A wonderfully inspiring book about the unwrapped gifts in our lives

Unwrapped Gifts
Michelle Anne Hawes

This is a wonderful book about the gifts and treasures all around us during Christmas time and beyond. All we have to do is stop long enough to become aware of them. And this book will help the reader do just that.

This book is about the events of Marla Haines, a young woman who moves through some very difficult times by writing about her reflections. As the world crumbles all around her, writing became a powerful tool for working through these difficult emotions and putting them into perspective.

Christmas time can be quite busy for everyone. It is a time when we anticipate all the wonderful things of the season. We shop, cook and anticipate the arrival of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

However, Marla discovered that there is so much more during Christmas that is important in life. There are unwrapped gifts and treasures that people give as a sign of love and compassion for one another.

These unwrapped gifts are friendship, kindness, generosity, gratitude, courage, compassion, and love. These are things cannot be bought by money and cannot be wrapped up and put under the tree but given freely to another person who may be having a difficult day.

Another theme that runs through this marvelous book is the importance of sharing our special moments with loved ones, whether it is making a cup of tea and really connecting with them or simply talking. There are so many gifts in moments like these.

This book will show the reader the true meaning of Christmas and how we should perhaps go beyond the consumerism of the time and dig deeper to discover the true meaning for the season. Buying gifts is nice. But connecting and loving as well as anticipating the birth of our Lord and Saviour are perhaps some of the best gifts of Christmas.

This book is truly inspiring. The photographs make the book brings home the message of love and compassion. It is a book that must be read and re-read for more depth and understanding.

Rating: 5 stars

Reviewed by: Irene S. Roth

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Do you have a Summer Writing Schedule in Place?

8727353266_e12280a9f7_z[1]Do you have a summer writing schedule in place? Many of you have a difficult time to stick to a consistent writing schedule during the summer. These beautiful sunny and warm days propel you to go outside and enjoy the short season of great weather. Well, at least it is short in Northern Canada where I live.

Also, for some of you, with kids being home from school and daycare being out for the summer, the lack of structure for everyone can rack havoc for writers to remain committed to their writing daily quotas. It is important to realize that you can write during the summer by taking a few simple steps and set up a writing schedule that can work with new family demands on your writing time.

Here are a few tips for writers to enjoy the summer and still get some much-needed writing done.

  1. Revise your writing schedule so that it will work with your new reality of kids being at home and hubby hovering around the house.

For instance, you may want to write first thing in the morning before everyone wakes up. Or, you may want to write for an hour after everyone retires for the day or while your hubby is watching yet another baseball game. You don’t have to watch a game that you don’t enjoy anyways. Instead, excuse yourself and get such much-needed writing.

  1. Carry a notepad and pen with you as you travel through your day. If you go to a theme-park and you have second to sit down and catch your breath while your hubby is out with the kids on a carousel ride, enjoy that alone time and do a bit of thinking and jot down some notes. You may have new topics to write about right before your eyes.
  2. Set time boundaries with your family for some alone time. You may want to read during this time, meditate, or just lay low.

Women tend to multi-task and work way too hard. If they’re not with the family, they’re doing housework or cooking and cleaning. Try not to do that.

Instead, find yourself a calming routine and escape to bring about peace of mind, rest and much-needed relaxation.

  1. Don’t try to please everyone all the time. Not only will you mostly fail if you try doing this, but you will be constantly frustrated too.

Instead, set times when you’re with family and also times when you’re doing your own thing. You deserve this. It’s okay to say NO and mean it.

It’s okay to cancel your outing with the family if you don’t want to go to the theme park yet again. Let your family go and just spend some time doing things for yourself and taking care of yourself.

By taking these steps, you will be less frustrated and exhausted during the summer months, and you’ll get some much-needed writing done.

It is difficult to be a writer and to take several weeks or worse months off a year from writing. Some writers can do it, but most can’t afford to. By taking the above steps, you’ll be able to write and also enjoy the summer.

Try it!

Irene S. Roth

How to Eliminate Distractions During the Summer

0__IMG_6135[1]It’s easy to become distracted during the summer months. Almost anything can distract you, if you allow it to. It can take a long time to learn how to focus on your writing in such a way that distractions will be minimized, if not avoided altogether even during the summer months.

Most of us can learn to focus on one project and write for an hour or two four or five days a week with a bit of planning, practice and discipline.

Distractions can take many different forms. We could be distracted by our children, spouses, family members, beautiful weather, or phone and email. Limiting these distractions can be easy, if you take a few steps. Here are a few to consider.

  1. Set an egg-timer

I find that setting a timer helps a lot. I set it for, say, one or two hours, and during that time, I don’t do anything but think about what I am doing. The timer gives me the structure I need to keep my eyes and mind on the manuscript that I am working on.

  1. Do nothing but write during your allotted time

Nothing, except an emergency, should move you to do anything else than write during my allotted time. If you are serious about writing, make sure that you actually write during your devoted time.

