Be the Apple

DSC08230I recently read an article about a particular college in which the author highlighted everything the school was doing wrong and the one thing that it could be doing right.  In a nutshell, the author of the article gave the advice, “Be the Apple of colleges.”  What does this mean?  He went on to explain that Apple became the giant it is by finding something that it could do better than anyone else – that was the iPod.  Taking the MP3 player to a level never before imagined, Apple won over buyers looking for something new, something better, and then held onto those buyers and increased their number exponentially by continuing to improve the iPod.  Those advances led to the iPhone (don’t believe everything you read or hear today – experts are saying that the drop in sales have less to do with Apple and more to do with people’s satisfaction with their existing phones).  The iPhone led to the iPad, and others have been copying those products and trying to outdo them from day one.  Even if you aren’t an Apple fan, you must see the logic in the author’s advice.  Simply said, discover what you do well, and show it to the world.

In a previous blog, I talked about happiness and the studies that show that happier people are healthier, live longer, and get more out of life.  A sure way to be happy is to figure out what you’re good at, and show it to the world.  Everyone is born with a gift.  The key is discovering what that gift is.  Some people are born writers, others are born musicians, some are born actors.  But those are truly only a small part of the world’s population.  Does that mean that only those in Hollywood, those on the NYT bestseller list, or those filling stadiums to capacity every night are the only ones with talent?  Of course not!  I repeat, everyone is born with a gift.

My best friend is a quiet, introspective soul.  She doesn’t share much about her personal life with anyone, including me.  She keeps it to herself and doesn’t complain whether she’s home alone on a Friday night or tackling a major project or life-changing event.  But she will sit and listen for hours.  And I mean listen.  She actually hears, absorbs, ponders, and then offers advice or encouragement.  To me, that is truly a gift.  The world could use a lot more people like her.

My mother is the most selfless person I’ve ever known.  She is organized, a good problem solver, and a true leader.  Every organization she has ever belonged to has, at some point, elevated her to its head.  Not everyone has the skill to be a real leader who has the ability to make changes and touch people in an unforgettable way.  That is a real talent.  Current political candidates in both parties could learn a lot from Mom (and yes, she has worked as a political advisor as well).

Whether you’re skilled at a sport, an art, an educational subject, you have a talent that you have the ability, and the choice, to offer to the world.  Do you sew?  Kudos to all of those moms and Girl Scout Leaders.  Can you do calligraphy?  Few people can these days.  Do you have a great speaking voice?  Can you knit?  Are you a good tutor?  I could go on and on.  There are even  tests and books that help you find your hidden talent.  Whoever came up with those must have a talent for discovering talent.

Whatever it is that you do, do it well.  Never lose sight of it.  Pursue it with passion.  My Rebecca is a gifted leader, Katie is a phenomenal photographer, and Morgan is a beautiful swimmer (both Katie and Morgan’s talents are displayed above).  Are any of them ever going to win Nobel prizes or Olympic medals?  The chances are slim to none, but that shouldn’t inhibit the sharing of their talents with the world.  St. Paul tells us that “each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that” (1 Corinthians 7:7).  We all have a talent.  And God wants us to do just what Apple did – find the talent, be the best you can be at that talent, and show it to the world.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013)

A Place to Call Home (2014)

Picture Me (2015)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events

Be A Person of Encouragement

DSC09282A few years ago, I read a book called Magnetic Christianity by radio host and inspirational speaker, Gus Lloyd. I was reminded, while listening to Gus’ program yesterday morning, of his last chapter which is on encouragement. I’ve actually been thinking about this word a lot lately. What is encouragement? How can we be people of encouragement? And why do we want to be?

To encourage or give encouragement is “to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence.”  It’s more than merely giving a pat on the back or simply saying good job. It’s the act of inspiring someone, of uplifting their spirit, of boosting their confidence. Those are pretty lofty aspirations, if you ask me. Think about it – giving encouragement to someone could actually make a difference in a person’s life. You could be the catalyst that allows someone to feel victory instead of defeat, success instead of failure, or become the person they were meant to be. 

My daughter, Katie, has a fabulous assistant tennis coach. When one of the kids is doing something wrong or making mistakes that affect their game, she doesn’t point out what they’re doing wrong. She encourages them to do what is right. She describes a better way, a more skilled approach, or path to improvement. She believes that by encouraging the player and showing him or her how to improve upon what they are already doing right is they best way to teach them to win. And she’s right every time. 

A teacher who encourages students to do their best will always be more successful than a teacher who consistently points out what a student does wrong. Encouragement isn’t the absence of correction but the enabling of confidence through positivity. A child doesn’t learn through negative reinforcement. He rebels or shuts down. But I’m sure we’ve all witnessed what happens to a child who meets that one teacher, coach, or mentor who lifts her up with encouragement and shows her that she matters and can succeed. 

