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Peanut Butter and Pickles

(This blog post first appeared Feb. 16, 2017.)

I’ve often wondered what school-age students ate for lunch in the 1940s. Of course, they ate what we generally eat today (minus all the fast-food); but as I was perusing a cookbook from the 1940s, I was amused to see how precise each section was, and especially the chapter on “The School Lunch.” According to The American Woman’s Cookbook of 1940, published for the Culinary Arts Institute, a child’s school lunch should contain all of the essentials so that he/she will be able to prochildren-eating-lunchperly attend to schoolwork. On page 60, the American Woman’s Cookbook states:

  1. [The school lunch] should be abundant in amount for a hungry, healthy child. A little too much is better than too little.
  2. It should be chosen with regard to the nutritive needs of the child and in relation to the whole day’s food.
  3. It should be clean, appetizing, wholesome and attractive.

Each lunch item was individually wrapped in wax paper, with the heavier items on the bottom, and placed inside the lunch box in the order the food was to be eaten first. I wonder, did children know what to eat first?

What stood out to me was that this small chapter devoted to the school lunch emphasized the value of the meal, made “carefully and well” (60). Mothers packed one of every food group in each school lunch. Fruits and vegetables, the book said, “are not always easy to include in the school lunch, yet if the child is to be well nourished, some way must be devised to get them in” (61). Perhaps it was hard to get fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter time, but that’s why gardening and canning was vital to the American family. I appreciated the determination presented in this chapter to find a way no matter what.

It may seem strange to learn a lesson from reading a chapter about preparing a child’s school lunch, but I’m glad there was a time in history when people cared about even the smallest details.

Even though our lunches may not be wrapped in wax paper and placed in a tin box, I think we’re getting back to the organic way of eating, but would you want to try a peanut butter and onion sandwich? Or how about a peanut butter and pickle sandwich?

Photo Credit: Google.com/WWII+American+Schools

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Curious George and World War Two

Curious George During WWII (1)

(reprint from 2018)

I love children’s books! Do you? Couldn’t you just sit for hours, flipping through colorful pages in children’s books and soaking up the captivating tales? Watercolor art is a favorite and story set to poetry is the best pleasure ever.

From a little tyke, I grew up reading books like Harold and the Purple Crayon, A Happy Ending Series (with Tippu and Chippy and friends), and Tales of Fern Hollow. As my reading tastes matured, those childhood books still held a place in my heart, but I added to the pile. The Mandie Series, High Hurdles, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and others. Then into my adult years, I didn’t forsake the well-loved books, but included historicals by Sarah Sundin, Cara Putman, Tracie Petersen, Jeanne M. Dickson, Lynn Austin, Joanna Davidson Politano, Janyre Tromp, and so many other wonderful authors.

I could fill a book just sharing them! (If you want to know a great list of fiction authors, visit Fiction Finder or BookBub.)

However, there is one special book I forgot to mention.

Curious George!curious-george-hans-rey-margaret-tisha-martin-author-editor-childrens-literature-fiction-world-war-two

I love that little monkey—and the television shows! But do you know much about the authors? It may surprise you like it did me! This beloved, cantankerous monkey nearly didn’t make it into print.

margaret-hans-rey-curious-george-childrens-literature-tisha-martin-historical-fiction-authorThe authors, Hans Reyersbach and his wife Margaret Waldstein, were Jewish and had to escape when the Nazis invaded France in 1940. Fleeing on “new” bicycles created from spare parts, Hans Ryersbach carried the precious manuscript about a Monkey named Raffy. Margaret and Hans eventually arrived in New York where author and illustrator couple found a home for their manuscript about a curious little monkey that became known as Curious George. The editor at Houghton Mifflin thought child readers needed the friendship of a colorful, adventurous monkey to soften the harshness of wartime. The first book sold in 1941. I’m happy to be able to incorporate Curious George into my own WWII novel when my character Laurie’s little cousin is born in 1944. Even my fictional characters get to enjoy this crazy monkey!

“I know what I liked as a child, and I don’t do any book that I, as a child, wouldn’t have liked.” — H. A. Rey

If you’d like to read further, check out The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey, linked to Barnes & Noble.

