New Girl on the Blog!

Summer’s almost in the rear view mirror, football games have started, and there’s a new blogger bringing you Inkspirational messages! I’m Jenny McLeod Carlisle, and I’m so happy to have the opportunity to  become a part of this active, exciting community.

I have been writing stories since I could hold a pencil. I remember my Daddy reading to me on the front porch swing, and I particulary loved the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson. As I grew Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew mysteries and Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague sparked my imagination.Jenny with glasses small

My church family played a huge part in my upbringing after my Mom and Dad divorced, so in many ways, my stories “preach to the choir”. Getting in touch with the spiritual aspect of a character’s life makes for a much richer story, whether adventure, mystery or romance.

While hubby and I both worked to support our family, I sought out groups of people who understood the borderline madness of fiction, and eventually met Hannah Alexander (a husband and wife team) and their editor friend Barbara Warren at the Ozark Creative Writer’s conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

I was  first published in non-fiction as a contributor to Gospel Tidings, a national publication of the churches of Christ. I now write a monthly column for  Ouachita Life, a magazine that is distributed in the southwest portion of Arkansas. This gives me the chance to share my memories and observations about life in general.  Recently, I have become a storyteller on Tales from the South, an internationally broadcast radio program. This is a great venue, with a live audience instructed to laugh in all of the right places, and a very gracious editor who helps keep the stories on point.TFTS-better small

Membership in American Christian Fiction Writers, and in particular our local Arkansas chapter has encouraged me to make my dreams of being a published author a reality. I am now represented by Terry Burns with Hartline Literary Agency. While he communicates with potential publishers, I continue to create, and wait for the chance to revise my work to make it a better “fit” for the marketplace. I am a huge believer in God’s Plan, as outlined in Jeremiah 29:11, and I am eager to see what he has in store for me! Can’t wait to share my journey with you.


Inksper’s Social Media Links

We’ve spent the past couple weeks talking about the benefits–and some of the downsides–of social media, and we figured our readers would love to know where to find each of us. We’d love for you to Follow … Like … Friend us, and we’ll even return the favor if you leave your links in the comment section.

Lorna Seilstad

Lorna Seilstad


Shannon Vannatter (2)

Shannon Vannatter

Rose Ross Zediker

Rose Ross Zediker

Shari Barr

Shari Barr

Dawn Ford

Dawn Ford

Stacy Monson

Stacy Monson


Brenda Anderson

Regina Merrick

Regina Merrick



Introducing New Inkspy, Stacy Monson!

Here at Inkspirational Messages we’re thrilled to introduce you to our new member, Stacy Monson!

I met Stacy over two years ago when she volunteered to bring together an ACFW group for Minnesota. Under her leadership the group has grown exponentially. She’s been a phenomenal leader, encourager, and, best of all, a friend. She will bring a fun and unique voice to Inkspirational Messages–I’m so glad she’s joining us!

I’ll let Stacy tell you a bit more about herself …

Mike and I just celebrated our 30th anniversary. We now have three kids – two of our own and one in-law. Camry (25) and Nate were married a year ago and just put an offer on their first house. It’s hard to believe that round-cheeked baby girl is soon to be a homeowner! Our son Aaron (23) will finally conclude his college experience with student teaching in the fall of 2012. At 6’7″ he is definitely someone those elementary students look up to! My husband Mike has taught elementary physical education for 33 years. He takes his juggling program (“The Teaching Juggler”) to schools, daycare centers, church programs, etc., all summer long. He’s thrilled to have his own website now:

Some of our best family memories stem from long car rides – to both coasts, Canada, Florida, etc. As a family, our favorite vacation spot is Lake Tahoe.

For the first time in 29 years, we’re without a pet in our home. After 3 beloved golden retrievers and various cats, we’ve opted to go pet-less for the next few years as we spend more time on the road.

I’m passionate about writing stories that show an extraordinary God at work in the ordinariness of life. I work in community relations in aging services and enjoy speaking and writing about healthy living, life over 50, and the issues of dementia and Alzheimer’s. I’m currently president of MN-NICE (the first ACFW chapter in Minnesota) and am the Minnesota Area Director. I’m also an active member of My Book Therapy Voices, the Minnesota Christian Writer’s Guild, and several RWA chapters.

I’d love for you to stop by my website at

Thanks, Stacy! I even learned something new about you today!

To go along with the summer recipe theme, Stacy included a favorite. Sounds delicious!

