"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Interview with Tessa Emily Hall

There's something special about spending time at a coffee shop with a friend--engaging in a meaningful conversation, then leaving refueled and ready to tackle the rest of the day. What if your quiet times with God energized you the same way?

Coffee Shop Devos offers a warm atmosphere that will inspire you to discover your God-given purpose and live to your greatest potential. Choose your devo flavor in the Menu of Contents based on your current need. Then lean into deeper intimacy with Christ through reflection and prayer. Along the way, you'll pick up tips and recipes for making your own coffee-shop beverage--regular or decaf--to enjoy while you read. And don't forget to share your journey with your friends! #CoffeeShopDevos

Each of the 180 challenging and motivational devotions will leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated--almost as though you've shared a steaming pot of brew at a coffee shop with your Creator.

1.      Teen girls today face a lot of challenges. What are some of the struggles they face?

The teen years present a unique set of challenges for girls. It’s a transition period when teens discover who they are, face life-changing decisions and temptations, and leave their childhood behind as they face their future. The Internet and social media have presented a whole new set of temptations and struggles.

Cyber bullying has become the norm. Instagram has made it even more challenging for teen girls to avoid the comparison trap. I believe there is one underlying factor behind most of the struggles teen girls face—and that is the longing they have for affection. Just like every human being, teens yearn to be understood and accepted, and sometimes they’ll go through great lengths in effort to attain this. Girls will often fall for the lie that their number of likes and followers on social media defines their worth.

In Coffee Shop Devos, I hope to bring light to the truth that this desire for acceptance and intimacy has been placed inside of each of us for a reason. Why? So we can discover that Christ is the only One who is big enough to fill this emptiness. Not only does He satisfy, but He walks with us in our struggles. This is why I categorized Coffee Shop Devos by the teen girls’ daily needs—so they can see that He meets them where they are and is the answer to their heart’s every longing.

2.      You write that friendship with Jesus meets our needs for acceptance. What verses or stories in the New Testament encourage you when you struggle with feeling loved or accepted?

When I find myself craving love or acceptance, it’s usually due to the fact that I’m looking at the world to meet these needs. I try to remind myself of the Scripture Galatians 1:10 (NLT), which states, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

If we work to earn man’s approval, we’re always going to fall short. It’s an impossible feat because we cannot please everyone, and no one can provide for us the immense amount of love that we crave.

If we hope to find perfect love from people, then we’re going to be left disappointed. This deep craving can only be filled by deep friendship with Christ. When we receive this, then we can view ourselves through His eyes—and realize that we no longer desire to earn man’s approval, because our confidence is rooted in our identity in Christ.

3.      You share a “dare” for the reader at the end of each devotional. What are some of your favorites?

One of my favorite dares come from the devotion titled “Trash Transformed”. This devotion speaks about how God can use trash of our life—our suffering and even our past mistakes—and transform them into beauty (based on Romans 8:28). For this dare, the reader is encouraged to do a DIY project that will allow them to transform a recyclable object, such as a water bottle, into a piece of art.

Another favorite is in the devotion titled “Too Dirty for a Shower”. In This devotion, I discuss how we sometimes neglect coming to Jesus in repentance because we believe we’re too “dirty” for His cleansing grace. If the reader finds it difficult to move on from past mistakes, I challenge them, in the dare, to throw their sins in the trash. Literally. They can do this by writing the sins on a piece of paper, blot them out with a permanent marker, tear them up, then throw them away. I hope this dare will help teens understand that Jesus has already blotted out their transgressions as well and He “remembers them no more” (see Isaiah 43:25).

4.      What advice can you give to teens about how to step away from busyness and take time to be quiet and hear God’s voice?

If we only understood how productive our time with Him is, then I believe we would never be tempted to skip out on it!

We make it a priority to spend time with our loved ones, don’t we? It’s how we get to know each other and grow in that relationship. Similarly, if we want to receive the depths of Christ’s love for us, experience to the fullness the life He has called us to live, and hear His voice, then we should make it a priority to strengthen our relationship with Him as well. It’s that simple and far too valuable to neglect.

