Building Blogging Community by Featuring Followers II

I had so much fun and have received such a good early response to my previous post featuring seven of my blog followers, that I thought I’d feature seven more.  If the first post was a pot-luck, this is like going back for seconds.

To read more, visit my new blog address by clicking on the link below —

“Building Blogging Community by Featuring Followers II”


Upcoming Publication to be Released May 10, 2013 at Amazon

I just received word that a piece of Flash Fiction I wrote (“The Distant Mountain and the Barren Tree“) will soon appear in an e-book anthology (cover above). The publication date is scheduled for May 10th on Amazon. The e-book will be free. After 90 days, the plan is to publish it through Smashwords.

I feel quite blessed to be included in this collection, as a relative novice to the weekly “Wednesday Writer Blog Hop” from which the stories come.  A special thanks to Carrie K. Sorenson and Nicole Pyles, co-editors of the anthology.  I also want to acknowledge the writers of stories included in the e-book –

Carrie K Sorensen – (WWBH co-host, co-editor)
Emily Jean Roche –
George Beckingham –
Krystal Wade –
Leanne Sype – (WWBH co-host)
Nicole Pyles – (WWBH founder and co-host, co-editor)
Randy Lindsay –
Roman Taylor (Scott’s son)
Sydney Aaliyah –
Tena Carr – (WWBH co-host)
Yolanda Tong –
I look forward to the big release.  If I receive word about any virtual parties or book signings, I’ll let you know.

A New Blog Look: Like a New Pair of Shoes For Women to Fall at My Feet

Well, here it is.  Submitted for your approval.  A new look for “A Way with Words”.  I really like it.  How about you?

I have a number of bloggers to thank for recommendations on how I might enhance the design.  Here are just a few words I heeded –

 I think a new visual theme would serve you well.  – nivaladiva

I would remove some of the “noise” from the top and bottom of your pages.  – russellboyle

Visually…just generally…some colour?  An eye-catching photo banner?   – Hazy Shades of Me

I quite like “God is I AM therefore I just think (and blog)”…   – Lyn

a new blog theme that’s a little less “academic” looking might spruce things up. The font size on your current theme is really small, and thus can be difficult to read. Something that’s a little more aesthetic.   – Gwen

John Harper suggested I do something “god/heaven” related in my header.

If you find a good picture, you should change the ocean picture at the top.  – Kevin Daniel


Each of these bloggers has helped me a great deal to enhance the visual quality of this blog, don’t you think?

I have decided, rather than providing them with a generic “gift card” for some monolithic corporation, I am going to offer them a choice of two very personal gifts –

1)  One of Russell Boyle’s three published anthologies of poems – The Beginning, Footprints or Loneliness.

2) One of my upcoming books: Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness or Delight in Despair: Meditations from a Bipolar Mind.

To place your order, simply e-mail me – .

Thanks again to all who providing recommendations.  I’d certainly welcome more comments the new look of “A Way With Words” as well as the content.  My next post will be the first in what will become a series (for a season) – “Friday Flashback”, featuring some early material from my desperate beginnings as a blogger.

My E-Mail Litmus Test and My New Soul Mate

I’ve been “all over the map” with my writing lately and haven’t responded to prompts for some time.  So when I saw something about “Prompts for the Promptless” over at rarasaur I thought, “Wow, she’s writing this just for me!”  (Which, is a little like a pre-pubescent girl sitting in the back row at a Justin Bieber concert thinking he’s singing for her.)  As touched as I was, I nonetheless was too busy meditating on Jesus and Spring cleaning my blog to respond.

Then two serendipitous things happened.

First, I finally paid attention to the lyrics of a song that has rapidly become one of my all-time favorites – “If I Can’t Trust You With a Quarter (How Can I Trust You With My Heart)” by Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers.  The chorus of the song is classic –

You know I’m a jukebox honey,
But I ain’t got much money.
Said you had a song that you wanted to hear so I gave my change to you.
When I heard that jukebox start I knew the cupid’s dart had missed its mark.
If I can’t trust you with a  quarter how can I trust you with my heart?

But the lyrics that grabbed me were at the end of the second verse –

When you said you’d never heard of John Prine,
Well I knew right away you  weren’t worth my time.
And I’m sorry to say hon before we’d begun,
We were  already through.

