An Inspired Fellowship

by Betty Thomason Owens

The road of our imagination can be as serpentine as Highway 1 on California’s Pacific Coast. It often leads across bridges that afford vistas of immaculate beauty. As writers, we try our best to “paint” those vistas with words the reader’s brain can translate into scenes.Like that beautiful highway, most roads eventually lead to someplace. In the case of a story, it leads to the final two words, “The End.”

I approach that point today, as I write this final post for Inspired Prompt, the multi-author blog I helped develop eight years ago. When Jennifer emailed me and asked if I’d be interested, I had no idea what I was saying yes to. If I’d had an inkling what it would require of me, I may have run away. Swiftly. With conviction.

In retrospect, however, this blog has developed me as a writer more than I developed the blog. It also gave me opportunities I would never have had otherwise.

So, I’m thankful to Jennifer Hallmark, our “idea person,” who became a best friend. And to Christina Rich, who built the original blog and helped us get on our feet, so to speak. We were a triple threat back in the day. 😊

Over the years, we’ve been through a number of changes. In fact, the blog sort of metamorphosed like the caterpillar-butterfly transformation. You may think that’s overstating but being on the inside and seeing what it was and what it became, I think it’s apropos.

But I am not the reason for that. Jennifer and I managed to pull together a crew of writers who brought enough talent with them to drive us into places we never dreamed of going. The best part is the teamwork, the fellowship, and the friendship that developed. I was able to share with them the knowledge I had gained as they shared with me what they knew.

I think I can safely say, love bound us together. What a blessing!

We treasure you also, our readers, especially those who have remained with us over the long haul. Thanks for being there. Thanks for commenting and sharing. My greatest hope for you is that what you’ve gleaned along our writers’ road will stay with you.

So, this is not goodbye. Though I am sad, it is not an end or a parting of the ways, it’s a fork in the road. Like that beautiful, Pacific highway, ‘round every turn is another possibility.

I will not say goodbye, or even “adieu” but I will tip my hat and say, “thanks, from the bottom of my heart.”

Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

The Secret Garden of Our Hearts

It must have been the summer of 2012 that I first heard that lovely sound. I arose early one morning to release the hounds. As I stepped out onto the concrete cistern pad, coffee cup in hand, a bird burst into song.

Nine notes. Nine arresting notes. I stood quite still and memorized them. I kept one eye on one dog and the other eye on the other dog, but my heart was with this bird.

I tend to like all birds, having grown up in the country. Feisty wrens, raucous jays, the first robins of Spring, barn swallows that chased the mowing machines. I’d even learned to follow the circling, circling of vultures that could alert us to potential loss with our cattle.

I thought I’d heard every manner of bird song until that very moment in 2012. Before the mystery bird flitted off to a different stand of trees and its song was too far for my ears to hold, I dragged my husband outside.

“That! That there!” I said.

He memorized the notes, too, and then he turned and went inside and matched the notes in his head with a recording on the Audubon website. Within the hour, he had an identification.

Zonotrichia albicollis. The White-throated Sparrow. (https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/white-throated-sparrow)

I flitted back outside and perched on the concrete cistern pad. “I know your name! I know your name!” I cried out.

Now, I am a grown woman, properly situated in middle age. Although I am a writer, I am not given to eccentricities that are beyond what a good Christian lady can afford. Yet, apparently, I talk to birds.

I had no idea where that came from until just a few weeks ago, April 2020 – the year of clear vision, right?

Our daughter is six now, a homeschooled kindergartner. She loves books and stories and we try to read quality literature to her often. I pulled out The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and started at chapter one.

By the time we reached page thirty, I’d fallen into Yorkshire and made the voices for Martha, Ben Weatherstaff, Mrs. Medlock. The feet in my heart had learned to run ’round the garden fountain and my ears were keen to listen to the wutherin’ on the moors.

This was a book from my childhood. A book I’d read time and time again, never growing weary of the story, though I knew by heart what was coming. It had been years since my eye had sucked the story marrow from the pages. Decades, really, since I’d seen these old friends, and yet the magic of the garden still thrust into that secret part inside me where the good things grow.

