Stop Writing & Start Reading

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We don’t have to tell you that the digital world we live in doesn’t lend itself well to reading books. Especially good books. You know those. The type that you have to chew on slowly. That sometimes require a dictionary or even a concordance. The books that hold weight and substance. The books that make a lasting change in your life.

Instead, we consume tweets, Instagram quotes, 700-word blog posts (like this!), easy reading self-help books, and beguiling fiction that are offered to us in a limitless buffet.

Laura Miller of Slate describes the trend this way:

Books are the intellectual equivalent of slow food; you know it’s better for you and tastes better, too, but you’re too rushed and frantic to care as you white-knuckle it through an avalanche of push alerts.

If we aren’t proactive, we may find those “slow food” books harder and harder to read and easier and easier to neglect.

As you can imagine, we find this trend disturbing for the general population. However, we find it exceptionally disturbing when writers only consume that which is easy. There is a tremendous benefit in doing the work of reading well. And yes, it can be work. Choosing C.S. Lewis over Danielle Steele is tough. Picking up Chesterton instead of the latest Fox News host’s release is hard. However, we believe you will see the benefit—not only in the knowledge you will gain—but in your writing as well.

Karen Swallow Prior, an English professor at Liberty University in Virginia, recently authored On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books, a book extolling the virtues of… well… reading well.  In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Mrs. Prior explains how choosing good books can actually cultivate virtue in our lives:

Reading good literature well is in itself a practice of virtue. Literary art—as opposed to words strung together to communicate facts and information—requires the exercise of the imagination, the practice of patience, the delay of gratification, and the sustaining of attention and intellectual rigor.

These are all activities that build character in ways in which mindlessly scrolling through a Twitter or Facebook timeline cannot. So simply the way we read literature in contrast to other kinds of reading cultivates virtue. Additionally, what we read contributes to virtue when we read timeless works that convey universal human experiences that transcend time, place, and social position.

In the book, I show how we can learn about diligence from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, patience from Jane Austen’s Persuasion, justice from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities—and much more.

So why does good reading create good writing? Here are 3 ways:

1. Imitation brings improvement

Raise your hand if you took music lessons as a kid. Now, thinking back to the early years of lessons, how often did your instructor ask you to compose your own piece of music? Probably never, right? Instead, you were given the great pieces of music to learn, practice, and eventually master. If you did reach the level of creating your own work, you were only able to do so because of the time you had spent with these great compositions.

Reading good writers has the same effect. We notice the vocabulary choices, the way the narrative is structured, how the emotions are evoked. And often these observations happen almost unconsciously (lest you think you must now read with a notebook and pen at the ready to take notes). No. As you ingest quality writing, your own work will naturally begin to imitate it.

2. Good books expand your perspective

No matter how hard you try, your book can only contain as much perspective as you possess as the author. It’s hard to write about public education if you were homeschooled or to write about the vegetarian lifestyle if bacon is your best friend. Good reading is a great way to broaden your horizons and “experience” life through the eyes of others. What is public education really like? How is it different than the stereotypes you may hold? What really motivates the vegetarian to choose that lifestyle? Reading opens the door on cultures, lifestyles, socio-economic situations, and upbringings, allowing you to write with confidence and clarity on these subjects.

3. A healthy diet is cleansing

Most of us have struggled through the first few weeks of a diet, as our body adjusts to healthier food and detoxes from the junk it is sorely missing. But then we reach the other side where we think, “I feel so much better! Why didn’t I do this a long time ago?”

Why do we feel better? Because our bodies are now being fueled instead of stymied. We are giving our system what it needs to perform at top efficiency.

Reading well does the same for our writing minds. It brings us back to what is true, virtuous and timeless. Karen Swallow Prior advises:

It is the challenge [of good books] that makes reading them so rewarding. They do more than kill time or amuse for a few moments. The best books linger in our minds and souls for days or even years.

For a while we may miss the hot takes and Facebook posts that used to occupy our reading time, but it won’t be long until we find our minds stimulated and our pens inspired.

At Certa Publishing, we want nothing more than to see our writers stimulated and inspired. How can we help you? Contact us today.

 

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Read & Respond: Christmas Traditions

The holidays are hard to dislike.

Extra lights illuminating houses, yards, store windows, and bicycles—yes, even bikes…keep reading! Festive banners and garland don city streetlights and buildings. Red, gold, green, silver, blue. Warm smiles and warmer drinks. Even here in Florida, where I’ve broken a sweat on more Christmas Days than not, there is an undeniably festive buzz.

When I was a kid, Christmas Eve dinner at Grandma’s and church service led the way to the much anticipated morning of December 25th. Still in our pajamas, my older brother and sister and I would crouch on the stairs right around the corner from the tree decorated with miscellaneous ornaments.

