Monday, October 27, 2014

Record Your Story, Part IV: Journal Prompts About Your Past

As I mentioned yesterday, no journal workshop would be complete without a list of prompts. They're a fun way to get your creative juices flowing and maybe think outside of the box.

In my mind, there are two kinds of journal topics: ones that focus on your present, and ones that focus on your past. I believe most writers follow one focus or the other in their journals. I encourage you to do both, but for those of you who like to write about your life thus far, here are some prompts to help.


How you met your spouse/how your parents met/how your spouse’ parents met/how your grandparents met
How your spouse proposed/how your father proposed/how your father-in-law proposed/how your grandpa proposed
Your earliest memory
Five good childhood memories
Your most embarrassing moment
Your birth stories (if you have kids)
How you converted to the gospel
Your most embarrassing moment
The story behind your name, your children’s names, and your spouse’s name
A good memory associated with each season (Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter).
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Describe one moment where you needed courage to do the right thing.
What is the farthest you’ve ever traveled?
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to deal with?
Describe the places you’ve lived.
If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?
Describe one amazing experience you had.
Describe one spiritual experience you had.
Describe your first kiss.
What did you do on your first date with your spouse?
What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
Describe some of the jobs you’ve had and whether or not you like them.
Describe what you did for each holiday this past year.
What were you like as a child? In high school? How are you different now?
What are some nicknames for yourself and your family members? How did they get them?
Describe one memory that makes you laugh.
What’s one story you love to tell people?
When you’re with your family (or your friends), what stories do they tell over and over?
What’s something you did that your family and friends tease you about?
What was it like for your mom when she gave birth to you?
What’s one memory your parents have of you as a baby?
Describe some of your family heirlooms, or some items you think will become heirlooms.
Write a summary of your life.
Write a summary of your parents’ lives.
Write about a time that you made a deliberate change for yourself. Write about what motivated you to make that change and how you think that change has affected your life.
Write about some of your scars and how you got them.
Have you ever been in a hospital? Had surgery? Broken a bone?
Describe one time when you were really frightened.
Describe where you were when 9-11 happened.
Describe some memories of your birthday.
Write a good memory you have with each of your parents.
Explain why you decided to date your spouse and why you decided to marry him.
Describe a major storm you and your family survived.
What was your favorite book as a child, or the first book you remember reading?
List some of the toys you remember having as a child.

List the friends you remember having at various stages of your life.

Friday, October 24, 2014

How to Tie the Head Wrap in My Book Cover

A few people have asked me how to tie the head wrap that the model uses in my book cover. I learned how to do it from the video below. It was actually pretty easy. The only downside is you need six yards of fabric!

The video was giving me trouble, so you'll have to copy and paste this link: 

During the Antebellum period in New Orleans, many African American women were mistresses to rich white men. The men would support them and their children, going so far as to buy them clothing and even a house.

Certain people got tired of seeing gorgeous African American women walking around town in fancy gowns and elaborate hair, so a law was passed in 1785 forcing them to wear head wraps called tignons. This was meant not only to lessen their beauty, but also to distinguish the white from the colored during a time when interbreeding made it hard to tell who had cafe au lait in their blood and who did not.

The African American women wore such decorative tignons that soon the head wraps were associated with beauty, and they continued to wear them long after the tignon law was revoked.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Record Your Story, Part III: Journal Prompts About Your Present

No journal workshop would be complete without a list of prompts. They're a fun way to get your creative juices flowing and maybe think outside of the box.

In my mind, there are two kinds of journal topics: ones that focus on your present, and ones that focus on your past. I believe most writers follow one focus or the other in their journals. I encourage you to do both, but for those of you who like to write about your experiences as they're happening, here are some prompts to help.


The layout of your house
Your dream house
List of your friends, what you like about them, how you met them
What your kids are up to this year
Your biggest accomplishment this year
Your biggest disappointment this year
What you love the most about all your family members
What you did today (or this week)
The last time you went out and did something fun, what did you do?
Your testimony
If you could be doing anything with your life right now, what would you be doing?
5 things that make you happy
10 things you’re grateful for
What is your church calling right now? What was your favorite church calling?
Who did you vote for last election and why?
How do you feel about the government?
What are some major political issues you worry about? How would you solve them?
5 major world events that happened this year (or last year)
How much things cost (your rent/mortgage, gas, a computer, a phone, a gallon of milk, etc.)
5 of your favorite books and why they had an impact on you
Your last Facebook post
Something you’re good at. (Everyone’s good at something.)
What do you do for fun?
5 of your family’s favorite meals.
What kind of clothes do you wear? What’s in style right now?
Describe your pets, if you have them.
What was your last vacation?
If you could tell your children only one thing, what would it be?
Which family member are you most like?
Describe a memorable date.
What’s something you feel very strongly about?
Describe one of your pet peeves.
If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?
Who’s someone you admire and why?
What makes you laugh the most?
What’s one of your quirks? What are your family members’ quirks?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If you could share a meal with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
What’s one thing you would never, ever do?
What’s your most prized possession?
What’s one thing about your culture you wish you could change?
If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
Describe the town you live in: How big is it? Are people there rich or poor? What do people do there for fun?
Where are you the happiest?
A quote you love and why you love it.