  1. Shut-off all outside distractions before sitting down to write

It is important for writers to shut off the ringer on the phone and don’t answer the door if the doorbell rings during your allotted writing session. Do nothing but write.

  1. Tell Family about your Writing Time

It is important for you to tell your family ahead of time what your writing schedule will be for the week. Then when you’re writing time comes, honor it so that your family can honor it too. Don’t be persuaded to do anything but write during those times. Be firm!

  1. Work on one project at a time

Productive writers usually finish up all their writing projects. They work diligently through discouragement and rejection. They also find a way to work consistently on a project until it is complete.

Writers will usually hit a lot of distractions when they set out to write during the summer. This is to be expected and is very much a part of writing practice. Try not to give up and quit when the going gets tough. Just keep finding ways to write, even if it is for a short period of time.

I always tell the writers in my critique groups that it is important to write as often as possible. We have all made a commitment to write every day, even if it is for a short time such as 15 minutes. You have no idea how much momentum this brings to your writing life until you try it. So, part of our motto is Write every day! And that is the promise we make to ourselves and each other.  And at the end of the summer, we usually get a LOT of writing done!

So, we could try and do something similar in this group. I believe that part of writing consistently is making a commitment to your writing, and finding a time to write every day—even if it is a short time.

Not only will be habitually writing and become more confident as a writer, but your family and friends will also know that you are serious about your writing.

However, sometimes, you will have to think outside of the box in order to get some writing done.

So, here are some unlikely places that I wrote just to get some extra words down on my WIP during the summer:

  • Write in the car—of course only if you are a passenger. If you are taking a trip to a special destination that takes an hour or two, you could bring your paper and pen or even laptop and just write for a few minutes at a time.

I sometimes get into the back seat where it is quieter and I just write for about half an hour or so until the next pit stop on our trip.

  • Write in the airport—while waiting to board the plane. Sometimes there are delays. Most times, we have to get there at least an hour ahead of time. So, this can be a time to write for even a few minutes.
  • Once the plane is in flight, you can write during your flight or at least read to prepare to write.
  • Wake up a bit earlier and write.
  • Stay up a bit later and write for a few minutes.
  • While your spouse is watching television in the evening, remove yourself on the bed or at a table in the room and write for a few minutes.
  • If it is a nice day, write outside. If the weather is stopping you from writing, take your laptop outside and write there. Or take your pen and paper and head for the park. That is what I do. There is no better feeling that actually writing and thinking by the Avon River.

But also have times when you’re plugged off writing during holidays. Otherwise, you will get on your family’s nerves and you will probably not get much writing done. So, do your writing as bookends during the day, either in the morning or at night. During the day, go out and enjoy yourself. After all, that is what being on vacation is all about. Make memories. Take photos. Eat great food!

By taking these steps, you will be getting some writing during the summer holidays.

Irene S. Roth

Your Summer Writing Schedule

8727353266_e12280a9f7_z[1]Do you have a summer writing schedule in place? Many of you have a difficult time to stick to a consistent writing schedule during the summer. These beautiful sunny and warm days propel you to go outside and enjoy the short season of great weather. Well, at least it is short in Northern Canada where I live.

Also, for some of you, with kids being home from school and daycare being out for the summer, the lack of structure for everyone can rack havoc for writers to remain committed to their writing daily quotas. It is important to realize that you can write during the summer by taking a few simple steps and set up a writing schedule that can work with new family demands on your writing time.

Here are a few tips for writers to enjoy the summer and still get some much-needed writing done.

  1. Revise your writing schedule so that it will work with your new reality of kids being at home and hubby hovering around the house.

For instance, you may want to write first thing in the morning before everyone wakes up. Or, you may want to write for an hour after everyone retires for the day or while your hubby is watching yet another baseball game. You don’t have to watch a game that you don’t enjoy anyways. Instead, excuse yourself and get such much-needed writing.

  1. Carry a notepad and pen with you as you travel through your day. If you go to a theme-park and you have second to sit down and catch your breath while your hubby is out with the kids on a carousel ride, enjoy that alone time and do a bit of thinking and jot down some notes. You may have new topics to write about right before your eyes.
  2. Set time boundaries with your family for some alone time. You may want to read during this time, meditate, or just lay low.

Women tend to multi-task and work way too hard. If they’re not with the family, they’re doing housework or cooking and cleaning. Try not to do that.

Instead, find yourself a calming routine and escape to bring about peace of mind, rest and much-needed relaxation.

  1. Don’t try to please everyone all the time. Not only will you mostly fail if you try doing this, but you will be constantly frustrated too.

Instead, set times when you’re with family and also times when you’re doing your own thing. You deserve this. It’s okay to say NO and mean it.

It’s okay to cancel your outing with the family if you don’t want to go to the theme park yet again. Let your family go and just spend some time doing things for yourself and taking care of yourself.

By taking these steps, you will be less frustrated and exhausted during the summer months, and you’ll get some much-needed writing done.