Then, I found myself back at rarasaur’s blog, where I read her take on the “prompt for the promptless” (the prompt is, by the way “The Litmus Test”).  I was thus inspired, nay, compelled, to write this post.

I conduct a sort of “litmus test” every time I send someone an e-mail.  You see, my e-mail address is – .  Though I begin e-mails to new recipients with the words – “My name is Tony Roberts (John Prine is my muse).” – I can’t tell you how many responses I’ve gotten that begin – “Dear John,”  Fittingly, I consider this the end of our relationship.

On the other hand, I received an e-mail reply from a prospective employer that began “I’m a big Prine fan, too.  I saw him at the Murat last year.”  (I was in McDonald’s when I read that and I think the gentleman sitting beside me thought I had just won the lottery as he watched me jump up and down, spin around in circles and wave my hands in the air.)

When I first became a John Prine fan (in 1982, in case you haven’t picked up the hint in my e-mail address), I was hard pressed to find even a single soul who knew of his work.  When I started going to his concerts (around 1986), I encountered many people even more fanatical than I (but I’m not sure they came out of their parents’ basements except to attend Prine concerts).

I set my “litmus test” low when I started dating.  Basically, if a woman would feign interest in Prine and not just say, “Huh?” when I quoted his songs to make a point in conversation, I would consider her dating material.  Once I hit the jackpot and dated a young woman who became quite a Prine fan.  I made a mix tape for her filled with his music.  She dumped me.  But she still listens to Prine.

I took a huge leap of faith when I married my wife, who is not a Prine fan at all.  Without going into details you’d have to charge me $100/hour to unload, I’ll just say we are separated now.

So tonight, when I heard Zoe Muth singing these litmus-test lyrics about John Prine, the thought occurred to me – “I think I finally found my soul mate.”

Zoe, if you’re reading this, I’m not looking for any sort of commitment (I’m still married, for Christ’s sake).

I just want you to know – you’re okay in my book.  Anytime you want to drop by for a distilled water and peanut M&Ms, it’s fine by me.

Bring your guitar.  I’ll leave the light on for you.  Heck, I’ll even brew some decafe and let you use my favorite mug.

Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers by charliebay

Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers from charliebay

Re-Examining “Why I Write”

At the top of this blog you’ll notice a “Why I Write” page.  This has been one of the most viewed pages (or posts) over the course of my brief blogging career.  For those of you with archaic advanced degrees (like in “theology”) – many of whom are professionally unemployed like me – this is my “prolegomena” (a fancy Greek word which means something like “the place where I tell you what I’m doing here”).

One of the great things about digital publishing, is that you can change your work as often as you feel the need.  I don’t frequently re-write posts (unless errors are pointed out), but I have re-written my “Why I Write” page several times to better reflect the shape this blog is taking and address new readers who have come on board.

Just recently, someone left a comment which inspired me to make another change – a significant addition.  It wasn’t the comment, so much as the commenter.  I had read a post on this person’s blog and had been very moved by the fresh, vibrant, faithful writing I found there.   It was a description of Holy Week from the perspective of a new believer and it deeply touched me.  So, I left a comment of appreciation.

And, as the story goes, the blogger returned the visit and left a comment on my blog.  End of story, right?  Well, not exactly.  You see, I got to thinking about many of my (especially recent) posts.  So, I added this to “Why I Write”…

Finally, a brief word about some of the more “profane” writing you’ll find here.  I was once asked by another blogger to describe my sense of humor and the first words that came to mind were “Ironic Iconoclasm”.  I believe that most people (from professing atheists to conservative Christians) actually worship many false gods (sacred cows) and, when I detect this, I count it my duty to make fun of them (often using strong language).  I see my mission similar to George Orwell, who wrote –

George Orwell

When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, “I am going to produce a work of art.” I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.

Hopefully, this will help readers who are at different places on their spiritual journeys not become bogged down in my sometimes strong sarcasm and “ironic iconoclasm” and we can grow together – speaking the truth in love.

photo of George Orwell from Nadeem Ahmed in Young “Legends” (Male)


“Life” Progress Report from the Pourhouse Cafe

Indiana University Bloomington by Eun Soo Chung

I’m here at the Pourhouse Café, sipping on an Americano, listening to John Prine radio and reflecting back on what has been a productive day of writing.