Leave me a note in the comments! I look forward to the conversation!

What are some of your favorite childhood books and why?

What are some of your favorite adult books and why?

Image credit: Forward.com
Article Source: The Vintage News

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How to Edit Like a Director

editing-like-a-director-tisha-martin-how-to-edit

Hello! How’s your editing been going for you? I hope you’re seeing great improvement, but if you’re at a loss for how to edit or even what it consists of, take heart.

Editing is as much an art form as writing, so the more you practice, the better your results will be. Last month, we looked at three ways to think like an editor. This month, we’ll switch gears and look at how to edit like a director. Rather, we’ll transform our story into the stage and our characters into actors. You enjoy a well-done performance, don’t you? Consider what makes up a stunning stage performance . . . and we’ll incorporate a few tips for how to edit like a director.

Three tips for how to edit like a director

  1. Captivating dialogue

I understand. Dialogue is hard to craft because as in life, there’s emotion, nuance, and subtext in our characters’ dialogue. When crafting my own dialogue between my characters, I must reflect on the general goal I want my hero and/or heroine to accomplish. And whatever that goal is the dialogue should mirror that goal. For instance, if my amateur detective heroine wants to get admission into the exhibit so she can scoop up clues from last night’s painting theft, but no one will let her in because that section of the museum has been closed off, she’s got to convince the ticket master that it’s important to let her in. What might that dialogue consist of?

Amateur detective: “Sir, I’m with the police. I’d like to be let inside the exhibit hall, so I may conduct my search.”

Ticket master: “I’m very sorry. Only the private investigators are allowed in there.”

Amateur detective: “But I am a private investigator.”

Ticket master: “Hardly, miss. Where are your credentials?”

  1. Strong character actions

Outside of dialogue, strong character actions is the most important element on the stage because it connects the audience with the actors and endears them to the entire story. Likewise, giving your story characters specific movements throughout each story scene will entice our readers to want to engage with the story. Let’s take the dialogue we crafted between the amateur detective and the ticket master and incorporate some strong character actions.

Lily Nash stepped inside the museum’s expansive lobby, searching for the ticket counter. Ah, there, near a huge marble column. “Sir, I’d like to be let inside the exhibit hall, so I may conduct a search from last night’s robbery.”

“I’m very sorry, but that’s closed to the public. Only private investigators are allowed in there.” The ticket master stamped a few papers and filed them.

Gripping her handbag, she said, “But I am a private investigator.”

The ticket master cast a scorning glance down at her over his thin metal spectacles. “Hardly, miss. Where are your credentials?”

Did you notice yourself envision the scene, what the characters might look like, and how their voices might sound, based from this scene? Does it seem like Lily isn’t as prepared as she should be, and the ticket master is a stern fellow? Do you hear the desperation in Lily’s voice and the disbelief in the ticket master’s? Can you see the lobby’s high ceiling and the large, stone columns? We have not included anything but character actions and dialogue, and perhaps you are connected with the scene already.

  1. Strong transitions between scenes

Incorporating strong transitions between your story’s scenes will help your readers connect the dots and stay on track with the story as it ebbs and flows, leading to the climax and the ending. Now, we’ll take the last scene, with dialogue and character action, and create transition scenes before and after.

Looking up at the front of the art museum, Lily Nash clutched her stomach. Her first assignment alone.

She stepped inside the museum’s expansive lobby, searching for the ticket counter. Ah, there, near a huge marble column. “Sir, I’d like to be let inside the exhibit hall, so I may conduct a search from last night’s robbery.”

“I’m very sorry, but that’s closed to the public. Only private investigators are allowed in there.” The ticket master stamped a few papers and filed them.

Gripping her handbag, she said, “But I am a private investigator.”

The ticket master cast a scorning glance down at her over his thin metal spectacles. “Hardly, miss. Where are your credentials?”

“I have them, sir.” Lily dug through her handbag. Fear gripped her throat. She’d had it at the station. Without another word to the ticket master, she turned and fled the building.

