Sunday, April 19, 2015

Homecoming: Safe Haven by Heather Justesen and a $25 Giveaway!

Safe Haven is the fourth, and final, book in the Homecoming romantic suspense series by Heather Justesen. If you haven't read the series yet, then you should absolutely check it out!

When the US Marshall sends the newly-married Bo and Tosca into hiding in a little Montana town, they settle in for a safe, quiet life while they prepare for the court case against Tosca's former boyfriend. Charles has other plans, though—he wants her dead before she can testify. And he's found their safe haven.

Safe Haven is available in both paperback and ebook on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Also, enter to win a $25 gift card!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Cover Reveal for Marrying Christopher by Michele Paige Holmes

I'm so excited for my friend, Michele, and her upcoming novel, Marrying Christopher, which will be out in July 2015! Isn't her cover breathtaking?
The cover just makes me itch to know more . . . 

Having seen both his sisters Grace and Helen happily married, Christopher Thatcher is free to pursue his dream of life in America. With adventure in his heart and mind, he boards one of the first steamships set to cross the Atlantic in the record breaking time of only twenty-five days. Within the first two of those, his resolve—to avoid women and the complications they often bring to a man’s life—falters when he meets Marsali Abbott, a young woman with a past even more troubling than his own. Whether from years of habit protecting his sisters, or simply because he feels drawn to Marsali, Christopher chooses to help her and becomes her friend. As the truth about what awaits Marsali in America becomes evident, he is faced with a more difficult choice, one that will impact their lives far beyond four weeks together at sea.

Add Marrying Christopher to your Goodreads list (because I know I am right away!):
And of course, this is a series. So if you haven't read the other books, here they are:
Purchase the other books in the Hearthfire Romance series:
Barnes & Noble

About the Author:
Michele Paige Holmes spent her childhood and youth in Arizona and northern California, often curled up with a good book instead of out enjoying the sunshine. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Elementary Education, and found it an excellent major in which to indulge her love of children's literature.

Michele is the author of six romance novels, including the 2007 Whitney Award winning COUNTING STARS. In 2014 Michele launched the Hearthfire historical romance line with the publication of SAVING GRACE and LOVING HELEN.

Michele has been a member of the same critique group for over fifteen years and feels that joining a critique group is the single best thing an author can to do help improve his or her writing. She has been a member of RWA and URWA, LDStorymakers, and The League of Utah Writers. Michele enjoys both attending and teaching at conferences.

When not reading or writing romance, Michele is busy with her full time job as a wife and mother. She and her husband live in Utah with their five high maintenance children and a Shitzu that resembles a teddy bear, in a house with a wonderful view of the mountains. You can find Michele on the web at and on Facebook and twitter.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Happy YA Book Release Day for Between Now & Never by Laura Johnston

Contemporary YA Clean Romance

Now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kensington PublishingKobo, and other online retailers.

A convict’s daughter should never fall for an FBI agent’s son, certainly not a feisty teenager like Julianna Schultz who is furious over her mother’s incarceration and the injustice of it all. But that’s exactly what seventeen-year-old Julianna finds herself doing when Cody Rush, the cocky son of the FBI agent who put her mom behind bars, moves into her hometown of Gilbert, Arizona.

Cody Rush—studious, principled, athletic, good looking and blond to boot—is everything Julianna hates, or so she thinks. Yet a series of ill-fated events one night brings them dangerously close, entangling the futures of two people who were never meant to be…

Excerpt—Photo Booth


We listen to the monotone voice reel off instructions. Four pictures. A light will flash before each picture is taken. Etcetera. How I ended up in this position I’m not sure. We both sit, staring at our reflections on the dark plastic and, no doubt, both stuck on the same thought that crosses everyone’s mind when they’re on this seat.
“Quick,” I say, “what should we do?”
A flash of light. Picture one down. Both of our mouths were hanging open, blank stares straight ahead.
We burst into laughter and can’t stop. A second flash. Picture number two: both of us laughing.
Our gazes meet and we pull ourselves together, his eyes never veering from mine. He leans toward me, coming halfway before pausing, his eyes seeking permission. I regard him with equal parts terror and anticipation, the intimacy of the situation whispering a thrill. He closes the distance between us and glides his nose through my hair. My heart rattles around as though this is the first boy I’ve ever been close to.
“Now smile,” he whispers into my ear. Even if I should be creeped out, forget it. My cheeks burn despite myself and I feel the corners of my lips tugging upward. A flash of light signals the third picture and I am totally seduced.