So, I ask myself (with you, faithful reader looking over my shoulder), “Where am I in ‘Life’?”

“Well”, I begin to answer (taking another sip of Americano), “I now have…

… just over 4,500 words written.

… working drafts of six scenes (including two “memory sequences”).

… phrase/sentence sketches for the remaining 19 scenes.

I had fun creating the character of Esther Stein – Rachel’s roommate – a Political Science major from Chicago.  I liked the interchange with Anne, the counselor, who drops by to tell them to get prepared for the “freshman frolic” where there will be “plenty of boys”.

Turning back, Anne said, “Esther, you may want to touch up your nose a bit.”

Esther grimaced, “I’ll get right on that.”

I think I should now be able to crank out at least one scene a day, with a target goal of having a working draft by April 22.  I still have some research to do to answer questions like…

… what campus job will Rachel get?

…. what will be the name of the club/coffee house where they hang out?

… what is the plot of the movie Rachel sees with a boy she meets?

…. what is the subject of a class lecture she attends?

I received some very good news yesterday from Leanne at Pen to Paper Communications.  Leanne will be serving as a beta-reader for my trilogy as well as offering her perspective on my portrayal of Rachel (as I attempt to tell the story from a woman’s point of view).   I have been following Leanne’s blog Writings and Ruminations for some time and look forward to embarking on this venture with her as I come to the home stretch of this writing project.

That’s about it.

So much for my “Life”.  How’s yours?

(photo above Indiana University Bloomington from Eun Soo Chung)

Versatile Blogger Award Nominees


Several days ago, I was nominated by Veronica at charlottesville winter for a Versatile Blogger Award.  I accepted, with the proviso that I meet the conditions in two posts.  First, I mentioned 7 things about my versatility – here.  Now, I would like to nominate 15 other blogs (below) to be recognized for their versatility.

So, here goes (in no particular order) …

Happy Homemaker, Ph.D. : a novice homemaker’s attempts to use her engineering Ph.D. to serve her family.

Next Practices : like a blog of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.

Life Accordinglee : moderately meditated musings of an aspiring author.

Not the Worst News : looking at bad news and conceiving funnier worse news.

La Tua Alba’s Blog : of all the things that we’ve burned down, wonder which one will remain.

Change for a Year :  a new adventure each year; year one – vegan.

The Awkward Turtle : celebrating the failings of a successful person.

The Number Kevin : writer, traveler, future specter. Kevin Daniel.

Quite E-Musing : musing on the unique path God has set me on as a wife, mom of 4, and now a southern gal…

The Wrought Writer : a foray into fiction.

Still Living on My Feet : I weave words like a West African market woman.

l steinauer : from the author of ABSiNTHE a YA paranormal novel exploring love, addiction, and codependency.

But the fighter still remains : beautifully combined words > everything else.

homeschool hijinks : one family’s adventures in homeschooling.

Fifty Shades of Jake : my name is Jake and there are approximately 50 shades of me.

Congratulations, to each of you.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to –

1.  Display the “Versatile Blogger” icon on your site.

2.  Link back to this post.

3.  List 7 things about yourself.  And,

4. Nominate 15 more blogs for a “Versatile Blogger Award”.

Nomination #3 (will it be assassination or failed revolution?)


I have been nominated for this “Very Inspiring Blogger Award” by Veronica of charlottesville winter.  I accept this award with much fear and trepidation.  It is my third blogging award, so it puts me right up there with “Lincoln” and “Les Miserables” – and look what happened to them.  Assassination.  And a failed revolution.  Nonetheless, I accept (both this award and my fate).

The conditions for acceptance are –

1. Display the award logo (see above)

2. Link back to the person who nominated you (also see above)

3. State 7 things about yourself (see below)

4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them (see further below)

As for 7 things about myself, I thought it would be good since this is about being inspiring and my blog is about writing if I were to mention 7 persons who have inspired me to write.  (There have been and continue to be many more, but I’ll limit myself now to 7).

1.  Larry Roberts.  Growing up, we would visit my Uncle Larry and Aunt Linda (and their daughter Leah) in Chicago.  Larry would often break out his guitar and sing songs.  I thoroughly enjoyed all the music, but my favorite songs were the ones he wrote himself.  I hope to convince him to let me publish a sample in upcoming posts.