If teens are struggling to make the time, then I’d advise that they analyze their daily schedules. Is there something they can cut back on--such as TV or social media time? Could they wake up fifteen minutes earlier than usual, or perhaps listen to the Bible on audio during their ride to school? Even the smallest amount of time spent with Him can make a big difference! As our relationship with God is strengthened, then we’ll begin to discern His voice and live the life He’s called us to live. But it’s only when we break away from the noise of the world, quiet down, and carve out a space to meet with God, that we will hear His whisper above the other noises vying for our attention.

5.      What is your hope for those who pick up Coffee Shop Devos?

My hope is that girls will come to know Jesus on a deeper level of friendship. The reason I categorized the devotions into the teen girls’ daily needs is so they can realize that Christ is the answer to our heart’s every longing. He is the One we’re searching for, and it’s only through this intimate relationship with Him that we will truly receive the peace, hope, joy, and love that we crave.

Just like how a good cup of coffee gives us the strength and energy for the day’s demands, our time with Jesus rejuvenates us spiritually and prepares us for the day ahead. So, I hope that, after girls read a daily devotion, they’ll be thirsty for more of Jesus and compelled to develop a daily habit of spending time with Him--an addiction that’s far more powerful than even their favorite daily Frappuccino drink from Starbucks. ;)

Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic books to show teens they’re not alone. Her first teen devotional, COFFEE SHOP DEVOS, will release with Bethany House September 2018. Tessa's passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as an Associate Agent for Cyle Young at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PURSUE Magazine. She's guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating art journals, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website: www.tessaemilyhall.com.

·         Pre-order Coffee Shop Devos on Amazon https://amzn.to/2Mkp6pT
·         Mark “to read” on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38502332-coffee-shop-devos
·         Author website www.tessaemilyhall.com
·         Twitter www.twitter.com/tessaemilyhall
·         Instagram www.instagram.com/tessaemilyhall
·         Facebook www.facebook.com/tessaemilyhall

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

IWSG: Publishing Path

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

Now, IWSG hosts have changed up the format in an effort to make it more fun and interactive.Every month, they will announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Don’t forget to visit others that day to see their answers. Want to join, or learn more? Visit our - Sign-up List.

SEPTEMBER QUESTION: What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

MY ANSWER: I've used a combination of paths. I think most authors do now. I've enjoyed different approaches at different times, and I think this is necessary depending on the goal for each individual project. If you're confused about the options, and want to know more about how to choose the right direction for your own work, check out this helpful post by Jane Friedman: The Key Book Publishing Paths for 2018

What path(s) have you chosen? Best of luck on your own projects!

Monday, August 20, 2018

2018 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest

Word count: 3500-6000

Genre: Young Adult Romance

A Masquerade can be a false show or pretense, someone pretending to be someone they aren't. It can be a ball, a fancy dress party, it can be a mask. Open to interpretation.

Submissions accepted: September 5 - November 4, 2018

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted (Double spaced, no page numbers), previously unpublished story to admin @ insecurewriterssupportgroup.com before the deadline passes. Please include your contact details, your social links, and if you are part of the Blogging, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter IWSG group.

Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges who will be announced September 5.

Prizes: The winning stories will be edited and published by Freedom Fox Press next year in the IWSG anthology. Authors will receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will have the honor of giving the anthology its title.


Thursday, August 9, 2018

National Book Lover's Day

I hope you're enjoying an excellent read today!

If you've never heard of this celebration, National Book Lovers Day harnesses all the excitement bibliophiles feel about books into one celebration on August 9th. *Bibliophile – a person who has a great appreciation for or collects books.