Berry Clouds

Serves 6

1 package puff pastry shells (6 shells)

½ lb. fresh strawberries (washed, hulled and sliced)

¼ lb. fresh raspberries

¼ lb. fresh blackberries

2 teaspoons sugar + ¼ cup

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream

  • Bake shells as instructed on the box. When baked, remove the tops, reserve, and set aside tops and bottoms,
  • Combine the berries and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar. Set aside.
  • Beat together the cream cheese, ¼ cup sugar and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the heavy cream on high until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate until chilled.
  • Fill each pastry shell with cream cheese filling.
  • Spoon berries evenly over cream cheese filling. Top with pastry top and a dollop of cream cheese mixture for garnish.

This is a yummy dessert that is also full of good nutrition including Vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants.

from Recipes from the Heart (Taste of Sunrise, Sunrise Senior Living)

The Power of Blogging

Introducing a new blog — On Blogging Well: Tips to Take Your Blog from Stagnant to Stunning.

I enjoy listening to people discuss things they’re passionate about — new scrap-booking projects, quilt patterns,  golf tips, puppy potty-training methods. My first response is, “You should blog about that!” Most say they don’t have a blog. Why not?

The top two reasons people give for not blogging:

1. They don’t know how.

2. They don’t have time.

I believe most people don’t understand the power of blogging. Blogging combines three strong elements — content, commerce, and community — into one powerful means of information distribution.

Compelling Content

Three things drive blog content: Personality, Passion, and Purpose. Blogs aren’t some new journalistic technique to pass along news — they’re written by real people. Corporations blog to “humanize” their businesses — enhancing company/customer relationships. Blogs build relationships through dialogue — a conversation between the blogger and their readers. And that’s what sets blogs apart.


The whole “get eyeballs” mentality is passing quickly. The eyeball isn’t the body part bloggers aim for — they seek to capture the reader’s heart and create a bond, a lasting relationship. Sure, it’s nice to see a big number in the unique visitors column of your site stats. But the regulars are what make blogs special. Think Cheers — a place where everybody knows your name. Readers don’t just interact with the blogger, they converse with each other, too, through forums or comments. Blogs are a place “where strangers become friends, and friends become family.”


Can you really make money blogging? Yes. The secret is, though, if money is the reason you blog, you likely won’t succeed. Blogging is not a get-rich-quick scheme. When they fail, they bad-mouth blogging, when really they started off backwards. To make money blogging, first you must pick a topic you’re knowledgeable and passionate about. Find a reason why you want to blog on that topic (your passion). As you begin sharing your experience about your topic on your blog, your community will grow. There are, of course, ways to grow your tribe quickly, but if they aren’t interested in your content, they won’t become regulars. Once the content & community are in place, then you can start thinking about dollar signs — if that’s what you want. Some bloggers never concern themselves with monetizing their blogs. It’s a personal choice.

Back to the top two reasons for not blogging.

If you’re interested in blogging but don’t know how to get started, visit my new site On Blogging Well. There’s an entire step-by-step series about starting a blog. What about the “no time” thing? I write lots of blog posts each week. I usually do them in two or three sittings and schedule them to post when I want them to. I check my comments daily and interact with the readers. I probably spend about 5-6 hours a week blogging. Most people (maybe not you) spend more hours than that watching TV. My secret? I don’t watch TV!

I hope you will stop by On Blogging Well.

Happy Blogging!


Weekend Edition – Coming Up Next

A special thank you to everyone who’s stopped by for a visit during our debut weeks. We’ve loved introducing ourselves, and if you missed any of the introductions, be sure to stop by the archives.

Coming in the next two weeks, the Inspirational Messengers will each be taking a closer look at the “Unexpected Blessings” in their lives.

The following two weeks, please join us as we talk about what’s on our nightstands right now, what we’ve recently read, and what’s in our “to be read” piles.

Along with that, there will be a live report from the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Denver, Sept. 17-20.


…Really. I was a feral child of the written word. You know, like Romulus and Remus who were raised by wolves? Only instead of a wild animal, I imprinted on the characters from the books I read. I had multiple mothers and fathers, hundreds of brothers and sisters and enough extended family to…well, fill a library.

I read all the time. By the light of a flashlight under the covers at night. In the light of day as I walked to school. (I usually had a bruise in the middle of my forehead from walking into lampposts!) Curled up in the round wicker chair by the window in the last bit of twilight.