What’s the most important quality in a person?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Record Your Story, Part II: How to Keep a Journal

Welcome to Part II of my journal writing workshop! To read Part I on Reasons for Starting a Journal, click here.

Writing in a journal can be overwhelming. What do you write about? Where do you start? How do you come up with topics? This should help you get a clearer idea of how you want your journal to be.

What to Write About

Every journal has a focus, whether the writer realizes it or not. If you have a focus beforehand, it becomes much easier to get started. Here are some different journaling methods:

-         Emotions Journal: for getting out thoughts, dealing with feelings, processing things you’re going through.
-         Event Journal: Only write about the big things that happen in your life.
-         Daily Log: Write what you do each day, or write a prompt each day.
-         Yearly Log: Every January, write what your family did that year
-         Memoir: Tell the story of your life by writing about things that happened in the past instead of as they’re happening now.
-         Themed Journal: Write on a certain theme, like a gratitude journal, a mission journal, a spiritual journal, a vacation journal, an ideas journal, or a baby book.

Different Journal Mediums

Knowing what to write about is only part of the battle. You also need to figure out where to put those ideas and how you want to represent them.

-         Blank lined book
o   Feel free to add pictures and mementos!
-         Computer program, such as Microsoft Word
-         Blog
-         Scrapbook
o   Feel free to add words!
o   Be sure to label your photos so people know who’s in them
-         Pre-made scrapbook
-         Marked scriptures
-         Audio recording (you can get conversations that way)
-         Vlog or videos
-         Family journal – everyone contributes to it

How to Get Started

So you know what you want to write about and how you're going to write it. If you're still having problems getting started, these tips should help:

-         Decide the journal’s purpose:
o   The story you want to tell
o   The audience you’re writing to
-         Write your milestones (childhood, college, marriage, babies) now. NOW. You remember less every day.
-         Occasionally make lists instead of journal entries: favorites, pet peeves, books you’ve read, etc.
-         Write about politics and social issues. That will become history, and your children and grandchildren will love to hear what you thought about it.
-         Include details! Future generations will want to know what you ate, how you traveled, how much things cost, what movies you watched, what books you read, what school you went to. The details might be more interesting than the big stuff.
-         If you’re having trouble getting started, think of what you might post as a status update on Facebook and write it in the journal instead. Or, think about what you wish you knew about your grandparents and write about that for yourself.
-         Think of journaling as a process, not an end product. It’s okay if it seems bad or unfocused right now. You’ll find your way.
-         If you’re worried about not doing it “right” or “well,” just remember: anything is better than nothing.

-         Enjoy yourself! This is fun!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Finer Things Book Club: The Screwtape Letters

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis shares his views on sin versus happiness through a series of letters written by a demon. The demon writes the letters to his nephew, who is a novice and needs guidance in how to cause the damnation of a young man.

This book was published in 1942, yet it is shockingly relevant to our time. Lewis has this amazing capacity to tell you things in such a way that you realize you've always known it, but you've never actually thought about it. This book changed the way I look at many aspects of life, especially what makes people happy vs. what makes them unhappy.

Every Christian should read this book, but I'd recommend it to anyone, Christian or no. Even though the book is essentially about salvation through Christ, it is at the same time a poignant study of human nature.

My book group's discussion for this book was fantastic, but it was difficult to find any activities to go along with it. We had some food that was related to the theme, such as devil's food cake, angel food cake, and divinity. I made dirty rice because the book is about sin and sin makes you dirty. I don't know if people got the connection, but the rice was delicious.


What surprised you the most about Screwtape’s philosophies? (For me, it was his emphasis on separating the patient from reality, because if the patient saw the truth in all things, he would be Christian.)

What do you think C.S. Lewis would add to this book if it were republished today?

What quote really stood out to you?

What is the difference between the detachment of self that God seeks and the detachment from reality the devils seek?

In what ways do you think the pressures of the “ordinary” make you susceptible to diabolical influence?

Screwtape uses Christian churches as a tool for temptation. In your experience, do you see Christians fall into some of the same traps as the characters in this book?

Did his views on prayer change the way you will pray in the future?

Why would devils want us to be more preoccupied with the future than the present?

