Archive for August, 2010

On Writing: Conferences

The best training you’ll ever receive is that which you’ll get by attending writers conferences. Next to your local critique group, writers workshops and conferences will give you the knowledge you need to become a better writer. The various workshops offered usually take you from A to Z concerning the writing/publishing business with fresh ideas for you to try.

You also make new long-lasting writer friends, kindred spirits who think just like you do. (They don’t call us “Odd Ducks” for nothing.)

Writers conferences also offer you the opportunity to present your work face to face to agents and editors of publishing companie. I’ve acquired four of my five book contracts by meeting editors at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference held in Montrose, PA, every July.

Speaking of conferences, why don’t you check out our Susquehanna Valley Writers Workshop on Saturday, October 9th at the Best Western Country Cupboard Inn in Lewisburg, PA?

We have a great faculty lined up representing the following genres:
Magazine articles and non-fiction books
Kids fiction stories
Humorous articles for newspapers and magazines
Christian fiction

Please contact me at my website (listed below), and I’ll send you a brochure to get you started on your latest writing adventure.

If you’ve never been to a writers’ conference, you don’t know what you’re missing!

Marsha Hubler
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

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School’s in! (Or it will be any day now.)

How do parents get off on the right foot with their homeschooling program?

Parents need to take off their “Parent Hat” and put on their “Teacher Hat.”

Have that table cleared off, at least, for school work, or if you have an extra room, have it designated as the “school room.” Have everything organized in files so that you know which direction everyone is heading.

Your “students” should be dressed, should have had breakfast, and should be sitting up in a chair or a desk with pencil in hand, books opened, and raring to go.

You, Mom or Dad, should be dressed for school, too. After all, you’re trying to teach character, aren’t you? “Good” character starts with tidy personal care, good manners, and a willing spirit to work.

If you want your child to grow up with strong morals and a good work ethic to be a useful member of society, it starts in your home. So parent, let’s get going and TEACH!

Marsha Hubler
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

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We often say, “Well, the least I can do is pray.”

That statement is such an insult to our wonderful, powerful God, who, in His wisdom and divine providence, is moved by our prayers to perform what we often consider “miracles.”

Why do we wait so long to pray for or about anything when God is ready to act on our behalf?

As many of you know, my 94-year-old mother was placed in a nursing home about a month ago when she could no longer walk, making it impossible for me to care for her 24/7. (She had been living with my husband and me for the last 15 years.)

Unfortunately, the only opening to place her was in a home almost an hour’s drive from my house, which was wearing me to a frazzle just trying to get to see Mom three or four times a week.

Mom has also been scared and disoriented with so many strange faces and the strange environment. Her dementia has worsened, and she’s losing weight because she’s not eating well. She’s down to about 90 pounds.

My mother’s 92-year-old sister, Dot, has been in another nursing home for the last year. She also is wheelchair bound. She and Mother have not seen each other for about five months, and they both miss each other terribly.

My church, family, and friends have been praying that either:
1. Mom would get moved to the place where her sister is OR
2. Mom would be moved to a home only six miles from where I live.

I have wonderful news about my mother. Lord willing, next Monday or Tuesday, she’s being moved into the same room as her sister at the other nursing home, RiverWoods in Lewisburg, PA. It’s about 12-15 minutes closer to my house.

I can’t thank the Lord enough for arranging this because my hands were tied, and it looked hopeless that Mom would ever be moved from where she is now. Both nursing homes in which I was interested kept telling me there was no room.

But here’s how God did it. My Aunt Dot’s roomie was a Christian, and last Monday, God took her to Heaven to make room for my mother to be with Aunt Dot.

Prayer changes things, and yours helped. Thank you, friend.

Marsha Hubler
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

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All writers should belong to a local critique group that will “tell it like it is.” Nothing will improve your writing better than having objective criticism, both positive and negative, from a group of peers.
As promised, I’ve included the guidelines for you to follow if you plan to start your own group. Please feel free to copy and use at your own discretion:

Critique Group Guidelines

1. Pick one person to be the leader of your group or rotate by having a different leader every time you meet. Choose a central location to meet. Our group meets at a local coffee house where the owner allows us to rearrange a few tables in the corner of the place where we can sip coffee and discuss.

2. Several days before the meeting, the leader should email or call everyone to find out whos bringing something to critique. The leader then plans how much time will be allotted to each writer at the meeting. Example: we have a two-hour meeting once a month. If five of us bring something to be critiqued, we each get about 20-25 minutes total time for the critique. Its best for the leader to have a timer. We usually limit our pages to about five typed double-spaced pages. But that depends on how many writers want to be critiqued.

3. At the meeting, open with the sharing of news, i.e. someone has been accepted for publication, someone is speaking somewhere or having a book signing, etc.

4. Each person who has something to critique should bring copies for all members. The author has a choice to have his/her work read aloud by another member while the group critiques with pen or to have it read silently while the critiquing is being done.

5. After the reading, each person, other than the writer, discusses the manuscript read. The leader should control the input by giving each person at the table a turn to speak, going clockwise or counterclockwise. The author is encouraged to offer his/her input. Also, the leader should prevent discussions and personal trivia that chase rabbit trails and have nothing to do with critiquing the manuscript. Then the manuscript copies are handed back to the writer. Fellowship and sharing can take place before or after the entire critiquing session is over.

6. Before dismissing, the next date for the critique meeting should be set.

7. Alternative critique plan:

If everyone in the group has email and knows how to send and receive attachments, the group can decide to send work ahead of time (at least a few days to a week) to each member of the critique group via email attachment. Then the writer critiquing the work prints it and brings the copy to the meeting where the suggestions and edits are discussed.


1. It offers a chance to communicate with each other. First, tell the writer what you enjoyed about the story and its strengths. Be positive about something.

2. Then review what you think needs work. Sticky opening, weak characters, weak plot, unnatural dialogue, etc.

3. Be careful not to over-critique. Each writer has his own individual voice or style of writing. Other than correcting obvious punctuation, word usage, grammar and punctuation, try not to rewrite the work. It will then not be the original authors work. It will be yours.

4. As the author of the work, you should process the critique comments. Decide if the critique really hit home. Some writers dont change anything unless they get at least two or three comments about the same area of work. Try not to be offended. Critiquing is a valuable tool to make you a better writer.

5. Remember, you are the final judge of your work.


Marsha Hubler
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

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If you’ve ever worked with foster children, then you know they have a built-in mechanism for survival. It’s called “lying.”

I hate to be so blunt, so maybe we can reword this so it doesn’t sound so cut-and-dried. Let’s see.

They like to stretch the truth. They tell little white lies. They don’t exactly tell it like it is. They exaggerate. They tell stories. They . . .

If you’re considering becoming a foster parent, please be aware of the facts concerning foster children and their desire to level with you. The desire is not there.

I wholeheartedly believe that many foster children’s ability to hide the truth in practically every facet of their lives stems from their unfortunate pasts either with their own families or in other foster homes.

Foster children have the inborn tendency to either get into trouble or to be blamed for getting into trouble when it really isn’t their fault at all. Thus, over the years, they’ve learned that lying has become a matter of self-preservation. If they could talk their way out of being grounded or losing privileges, then why not?

From a Christian foster parent’s viewpoint, I can say that trying to change this one behavior in our foster kids’ lives was the toughest thing I ever faced. I never knew when one of the children was telling the truth or not. I often felt like an FBI agent or Mrs. Sherlock Holmes, digging into the facts, searching for clues to “who done it,” or giving every child the third degree: “And where were YOU at three A.M. this morning when the barn burned down?”

But by God’s grace some of the teens accepted Christ into their lives, and things started to change. They saw how “telling whoppers” only added to their misery and caught them in an endless cycle of mistrust with all those around them, including those who really did care. It was only after the children became Christians that their behavior started to change, they “came clean,” and we could love them for who they were, kids in need of a tremendous dose of tough love.

So my challenge to you, foster parent, is be gracious, be willing to believe, but be very, very careful.

Marsha Hubler
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

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One of the most valuable tools you’ll ever have in your writing career is a local critique group comprised of other writers.

Some groups meet once a week; others meet once a month. The choice is for the group to make. Some groups meet in the members’ homes; others meet at libraries, bookstores, or cafes with quiet corners. Again, the choice is the group’s.

If you don’t belong to a local critique group, make it a priority to join one. If you aren’t sure there even is one, then determine to start one yourself.

So, how do you get the word out that you are interested in a critique group, either joining or starting?
1. Ask for information at your library or bookstore. If they know of no critique group, prepare an 8 1/2 x 11 poster and ask if you can post it. Put your name, phone number, and email address on the poster.
2. Mount posters in your local grocery stores and mini-marts.
3. Place a free ad in your local “service” newspaper, the one that allows you to buy and sell without paying for an ad.
4. Call other local authors you know and ask about a critique group. If they aren’t members of any, encourage them to help you start one. You really only need three or four other writers to start, and not all need to represent the same genre. Six to eight members are ideal if you plan to meet for two or three hours at a time.

So, there you have it. Get busy with that critique group. If you become accountable to someone for your writing on a regular basis, you will write more often, and you’ll write better!

(Next time: The Guidelines for a Successful Critique Group)

Marsha Hubler
Author of the Keystone Stables Series

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On Writing

Today’s tips are for all you beginning writers out there who have a great idea and don’t know where to start. Here are a few suggestions to get you writing the next best seller!

1. Start writing. Don’t just talk about it. Do you have an idea? Get it on paper!

2. Join a local critique group. This has helped me become a better writer more than any other training, reading, or writing I’ve done. You must have a thick skin and be willing to accept criticism, but in the long run, your writing will improve drastically. Our group in the Susquehanna Valley (PA) meets once a month when everyone brings copies of about four pages of their latest work to have critiqued.

3. Attend writers conferences. Second only to the critique group, writers conferences have molded me into the author I am today. Writers conferences offer numerous workshops on different genres. You also meet other writers who have the passion to write as you do. They UNDERSTAND YOU! And … try to attend conferences where editors and agents are on faculty. Many writers have acquired contracts by meeting “the in-crowd” at conferences. Three of my four book contracts and several purchased articles resulted from contacts at writers conferences. Conferences are an essential part of your training.

4. Read, read, read! If you want to write juvenile fiction, read all the published juvenile fiction you can get your hands on. Likewise, if you’re into Amish romance, don’t spend time reading science fiction or fantasy. If you want to learn how to handle your genre, then study your genre. I have pages and pages of “good writing” excerpts that I’ve copied from published books. Once in a while, I open that file and read through the segments that show me excellent dialogue, good narration, and well-done character description.

So, there you have it. If you have the burning desire deep down in your soul to write, then get going! But consider yourself a work-in-progress just as your manuscript is. The more you learn, the better your writing will be!

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In my 40-plus years of working with parents and children of all ages, it has never ceased to amaze me that some parents could never grasp the idea that their children would be adults some day, probably get married, and/or have an apartment or home of their own. When that would happen years off in the future, there were a few questions that would need to be answered: Who’s going to do the dishes? Cook the roast? Run the sweeper? Good old Mom or Dad? What if Junior or Honey lives on the other side of the globe?

Learning domestic skills does not come to a child-turned-adult by some fairy waving her magic housekeeping wand over his/her head, and VOILA! Child-turned-adult knows exactly what to do to “run a household.”

Numerous times I’ve been invited to homes where the mother (often the dad too) was sweating up a storm cooking the meal, setting the table, feeding the dog, and trying to hold a decent conversation with me while the teenage son or daughter sat in front of the TV with his/her feet up on the sofa.

The teen came to the table only when the mother (or dad) had everything served. When the meal was finished, so was the teen, and off he/she went again to do his/her own thing.

Thank goodness, this scenario didn’t happen all the time, but it happened enough for me to scratch my disciplined head and wonder, “What is that parent thinking?”

Many a marriage falls apart because either or both partners haven’t a clue how to cook, control their finances, use an iron, or cut the grass. Changing diapers? Are you kidding?

My challenge to any parent is to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he’s old, he’ll not depart from it.”

That verse from the book of Proverbs hints to not only spiritual guidance for the child but also training for life, as well, that will help him/her cope with the pressures of adulthood and marriage.

Marriage is a team effort; but if one partner spends all his/her time in front of the TV with his/her feet up, conflict is right around the corner that could lead to further problems and even divorce.

So, parents, start early. Junior and Honey are not too young to learn the ropes around the house, even at the age of five or six. They can pick up their toys or take out the garbage, or, here’s a thought, they can feed their dog!

Help your child be successful years before he/she ever steps over the threshold of his/her own home. He/she will be eternally grateful and will come back to thank you again and again.

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