Author Archives: Erika Beebe

Everyday Heroes: Spotlight on Author Elizabeth Seckman and Interview with Local Youth Pastor

hero

To inspire hope and courage, I dedicate Monday posts through the months of March and April to authors and professionals on the subject of heroes, historically defined, and also the transformation in today’s society. I like to think of this term as the Everyday Hero. Here today, I have fellow author Elizabeth Seckman with her hero definition and spotlight on her story “Mind Body Soul.” Also today, Pastor H., talks about the purpose and impact of a local Youth Group in The United Methodist Church.

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[Erika] What is your definition of a hero (historically or in today’s world), how does your hero fit the definition and then finally, why did he or she fall?

[Elizabeth Seckman] A hero is someone who sets aside personal interests to benefit the lives of others.

The heroes in my story, the king and queen, set aside love to marry and save their kingdoms. Once there is peace in the realms, the king decides to set things right and reunite the queen with her first love. This act of selflessness on the part of the king is a magical moment— where sorcery and affairs of the heart collide to bring about the king’s downfall.

The Story: “Mind Body Soul”

For the sake of her people, his queen sacrificed love for duty when she married the stern king of the highlands over the jovial intended of her youth. Their marriage brought peace and unity to the people for so long that the resulting complacency gave the idle king time to ponder—would his devoted queen be happier with her first love? Didn’t a woman whose life was spent in sacrifice deserve true love? In an attempt to do right by his loyal wife, the king consorts with a sorcerer and dabbles in dark magic.

The result is chaos and the possible destruction of himself, his queen, and their kingdom.

About Author Elizabeth Seckman

Elizabeth is a wife, a mom, and a writer. She has four wonderful boys, one dusty house, and six published books to her credit. Feel free to check them out  HERE! Erm, the books, not the kids or the house…though all things in life are negotiable 😉

You can find her here – Blog // Facebook // Twitter // Website

Everyday Hero Pastor H. and Building Trust in a Local Youth Group

As a teen myself years and years ago, I remember feeling alone and uncertain about where I could fit in and be me, who could I trust at times, and how would I one day find my place in the bigger world on my own. Teens today have more issues and social expectations than I did back in the late 90’s. Throw in academics, economic struggles, and social media into the mix, and I scratch my head. I’m not sure how I would survive as a teen in today’s world. So today, my feature Everyday Hero is a local Youth Pastor from a local church I attend. I’ll call him Pastor H.

[Erika] Tell me a bit about Youth Group.

[Pastor H] Let me first begin with the facts. For an individual graduating high school we see 80% leave the church and never come back. Examples might be due to lack of programming or lack of community connection. Teens don’t feel accepted. The other 15% who do stick around occurs when we find ways to keep them and bring them into the life of the church. It’s a long-term viewpoint. What I do won’t be harvested until 5 to 10 years down the road. We don’t want to just get them into the church. We want a long-term approach to ministry and to get them invested. They bring friends. They talk in schools and in public about the program. In a business sense we are sharing with our community and what we’re sharing is the gospel message of the Christian faith for youth to become disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s helping create the experience of faith and love and connection. Youth group is for those teens in grades 6th-12th grades. The group engages in fellowship, games, and often food on a traditional Wednesday night. They dive into God’s word and seek to discover how we are to apply the teachings of Scripture into our life.

[Erika] What is the impact on students involved?

[Pastor H] Students recently assessed who we are and came up with the definition: We are Impact Youth Ministry. We impact community, neighbors and the larger world. Every year we take mission trips at the state and national level. We take more short-term missions these days too. In the end, missions show students and teach them we can change people around us and influence our community. We’ve had groups at harvesters, a food pantry organization in the community that feeds those families who need extra support. We worked with Uplift, an organization that supports the homeless and deliver those basic human needs, care and compassion that are not usually received from other organizations. The Youth Group was also recently in charge of worship service. The benefit was two-fold: students aren’t viewed as a babysitting service, but they are seen and heard where others in the church may not know what the youth group is up to. Church members commented, “They loved the realness and the honesty.” The service served as a portal to see into the lives of these youth students. People believe in what we are doing, who we are, and our systems and our methods.

[Erika] What example have you seen of student change from involvement with the Youth Group?

