Christmas Card Signatures – The Proper Way

Have you ever wondered how to properly sign a Christmas card?

Did you even know there was a proper way? Well, there is and here’s instruction on how to do those Christmas card signatures the right way.

Adding a personal touch to a Christmas card makes the recipient feel special.
Adding a personal touch to a Christmas card makes the recipient feel special.

Part of the celebration of Christmas is the sending of Christmas cards to family and friends. This is to spread joy and cheer to those we care about whether near or far.

The first Christmas cards were published around 1843 by a London company. Later, other European companies took up the trend and published a variety of cards. Eventually, the cards were sold across the Atlantic in the United States.

At first Christmas cards were handwritten notes. Now, since the publication of cards, most are purchased from stationery and department stores or specialty ordered online. However, no matter how they are printed, there is a proper way to sign the cards.

Instructions for Christmas Card Signatures

If the card is to be printed or engraved then the person or persons sending the card should start the message with their name/s first.

Mr. and Mrs. John Doe send you Christmas greetings…

If the card is not printed or engraved then the message is given first. The person or persons sending the card should place their names at the bottom of the card (after the message).

May you have the merriest Christmas ever.

Mr. and Mrs. John Doe

If the sender/s wish to have all family members listed then the father’s name should come first, wife second, then the children’s names in order.

John, Mary, Richard, Tom, and Sally Doe

Christmas cards from businesses should be sent from the business not the owner or chief operating officer.

The Doe Lawyer Firm sends warmest wishes… or

The Regal Tire Company wishes you a Merry Christmas…

Enclose a photo, bookmark, or hand-crafted item to send extra cheer to your personal friends.
Enclosing a photo, bookmark, or home crafted item will send added cheer to those personal friends you wish to include on your mailing list.

Remember to place your card in an appropriately sized envelope. Affix the proper postage.

Return addresses are appreciated by the postal service even though tradition neglects this step.

Many charities send seals at Christmas time. If you approve of their cause, then use the seals to brighten up your envelope.

Due to the recent restrictions on holiday activities, I pray your cards add some encouragement to those on this year’s mailing list.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.  Matthew 2:10

2020 by Peggy Clark

Concerned About Your Language Arts Curriculum?

 Is your language arts curriculum satisfactory, or does it fall short in key areas?

Good educators are concerned about their students’ ability to communicate, to write effectively, and to think clearly. Therefore, they are concerned about the textbooks that are available for their use.  Although there is a wide variety of language arts curriculum available, not all are adequate.


To be able to communicate effectively, students need skills in delivery and the use of a wide variety of vocabulary words. Being able to speak one’s thoughts clearly is a skill learned. Being familiar with the dictionary and the thesaurus are vital.

Punctuation and Grammar

Knowing proper punctuation and grammar rules are not enough. Students need to know how to use these rules in their writing and in their speech.  Therefore, the curricula used should give students ample opportunities to use the skills taught both in written and in oral formats.


Students also need knowledge of a wide variety of topics. Having to research a wide variety of topics will open the students’ understanding of and interest in the world around them. Therefore, writing assignments should not just include what happened on students’ summer vacations.

Creative Writing

A wide variety of creative writing assignments should be given. Poetry, haiku, song, and adventure are only a few examples.

Students love being the heroes of their own stories. Of course, having a list of topics for students to choose from is extremely helpful.


Students should be provided with good writing examples for each assignment. Good examples encourage good writing. If the curricula does not do this properly, educators must supplement as needed.


Educators should provide rubrics which detail exactly what is expected for each writing assignment.  These checklists provide clarity and help tremendously in the grading process.


After assignments have been edited and revised, students should be given the opportunity to present their work orally.  This helps develop their speaking abilities. It also gives students the opportunity to critique others’ as they develop their own listening skills.


Students should be given the opportunity to publish their work. This can be as easily done as posting their work on a bulletin board. However, collecting their work in a book format for others to view is advantageous. In this way, students can track their own progress during the current year and into future years. Publishing writing in an e-book format has now become a viable option.

Educators should carefully evaluate the language arts textbooks that are being used to see if they provide what is necessary for students to develop adequate communication skills. In today’s fast-paced world, proper communication skills are a must.

Do you have concerns about your language arts curriculum?  Please share in the comments below.

If you are extremely please with the language arts curriculum you are using, please share the title so others can check it out.

©2018 by Peggy Clark





Conciseness: The Writer’s Goal in Effective Writing

Concise writing uses as few words as necessary to convey accuracy and clarity. It means cutting out everything that does not add to the effectiveness of your sentences.

There are several ways to make your writing more concise. We will discuss two ways that can help you achieve conciseness.

Conciseness removes the nonessential.

Ever read an email or department head memo and thought “I wish they would get to the point.’

I have. Sometimes I wonder if I make the same mistake in my writing. That may happen if my sentences are not structured properly.

Remove wordiness and redundancy.

Two ways to avoid the same reaction from your readers is to remove wordiness and redundancy.

Wordy sentences and redundant phrases contain unnecessary words which hinder the reader’s ability to understand the passage and may disengage the reader from proceeding further with the story.

Therefore, being concise is a skill every writer desires.

Reducing clauses to phrases or phrases to single words can make a sentence more concise.

Reduce clauses to phrases.