About the Author

Laura Johnston lives in Utah with her husband and three children. Growing up with five siblings, a few horses, peach trees, beehives and gardens, she developed an active imagination and always loved a good story. She fell in love with the young adult genre both through her experience in high school as well as her job later as a high school teacher. Laura enjoys running, playing tennis, sewing, traveling, writing, and above all, spending time with her husband and kids.


My husband was a special agent for five years, and while I’m sure he would have loved it if I’d written an intense thriller about Special Agent Johnston thanks to all of his crazy stories (sorry, babe…maybe someday!), I wrote a romance instead.
The convict’s daughter and the FBI agent’s son—I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Couldn’t resist.
Soon, characters began taking shape. And then a certain photo booth scene that had been on my mind for years came back to me. For so long, I couldn’t shake the image of two strangers meeting in the mall at a photo booth. I frequently wondered why I couldn’t stop thinking about these two mysterious people.
The two characters now had a face, a name.
Julianna, the convict's daughter; Cody, the FBI agent's son.
Julianna doesn't realize who Cody is at first. Yet he does—Cody knows who she is, knows his dad put her mom behind bars. And he's into her. And Julianna is into him. However, Cody knows it won't soon as she figures out who he is.
Add to all of this the fact that Cody knows Julianna is in danger and we have their first meeting, near a photo booth, right after Julianna gets off work at the mall.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Unique Tips for Writers to Set Up a Blog Tour, Cover Reveal or Other Social Media Event

Most authors – no matter if they are traditionally or self published – set up their own blog tours. Some authors band together with peers who write in the same genre, then do a big blog tour or contest together (like the Massive Romance Reader Squee Moment Ahead contest). Other authors send a “Call to Review” on their blogs, social media or newsletters.

But what if you want to hit a broader market? Or to target certain niche readers? A great blog tour has reviewers with both small (100+) and big (1000+) follower counts, reviewers who have relationships with the author & those who don’t know the author, as well as covers a variety of geographical locations.

For my first book – (dis)Abilities and the Gospel – I wanted to get a wide variety of reviewers. Very few people on the tour were writer friends. My goal was to have a lot of reviewers who didn’t know me, who attended different churches, and who either had kids with cognitive disabilities or were church teachers who had someone in their class with a cognitive disability.

My second book, Sweet Confections, was a whole other ball of wax. I went from nonfiction to fiction. Specifically sweet romances. I had a some great reviewers from my established circle who reviewed both nonfiction and fiction, but my goal was to hit the much-better romance market. And not just in the USA. 

It sounds complicated. It's not. It sounds time consuming. It is. But each tour was totally worth it. Here’s how I found the right reviewers for each book: 
(PS - this method works for cover reveals, contests, giveaways, etc.)

First: Get Organized.

I’m a huge spreadsheet organization freak. It’s probably the only area I’m really good at keeping everything on track (Ask my hubby. I’m horrible at keeping my desk organized!) But spreadsheets – I can whip them out like crazy and keep track of gobs of things that way. And a good spreadsheet is essential when putting together a blog tour.

So, let’s get started. Create a spreadsheet with the following fields:
Reviewer’s Name, Blog Title, Blog Address, Email Address, # of Followers, Target (for me this was either parent, church teacher, or book reviewer), Contacted On (date you emailed review request), Response, Scheduled Review Date and Review Copy Sent.

Add blogs you are interested in to this list. Once you’ve done all your research, sort the list by number of followers and pick some of the bigger blogs and mark those lines in another color. Then sort the list by targets to see which demographics you need more of and mark those with a different color. Then look for location, etc. until you have the right mix for the amount of blogs you want on your tour. Remember - bigger doesn't always mean better. Getting your book into the hands of the right reviewers is more important than getting it into a lot of reviewers' hands (especially if those reviewers have a limited reach or have a major crossover in followers).

