Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Mystery of Women’s Fiction

with guest Orly Konig.

Ask five people for their definition of “Women’s Fiction,” and you’ll get varying definitions from each one. As one of the founding members of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, I’ve been through countless attempts at nailing down a definition that’s broad enough to encompass all of the subtleties of the genre without being so broad that it loses its impact. Each exercise leads us a step closer until someone raises a “but what about …” question and then we’re right back where we started. 

To me, that very head-scratching aspect of the genre is what makes it so special. Women’s fiction can be literary or commercial; it can be historical or contemporary; it can be mainstream or inspirational; it can have elements of magical realism, mystery, romance, thriller; they can be light reads or heart-wrenching dramas; but at its core, all women’s fiction is about relationships – whether between a couple, family, friends, or co-workers – and the emotional journey of the main character.

Women’s fiction is issue driven. The books address topics people deal with in their everyday lives – family dysfunction, divorce, infidelity, parenting, mid-life crisis, identity crisis, career changes, illness, mental illness, suicide, death, abandonment, to name just a few. The stories touch readers, make them feel and think, hope and dream. They’ll see parts of themselves in the characters and, hopefully, walk away feeling transformed in some way.

Women’s Fiction as a Label

There’s been an ongoing debate within the writing and publishing community about using the term “women’s fiction.” Why label “women’s” fiction when there isn’t such a thing as “men’s” fiction? If you go to a brick-and-mortar bookstore, you won’t find a section for women’s fiction. Those books are shelved within the general fiction stacks. If you shop online, you will find a women’s fiction category, although I’m always slightly amused by the books categorized under that label as well as those that don’t show up.

So why do we even need the label? As writers, we need it to know who we’re writing for and how to market our books.

I know, I know … you want to write what the muse tells you to write. Absolutely. Except that you probably also want to sell what you write. Luckily these days, there are more options for publishing and finding readers. That means books that mix-and-match-and-morph multiple genres have a platform. But for those writers who are still looking to go down the traditional path, agents and publishers will generally look for a book that fits within set genre boundaries.

When you query an agent, they’re looking at where you see your story fitting in the crowded marketplace. Those genre labels then help the agents identify the right editor to submit your work to. And those editors who buy your manuscript will be able to more effectively market your book.

Even if you’re self-publishing, you need to know how to market your book. The genre will largely dictate your cover options, the language you choose for your back-cover copy, and the places you target to reach your desired audience.

That’s not to say that genre-straddling books don’t sell. I know many authors who’ve written brilliant novels that don’t cleanly fit under one label. But there’s almost always one label that they fit under a bit more than the others.

As a writer, I don’t hesitate to tell other writers or agents or anyone in the industry that I write women’s fiction. My books address the real-life challenges all of us deal with. They mostly appeal to women, and I’m good with that. It helps me focus my stories and narrows down my target market.

The kicker is when I talk to readers. Most give me a funny look and ask what I mean – “like romance?” is their usual follow up question. For that audience, I usually add that my books are “family and friendship dramas, books about issues we deal with in everyday life.” 

Women’s Fiction as a Writing Home

When I first started writing, I struggled finding the right resources to help expand my craft. I joined several writer’s groups and associations and while each one had something helpful, none addressed how to get to the core of the conflict that my characters were dealing with. 

It wasn’t until I met a group of women’s fiction writers that I finally realized what had been missing for me – a tribe of writers who understand what I’m writing and who are facing the same challenges. 

In 2013, a handful of women’s fiction writers came together with the belief that every writer needs a tribe and every genre needs a champion. That’s the foundation that we built the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) on. It’s what keeps us questioning whether we have the clearest definition for the genre and how we can best support the writers and the books that fall under that umbrella. 

I learned a lot about the structure of a story, about story arcs, author platforms, pitching and querying, in the other groups I belonged to. But it wasn’t until I started interacting with women’s fiction authors and taking workshops with presenters who understand the nuances of this genre, that I was able to fully grasp how to mine the emotional depth of the characters and tug at the emotional heartstrings of the reader.

Four years after it was launched, WFWA is 1,000 members strong and offers resources that are uniquely tailored to this genre. It’s a fabulous community of writers who understand and appreciate the crazy ups and downs that accompany writing, rewriting, rewriting again; the querying and submission phases; and the glory and heartbreak of reviews. It’s a safe place to discuss those writerly mood swings that baffle our families and friends.

