Monday, April 27, 2020

A Plea for Help

Christian Publishers Outlet
I received an email from a perfect stranger this weekend. It's a plea for help for our very own local bookstore, Christian Publishers Outlet. And in an odd way, it was really no surprise because building community, connecting perfect strangers, is just what the folks at CPO do.

I'll get right to the point: this quarantine has been quite difficult on the store, after having to unexpectedly close their doors (due to our governor's orders) and keep them closed for weeks. They had just taken the huge leap to open a second location in Jackson, Tennessee, in the fall of last year. And in previous shop-talk with my friend Dave Tanner, the owner of the store, I learned that in order to keep prices low in the store, the margins from each sale are small--small, but just enough to keep his two locations afloat. However, closing the doors means even those sales aren't happening. Sure, they sell a few items online, but the bulk of their sales happens in the stores. 

The reason for this is that Dave's not interested in becoming the next Amazon. The billions would probably be nice, but if you live in this area, you've likely seen a flier for yet another community event taking place at Christian Publishers Outlet. He's having Kids' Days, Bible art classes, author signings--true community-building events that expect nothing in return. 

Well, folks, it's our turn. 

This store needs our support, and there are several things we can do:

1. Buy something now.* There are six excellent titles featured on their website. I just ordered Bob Goff's Live in Grace, Walk in Love and Intentional Faith by (my pastor!) Allen Jackson. It took 2 minutes and $30 (with shipping). They also have curbside pickup, if you want to save the $5 shipping fee. You can call (615-203-3052) or email them ( with orders as well.

2. Buy something later.* They will be re-opening on Wednesday, April 29, at 9 a.m. and will remain open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. If you haven't been, they're in the Target shopping center at 2033 Old Fort Pkwy, Murfreesboro, TN 37129 and in Jackson at 8 Stonebridge Blvd Suite A-C. Go show your support in person and with your dollars.

3. Share this post. If you're watching your pennies, as many of us are, you can still help to spread the word. It costs nothing and can be a great help.

4. Like and share their Facebook page (Murfreesboro). (Click here for Jackson.) This will keep you in the know about any sales on their already super-low prices and their upcoming community events. And sharing it will let your friends in on the savings and fun.

5. Sign up for their mailing list. Scroll to the bottom of the home page on their website, enter your email, and they'll send coupons and updates straight to your inbox.

6. Keep Christian Publishers Outlet in mind in the future. As you're shopping for gifts for graduation, Mother's Day, Father's Day, T-shirts, home decor, music, toys, and books, please remember that Dave's store is right around the corner--and really, truly has unbelievable prices! Dave and his wife live here and shop here. Their son goes to school with mine. They are our family, our community, and it takes little effort to support them first.

7. Say a prayer. Really. God is our provider and "owns the cattle on a thousand hills." He can provide for this store in remarkable ways. But remember, that provision may just come in the form of me and you.

8. All of the above. :) Easy peasy. You've helped to keep a bookstore alive and instilled hope in the world around you.

Thank you so much for whatever you can do to keep this treasure of a store open, afloat, and even thriving. And either way, don't you worry about Dave Tanner and the people at CPO. I'm told by my new email friend, "Dave is as joyful as ever, faith unwavering, and undeterred in his commitment to remain open, even as the crisis has certainly been more widespread and far reaching than any of us had imagined."

And that, my friends, is an example we can all get behind. 

*If you buy any of my books--they carry a bunch of them!--I will come to the store and sign them for you!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

New Release! Night Night, Bunny

Sold? Click here. :)
How do you share the gigantic message of Easter with your preschooler, your toddler, your baby? 

Well first, I think, you engage them. You give them gorgeous colors and adorable animals and sparkly covers (not pictured, but this cover is definitely covered in eye-catching sparkles :).

Next you show them God's gorgeous creation: rainbows and bunnies and frogs and sunrises. 

Then you show that creation bursting forth with the miracle and beauty of new life: baby chicks and butterflies and blooming flowers.