Each year before Christmas Day, we would carefully pick out a new ornament to add to our personal collections. My sister would pick the cutest ones she could find, while I would go on a hunt to pick something that most accurately depicted my year. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but it had to be symbolic. For 3 years straight I had different breeds of horses added to the tree; in 7th grade I played a waiter in the musical Hello, Dolly!, so it was a reindeer with an apron and tray; just a few years ago, I chose a german shepherd dog to represent my new puppy.

But back to Christmas morning. As my siblings and I sat huddled together in the stairwell, we could hear my parents arranging the gifts and laying the stockings on the couch as the coffee brewed and the cinnamon rolls baked.

Years later, the anticipation is much less heightened, the gifts less in the spotlight, and our ornament shopping sometimes forgotten till after the season passes. My brother is states away, and my sister has a family of her own.  But the magic is still attainable. What reaches beyond the commercial celebration of Christmas is the connection that happens between family and friends. I’ve been blessed with a tightly knit family. This year was different from other prior holidays, but in the best of ways. I noticed growth and positive change. For presents, my family drew names and were able to really focus on the person we were buying for without breaking the bank. Our Christmas Eve dinner took place at my sister’s to relieve my grandma. My 16-month-old nephew brought a new element of complete joy and sweet entertainment that is often missed when a family’s children grow up.

Another new tradition I started this year was a “Lights by Bikes” event. My roommates and I threw a party for our friends where we decorated our bikes with garland and lights, then rode them around town to enjoy the decorated houses around us.

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Whether it’s a childhood time of wonder and glee, a teenage phase of apathetic participation, a stress-filled time of shopping, or a mellow month of reflection and thankfulness, for me, Christmas has always been a season of sweet details and evolving traditions.

Written by Emiley Jones.

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What about you? What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? How have they changed over the years? What made this last season more special or more difficult than past years?

If you want to write your own response, go ahead and send it to us so we can feature it later this year!

The Gift Guide for Book Lovers – PART 2 – 10 Unique Gift Ideas

holiday gift guide for book lovers

Part 2   |   10  Unique Gift Ideas for Bookworms & Writers

Last week we released Part 1 of our Gift Guide for Book Lovers full of our favorite book-themed DIY presents and holiday decor that are just as fun to make as they are to give. Part 2 is not only for the Christmas shopping procrastinators, but also for those who plan ahead – these gift ideas are great for any time of year or occasion. So take a look, let us know what your favorites are, and share it with your literary friends!

1. Gift Cards to Your Local Bookstore & Coffeeshop

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Give the gift of keeping small, local businesses alive, of helping your friends find new favorite places, AND of books and beverages. What could be better?

2. Personal Library Kit

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For a bibliophile, there’s no greater pleasure than sharing beloved books, but no crueler pain than losing them for good…the Personal Library Kit can put an end to lost books for good!

3. A Book to Keep Writers Writing

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When the ideas are running short, there’s no better place to turn than this book for entertaining, witty writing prompts.  The writing prompt book options are endless – browse for more.

4. Shirts Fit for Bookworms

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5. Literary Artwork

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When bookshelves and lamps aren’t enough decor, grace a  book lover’s walls with book-inspired prints and artwork.

6. Mugs for Avid Readers

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Who doesn’t read with a cup of coffee or tea at their side?

7. Writerly Pins

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These are the perfect stocking stuffers for the writers, notetakers, and educators in your life!

8. Candles to Read By

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Don’t have time to read every day? Light up one of these book-inspired candles as an excellent substitute.

9. Literary Jewelry

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10. Book-based Board Games

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More of a DIY person? Don’t miss the first part of this gift guide!
What are your favorite presents to give and get? Tell us in the comments!

 

The Gift Guide for Book Lovers – PART 1 – 11 Holiday DIY Projects

holiday gift guide for book lovers

Part 1   |   11  Holiday  DIY  Projects  for  Book  Lovers

Whether you’re a self-proclaimed book lover or you have a book enthusiast on your Christmas shopping list, look no further! We’ve compiled a guide to our favorite book-themed presents and holiday decor. Part 1 focuses on the Do-It-Yourself lovers. So minimize Pinterest and check out these unique gifts that are just as fun to make as they are to give!

1. Book Page Ornaments

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You can make these for your tree, string them together to make a garland, or give them as gifts!

2. Book Trees

3. Book Wreath – made festive with ornaments!

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4. Custom, Handmade Stationary from Old Book Pages

View the Tutorial HERE

This gift is even better if your book lover not only loves reading, but writing, too!

5. Book Page Art

There are tons of Etsy shops that sell these prints on vintage book pages, but they’re also fun to make yourself! + If you are an artist, you could make these even more unique and meaningful.

6. Book Page Coasters

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We’d be crazy to pretend that reading doesn’t go hand-in-hand with drinking your hot beverage of choice – and these coasters are a great way to be reminded of your favorite books.

7. Old Book? …Secret Box!

8. Book Candleholders

There’s nothing quite as relaxing as reading with a candle or two lit nearby, and these book page candle holders make it an even better scenario!