Often clauses can be reduced to phrases.

A clause is a group of words that has a subject and a predicate. A clause may or may not be a complete thought.

A complete sentence (thought) has at least one clause. A clause that exists as a complete sentence is called an independent clause.

A clause that does not make a complete sentence is called a dependent clause. Dependent clauses begin with words like because, when, who, in order that, after, and although.

Reducing dependent clauses to phrases reduces wordiness.

When applicable, reduce dependent clauses to phrases to reduce wordiness.

Notice the changes in the following sentences.

The man who delivers the mail lives next to the deli.

The mailman lives beside the deli.

The lady who saw the accident gave a statement to the police.

The witness gave a statement to the police.

The jar that is the antique is blue and is sitting on the kitchen shelf.

The blue antique jar is sitting on the kitchen shelf.

The meeting that was scheduled for Thursday has been postponed until Friday.

Thursday’s meeting has been postponed until Friday.

Reduce phrases to single words.

Another way to reduce wordiness is to reduce phrases to single words.

Notice the changes in the following sentences.

Many from the neighboring houses helped the Townsends to rescue their furniture from the fire.

Neighbors helped the Townsends rescue their furniture from the fire.

The businessman from France will speak at our next town meeting.

The French businessman will speak at our next town meeting.

Tom hit the target with accuracy.

Tom accurately hit the target.

The lady with the blonde hair gave a few brief statements.

The blonde-haired lady spoke briefly.

Eliminate redundancy.

Redundancy is needless repetition of thoughts or ideas. Eliminating redundancy improves the reader’s ability to understand your message.

Notice the changes in the following sentences.

The teachers’ meeting will be at 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon.

The teachers’ meeting will be at 3:30 p.m.

New beginners will learn writing techniques.

Beginners will learn writing techniques.

The class is completely full.

The class is full.

Her boots sank down in the mud.

Her boots sank in the mud.

A successful writer strives to make each sentence effective.  Removing wordiness and redundancy is one way to achieve that goal.
I hope this article has been helpful to you as you continue your writing journey.

©2018 by Peggy Clark

Story Starters

Needing some inspiration for writing a short story?

Does writing the first sentence give you pause?

Hopefully, these story starters will help you get past Writer’s Block and on to Story Street.


The night breathed heavily; its sweaty …

Sam crawled under the covers hiding his face from the …

The sun peeped over the mountains just as ….

Suitcases packed, she breathed her last goodbye …

Violin music floated through the air…

A sudden crash startled John …

Fire burned through Jesse’s shoulder knocking him to the ground …

Love was not a thing to be tangled with …

Papa stood at the door looking out over the fields of cotton …

Mary was just a child when …

“Cancer,” the doctor spoke the word as if it was just a cold or the flu …

They weren’t just any ordinary pair of shoes…

There she stood looking through the window…

I hadn’t meant for it to take this long…

The year ended, but still I had no answer…

I hope these story starters have inspired you to write your short story.

Writing Without Fear of the Red Pen

The Fear of the Red Pen

Writing is a joy for some, but a terror to others.

What makes one person enjoy the process while others are terrified by it?

Some would-be authors find themselves constrained by the how-to’s, structural rules and regulations bought upon by well-meaning teachers who choose to use the red pen more than they ought.

It’s not that the red pen isn’t necessary, it’s just that grammar and punctuation isn’t all that writing is.

Put the fear of the red pen away and enjoy the writing process.
Put the fear of the red pen away and enjoy the writing process.

Writing is the thought, the intent, the emotion, the mental anguish, the imagination unleashed.

When used too early, the red pen is perceived as an attack against the soul.

It is what is feared, that somehow one is incapable of expressing themselves properly. The red pen is sometimes received as an acknowledgement of the fear of failure that resides within ourselves.

So, put aside the red pen until later.

Expressions should be allowed in the first stages of the writing process.

Plotting, outlining, summarizing, etc., these terms can be scary to someone who just wants the freedom to write.

So, in the beginning stages why not just write.

Let your thoughts flow.

Allow yourself to make mistakes, but get your expressions out. You might find some great ideas in those lines you have penned or typed.

Next take those ideas and expound on them.

Visualize your characters, know their hardships and fears, know them intimately.

Surround those characters with settings that magnify their problems or at least don’t interfere with the progression of the story.

Make the setting fit the story line.

Accidents on curvy mountain roads, falls from rocky cliffs, heart attacks on hiking trails, broken hearts in movie theaters, loneliness at the school dance…

Insert lively characters that fit the setting.

We expect cowboys in Texas or Australia, businessmen in suits on Wall Street, bankers in Switzerland, skiers in Colorado or the Alps, fishermen off Nova Scotia. We know and are familiar with housewives in suburbia, school teachers in rural areas, and farmers on the Midwestern plains.

Writing, authoring, scribbling, or whatever you may call it, is just expressing your imagination on paper.

Let your imagination run wild. Sci-fi, fantasy, romance.  You can pretend to be anywhere at any time.

Today, yesterday, or tomorrow…There is no limitation to time on the written pages of your mind.

Share your thoughts, share your dreams, share your fears. Hide behind your pseudonym, your pen name, your ghost writer, or whoever.

Your words become forces that confront the reality of existence.

Keep the story moving forward.