Transitions don’t have to extend to several sentences or even paragraphs. Just mention enough to get your characters from one place to the next so it will be clear to your readers how your characters are moving throughout the story as it progresses, hopefully, from good to bad to worse to a climactic ending with a satisfying end.

Just as each theatrical production has its own style, theme, and tone, your story has its own style, scene exchanges, dialogue, and tone so that the message truly reaches the reader’s heart. The bottom line is to make sure your writing shows an entire story being acted out as if it were a theatrical production. Now, take a small scene from your current WIP and see how you can transform it into a scene that fully engages readers in dialogue, character actions, and transitions.

Please join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

Take a few minutes and ponder. What is one self-editing tip that’s helped you recently? 

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3 Steps to Build Your Writer’s Platform

Obedience in the same direction tisha martin author editor platform

(first published in 2018, now with updates)

Why do many aspects of Platform cause a writer to shun and run from this daunting stage?

“It’s so new.”

“It’s so scary.”

“I’m scared!”

“I can’t do it.”

“I don’t know even what I’m doing.”

“Why is it important?”

I don’t know what keeps you from building your writer platform. Every person is beautifully designed. What I do know is that in the years I’ve been navigating the waters of social media and building a platform, I’ve learned it’s not as daunting. Rather, it’s quite fun. God’s given each of us gifts with which to serve him. We each have intrinsic value to contribute to our community.

Yet fear is one thing that can get in the way of building platform.

Fear pushes you away from connecting, from growing, from learning. Fear keeps me from doing what I want to do. I didn’t realize how introverted I was on social media; I don’t enjoy sharing every scene of my life, however, as I’ve grown into the knowledge of truly connecting, I am learning how to connect in the way that works for me. It might not work for you, and you’ll likely find your own way of vulnerability and connection too.

Once I realized what I was afraid of and how to nudge it down, connecting with people has been the most rewarding part of this platform journey.

I can’t remember who said it but I’ve learned to let fear motivate me, for in that, I’m able to balance the rational fear from the irrational fear about platform and why it makes me scared. When I release my fear  and embrace inner confidence, I’m giving myself the freedom to do what needs to be done and press on with love and light.

As King David said in Psalm 23, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”

My fellow writers, graze in the security that the Lord is with you in every situation. Even as you build your platform and reach out to people. In my mind, platform simply means connecting with people. With the Lord at my side and a love for people, I can go anywhere and do anything.

As many an industry professional will say, “Platform” isn’t just social media, branding, and blogging, “it’s network. It’s connection. It’s relationship.”

Many beginning creatives may find Platform challenging, and it is. Connection might seem like a valley at first. But if we zoom through the valley and turn our eyes toward the mountain, we will recognize success. Rome wasn’t built in one day. Neither is Platform built in one month. Or one year. Or ten.

Find your vulnerability. Find your tribe. And let your connections live and flourish.

Here are three N’s to build that platform:

  1. Network on the social media you’re comfortable with.
    If it’s only Facebook you’re on, stay there. Don’t try anything else. When you’re comfy cozy, venture out and include Instagram, LinkedIn, or YouTube. Above all else, start small. Build those relationships, even among your thirty friends. You’ll grow.
  2. Nudge everyone in your field. And join others’ newsletter list too.
    If that field is editing, reach out to one person a week. Make small conversation. Compliment them on something from their website or social media content or newsletter. If that field is writing, connect with writers who write the same things you do. Offer something of personal value to everyone you meet.
  3. Nestle with God and his people. 
    Growth takes time and effort before it just blossoms. Keep working at it. Form a prayer chain with a few friends about your struggles. Find a mentor. Ask God what he would want you to do. He will help you because he’s called you to it.

I’d Love to Connect with You!

Authors, writers, editors, friends, PEOPLE, I’d love to connect with you!

You see my social media links on the sidebar. Follow me, and I’ll follow you back––I would also love to engage in conversation. Or better yet!! Sign up for my email newsletters for valuable information and to continue broader and deeper conversations…

That’s what it’s all about. Let’s get this platform, connection, underway so we can do what we’re called to do!

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What It Means to Be Human

“To feel is to be human.” —Peter Scazzero

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Often, thoughts and pieces of words scatter and tumble like a pile of disheveled books, the words to accurately match often hard to reach, or even name. 

