Friday, December 30, 2011

Share the Gift: A Movement?

When I launched my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway in August, I dreamed it would spark a movement that would encourage others to share their gifts, to pass along their blessings in order to make the world a better place. Winner Sandra Marchetto is helping to make that dream come true.

Sandra received a Kindle 3G for winning my contest on December 16, 2011.

According to Share the Gift guidelines, she also chose a second Kindle 3G recipient--her son Willie, a college student who will now be able to download textbooks whenever he chooses, thanks to Kindle 3G capabilities.

But Sandra's generosity does not stop there. Prior to receiving her new Kindle 3G, Sandra owned a Kindle equipped for WiFi only. She plans to share her love for books by passing that Kindle on to a third recipient.

And that's not all. Now that Sandra's book collection is shifting to e-books, she has "boxes and boxes" of paperbacks to share. While she will keep the hard copy titles she holds most dear, she is donating the rest in manageable allotments to local residential centers and nursing homes. "They are loving it," she reports.

Sandra's desire to share the gift of reading began long before my contest, long before my novel Delivery was published, even long before Kindles existed.

When Willie was 18 months old, Sandra quit work to be a stay-at-home mom. At 7 A.M. on their first day at home, he carried a book into the living room and asked her to read to him. "As a child," she recalls, "Willie would sit for as long as someone would read to him. Most young children will only sit for a few pages, but he would go back for book after book." Sandra, a busy mom, took the time to read those stories to her son.

Sandra is a firm believer that the earlier children start reading, the more likely it is that they will develop a love for it. Her experience lends proof. At age 2 1/2, Willie loved books so much that he even read to his puppy Ginger while "sitting on his backup book . . . to make sure he had plenty of material to keep her interested."

Willie enjoys reading because Sandra shared a gift--her own love for books.

Now it's YOUR turn. Did a caring adult take time to read to you when you were a child? What role do books play in your life? How might you share your love for reading during the new year and beyond? I'll be looking for your answers in the comment section below.

Friday, December 23, 2011

On This Night

As I anticipate the smiles and squeals of loved ones unwrapping packages that surround our Christmas tree, a basic truth of gift giving comes to mind:

Our joy multiplies exponentially when we share.

So to spread some joy, I'm sharing "On This Night," a song my husband and I wrote to honor a babe lying in a manger. To listen, turn on your audio, click the arrow below, and celebrate the greatest gift of all, the gift God offered to save the world.

Merry Christmas. Share the joy. Christ the Savior is born!

(Photograph by Steve Prusik)

On This Night
(Composed by Steve Prusik, lyrics by Diana Prusik, instrumentals by Steve Prusik, vocals by Larry Gerst and Steve Prusik)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway Winner

Thanks to ALL who participated in this fun giveaway. Over the past 19 weeks, I've enjoyed your Weekend Peek In questions and comments, and I've had a great time getting to know each of you better. You have enriched my life, and I am grateful.

Although the Share the Gift giveaway has officially ended, please drop in each Friday because I have exciting plans for continued blog posts. I also plan to hold more fun giveaways in the future, so stay tuned.

Today's winner will share the gift by choosing a second Kindle 3G recipient. I encourage us all to share our time, our energy, our talents, our material possessions, our JOY to enrich the lives of others. In the generous spirit of Delivery's Mom Robinson, let's make this world a better place.

And now, the moment we've all been waiting for. (Drumroll, please.)

The Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway winner is . . .

Sandra Marchetto!

The winning question Sandra submitted is one I haven't answered on Weekend Peek In:

If tomorrow you had to choose between drawing/painting, photography, and writing, which would you choose and why?

Oh, my, what a challenging question! If I'm ever faced with that choice, I would pick writing because I believe creating stories provides more opportunities for me to touch the lives of others in meaningful ways.

Congratulations to Sandra, and Merry Christmas to all! I'll see you back here next week.

Weekend Peek In #19

Welcome to the final week of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. Thanks to all who have participated. The contest is now closed to new entries. Check back this evening to see who wins a Kindle 3G and chooses a second recipient. YOU might be the lucky one!

Meanwhile, let's turn to this week's reader's question:

What inspires you most when you are writing?

Sometimes, my inspiration comes from simple sensory experiences, like a scent, a sound, a texture. For instance, a summer raindrop soothing my cheek inspired the scene in Delivery in which Jake and Ida let a summer downpour wash away their troubles, at least for that moment.

I also draw inspiration from the creative works of others. Music is a prime example, particularly passion-filled ballads. Much like Wynona Judd sings in "Flies on the Butter," my character Livi in effect can never go home again. Sure, she can return to her childhood residence, but she can never return to the time in her life when her brother Buddy was alive and well. And much like Mark Schultz sings in "Cloud of Witnesses," Livi's witnesses--particularly the Wilson Florist gang--come running in her darker hours to circle around her and offer much needed love and support.