Then you tell them about Jesus and his unbelievable sacrifice because of his never-ending love for us, for them--your preschooler, your toddler, your baby.

You start as early as possible, planting beautiful seeds of God's amazing love for us. And then, sweet parents, we watch God water and warm those seeds until they grow into strong, lasting pillars of faith--that they then will pass on to their preschoolers, their toddlers, their babies.

Mamas, daddies, nanas, aunties, teachersall of you! These are not just board books. These are not just adorable bunnies in pajamas. These are carriers of God's love and hope and never-ending grace that will stick with your little ones for years--for generations, we hope--to come.

So as you consider board books and basket fillers for your little bunnies this year, I sure hope you'll consider Night Night, Bunny. I wrote it just for them. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

God Is Love

Get a copy of God Is Love here. 

Ah, February. This is the month when the world turns red, rose petals flutter from the sky, and I get another excuse to eat Ferrero Rocher in bulk. 

But Americans didn't invent this celebration of love, even as much as we commercialize it. The Romans didn't invent it, even with their good buddy Saint Valentine. Nope, the very first expression of love goes all the way back to when God swirled the galaxies together and set the stars in the skies to sparkle just for you and me. He breathed life into dust and created us, saying, "Yes, yes, this is good."

He loves us. You and me. God is love. 

We get a lot of mixed messages about what love looks like. But there is one love that is unchanging, unconditional, and completely un-quantifiable, and you can find that love in the One who created you, whether you love him--whether you even believe in him--or not.

He loves you.

To try to describe that boundless love in words that little ones--that everyone--can feel and understand, I wrote God Is Love. I described God's love within "the miracle of a kitten's first mew" and "the flight of the ladybug." But more than anything: 

God is the reason we celebrate
Love and all that it is.
We love because he first loved us;
He is ours, and we are his.

So, this February, whether you're celebrating Valentine's, Galentine's, or anything in between, please know that you are loved with a love that is infinitely deep and wide and true. Please know that God is love. And God loves you. 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Where to Buy Christian Books

Choice Books locations in Nashville alone
A lot of people ask, "Where do I find your books?" And ten years ago, the best answer would have been: in a Christian bookstore. But with the closing of most of our major Christian bookstore chains, where does one find Christian books these days? 

The good news is: these books haven't disappeared--not by any stretch. But where you'll find them has. Most of us still like to hold books in our hands when deliberating a purchase, so let's start with brick-and-mortars. 

1. Independent Christian bookstores. Y'all, these are the heroes of this industry. Every year, I sign books at a conference just for independent bookstore owners, and these are the people, if possible, you want to buy Christian books from. They know their products and care deeply about the people they sell them to. Here's a locator for a lot of them (members of the Parable Group). If you don't see one near you here, there may still be one near you that's not part of this organization. So, just search for one in your area (Christian Publishers Outlet is the best here--and in Jackson). Then GO, visit the store as often as possible, and let them know that you still care about what they do. And say it with your $$$ too. 

2. At a spinner rack near you. :) No, seriously. Have you ever heard of Choice Books? Maybe not. But I bet you've seen their spinner racks and shelves--they are at airports and gas stations and everywhere in between. And, AND they have this handy-dandy locator where you can easily find one near you! Even if there's no official bookstore near you, you can still go shop through a curated selection of Christian books. I've met the staff and toured their distribution center, and these people are salt and light and serious about making the best Christian products conveniently accessible to everyone. 

3. The Religion section at your regular bookstores. The Religion section has always been there, but as the Christian bookstore landscape changes, so will the interior of your regular bookstores. Barnes & Noble, for instance, has moved their children's Christian books out of the Children's section and into the large Religion section closer to the front of the store. I have mixed feelings about this. (The children's section is way more fun!) But I'm happy to see them trying new positioning as it relates to my books. When I asked about it, the B&N employee did say that it was a trial. But for now, spend some time browsing the (growing) Religion section at your bookstore chains.