Weston Public libraryI read so much that by the time I was eleven I had out-read the children’s section of the public library, much to the consternation of the librarian. She didn’t know what to do with me. (This was in the days before children had access to the entire library collection.) You stayed in Children’s until you were thirteen. Only then could you move up to the Young Adults section. But there I was two years early and out of books.

The Children’s Librarian consulted the YA librarian who sought out the Head Librarian. She called my parents who gave their permission for me to venture into the YA realm a full two years early!

That’s where I met Madeleine L’Engle and my life changed completely. There was a depth to her writing that I hadn’t encountered before. Vicky, Meg, Poly, Camilla, Calvin, Zachary and so many others came to life for me in a way I’d never dreamed possible. I stopped devouring books and began savoring them and the transformation from reader to writer began.wrinkle-in-time

I wrote my first book when I was eleven. It was 78 hand-written pages. I could never write short stories. My imagination was too big to restrict my characters to just a few scenes. I was constantly docked marks for incomplete work in English class but in grade eight Mrs. Whittlesea (isn’t that a glorious name for a junior high English teacher?) told me that I had the heart of a writer! I floated home on clouds of euphoria and began the hunt and peck method of typing out my first official manuscript.

I actually did get an article published in Seventeen magazine just after I graduated high school. And a few years later I had a picture book published by a small Canadian press. I’d followed the old adage “write what you know” and had concocted a story about my little family, starring my daughter. The book ended with the line “…but most of all they were happy.” Sadly my husband wasn’t and I soon found myself a single mother. I lost the ability to dream for a while under the stress of working to put food on the table and a roof over our heads.

And then I went back to school, turning my love for books into a practical library degree. I worked as a school librarian for 14 years and my current position is in the school board resource centre. I not only get paid to read…but someone else pays for the books I read! It’s a dream job – one I buffer with a part-time position at a college library.

No rest for the weary and no time to write…or so I thought until I stumbled onto The lure was too great and I started writing again. And once I’d begun the old dreams began to surface and I suddenly find myself hurdling forward, barely able to catch my breath!

What am I doing here? Hyperventilating most of the time and holding long discourses with God. If only I could learn to stop talking long enough to listen for an answer! How have the rest of you expressed it? Rollercoaster ride? Nerve-wracking? Tough? Definitely. Humbling? Absolutely. So, taking a deep breath, I close my eyes and press send…








Regina here with the story of my writing journey, which started in first grade.  My mom still has evidence—tons of crayon and pencil drawings with the same set of words scrawled on the bottom: “I love my mommy.”  “I love my daddy.” “I love Jesus.”

I did get better.  I remember in 4th grade, I wrote a scintillating tale of a rooster, using my list of spelling words for the week. 

Hmmmm . . . OK, then there was the sequel to the Margaret Mitchell classic, “Gone With the Wind” when I was all of sixteen, I believe.  I didn’t get far, but I still remember where I was going with that.  I had Rhett and Scarlett back together, in their old age, reminiscing about how they had inevitably come back together after those fateful words, “Frankly, my dear . . .” You get the drift.  This is a family blog, after all.

After that, there was dating; moving from Kentucky to Indiana; engagement; graduating from high school; marriage; moving BACK to Kentucky; working at a bank; college; children; moving away from our ancestral (for me, anyway) “home town” to another Kentucky town; graduating from college – finally; serving as a middle-school and then elementary-school librarian; and then becoming a public library director, which I am today.  That’s the short version. The blanks will be filled in as time goes by. I have left out a few things, but as you can see, writing wasn’t really a part of my life except for writing papers, newsletter articles, correspondence, etc. —until January 2008.

 Someday I’ll tell you the story of how Bob Yehling, a television show,, and a group of ladies have inspired me to embark on one of the most nerve-wracking and satisfying journeys of my life – the journey to become a published author.

 I’ve completed my first novel, and continue with rewriting, learning, tweaking, cutting, adding, etc. Entitled Carolina Dream, it’s a Contemporary Christian Romance – my favorite genre to read, as well. It started out as a particularly vivid dream I had. I started writing, and 60,000 words and eight months later, surprisingly enough, I had a very rough draft of a complete novel. I now have outlines for books two and three.

 As for me, at forty-five, I am by vocation a public library director and by avocation a churchSoccer1.09 musician; I have a husband of twenty-six years who is a school administrator and deacon in our church; a daughter who has moved away to her university and is ecstatic to be back after a year at home; and another daughter who has entered high school and is ecstatic about her new haircut, makeup, and being on the Varsity soccer team. 