You are an author. Your words may not be written down in a best-selling novel, but they are your words in action. Just be sure your words do not kill your onward progression to what lies ahead. Make them positive words that encourage, instill, and infuse joy, excitement, and contentment.

Make your words lively to the reader. Keep them searching for the next word on the next trail of pages. The red pen can come later.

Do you find yourself fearing the red pen?

Don’t be afraid to have your writing critiqued. Share it with several people who will honestly respond to what you have written. Consider their comments.

Remember that you are the author. You can choose to accept or reject their recommendations. But if you are wise, you will learn from the critiquing experience and your writing will improve.

Proofreading for grammar and punctuation is in the last stages of the writing process. That’s when you can appreciate the red pen.

©2017 by Peggy Clark

What are your fears in the writing process?
What is keeping you from becoming the next best-selling author?

Create a Magazine – Make It a Family Affair

Enrich your homeschool by creating a magazine that reflects your family’s interests.

Learn about writing, editing, and publishing.

Children have different talents and gifts. Why not utilize those talents and gifts by making a family magazine?
This may seem like an overwhelming task, but it needn’t be. Just follow a few basic steps and your magazine will become a pleasurable accomplishment.

Discuss the different parts of a magazine.

Take some time letting your children leaf through various magazines taking notice of what they find interesting. (If you do not have access to interesting magazines through family and friends, then plan a trip to your local library. A large selection is available for viewing and for checkout. It would be advantageous to have your first lessons completed there.)

Then continue by pointing out pages with specific purposes. Included in these should be the copyright page, contents pages, editorial pages, features pages, product pages, etc. Any discussion should also include the type of and purpose for advertising articles and advertising posts.

Children will probably notice that some magazines appeal to a wide variety of readers (mass magazines) and some appeal only to a select few (class magazines).

Discuss the job descriptions of those who are responsible for each step in the process of development.

From editors, illustrators, reporters, printers, to photographers, the list of people who do the work of producing a magazine is varied.

Responsibilities involve layout, design, news departments, sports departments, editorials, photos, images, production, marketing, etc. It truly takes a team to produce a successful magazine.

Discuss the idea of producing a family magazine.

Discuss the idea of producing your own magazine. This could be a family magazine or group magazine. Get the children excited about producing their own work.

If you feel your family is too small to do this, engage the assistance of other homeschooling families or your local homeschool support group.

Let Your Magazine Reflect Your Family's Interests
Let Your Magazine Reflect Your Family’s Interests

Enjoy the process.

Don’t let the process bog down your family. If you decide to just do a few pages within a single week or if you make it a year long process by collecting material accomplished during the year, the important thing is to give children the knowledge of and opportunity in developing their individual gifts and talents. Make it an adventure they will remember as they continue their educational goals.

Set guidelines and give job descriptions.

Some children love to write stories, but others love to tell them. Some like to draw or doodle while others have fun painting or crafting.

Some like to tell riddles and read comic strips, while others would rather grab the camera and catch family members in fun.

Some children like the outdoors (so what critters are in the area?) and others like hanging out with Mom in the kitchen (so what’s their favorite recipe?).

Some like to play sports (so how do you play that game?) while others seem to know all the sports statistics (batting averages, anyone?).

Some are great at playing musical instruments, but others like to listen to the radio, know all the top hits, and can tell you where their favorite artists will be next week.

Utilize those individual characteristics to make a magazine that will reflect the children’s talents, interests, and gifts and not just your own.

Yes, specific guidelines and deadlines should be set, but let the children do the work as much as possible.

Make the Publishing Process a Learning Experience
Items to Consider in Publishing Your Family Magazine

Let each child do what they find interesting.

Some will enjoy writing about their topics of interests. Some will hate writing altogether, but may love doing the illustrations or creating graphs for a sibling’s articles.

As much as possible, let each child do what they find interesting. This may take some insight on your part.

And when it comes to publishing the material, everyone will probably want to know how to use the copy machine. Even if you must do this at a local printer, ask the manager if your children can watch the process.

Enjoy creating your magazine and just think about all the areas of publishing to which your family has been exposed.

And if you decide to let the children ‘sell’ the magazine to family and friends, you may discover that you have a successful entrepreneur under your wings.


Use Active Voice to Improve Your Manuscript

Improve Your Manuscript by Using Active Voice

You can often improve your writing by using active voice instead of passive voice.

Not only is active voice more direct and vivid but also active voice reduces wordiness.

Get others to review your writing.
Active voice reduces wordiness.

Notice the construction of the following sentences. Those that use active voice use less wording. Furthermore, the reader quickly sees the action of the sentence.

  1. The slingshot was made by John’s grandfather using a forked branch and a piece of leather. (passive)
  2. John’s grandfather made a slingshot with a forked branch and a piece of leather. (active)
  1. A shadow was cast over the water by an enormous oak tree. (passive)
  2. An enormous oak tree cast its shadow over the water. (active)
  1. The family was served by the new waitress. (passive)
  2. The new waitress served the family. (active)
  1. The minutes of the last meeting were discussed by the board members. (passive)
  2. The board members discussed the minutes of the last meeting. (active)

Find sentences using passive voice and edit them.

How can I quickly find sentences using passive voice and edit them if necessary?

Check details carefully.
Check for use of passive voice and edit if needed.