Emotion-charged memories are strong sources of inspiration for me as well. Holding my grandma's hand while the Lord took her home fortified my faith in God and my belief that Heaven is real. That profound experience inspired the nursing home scene in which Livi faces her doubts for a final time. Recollections of my own grief and joy gave birth to Livi's grief and joy.

But of all that kindles my writing, what inspires me most?

Prayer. Connecting with God before my fingers even hit the keyboard helps me focus on writing for His glory. If I didn't write with that purpose as my main objective, I wouldn't want to write at all.

Now its YOUR turn. What inspires you to do what you do, to follow your dreams, to answer your calling? I can't wait to read your answer in the comment section below.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Weekend Peek In #18

Welcome to Week 18 of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. Keep those entries coming. Next week, we'll learn who wins. Will it be YOU?

This week's Weekend Peek In question comes from a faithful entrant who regularly sends daily entries for more chances to win.

Do you have a favorite season?

Assuming we define season as one of four periods of the year--winter, spring, summer, or fall--I am blessed to live in an area that experiences each one. Each season brings its own blessings.

Many people in my area wish to flock southward at the first sign of frost, but experiencing winter without snow and ice would depress me. I love to bundle up on a frigid day, grab my camera, and head outdoors. Once my lens adapts to the cold so it stops fogging up, winter offers spectacular photo opportunities, like this one that I discovered in my holly bush in my own front yard:

Watching the earth come to life in the spring rejuvenates my spirit and offers an explosion of color for photography. I spotted this gorgeous shrub, a flowering quince, on a local street corner during a morning stroll:

Missouri's heat and humidity make summer my least favorite season, unless I am fortunate enough to travel to milder summer climates like the Rocky Mountains or my favorite vacation spot--Door County, Wisconsin. Despite my aversion to sweating, I still force myself outdoors during this time of year, especially after a summer thunderstorm. A soaking shower leaves much beauty behind, like this raindrop on lily grass, which again I found in my own front yard:

By far my favorite season is autumn. Fall foliage, crisp air, bonfires, apple butter, pumpkin bread, the Concord grape harvest, hayrides, and nature hikes--life doesn't get much better, at least in my neck of the woods. Need proof? Take a look at the beauty my husband captured on an autumn hike in Hawn State Park, near Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

If we expand our definition of season, however, to include a period of the year immediately before and after a special holiday, Christmas trumps autumn for me. Celebrating my Savior's birth ranks at the top of my favorite things. I love to shop, wrap gifts, and decorate for the occasion. This year, our family will celebrate Christmas in our new home (new to us, at least), but here's our former living room after Santa's arrival on a recent Christmas Eve:

As Christmas 2011 approaches, take time to remember the reason for the season. Whether or not you win next week's Kindle giveaway, I encourage you to share your gifts--your material possessions, your talents, your spiritual joy--to enrich the lives of others.

What about YOU? What is your favorite season? I'm excited to see your answer in the comment section below.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Weekend Peek In #17

Welcome to week 17 of my Share the Gift Double Kindle 3G Giveaway. Only two weeks left until one person wins a Kindle 3G AND chooses a second person to also receive a Kindle 3G. The winner could be YOU!

This week's reader's question forces me to think about an unfamiliar topic: leisure.

Which of your artistic talents do you find more relaxing?

My favorite creative outlets include writing, photography, floral designing, painting, and drawing. I find each one exciting and fulfilling, but which one brings me the most relaxation?


When my pencil meets paper, I disappear into a world where my thoughts meander, where my tension dissolves, where the demands of my daily life fade away.

When I created the above pencil drawing, for example, I didn't need to worry about defining characters or deepening conflict, as I do when I write fiction like Delivery, or to adjust aperture or ISO settings, as I do when I shoot photography. I didn't need to mix the perfect colors or wash messy brushes, as I do when I paint. I simply grabbed pencils and paper and lost myself in sculpting the image with graphite. Simple ingredients. Simple process.

So if drawing requires the least preparation and the least mental energy of my favorite activities, why do I choose it least often? It seems I prefer the two creative endeavors that bring me the most stress: writing and photography. But it's the best kind of stress--the kind that rejuvenates my spirit. Since exhilaration is more appealing to me than relaxation, and since life is short, weaving words and snapping shutters wins out most often. I'll likely finish writing my next novel before I'll complete another pencil drawing, not because I don't love drawing but because I love writing more. And because there aren't enough hours in the day to do it all!

What about YOU? What activity do you find most relaxing? Do you participate in it often? Why or why not? I'll be looking for your answers in the comment section below.