Then start sending emails to the bloggers. I had a lot of people return my emails saying they had never done a book review or participated in a blog tour. I sent them additional information, along with expectations for the tour (I gave them the option to choose a date within the tour time frame and told them I wanted their honest opinion about the book).  Don’t be afraid to choose reviewers who don’t have book blogs, but have a connection to the topic related to your book. During my tour, one of my reviewers was a cake decorator who had a child with autism. Her review not only introduced my book to a large group I wasn’t connected with, but was also picked up by several e-magazines. (See Ashlee Marie Cakes)

Tip: The first spreadsheet is essential for research, but Google forms are freaking AMAZING! With my Sweet Confections blog tour, I set up a Google form for the reviewers to use to sign up. When I emailed them, I invited them to visit the link and sign up on the form. It saved me so much time! They entered all their info, dates they preferred, if they were doing a book review, author interview or book spotlight, etc. The form can be embedded into your blog, website or you can use the private link Google gives you. The fabulous thing is no matter which form is used (because you can have it in multiple locations at the same time), all the info goes directly into the same spreadsheet, in all the right columns, on your Google Drive. Holy awesome, Batman! You can see an example of the form here for my Love Under Construction cover reveal sign up. On the Google form spreadsheet, I added additional columns to track when I send the confirmation emails and the cover.

Start with Your Contacts

If you’re traditionally published, shoot an email over to your marketing team and ask if they have any blog book reviewers they recommend. My publisher actually had a few and even offered to send those bloggers review copies.

I also emailed out to some disability and church groups I work with to see if they had recommendations, blogs they frequently went to for information, etc.  If you write YA, email out to your nieces, nephews, church youth groups, your friends’ kids, etc and ask them what blogs or social media accounts they go to check out cool stuff. Don't forget your writers groups. My Romance Writers of America group was a fantastic source to recommend reviewers.

Blog Tour Services

For my Sweet Confections tour, I researched blog tour services that specialized in romance. Then I checked out the lineups in the current tours. Some reviewers went for just spicy and hot, while others had a mix of all heat levels. I kept track of which reviewers gave good reviews to clean romances and added them to my research spreadsheet. By pulling select reviewers from a variety of blog tours, I created a wider marketing audience.

Note: Blog tour services are fabulous for authors who prefer to go the hassle-free route. I know many authors who've had successful blog tours with good services. I, personally, feel like each blog tour service has a particular group of reviewers, who then have the same group of readers or giveaway fanatics who follow that group of reviewers. So if you are going this route, check out previous tours to see how wide their review circle is in the comment section (are the same people commenting on each blog).


Twitter was actually my best resource to discover new reviewers. If you’re not on Twitter, then you should start a profile. It’s a great way to connect with others – even if you don’t post daily.

On the Twitter homepage, there’s a link at the top that says “Who to Follow”. If you click on it, it brings you to a page with a search box. You can search for anything here (book reviewers, YA Romance, etc). You can also search for books that are like yours – for example, In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins. Twitter searches through status updates and profile descriptions to suggest friends for you. For my DAG tour, I searched for autism, LDS autism, Down syndrome, special needs, and church to name a few. I went through about a hundred profiles, checked out their activity and following. I also looked who that person followed. I often found more good leads that way. After narrowing down who I wanted to review, I contacted them through either Twitter email or an email address that was listed on the profile.

Another tip is to do geographical searches – such as Autism Canada or Sweet Romance Reader Arizona. Take advantage of hashtag searches too. Check out authors who write in the same genre and see what they are doing on Twitter. Elana Johnson did a huge Twitter promo for her book Possession using the hashtag #tagged. You could go through the postings with that hashtag to find readers who loved her book, then contact them to review your book.

Amazon & Goodreads

The awesome thing about Amazon and Goodreads is that they link to their reviewers profiles. Some of those reviewers list their websites or blogs. So you can check out books similar to yours and do some research on readers. Find a few who you really like, then send them an email through their website or blog.

Check Out Other Authors

It’s time to go hit the websites for all the big authors who write in your genre. Especially if you know of an author who has a book coming out in the next few months. They often list all the stops on their blog tour. Go check out those reviewers and their guidelines.  (BTW - Keep all this info in your spreadsheet for future reference!)  To find more authors: Go to, type in an author’s name and hit enter, then check out the “Related Searches” results just under the search box.