Okay, so most of you know your way around the interwebs, so the general bookstores--Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM!--go without saying.  Here are a few lesser-known avenues in the World Wide Web for buying Christian books. 

1. LifeWay. Yep, they're still here. They're just focusing all of their efforts on their internet storefront. You can still find the same great products--and more--through their internet store.

2. Author websites. Do you have a favorite Christian author? (Ahem.) Seriously, they're all out there, so why not start with them directly? At author websites, you can usually find more background about the products you're already interested in, free resources like their blogs and giveaways, ways to connect with them on socials, and fun things like reader guides and printables. (Ahem. :)

3. Publisher websites. There are lots of Christian publishers out there, and most of them have online storefronts to sell their books directly to you. They sometimes offer great discounts, and some of them even offer review programs where they offer you FREE books in exchange for honest reviews. HarperCollins Christian, Tyndale, and B&H are just a few to get you started. 

4. is definitely worth a mention. Besides having (often) the best prices on Christian books, they offer a vast array of other Christian products like toys, church supplies, music, and lots more. 

I hope that helps to make it easier to find quality Christian products for your family. Wherever you find them, never underestimate the importance of instilling these biblical values in your family. 

As a little added bonus, Brentwood Studios (who serves as my literary agency) is producing a podcast hosted by Mike Nawrocki (Larry the Cucumber!) and yours truly to give you background information and really just honest conversations about biblical resources available for our kids. Listen in at The Bible for Kids (or wherever you listen to podcasts). 

Where else do you find your favorite Christian products?

Monday, September 16, 2019

I Have a Children's Book Idea--Now What?

I get this question A LOT. And I try to answer everyone who asks it. 

Why? Because we neeeeeed quality children's books out there. We need your voice--all of your voices! We are all better readers and better people because of them. 

So in this (somewhat selfish) attempt to answer you all at once, I'm going to tell you what I would do if I were you and had a children's book idea. This is not the only answer. In fact, ten different people will probably give you ten different opinions, so by all means, seek more information and choose the path that works for you. BUT if you feel like this is something you are supposed to be doing, something you are called to do, whatever you do, TAKE. THE. NEXT. STEP. Whatever you determine that step to be, through research and prayer, DO IT. 

Okay? Okay.

1. Write your manuscript. This may seem obvious, I know. But do you know how many ideas I have stuck in my head? Too many. And do you know how many of those will get published without this step? ZERO. Exactly zero. 

So open a Word doc, get out a piece of paper, open a voice recorder, and just put actual words to your idea. Once it's on paper, give it a title, divide it into spreads (if a picture book, think in scenes) or chapters, and just get all of those words out of your brain and into a format that you can see and touch and read out loud. 

Then (and only then), you are a writer. You don't have to get published. You don't have to sell a million copies. If you write, you are a writer. Period.

But, assuming you want to be a published writer, something magical happens when you put words on a page. When you finally release the words out of your mind and onto paper, your brain, using all of the experience you've had with books (see #1 below), starts to see what was once just an idea as a real book. As a result, you'll begin seeing holes in the plot, you'll begin hearing issues with the dialogue, and you'll begin to edit the manuscript in a different way, as if it's a real book (because it is).

2. Write a proposal. For me, this is the hard part. But think of it as a résumé for your book (and you). You will find hundreds of book proposal templates out there, but the main things you need to convey are 1) a summary, 2) a sample (if a picture book, include the entire manuscript), 3) why it will sell, 4) a plan to promote, and 5) who you are. Googling it will give you more info than you would ever want, but this is a pretty good explanation. (Also, see #2 below.)

3. Make an agent wish list. Back in the old days, you snail-mailed a paper proposal directly to the publisher to die a long-suffering death in the slush pile. But these days, submitting directly to the publisher is rare. (Rare exceptions: 1) If you have or make a direct contact with an editor and s/he requests your manuscript, or 2) a publishing house allows unsolicited manuscripts.) 

