The Christmas Angels

I am thrilled to announced that my latest Arch Book story is now available from Concordia Publishing House.

christmasangels

I have been an Arch Book fan since I was a little girl. I remember having them read to me at bedtime and receiving them as Christmas and Easter gifts. My favorite was a retelling of the Parable of the Talents, Eight Bags of Gold (now out of print).

Now, as an adult, I welcome the opportunity to give a child the gift of a Christian storybook for less than the cost of some greeting cards. As a Christian, I appreciate that every story is Biblically sound. As an author, I am thrilled to be published and grateful for the opportunity to do the kind of writing I love.

I am often asked how I got into writing Arch Books. One day when I picked Laura up from kindergarten, I took her and Joseph to Hanna’s eighth grade book fair. I mentioned to the kindergarten teacher that I loved Arch Books and had always wanted to write one. She told me that a friend of hers had gotten published after attending a writing workshop. The next day she sent information about the 2002 Writing for the Church Workshop home in Laura’s backback. I signed up right away.

The workshop took place at Concordia Seminary in July. I was fortunate to live just a two-hour drive away, but other participants flew in from all over the country. One of the first things our facilitators, Resolute Rod and Electrifying Earl, asked of us was to introduce ourselves with a descriptive alliterative adjective. Unfortunately, Sassy Cindy took mine before I had a turn. There were only a few participants sitting between us, so I didn’t have much time to come up with a new one. I briefly considered Sweaty Sara, inspired by the sweltering St. Louis summer heat, but settled on Splendid Sara. For someone like me, who is terrible with names, this exercise was wildly successful. I can still remember many of my colleagues’ nicknames: Chortling Charles, Ornery Arlene, Jovial Jonathan, Jazzy Jane, Fun Phil, Candid Karen, Zealous Zeal.

The workshop was intense. Besides refreshers on writing styles, we learned specifics about writing for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Many of the workshops dealt with writing for the devotionals Portals of Prayer and My Devotions and the preschool magazine Happy Times, all publications that were actively recruiting writers. I anxiously awaited a visit from the family editor later in the week and worked on a draft rhyming story about Ruth from the viewpoint of Boaz.

When the family editor finally arrived for her session, she focused mainly on devotionals with just a few comments concerning Arch Books. Arch Books have evolved over the years and now have a consistent 16-page, 64-line format. Every book, even the Old Testament stories, must contain a Gospel message. All stories must be scripturally sound and feature no whimsical characters or talking animals (which explained why Donkey Daniel in Bethlehem is out of print).

I asked more about Arch Books during a personal interview. I learned that CPH publishes just four Arch Books each year – one Old Testament story, one New Testament story, one Christmas and one Easter story. CPH already had a stable of Arch book authors, so unlike the periodicals, they were not recruiting. She enjoyed my draft of Kind Farmer Boaz, but encouraged me to pursue other opportunities.

Disappointed, I spent the rest of the workshop working on a manuscript for Happy Times. By the time the conference ended, Sassy Cindy and I had a joint contract for the next year’s December issue.

But once home, I couldn’t stop thinking about Arch Books. Every time I sat down to try to write something else, “Old Testament, New Testament, Christmas, Easter” kept running through my mind, nearly becoming a mantra. After a while, I recognized it as a nudge from the Holy Spirit and developed four stories. For an Old Testament story I wrote God Said, “It Is Good,” based on the story of creation. A  New Testament story, Which Son Did Right?, was based on the parable of the two sons and the vineyard in Matthew 21:28-32. The Christmas story I wrote was Anna Tells God’s Promise, about Jesus’ presentation at the temple from the point of view of Anna the prophetess. Finally, Mary Magdalene’s Easter Story was based on the account of Mary Magdalene’s visit to the empty tomb in John 20:10-18.

The entire process took about exactly a year after attending the conference. While I did not anticipate publication, I felt a sense of peace, relief and accomplishment when I mailed the packet.

Just a few months later, I had a voice mail from the CPH family editor. Mary Magdalene’s Easter Story had been selected as the Easter Arch Book for 2005! The timing of my submission had been perfect. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was on the best sellers list and CPH had never published an Arch story about Mary Magdalene.

And that is the story of how I became an Arch Book author. Looking back, I can see God working to my benefit in so many ways, and I am truly grateful and humbled.

__________

The Warrior-Poets from the 2002 Writing for the Church Workshop have produced a prodigious number of Arch Books:

Splendid Sara

  • Mary Magdalene’s Easter Story
  • The Ten Plagues
  • When Jesus Was Born
  • The Christmas Angels

Sassy Cindy

  • Star of Wonder
  • The Thankful Leper
  • John’s Easter Story

Jovial Jonathan

  • Get Up Lazarus!
  • Jesus Shows His Glory
  • The Father’s Easter Story
  • The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Joyful Joan

  • The Gardens of Easter
  • O Holy Night!

Satisfied Susan

  • The Lord Calls Samuel

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