2. Ivan Lancaster.  Mr. Lancaster taught 5th and 6th grade English at Nineveh Elementary.  After lunch, he read to us from classic books (I remember Johnny Tremain).  He also encouraged each of us to write our autobiographies and this 30+ page bound notebook with line sheets written on in ink was my first sustained piece of writing.

3.  Robert Waldon.  (Joe Rossi on “The Lou Grant Show”) I was captivated by the character of Rossi – his persistence, his commitment to truth, his courage.  He made me want to become a journalist.  One episode was about book banning.  Rossi was appalled that his favorite book – The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger was on the list.  Immediately, I checked it out of the library.  It became my favorite book and redirected my focus from journalism to creative writing.

4.  Kevin Ballard.  Mr. B. filled in in the English department one semester and I took his class on “Contemporary Drama.”  He wasn’t the best lecturer, but he was very accessible and showed an interest in my ideas and writing beyond class.  He introduced me to a good friend from his college days – Jim Leonard – a playwright who has won awards for “The Diviners” (which he wrote while at Hanover College).

5.  Buran Phillips & George Love.  I list them together because together they helped keep my creative juices flowing while at seminary as co-creators of our satirical newsletters – “The Institutes” & “Rude Dogma”.  While we wrote most articles separately, we developed concepts together and I was inspired just by our shared laughter.

6.  Alice Roberts.  The woman who would become my wife of over 20 years was for many of these years my most prayerful and careful editor.

7.  Veston & Connie Roberts.  A few winters back, my dad and step-mom offered to type my up 500+ sermons and catalogue them on the computer (and on CDs).  Dad in particular has been my most devoted blog follower.  As I write my new novel (on their computer), I debrief after every finished chapter by telling them what it was about (then Dad goes to read it).

Now, to share the “Inspiring Blogger Award”, I nominate the following (in no particular order)…

russellboyle posts classic, inspiring poetry that helps soothe the troubled soul.

Defeat Despair offers inspiring quotes and brief reflections that lift your spirit.

Teacher as Transformer suggests insights on education, leadership, life, and transformation.

larrywtrimm writes on the blessing of being a Christian author.

Confessions of a Bookworm celebrates the inspiration found in reading good books.

The One Thing I Know for Sure presents thoughts and pictures intended to inspire deeper reflection.

writing young adult lit… and the occasional face plant explores the creativity behind a writing life.

liveconsciously publishes inspiring, life-enhancing, mind-altering books and media.on

Write here, Joel reflects on life, faith, and laughter.

The Twenty Something: An Ordinary Girl Serving an Extraordinary God shares her faith passionately.

Dreams Will Catch You provides refreshing perspectives on life and faith.

todaysdailyword brings God’s Word to life in fresh ways.

hankrules2011 provokes thought for an examined life.

I’ve Got This Friend reveals the personal side of a relationship with Christ.

a surrendered year looks at what it means to give in to God.

Check these out and see let them know they have “A Way With Words” on their side.

The Versatile Blogger Award (My Liberal Arts Education Is Finally Paying Off)


This colorful green (my favorite color) graphic came from charlottesville winter who has nominated me for this “Versatile Blogger Award”.  I was both honored and humbled to accept the nomination, but also a bit befuddled.  As a neo-Conservative on many Biblical and social issues, I’m often described as “intractable”, “closed-minded” and “judgmental”.  I thought – me, versatile?  So I looked it up and found a few clues as to how one might view me (and my blog) as “versatile”.  Since part of the requirements of accepting the honor is to write 7 things about myself, I’ll use 7 synonymns for “versatile”.

1.  “ambidextrous” – (or, as my dad likes to call it “amateur-dextrous”).  When I was growing up wanting to be a professional basketball player, and playing point guard, I learned to dribble equally well with both hands.  Now, I use both hands on the keyboard, allowing me to type as fast as (or faster than) I think.

2.  “conversant” –  I had a Physics professor in college who once said, “The purpose of a liberal arts education is to prepare you to have a dinner conversation with almost anyone in the world and be able to ask good questions.”  Instead of being a “jack of all trades”, I have studied and am equally deficient in 5 languages.