I credit the WFWA community for getting me from fledgling writer to published author. Through the process of launching the association, I learned that I can push myself out of my comfort zone and survive. Not just survive, but thrive. And through daily interaction with members, I learned that with perseverance anything is possible.

Are we any closer to a solid definition for women’s fiction? Probably not. A few months ago, I was at a conference and participated on a panel about women’s fiction. The introduction defined it as books for women. The following discussion showed how much more complex the genre actually is.

But I think the one thing all of us on that panel and within WFWA and any other women’s fiction author can agree on, is that our books are written for people like us.

I enjoy books in many different genres, but I admit to mostly reading women’s fiction. As an ambassador for the genre, I appreciate being able to de-mystify what the label means and introduce readers to new (or new to them) women’s fiction authors. And I love hearing from readers that a novel helped them get through a difficult stage in their lives. That’s why we write women’s fiction. 

Do you write or read women’s fiction? What drew you to this genre?

About Orly

Orly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world where she spent roughly sixteen (cough) years working in the space industry. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking entirely too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around two over-fed cats.

She is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, an active member of the Tall Poppy Writers, and a quarterly contributor to Thinking Through our Fingers blog and Writers In The Storm blog.

Her debut women’s fiction, The Distance Home, released from Forge, May 2, 2017. Carousel Beach will be releasing May 2018.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Happy Birthday Seekerville!
Day 19 and our 10th Birthday Celebration Rages on. 



Leave a comment today and you can win an ecopy of Orly Konig's debut release The Distance Home or our second giveaway, your choice of writerly mugs. 
Two winners will be posted in the Weekend Edition.



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Looking Back Ten Years!


By Debby Giusti      
   
Happy 10th Birthday, Seekerville!

My debut novel released in May 2007 and our Seekerville blog went live five months later. It seems like only yesterday in some ways, yet when I think of where I was then as far as my writing journey and where I am today…well, you get the idea. In ten years, an author can cover a lot of miles.

Back in 2007, I was a novice. Yes, I had penned six manuscripts that will forever gather dust under my bed, but I still had much to learn about the craft of writing and especially about time management and the way I would handle deadlines and marketing and all the other sometimes unexpected hats an author must wear following publication. 

Church of the Transfiguration

For a number of years before I got “The Call,” I freelanced, writing for various magazines. The process of putting an article together became almost second nature. After my focus turned to full-length fiction, I kept striving to reach that same sweet spot when I would intuitively know how to create a 300 to 400 page manuscript. In prayer, I frequently heard the number ten. I had hoped to feel that same confidence after publishing ten books, but God was whispering ten years. Today after publishing twenty stories for Love Inspired Suspense and two indie stories for our Seekerville collections, I’m at a better place. I know my creative process and have a good understanding of story and how the various parts fit into the whole.

Peter's House, Capernaum, where the first Christians gathered
after Christ's death.

Trying to encapsulate some of what I’ve learned over the last decade into ten pithy statements is a challenge, but here are a few ideas to ponder. I’ve included photos from my recent trip to the Holy Land to add visual interest to the post.
 
Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives.
  

Work as if everything depends on you. Pray as if everything depends on God.

The quote has been attributed to both Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Augustine. In either case, it’s sage advice. God is in charge. It’s his book, and I’m his humble scribe. When I’m struggling with a particular plot point or character, I often chuckle and remind God that he should have chosen someone with more talent. Along those same lines is a quote from the Iron Nun, an 87-year-old religious who still participates in and wins Ironman triathlons. Her motto is, “I do my best. God does the rest.” Give your writing to God. Create stories for his honor and glory and he will bless your work.


The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The star marks the spot of  Christ's birth.

"Perfectionism is not a quest for the best."

The quote comes from Julia Cameron. She goes on to say, “It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough, that we should try again.” Her book, The Artist’s Way, which I read and studied long before publication, is packed with wonderful insights into the creative process, such as the statement on perfectionism that, in my opinion, is spot on. Consider a writer struggling to make the beginning of her story sparkle. She writes and rewrites, she edits and revises day after day after day, searching for perfection. I’ve done that far too many times. Now, I remember to distance myself from the pages for a period of time. Usually, the problem is easy to resolve when I return to the work.


