Quote of the Week // 51st Week

Quote of the Week - 51st Week Simply Megan Joy Blog.png

Luke, the author of the third gospel in the Bible and one of the twelve disciples, is well known for recording the birth of Jesus, which can be found in Luke 2:1-20. Originally a physician, Luke researched and gathered Jesus’ past history and reported it in his book, which was later selected to be part of our Bibles today. It is said that Luke died at age 84, supposedly of being killed for his religious beliefs. Over 2,000 years later we can read his works of Jesus’ birth.

In the passage above, an angel is speaking to a group of shepherds in a field in Bethlehem, around 4 A. D. Here are those two verses in context:

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” Luke 2:1-20, King James Version

Did you happened to notice that between those twenty verses, fourteen of them involved the shepherds? Do you find it strange that the angels appeared in a field to tell a group of lowly sheep keepers of the King of the Universe’s birth? If this baby is so important, why didn’t the angels appear before the governors and priests of the town, or the richest of residents so they could see this baby? Why did God choose poor shepherds?

Shepherds of that day were considered the lower class of the city. They spent all their time out in fields, no matter what the weather or time of day. (Fun fact: each night before a shepherd would doze off each night in the fields, he would count his sheep to make sure they were all together, which is possibly where we get the idea that counting sheep will help us go to sleep!)

Shepherds certainly weren’t the most accepted group in Bethlehem, but to God, the shepherds were the prefect people to tell about Jesus’ birth! It shows us that clearly God loved the shepherds just as much as the priests, governors, and scribes. God didn’t choose from the top of the wealth list, but from the list of those who were less fortunate, those who were looked down upon, and those who knew how to spread the word! Verse 18 says that the shepherds went about to declare Christ’s birth, and that their listeners were curious of the news. I doubt that a governor would go about the streets at night telling news of this baby born in a stable!

It was God’s plan for the angels to appear to the shepherds. Their wealth, social status, and class didn’t matter. God doesn’t look at those things when He chooses people for important tasks or jobs. Instead He looks at the heart. So we must be well prepared and ready for any task that we are given, whether it be traveling to see a newborn king (which is sort of unlikely nowadays), telling a friend about the birth of Christ, or even just simply smiling at a grumpy person you happen to cross paths with. Whether you’re a shepherd or a governor, you never know what God will ask you to do, so be ready and willing for anything, because I know that He has something very special in store for you!

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Do you have any other thoughts of why God choose the shepherds to see Jesus?

Did you know that counting sheep may have come from the Bible?

Are you ready and willing for anything God has in store for you?

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Megan Joy

Quote of the Week // 50th Week

Quote of the Week - 50th Week Simply Megan Joy Blog

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was the renowned British author of Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abby, and more, all of which have been adapted into numerous films or tv series’. Austen died at age 41 of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Only after her death did her literary works become popular.

It is a sad thought, but true. After years of constant life, it may seem as though we are quickly skidding across time doing many little and frivolous things of no great importance. Yes, there are moments and events that break up this feeling of continuous life and trivial tasks, but the succession of “busy nothings” we execute daily can pull us into a gloomy lull, and I think that this happens to everyone, whether we realize it or not.

My suggestion is; go back to the basics. Focus on what matters. This day, this moment. Pick the top ten things that matter to you, and stick by them. Make a list of things that matter, and another list of things that don’t, things that you could let go of for now to get back on track.

Let not our days be filled with little nothings and useless tasks, but be helpful, useful, and productive. Let’s get back to the simple basics and keep close the things that matter.

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Do you like Austen books or movies better?

Do you find that life has turned into a succession of busy nothings?

Do you plan to go back to the basics?

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Megan Joy

Quote of the Week // 43rd Week

Quote of the Week - 43rd Week Simply Megan Joy Blog.png

Beverly Cleary, born in 1916, has composed nearly fifty fiction books for children and young adults. Though most commonly known for her “Ramona” series, she has written two other crowd favorites, “Henry Higgins” and “The Mouse and the Motorcycle.” During her long life, Cleary was given The National Book Award, The Newbery Medal, and The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. Today, at age 101, she has retired from writing, though she still hasn’t lost her good humor. During an interview for her 100th birthday, she was asked if she was excited about her age, to which she replied, “Well, I didn’t do it on purpose!”

After Clearly learned to read in the second grade, she found that she wasn’t interested in many of the books she found at the library. She thought of them as boring and drab. She wanted to read something with character and spunk! Forty years later, she published her first book, one that checked every box of what she would have wanted to read back in grade school. She was determined to write something that would change the options children had when choosing a book to read, and she succeeded!

To every writer; one of the reasons we write is because we want to tell a story, not just any old story, but a different story. We write the books that we want to read, something that is unique, special, and inspiring! Like Beverly says, if you don’t find the story you’re looking for, write it.

This doesn’t just apply to writers. It’s good advice for every musician, filmmaker, artist, and designer. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, create that thing, enjoy it, and share it with others. Sing a new song, shoot a new movie, paint a new picture, or design a new room. We shouldn’t be bound by what others have already created! Make something new yourself, and use it for good. If you can dream it up, you can create it!

