Retiring the Blog

Hello all! I’m in the process of launching a new web site. With the birth of that site comes the retirement of this one. If you’d like to follow me online you can find me in three places: (1) The Jot Writers’ Conference web site; (2) Twitter as @ALRStories; and (3)

Thanks for following this blog. It was a good run. The new site will likely have a URL based on my name (for Google search purposes) and cover much the same ground as this blog: writing, publishing, and all the stories along the way.

Write strong!



Short reviews of three picture books I’ve read recently

For me, one of the great joys of fatherhood is reading with my son. Here’s what we’ve been reading lately.

King Arthur's Very Great GrandsonKing Arthur’s Very Great Grandson – written and illustrated by Kenneth Kraegel

This is a beautifully illustrated adventure story. I’ve read the book multiple times with my six year old, which he loved, because the main character turns six right at the beginning of the story.

I enjoyed how this book introduced my son to mythical creatures (a fire-breathing dragon, a cyclops, and others) in a fun and non-frightening way. These beings populate many of the books he’ll read as he gets older (The Chronicles of Narnia, The Harry Potter series, and a thousand others) so I was glad that his first exposure to them was endearing.

This book is ultimately about the value of friendship. Pair this message with the sweeping, colorful horizons that fill every page and you’ve got a winner. But perhaps the highest compliment I can give this book is that after the first reading my son immediately said, “Can we read that again?”

Recommended to anyone who reads picture books to their children. The story is powerful and the art work is stunning.

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Paul Kent

Book review: THE REAL FORCE by Paul Kent

I really enjoyed this little book! It’s a fun and approachable guide to reading the Bible for 40 days.

Like many others, Star Wars was the movie of choice for me and my siblings when we were kids. In many ways I feel some amount of ownership (if that makes any sense) with the original trilogy because its dialog, toys, and characters were such a major part of my growing up years.

Paul Kent (full disclosure: he’s a friend of mine) must feel that same ownership because he treated the Star Wars canon with respect and obvious admiration. I found his points about truth — originating in the Bible, but illustrated in Star Wars stories — convincing and inspiring. I also think he did a good job of not overstating his case. There are no claims that Star Wars is a “Christian movie” or anything like that (see the introduction). Rather, there are observations that the truth of God — creation, sin, love and redemption — can be found illustrated in all kinds of places, even galaxies far, far away.

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A new arrangement for writing accountability

Does anyone hold you accountable to write? Do you meet with someone weekly or monthly with the expectation of sharing a new piece of writing?

I’ve been in and out of different writing accountability arrangements since I started writing in 2008. Most of the time I’m not participating in any sort of program. I am in a writers group, but our group meetings are loosely organized. The group seems to function well as a group of mutually encouraging friends, rather than as a critique or accountability group.

However, until the end of the year (and perhaps longer) I agreed to help a friend stay on top of his writing with the following arrangement:

-During the week we each keep a record of what we’ve written (no matter how small) and other writing-related things (like making submissions, or updating our blogs).

– On Friday nights we email each other our lists.

That’s it. It’s nice and simple. So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how this quiet little agreement has inspired me to write more. I’ve been in a season of good production lately. Now that someone is expecting to see a record of my writing each week I anticipate getting even more good work done (at least that’s the hope).

The journal pictured here is what I’m keeping my record in. Cool, eh?

How to Speak Australian

Do you remember the Foster’s Beer ad campaign? I recently had my own lesson in how to speak Australian. During my recent trip to Singapore I roomed for four nights with a colleague from our Australian office. We became fast friends and enjoyed staying up late, swapping stories and laughing at cultural differences we encountered between Australians and Singaporeans, Americans and Singaporeans, and Australians and Americans. He didn’t know it at the time, but I was secretly recording into my phone the uniquely Australian phrases he used. I had to fight the urge to laugh when he said these things, not because I think they’re stupid in any way, but just because language is a funny thing. Every cultural has its own colloquialisms and euphemisms. Every cultural creates its own word pictures based on its history and context. This is one of the many things I love about English and why I’ll probably never tire of studying it.