Jordan River where Christ was baptized by John the Baptist

"Kill the negative voice."

Another favorite quote from Julia Cameron. We all have a little voice that tells us we can’t do something or we can’t do it well enough. “We won’t publish, we can’t complete a story, we are stupid or unskilled or unlovable.” Don’t listen. Override the voice with positive affirmation. “I am a writer! I can and will succeed!”

The Wailing Wall

You can’t do everything.

Nor do you need to do everything. Everyone else isn’t doing everything. They’re doing certain things that fit into their lifestyle or area of interest or expertise. I don’t have to do all social media. I just need to find the right forum for me. I like Facebook. Twitter not so much. But that’s okay. I know that now. Find what works for you, not what works for others.

Garden of Gethsemane. This olive tree is thought to be
over 2000 years old and could have been in the garden
at the time of Christ.

Appreciate your editor.

I have the best editor in the whole world. Really! When she speaks, I listen. Intently. She always—always—makes my stories better. Editors know story. They know reader demographics and reader likes and dislikes. Editors are pros at what they do. At least, most of them are. Note to indie writers: find the best editor you can afford. She/he’s a gift you give yourself.

Via Dolorosa, the path Christ walked on the
way to his crucifixion.

The writing comes first.

After my debut novel published, I spent the next six weeks promoting the story and ignoring my writing. It didn’t take me long to realize my mistake. Write the next story. When you have extra time, do promotion and marketing!

Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The church covers the place of Christ's crucifixion and burial.
Golgotha is located behind the large windows, upper right.

Find your groove/pace/process.

Each of us has a unique way to tackle a story. The earlier you learn your process the better. I slowly labor over the first three-chapters and synopsis. Once they’ve taken shape, I grab my AlphaSmart and write a fast first draft. I need words on the page. Then I revise and rewrite. It works for me. Find out what works for you!

Golgotha.The spot where Christ
was crucified.
Remember Aesop’s Fables? The tortoise wins the race.

I write two books a year. That gives me enough time to enjoy life, to take trips with my husband, to attend writing conferences, join in church activities and relax over the holidays with family. Maybe you’re the hare. Ruthy is. Mary is. I’m not. Embrace who you are and how you write. Don’t try to be something—or someone--you’re not.
 
Boats like the one I took to cross the Sea of Galilee.


Be Not Afraid.

The phrase is found often in scripture. Christ wanted us to take his words to heart. Get rid of fear along with the negative voice. They go hand in hand. "Easier said than done," you say? True. But when you give your writing to God, he can give you the peace that is beyond understanding. Live in that peace and you’ll be walking in accord with his Holy Will. That’s where I want to be.

The Dead Sea


Live in God’s perfect time.

This dovetails with Be Not Afraid. God lives outside of time. We need to trust that he’ll provide the time and opportunities necessary to achieve our goals. If we give it all to him, he’ll work out the schedule. Even if we’re that tortoise, we can still get to the finish line. 

Mount of Beatitudes

Speaking of achieving our goals and reaching the finish, my eldest daughter completed an Ironman triathlon on Sunday. That’s 140 miles of swimming, biking and running accomplished within a 16 ½ hour time limit. She did a half-Ironman four years ago and spent the last nine months training for the longer event. Her determination and persistence paid off. 

My daughter achieved her goal. You can achieve yours too.

As writers, we need to train to achieve our goals. The Seekerville blog this month has been packed with valuable information, tips and techniques that can help all of us no matter where we are on our writing journey.

 
Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount

Share a tip or favorite writerly advice to be entered in two drawings. Winners will receive a copy of my Publishers Weekly Bestseller, Undercover Amish, the second book in my Amish Protectors series, along with a surprise gift or two!

Debby Giusti rides Jimmy, the camel. 

To celebrate Seekerville’s 10th birthday, I’m serving ten cakes topped with ice cream…German chocolate cake, red velvet, carrot, spice, rum, lemon, angel food, sponge cake, marble cake and apple cake. The coffee’s hot. So is the tea. Grab a cup, along with a slice of cake, and let’s talk about writing!