Once, at a book expo, someone asked me what it meant to be human, and began telling me about their work in progress, an historical WWII fiction that included zombies. I remember saying that I didn’t like zombies. And as a book editor, the idea of zombies in historical fiction was quite an injustice to the genre.

Truth is, I didn’t fully understand what they were saying at the time. Truth is, for nearly 30 years, I was the zombie, the human who wasn’t really human. Swirled up in a tornado of confusion, while the world around me seemed so put together.

But then, slowly, across starts and fits, stops and turns, I began to rise above that book rubble, those confusing feelings, those plethora of words and descriptions … that transformed into clarity, sureness, understanding. Real Love.

I began to see. To truly see and think and feel the world around me. To truly see and think and feel me around the world. To accurately see myself in a brand new light. In the Light. The Light that created the words we say, the words we think, the words we write, the words we read. The words we feel.

And I’m ever human. I’ve even ever more imperfectly mindful.

Photo cred: Unsplash
Book cred: The Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

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Summer Reading

Launch Day Introduction

Need another #summer read? How about 6 books for the price of a candy bar? Better than a candy bar…

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Proposals Gone Awry is a sweet contemporary romance #novella collection that is sure to raise the bar in your reading experience.

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💋 an unexpected kiss

🙇 kid matchmakers

🚗 road trip adventure

🏢 publishing house romance

🍿 cozy front porch

💍 interrupted proposals

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Elements from each book lend different and fresh perspectives on your average romance story.

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So I’m curious. The other authors are curious. The dog and cat are curious. Goodness, the characters are curious…

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Have you read the Proposals Gone Awry collection yet? One story even?

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How did you like it? What struck you?

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Would you head over to #Amazon and leave a review? Doesn’t have to be long. “Loved the book, and you will too!” is perfect and much appreciated!

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New Contemporary Romance Collection

The news is now in print!

A light-hearted ebook collection of novellas is coming to you June 25.

Six authors. Six contemporary romance stories of marriage proposals gone awry!

He’s ready to propose.

She’s ready to say yes.

And then it all gets mixed up…

My novella, Misadventures in Love, is about:

Young in his career, design engineer Landers Nelson is ready to propose to the love of his life. But a series of misfortunate events—dropping the ring down the drain, his girlfriend wearing the wrong shoes for hiking, and misplacing the ring again—disrupts his calculated proposal plans.

Fresh out of college, Vianne Morse has an affinity for graphic design and planned adventures. She’s excited and nervous to join Landers on a road trip to visit his side of the family in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After the car gets a flat tire, Vianne wonders if their planned adventures will actually unfold as they had so strategically planned.

Together, they must navigate the roads of adventure and personal preference to reach both of their desired couple goals—before another misfortune happens.

This collection releases June 25! I can’t wait for you to read my story and the other stories in the collection.

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Behind the Pause

When I think of a pause, I think of the silence, the peace. And yet it’s not quite silent.

There’s the whisper of the wind, your soft breath, the gentle nod of clothespins, perhaps a musical note or two kissing the air.

Or the simplicity of children playing, birds flitting, squirrels’ tails flickering, flies buzzing.

Sometimes it’s not what’s around you, but what is the pause in your mind.

This is often where silence occurs. Contemplative thoughts before that decided action. Or spoken word. A prayer before hitting Send.

Ah, when I think of a pause, I think of glory, of joy, of peace. Of rest. And it’s refreshing.

What’s your pause? How would you describe it?

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Three Steps to Editing the Beginning

[This post first appeared on Almost an Author. February 22, 2018.]

Three Steps to Editing the Beginning

With my cursor at Chapter 1 in my WWII historical fiction novel, I hit Ctrl+Enter and sighed. Beginning a book all over again wasn’t what I had in mind. I liked this chapter. I mean, really liked it, even though everyone else said it wasn’t quite right. Forever, why? Why must I abandon these pages and start fresh, like erasing a favorite drawing of a flower but one petal was lopsided.