Use Navigation Tools

One way to quickly search for passive voice is to use the Navigation Tool or Find Tool in your word processing program.

Look in sentences containing certain words.

Search your manuscript for helping or “be” verbs (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) and the verbs shall, will, have, has, and had.  However, if these verbs are being used as linking verbs, the sentence will not be in passive voice.

Notice the construction of the following sentences:

  1. The rose is a thorny shrub. (The verb is not passive because the “be” verb is linking.)
  2. The rose cast its petals on the table. (active)
  3. The petals were cast to the table by the rose. (passive)
  1. The sea was inky dark and frightening. (The verb is not passive because the “be” verb is linking.)
  2. The sea tossed its dark waters into the ship. (active)
  3. The ship was being tossed by the turbulent sea. (passive)

Is the subject doing the action?

Another way to check for active or passive voice is to find out if the subject is doing the action or receiving the action of the verb.

Notice the construction of the following sentences:

  1. A guard is protecting the bank teller. (The verb is active because the subject is doing the protecting.)
  2. The bank teller is being protected by the guard. (The verb is passive because the subject of the sentence is not doing but receiving the action. The bank teller is not doing the protecting.)
  1. The hummingbird was pursuing the insect. (The verb is active because the subject is doing the action.)
  2. The insect was being pursued by the hummingbird. (The verb is passive because the subject of the sentence is receiving the action. The insect is not doing the pursuing.)

Search in sentences with prepositional phrases beginning with “by”.

An additional search should be made for sentences with prepositional phrases beginning with the preposition “by.”

Notice that the above sentences which use passive voice have a prepositional phrase beginning with the preposition “by” that reveals the doer of the action.

  1. The bank teller is being protected by the guard. (passive)

The one who is doing the protecting is the object of the preposition “by.”

The bank teller (subject) is being protected (verb) by the guard (prepositional phrase).

  1. The insect was being pursued by the hummingbird. (passive)

The one who is doing the pursuing is the object of the preposition “by.”

The insect (subject) was being pursued (verb) by the hummingbird (prepositional phrase).


When is the passive voice acceptable?

Sometimes using the passive voice is appropriate.


The passive voice is used when the receiver of the action is being emphasized.

  1. A Look at Life from a Deer Stand was written by Steve Chapman and published by Harvest House Publishers. (The title of the book is being emphasized.)
  2. The burglar was arrested by an off-duty officer. (The burglar is being emphasized.)


The passive voice is sometimes used to create a change in sentence beginnings. This is especially helpful in avoiding repetition of the same wording as the subject of sentences.

Scientific Writings

The passive voice is also appropriate in scientific writings.

  1. First, the surface was cleaned with bleach.
  2. Second, the petri dishes were prepared.

Proofreading steps include edit, rewrite, and present.
Proofread your sentences carefully.

Make your manuscript more interesting to the reader by using active voice.

Reduce the wordiness.

Help readers see the action and improve their reading experience.

Copyright ©2017 by Peggy Clark

Join in the conversation.
Have you found yourself using passive voice when you should be using active voice?
What problems are you experiencing when writing your rough drafts?




Paragraphs: Helping Students Overcome Difficulties

Overcoming Difficulties Students Have with Writing Paragraphs

Follow these steps to write a good paragraph.
Paragraph writing does not have to be difficult.

During my teaching years in the classroom, I found that many students had difficulties with writing assignments.

It wasn’t that they didn’t have anything to say. That was obvious during morning break and lunch.

However, if asked to write a paragraph or an essay, students fiddled with their pencils and drew a blank.

That is normal, by the way, for the elementary age. If yours does the same thing, think nothing of it. Just go to work and help them with their topics.


Brainstorm with the students. What topics pose interest to them?

What are their hobbies? Their favorite sports? Their favorite pastime? Their favorite restaurants? Be sure to have a list of ideas on hand.

For boys, topics of interest may include cars, hunting, sports, or four-wheeling. For girls, topics may include fashion, hair styles, sports, or shopping.

Expect interests to vary by age and gender.

Narrow down the topic.

The problem is that many teachers stop at that juncture, still leaving students bewildered. The above topics are much too broad.

Your job as a teacher is to help the students narrow down their topics to a specific point. Then follow through by asking some basic questions.

For example, if a student wishes to write about cars, what specifically will they write about?

What is it about cars that interests them as a topic? Is it the make, the model, the style? Or is it the mechanics or the motor or the wheels?

Continue asking questions until students narrow down their topics to a specific point that can be stated in a single sentence.

Cars are fun. (Too broad.)

What is it about cars that makes them fun?

I like to ride in them? (Still too broad.)

Why do you like to ride in them?

I like riding in them because I like to go fast.

What makes cars go fast?

I like a fast motor.

What kind of motor do you think is the best motor for the car you want to drive?


What kind of motor do you think would be the fastest for the car you want to drive?

Now the topic is narrowed down to a specific point that the students can research if necessary. This specific point is called the main idea of the paragraph.

Write the main idea.

Have the students write their specific point or main idea in a single sentence.

A 454 cubic inch V-8 motor is the best motor (or whatever motor they feel is the best or the fastest).

Write supporting sentences.

Students should write at least three supporting sentences.

Help students with this by asking several questions to get them thinking about what they will write. Give specific instructions to help them with this part of their assignment.