 I’ve been thinking about my aborted sequel to “Gone With the Wind.”  I went to Charleston, SC recently where I had thought to set my sequel—it’s where Rhett Butler was from, after all—and where part of my current WIP is set.

 As the fringed carriage of our guided tour eased past the opulent mansions on the Battery, I smiled when I felt tears come to my eyes. I couldn’t help but think of elderly Rhett and Scarlett as they could have sat on the veranda of one of those very homes. I could see them, in my mind’s eye,  sipping iced sweet tea as they sit, overlooking the Charleston Harbor, Rhett recalling his glory days as a gun-runner during the Civil War – or as they refer to it in Charleston, the “recent unpleasantness” – and Scarlett smiling at him indulgently . . . 

Spring.summer2009 147 

I just may have to write that book after all.

From the Front Seat of a Roller Coaster

I love roller coasters.

Ones quick as cheetahs and tall as Minneapolis’ sky scrapers. I love coasters with hairpin turns and rolling corkscrews. Ones that fling you upside down and plunge you through shadowy tunnels.

Can you think of anything more suited to an aspiring writer?

My roller coaster ride as a writer began simply enough.

ANDERSON, BRENDA_20I grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota—the best possible place to grow a family—as the third of seven children. I was raised to appreciate the physical work of tossing bales and chasing cows, and then relax in hushed moments under skies lit with dancing northern lights.

My daughter says I was spoiled. Perhaps I was. We had a sledding hill, all to ourselves, right across the county road. We had a private skating rink—a pond surrounded by rolling fields of corn, wheat, and hay. Hay lofts were fertile ground for imagination. We built hay forts, swung like Tarzan from one pile of hay to another. We even pretended we were rock stars, singing and dancing among the bales to Grease.

Amidst all that, I always wanted to write. Whether working, walking with my German shepherd, or biking over sloping hills, stories continuously meandered through my head. Some even stayed.

But, I always knew, writing would never pay the bills. I believed writing was only a dream, and I needed to live in reality.

So, I enrolled in college and eventually received my degree in Literature/Communications. I found a job, married a beautiful man (we recently celebrated our 22nd Anniversary), had three children (who’ve since blossomed into teenagers) and accepted the full-time job of mothering. A position with no salary, but plenty of hugs and “I love you” benefits.

Then the children all went to school. I had a choice: get a job at the new bookstore in town, and actually get paid for working with books … or listen to that unending voice in my head telling me to record this story that lived in my thoughts.

I listened.

Four months later I had fulfilled a dream by completing a novel. Right then, I could have jumped off the writing roller coaster, and I would have been happy.

But, again, God had other ideas. He nudged me to attend conferences, read writing books, and join groups. I edited, revised, and within two years, completed two additional manuscripts.

At conferences, agents/editors/published authors consistently tell me I write well. Some say my stories won’t sell, while others say “someone will birth this story.” (Actual quote) I’ve been told my characters are too messed up, that they all need counseling, they should never get together, and that I should rewrite my story and take out all the problems. (ouch) The next person says, I will be published someday.  Help!

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably ridden this same coaster.

S4010049 - CopyThe neat thing about roller coasters is that, though they never travel a straight path, they do eventually arrive at the station. It may not seem like you’ll reach your destination when you’re plunging down into a lightless tunnel of rejection and hurtful criticism, but if you’re on the track God chose for you, I guarantee you’ll climb out of that hole. The ride always leads back to the light, and that’s exactly where I’m heading.

As I said, I love roller coasters, and I choose not to get off this roller coaster of writing.

Since I’m staying on, I may as well take the front seat.

A Bit of a Different Bird…

In such a group of diverse and talented women, I feel a slight bit out of place.  That’s nothing new, and doesn’t deter me one bit, but you should probably know what you’re in for.  I’m not like everyone else…well, maybe I am in some ways.

I’m an author.  A writer.  A mom. A hard-headed, strong-willed child of Jesus.  I’ve always known that I would be most of these things.  I started writing (plays of all things) when I was a child.  As the child of a career Navy man, I spent a lot of time traveling, which meant a lot of time sitting still, coming up with ways to occupy my mind.

The first thing that I remember writing was plays for the kids in my neighborhood while we were stationed on the military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  A limited open space with limited amounts of activities leaves kids finding creative ways to fill their time.  I don’t remember now what the plays were even about, but I wrote them and the kids from the neighborhood put them on.   It was fun.