Wishing you abundant blessings,

Debby Giusti

Undercover Amish
By Debby Giusti

After Hannah Miller’s mother is murdered and her sisters go missing, someone comes after her. Now the only way she can survive is to entrench herself in an Amish community…and rely on Lucas Grant, a former police officer who is planning to join the Amish faith, for protection. But finding refuge for Hannah— disguised as Plain at a secluded inn—pulls Lucas back into his old life. And when Lucas discovers the criminals after them may be the people who killed his partner, the mission to take them down becomes personal. With the assailants closing in, though, can Lucas stop them…and finally put his past behind him to start an Amish life with Hannah?
Order here!


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

10 Things I Wasn’t Doing 10 Years Ago



In 2007, I was working a stress-filled day job as a purchasing manager, working part time for ACFW, had teenagers at home, and was struggling to find time to write.

As an unpublished author, I wondered more than once if all the hard work was worth it. I was so busy doing what needed to be done, that there wasn’t much time—or energy—to pursue much of the dream.

But as we celebrate Seekerville’s 10th birthday, I started looking back on the last 10 years of my writing life, and found a plethora of amazing things that I wasn’t doing then that I’m doing now. Really, I had a hard time stopping at ten!

1. Writing - Keeping to a writing schedule because it’s my job now. This seems like a no brainer, but life and exhaustion can get in the way of producing good copy. I’m in a season in my life where I was able to quit my high-pressure corporate job a few years ago. I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but I put in my time at the office. I’m still at “the office” every day, it’s just in my own home.

2. Speaking/Signing - Ten years ago, groups had no real reason to invite me to speak. Even today as I’m blogging in Seekerville, I’m packing my SUV with books and heading out to visit the library in a neighboring town. I’ll be signing books at a local festival in a couple of weeks, along with two more appearances before Christmas.




3. Keynoter - I’m listing keynote speaker separately because there’s just something extra special about being asked to keynote at a conference or retreat. In August, I gave my first keynote speech at a Christian ladies retreat in Indianapolis, Indiana. What an honor! I never, ever, in my wildest dreams, thought I’d be able to add “keynote speaker” to my resume.

4. A Taste of Fame - Okay, fame is relative, but it’s a big deal to be standing in line in my small-town grocery store and have someone recognize me and tell me — loud and proud from across two checkout lanes — that they meant it when they posted on social media they want to know what happened next [to secondary characters]. 

5. Sharing the Stage with Francine Rivers - Yep, ten years ago, who would have thought that in 2015, I’d be standing on the same stage with Francine Rivers at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, TX as we and six other Tyndale authors addressed the 700+ ladies in the audience and signed books afterward. Surreal!

Tyndale Authors, Editors and Marketing
at Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, TX

6. Conference Calls - Since I worked as a purchasing manager, I’m no stranger to phone convos with salesmen and the occasional conference call to hash out some major problem. But even those daily interactions working out $100K steel deals weren’t nearly as fun or as dear to my heart as conference calls with my editors and marketing. The time just flies as both sides work to make my latest project shine as bright as possible.

7. Books, Books, & More Books - Books with MY name on them. Should this be listed as #1, or #10??? Isn’t it the reason for this post, for all the time and effort, writing, speaking, signing, and being tied to my laptop 24/7? Yep, what I wasn’t doing 10 years ago was holding my books in my hands, and seeing my books in bookstores and online.

8. Industry Recognition - The dream was just to become published. Just to get my foot in the door, have a book with my name on it. But then to have those books win awards and land on the CBA and ECPA Bestsellers lists is just above and beyond anything I ever imagined.



9. Savoring Morning Coffee at Home - Okay, this is a bit of a departure from all the writing-related points above, but for someone who loves, loves, LOVES being at home, it’s just about the best of the lot. My dream has been to work from home just about all my adult life, and it seemed as if that dream would never come true. Granted, I still wear many “business” hats since my husband and son are both self-employed, and I’m the bookkeeper for their businesses, plus the work I do as the treasurer of ACFW. All these jobs are what enables me to stay at home.

10. Bring on the jammies and grungy hair - There’s a lot to be said for working at home and being able to wear whatever you want all day. Get up and twist your hair up in a clip, throw on an old t-shirt and a skirt or jeans and call it good. What I’m not doing, is jumping out of bed, scrambling to get dressed, and driving thirty minutes to the day job, rushing to get there on time. (Uh, did I say that I’m not exactly a morning person?)