There, on the bottom of page forty-five, I read the words. Mary Lennox meets Robin Redbreast.

“Oh!” she cried out, “is it you—is it you?” And it did not seem at all queer to her that she spoke to him as if she were sure that he would understand and answer her.

Suddenly, in the middle of our reading hour, I had to stop. Suddenly, so many things made sense.

Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote The Secret Garden in 1909. It was published in 1911. The book found its way into my hands some time during my later elementary school or junior high school years – circa 1980 or so – and the impact of this singular story on my life traveled well into 2012 and beyond.

Sometimes, I write words. They are either good and useful, or bad and destined for the rubbish heap. Every now and again, those words flit together in a mesmerizing column of story, like a flock of starlings. Every now and again, those words make boundaries of form and function and come out as a lesson or two. Every now and again, those words nestle deep into the soil of a reader’s interior garden, find enough pressure and heat to germinate and then, in the fullness of their own time, burst into glorious bloom.

My prayer as we bring these series of articles to a halt is that one day, you will find yourself talking to the birds and you will remember where and how you first learned to speak the language.

A Fond Farewell: Inspired Prompt Crew to Our Writer and Reader Friends

By Jennifer Hallmark

April 27, 2012. I had been journaling, blogging, kind of for six years, and had about a dozen dedicated readers. What was I doing wrong?  I really put the matter to prayer. God whispered to my heart that I needed to use the blog to give back instead of sharing my thoughts and I immediately thought of the #WritingCommunity that had given me so much. I talked to two ladies in my ACFW critique group and Betty Thomason Owens and Christina Rich helped me start a blog by writers for writers. Cool name, huh? 🙂

We didn’t have a clue what we were doing. Well, I didn’t anyway.

But over the last eight years, our blog grew. We changed format, the name, and our website creation tool but one thing remained the same: A blog by writers for writers.

It’s time.

I’ve known for a while but I’d shake the thought off and keep going. My innermost being, everything, is invested in what I do, including this blog. It’s just the way I operate. When the time comes for a shift, I struggle, fight, and search for a way to combat change.

Then, I remember that to move forward, I often have to embrace change. Go with the flow. Climb the next mountain. Follow the light. Let go and let God. (Betty, these clichés are for you.)

It’s time.

The Inspired Prompt has had a wonderful run and much success in numbers, especially in the last two years. The most important thing, though?

You. Each person who is or has been a Crew member. My hat is off to you. You are amazing people and writers who graced our blog with your words. Each week, I read your posts and am blessed. Christina, you helped me so much with the tech stuff in the beginning. Betty, we are BFF’s always. ❤

You. Our readers. Wow. I’ve made so many friends through this site. Readers, writers, reviewers, publishers, editors, agents, to name a few. I’ve enjoyed the interviews, the guest blog posts, and most of all, the comments. You would open up and share a little from your life and it made my day. All the Crew’s day.

I would start to name you but I would miss too many of you wonderful people. I pray each of you is blessed:

  • In the city and in the country.
  • In your body, your family, and everything you call yours.
  • In your work.
  • In your coming and your going.
  • In the presence of your enemies.

And that God will open the treasures of heaven over your life.

Our last post will be on May 29th but we will leave the blog intact for the rest of the year so you can read and enjoy any articles you may have missed. We hope they help on your journey, whether you’re a writer or not.

Thank you again for your kindness. It will never be forgotten.

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.”

I Didn’t Write for a Month…And Lived!

By Jennifer Hallmark

I am a writer. My job in life is to pen words and share them with my world: family, friends, social media, and the Internet. My mission statement is “to write with God and bring hope and encouragement through my words, both written and spoken, to everyone I meet, both online and in-person.”

And on top of that,  I just found out that my debut novel, Jessie’s Hope, finaled in the Selah Awards. Did I actually have the audacity to take time off?

Yes.

