule. Not everything is urgent.
  • Find something to listen to. When I first started working out, I had a tendency to listen to the liar inside my head telling me it was no use. Then, I wrote down scripture on 3×5 index cards and memorized them while I ran. Good, until my hands got so sweaty I could no longer read the words. Then, I discovered PODCASTS for WRITERS. Bingo!

Click-to-Tweet: Remember that we are all miles away from something. If we never start, we will never get any closer. #runners #workout

WRITING PROMPT: Jillian Willows woke up in a sweat. She’d had the same nightmare for the fourth night in a row. Not exactly what she needs the day she is scheduled to run in the biggest race of her life. Write a short scene of dialogue between Jillian and an undercover angel who is sent to encourage her to run the race with endurance.

Write, Revise, Submit

It’s a phone call no writer wants to receive.

“Um, we got your story.”

Now, let me say up front that if your editor personally calls you and begins the conversation with “Um”, there is a pretty good chance you need to start praying.

A few years back, this is exactly the call I received.  My editor, Kim, rang me on my cell.

“Um, we got your story.”

She hesitated.

“It’s just not, you know, there.”

Instead of anger or resentment, I felt a little bubble of relief burst inside me.  I knew it wasn’t there, and yet I had turned the article in. What kind freelance writer does that? A tired writer.

You see, here is the normal process:

  • Writer: Find story, pitch it.
  • Editor: Catch.
  • Writer: Interview, write, revise, submit.
  • Editor: Accept, publish.

I did all those things except when I got to the write and revise, I went at them in a half-hearted attempt. I was too close to the subject. I had done too much research. I had way too many interviews. By the time I sat down to write and revise, I had let the research snuff out the passion I had pitched the story with in the first place.

And I left no energy to revise.

edit one

Thank the Lord for editors in both the fiction world and the nonfiction world. Instead of killing the story, she asked me to re-write. All of it. In a day.

I have never, in all my years of writing, been asked to completely re-write an article until that moment, but that moment made me a stronger, better writer.

Yes, the research is important. Yes, the writing is important. But the rewriting absolutely cannot be overlooked.  Here are some tips to help with the writing and revision process:

  1. Do the work on the front end. Make a question list even if the questions seem obvious. Write in big, bold letters: I want to know/write ___ because ___.  For fiction writers, invest your time in writing what the industry calls a back cover blurb. This is usually three to four paragraphs and is basically a synopsis of the work. Once the writing is done, re-read the blurb. See which one needs to change.
  2. Focus, focus, focus. Too much information is often better than not enough information, but there are times when too much information is just too much. Remember your Who, What, When, Where, Why and How for magazines or journalism pieces. Remember to stay in the scope of the pitch or the assignment.
  3. Schedule time for the piece to rest. If you are working on novel length fiction, maybe you can finish chapter forty on Monday and go back to revise chapter one on Tuesday because there has been so much time between the two. If you are working on a nonfiction piece for a magazine, leave at least twenty-four hours between first draft and edit draft.
  4. Read your work out loud. Me? I head to the chicken coop. Even if my ladies think I’m stupid, they can do nothing more than cluck and peck at my shoe laces when I read through a draft.
  5. Get a second set of eyes on the piece. The eyes should not belong to your mother or your children. There is just something about those connections that do not jive with good editing. You’d have better luck at honesty with my chickens.
  6. Be open to those occasions when your editor will ask for clarification, or a complete re-write. In non-fiction, the work is often objective. In fiction, know the limits of your willingness in terms of what you feel comfortable adding or subtracting to make a piece work for a perceived audience. How far will you go to please those beyond the Lord? Some compromises are just not worth it.
  7. Write a thank you note – especially to the person, or people, who advised a rewrite. It is hard to tell someone their work doesn’t, well, work. It’s even harder to hear it. Having a teachable spirit goes a long way in the world of writing and beyond.
  8. When in doubt, pray. Wait. Listen.

Above all, remember that a rewrite doesn’t kill you, but the lack of one just might.

Click-to-Tweet: Be open to those occasions when your editor will ask for clarification, or a complete re-write. Write, Revise, Submit from @kristyhorine via @InspiredPrompt #amwriting #editing


Writing Prompt: Compose a quick sentence or short paragraph using this photo as inspiration.

The Incredible, Edible — Frittata?

By Kristy Horine

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is such a thing as a frittata. And, yes, it is edible. (Unless you horribly burn it while you get caught up on the latest and greatest post from the Inspired Prompt Crew, and then it isn’t. Edible, that is.)

As a writer, wife, homeschooling mom, chicken keeper, pet wrangler, ministry do-er, I find I have a lot on my plate. I also find that if my family wants a lot on their plates at the end of the day, I need to get creative with food.