Okay, I’m out of numbers, so this last one is just a plain out BONUS…Because of the blessing of working from home and my flexible hours, I have the absolute JOY of baby sitting my sweet and sassy grand baby twice a week. It doesn’t get any better than that!

So, there ya go. Ten (plus one!) amazing, wonderful things I wasn’t doing ten years ago.

Now for some Seekerville birthday fun! Leave a comment sharing at least one amazing thing that you weren’t doing (experiencing) ten years ago. It can be writing related, but doesn’t have to be. Today’s birthday prize is a grab bag with ten cute and fun items - along with a signed copy of Pam Hillman's latest The Promise of Breeze Hill.

Let’s chat!


Monday, October 16, 2017

The Best Craft Tips These Ten Authors Ever Received

Janet here. All month we're celebrating Seekerville's birthday with delicious food, fantastic prizes and terrific posts!! Ten years ago the Seekers started on Unpubbed Island. Once we sold, we moved to this quaint village on the mainland. Seekerville is populated with some of the nicest writers and readers you'd ever want meet! I'm thankful for this community and for each and every one of you! Thanks for making these ten years fabulous!

In honor of our birthday, I've asked these wonderful authors to share the best writing craft tip they ever received.  




Laura Scott: My best craft tip is to consider each protagonist's goal, motivation and conflict for the story. External goals drive your plot and internal goals drive the romance. If you can nail your characters internal and external conflicts your story will write itself! (Okay not really, but you'll have a good start.)






Cowboy Lawman's
Christmas Reunion
Louise Gouge: When I started writing seriously in 1984, I was happily unaware of any writing “rules.” I had the freedom to create my story as I saw fit; therefore, my first novel was a masterpiece…or so I thought. But just to be sure I’d done everything right, I went back to college to earn a creative writing degree. In my senior year, my mentor professor read my book, then called me in for a conference to ask, “Whose story is this?” Not realizing this was a trick question, I quipped, “It’s Janice’s story. Well, and Buck’s. And maybe a little bit is their son’s.” Professor Wyatt deadpanned, “And the desk clerk, the fry cook, the truck driver, etc.” Seems I had head-hopped my way through two hundred pages, making sure my readers would know everyone’s reaction to whatever was happening in the scene. I mean, don’t they do that in movies when they cut away from the hero or heroine to show a bystander’s reaction? Turns out it doesn’t work that way in fiction. Readers are distracted from the story when they have to figure out whose mind they’re in. Thus was I introduced to Point of View (POV), meaning, through whose eyes we experience the story. Professor Wyatt taught me the importance of staying in one character’s head per scene. And the fewer POVs per book, the better. In romance novels, we mainly want to know what the heroine and hero are thinking. Anyone else’s thoughts need to be revealed through dialogue or actions seen by the main characters. I’ve stuck with that principle throughout my twenty-five published novels.

An Amish Courtship

Jan DrexlerMy number one craft tip: You can't edit words you haven't written. Just get them down and fix them later. (Seekerville)

Mail-Order Marriage Promise


Regina ScottThe best advice I ever received on craft is to know your core story. As writers, particular themes and ideas call to us. Across everything we write, there is a core truth. Mine is realizing your place in the world, how you can contribute. Once I recognized that, I could go deeper with my writing, shine the light on stories that had been only glimmers. Knowing my core story helped me understand who I am as a writer. 



Sweetbriar Cottage


Denise Hunter: The best craft tip I ever received is pretty simple: get into and out of your scenes as quickly as possible. When you do anything else you risk boring the reader. Of course, one needs to set the scene. Give the reader an idea of who’s there and where “there” is. But that can usually be done in a few sentences. Come into a scene too early and we make the reader weed through a bunch of needless information. Same thing when it’s on the back end of the scene. Get in, accomplish your scene goal, and get out. It'll keep your story clipping along at a nice, brisk pace.