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Do you write fiction books?

Have you ever realized that you write the books you want to read?

What is your favorite Beverly Cleary book?

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Megan Joy

Five Writing Misconceptions

Five Writing Misconceptions

Being a writer, I’ve gone to seminars and conferences, read countless writing books and articles, and was given advice by real authors on how to make my books the best that they could be. I, at one time or another, believed what I was told, and altered some of my work to fit with “the right” criteria. That was a mistake. Here’s a list of five writing misconceptions that I was told to believe.

 1. “You must begin your book with an exciting scene.”

I was once told that my book had to begin when everything is changing for my main character: “when their world is turned upside-down” so you can grab your reader’s attention. I found a few things wrong with this advice, the first being, if we all started our books the same way, they wouldn’t be special or unique. It would be pretty boring to read the same kind of introduction in every book you open, wouldn’t it? The second problem I saw was, if we began our story when the character’s world is turned upside down, how would we know what is normal for them? Without any background story on our character, how could we distinguish oddities from their ordinary life? We wouldn’t know their everyday standards. The reader must connect with the character before he or she can care or worry about what is going to happen to that main character. Creating a subtle backstory first can help the reader to recognize abnormal happenings from ordinary ones. Beginning your book with a calm opening about the character’s everyday life is absolutely fine; there are so many famous classics that begin with a simple scene, like Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, and Sense and Sensibility. These authors didn’t follow the rule of the “dramatic opening scene” yet they have all have become enormously popular, selling a few million copies of their book!

2. Your book should contain 70% dialog.

A published author once told me that I didn’t have enough dialog in my books. I went on to learn that publishers sometimes determine your book’s success by the amount of white space on each page. Having a full page of dialog will provide more blank spaces than a full page of narrative, therefore, I was told that more “talking” is always best. So I decided to test out this theory and wrote a short book mainly full of dialog. It was choppy and not well explained, might I say. I couldn’t elaborate on descriptions or explain the surroundings without having someone speak it aloud. This idea of “lots of dialog” is a modern concept, so I can see how it would work for books taking place in the modern world, but if you enjoy writing historical fiction like I do, then this “all dialog” theory probably won’t work. It’s just not realistic.

3. Tell your reader instead of showing.

I’ve heard this one a few times. Some say that a writer should tell the reader about something, not show them, to keep the pace moving. I however, disagree. I find it much more interesting if I am actually shown something and not just told about it. The difference can have a lasting impact on the reader. Here is an example I made up:

Telling Version: “The boy told his dog to stay. The dog stayed.”

Showing Version: “He held out his thin little hand like a fireman stopping traffic as he slowly backed away from his fur-matted friend. Oh, how those four dirty paws wanted to bound across the space between them and gift the boy with a thousand slobbery kisses, but being the keen and obedient dog that he was, he planted his feet in the dewy grass and vowed to keep as motionless as the statue he had seen in the park.”

Both versions were each made up of only two sentences, telling the same story, yet they are both extremely different. Which one provided the most information? Which one would you be more likely to continue reading if it were the opening of a book? Which one do you find more interesting? Probably, the second one is the answer to all of these questions. The second version let us know that: the boys was small, the dog was scrawny, the dog loved the boy, the dog was obedient, it happened in the morning (dewy grass), and they take walks in the park together. The first version didn’t tell us any of that!

4. End each chapter with a cliffhanger.

Many say that to keep your readers flipping pages, you must create a cliffhanger at places where the reader is most likely to put the book down, like at the end of a chapter. I find that this strategy just isn’t realistic. Yes, cliffhangers are exciting and can add a bunch to your book, but one in every chapter is a bit excessive. Besides, if you have to bait your readers with a constant strand of dangerous and uncertain situations to stay seated and continue reading, it may not be a very interesting book in the first place.

5. Reading will make you a better writer.

Now, parts of this phrase are true. Reading other books can definitely help you with writing your own book. But when people give this advice, they forget to mention that it depends on what you read! If you read a lot of terrible books over time, you may find that you morph into having those same writing habits and write terribly! While at the same time, if you read many great books full of beautiful words and brilliant plots, your writing is more likely to improve. It is like that saying, “You are what you eat.” Instead it’s, “You are what you read.” If you want to write inspiring things, read inspiring things!

Bonus misconception: The publisher is always right. 

This is quite far from the truth! Many people I’ve met dream of the day when their book is accepted for publication. When they get turned down, they revise their work to fit the publisher’s standards. Then if their book is accepted they allow the editors to change whatever they see fit, slap a generic unenticing cover on it, and ship it out. Sadly, this happens a lot and many just accept it because they want their book published. But the publisher is not always right and you shouldn’t have to be forced to alter your hard work to please someone in order to get published. You don’t have to submit to what publishers say, because they’re not always right!

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Do you like to write fiction?

Were you ever told to believe one of these misconceptions?

Do you have any other writing myths or misconceptions to share?

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Megan Joy