Screwtape says noise is the constant sound in heaven. Does Satan use noise as a means of drawing us away from God today?

What do you think is so dangerous about asking if an idea is relevant instead of asking if it’s true?

From both divine and diabolical perspectives, what is the value of a long life?

Did Screwtape’s view of death change how you look at death?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Record Your Story, Part I: Reasons for Keeping a Journal

I hosted a journal workshop at my church not to long ago, and it went so well that I thought I should share it with you here. It's going to be in four parts. Part I: Reasons for Starting a Journal, Part II: Different Kinds of Journaling, Part III: Journal Prompts that Focus on Your Present, and Part IV: Journal Prompts that Focus on You Past.

So without further ado, here's Part I of my journal workshop.

Reasons for Starting a Journal

I've always kept a journal just because I enjoy getting thoughts out of my head and onto paper. It wasn't until I read the journal of my great-great-great grandpa that I truly understood the amazing things a journal could do. 

William Butler was born in Scotland 1825 and immigrated to America because he had no financial prospects at home. After moving to the US, he met Orson Hyde, one of the original founders of the Mormon church, and traveled to Salt Lake City as one of the first pioneers. My family has been members ever since. 

After getting married, Brigham Young asked him to serve several missions in Europe. His mission was filled with miracles of curing illness and avoiding danger through the power of God. (I wish I had time to share them with you.)

At one point, his third wife (yes, I have many polygamous ancestors) and two of his children got attacked by a murderer with an axe. He hunted the man down, beat him within an inch of his life until the man begged for death, and shot him. (Welcome to my crazy family.) 

When he went home, his wife and one of his daughters was still alive, and his wife asked for a blessing. (In my religion, that is a special prayer to help people who are sick or troubled.) He blessed her even though she was on the brink of death and she miraculously recovered. They had two children after that, one of whom - Heber Close Butler - was my ancestor.

These are stories that everyone in my family knows. My family history has been done nearly up to the 14th century, but only a few of my ancestors kept journals, and those journals are still being read by their descendants. 

You might think that's all well and good for him, but we can't all have such interesting lives. If you think your descendants won't want to read your journal, think of this:

Anne Frank was a normal 13-year-old girl when she got a journal for her birthday. In one of her first entries, she wrote, “It’s an odd idea for someone life me to keep a diary, not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I – nor for that matter anyone else – will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old school girl. Still, what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I was to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried in my heart.”

She and her family went into hiding when the Nazis started taking Jews away from Holland, and she continued keeping a journal throughout her time there. The journal has sold millions of copies world-wide and it is one of the most poignant and influential books written in the 20th century.

The fact of the matter is, no one thinks they live in extraordinary times. You don’t know what your life has in store that people will want to read about. We all have something to say that people will treasure when we are gone.

That's my reason for keeping a journal.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Kickstarter: A Great Resource for Authors

The Historical Novel Society just posted an article I wrote about how Kickstarter works and why it's a good choice for authors. I'm so flattered they gave me the opportunity to write for them and to spread the word about my project.

To read the article, click here.

To view my Kickstarter campaign and to back my project, click here.

If you would like to host me on your blog or website, you can email me at teralynpilgrim at yahoo dot com.

Voodoo Queen Kickstarter Campaign has LANCHED

Finally, my campaign to raise funds for VOODOO QUEEN has launched on Kickstarter! I'm so excited to spread the word about my project and to see how much interest it gets. Click here to see my campaign page.

WHAT IS KICKSTARTER: It's a website where people back creative projects in exchange for rewards and for the good feeling of knowing they helped an artist in need. My campaign will help fund the research for my novel about Marie Laveau, I'm offering copies of the book when it comes out as well as jewelry, swag, voodoo dolls, and more.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Go on to Kickstarter, open an account, donate however much you want, and choose your reward. That's it! I also could use as many people as possible to spread the word, so if you'd like to help, you can post my project on social media. I will be forever grateful!


VOODOO QUEEN, a novel of the famous voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, is an epic trilogy of magic, secrets, love, death, and spiritual power. Think of it as a mix between Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND and Toni Morrison’s BELOVED.

Marie lives in a world where the heads of rebellious slaves are stuck on spikes, colored women live as concubines to white men, and improper medical treatment kills people by the hundreds. There’s so much Marie wants to change, but she’s just a poor colored girl abandoned by her parents – a nobody.

Then she discovers voodoo. The mystical energy she taps into makes her more powerful than she ever imagined. Soon her potent gifts make her the most feared and respected woman in New Orleans. 

Marie's strength is tested repeatedly by personal tragedy, but with the help of the spirits, her ancestors, and her unstable family, Marie empowers and heals New Orleans.
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