Enter the literary agent. This makes the process more efficient for everyone. A good agent is familiar with the preferences of publishing houses and has an established working relationship with them. Once it's in their capable hands, your chances for getting published increase exponentially.

But getting it into their hands takes some homework that is not for the faint of heart. You can find a pretty comprehensive list of agents and what types of work they represent in Writer's Market. You can also just do a search, go to each agent/firm's website, and review their submission guidelines.

Through this process, you'll learn so much and get a pretty good idea of which agents may be a good fit for you. Make a list (print out each agent's info, create a spreadsheet, write it on a whiteboard--whatever works best for you) of the agents you would love to work with.

4. Perfect your proposal. I use the word "perfect" with caution; some of us will never, ever send out our proposals because they never, ever will be perfect. Don't let that be you. But you do want your proposal to be the absolute best representation of you and your work that you could ever create. It is your one shot (insert Eminem or Hamilton here, whichever you prefer). Do not let a sloppy proposal stand in your way of success. You've learned a lot since step #1, so now it's time to look back through that proposal and make it the best it can be. Be yourself. Stand out. Show them what an amazing author you're going to be.

5. Submit your proposal. Go back to that list you made in #3. If it's been a while, check to make sure that the submission information is the same. Say a prayer. And start submitting--following their guidelines exactly

6. Buckle up. It is probably going to be a bumpy ride. Statistically speaking, you are probably going to wait a long time, get several robotic rejections and, if you're lucky, some rejections with feedback for improvement. Always, always, always respond to the feedback for improvement with gratitude and a teachable attitude. If you get nothing but rejections, take a break, step back, and when you're ready, start back at #1 with fresh eyes. When in doubt, see #7.

7. Just keep going. If you get published on the first try, awesome. Keep going. If you get 47 flat rejections, awesome. Just keep going. If this is what you were meant to do, JUST. KEEP. GOING.

Important things to do in the meantime: 

1. Read quality children's books. Read them in the library. Read them in bookstores. Read them out loud to kids. Don't read them with an agenda. Just read them and love them, and your brain will work out the ins and outs of why you love them, and those little wonderful methods will show up in your writing. Trust me. Do it.

2. Consider joining a writers' organization. SCBWI is pretty much everywhere, and they offer quality conferences and a wealth of information on their website and newsletter. There is a small annual fee to join, but I think you'll find it's well worth it. 

3. Go to writers' events. See if your library offers a writers' group or seminars. Look for writers' conferences in your area. Attend author visits at universities, bookstores, libraries, or book festivals. Find booky, writerly, authorly things to do, and DO THEM. Listen, take notes, practice, learn.

4. Keep an open mind. We need everyone's story, but everyone's story doesn't have to be in a book. Maybe you're supposed to do live speaking events or just tell it to your next-door neighbor. Maybe you'd make a greater impact as a librarian, or maybe you were meant to teach the next generation of writers. Maybe you'd reach the biggest audience as a blogger or podcaster. Keep an open mind, trust your instincts, and whatever you do, tell your story.

Okay, what did I get wrong? What did I forget? What questions do you still have? Leave it in the comments, and we'll work on it--together.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Children’s Book Scavenger Hunt: Stop #7

Welcome to the Christian Children’s Book Scavenger Hunt! 

If you are just joining us, please begin >>> HERE <<< to collect the clues in order, so you’ll be in the running to win one of three sets of books and a children’s Kindle Fire! The hunt runs from 9/13 at noon Mountain time until 9/15 at midnight Mountain. This contest is open to international entrants.

In this set of books, you'll find Night Night Devotions: 90 Devotions for Bedtime, with hundreds of pages of Virginia Allyn’s gorgeous illustrations and the sweet Night Night sentiments on which this series has been built. Night Night Bible Stories released in March, and in October, Night Night Devotions will release. BUT the winner will receive a signed copy before it even releases!

