Guest Post

How To Stumble Onto Your Brand…

Erin Taylor YoungErin Taylor Young has a remarkable gift for making her readers laugh out loud even as she’s delivering hard truths about living a life of faith. Her down-to-earth writing style invites readers into the books that God has given her and sends them away refreshed and assured that we’re not in this gig alone. Her first humorous nonfiction, Surviving Henry: Adventures in Loving a Canine Catastrophe, released in August and has repeatedly been accused of making people laugh until they cry. Erin lives in the Southwest with her husband, their two sons, and the infamous–and, against all odds, still alive–Henry. Check out her new book…I promise, it is a delight.

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Here’s the picture: Small local conference. Dream Agent attending. Must go.

Our writers group hosts a faculty dinner the night before the conference. The entertainment for the evening is to have us read short pieces we’d written. Out loud. In front of the whole faculty.

As you can surmise, somebody didn’t think that through.

My ditty is about writing amidst family chaos, but as I face the crowd I think a more appropriate title would’ve been “WHY Was I Dumb Enough To Do This?”.

After dinner, I approach Dream Agent. I want him to remember me when I pitch my YA fantasy the next day. You know, a human touch might make it harder for him to turn me down. (FYI—that doesn’t actually work.)

Mouth dry. Knees shaking. Possible imminent vomit. “Hi…I’m…Erin…”

He smiles. “You read that humor piece at dinner.”

“Umm…” OH MY GOSH, I’m having an actual conversation with STEVE LAUBE. Well, technically I’m gaping at him, but you get the idea.

He goes on like he hasn’t noticed my frozen-idiot look. “That was very well done. Humor is hard to write.”

“Umm…” Somebody get me a chimpanzee to speak for me. “…Funny things…happen to me…”

Steve gets that I-know-what-I’m-talking-about tone, in a good way. “Funny things happen to everybody. Writing them funny is hard. Nice job.”

“I…uh…thanks.” Actually, my humor is a fluke. I just write things like I see them. I can’t help it if I live in a cartoon.

Given my stellar conversation, I figure Steve will quickly flee. Perhaps to find that chimpanzee.

Instead he starts telling me about a wonderful humor client he has, and all I can think is good thing I’m not a humor writer ’cause Steve wouldn’t want two.

At our appointment the next day, I hand Steve the pitch sheet for my YA fantasy.

He does a double take, and I can see he’s not reading the sheet. Just squinting at it.

For a very long time.

Steve Laube. Speechless.

Then he squints at me, and his words come out like he’s marooned on an isle of incompatible data. “This is a fantasy.”

“Right…”

“I thought you were a humor writer…”

“But I write fantasy…”

Now we’re both squinting.

This lovely, awkward conversation is not the way I recommend you discover your brand. But it does illustrate the key point. Brand isn’t about how you see yourself, it’s about how others see you. And they will form an opinion.

Learn from my mistakes.

1) Steve categorized me in one reading. If an agent or editor can do that, chances are it’s a strong impression. Take. That. Seriously.

2) Steve reiterated the same thing to me more than once (as have others, but you don’t need to hear all my tales of slow-wittedness). What are the words and phrases you’re consistently hearing about your writing? Grasp the obvious. It’s not a fluke.

3) Once Steve branded me in his mind, he had an expectation of the writing he would get from me in the future—humor. When a guy squints at you for ten full seconds, it’s because you’ve confounded his expectation. Don’t do that.

Don’t hear me saying you have no control over your brand. You do. But the fact is that others can often see the unifying thread in your writing more easily than you can. Hear it. Pray over it. And be willing to let go of your self-preconceptions.

This is how we discover the uniqueness God planted in each one of us.

Trust me. It’s there. The place where you shine.

Find it.

Embrace it.

Delight in it.

Preferably before your next conversation with Steve Laube.

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Orphan Trains & Wild Stallions

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A guest blog by Mesu Andrews

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That’s it. That’s all.

It came…to pass.

And then he challenged the audience to remember those words the next time they faced an impossible situation, the depths of discouragement, or “a bout of constipation.” (Lowry’s words, not mine.)

I’ve needed that reminder during my writing journey: Discouragement will pass. And I decided if anyone could to teach me about discouragement, it was Brother Job. That poor guy lost his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, and children—and was left with a surly wife. Eee-gad!

So, I dove—headfirst—into the mire of Job’s whining and ranting. After reading a few chapters , my life didn’t seem so awful! And I learned things everyone should know when they struggle with discouragement:

Know yourself Know your enemy Know your Champion

Know Yourself

The world says look inward to know ourselves, but Job 1 shows us how God knows us. Read the Lord’s description of His servant Job:

“There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Job 1:8

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Guest post by Erin Taylor Young


This is Henry, our dog. Not my husband.

I love my husband. Really I do. But there are occasions I’m tempted to take a sharp, pointy pencil and stab him somewhere non-fatal. Especially when I’m torqued over my anemic word count, frustrated by a recent edit, or discouraged by yet another rejection.

I’m venting why, why, WHY, and my hubby turns into a fixer. Worse, he’s a fixer with a PhD, so when he tells me exactly what’s going on inside me and how to change it—apparently it’s some stupid cycle between my situation, my brain, and my emotions—he’s right. I hate that.

Can I not just have five minutes to wallow?

Sometimes that’s exactly what we need. You know, like a good mud bath. People pay money for that.

Then again, people also get sucked into mud bogs and are never seen again.

The difference is in knowing what you’re doing in the mud and how to get out when it’s time. Which means understanding that cycle between situation, brain, and emotion is actually helpful. I’ll give you the elevator pitch though, so your eyes don’t glaze over.

We have goals. We try to achieve them. We fail.

Then we feel rotten because the mismatch between our goals and our ability to achieve them creates frustration. This is perfectly normal, and in fact a GOOD THING because it compels us to adjust our methods or our goals, i.e. get a grip on reality.

Sometimes it’s easy. Like that six-figure book contract with an eighty-city tour? Give it up.

Sometimes adjusting our goals is hard, because what if we did everything right? We wrote a great book, we’d be giddy over a puny contract, and the manuscript went to pub board at three houses. Then got rejected.

Our perfectly normal frustration makes us wrack our brains to figure out what we could’ve done differently, or what we can change now. But there’s nothing. So our brains keep cycling until we exhaust ourselves straight into discouragement.

And that, my friends, is a bog we can drown in.

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It can be very risky for several reasons.

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by Nancy Farrier

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We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair…”    II Cor. 4:8a

During my writing career, I’ve often felt like Paul, hard-pressed on every side or perplexed due to the many areas of discouragement I’ve faced. Unlike Paul, I’ve often felt crushed and in despair. When I prayed about staying strong, God gave me a way to battle discouragement, showing me three areas where I often come under attack. Once recognized, they are easier to combat.

D—The first area is those who are distant to me. These are people I don’t know well, but who have contact with me: readers, critics, sometimes industry professionals. I don’t believe any of these people intended to say or do things to discourage me, but seemingly insignificant comments often cut deep. Even when most of my reader letters are very positive, notes like the following too often have a greater impact:

“I bought one of your books to give my granddaughter, started to read it first, and realized you’ve never opened a Bible in your life!”

I can’t tell you how much that hurt. I love God’s Word and I love sharing Scripture, so that attack was more painful than most. She didn’t say why she came to that conclusion. She didn’t even give her name or contact information. Perhaps from her perspective she was being honest, but her words wounded me and made me doubt my abilities.

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