So here you go. A mini lesson in how to speak Australian.

“That’s a bit claggy.” Translation: That’s backwoods. Or that’s hick or hillbilly.

“We gave it the flick.” Meaning, we got rid of it. As in, “Our office tried out that software too, but it kept crashing so we gave the flick.”

“Everyone’ll put their two bobs in, ya know?” Reminiscent of the American euphemism, “that’s just my two cents.”

“They go out for lunch and then kick on for drinks.” I just love this usage of “kick on.” I think I’ll start using this phrase here in Michigan and just see what people say.

“Andy, you’re dragging the chain!” Meaning, “stop walking so slow!”

“Are you as bright as a button this morning?”

“A big daggy.” I can’t remember what this one meant or how it’s different from claggy, but it made me chuckle.

Thoughts on the Sixth Jot Writers Conference

The sixth Jot Writers Conference has come and gone. It turned out to be another great event. Just over 30 writers filled the presentation space at Lowry’s Books and More. I met loads of new writers and enjoyed hearing about their different projects.

This was our first event at Lowry’s, which turned out to be a solid venue for writing-related events. It’s a sprawling used book store, (You could spend hours there. Trust me.) and the event space is part of their in-store cafe, which smelled of cupcakes. Used books and cupcakes. What’s not to love?

To make an already  fun night even better, the owner, Tom, sprung for free pizza and soda — for the whole conference. One of the goals of every Jot Conference is to get writers to meet each other. Most writers are typically shy and introverted, so it’s not always easy to make sure everyone has met someone new. But nothing gets people to loosen up and mingle a little bit like free pizza. (Okay, perhaps free drinks would do the same, but you get my point.)

My favorite part of the evening was an interview I conducted with Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma, one-time editor of Catapult Magazine, and editor of the new journal, Topology Magazine. Kirstin is one of the first editors who published something I had written (see the links to Catapult in the writing tab above). I’m grateful that she, her husband Rob, and the rest of the Catapult crew took a shot with me back then (circa ’08 and ’09). Every publication is an honor, but there’s something about the first couple that are especially meaningful. It was a thrill for me to interview her at a Jot Conference and express my gratitude.

One of these days we’re going to ask someone with an eye for photography to come to a Jot Conference and snap some photos. Until then we have my iPhone pics. The first is of Josh Mosey, who talked about character development through the lens of Norse mythology.

JOT VI_Mosey

Bob Evenhouse gave a talk on the basics of blogging. There were a good number of writers in attendance with questions about blogging, so I was glad we had this topic covered.

JOT VI_Evenhouse

Thomas McClurg spoke on self-editing, and more specifically, being willing to make cuts to your writing which empower readers’ imaginations to run wild. As is typical for Thomas, his presentation was thoughtful with a touch of understated humor. (I was in the back during his presentation, so, this image is the poorest of the three. We really, really, really need to get a real photographer to a Jot Conference some day…)

JOT VI_McClurg

(I didn’t get any pics of Matt Landrum presenting or of the interview with Kirstin, unfortunately.)

The next Jot will be held in Grand Rapids. We’re planning on holding it in March, though the where, the when, and the who are not set in stone yet. I’ll blog about it as things are finalized in the next few months. Hope to see you there!


Posts about previous Jot Conferences:

Reflections of the Fourth Jot Conference

Jot Writers Conference: The iPhone Pics Report (first conference)

Some Thoughts on Jot: the GR Writers Mini-Conference (first conference)

The songs of summer

I go through different seasons with the music I listen to. Sometimes the seasons are thematic, or emotional, or genre-specific, or even driven by a certain song writer. Are you the same way?

This summer was a season in which my family listened to a lot of upbeat, happy music while we were at home together. Certain circumstances necessitated many nights with loud songs and ridiculous dancing. Among all the songs we danced to this summer, four were in constant rotation. I just couldn’t get them out of my head. Here are those songs.

A cover.

A classic.

A new favorite.

And of course . . .

This was a memorable summer for my family. I will probably always connect these songs, at least in part, with the summer of 2015.

What about you? What have you been listening to?