9. Book Page ubble Magnets

Not only is this a fun way to spruce up someone’s fridge or message board, but with a slight variation, you can make these into pins to put on Christmas stockings.

10. Tiny Books Necklace

11. Gift Tags

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What better way to personalize your Christmas gifts than with words (or pictures) from a page?

Check out Part 2 of our Gift Guide for Book Lovers!

Did we miss anything? Comment below with your favorite gifts for bookworms!

 

PRE-ORDER SALE – Paul Wilbur’s New Book

Touching the Heart of God:  Embracing the Calendar of the Kingdom
by Paul Wilbur

Paul Wilbur is an internationally-acclaimed worship artist, song writer, pastor, teacher, & the founder of Wilbur Ministries. Certa Publishing is honored to have published his most recent book being released on September 4, 2015.
SYNOPSIS
Did you know that you have a huge inheritance and that you serve a King who exposes His plans, purposes, power, and deepest secrets to you as a citizen in His Kingdom? In Touching the Heart of God you will learn about this King and His Kingdom-its order, its benefits, and the privilege afforded to its citizens in celebrating the greatest military and spiritual victories in recorded history.

The God of all creation actually keeps a calendar that celebrates His activity in the history of mankind and encourages our participation in the feasts. Whether you are a Messianic or Gentile believer in our amazing Messiah, you will find new and empowering insights in this book, which will build your faith and provoke your participation.

* The Feasts of the Lord…you have an engraved invitation!
* Your citizenship in the Kingdom of God brings major benefits to your life today!
* How can Christians and Jews walk as One New Man and change our world today?
* Clearly see how the Old and New Testaments integrate for His purpose.

* Is it possible to Touch the Heart of God?

 
Sale ends Thursday, September 3.

My Reading Manifesto

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“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you.” — Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Whether you grew up with a book always in tow or you only recently fell in love with reading, we can all agree that books are an important part of learning, dreaming, and doing. Why is it, then, that picking up a book can be so difficult? How many times have you claimed to be an avid reader, but when someone asks what you’re currently in the middle of, you blush and say, “Oh I haven’t had much time for it recently, what with work and…” Yet that night you watch the seconds count down till the next episode begins or scroll down your newsfeed for the hundredth time. Perhaps we shy away from a book and reach for the remote — or phone or computer — due to the emotional commitment that is required when reading something.

Whatever it is, it’s time to take back the reins and commit to reading. Commit to the books on your shelf waiting to be dusted off. Commit to the titles you’ve yet to discover. Commit to the authors you consider yourself to be a fan of, but have only read half of one of their books. Commit to your claim to be a lifelong reader.

Here are 20 commitments I’m making.

Why not make your own manifesto of sorts?

1. I will make reading a part of my daily habits. I will make time for it like I do for showering and walking the dog.

2. I will find a new author that speaks directly to me, and I will read everything they have written.

3. I will research what and who my favorite authors read and read them, as well.

4. I will always have something to read with me. Whether that’s a book, a reading app, a newspaper, or an online journal bookmarked as my home page.

5. I will read aloud to someone I love.

6. I will give each book a chance.

7. I will not waste my time on a book that I don’t like after said chance has been given.

8. I will not bash a book that I don’t like if someone else is giving it a try.

9. I will open a book. I will close my computer. I will silence my phone.

10. I will set a book on top of my TV remote, so that the decision is intentional, rather than habitual.

11. I will re-read favorite books as easily as I re-watch favorite movies.

12. I will read anything that interests me: Novels, poetry, genre fiction, self-help, old letters, memoirs, etc.

13. I will buy books by local authors at local bookstores.

14. I will not loan out my most adored books. I will buy a copy for the friend who is asking for it.

15. I will ask people I know and people I don’t know what they are reading. I will write down the titles and authors and actually look them up.

16. I will go to the library and pick a book, merely, by its cover.

17. I will always have another book at the ready when I near the end of my current read.

18. I will listen to an audio version of a book I have already read, just to see how different it feels.

19. I will read with a pen. I will mark sections that move me. I will underline words that grip me.

20. I will write down my favorite passages, just to experience how the words feel as they are written.

Inspired by Austin Kleon’s “33 thoughts on reading

– Article written by Emiley Jones –

Book Sale – $5 off “To Kill a Lion”

Author Bruce Lengeman is currently selling his book To Kill a Lion for a discounted price of $7.99

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Wanting and maintaining sexual purity more than immorality is a difficult ideal to reach in today’s society, but Lengeman effectively takes on the subject, providing practical and useful solutions. In To Kill a Lion, Lengeman discusses how to overcome the power of lust by identifying the root issues that drive it and how to deal with them. Written for both counselors and strugglers, To Kill a Lion delivers hope to men seeking to attain sexual freedom.

Join the thousands of men and women across the country that have already been impacted by Lengeman’s insight and teaching – pick up a copy today at BruceLengeman.com