In Closing

Putting together a good blog tour involves a bit of internet stalking sleuthing.  But it’s totally worth it when you put together a completed list of reviewers from all over. The goal of a blog tour isn’t just to get (hopefully) awesome reviews, but to reach reader circles you currently don’t have connections with. Go for variety! Happy book tour scheduling!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Love Under Construction Announcement and Cover Reveal Sign Up

I've met with my editing team and am so excited to announce that a publication date has been set!  Love Under Construction will be released in September 2015. Only six months away!!!


Even more awesomeness - the cover is "under construction."  LOL.  I couldn't resist.  I've seen an initial draft and it looks fabulous. I'm organizing a cover reveal for May 4th-6th. If you're an avid reader or reviewer with a  blog or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest and would like to participate, please sign up here. There will be two fun giveaways - one for anyone who signs up and another for all your followers.

In the meantime, here's the first scene to whet your romance reading appetite.

Love Under Construction by Danyelle Ferguson

The clink of china and chatter of women filled the room at City Hall where the Women in Business’s monthly meeting was well under way. Or at least they were in the middle of the best part—the food. Charlee Jackson smiled at her friend, Rachel Marconi, who sat beside her at the round table, gushing about her new fiancĂ©, Graydon.

“He’s the first guy I met who’s actually interested in conversation that isn’t all about sports, which is shocking considering he was a hockey player,” Rachel said, pushing her auburn hair back over her shoulder. The sparkle from the rock on her hand practically blinded anyone looking directly at it.

“Are you sure he isn’t gay?” Charlee asked playfully.

Kristen, Rachel's business partner and best friend, leaned close and confessed in a whisper, “Oh my gosh. I've caught them making out more than once, and let me tell you, he's definitely not gay. All I can say is steam, baby,” she said, fanning herself.

Poor Rachel's face flushed pink, as she nudged Kristen with her elbow. "TMI, Kristen."

Charlee laughed. “So, have you set a wedding date yet?”

Before Rachel could reply, Marla Belliston called the monthly meeting to order from her coveted spot at the podium. Marla was, as usual, dressed in a perfectly buttoned up, classy suit with her dark hair pulled up in an elegant twist. Charlee fidgeted in her seat, tucked a few pale blonde strands of her short A-line bobbed hair behind her ear, then folded her jean-clad legs to hide her work boots under the table. Not everyone could afford the business suits Marla wore and honestly, working at a desk as an accountant wasn’t Charlee’s idea of fun anyway. Restoring and renovating houses—now that was her idea of perfection. Taking the old, updating it, while keeping the charm of the original structure—pure happiness.

Still, a girl occasionally envies the whole put-together feminine look.

“Before we continue to our program on Community Literacy by our wonderful librarian, Eden Tate, there are a few announcements from our secretary, Victoria Lyons.”

Ah yes, another well put together woman, although not nearly as formal and uppity as Marla. Victoria was actually quite nice and relatable, which was good since she was a Realtor and worked with a variety of people. She often called Charlee when she had clients who needed help getting homes on the market or a buyer who wanted a consult on renovations before submitting an offer. Victoria was smart, savvy, and sassy--a combination that made her not just a good business contact, but a fun friend, too.

Victoria took her place at the wooden podium, dressed in dark pants and a French blue button-down blouse. Trendy, but casual. Her deep red hair was pulled back in a sleek, low pony tail. “Ladies, it’s time to begin our preparations for our annual Autism fundraiser. The committee bantered around several ideas. Generally we do either a charity concert, a dinner and auction, or a golf tournament."

Charlee yawned. It seemed like the same choices every year. They’d raise the money they set as a goal to go towards Autism research, but still, boring.

“This year though,” Victoria continued. “The committee has come up with a twist on the auction theme. Instead of having items and services donated, we are planning a bachelor’s auction.”

Charlee sat up a little straighter. Now this could be interesting. From the gasps and oohs in the room, the rest of the club was eager, too.