Two contests, a writing conference, and two agents later, my intuition solidified into a clear direction of where this chapter needed to begin. None of the critics’ comments were overly negative, and most of them enjoyed the few chapters I had submitted. But my first chapter lacked … heart, GPC (goal, problem, care), and solid reasons why things were happening the very moment the story began.

Beginnings

How many of you have revisited this elusive beginning, struggling to create a first chapter that pops! off the page?

I’ve always struggled to write beginnings. I’m sure I’m not the only one—and there are writers who dislike middles and endings, too.

Who are these characters, what is their goal and problem, and why do you want readers to care?

In addition to Goal, Problem, and Care, here are three things I learned about editing the first chapter that helped me introduce the GPC:

  1. Introduce main characters and continuing action early in the first page.Your readers must have a reason to continue to the second and third page and eventually the last page in as few sittings as possible. Maybe your character is afraid to drive over a bridge but must because her boyfriend sent her on a scavenger hunt, or perhaps your character must capture a rattlesnake because his friend dared him. Your first page should pop! with action that includes a huge goal with a problem your main characters must overcome by the book’s end.
  2. Give your characters lively dialogue. You want your readers to laugh and relate with your characters. The old “How are you?” “I’m fine, how are you?” type of dialogue doesn’t work anymore.
  3. Don’t overwrite. Simple is always best. Make Strunk and White proud of you!

Simple writing is sometimes hard for me because I love to describe things; however, too much is not good and hurts your writing and may frustrate your readers. I love reading Anne of Green Gables, but I have a hard time staying engaged with the verbose descriptions; in Ms. Montgomery’s defense, her readers enjoyed lengthy descriptions. Today’s readers want a read they can enjoy quickly.

After taking an honest and humble look at my first chapter based on the judges’ and agents’ comments, I’m glad I started over. I spent a few days pounding out a new first chapter, and it’s stronger because I’ve given my characters a goal to look forward to, a problem that stands in their way, and my readers something to care about.

Now, excuse me while I edit this post to ensure I’ve engaged you, helped you relate, and caused you to want to continue reading it.

Let’s Discuss!

What is your WIP’s first chapter about? Can you describe it in Goal, Problem, and Care?

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How to Trust the Process

trust-the-process-writing-platform-tisha-martin-author-editor

(original post published in 2018)

Writers are often told that the best piece of writing advice is to write what you know, or build your platform . . . or anything related to writing that we strive to make better in our lives. However, the best piece of writing advice I have ever been told resonated with me in such a way that changed my thinking about my writing journey.

Trust the process.

That was the advice, plain and simple.

So many times we get caught up in our writing friends’ successes, how many books they have published, seeing how perfect their worlds seem that are so unlike our own clumsy path we’re trying to follow. And that’s discouraging. I’ve been there a time or two. When I started on the path to finding an agent, I was completely overwhelmed. What if I didn’t have enough “platform” numbers? What if my writing wasn’t good enough? What if no one would like what I wrote?

But I reached out to agents anyway and pitched my story to them. Some agents liked my story but it wasn’t a good fit for them. Other agents loved my story and wanted to work with me. Oh, now, that was exciting!

Then, just like getting a large papercut, I received some disheartening news. My platform wasn’t large enough. However, not to be discouraged, the agent encouraged me to do several things, and one of those things was to get a mentor. Now, I know what you might be thinking. Asking someone to be my mentor is super intimidating. But let me put you at ease. Even Stephen King and Francine Rivers had to start at the bottom, just like you and me. And writers are always helping other writers; that’s how we grow. So, asking an author you admire, who is further down the publishing path than you, to mentor you along is the best thing you could ever do.

I did that, and my mentor told me to trust the process, because I wasn’t sure how my platform would shape up. And for the past year, I have been (trying, praying to) trusting the process as I continue doing what works for me, whether it be writing blog posts, interviewing authors, sharing research information, or encouraging up-and-coming writers, because I know that if I continue to keep my pen sharp, my heart open, and my eyes on God, that this entire process of getting published will be well worth the journey.

God’s given you a process that only works for you, and no matter what your other writer friends are doing, He will never fail you.

Let’s Chat! I’d love to hear from you in the comments~

How have you seen your own writing journey blossom this year?