[Pastor H] One fairly new student has been coming for about 7 months. He didn’t have church in his background and his family was borderline abusive with lots of difficult and questionable activities in the house. Others in the community who know him have watched him change. He’s grown. There’s a moment when you can see the recognition click for them. When they experience this moment it’s not about what can I get out this program or day, but what can I give back. They step up and say, “hey, how can I help?” And the question is more than a spiritual sense. These students feel cared for and accepted in the group and they can finally be themselves. Teens today have more on their plates than we can ever imagine. Even in a decade in the 10 years since I have been a teen, the social and cultural issues they deal with is so different. We have some LGBT students in the group, and honestly, some people would shut them out, even some churches. To hear someone say to them, I’ve got you, and we’ll figure out how we do life together is what they need. Working with teens, you have to build trust. It takes a long time to do that. Without trust, I can’t do my job. It’s a long-term thing that exceeds programming.

[Erika] What is a favorite moment?

[Pastor H] Seeing students bring in other people and be a part of mission trips. Recently, we had a big progressive dinner. We started the evening with one student’s house hosting the group and serving appetizers. We moved to the next house for one course, then another for dessert and we ended the night roller-skating. We had over 30 students attend the event. As I walked away, I overheard a new visitor say to a student, “we didn’t know that your youth pastor was so cool.” That was huge. It meant the doorway to their mind is now open and I connected with that person. They felt a part of the group. They also felt like I was someone they can talk to or relate to.

[Erika] Do you have an everyday hero?

[Pastor H] I have a couple of academic mentors. It’s not what they taught me but the manner in which they taught me to allow me to think for myself. They are still actively involved in what they do in their careers, and they are passionate in what they do. They realize they are training the next generation. That’s why I love what I do. I won’t be around forever. I am preparing those mind and hearts for long after I am gone.

[Erika] What inspired you to seek a career in ministry?

[Pastor H] As a kid I wanted to do something math or science related. I grew up with a computer in the house. I knew the systems and how to operate them and started to explore the sciences more. I took college level courses in high school. I really enjoyed learning how things work and function. My curiosity taught me how to be a big picture thinker. I wondered if there something more out there? That’s how I started to explore ministries as a calling or felt called to do.

Thank you so much for being here with me today Elizabeth Seckman and Youth Pastor H. Have a lovely rest of your day everyone. 🙂

Celebrate the Small Things 3: Believe in Your Today

Fridays are all about celebrating the Small Things thanks to a weekly blog hop created by author Lexa Cain. Joint co-hosts this week are authors L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog  The mission coincides with what I’m hoping to do with my own writing, inspire and focus on the light when those slippery shadows creep around our shoes. Want to sign up? Click Lexa Cain’s link to find out more.

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Worry and doubt sneak into our thoughts so easily. Voices you hear that question whether your hard work is worth it. Maybe the voices come from concern, love, or even self-doubt, but it’s still the same question: “You work so hard with so little to gain, are you sure it’s really worth it?”

 

We all have dreams. Maybe we want to become healthier. Maybe we need to take a class for a new certification or a skill we’ve wanted to explore, but never did. Maybe you’re a secret musician or an artist. If it brings you joy on any level, then my answer is yes. Yes, the work is worth it because your dreams are worth it. So this week, the words of a dear friend of mine echo softly in my head, “Believe in you.” Believe in all you do and your choices in each and every day. Start making your lists of small victories. Makes lists of all the things that make you smile too. The smiles help with the stress down the road. Here is my sweet memory list I’ve made this week:

Monday

I rode my bike with my son up to the school park where we walked and ran a few laps to train for soccer. He’s eight. I’m enjoying the fact that he still wants me to eat lunch with him in school and spend time together.

Tuesday

My daughter read me a lovely book. She read one page and I read the other. I love to see her watch each word and light up when she recognizes them.

Wednesday

I took the day off work and attended a field trip with my daughter to Science City. We also played at the park dangling from the jungle gym and swinging on the swing set while my son participated in soccer practice. Sat on a swing lately and let the spring breeze play with your hair? It’s lovely and I highly recommend it.

Thursday

I watched a YouTube video from 1975, Witch Mountain, recommended to me by my writing friend to help me define my star people population. I also went to the book/art/ice cream social at my kids’ school. They showed me their clay creations, their paintings and we stood in line so they could craft these cute little sand monsters together. Also, while I was stressing about my goals, my honey said over the phone, “I believe in you.” I know he does.

Friday? What isn’t to love, right?

Finally … A Great Book to Celebrate

Maski: Broken But Not Dead
By Joylene Nowell Butler
(Psychological Thriller)
An IPPY Silver Medalist!

To the Breaking Point…

When Brendell Meshango resigns from her university professor position and retreats to her isolated cabin to repair her psyche, she is confronted by a masked intruder. His racial comments lead her to believe she is the solitary victim of a hate crime.