Rhonda Gibson: Lauraine Snelling shared this tip with me. Keep a notebook of the book you are currently working on. Or a notebook with your ideas in it. I keep one notebook with my current book that I'm working on and I have a divider at the back with a section called 'Future Ideas' at the back. This notebook has been a lifesaver for me. I can take it everywhere 



Mail Order Christmas Baby

Sherri Shackelford: Never listen to any piece of advice that says you 'have' to do something. You don't 'have' to write every day to be a writer. You don't 'have' to use hundreds of note cards and fourteen multi-colored sharpies to plot out every sentence of your story. You don't 'have' to use The Hero's Journey, or The 'W' Plot, or the The Snowflake Method. The only thing you 'have' to do is find out what works for you. Your method, your rules, your words. Then remember that your process may change over time, and that's okay too. Your talent doesn't desert you--even on bad days. 


Reunited by Danger

Carol Post: I’ve received lots of great craft tips over the years, but the one that made the biggest difference in my writing came from a contest judge. She said I needed to learn to write in deep point of view. Since I had no idea what it was, I had to google it. There are lots of great articles out there, but one in particular really made it click. I learn well by example, and this article was perfect for that. It started with a scenario in a single sentence. Then that short passage was reworked several times, each time including more depth. The fifth and final attempt pulled me thoroughly into the character’s head. The passage filled a good half page and really came alive, with so much emotion, some great sensory details and even some symbolism. Although I copied and pasted the examples, I wish I had saved the link to the article. I’ve looked for it since to be able to share it and have never found it again. But what I gleaned from that one post pretty much changed my writing overnight.


Love Lessons
Cate Nolan: The best CRAFT writing tip I ever got was actually from the title of a book. I was browsing in Barnes & Noble's reference section and noticed a book called Writers Write. I picked it up and flipped through, but after a bit, I realized all the wisdom was actually contained in the title. Writers Write. I went home, typed those words, printed them out in a huge font, and posted the sign by my computer. That's when I began my commitment to a daily word count. At first I only demanded a minimum of 100 words per day every day. Eventually I increased it to 1,000. I know this is supposed to be a CRAFT tip, and I think it really is because I learned that everything about my writing got better if I just sat down and put in the time to put down the words every single day.  In keeping with that is another quote I found. I have no idea where it came from, but I wrote it on a little slip of paper and kept it beside my bed for years. "She wrote what she loved until she loved what she wrote. And she sent it out one more time." Writers write. Best advice ever. Sort of like Nike's Just do it.

How to Write When Everything
Goes Wrong
Allie Pleiter: Play "what if"--but an extreme version. Take any scene or plot (this works especially well when you are stuck) and brainstorm 25 "what if"s. You can't do five or six because all those will be reasonable. Expected. Boring. You want to force yourself to be unreasonable, surprising, or even shocking. It's always in the last ten ideas that the real gems unearth themselves. What if he's lying? What if she knows? What if they're both lying? What if they're both telling the truth but each believes the other is lying? Take a thread and run to extremes. You may come up with 24 ridiculous or boring options, but you will likely discover the one option that ignites your story. I have found this to work not only when you're just generally stuck, but especially when you feel you are too stressed to write--somehow the stress in your life shuts down your internal editor so that your ideas become that much more extreme--and exciting! 

           Two Bonus Craft Tips because writers can't have too many!


With This Pledge

Debra Clopton: I'm not certain which of these has been most important in my career but both have been instrumental. First, sit in the chair and write. Production has been my friend from day one of my publishing career and it still is. But second, and what I believe everyone needs to know, is the tip my first and long time editor Krista Stroever, advised me soon after she bought me, when edits came in from her or the other editors my main job was to protect my voice. I took that advice and picked my battles carefully, but when it came to changing my voice that was where I stood my ground.

Tracker






Lenora Worth:An argument is not conflict. Two people fighting in a scene is not conflict. Conflict is what they are NOT fighting about in the scene, the things they hold back and internalize--that's the conflict.


For a chance to win one of two $10 Amazon gift card, leave a comment. Yes, that's two prizes, one for a writer and one for a reader. 

Writers please share the best craft tip you've ever received. 

For readers, tell us the best tip you've ever received for doing anything. We all can use good advice!

In honor of our 10th birthday, I brought coffee and tea and trays of ten different cookies. Choose from chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle, molasses, sugar, peanut butter, lemon bars, chocolate crinkles, peanut butter blossom and monster cookies.