Easily creative.

Thus, the frittata.

Piping Hot

The frittata seems to be an Italian dish that includes eggs. Since I am a chicken keeper, eggs are abundant. Since I am busy, ANYTHING that is edible is a candidate for inclusion in said frittata.

The following pics will take you from chopped up veggies, to a plated product.

  1. Preheat oven to 350. I use a cast iron skillet (8 inch) and throw it in the oven to preheat, too. (DO NOT spray or oil before throwing skillet in oven. Smoke. Alarms. Chaos. It’s bad. We are going for simple here.)
  2. Choose your ingredients. Since we are going for edible, I choose meats and veggies my family will actually eat. Some suggestions include: broccoli, tomatoes, asparagus, spinach, squash, bacon, diced ham, chicken. If your veggies or meat choices are especially wet – like the tomatoes or spinach if you use the frozen kind – dry, drain, or seed them. Nobody likes a soggy frittata. If you get to Friday or Saturday and have a few pieces of this, or a cup full of that, throw it in the frittata. Here, I have included squash, zucchini, and green and red tomatoes. (This is the end of the harvest season ingredient list!) Veggies
  3. Whip eggs and cream or milk. The number of eggs depends on the size of your pan AND how many ingredients you include. If you find you whip up too many eggs and your pan is about to overflow, scramble the remaining eggs to give to your picky five year old who refuses to eat anything that she cannot identify, and most things that she can identify for that matter. (Apparently our version of ‘whole food’ means segregated food) eggs and cream

4. Remove HOT pan from oven. (NOTE TO SELF: Use oven mit that was not accidentally laid down in a wet spot on counter!) Spray with cooking oil or run a stick of butter around sides and bottom of pan until coated. Toss in ingredients, pour egg mixture over top, sprinkle with your fav cheese.

5. Bake until center is set and cheese has turned a golden brown – about 30 minutes. I usually bake on a cookie sheet to avoid overflow messes. Do not panic if product rises in pan, but then deflates slightly when taken out of oven. This is normal. Piping Hot

6. Allow to cool in pan for about ten minutes. Plate and serve! (I serve with a slice of homemade sourdough bread, and sometimes a salad, depending on the number of veggies already in the frittata.) Plated

Welcome to frittata bliss!

The Incredible, Edible — Frittata via @InspiredPrompt and @Kwriteone. If my family wants a lot on their plates…I need to get creative with food. #cooking #FridayThoughts [Click-to-Tweet]


Writing Prompt: You’ve invited the new preacher and his wife over for dinner. They will arrive in ONE HOUR. You planned a frittata feast, but when you pull the egg carton out of the fridge, it is strangely light. Much to your distress, you find the carton contains only two eggs, thanks to your teenage son. You make him march straight to the neighbor’s house, carton in hand, to beg for eggs. He returns, white-faced and stuttering. What in the world just happened?

How to Evaluate Story Ideas in Journalism

By Kristy Horine

I sat at the back table of the women’s ministry organizational meeting. The Christian in me focused on loving my sisters. The writer in me did a constant sweep for story.

And there it was, at the very end of the meeting. A prayer request for a young woman named Morgan who was going on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. She had worked so hard to raise funds. Had even learned how to sew to do it.

My story radar pinged and pinged hard.

After the meeting, I approached Morgan and gathered a little more information. “Would you mind if I pitched the idea of writing an article about your mission trip to the local paper?”

After she assented, I made notes of all her contact information, promised to pitch it to the local editor in the morning, and made sure I could schedule a future interview to get more in-depth information if the editor accepted the pitch.

The next morning, I shot off an email in which I pitched a human interest story, with pictures, in 800 words or less. Within two hours I had a reply: Yes.

How did this work so easily? Because the story was appealing and fit in with the local paper’s flavor and audience.

But how do you make this work in your own writing life?

Pay attention.

  1. Pay attention to your local newspaper. Read the headlines. Look at the photos.

There are typically two kinds of newspapers left in the world: the large syndicated rags, and the small, hometown papers. I’ll be really honest here, larger papers are not so inclined to take freelance writers, and they tend to hoard the good stories for their regular reporters. Most other stories they typically pull ‘off the wire’ in a news service that they pay for. That being said, there is no harm in asking. If you don’t ask, you won’t know, so pitch that story!

For smaller papers, if you don’t subscribe, then subscribe. Walk in to the office and let them see your face. Meet one of the editors or the publisher and ask if they are interested in articles from freelance writers. Again, no harm done in asking. Then, read the paper. All of the paper. Read the articles, the opinion pieces, the obituaries, the homemakers having a good time, the local churches having fish fry dinners, the advertisements, the sports stories even if your favorite sport is reading, and the classifieds. Know what they publish, and think about the audience who is reading what they publish.