However, is all as it appears? After two bizarre days, the intruder mysteriously disappears but continues to play mind games with her. Taught by her mother to distrust the mainstream-based power structures, and with her stalker possibly linked to a high level of government, Brendell conceals the incident from the police. But will her silence keep her safe?

Then her beloved daughter, Zoë, is threatened and Brendell takes matters into her own hands. To save Zoë, Brendell searches for the stalker and confronts not just a depraved madman but her own fears and prejudices.

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Amazon

 

I hope you have a lovely Friday and don’t forget to make your list of smiles. 🙂

Author Toolbox 1: My Top New Manuscript Planning Resource #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

The Author Toolbox Blog Hop is “a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.” Want to jump into the writing tool box? Search #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join via blog, click here.

Thank you Raimey!

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Looking for that perfect resource book with both exercise application and examples of successful work?

90 Days to Your Novel, A Day-by-Day Plan for Outlining & Writing Your Book, by Sarah Domet is my favorite thing these days. I’m currently Day 6 into the writing exercises. I’ve already defined 10 characters, four of them pivotal, threaded in background scenes, favorite places and personality quirks to include as I write. I can honestly admit though, I won’t make the 90-day mark. My timeline is a little longer. Sometimes I use one exercise to span two to three days.

Favorite Points on Scene Development

“Scenes are modules, a single unit of your novel … a reader should have learned something about the characters involved or about the unraveling plot,” (page 36, Domet).

  • Write for the reader and not the writer. As a writer, I love to get lost in detail and scenery. But a reader wants to know the who and the what, and not just the wow.
  • Include the main character as early as possible in any scene. Domet suggests as early as paragraph two and no later than paragraph three.
  • The middle of any scene should be heavy with conflict pushing against the main character’s nearest and dearest wish.
  • The end of a scene should show the reader a new character insight, a metaphor, or leave a question that makes it impossible to not turn the page and want more.

Points on Character

  • Need some writing prompts to get into your main character’s head and body, and all of the minor ones too? I LOVE the Biography worksheets in this book.
  • The “I Care Factor” is the connection to aim for which moves your reader through the book.
  • Emotion is conveyed in many different ways, and it’s different for each character both in public and private settings.
  • Write for the senses and express what they feel through word choice and physical characteristics.

A thought to ponder: Think of a moment in your life when you and someone else experienced the same emotional event. How did you handle it in public vs. private? How did they handle it? Would you blush? Would they? Would you tremble? Would you burst out in a slew of regrettable words? Maybe this someone you knew stormed off.  The worksheets in this book helped me figure out these reactions in all of my characters. I wrote three short scenes; first, one character who experienced intense emotion in a comfortable location; next, I wrote the same character freaking out in a public place; and finally,  I wrote a combined scene with two of more of my main characters. The best part is how everything I wrote can be used down the road in the book.

I hope my thoughts today helped. Heard of the book? Got a favorite tool you use to flush out a new manuscript? I’d love to hear it.

Everyday Heroes: Spotlight on Author Yvonne Ventresca and Interview with Dan Meers, KC Wolf

hero

To inspire hope and courage, I dedicate Monday posts through the months of March and April to authors and professionals on the subject of heroes, historically defined, and also the transformation in today’s society. I like to think of this term as the Everyday Hero. Here today, I have fellow author Yvonne Ventresca with her definition and spotlight on her story “The Art of Remaining Bitter.” Also today, Dan Meers, the man behind the NFL Chief’s mascot KC Wolf talks choices, kids character programs, and investing in your life.

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[Erika] What is your definition of a hero (historically or in today’s world), how does your hero fit the definition and then finally, why did he or she fall?

[Yvonne Ventresca] In “The Art of Remaining Bitter,” Sylvia comes from ordinary circumstances, but she questions the beliefs of her family and society as a whole. In her world, everyone thinks that negative emotions have no purpose. She is doomed to have hers “removed,” as all citizens do, when she turns twelve. To counter this, she strategizes ways to remember what will be taken away. She fails because no one else supports her beliefs, leaving her alone in her struggle. But that doesn’t mean that she won’t rally as a hero in the future!

Her Story: The Art of Remaining Bitter

“The Art of Remaining Bitter” is about a girl who recognizes the motivating power of sibling rivalry in a society that only values positive emotions. Can feeling jealous ever be a good thing?

