Writer’s Spotlight Wednesday (WSW): Evelyn Christensen

This month is a special treat. January is a long month (even though it seems to be going by so fast), and on this blog, a long month equals not one, but TWO Writer’s Spotlight Wednesday (WSW) features for the month! Whoo hoo!

For our second WSW of this month, I am happy to highlight the achievements of:

Evelyn Christensen

Evelyn Christensen

“Don’t give up!”

Evelyn has devoted her life to helping others through her writing. She has authored/co-authored over 42 educational puzzle books, and also writes for children’s magazines. I had the opportunity to learn more about Evelyn and her craft as she answered some of my questions below.

Q: Why do you write?

Evelyn InchimalsA: I write educational puzzle books, and the primary reason I write is because I love to create resources to make learning fun for all ages. I was a teacher by profession, but even more important, I’m a teacher at heart.  I have a doctorate in math education, and my career plan, after being home for ten years when my children were little, was to teach math methods to prospective teachers at the college level. My teaching experience had been at the high school level. Since I was going to be telling elementary teachers how to teach, I felt it was important to have some experience at that level. I thought I’d do that for just a couple of years, but I fell in love with the little ones and stuck with that age for the rest of my teaching career.

My first elementary teaching was at a Montessori school, and I think that really influenced the direction my writing career took. In a Montessori school the primary channel for teaching is the materials, rather than the teacher.  With wonderful examples all around me, both the traditional Montessori materials and those created by the team of teachers I joined, I also became adept at creating engaging, effective materials for the classroom. I loved using my creativity to come up with new ideas for helping students to learn.  On vacations, riding on trips, or at family reunions, I always had materials along to color, cut, or paste, because creating materials was such a passion for me.

A natural next step for me was to share my materials with other teachers and parents, and that’s how I got into writing for publication.


Q: Tell me about your new book that’s just been released.


KYpuzzlesA: My newest book, Kentucky Puzzles: Bluegrass Brainteasers for Ages 6 to 106, is from The History Press.  I’ve had 42 books published and this is one of my favorites. I’m especially excited to see it make its debut, because it took me 9 years to find a publisher for it. So if you’re having trouble finding the right home for a book you love, please don’t give up on it.

I particularly like this book because of the variety in it. Puzzles range from easy to complex, and every page has a different kind of puzzle, each based on some aspect of Kentucky’s history, geography, or culture. It’s great for individual enjoyment, family fun, classroom challenges, and cooperative group problem-solving—a delightful gift for puzzle lovers you might know who have lived in Kentucky or had a connection to it.

Q: What is the most challenging thing about your career, and how do you address it?

A: Finding publishers for my manuscripts is the most challenging part of my career. I address it by spending lots of time researching potential markets. I network, I’m active on Verla Kay’s writer chat board, I belong to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), CBI Clubhouse, and Working Writers Club, I subscribe to newsletters like ICL’s free Children’s Writers eNews, and I belong to two local writers’ groups.  I long ago decided that helping other writers by sharing the results of my research with them was a good thing to do, so I have on my website both a list of Educational Markets for Children’s Writers (http://evelynchristensen.com/markets.html) and a list of magazines at my Writing for Children’s Magazines ezine (http://evelynchristensen.com/mags.html ).

Q: What is your personal motto or mantra?

A: “My God shall supply all your need.” (Philippians 4:19)  I’ve had the opportunity to experience God’s faithfulness in keeping this promise in a fresh way in recent months, when I lost much of my vision due to an antibiotic that caused optic nerve damage. I faced the very real possibility of no longer being able to continue my writing career. God would still have supplied my needs if that had been the case, but I’m thankful to him that I’ve been regaining my vision these past weeks.

Q: What inspires you? 


●   Children inspire me. I love children, and creating materials that will help them learn and, at the same time, will be fun for them, brings me great joy!

●   Games and puzzles inspire me.  I grew up in a family with five siblings before the days of internet, computers, and even much television.  We played oodles of games and challenged each other with all kinds of puzzles.  That laid the foundation for me of thinking in terms of puzzles, and, of course, being a math major helped, because doing math is very much like solving a puzzle.

Evelyn Addition

●   Customers inspire me. Nothing is more special to me as an author than having someone say, “My kid loved your book!” Two of my upcoming books are actually the direct result of customer inspiration. A customer emailed me saying her family loved my Addition Adventures and Subtraction Secrets, and wanted to know if I’d done a book on double-digit addition and subtraction. The resulting two books, Double-Digit Decoders: Addition and Double-Digit Decoders: Subtraction, are being published by MindWare this summer.

●   God inspires me.  I can’t tell you how often ideas come to me that truly seem to be gifts straight from God.  Being creative makes me feel especially close to God. I think that’s because I believe in a Creator God, who made us in his image, so when I’m creating, I’m expressing some of that image of himself he’s put within me.


