Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shrum Encourages Freshman Authors

All FCCW guest speakers bring interesting messages and helpful hints to our meetings. But every so often we’re showered with additional, very useful material. Such was the case with Estelle Shrum’s presentation at last Thursday’s FCCW meeting.

In her presentation, Estelle described her life, and the troubling experiences that were foundational to her new book titled, He Is The Word, a compilation of poems written over two years. As she described it, her book is proof that a life visited by frequent, unhappy events out of one’s control, can produce both victory and a deeper relationship with God.

Estelle grew up in a house with an abusive father and a paranoid, schizophrenic mother. The effect of such a toxic environment led first to frequent panic attacks as a young woman, and later, two attempts at suicide. In later years, her daughter experienced some of the ripple-effects from her family tree, developing serious problems of her own.

Estelle related that today, both she and her daughter are living examples of God’s healing victory. As she pointed out, “The four best years of my life were when I dated my husband. And we’ve been married over forty years!”

Because all of Estelle’s poems are related to scripture, He Is The Word is both a resource for practical Biblical guidance as well as an escape into poetic literature. Glancing through the book, it is easy for one to pinpoint a topic of interest and be directed to a relevant poem. Each passage brings out the essence of scripture through insightful, tender paraphrase of God’s perspective.

Estelle told us the reason for the poetic format is to, “Encourage Christians and non-Christians to read the Bible.”

In addition to poetry, Estelle included sections at the end such as, “The Many Names Of Jesus,” and “The Bible Vs. The Koran,” -- an overview of the similarities and differences between two of the world’s most important books.

As for the “extra gift,” Estelle covered a large table with several, very helpful handouts such as:

“Avoiding literary scams”

“Writers Beware: Thumbs-Down Agency List”

“How To Find The Right Book Publisher”

“Fake Writing Contests.”

She included three long lists of Christian publishers and Christian self-publishing resources.

Estelle’s own book was published through an organization called, “Publish America,” a co-op company requiring no down payment by the author. As she put it, “It’s a subject of particular importance to all freshman authors!”

FCCW extends a warm thanks to Estelle and hopes many readers will enjoy her book for a relaxing, insightful poetic journey through the Bible.

By Ken Overman, FCCW Member

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Queen Lily's Vet & Author Tells Her Story

At some point in our lives we’ve all experienced the trauma of a move. For children in particular, relocating to a new, strange place can be very unnerving.

DSC02993 FCCW Sharon Hoffman cropped

That is the premise of Sharon Hoffman’s new book, The Story of Queen Lily. In it, Sharon relates to anxious young readers about the upside of moving. The story puts them at ease through well-written, child-oriented dialogue and delightful photos.

Photos of what? Of the main character, Lily, who happens to be a fluffy, gregarious cat with lots of experience on the topic.

Sharon, a veterinary dentist and oral surgeon, wanted to write a book about “something other than medical journals.” She and her family moved from Ohio to Jacksonville four years ago and, as she related it, the strain of the move became the seed of an idea for the book.

Queen Lily, their family cat, moved with them, but seemed to be the only one without trauma in the ordeal. As soon as they arrived, Lily went about exploring their new neighbors, the beach and the marshland around her new home. Thus, Lily provided both material and rationale for the story.

The story captivated members of FCCW at this week’s meeting through Sharon’s slides and discussion. She took it further by relating some important points about what it took to get published – a topic close to our hearts.

DSC02988 FCCW Sharon Hoffman

When she explored publishing options, Sharon found it too expensive, too complicated and that it took too long. As a first-time writer, she needed simpler approach, and was about to shelve the idea. Then, she found her answer at a small bookshop in Fernandina Beach where she met a “co-op publisher,” named G.W. Reynolds.

Mr. Reynolds explained his company’s minimal risk, fast approach to publishing. She agreed to the partnership he offered, and signed with Mr. Reynolds’ company called, High-Pitched Hum Publishing.

The happy ending is the book is now in print, and being enjoyed by numerous young ones, whether they’re moving or not.

By Ken Overman, FCCW Member

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dr. Lorraine Facilitates FCCW Mission Revision

FCCW’s President, Dr. Haataia, spoke at the weekly meeting of FCCW where she facilitated the final draft of FCCW’s Mission Statement.