It is difficult to be a writer and to take several weeks or worse months off a year from writing. Some writers can do it, but most can’t afford to. By taking the above steps, you’ll be able to write and also enjoy the summer.

Try it!

Irene S. Roth

Time Management for Writers

There are many things that writers can do manage their time better. Today, I will outline six ways that writers can manage their time most effectively.

I. Writers should divide their day into time slots

Writers should look at all the activities or types of activity that they must do on a daily basis to advance their writing goals. Then writers should allocate time slots for each activity and stick to it. Writers should also decide what part of the day they’ll devote to writing. Everything else that needs to be done should be accomplished outside of this time frame as often as possible. Writers should write down the allotted activities and time slots on a large piece of paper or on a dry erase board and put it in a prominent place in their office.

Writers should treat their writing time like an appointment. If writers commit to their writing in this way over time, they will be successful.

II. Writers should prioritize their “To Do List”

Writers should always prioritize their to-do list to remind themselves of what they should work on first. This can keep writers committed to their most important writing projects. It’s so easy for writers to find things they would rather do instead of write. Writers must avoid being side-tracked from their most important writing goals.

Here’s what I do. I use three different colours of ink to prioritize my writing projects.

1. I use red ink for high priority items. This colour of ink tells me that a project has to be completed right away.

2. I use green ink for upcoming writing deadlines. This colour tells me that a particular project has to be completed with the next one to three months.

3. I use blue ink for ongoing writing projects that have no deadline as such, or that have a contractual deadline of six months to a year.

III. Writers should determine when they are most productive

Most writers have different times of the day when they’re most productive. Writers must try to figure out these times so they could do their best work and not worry about fussing all the time.

For instance, I work best first thing in the morning. I wake up around 5:30 a.m. and write for two or three hours before I go to work. This time has been sacrosanct for me for the past 20 years. And I have really done a lot of writing because of this. Most successful writers have a consisting time to write regularly.

IV.  Writers should be methodical as often as possible

Many writers go off on flights of fancy once in a while. It is important that writers ensure that there is a reason and benefit to everything they are doing. Otherwise, writers may just be adding to their unproductive time by doing anything and everything and yet accomplish very little to advance their writing careers.

Writers should be methodical in the small tasks that need to be done. They should clear them out so that they could focus on the more important things.

V.  Writers should understand the difference between urgent and important things

The temptation for writers may be to view everything that is important as urgent. But this isn’t always the case. Many times important things are not urgent. By keeping this distinction in mind, writers can concentrate on what is most important. In the process, writers will come to see that sometimes the urgent stuff isn’t all that important. Writers should ruthlessly prioritize their writing tasks so that the time slot they allocate to a particular writing project is accurate and hits the important stuff.

VI. Writers should delegate as much as possible

Serious writers may need assistance with some superfluous tasks that need to be done but ones that take them away from some much-needed writing time. For instance, some writers who work full-time and are trying to be writers as well may have to get a cleaning lady once every few weeks or twice a month. This can help writers to carve out time for the more important things, such as getting their writing done. In addition, writers will feel less frazzled if they’re not overwhelmed by activity.

Time management may be difficult to achieve at first for writers. However, with a bit of practise, it is possible for most writers to carve out time to write by prioritizing and delegating. All writers must be ruthless and once they set an allotted time to write, they must write regardless, unless (of course) it is an emergency.

Irene S. Roth

 

The Praying Pond-Book Review

The Praying Pond
By Michelle Nadasi

This is a wonderful story for kids of all ages. It is about hope, God’s love, and the importance of trusting in God’s infinite love and protection for us.

Most adults don’t experience the faith that a child has. It is a blind faith that is so inspiring and empowering.

When nine year old Holly and her parents move to a new town, they are trying to find their place in the community. So, the first place that they venture into is the local church. It is there that Holly soon discovers why the pond that is behind the church is called the praying pond.

It takes quite a leap of faith to believe that ponds can deliver so much peace and that prayers can be answered if only we ask in faith. But children can see into that pond and connect with God. This is because they have a kind of blind faith that is so wonderful to witness.

This is a book that will stretch our minds and hearts and grow our faith, one chapter at a time.

I loved this story so much! It is so important for children to learn about the importance of having faith in God and in recognizing that God has a plan for each of us. All we have to do is believe.

Rating: 5 stars

Reviewed by: Irene S. Roth

Topic for July: Time Management

With vacations looming and long summer days with the weather beautiful, writers tend to get out more and they forget about their writing only to regret it in the fall when they look back and notice that they didn’t do a lot of writing of their own.

So, all this month, I will be focusing on how to write during the summer months. It is important for writers to continue writing, even if it is not for long periods of time. It is important that we just keep writing and keep moving forward with our writing goals, even if they move forward by a bit.

So, please coming back this month for more information on how to manage your time during the summer months.

To your best and productive summer!

Irene S. Roth