Evelyn, thank you for sharing your passion for making learning fun!
For more information about Evelyn and her work, visit: www.evelynchristensen.com


This is your chance to win your own copy of one of Evelyn’s books (your choice of one of the three books shown below). All you have to do is leave a comment below (before Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 at 11PM CST) and you will be entered into the drawing. The winner will be announced on Monday, February 3, 2014. *Drawing limited to United States residents only.*


Kentucky Puzzles:Bluegrass Brainteasers for Ages 6 to 106

Coin Clue PuzzlesCoin-Clue Puzzles (for grades 3 & up)

Tactic TwistersTactic Twisters Level B (for grades 9 & up)


How to be a Writer

A good friend of mine recently posted a blog entry entitled “How to be a Writer”, and I thought it was very insightful and totally on point, so I wanted to share it. Not only does she make great points, but her life is an example of doing the very things she suggests. In other words, she doesn’t just talk about it; she does it!

Click the picture below to check it out:


Also, be sure to subscribe to her blog. She never hesitates to put her heart on the page, and I’m sure you’ll love it just like I do!

71st Annual Golden Globes Awards Recap

I still haven’t wrapped my mind around how quickly awards season has come upon us, but, like it or not, it is definitely here. Tonight, NBC aired the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards.


Before dishing on the award ceremony itself, I want to first take a moment to discuss my favorite fashion moments of the night—the part that most people care about anyway. Thankfully, NBC’s Golden Globe Red Carpet Arrivals Special allowed us to drool (or gag) over our favorite celebs’ fashion choices for the night.


A few disclaimers:
1. In my opinion, all of the men’s suits/tuxes usually look the same to me, so these tidbits will be about the ladies.

2. There were so many wonderful looks, that I couldn’t list them all so these are just a few that really stood out for me.


Reese Witherspoon looked absolutely amazing in a simple turquoise gown. It wasn’t fancy at all but it hugged her body perfectly. I saw not one bulge or bump—it was all smooth. Spanx maybe? I don’t know, but she looked, dare I say again, absolutely amazing!


Kerry Washington was glowing in a Ballenciaga gown, highlighting her much anticipated baby bump.


Although I wasn’t fond of Jennifer Lawrence’s gown at all (I thought it looked like a sheer window dressing with black ribbon wrapped around it), I liked her hair and makeup, especially the shade of cranberry on her lips.


Julianna Margulies opted for a dress that was not only stunning, but practical with hidden pockets. Hey, a girl’s gotta have storage options—there’s only so much you can fit in a clutch.


Kate Beckinsale admitted having issues with her zipper, but I’m glad she got it worked out, because her gray-silver sweetheart neckline, sequin-studded (although I’m sure it was probably something a bit more expensive than sequins) gown was the perfect choice. She nailed it! One of my absolute favorites of the night.


Sandra Bullock’s color-blocked dress was fun yet sophisticated, and she looked great in it. I loved the shoes too.


Lupita Nyong’o has rarely disappointed on the red carpet and tonight was no different. Gorgeous!


Margot Robbie gave Reese a run for her money. She looked effortlessly flawless.


Oh wait, here are a couple of males on my list after all: Usher. He was quite dapper in a dark maroon suit, black shirt and velvet (at least it looked like velvet—maybe it was satin? Who knows?) bowtie, and he topped off his look with a diamond lapel pin and his signature flirtatious grin. Likewise, Jim Carrey impressed in a deep navy suit w/ black lapel, black shirt and black bowtie.


Now, on to a few highlights from the ceremony, which took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel International Ballroom.


Hosts for the second time, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler opened the show with the obligatory joke-telling, fun-poking, and purposeful name-mangling, with Matt Damon being reduced to the likes of a garbage man, numerous actors being accused of using prosthetic penises, and Tom Hanks being called Tam Honks twice.


Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick’s daughter Sosie definitely got her fair share of screen time tonight as “Miss Golden Globe”—you know, the pretty girl who ushers presenters and winners on and off the stage. And the night wouldn’t be complete without one or both of the hosts dressing up as someone else. This time, it was Amy Poehler as “Randy”, Tina Fey’s illegitimate son and fictional “Mr. Golden Globe”.


Jacqueline Bisset was literally speechless upon accepting her 1st Golden Globe (after 5 nominations) for her role on Dancing on the Edge. So much so, that she didn’t get to thank anyone until the “wrap it up” music started to play.


We were reminded that things can go wrong at any moment when, after teleprompter issues, Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie had to read from a yellow sheet of paper that appeared to have been freshly ripped from a three ring binder.


Just in case you fell asleep, Diddy woke you up with his yelling, “Let it flow”, and his encouragement of everyone to “Keep drinking—it’ll be over soon.”


Speaking of drinking, Emma Thompson kept it playful by presenting with a martini in one hand and her Louboutins in the other.


While accepting her award for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical for her role in American Hustle, Amy Adams thanked her young daughter for teaching her to “accept joy and let go of fear”.


Woody Allen received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment”. He has made 74 movies in 48 years, serving as writer, actor, producer and director, and has employed over 179 actresses (who Diane Keaton referred to as “Woody’s Women”). Diane Keaton, who has been friends with Woody for over 40 years, accepted the award on his behalf. She ended the acceptance speech by singing, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold. A circle is round, it has no end. That’s how long I will be your friend.”