Victoria continued. “The committee is still working out the details, but the bachelor’s auction will be six months from now, in June. We need suggestions and contact information for bachelors. There’s a box at the back of the room with slips of paper and pens next to it or you can email me after today’s meeting.”

Several women turned and eyed the box. Charlee could just imagine the wheels turning in their heads, plotting how to get there first and who to nominate for the auction block. They may as well skip the next twenty-five minutes dedicated to community literacy because the women's attention was definitely not on anything other than their top ten local hot guys.

Victoria ran through a few additional business items, which Charlee mostly tuned out while she enjoyed her cheesecake drizzled with fudge sauce. If there was one good thing about Women in Business group, they didn’t scrimp on salads and dainty little foods that barely made a dent in your stomach. Nope, they served good portions and incredible desserts.

“I have one last announcement. City Hall has given approval to go ahead with a new shopping district. A private investor has purchased the homes along Taylor Avenue in Crystal Creek.”

That was Charlee’s grandmother’s neighborhood. Or at least it was before Grandma passed away. Her house was sold at auction last year. Most of the other homes in that area had been sold as well. It was sad to see it go from the neighborhood of her girlhood, filled with laughter and fun, to what it was now—run down and mostly vacant. Even sadder still was the thought of everything being torn down to make a new shopping district. She set her cheesecake aside to pay better attention to Victoria.

“This new shopping district will be unique. The homes will remain intact, although they will be brought up to current code standards and also renovated inside for whichever businesses decide to relocate there. Not only will the neighborhood charm remain, but the investor’s vision is for the shopping to be targeted to women and each store must be local and self-owned. No chains or franchises. The tentative name for the project is Indulgence Row. If you or someone you know might be interested in more information, please contact me. Thank you.”

For the remainder of the meeting, the other women may have been occupied with making a list of bachelors, but all Charlee could think about was the Indulgence Row project. She wondered who the investor was, because he certainly had great vision. The more she thought about the renovations and revitalizing the neighborhood, the more excited she became.

She wanted in.

She wanted to use her talents to bring her Grandmother’s home—and all her old friends’ homes around it—back to something filled with joy and people. People creating memories there again. She wanted to be a part of that.

She would be a part of it.

After the meeting, there was the expected mad dash to the bachelor nomination box. But Charlee headed in the opposite direction toward Victoria, with Rachel and Kristen following her. Eden Tate, the librarian who presented, also joined them at the table.

“Tell me more about Indulgence Row,” Eden said, as she took the chair next to Victoria. 

Victoria talked a little more about the shopping district, feeling each of them out on their interest levels. “Each house will be renovated to fit the business that wants to occupy the space. Do you have someone in mind, Eden?”

“Yes, me," the black-haired, spunky woman replied.

“Oh!” Victoria said. “I didn’t realize you were leaving the library.”

“I’ve always dreamed of owning my own bookstore. Something charming and cozy. Somewhere I could inspire a love of reading, host book clubs, genre spotlight nights, and oh so much more. I’ve been squirreling away bits of money here and there over the years. Once you mentioned Indulgence Row, I knew it was perfect for my shop.”

“Me, too,” Rachel chimed in. “Kristen and I have already talked to you about needing a new space. Our teeny tiny shop just isn’t cutting it, especially after the influx of customers we’ve had since winning the cake challenge. Just imagine the quaint sign hanging from the front of the house. Sweet Confections,” she said, with her hands raised as if framing an imaginary sign.

“Sweet Confections at Indulgence Row,” Charlee chimed in. “That could be part of the branding. Each shop has its name, but followed with ‘at Indulgence Row’.”

“I love it,” replied Victoria, jotting notes in her notepad.

“I totally want in,” Charlee said, leaning forward. “I want to get together to talk specifics and have Elliott Construction put together a bid.”

Victoria put her arm around Eden. “You have all brightened up my day. I’ll contact the investor, then set up a time to meet with each of you. This is going to be an amazing project.”

It will indeed, Charlee thought. Now, she just needed to get her boss on board.