In taking a month’s sabbatical, my mission statement would be somewhat placed on hold. I found not writing extremely hard. After all, my life had been wrapped up in this chosen profession since 2006 when I attended my first local writing class. Fourteen long years of studying, writing, being critiqued, more writing, more studying, and attending meetings, conferences, and retreats. I’ve read over twenty-five books on the craft, listened to numerous podcasts, and taken tons of classes: in-person and online.

Factor in writing a few hundred blog posts, interviews, guest posts, three full novels and a couple of half novels and you can see I haven’t been idle when it comes to this writer’s life.

And that was part of the problem.

At first, I loved all of it. My hobby proved to be fun and for five years, I enjoyed penning words as a pastime. Then, I wanted more. Maybe a published author and, gasp, being paid money for something I’d written. Was that too much to ask?

My writing went to the next level starting with me attending the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference with lots of other writers. And work. My hobby became a job, second to being a mom and housewife and chicken farmer. 48,000 baby chickens raised every six weeks to be exact. Life was full but enjoyable.

My children grew up and moved out and before you could say empty nest, I had six grandchildren. Then my stepdad passed away and Mom moved nearby. As I think back, I really didn’t enjoy the grown children stage the way I would if I had it to do over. Parents, my word of advice: Enjoy the empty nest while you can.

In 2011, we sold our chicken houses and I started writing full-time.  And babysitting. And helping Mom as the only sibling in the state. Then a good friend became a widow and another good friend died. Life suddenly started to drain the life from me. Add in a few health issues of my own and I was totally being set up to fall apart. The plates I’d kept spinning for so long began to fall, one at a time, until I stood amidst broken glass, mourning so much change and so many losses.

So, I wrote faster. With longer hours to try and purge my soul of the pain that was piling up on me. I thought I could put these sorrowful thoughts on paper and they’d magically disappear. But they didn’t. I reluctantly contacted a therapist because I knew I was on the verge of a breakdown but didn’t know how to stop it. My first assignment? Read the book, Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Life-changing. The book and my therapist began to show me what I’d done wrong. No boundaries. No self-care. An aging body and more people who needed me. So I made changes. I started going to the gym, then changed my diet. See my article on my new way to eat.

From January of 2019 until today, I’d lost twenty-seven pounds and kept it off, then added strength training. I felt so much better physically. But setting boundaries was still hard for me. I’m one of those people who found it hard to say no but I’m learning. Self-care became more of a way of life and everyone around me is benefiting from it.

My only problem? I was still totally and completely mentally burnt out. You can’t keep it all going, seven days a week like I had for too long of a time. I had spent less and less time with real people and more time in my office and I became emotionally burnt out too. We were created for relationship and hiding doesn’t heal anything.

I made a major decision. Eight months after I’d released my first novel and with my agent shopping my second novel, I would take a month off.

February would be a time of renewal which also happens to be my word for the year. No writing fiction, articles, and no social media. More family time. Did you miss me on Facebook or Twitter? Probably not but somehow I’d gotten in my head that I was indispensable to the online world. And guess what I learned?

Social media went on without me. My book sales did drop a little without me marketing but not as much as I feared. And the rest and peace I received were well worth it.

I went back to work on March 2nd with more wisdom I hope, planning a four-day workweek for now. I have a planner to help me stay on track and am penciling in “me” time, a lot more than I ever have before. And it’s okay.

Everyone has to work with who they are and what their situations are in life. I tried to pretend it all didn’t bother me and failed miserably. But God, my family, friends, and writing buddies didn’t turn their backs on me. My blogging friends at Inspired Prompt kept the blog running. My family gave me some space and though the needs were still there with the grandchildren and Mom, I learned to say no or wait or soon. Not always yes, this minute.

Does anyone out there relate to this at all? Maybe you could share a comment below and tell me how you handle it all. I’m always thankful for suggestions as I journey on this new part of life…

Click to tweet: I Didn’t Write for a Month…And Lived! #amwriting The emotional highs and lows of writing. #WritingCommunity