3. “facile”-  One of the sub-definitions of facile is “articulate”.  Another is “shallow”.  I take great pains in using language that is precise and descriptive.  As my blog indicates, I have “A Way With Words”.  Yet, it’s also true I often lack the integrity to back up my words with actions, which makes it easier to relate to me as a writer than as a husband or father.

4.  “plastic” – One little known fact about me is that after college, instead of pursuing an M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing, I chose to go to work in a factory that manufactured plastic bags.  Plastic catches a lot of heat from environmentalists for clogging up landfills and not being bio-degradable.  But, where we be without plastic?

5. “puttylike” – While I have over time developed strong opinions particularly about such things as Biblical issues, I can on various occasions be readily “shaped” by a convincing argument or an emotional appeal.  When I developed my Facebook profile, for instance, I listed my political orientation as “chameleon-like”.  I tend to take on the shape of the one with the strongest thumbs.

6.  “resourceful” –  If it didn’t require me investing in more costly education, I wouldn’t mind having a second career as a resource librarian.  When it comes to getting information about particularly trivial subjects (but also those worthwhile), I can be a good sleuth in solving the mystery.

7.  “varied” – As you’ll note, I like to address a number of subjects when I write.   I envy those who have maybe 3 “categories” into which all their posts fit.  I’m luck to keep my categories down to a number that would fit in a small football stadium.

So that’s me,  one versatile blogger.

Now, the second requirement of accepting the award is to nominate 15 other versatile bloggers.  Rather than just listing 15 blogs I follow (or bloggers who follow me), I think I will spend some time doing some research (after all, I am very “resourceful” – remember) and come back with a follow-up post within a week with 15 links.  I hope this satisfies the spirit, if not the letter of the award.

A Beautiful Blogger Award (am I blushing, or is my blood pressure going up?)


I just received word that Cathy from Expattery nominated me for this “Beautiful Blogger Award”.  I questioned her whether the nomination was for the quality of writing on my blog or the irresistible pensive expression in my Gravatar image.  She hasn’t responded yet, but I’m going to take my chances.  Either way, I could use the hits.

As with all human endeavors, this love in conditional.  Here’s what I have to do.

  1. Place the Beautiful Blogger Award in your post. (see above)
  2. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them. (done)
  3. Tell 7 things about yourself. (see below)
  4. Pass this Beautiful Blogger Award on to 7 more bloggers. (see further below)

Since my blog is about writing, I’ll make the 7 things about myself relate to my writing life.

1. The first poem I ever wrote was entitled “Ode to My Pet Rock”

2.  In high school, I wrote a parody of my senior class called, No Biggy.  This was before the days of blogging.  I hand-wrote the chapters and passed them around during class.

3.  I published a short story about a suicidal non-published author.  The last page was splattered with blood (actually red food coloring).  The problem was, the journal printed the page in black-and-white and it looked more like something from a Rorschach test.

4.  I co-wrote a collection of stories and poems with a friend under the influence of various substances.  It was entitled The Week That Was (Almost 10 Days).  My favorite poem was “How to Make Instant Pudding”.

5.  For my senior thesis, I wrote a collection of stories called Life (in obvious places) that combined family stories with quasi-fictional characters.  A lovely young woman named Allison served as my muse.  After I handed her a copy of the finished manuscript, she dumped me.

6.  In graduate school, I co-produced and wrote two satirical newsletters “The Institutes: A Publication of the John Calvin Men’s Society” and “Rude Dogma”.  They were short-lived, but one more radical professor deemed  “Rude Dogma” – “better than the book of Leviticus.”

7.  My current manuscript is a collection of meditations on mental illness.  It’s called From Sheol to the Highest Heavens: 101 Devotions for Persons with Bipolar Disorder and Those Who Love Them.  I am currently considering my publishing options.

Now, for my 7 nominees (in no particular order), I decree –

charlottesville winter – a nifty collection of poetry, poetic prose, and prosaic photography.

Peaceful Partings  – spiritual reflections from a seeker for truth and beauty.

Julie Israel – a writer who reads (and reviews) classics to write even better.

Sky Saiyou – various writings and edited photos that looks as good as it reads.

Jessica Wretlind – humorous (and hip) takes on just about anything in the world.

Allen Fiction – contemporary (and refreshingly clean) fictional forays.

One Starving Activist – hungry for inspiration, and finding nourishment to inspire.