Why is it the best motor? I want you to give me three reasons. Write each reason in a single sentence. (Students will have three sentences for this part.)

Do research.

Let the students research for the three reasons if necessary.

Look over their three sentences concerning reasons. If they have attempted to start their sentences with the word “because”, have them restate those sentences.

(This may be a good time for a class in sentence structure. Do not miss the opportunity to teach restating of sentences if needed.)

Now the students should have a topic sentence and three sentences supporting the topic sentence.

Write a final or concluding statement.

The final sentence should be a restatement of the topic sentence. For some paragraphs, the last sentence may be a concluding sentence.

The finished product of their writing will be a minimum five-sentence paragraph.

Older students can then embellish their paragraphs with additional information if desired. They will need to be instructed that any additional information must support the topic sentence.

Edit paragraphs.

Have students correct spelling and punctuation errors.

Rewrite paragraphs.

Proofreading steps include edit, rewrite, and present.
Teach students how to proofread paragraphs.

Finally, students should rewrite their paragraphs in their best handwriting.

Many students hate writing class because they are required to turn in an error-free paper.

Having students use erasable black pens gives students experience in writing in ink. The use of erasable pens also reduces the frustration that everyone experiences when they make mistakes.

Remember that the focus of this assignment is paragraph writing not penmanship, although penmanship is important. That is why using an erasable pen at this point is invaluable.

Present and/or display paragraphs.

As a classroom teacher, I mounted students’ writing assignments on construction paper and displayed their finished products on the classroom or hallway walls.

Students were always excited to see their work on display. They also enjoyed reading other students’ accomplishments. Having their work displayed also encouraged them to strive harder on their future writing assignments.

As time allowed, I also asked the students to present their work orally. This was to increase their oral presentation skills.

The supper table is an excellent place to have students do oral presentations. Parents and siblings alike can enjoy the newly acquired writing skills of their loved ones.

Copyright 2017 by Peggy Clark

Join in the conversation:
What frustrations have you experienced in teaching your students/children to write?
What ideas can you suggest to get students writing?




Description: A Study of Words and Phrases

Description: An Author’s Quest for Words

The study of description is an ongoing and intensive study of individual words and phrases.

The one who wishes to master description is on the pursuit for the right word.

His or her mission is to find the exact word or phrase. Not just any word or phrase will do. It must be the exact word that completely and satisfactorily fits.

His quest will take him on a journey into the vast treasury of vocabulary, usage, and cultural expressions.

He must make himself acquainted with words, introduce himself to those who use words, and associate himself with the tools that open up the world of words.

His acquisition of tools will include general and specialized dictionaries, thesauruses, and word lists.

Great literary works of the present and past will capture his attention as he seeks to increase his vocabulary through this most useful pastime.

He will pore over his tools until he subdues the language and extracts just the right wording to accurately convey.

Then – Eureka!  The right word or phrase has been discovered!

The reader of his words can “see.” His description is complete. He has mastered the description.

Now he begins his quest for the next “right” word.  It must be exact! It must accurately describe.

Good authors must study description.

The following will aid you in your study of description.
  1. Increase your vocabulary through reading quality literature.
  2. Utilize dictionaries and thesauruses. Collect an assortment of specialized dictionaries.
  3. Create and collect word lists.
  4. Observe people, places, and actions.
  5. Study analogy.
  6. Memorize passages such as text from the King James Bible.
  7. Create separate concrete noun and verb lists.
  8. Notice how authors use imagery in their writings.
  9. Don’t give up the pursuit!

Copyright 2017 by Peggy Clark

What descriptive words have you discovered lately?

Have you begun your own word lists?

What have you found to be your best tool to utilize when writing?

Four Tips to a Great Book

Craft a great story.

Publish your accomplishment.

Keep me coming back for more.

Who doesn’t love lounging under warm covers with a good book in hand?

Which of you haven’t staved off sleep to finish a page-turner?

What keeps your book in my hands when others are screaming for my attention?

These four tips will drown those other voices and get me to your final page.

  1. Get my attention!

  • Use the active voice.

Even if you begin your story with the setting (where, when) that so many of us were taught in class, use active voice instead of passive voice.

Consider the following:

The sun was setting behind the hills that were around the little town of NoWhere. John and Jill were living in a house at the end of Sober Street. There was a garden beside the house. They also had a small flock of chickens.

So nowhere…and boring…and sober….and are you asleep yet?

Or would this be your preference:

The sun peered above the hills and threw its rays into the town of NoWhere reaching through the half-closed curtains at the end of Sober Street. Inside, John and Jill absorbed the potential consequences of their pillaged garden.

  • Activate your story with action.

A dramatic scene is better than an uneventful one; such as, an evening ride that happens to end in a crash. Startle me with the crash and then give me the details.

Consider the following:

John and Jill decided to go for a ride. They were riding down the highway in their red convertible when they happened upon a white truck.

Or would this be your preference:

Brakes screamed as white meshed with red, each vying to occupy the same spot of pavement.

Television dramas reveal the crime first and then continue through a series of events that lead to the capture of the accused. The action creates the desire to know what happened and why.

NCIS is the number one television drama because of the usage of this method. Its viewers keep coming back for more.

  • Use questions to get attention.

Another method is to use questions to gain attention.