My career didn’t really take hold for many years after that. I wanted to be a writer, but I was cautioned over and over again that it wasn’t possible to make a living as a writer, and as a strong young woman I needed to have a career.  Remember how I said I’m hard-headed?  That’s really an understatement.  The only thing I wanted more than to be a writer was to be a wife and Mom.

This is where my life takes on a path of my own. I started my family young. For a while, I devoted my life to my family, spending time writing only for myself and for a long time.  Eventually, I came back to that other dream.  Thankfully my (then) husband could support our family, so I was able to stay home with my two kids after a while.  I found myself with a bit of time on my hands and started “playing” with writing again.

It wasn’t until I caught a lucky break from a good friend that needed some help that I really began to realize my dream.  Well, sorta.  My friend needed a technology writer and the work I did with her started me on a path that lead me deep into techno-reality.  My first published piece (incidentally NOT technology) was published in 1994.  That break into technology came in 1998.

Since then, I’ve written well over a thousand articles, mostly technology.  Taught hundreds of technology courses online.  And written 19 books; all technology.  But my heart longs for something more.  I’ve always seen myself writing fiction.  And since I found my way back to Jesus a few years ago (that’s another VERY long story) the desire to write Christian fiction (and non-fiction, too) has been the leading force behind my career.  I’m still not published in these areas, but I trust when God is ready I will be, too.

Life recently has taken a strange turn. I’m divorced.  My daughter lives with me; my son lives with his Dad.  And the economy really stinks.  And when the economy stinks, technology usually takes the hit the hardest. So, the writing I’ve been doing to support myself and my daughter for several years is suddenly not enough. I had to take a full-time job.

It was tough.  When I dreamed of having a family, I never dreamed I’d be a single Mom leaving her teenage daughter alone until she got home from work.  I thought I would always be a stay-at-home Mom.  It felt a lot like failure.

Then things started to happen.  Suddenly, I’m writing for Christian venues.  I’m a regular contributor to Bay Area Christian Family magazine. Other opportunities have come up.  I’ve even got a book proposal for Christian singles making the rounds.  God is closing one door, but there are windows opening in every direction.

So, I am a bit of a different bird.  I’ve come to my Christian writing career from a completely different direction than my friends here.  But I’m as excited as they are to learn, to grow, and to let God use my talents for His purpose.  And I’m truly looking forward to the adventure that He has set before me.

Hello From The Heart Of Dixie

Kim here to start off the new week and the next round of introductions. To steal a line from the beloved Minnie Pearl… I’m just so proud to be here.

Growing up in an ink spot of a town in Alabama, I was surrounded by a family of storytellers. And every one of those stories – no matter how funny or sad – was wrapped in a warm blanket of humor. Those stories sparked my imagination. So, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been writing similar stories in my head.

While I created storylines for music videos starring Barbie and Ken a good half dozen years before anyone had ever heard of MTV, my real passion for writing was sparked in Mrs. Shellhorse’s fifth grade Language Arts class. She had a box of story starters meant to provide entertainment to fill the minutes between spelling tests and grammar worksheets. But for me, those little index cards were the match that lit the flame of a passion that is still very much alive twenty-nine years later.

Of course, sometimes, the flame of such a passion dies down to a smoldering ember. Reality pushes aside childhood dreams. Although my high school guidance counselor would beg to differ, I knew writing wouldn’t put money in my pocket. Instead, I followed in my mother’s footsteps – a degree in Special Education.images

Oh, I veered off course slightly. My degree was in Special Education for the Hearing Impaired. Still, chalk dust was in my blood…until I did my student teaching. That was a real system flushing experience. But since that was the last thing an education major does before graduation, what was a girl to do?

Yep. You guessed it. Graduate school and a Master’s degree in audiology. Then a career as an audiologist. Still, through it all, the fire for writing still smoldered.

The ember burst into flame again when I stumbled across Along with a renewed passion came some of the best cheerleaders and friends an Alabama girl could wish for. Four ladies – an Iowan, two Canadians and a Kentuckian – who have held my hand, dried my tears and celebrated the smallest glimmer of inspiration for a story to the biggies – like obtaining a doctorate in audiology (AuD.) while working full time as a pediatric audiologist and writing in snippets of time in between – all through the vastness of cyberspace.

So there you have it. The story of an unpublished contemporary romance southern writer who tries to wrap her stories in a warm blanket of humor. I am humbled that the newbie I am gets to be a part of such a fantastic journey along with the rest of you. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for all of us. And, like I said at the beginning, I’m just so proud to be here.