A day for all those who love to read, National Book Lovers Day encourages you to find your favorite reading place, a good book (whether it be fiction or non-fiction) and read the day away.
Curious about the history of this day, or how others are spending it? Check out:

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Reading to Inspire Young Writers

At least once a month I try to share what I've been reading. Sometimes it's the fiction stories I'm enjoying, sometimes it's the nonfiction, and sometimes it's craft specific titles that I share. Today, I thought I would share a few titles specific to my classroom environment.

Rhetorical Analysis: A Brief Guide for Writers,  walks students through the process for doing different kinds of analyses -- argument analysis, structure analysis, style analysis, and more. This book shows how to analyze a range of texts, print, visual, and multimedia. It includes both authors’ own analyses as models for students, as well as 4 complete student model papers. It also introduces students to rhetorical concepts (both classical and modern) that are relevant to rhetorical analysis.

This is the textbook I'm using with my Dual Credit high school seniors - college freshman class. In this time of extreme bias, quick tempers, and unrecognized agendas I feel this is such a crucial study for students preparing to enter adulthood. It's not enough to teach our young to just think for themselves. They must be shown how to analyze a source, judge it's worth, and evaluate both sides of an issue before forming their own conclusions and ultimately become able to form their own persuasions.

Great teammates don’t just impact you today; they impact you for the rest of your life. From the moment Jon Gordon heard about George Boiardi and the Hard Hat he was intrigued and captivated. Over the years he visited George’s coaches, attended several “21 Dinners” held in his honor, met his family, talked to his teammates and observed how he inspired all who knew him. The Hard Hat is an unforgettable true story about a selfless, loyal, joyful, hard-working, competitive, and compassionate leader and teammate, the impact he had on his team and program and the lessons we can learn from him.
The book features:
  • A True Story about George Boiardi, his Team and their Legacy.
  • 21 Lessons to be a Great Teammate
  • Insights from George’s Teammates and Coaches that Bring the Lessons to Life.
  • 21 Exercises to help you Build a Great Team 
Infused with practical insights and life changing lessons, The Hard Hat will inspire you to be the best teammate you can be and to build a great team. This is a quick, but poignant read full of inspiration.
*100% of author’s royalties go to support the Mario St. George Boiardi Foundation.

The Fundamental Five: The Formula for Quality Instruction, shares with teachers and school leaders the five practices that every teacher can, and should, use to dramatically improve instructional rigor and relevance, and student performance.

Another quick read with some great reminders, suggestions, and inspiration.

What books would you recommend teachers read? What advice would you give teachers of future writers? If you were going to write a book for educators, or create your own curriculum, what would it be about?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

IWSG: Pitfalls

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

Now, IWSG hosts have changed up the format in an effort to make it more fun and interactive.Every month, they will announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Don’t forget to visit others that day to see their answers. Want to join, or learn more? Visit our - Sign-up List.

AUGUST QUESTION: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

MY ANSWER: Don't allow critiques or rejection to stop you. It's too easy to take criticism personally. Writing is such a personal act so it's extremely difficult not to allow a perceived attack to aggravate, anger, or depress us. Recognize reading can be subjective so give yourself some distance and time to assess whether the feedback is truly constructive. Do you still have more to learn, do you need to rework your manuscript, or should you completely ignore the otherwise useless comments? Regardless of the answer, never let someone else's opinion prevent you from pursuing your passion.

What pitfalls would you warn others about?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

July Reads

This month has been so uncontrollably busy for me. I've been attending some rigorous training to become an adjunct professor for the University of Texas. Career changes, schedule changes, lifestyle changes...it's all been fairly overwhelming.

However, I refused to give up my reading time. I was lucky enough to collect some great reads this month and wanted to share a few.

First, un-afraid by Carey Scott - I absolutely loved her previous book - un-common - and couldn't wait to devour this one.

As women, we struggle to feel like we’re good enough because we are bombarded daily with messages that whisper, “Who you are is not okay.”
We live in a world that tells us we have to look a certain way, live a certain lifestyle, have husbands who fit a certain mold, and have children that excel in every area of their lives. And rather than thrive in the life we have, we strive to create an existence that impresses others. This impossible treadmill leaves us with deep discontentment and a joyless existence.