Jesus used this method when relaying His Parable of the Lost Sheep:

“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?” Luke 15:4

If nothing else, make me step into the story long enough to answer the question.

  1. Don’t make me hunt for the topic.

When presented with questions from John the Baptist, Jesus’ response was direct: Go and tell. Notice His response in the following verse:

“Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.” Luke 7:22

John’s disciples were to report to John what they themselves had seen and heard. That is telling the story. Teachers call it “Sticking to the Topic.”

Jesus also used strong nouns and active verbs.

Notice the simple but succinct wording that lets us visualize the action:

The blind see. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised. The gospel is preached.

Tell me your story with strong nouns and verbs that let me use my imagination to see the action. Don’t drag me down with a series of unnecessary and lengthy descriptives that send me to a screeching halt and a closed book.

  1. Keep me interested.

  • Give me a scenario that gets my attention and keeps me reading.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he told a parable that caught their attention.

“There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary.” Luke 18:2-3

  • Use the element of surprise to your advantage.

This parable pitted a ruthless judge against a widow who had no man to intercede for her. Her boldness in coming before the judge intrigued the disciples.

How would this judge respond? Obviously, not as the disciples imagined. The element of surprise caught the disciples off-guard causing them to think carefully about what they had just heard. Please surprise me!

  • Get my attention and keep me hunting for the next clue.

Unravel the threads of the story ever so slowly but at just the right speed to keep me traveling to the next page.

Don’t lose me in wasted words and unnecessary actions that add no value to the story.

  1. Make me satisfied with the ending (but you can make me beg for more!)

Cinderella and the Prince lived happily ever after. (But, what change came over the kingdom?)

The woodsman killed the wolf. (But, did Goldilocks overcome the trauma of her grandmother’s death?)

“And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.” Luke 22:38

It is enough. Say what you need to say, no more, no less. (But, why two swords? One cut off a soldier’s ear; what did the other do?)

I expect Good to win over Evil. I expect Evil to be reprimanded. I expect Good to be rewarded regardless of the troubles that Good encounters.

Shakespeare’s classics stood the test of time because of these expectations woven throughout his stories.

Use these four tips to make yours a classic, and let me enjoy it for years to come.

Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark

Do you have a story waiting to be shared?

Have you used strong nouns and active verbs?

Have you replaced unnecessary and lengthy wording with specific and descriptive wording?

Then now is the time to let someone else preview your writing. Use their analysis to improve your story.

Peggy Clark is the author of So, What's the Latest News? Messages from a Prisoner in Rome published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan.

Visual Charts in the Classroom: Two Important Reasons

Visual Charts Help with Presentation of New Material

 Story webs and other types of charts make difficult tasks easier for students.

Story webs and other graphic charts make difficult tasks easier.

Two Important Reasons

Use of visual charts will greatly assist you as you present new material or review concepts already presented to children in your classroom.

Using a visual chart such as the one pictured above can help children in two very important ways.

First, visual charts break major tasks into manageable parts.

Children can become overwhelmed when given new and unfamiliar assignments, especially if they are writing assignments:

  • Paragraphs
  • Essays
  • Book reports
  • Research papers
  • Stories

These and other tasks can be simplified by utilizing charts, spider webs, timelines, Venn diagrams, and other visuals.

The chart shown above is an example of a story web. The chart could be used to teach in other subject areas. However, for our purposes we will use the information on the story web to see how a difficult writing assignment can become quite simple when the task is broken into manageable parts.

Notice that the chart displays the topic as the main part or central focus point of the visual. The topic is what the paragraph, report, or story is about.

TIP:   The graphic could be utilized to focus only on the subject matter, i.e. trees, until the subject matter is sufficiently narrowed down into a suitable topic that is manageable for the child, i.e. oak trees.

The smaller circles on the above chart show the parts that would be used to relate a story.

A simplified way for young children to write a story is to focus on the separate parts individually. Also, when writing a research report, it is beneficial for older students to focus on individual parts also.

The topic has been broken into five parts. As a teacher you may reduce these parts to four, leaving out the ‘why’. You may also wish to insert more parts. Adjust the chart according to the material and children’s ability.

Children should use one sheet of paper or notecard for each part. If you are teaching very young children, focus on teaching one part per day.

Ask questions that will help children ‘brainstorm’ about their character or event. The following are just a few sample questions. Adjust the questions according to the topic.

  • Who is this character, a person, an animal, an object, an event? What are they like? Describe them for me.
  • Where does this person live? Where did this event or series of events take place?
  • What is the character doing? What happened that is making the character happy or sad? What event or action is taking place?
  • When did this happen? How old are the people involved? Did this happen in the past? Is it happening right now? What major world or local events are happening around the main character or other characters in the story that may be influencing them?
  • Why did the characters act the way they did? Why did the car crash? Why did the building fall down? Why was the main character sad or happy or puzzled? Why did they have to go to town, to war, to the West?

TIP:   After these parts have been completed, have the children cut and paste the parts together onto a fresh sheet of paper.

The parts may have to be adjusted as the children put their individual parts together into story form. That will come as they learn to edit their new achievement.

Expect this part of the process to yield a very rough draft. However, it will help the children begin to write their stories on fresh paper using the information they have accumulated greatly reducing their frustration.