The same can be said in the workplace.  According to a recent study by the University of California, people who are positive are more successful, less likely to be unemployed, healthier, and live longer.  It further found that positivity at work can lead to more engaged and resilient employees.  Psychologist, Sarah Lewis, in explaining the findings to CNN said, “[When] people enter a more positive space they become more willing to take risks and make comments,” she said “they go into the more difficult conversations and they’re more productive.”  What employee wouldn’t want that in his workplace?  And encouragement should go both ways, from the employer as well as the employee.  

The key word in the definition of encouragement is “spirit.”  When someone has lost their spirit, they have lost a bit of themselves, perhaps forever. The death of one’s spirit can be the death of any positive outlook they may have for the rest of their life. But to encourage one’s spirit, to make someone feel good about themselves, to boost their confidence, to help them to see the good that is within, can be life-changing. We should all strive to be persons of encouragement. This means:

  • Point out and reinforce the good in an effort to fix the bad. People are always more receptive to the positive. 
  • Do not lie or spread rumors about others. This harms both your spirit and theirs. 
  • Do not tear down others. Show them, in a kind and loving way, how they can be or do better. 
  • Offer assistance to those you see struggling, whether it is of the mind, body, or soul. 
  • And smile. Show others that no matter what you, yourself, may be facing and no matter what troubles they may have, there is always a reason to smile. It’s the easiest way to begin your journey toward living a life of encouragement. It may even change the way you look at yourself. 

I guarantee that when you become a person of encouragement, you will not only change the lives of those you encourage, but you will become a changed person yourself.  So go out there and be a positive influence.  I know you can do it!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.  For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.  If we are afflited, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement.”    -2 Corinthians 1: 3-8

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:  Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events

Embracing the Romance

imageI’ve been running from it, kicking it away, fighting to hide it, and just plain old denying it; and now I’m coming out into the open to admit it.  I write romance novels.  To be honest, I hate genres.  I hate being labeled as any kind of author because I write what I write, whatever strikes my fancy, whatever my characters want the manuscript to become.  I have never intended to write a romance.  I once asked romance novelist Robyn Carr where she thinks I belong.  She didn’t hesitate, “You’re a romance writer.”  I could barely fake the smile that I returned to her as she beamed proudly at her proclamation.  “No, I’m not,” I wanted to scream to the room full of writers and fans.  I write children’s books, mysteries, suspense novels, and a blog.  I DO NOT write romance.  At least, that’s what I’ve always told myself.  Alas, here’s the truth: I DO write romance.  And here’s why…

  1. I like romance.  I like the happily ever after.  I like that when someone finishes my book, they are going to be crying happy tears because, as my editor said about my newest novel, Whispering Vines, “the book ended as it should.”  I like to put down a book feeling as though everything is right with the world, even if it’s just that little, contrived world of someone’s imagination.
  2. I love the romance community.  I belong to several writers’ associations.  None of them is as welcoming, supportive, charitable, and helpful as the romance groups I belong to.  I ask for reviewers, and they jump at the chance to read my books.  I ask for advice, and fifty people chime in to help.  Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a great community like that?  And don’t get me started on how devoted the fans are.  They’re the best!
  3. The sky is the limit.  While I really do not like labels, I have come to realize that, as a romance writer, one can really bypass labels or accept all labels as possibilities.  You see, as a non-romance fiction writer, I have several genres of choice: mystery/suspense, contemporary, historical, real-life crime, and so on.  But as a romance writer, I can have my cake and eat it, too!  I can write a mystery, then a sweet love story, then a historical romance, then a children’s fairy tale.  And there’s still more.  Again, the sky is the limit.
  4. Romance sells.  According to the Atlantic Monthly, romance sales “far outperform other genres of literature, including religious/inspirational books, mystery novels, science fiction and classic literary fiction.”  I guarantee that every person reading this knows a romance novel connoisseur (or is one herself).  You don’t?  Guess again.  They may be reading romance in bed after dark when nobody else sees it, but they’re reading it.
  5. It’s fun and satisfying.  Sure, I enjoy an accurate historical account, and they often help me sleep at night (or rather, fall asleep).  And a good thriller can be a real page turner.  But when it comes down to it, the books that keep me reading are the ones that give me something to root for.  Will Ella overcome her horrible curse and find true happiness with Prince Charmont?  Will Mr Darcy stop being an arrogant jerk long enough to see that he desperately needs Elizabeth in his life?  Will Scarlett ever see past her own selfishness and realize that all Rhett really wants in life is her?  These are questions that we must know the answers to!  And when that happily ever after comes (or the promise that “tomorrow is another day”), we are satisfied.  It leaves us with that glowing feeling that somehow, everything can turn out fine no matter what obstacles one must face even if we have to imagine that tomorrow, it all works out for the best.
  6. It doesn’t have to be about sex.  There is a big push today for books with explicit sex, but not all romance is written for people without imaginations.  While an honest, loving, uplifting scene of intimacy is just fine when appropriate, a good novel doesn’t have to include play by play sex scenes.  If the story can hold its own, it doesn’t need gratuitousness to keep readers interested.
  7. There’s already enough hate in the world.  Don’t we get tired of seeing bad things happen every time we turn on the news?  Must all television shows these days be built around the presence of evil?  Sure, bad things happen.  Even in romance novels.  There has to be some kind of roadblock to happiness, tragic flaws that the hero or heroine must rise above, perhaps even a bad guy wreaking havoc on the characters’ lives.  But in the end, romances all have one thing in common – the happily ever after.  And isn’t that what we all want out of life?  To live happily ever after?
  8. There’s always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  There are storms in life.  We’ve all faced them.  And it’s nice to have a reminder that if we stick around, put in some effort, and dare to take chances, not only can we weather the storm, we can see the rainbow and rejoice as the sun clears.
  9. A good man is hard to find.  Flannery O’Conner was right.  But in romance novels, even the bad boys are tamed by the love of a good woman.  Isn’t that why every girl has a fling with a rebel or someone from the wrong side of the tracks?  Don’t we all want to fall in love with Pony Boy?  Okay, that’s not a romance, but you get the point.  Does Sandra Brown have any male leads who aren’t brooding rebels obsessing over something in their past?  And don’t they always turn out to be the perfect man in the end?
  10. Because, in the end, love is all that matters.  Even St. Paul the Evangelist knew that.  Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”              Corinthians, 13:6-7