  1. Pay attention to the story itself. Evaluate each story on the following attributes: Newsworthiness, Prominence, Timeliness, Proximity, Method, and Human Interest.

A Nose for News in Action

Let’s evaluate the above story about Morgan in terms of what newspapers generally look for in publishable articles.

Newsworthiness

To determine Newsworthiness, ask yourself a few questions: Does this matter? Will it inform how people make decisions?

The answers are yes, and yes. It matters to Morgan. It matters on an international scale. Morgan is a difference maker. That’s important. People make decisions about where and how they will spend their money and their time every single day. If no one knows about Morgan’s fund raising sewing endeavors, they might make an alternate decision about their money. In addition, people like to pray for other people. Give them something worthy to pray about.

Prominence

To determine Prominence, ask yourself a few questions: Who is this article about? Who will be impacted by reading this article?

Morgan is not a community celebrity like a politician might be, but her name and her family members are well known and well loved. That makes a difference. When thinking in terms of impact, the story itself is just inspiring, right? It can impact anyone who is within hearing/reading range of the story.

Timeliness

To determine Timeliness, ask yourself a few questions: Is this something that happened yesterday? Is it happening today? Will it happen tomorrow?

In Morgan’s case, I determined to pitch the idea, write the story and have it published well before her mission trip so that people who read her story would have time to decide if they wanted to help her by ordering a hand-sewn item. I could have waited until after her trip and included pictures of the trip itself. However, by publishing pre-event, this enabled the community to be more actively involved. Since news travels fast and dies fairly young, offering a fresh, timely piece is wise.

Proximity

To determine Proximity, ask yourself a few questions: Is this a local event/person/place? If this is foreign, is there a local connection?

Morgan lives in my home town. She just completed her freshman year at college in the next county over. Her mother is a school teacher at one of the local middle schools. Her grandmother lives here. Her sister lives here. Even though the mission trip was outside the US borders, the local connection is strong and interesting.

Method

To determine Method, ask yourself a few questions: Is this article about the same old same old? Is there a new flavor/spin/approach in this story?

When most people fund raise, they think bake sale, car wash, GoFundMe. It takes more time and gumption to learn a new skill that adds value to people’s lives, like sewing. That’s what worked with Morgan’s story. In addition to interviewing Morgan, I also interviewed her sewing mentor, Sue Ellen. Sue Ellen also works at the local middle school. By adding a broader sweep to the story, I increase the Proximity, the Prominence and the Newsworthiness. Bam! We have a Titus 2 operation going here. (Hmmm … sounds like an article I could pitch in a local Women’s Missionary Union magazine or website. Double duty for paying attention here.)

Human Interest

To determine Human Interest, ask yourself a few questions: Does this help me connect/reconnect with people? Will it help my readers stop and remember that people are more important than things?

In Morgan’s story, again the answer is yes to both questions. It is a touching story that can encourage and inspire.

And one more thing –

The local newspaper is a secular paper. Yes, the owners call themselves Christians, but a secular newspaper is a secular newspaper is a secular newspaper. As a journalist, no matter the print outlet, I must maintain unbiased journalistic integrity in my writing. I do not interject opinion. I do not use gushing adjectives. But what I can do is sincerely and honestly quote subjects who speak freely about Jesus, which both Morgan and Sue Ellen did.

Before I go into any story – whether it is a story I have found and am pitching, or if it is a story that the newspaper or magazine has assigned to me – I know my boundaries.

I determined long ago:

  • that I would tell the truth,
  • that I would not write a story celebrating sin,
  • that I would not put myself in a situation where I am alone with a male,
  • that I would not change a direct quote unless I had a paper trail of permissions,
  • that I would be teachable in terms of writing and editing, and
  • that I would obey God before ANY publisher or editor, no matter how much they offered to pay me.

The world needs journalists who understand there are things we just don’t compromise. That’s the best evaluation after all.

A week after Morgan’s story ran in the local newspaper, I received an email from the newspaper asking me to call a woman at a phone number. I called. She was from a different church close to our area. She wanted to have Morgan come and speak to her women’s group about the mission trip. Through the article, God opened a door for a kind and generous young woman to tell more of her story.

Click-to-Tweet: Pay attention. Evaluate. Pitch. See what God can do with the words He has created for you to use.

Writing Prompt: Your small town is holding a craft fair next summer. Several area crafters have gained national attention with their art. Brainstorm a human-interest story idea for the local newspaper.