American Hustle won the award for Best Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical and 12 Years a Slave (the most nominated film of the night) won the award for Best Motion Picture-Drama.


The three hour show was a great mix of fashion, comedy, camaraderie, emotion, inspiration and as Tina Fey concluded, “the beautiful mess we hoped it would be.”


For a full list of nominees and winners, visit: http://www.goldenglobes.com/awards



Photo Credits: Jason Merritt/Getty

Writer’s Spotlight Wednesday (WSW): Phyllis Turner

Happy New Year!

Starting out 2014 with our first Writer’s Spotlight Wednesday (WSW) of the year is

Phyllis I. Turner

Phyllis Turner

“My favorite part of my career…is finally doing something I feel I’ve been designed to do.”

Phyllis may just be getting started, but don’t be fooled. She’s accomplished much in the six months that she’s been a full-time freelance writer, and has taken on the career with admirable determination and gusto. I was delighted to learn more about Phyllis and her craft as she answered some of my questions below.

Q. What do you write? (What’s your niche/specialty?)

A. I write non-fiction for the most part and have narrowed my focus to writing about travel, writing a column for other writers, writing for magazines and promoting other writers’ books and blog posts. I just recently, in the last 6 months have been able to focus on my freelance writing business full-time, and I still have a lot to learn so I’m doing a lot of research, reading and taking workshops and other courses to improve my writing.

Q. Why do you write?

A. I have been writing creatively for as long as I can remember.  I got my first journal when I was in elementary school and kept journaling well into my adult years.  Writing, to me, is a creative outlet.  Like a painter paints or a musician plays his instrument.  I write to express myself in a creative way and also to inform and teach.  I’ve always been a bit shy and even a bit self-conscious, and writing is my way of using my creative energy without putting myself in the spotlight like a singer, dancer or musician would.  I can quietly go about my work and nobody notices.

But we’re noticing, Phyllis! When you put your heart into your work, people can’t help but notice, and you have definitely done that by going wholeheartedly after your dreams.

Q. How did you prepare yourself for a freelance career?

A. I’m not the corporate-America type and never felt like I fit in, in that setting.  I would sit in my cubicle, week after week, miserable and wishing for more freedom.  I guess I can say I prepared myself for this by never ceasing to write.  Journaling, desktop publishing, writing family newsletters every year and marketing for a side business we had when we had our farm in Missouri helped prepare me.  I was always creating ads, writing press releases, publishing newsletters and websites, etc.  I also started blogging back in October of 2007.  I’ve started several other blogs since then and continue to enjoy blogging.  I took a creative writing class at our community college and also a public speaking class, so I guess with all of that, I was priming myself for my current career as a freelance writer.

Q. What are your current or upcoming projects?

A. I just finished a Writing for Magazines workshop just before Christmas & have been researching the magazine markets that I want to write for and sending queries.  The week between Christmas and the New Year, I spent planning my goals for 2014 so I could start off the new year with a bang!  I’ve set my goals now and am putting my action plans in place so that I can confidently schedule my days for writing that will help me meet my goals.  It’s been a fun process so far and it’s really gotten me excited for the new year.  I also took part in Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) for the first time in November of 2013, so I’ve got tons of ideas for children’s picture books that I plan to write.  I’ll always be blogging and looking for opportunities to write more.

Q. What’s the most exciting (or your favorite) thing about your freelance career?

A. My favorite part of my career as a freelance writer is finally doing something I feel I’ve been designed to do.  My entire life, people have told me I should pursue a career in writing but I didn’t know the first place to start so, when I found myself in a circumstance where I could, I took a writing class and the rest is history.  I continue to learn more and more and just keep moving forward every day.  I love waking up in the middle of the night with an idea and I can get up and start writing at 3am knowing, if I need it, I can take a nap later.  I couldn’t do that when I worked in corporate America.  I also love that I can work with my cat in my lap and in my pajamas if I want to and I can write wherever I am.  At the beach, in a hotel in a new city, the local coffee shop, or wherever!  Not from a cubicle.  I love the act of creating something on what was once a white page that people are interested in reading!  The most exciting thing for me today is…the very real possibility of having a book published in this new year.  My goals are set, my plans are laid, and it’s exciting for me to start making those steps to see that book published for the first time.  Magazine articles in print are awesome to see too but I think holding a book in my hands with my name on the front will send me over the edge of absolute euphoria.


Phyllis I. Turner is a freelance writer with the heart of a gypsy, a wife, mother of one, Vero Beach Florida beach bum, lover of food, animals, sunsets & all things outdoors. She lives in Vero Beach, FL with her husband Jon. Visit her website at: www.phyllisiturner.com and her blog at www.jonandphyllis.com

Phyllis, thank you for sharing! I wish you success as you continue your journey and I can’t wait to see what wonderful things you will continue to share with the world!