DSC_2720 Lorraine Haataia, PhD

The original draft was formulated at the December 18th FCCW meeting when the general membership submitted their views on why FCCW exists.

Lorraine guided the members through a brainstorming session in an effort to focus on the core values and key objectives of the group, now in its second year.

Comments and suggestions from the group were myriad, prompting Lorraine to comment, “It’s a real challenge to do this with a room full of writers!”

When the board was full of notes, the final, boiled-down version emerged which read,

FCCW’s mission is to support members through:

· Improving writing skills with education and critiques,

· Networking within the publishing industry, and,

· Holding each other accountable to achieve goals.

Of note, is Dr. Haataia’s handling of all the information. The sheer volume of all the input could have taken all night, but her skills in efficiency consulting among other things, got the job done, and right on time!

The remainder of the evening was dedicated to critiques of a few aspiring writers.

By Ken Overman, FCCW member

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bestseller Fast Shares How She Published

On Thursday night, we had the pleasure of hearing, Julie Fast, best selling non-fiction author, share on her life as a writer.


Writing for Julie, came as an answer for her own personal challenges and frustration. She had struggled with Bipolar Disorder for years and did not get the relief she hoped from medications. She was frustrated and felt defeated. Necessity is surely the mother of invention for instead of giving up; Julie developed a method for living with the challenges that being Bipolar creates. She invented and personally implemented into her own life, a Health Cards Treatment Plan. Within 6 months, she noticed great results in her own health and in her relationships. This treatment plan would become her first book.

While living in France in the early 2000 with her significant other she focused on making her Bipolar Health Plan and her next book, Bipolar Happens, available to others. After a frustrating experience with an agent, Julie decided to offer her first books as e-books. At that time, guidelines for e-books were non-existent, so she taped into her creativity and found a market for her copies of both books online by advertising with Google Ad Words. Browsers ordered and paid online with a credit card. Books were shipped to them in manuscript form. The first month her books sold $3,000 in copies.

DSC02696 - Copy

Julie shared two valuable lessons that came from this experience

1. A web presence is essential for all writers.

2. Timing is everything – especially in a niche market.

Part of Julie's early success came because alternative information on mental health and specifically, bipolar disorder was not available. Once the medical profession realized the hungry market in this genre, they caught on. In the next four years, Julie sold three major books that are now bestsellers including Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder (New Harbinger, 2004), Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder (Warner Wellness, 2006) and Get it Done When You're Depressed (Alpha Penguin, 2008).

Julie has clear goals and a tried and true system for all of her projects.

Here are a few of her suggestions for writing non-fiction:

  • Julie stresses that all writers need to have an outline before they write a book--this makes the writing a lot easier.
  • Find an agent you trust - a valuable asset in developing your career as a writer.
  • Perfect your query writing skills. Your entire career often depends on a query!
  • Query for an agent and wait for an agent you trust. Agents are the first and essential step to publishing a book. 
  • Once you have an agent (if you have a good idea with a well written query, you can get an agent!) you will write a proposal on your topic. This proposal includes a brief sales letter about your book including why your book is needed, the audience and your ability to market the book. The next section is a table of contents, chapter summaries and two sample chapters.
  • Authors are part of a publishing  machine. The more you know about the business side of writing, the more successful you can be in the industry.
  • Never sign away your electronic book rights (also called display rights), audio or foreign rights. Contract for written English print rights only and then negotiate for the rest.
  • Nothing provides return like good old networking. Suggestions include writers groups and conferences.
  • Create a professional photo to use on all of your materials.
  • If you have a niche market or you are good with Public Relations and Marketing –look into publishing yourself. Just make sure you get a professional editor as well as a professional type setter and graphic designer.

Julie regularly speaks on mental health topics at churches and other organizations and also works as a corporate consultant on the topic of employee productivity.

Julie's latest book is the Geezer Guide to Creating and Selling eBooks. This book gives a writer all of the tools needed to write successful and professional eBooks.

To find out more about Julie, visit her at

Find her books on and in major bookstores. For an interview or presentation, please contact Julie's PR agent Laura Solop via email at

by Cyndi Rice, FCCW Member