Who wouldn’t want to contribute all of that to the world?  So I write romance.  And I say, ain’t love grand?

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:  Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events

Choosing to Serve

12809725_1123824417668499_2470438355023310313_n
Mount St Mary’s Students volunteering at St Vincent DePaul in Philadelphia.

When you get a call from your child that begins, “I have something to tell you, but I’m afraid you’re going to hate me,” all kinds of things run through your mind in the seconds that it takes for you to swallow, blink, say a prayer, and respond, “I could never hate you.  What’s up?”  It’s the equivalent of your life passing before your eyes, but it’s your child’s future that you see instead of your past, all of the horrible possibilities.  There are so many sentences that could follow that exchange, and I’m very relieved to say that the one that my daughter proudly said did not surprise me at all.  “I’m thinking of taking off a year or so after graduation and becoming a FOCUS missionary instead of going directly to law school.”

There are certain moments in a parent’s life when you find your heart swelling with emotion over the person your child has become.  The older they get, and the more they accomplish, the more you marvel at the things they are able to do and all that they make of their lives.  Rebecca graduated from high school at the age of seventeen and embarked on the college career she had always planned.  She earns excellent grades, heads up a handful of organizations, volunteers endlessly, and has made quite a stellar name for herself both on and off campus.  As she grows into the woman I always knew she would be, she becomes the woman I wish I could be.

15NNY1_0771-001
My daughter, Katie, building a wheelchair ramp for a stranger.

Many people talk about leading a life dedicated to serving others.  Few people actually do it in a way that really matters, but Rebecca does.  Every day.  This past weekend, she and a group of students from Mount St. Mary’s University spent the weekend literally living out the Corporal Works of Mercy by serving food in a shelter, visiting with the elderly, and volunteering at an event for men overcoming addiction.  ‘Hate’ her for wanting to spend a year in service to God and others?  I don’t think so.  Law school isn’t going anywhere; and soon enough, Rebecca will be working full time, married, and taking care of children of her own.  But when she graduates college as a barely twenty-year-old who has already accomplished more than many will accomplish in their entire lives, she will be able to hold her head up high and tell people, “I’m doing something better than going to law school.  I’m doing God’s work.”  I couldn’t be a prouder or happier mom, and the best part is that she has two sisters who are just as special as she is.

12512336_1053239361402747_3441302639035636565_n
Mount St. Mary’s students visiting the elderly.

Think of what our world would be like if more young people were taught to serve others instead of always wanting more for themselves.  Many school systems across this country require students to obtain service hours before graduation, but there are strings.  In a great number of those school districts, volunteering for one’s church, or for any religious based organization, is prohibited.  Recently, a national organization for which I put in many hours myself every year, has begun prohibiting girls from earning their service awards through helping other non-profit organizations such as local fire departments.  Exactly what kind of “service” are children allowed to do these days?   How and where are they learning to put others first and to tend to the needs of those who can’t take care of themselves?  I doubt that many Americans under the age of fifty have ever done true acts of service.  Sure, we all volunteer at school or coach a sports team, but how many of us have worked at a soup kitchen, volunteered at a homeless shelter, or visited the sick or elderly who we don’t even know?

Does anyone even remember President Kennedy’s famous quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”?  He was speaking about service, as was President Reagan when he said “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”  I challenge everyone out there – every parent, every college and high school student, every young child – to find a way to serve others, to help someone.  Instead of relying on the government to fix everything, let’s start thinking of how we can step in and help people ourselves.  If every single person gave just a few days a year to be of service to others, our world would be a much different and enormously better place.  Everyone would see the world through the eyes of someone else, and more importantly, learn how it feels to actually do something phenomenal for one another, even if it’s as simple as sitting in a hospital and holding the hand of somebody with nobody else to be there for them.  So I ask, how are you being called to serve?

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:  Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events