Friday, January 23, 2015

How to Write Creative High School, College and Scholarship Application Essays

My middle school daughter is applying for one of our high school programs, called Distinguished Scholars. She spent several weeks before Winter Break working on two different essays. One that was to introduce herself, her interests and why she wanted to apply to the program. The other essay requirement was to set up a non-profit organization of her choice and explain why she chose that society issue to address. I thought she did a great job of brainstorming different ways to approach each essay and wanted to share that process for future high school and college essay writers.

Friendship First Essay (2 pages)

 I watched as for a week, all she did was plan out her non-profit, including detailing the programs it would provide so she would have a good understanding of what she was representing. She based it on the peer mentoring program she's in and mixed it with wanting to help kids with disabilities (her oldest brother has autism). But she took it from just being a middle school program to being a full school journey experience. Pages and pages of details, programs and ideas. It was inspiring! Then she decided to write a business letter to address that essay. Specifically, a business letter requesting a donation for her non-profit. Here's the non-profit essay. PS - I deleted the street addresses, etc for privacy.

MJ Ferguson
xxx Street
City, State Zip

December 12, 2014

Paul Williams
XXX High School
xxx Street
City, State Zip

RE: Friendship First
Dear Mr. Williams,
Thank you for your interest in the Friendship First Program. Our program helps children with disabilities feel like they fit in. Many students with disabilities are left out or bullied. We want them to be welcomed by their peers and enjoy positive social experiences.
In elementary school, we have developed a curriculum for teachers and school counselors to use. In the curriculum, there are short videos that model different disabilities and positive peer friendships. Teachers follow up with a series of questions to spark classroom discussion. The Friendship First website allows students to interact with animated characters that model friendships. The animated characters go through different situations and the students can make choices for the characters to do and see what happens. Along the way, students receive positive guidance.
The program changes as the students move from elementary to middle school. There is a Peer Mentor Program for incoming 6th to 8th graders who can apply to join. These mentors are matched up with special needs kids in their grade level. The mentors help with making friends, social situations, and stay buddied through middle school. The mentors train over the summer and through the school year. Ideally these friendships will follow into high school and even after that.
In high school, the Peer Mentor Program is continued but with an added social media aspect. On a Friendship First Forum, there are links for groups to chat with other students, with special needs or not. The goal of the social media addition is to teach teens to interact appropriately on social media. We also have events organized to get the mentors and students with disabilities together to create positive social experiences.
We hope that with this program, students with disabilities will be accepted in the student body, be bullied less, as well as teach the general student body to have more respect and understanding for working with people with disabilities throughout their whole lives.
This program came to be because I grew up with an older brother who had autism and to understand him, you either had to take the time and make an effort to get to know him or grow up with him. I know people probably look at him weirdly when he does certain things, but that is who he is. This program also came to be because when people act differently, the easiest choice is to either ignore them or even bully them to look “cool”. It takes a courageous person to stand up for them and be their friend.
I appreciate your interest in the Friendship First program. If you have any questions, you can contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

MJ Ferguson
Director of Friendship First program


Why the Distinguished Scholars Program (1 page)

This was the most difficult essay for MJ to write. She had a hard time adjusting from the attitude of focusing on others and not yourself to needing to brag about her talents, service she's given and her interests. Because really, that's what the essay is for. It's the judges/professors first glimpse at who you are. If they aren't excited or impressed with what they see, then they'll move on to the next person. MJ spent a few days organizing lists of the awards she's received, competitions she's participated in, her talents, service projects, and what specifically makes her interested in the program she's applying for.

*As a side note - this is a great document to create on your computer and continue adding to it every semester. This way you don't forget important activities or awards from earlier in your education career.

For this essay, MJ played with writing it as a serious essay, but it just wasn't working well. She brainstormed some more and decided to use her creative writing talents to make it into her own little fairy tale. I really liked how it hit all the requirements of the essay, but was done in a way that is so totally my daughter.