About Yvonne Ventresca

In addition to contributing short stories to anthologies, Yvonne Ventresca is the author of two young adult novels and two nonfiction books for teens. BLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES was published by Sky Pony Press in October 2016. Her debut YA novel, PANDEMIC, won a 2015 Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Yvonne’s other works include the short story “Escape to Orange Blossom,” which was selected for the dystopian anthology PREP FOR DOOM, along with two nonfiction books, PUBLISHING (Careers for the 21st Century) and AVRIL LAVIGNE (People in the News). Yvonne blogs regularly about creativity and writing-related resources.

Web | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life will be available to purchase May 2! Support the authors via Thunderclap.

Dan Meers Interview:  Kids Character Building Programs and Investing in Your Life

According to stopbullying.gov, Bullying has recently been defined as “unwanted aggressive behavior; observed or perceived power imbalance; and repetition of behaviors or high likelihood of repetition.” Direct and indirect behaviors include “physical, verbal, relational (e.g., efforts to harm the reputation or relationships of the targeted youth), and damage to property.”

Based on the studies I read, middle school students seem to be the primary age group. Bullying happens in classrooms, the cafeteria, the gym, bathrooms, playgrounds and even the bus. Cyberbullying happens anywhere since the primary tool is the cell phone.

FACT: 28% of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying

FACT: 70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools.

FACT: In one large study, about 49% of children in grades 4–12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the past month, whereas FACT: 30.8% reported bullying others during that time.

Today, I have Everyday Hero Dan Meers, the man behind KC Wolf. He’s been teaching character building programs for youth. His two top programs are, “Don’t be a Bully – Be a Buddy” and the A-B-C of Success. As the mascot for the Chiefs NFL football team for 27 years, he’s worked in his role to develop character-building programs for kids almost from day one. A man of faith, family, and channeling every effort of his own life to make an impact on this world, Dan Meers blew me away in his interview.

[Erika] What is the purpose of each of these programs?

[Meers] I love working with kids and helping make a positive impact in this world. Being a mascot and presenting these programs to kids is a natural fit. They tend to like mascots. The idea is to help kids make good choices. Currently, the most popular program is the A-B-C of success (attitude, behavior, and character). We talk about the importance of living with a positive attitude, treating people with respect and living a life of good character. I’ve delivered the program to junior high schools and some high schools as well.

I also strive to be a role model and live the ideas I talk about with my thoughts, so my words and my actions match up. My goal is to be authentic and to be real with people. I have learned when you are authentic and real, people can tell. So often in life, we hide behind a mask, and we pretend we have our lives altogether when they’re not. We live this way because we are afraid. We don’t want others to see our faults and fears and failures. We put on a mask. By taking off the mask we admit to mistakes and how we aren’t perfect. We all have our struggles. I have struggles like everyone else and when you admit them you become your true self and who you are supposed to be.

[Erika] Tell me about the successes of the programs?

[Meers] I get text messages and emails from principals. They thank me for coming out and talking to their students. Every now and then I get letters from kids. They come as an individual letter other times I get an envelope with letters from an entire class. Sometimes they color pictures of KC Wolf and send them to me. Since I speak at so many schools and locations, I never really know the true impact or outcome I have on students. Sometimes I run into someone like just recently a principal at one of the schools I spoke at told me she remembered when I came to her own elementary 20 to 25 years ago.

[Erika] What advice do you have for people?

[Meers] Three years ago I about lost my life. Going through something like that puts priorities in perspective in a hurry.  In the six months of rehab and therapy, I wrote a book on the lessons I’ve learned in my journey and my career as a mascot. I gave all the money back to missions and charities like Haiti and battered women’s shelters. Whenever I speak at corporate events, I bring my books and sell them. We’ve made 30,000 from the sales, and all of it went to multiple charities to make an impact.

I always share with groups; your life is like your finances. You can spend it or invest it. When you invest, what you do will multiply and come back. A life spent selfishly will be wasted. Life invested influencing others will bear fruit for a long, long time. Be investors and be a blessing to other people. When you live that way, you reap what you sow in life. Every day, I go out and try to be a blessing to others and promote hope.

[Erika] Do you have an everyday hero?

[Meers] Christ first. The Lord has also put some people in my life I admire for the way they live their lives.  My parents set good examples for me. Rod Handley, an administer for Character that Counts and integrity is an Everyday Hero. I have an accountability group that holds my feet to the fire and helps me make sure I’m not just blowing a bunch of hot air.

Dan Meers book Wolves Can’t Fly, is available on Amazon.

 Thank you for taking time out of your day, Mr. Meers. And Yvonne, I can’t wait to read your story!