Second, visual charts help children stay focused on the task at hand.  

The graphic nature of charts draws children’s attention to the most important aspects of the writing process. It also allows children to know what parts of the process have been accomplished and what has not.

Whether using a spider web to show relationships or timelines to show a sequence of events, visuals are great assistants when it comes to presenting new material.

Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark

What types of visuals do you use in your classroom?
How have these visuals helped you with your presentations?
Can you relate a teaching experience using visuals that may help others in their teaching endeavors? If so, please share in the comment box at bottom of page.
Peggy Clark is the author of So, What's the Latest News? Messages from a Prisoner in Rome published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan. More of her writing can be found at


Detective Work an Author Can Appreciate

Think Like a Detective to Improve Upon Your Writing

Writing a good story is like being a good detective.

Any piece of writing can be appreciated if it is well-crafted. Readers love a good novel and will eagerly anticipate an ongoing series if they fall in love with the characters and plot.

Authors may follow generally accepted writing processes that help them finish their stories with flair.

However, any story can be greatly improved if one takes the mindset of a detective during the editing process.

Check details carefully.
Check details carefully.

Observe details.

To be a good detective, one must be a good observer of details including behavior of characters, crime scene evidence, time of day or year, etc.

To be effective, an author must also carefully observe the details of his or her writing with intense scrutiny. It is the little details that can increase readers’ interest, but it is also the little details that can bring confusion and reader dissatisfaction.

To avoid disappointment, therefore, an author must edit his work with great attention to the details concerning all areas of the writing process.

As a detective walks through the scene under investigation, the detective takes an overall view of what has taken place.

Obviously, a crime has happened. But what exactly was the crime? How did it happen? Who did it? What was the motive that would cause such an event to take place?

Pay close attention to the chain of events.

The detective then takes a second look and makes a hypothesis as to what happened. He (or she) may have several hypotheses at this point.

However, the hypotheses must fit his observation.

Did the suspect enter the room through the door or window? If the window was broken then the assumption may be made that the suspect came through the window. If no windows were broken and every window was locked, then any hypotheses that began with an entrance through a window would be discarded until and unless further evidence was uncovered which would lead to a different conclusion.

Broken glass photo
Evidence of broken glass

An author must also step through his or her story reviewing the events that occurred.  Are the events in order?

A careful overview may reveal that some parts are out-of-place.

Did a character named John have a conversation with another character, Jill, at the beginning of the story and then suddenly in chapter five be newly introduced (again) to Jill?

Did a character named Joe die in chapter 3 and have a car wreck in chapter 4?

The above examples may seem silly, but they do happen. It is easy to overlook a seemingly insignificant character’s appearance in one’s writing, especially when one is writing a lengthy novel.

Is the sequence correct?
Is the sequence correct?

Is anything missing?

What is lacking that is necessary to the story?

After the hypotheses have been formulated, the detective carefully looks back over the scene making note of things that are missing.

What should be there but isn’t? What is making the scene being observed incomplete?

Is there a blank space on the wall with evidence that a picture once hung there? Are there speakers but no stereo? Is there an open safe?

Empty picture hanger
What’s missing?

An author must also look for any writing that is out of context. Are the characters believable? Is the setting appropriate? Are clues missing that are needed to solve the mystery?

All clues or inciting moments should lead up to the conclusion.

Remove unrelated material.

Finally, the detective must disregard any details that have nothing to do with the crime.

Food in the refrigerator would have nothing to do with a broken window unless food was taken from the refrigerator. An untouched bedroom would be inconsequential to a crime scene located in the living room except to say no one had entered from that location.

An author must also delete those unnecessary details that are not related to the story line and only succeed in slowing down readers who are in a quest to reach the next heart-stopping moment in a series of events.

Those types of unnecessary additions are hard for authors to discover. That is when the detective and the author must bring in another set of eyes to view the evidence.

Hire an editor to proof read your work.

Enlist someone else to preview the material before closing the case or might I say, book.

Will the assistant detective come to the same conclusions as the main detective?

Can the author’s assistant visualize the story line just as the author did?

Were the assistants confused at any point as they followed through the chain of events from start to finish?

Did either get bogged down in a specific area of their search?

Even if the assistant detective is surprised at the final outcome of the investigation, does the assistant feel satisfied with the conclusion?

The assistant to the author may also be delightfully surprised as the assistant concludes his or her investigation into the writings of the author, but is the assistant satisfied with the final product?

Get others to review your writing.
Get others to review your writing.

Yes, writing can be greatly improved when the detective’s cap is put on and errors are discovered and corrected before reaching the hands of readers.

Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark

Feel free to comment if this post has been beneficial to you. I enjoy hearing your input.
Peggy Clark is the author of So, What's the Latest News? Messages from a Prisoner in Rome, a reader-friendly study of Colossians available from WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan.



The ‘Voice’ of Storytelling

Storytelling is an art form of old. Everyone loves to hear a good story. But what is it that makes us want to hear it? Is it the storyteller or the story itself?

Both the expressive language of the storyteller and the intrigue of the story itself draw the attention of those who stop to listen.

But how many people will pick up a written story and read it? What keeps people’s attention to the end?

The voice of the storyteller is heard, but not the storywriter, or is it?

Oral storytelling is different than the storywriter’s written narrative. Yet, there are similarities.