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Olathe, there lived a girl named MJ with caramel-brown frizzy hair. On hot and humid days, her hair looked liked Taylor Swift with an Albert Einstein twist. At least until she discovered the wonders of anti-frizz hair products!
One day in eighth grade, her teacher asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. MJ thought and thought and thought. But there were so many choices.
She loved going to the Kansas City Astronomy Club to view the stars through their humongous telescopes. But wait! She also loved hiking and adding fossils to her rock collection. But wait again! She enjoyed learning about the world and other countries’ histories. She was even in the Geography Bee twice and really liked it! Maybe she should study science and teach about the stars, the earth, or even the world.
Mixed in with all that geeky stuff was a very creative side, too. Oh so much creativeness. Acting and crafting and music – oh my! The frizzy-haired girl participated in three middle school plays (in one role, she even barked like a dog). Craving cinnamon rolls? She learned how to make the most delicious, moist rolls using potatoes. And music. Oh the joy! Singing, playing the flute, and bringing music to life on the piano brought her happiness every day. Not to mention books. MJ was a readaholic. Friends and teachers almost never saw her without a book in hand. She not only loved to read, but to also create her own stories. Attending writers conferences helped her learn about plot, conflict and how to make her characters interesting. Maybe she should be a baker, a music teacher, or a novelist?
Poor MJ’s head hurt from all the career paths she could take. How could she possibly choose? Then she heard about the Distinguished Scholars program and just knew it could help her explore her geeky side and creative side – and hopefully discover a way to mesh them together for her own happily ever after.

In Closing

A few things to take from this article are:
  1. Be organized and take the time to really prep before you start writing.
  2. Don't be afraid to think outside the box. Sometimes that's what makes you stand out above everyone else.
  3. Be creative in a way that is totally you.
  4. Start tracking all your awards, accomplishments, camps, clubs, etc now so you don't have to rethink all those years every time you write an essay.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to Make Sunday School Class Journals

I'm a Sunday school teacher for the 13 year olds. It's become one of my favorite church classes to teach. In our congregation, we get a new class each January. As I thought about the upcoming year, I wanted to do something fun for my class. I took a few weeks to consider different ideas and finally settled on making Sunday school journals.

The benefits of class journals:

•    The kids have a place to write thoughts and promptings any time during class, rather than trying to remember it for later. My hope is that they'll develop a habit of taking notes on things that are important to them, as well as write down and follow through with promptings they receive.
•    If you have any kids with special needs in your class, the journal will help them remember topics when they return home and is a great visual for review.
•    I am planning to print out 3x5 cards with quotes to go along with the monthly themes and sometimes the individual lessons.
•    At the end of the year, the kids will have a book full of their own thoughts on gospel related topics.
•    And hey, no need to bring paper to pass out for writing activities. It does mean one more bag of stuff to bring to church. I let the kids decide if they wanted to keep the journal in their scripture case or leave it with me to bring each week. Half the class kept them and the other half preferred to have me keep them (as one kid said, to protect it from his younger siblings).

I'm not a crafty person, so I looked up several tutorials on Pinterest to find the best way to cover composition notebooks. This tutorial helped me the most, except I didn't use Modge Podge. A crafty friend of mine suggested Elmer's Adhesive Spray - which was seriously awesome.

A word of caution: It is uber sticky. Protect your crafting area. I covered my dining room table with a plastic table cloth from the Dollar Store. Then also used paper towels where I was spraying the glue so I could swap it out when it got too sticky. What I didn't realize is the spray kind of billows out. I ended up getting some residue on one of the chairs and had to do some clean up afterwards. Thank goodness for Clorox wipes!

Back to the journals.

I used 12x12 sheets of coordinating scrapbooking paper. 4 sheets (2 of one pattern, 2 of another). Then I cut an 8" wide strip, leaving a 4" wide strip. The 8" strips were the base pattern to cover the front and back of the composition notebooks. Then I added the 4" coordinating strip. 4 sheets will cover 2 notebooks. Then I added some awesome subway art scripture or church leader quotes. On the inside of the front cover, I also added a quote and our class promise.

Then I crossed my fingers & hoped the kids would like them. And . . .

They loved them! My hubby told me he even overheard some of the boys talking about them and showing them off to their friends. Score!  If you decide to make some Sunday school journals, I would love to see pics of them & your ideas.
Review Disclaimer: Sometimes a book I review has been sent to me for free by a publisher or an author. This in no way effects my review, which is my own opinion about whether the book was a good read for me, fit my tastes, and if I would recommend it to others. Other than possibly a free book, I am not compensated in any way for posting a review.