Pre-order here!

In each of these books, we hope you find the perfect way to send your littles off to sleep, feeling cozy and oh-so loved by the God who made them. Of course, you don’t have to use my books to teach your littles about God or to spend time with Him. If you’re one of those parents who knows the importance of daily time with God, but you’re not sure how to add one more thing into your day, here are:

7 Simple Ways to Spend Time Daily with God

1. Make your Bible a priority. I know the right answer is, “Of course, the Bible is a priority!” But if I rewind to when I had toddlers, there would have been little evidence of it. Over the years, however, I’ve formed a habit of starting my day with my Bible, and it has made all the difference.

2. Listen to Christian music. You can now find rap, reggae, R&B, southern rock, gospel, pop, rock, and metal—all sung by Christian artists. There are silly songs and straight Scripture set to wonderful melodies. And when you’re stuck in a situation that needs a little wisdom or a ray of light, you’ll be surprised by how often those lyrics will stream through your head (or your kiddo’s head!)—at precisely the right time.

3. Make prayer a habit. Meals and bedtime. Check. But are there other opportunities to make prayer a habit? For instance, we’ve started praying every morning on the way to school. It’s only three or four sentences, but it places the school day in God’s hands and sets our eyes on things above right from the get-go.

4. Have a mealtime devo. Whether you read from a devotional at the dining room table or a Bible verse on your phone at the ballpark, use this time with a captive audience to infuse Scripture into your family’s day. Jesus used mealtime as an opportunity to share and process biblical truths—we can too!

5. Pray over your home. When I worked at our church bookstore, I regularly saw my pastor’s mom walk through mumbling. She wasn’t lost—she was praying over our entire church! When it’s naptime or the kids are at school, walk through and pray over each room of your home. It will make a difference that everyone can feel!

6. Enjoy nature. Observe the design of a butterfly’s wing. Look for shapes in the clouds. Take all the photos of rainbows and sunsets. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” When you walk outside, you can marvel in worship without ever saying a word.

7. Be thankful. I know: it’s not always easy. But when we model this for our kids (“Thank You, God, for the money to fix this flat tire!”), we are equipping them with a powerful weapon against the doldrums of this world, a weapon of light that could quite literally save their lives.

Listen, I know your days are jam-packed with lessons and appointments and meals and laundry. But I have seen for myself how these simple little habits can transform lives. I have (shockingly) found myself quoting Scripture rather than nagging. I have felt overwhelming hope at the end of a draining day. And most importantly, I have seen the faith of my own family grow. Is there anything more worthwhile than that?

For a chance to win a BUNCH of resources to help your family spend time with God, HERE'S YOUR SCAVENGER HUNT CLUE: spell 

NEXT STOP: Head over to Pam Halter’s site to read her post and collect the next clue in the hunt!

As an added BONUS, anyone who comments on this post will be entered to win a copy of Night Night Bible Stories to go with your copy of Night Night Devotions that you ARE GOING TO WIN! Right? Right. Comment below and HAVE FUN! 
UPDATE: Sarah Taylor, you are the winner! Email your mailing address! 

Friday, May 19, 2017

LOOOOK! Personalized Plans!

Add YOUR child's name and photo to The Plans I Have for YOU!
I didn't think I could love this book any more, but now, they've gone and done it.

NOW, you can have your very own personalized The Plans I Have for YOU! with your very own name and photo throughout! 

Or maybe your child's name, if you must. ;) 

Or maybe BOTH!

And right now, FaithGateway has a $5 off coupon when you order one (code: 5OFFKIDS). Of course, they're offering this on other books, too, but you know which one is my favorite. ;)

The Plans I Have for You is absolutely perfect for graduation or milestones or really for any day or age at all. I personally believe that this is a message that we all need to hear!

Kids (and adults!) now more than ever need to hear that God has BIG plans for them. And now, with the personalized option, they can hear that message stronger than ever. 

Get your own personalized copy here!