  • Every story has a beginning, middle, and end.

It is complete. In other words, it does not leave one wondering what the story was about.

  • There is a particular character or main event upon which the story is based.

This does not mean that a good story is limited to one character. There may be many characters, yet there is one character upon which the story is focused.

  • And there is also a climax, a point at which the story culminates.

Public Domain Images- Old Books Vintage Brown Red
Public Domain Archives Photo

A story usually begins in one of three ways:  1) setting, a description of the place where the action takes place; 2) description of a character in the story; or 3) dialogue between characters.

The oral storyteller and the story writer must pick up the action (begin the story) at the right place. The details of any previous events that are necessary to the story are woven into the telling of present events.

The story then continues with a sequence of actions or events which hold the listener or reader’s attention.

These actions or events are determined by the main character of the story.  Who is this person? What attributes do they possess? What motive compels them to do what they do?

The good storyteller does not give us this information in lengthy detail. Instead, the character does it by what he or she does or says in the story. This sequence of actions drives the story to the climatic end or the culminating event.

A good storyteller uses only as many words as necessary.

An oral storyteller can use voice to emphasize certain actions. However, the story writer must be careful to use specific concrete words.

Those words must be vivid and accurate and must appeal to the imagination.

The reader should be able to see and feel the action without being frustrated with wordy details. Remember, what the character says and does gives explanation without explaining it.

Therefore, the storywriter must be familiar with a vast array of vocabulary words and regional dialects. This is how the ‘voice’ of the storywriter is heard.

Both the storyteller and the storywriter must know when to stop.

What is the ending or final solution? When is the reader satisfied? However, the storywriter may give a few additional details after the climax.

The ‘voice’ of the storyteller whether oral or in written narrative form is an art that takes much practice and should be appreciated by those who enjoy a good story.

That voice is heard through the choice of words and the way the story is presented.

Whether orally through tone of voice, bodily expressions, and dialect, or written through vocabulary usage, presentation of facts, and focus on sequence of events, a good storyteller is one who can “spin a tale” (tell a story) that everyone wants to hear.

Do you have a storyteller in your family?
What stories do you remember from your childhood?
What made you want to hear them over and over?
Do you tell stories from your childhood to your children?
What type of stories do you like best?





Blogged Books: Bloggers’ Words in Book-form

The challenge has gone out through various media channels to publish a blogged book.

Advertisers encourage this with hopes that bloggers will use their services for publishing purposes. As a blogger, you are instructed to use material taken directly from ongoing articles written by you on your hopefully now popular blog site. Thus the name blogged book.

This type of blogged book, however, is usually not successful unless it is one of nonfiction. To be successful such books would most likely include how-to articles, recipe collections, or interviews with famous people.

The writing, publishing, and marketing of books is a laborious process.

The writing, publishing, and marketing of books is a laborious and time-consuming process. It is also an expensive one, that is, if it is done properly.

Authors and bloggers will tell you that it takes many hours to create, maintain, and promote their websites and blogs in addition to the writing of any books or novels. Many bloggers sell various online courses in addition to other avenues of revenue in hopes of trying to make an honest living.

Publishing a blogged book may be a way to sell your writing successfully if you are a blogger, but it is not why authors write.

Authors spend countless hours pouring over their words, writing, rewriting, editing, rewriting, editing, etc. with little to no reward for their labors.  Countless novels lie unpublished on shelves waiting to be dusted off and published. Books remain in cardboard boxes waiting to be handled by someone who appreciates the thoughts inside.

So why do authors write?

Authors write because they must. It is their desire to share their gift of words.

It is an inward desire that consumes an author’s thoughts day by day. Words rush forward, then disappear into thin air unless they are taken captive by pen and paper. It is a task they dutifully must do.

Authors are a creative lot that build futures, travel to faraway places, discover uncovered treasures, and make romantic imaginations come alive — all within the pages of a book.

Authors create places where anything can happen. Good conquers evil. The crook always gets caught. The hero wins the day. The couple lives happily ever after.

Authors inspire, encourage, direct, show, rebuke, instruct, evoke, visualize, entertain. The list goes on and on.

But blogged books are mainly for bloggers to publish, not authors.

Blogging is a different type of writing with different purposes than for a novel or a book.  As an author, you must decide your style of writing and your projected audience.

Are you a blogger or an author or both?

Should you publish a blogged book?

Maybe, but understand your motives before doing so.

There are many questions to ask oneself before going through the arduous task of editing a myriad of self-published articles from your website and blog.

Will it matter if it is not successful financially? Does it fulfill a purpose for a niche market? Is the sole intention for sharing with friends? How much editing time are you willing to invest?

Authors and bloggers may both decide to publish a blogged book because they both desire to share their gift of words.

If you are a receiver of the gift of an author’s words, may you receive that gift with a greater awareness of the time and effort expended by the author and/or the author-blogger.

Do you remember your first book? What was it that made it so memorable?

Who is your favorite author? Have you ever written an encouraging note to them?

Have you ever desired to write a book? If so, have you begun your journey as an author?

What website’s articles, if any, would you like to see in the form of a blogged book?


Peggy Clark is the author of So, What's the Latest News? Messages from a Prisoner in Rome, a Bible study/commentary on The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Colossians. Available from WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan.