Posts Tagged ‘nonfiction’

Today’s Writers’ Tip: Meet the Author Michelle Trostle


The smell of fresh pine filling our home.  The glow of the lit tree in a dark room.  The manger scene carefully placed in full view.  The squeals of delight from our nieces.  The knowledge that God, who is greater than I can imagine, sent His only Son to earth so I might be reunited with Him.   These are just a few of the things that make the Christmas season magical to me.

There are so few things that bring wonder in our fast-paced, productivity-driven culture.  I am a firm believer that learning opportunities for our children should be filled with magical moments.  Whether school is a building across town or a room down the hall, learning should be more magical and less chore.  It is out of this desire to share the magic of learning that I created the Wondering About Weather learning series. Wondering About Rain, the first unit in the Wondering About Weather learning series, is a 39-page magical journey in which two students, Tress Preston and Hannah Helper, travel across the globe under the guidance of Professor C. Cristata in search of answers to their questions about rain. The activities and story in Wondering About Rain are designed to address the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts while teaching content aligned with the National Science Teachers Association: Next Generation Science Standards. The unit concludes with a short Adventure Quiz, testing the student’s grasp of the concepts taught in the unit.  Watch for Wondering About Rain coming soon to Amazon.

My love of education prompted me to become a certified teacher, reading specialist, and school administrator.  I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Masters of Education in Reading and Language Arts.  During my career in public education, I worked with students and teachers in kindergarten through twelfth grade.  Writing educational materials allows me to use my experiences and knowledge to the benefit of a larger audience.

When I’m not working, I like to spend time with family and friends, crochet, and garden.  I volunteer at my church by coordinating Sunday morning singing for children in grades one through five and teaching classes for adults on Wednesday evenings.  I also volunteer with Bunny People, a no-kill rabbit shelter.  One of my goals is to own an angora rabbit and learn to spin yarn from the harvested wool of the rabbit.  Did you know that angora wool is ten times warmer than sheep wool?  I didn’t!  But I am sure looking forward to the hat I’m planning to crochet.

Follow me on twitter @TrostleMichelle and Like my page on Facebook www.facebook.com/trostlestreasures .

May your Christmas be filled with magical moments.

Author Michelle Trostle

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The Importance of Keeping Detailed Notes

Writing both fiction and nonfiction has taught me how important it is to keep detailed notes while writing the book manuscripts. Now after having both genres published, I’m able to say, “I’m glad I did,” not “I wish I had.”

When I wrote my Bible study guide, DRAW ME CLOSER, LORD, I had pages of notes for each of ten lessons, including websites for references, information about other authors’ names, addresses, and contact information whom I cited, Bible verses used, and so on. I listed in a separate file all the details I needed to go back and research or get additional information on any of the above entities of the written work.

Only after I submitted the manuscript to my publisher did I find out how valuable all that information was. The editor needed additional references for the bibliography at the end of the book AND she needed permission from all poets whose work I cited in the book. Now that was a task to complete! One poet had passed away, but I received a nicely written permission slip from the poet’s husband. Some poems had publishing rights’ fees attached to them (such as poems written by Helen Steiner Rice), which forced me to delete those poems and insert others that had no fees. But with all this additional work, I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been had I not recorded where I found all the poems and quotes that I had used.

When writing my two fiction series, THE KEYSTONE STABLES and THE LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY, I made detailed notes of all the characters, primary, secondary, and even the “insignificant” ones. I recorded lesser characters, whether they had a name or not, such as the man selling Scottie puppies at the farmers’ market who had his vending spot next to my main character’s table in LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN. For the more important characters, I described their physical appearance and often their demeanor, personality, or likes and dislikes. I also listed the names or details of all places, including towns, counties, farms, homes of main characters, route numbers of roads, and descriptions of many of the places or scenes.

Why is this important?

If you’re writing a 150-to-400-page book, you need to know if you used the name “Joe” for any character, even if he’s just the guy fixing a flat tire at a garage. If you’re writing a series, which can take months or years, how are you going to remember whether Joe’s name was ever used for any character? Go back and read all your work? Uh huh.

In my LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY SERIES, a three-volume set, I kept detailed notes, and I’m ever glad I did. Now that my publisher wants me to write an additional twelve short stories (5000-8000 words each) based on the characters in the three novels, I can go back to my pages of notes and see who’s related to whom, which farmers’ market is in Ohio, who the parents and siblings are of the main character in each story, which character in the book series likes sewing, which one loves horses, which one is a young widow, and so on. The initial work it took to open new files and start listing persons, places, and things has been well worth the effort. Believe me!

So, my advice to you is, if you’re writing a book or a series, keep detailed notes on everything you write. Yes, it’s extra work, but in the long run, you’ll be saying, “I’m glad I did,” not “I wish I had.”

Check out my LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY SERIES, now as e-books. BACHELOR’S CHOICE is in paper and TEACHER’S PET and LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN will be released in hard copy no later than April.



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Meet the Author: Shirley Leonard


[I don’t know how many years I’ve known this lovely lady nor where we met, but Shirley and I go back a long way. Perhaps it was at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference where our paths first crossed. Wherever and whenever it was, I’m glad that it happened. I’m proud to call Shirley a friend.]

Hopelessly in love with the guy she married 45 years ago, Shirley Leonard has just experienced a new kind of love affair: her first book. The title, With Each Passing Moment: Help and Hope for Caregivers, comes from a line in an old hymn. Those lyrics helped her survive her long-distance-caregiving years as she juggled roles as pastor’s wife, mom, and daughter. She loves to share the lessons she learned in those years with others who are on that road now.

Shirley grew up in the Finger Lakes region of New York and met Richard Leonard, aka “the Rev,” at LycomingCollege. Together they’ve served in five different appointments with a total of 16 churches in Pennsylvania. Deeply involved in nursing home ministry for much of that time, she began keeping journals sometime in the 1970s. Journaling became a “sanity saver” for her, and today the journaling entries she’s collected serve as a resource for her writing.

Her personal caregiving experience began with her father’s stroke in 1990 and his subsequent cancer diagnosis. Soon after, her mother developed both emphysema and clinical depression. The round trip from the parsonage in PA to her parents’ home in NY was six hours, which she made every other week for almost five years. Meanwhile, she did her best to juggle responsibilities as a wife and mother of three, as well as serving as pastor’s wife to two congregations.

Writing a book about what she learned during that time was part of her healing process once her parents were both gone. It took 20 rejections and almost 17 years to find the right publisher, but today she’s grateful for God’s timing. Sonfire Media of GalaxVA, published the book on Mother’s Day 2012. In just the few months that it’s been out, many people have expressed that they felt the book was meant just for them for this particular time in their lives.

You might be surprised to know that when she’s not writing or snuggling a grandchild or great-grandchild, she’s usually helping her sweetheart with a project at their “farm.” It’s actually a farmette to where they’ve retired. The place has 15 acres of Christmas trees, the only farm crop these days, but Shirley has lots of lawn and outbuildings to groom. She’s pretty good with most of the tools and loves the change of pace from sitting behind a computer.

Visit Shirley at:






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On Writing: Let’s Visit Some Author Friends

Author Kathy Bellows

Kathy and Phil Bellows


The first post about one of our fellow writers reviews Mrs. Kathy Bellows, a close friend and widow, who has quite a story to tell.

She was born and raised in Towanda, PA. After marrying Phil Bellows in 1970, they moved to Snyder County and settled in Middleburg, PA.

They reared three children, but in 1996, their only son, Matthew and his fiance were killed in a car accident at the age of 21 and now reside in Heaven. Kathy’s two daughters are married and live close by. Kathy has five grandchildren with a sixth on its way.

Kathy and her family started attending Kreamer Bible Baptist Church in 1976 where she continues to serve the Lord today. She substitutes as a teacher of first through fourth grade Sunday school children, teaches Junior Church once a month, and helps in the nursery.

Her professional career involves working as an LPN for 20 years. Her hobbies are scrapbooking and reading.

In January 2009, Kathy’s husband was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer—Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia. He was very ill at the time of his diagnosis and had to undergo extensive treatment. The physician didn’t know if Phil would make it through the first treatment; thus Kathy and her family were called to Phil’s bedside before treatment began. Although the treatments caused Phil to have severe pain, the family rejoiced in June of that same year as they learned the cancer was in remission. The Lord saw fit to allow him to not only make it through the treatments but also to go into remission.

Within less than four months, Phil’s cancer returned. He continued to battle it and even had a bone marrow transplant. However, six months after a miraculous cure, God called Phil home to be with Him. 

Kathy felt inspired to share with others how our loving God faithfully walked beside her and her husband during the deepest trial of their lives. She recently published an excellent journal, GOD NEVER FAILS, which documents how God sustained the family and gave them the courage to face another day.

If you have any friends or loved ones battling cancer, Kathy and I encourage you to purchase her booklet for those folks. We believe it will be an encouragement to their hearts as they trust in God to see them through the trial.

Kathy's Testimony of Her Husband's & Her Walk through Cancer

To order this inexpensive book that will be a blessing to your heart or anyone that is facing the trial of cancer, go to:




While I’m posting blogs about our Writers of Any Genre members, please consider being interviewed and having your gorgeous picture and your work posted on my blog. I’d be happy to feature you here in one of my upcoming AUTHOR FRIENDS blogs. If I have enough requests, I’ll post once a week for awhile instead of every two weeks.

Happy writing!






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Today’s Writers’ Tip: Research for Nonfiction

 (SURPRISE! Yes, this post is three days early. But I’m going to a writers’ conference next week and won’t be back until Friday. I’m so busy from now until then that I needed to post this blog today. Enjoy!)

 Research for Nonfiction

“Well, that’s a no-brainer,” you say. “Even if you’re writing your life history, you’d probably need an ancient facts book to see what REALLY BIG happened the year you were born. Duh. Nonfiction means ‘no fakey talkey.’”

Right. We all assume, and correctly, that nonfiction requires research, except maybe if you’re writing poetry, although you need to keep your facts straight there, too, if you’re writing practically anything but mushy love notes.

What I’d like to discuss is the importance of keeping good notes and doing the necessary research to make your manuscript a reliable and trustworthy document.

Yes, Google has brought to all of us a library on our desks in our homes. But, please forget Wikipedia for all your research. It’s all right to use it as a reference, but sometimes online sources are not 100% accurate. You need to spend some time at the library. And not just hanging around the encyclopedia shelves either.

Let’s say you plan to write a coffee table book that would attract sports car racing fans. You want to find facts and photos about “The First Car Races in the United States.”

Online searches and encyclopedias are a good place to start, but only a good place to start. Where else can you find information about early car races? Let’s list a few:

  1. Libraries (more than one, including public libraries and college libraries), which should have a wealth of all kinds of books about the topic
  2. Racing magazine archives
  3. Biographies and autobiographies of famous “car people” like Henry Ford
  4. Race tracks, contemporary race car drivers, local auto racing clubs
  5. Race car museums
  6. Manufacturing plants of race cars

There are just a few ideas of where you could get your facts for your project.

So after you start collecting the facts, what’s the best way to save them?

Of course, an accurate bibliography is essential. I recommend keeping all your notes not only on paper in a file but feeding them into a computer file and on back-up flash drives or CDs for safe keeping, as well. You never know what might happen to just one file, either in the computer or outside of it. I’ve lost items much bigger than a file of papers in my feeble-brained moments.

I can’t express more clearly at this time the importance of keeping that bibliography as detailed as you can. If at all possible, record publishing dates and companies of all facts gathered. Record phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses of all folks interviewed, or the sources of all information (if available), and don’t skimp on the details. You just might need to “prove” to your editor that your facts are correct.

Case in Point: when I wrote my ladies’ Bible study guide, DRAW ME CLOSER, LORD, A WOMAN’S GUIDE TO A MEANINGFUL PRAYER LIFE, several years back, I took a full year to write it because of the research involved. I used not only the Bible extensively, but I also used 19 other resources, all of them books, many written by famous pastors or missionaries on the topic of prayer, to substantiate my statements. I also had to do research for every song lyric or poem I quoted at the end of each of the ten lessons. I needed to know if the words I wished to copy were in the public domain, (older than 70 years for the hymns I wanted to use), or did I have to acquire permission to use the words or even purchase the rights such as in the case of a Helen Steiner Rice poem, which I wanted to quote two or three lines. (That purchase price was extremely high, so I used another poem with no reprint fee—one of my own!)

I vividly remember talking to the editor at the publishing company who had contracted with me for the Bible study guide. She made it quite clear to me that it was MY responsibility to send her all the “permission slips” to use any other author’s poems or any composer’s lyrics. I also remember that she told me I had to have documentation from said authors or composers to send to her before the company would publish the book.

Well, now, if I hadn’t written down where I had found some of the poems I wanted to use or some of the hymns’ lyrics, I would have been in a big research waning mess. But, fortunately, I had documented all of the above.

I remember one incident when I found the phone number (I don’t remember how) of one of the poets whose poem I wished to use. I called the number, and the poet’s husband answered, telling me that his wife had passed away several years past. After I offered him my condolences, I explained that I wanted to use one of her poems in my book, and he graciously consented to send me a written statement, which I then forwarded to my editor.

Now, can you see what it took me a full year to write the Bible study guide? Accuracy takes time!

So, my strongest note of encouragement to you is to keep accurate and detailed notes of every little tidbit of information you use. You have no idea what your editor will ask for. And if you decide to self publish, you need all the more to be accurate and to have permission when permission to copy is due. One thing you don’t need accompanying the joy of seeing your name in print is a lawsuit in tomorrow’s mailbox.

Next time, I’ll discuss “Developing a Plot for your Fiction that’s Outside the Box!”

Happy writing!



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