God doesn’t apologize for how He created us. And while we’re always being molded by our Creator, it’s only to shape us for the calling on our life—not so we can fit into a world we were never meant to: “Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete. Love others well, and don’t hide behind a mask; love authentically” (Romans 12:2, 9).

What if we had the confidence to shed our fears and be who God created us to be—stumbles, fumbles, and all—relishing who we are rather than conforming to the world? Using an acrostic for the word AUTHENTIC, author Carey Scott unpacks 9 ways we can find the confidence we need to shine with fearless authenticity:

1. Accept Your Awesomeness
2. Unearth the Untruths
3. Try Loving Everyone
4. Hold on to Hope
5. Extend Forgiveness
6. Never Shrink Back
7. Trample the Negatives
8. Invest in Community
9. Camp in the Word of God

Let’s link arms and commit to living authentic lives. . .together. Are you ready?

Secondly, I previously enjoyed another book in the "My Heart Belongs" series and since this one is set so near to my current home, I was highly intrigued by it's description.

Journey now to Galveston, Texas, of 1880...
Where is Mrs. Smith’s granddaughter?  Who is the mysterious Mrs. Smith?
Pinkerton agent Jonah Cahill is hired by the mysterious widow to find her lost granddaughter, rumored to be living in Galveston, Texas. Though Jonah prefers to travel alone, Mrs. Smith insists that she and her companion accompany him. Madeline Latour, investigative reporter, has been acting as Mrs. Smith’s assistant for several months, and Madeline will not allow anyone—even a Pinkerton agent—to ruin the story of a lifetime. The pair forges an uneasy truce as the investigation grows dangerous.

Is there a bigger story beyond a missing girl to be revealed?

When the third and fourth books of the "Daughters of the Mayflower" series came out, I scooped them up. I enjoyed the second installment by Y'Barbo, and I've also liked two of Michelle Griep's previous books. So I knew I had to try this third book in the series.

Mercy Lytton, a scout with keen eyesight raised among the Mohawks, and Elias Dubois, a condemned traitor working both sides of the conflict, must join together to get a shipment of gold safely into British hands.

A War-Torn Countryside Is No Place for a Lady
Mercy Lytton is a lady like none other. Raised amongst the Mohawks, she straddles two cultures, yet each are united in one cause. . .to defeat the French. Born with a rare gift of unusually keen eyesight, she is chosen as a scout to accompany a team of men on a dangerous mission. Yet it is not her life that is threatened. It is her heart.  Condemned as a traitor, Elias Dubois faces the gallows. At the last minute, he is offered his freedom if he consents to accompany a stolen shipment of French gold to a nearby fort—but he is the one they stole it from in the first place. It turns out that the real thief is the beguiling woman, Mercy Lytton, for she steals his every waking thought.   Can love survive divided loyalties in a backcountry wilderness?

And the fourth in the series is written by Kimberley Woodhouse. I was extremely excited about this one as I have a soft spot for patriotic plots.

Faith Jackson and Matthew Weber are both working covertly to aid the Patriot cause. But will they be willing to sacrifice all for their fledgling country?
A brand new series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees.

Spies Work Together for the Patriot Cause
Faith Jackson is a wealthy widow, friend of George Washington, and staunch supporter of the Patriot cause. Matthew Weber is friends with both Ben Franklin and his son William, who increasingly differ in their political views; and Matthew finds himself privy to information on both sides of the conflict. When a message needs to get to a spy among the Loyalists, Faith bravely steps up and in turn meets Matthew Weber. Suddenly she believes she could love again. But someone else has his eye on the Faith she portrays in elite social circles. What will Matthew and Faith have to sacrifice for the sake of their fledgling country?

I received a complimentary copy of each of these books from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Have you read any of these books, or others, by these authors? What did you think of them? Do you have any great reading recommendations?