Category: Podcasts

143 – The Gift of Guilt

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Gift of Guilt Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

No one likes feeling guilty. Knowing they’ve done something wrong or hurt someone by their actions, or by their spoken or written words. Even believers too often seem steeped in guilt, held back from doing what God has asked them to do, like write His truths to people. But the reality is that guilt is a gift that God uses to make you a better person—and writer—than you ever imagined. Come see how!

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Guilt. Most people feel it. And hate it. It’s one of those emotions you never want to experience, and yet it tends to invade our lives all the time. But why? After all, those of us who follow Christ shouldn’t feel guilty about anything, should we? All our sins are covered by Christ’s sacrificial, restoring act on the cross. We’re forgiven, now and forever. So what place does guilt have in the life of a believer… and the life of a writer?

I (Karen) confess, I wondered about that myself. Are we, as God’s children, who’ve been restored to Him by the blood of Christ, struggling with emotions God doesn’t want us to feel? If that’s the case, is it bad?

Are we hindering our relationships with God and others, or damaging our witness? Are we letting that unnecessary emotion keep us from doing what God has asked us to do on our writing journey? After all, if we’re guilty, who are we to write about life and faith? How can we inspire others when we’re caught in guilt ourselves? And if we’re doing all that, engaging in something we shouldn’t be, how do we stop? And if we are supposed to feel guilt, how could we ever consider it a gift?

All good questions, which we’ll tackle today. 

So let’s start by figuring out what the word guilt really means by going to our favorite resource for such things, Webster’sThe definitions are: 

: the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty  broadly: guilty conduct 

: the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously : culpability

: feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : morbid self-reproach often manifest in marked preoccupation with the moral correctness of one’s behavior : self-accusation

: the state of being liable to penalty for offense against law—used in respect to persons and sometimes property that by reason of illegal usage has become liable to forfeiture or other burden

Okay, so now that we have the definitions, let’s consider the question of whether or not we believers should be feeling guilty. In 1 John 1:8, John delivers this bit of “encouragement” to Christ’s followers:

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.”

Ouch. Okay, we still sin.

Then there’s Romans 8:23:

“And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.”

Groaning, longing for release from sin! So, if we still sin, then surely we have things to feel guilty about?

James certainly seemed to think so. Consider James 4:7-10:

“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”

Wow. We need to wash our hands, to purify our hearts, to not divide our loyalty. As for sorrow and deep grief…sadness and gloom…that all sounds like the consequences of guilt. 

Paul talks about his own struggle with his sinful self in Romans 7:14-15. How many of us can relate to this:

“…The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”

Then he writes this powerful truth in Romans 7:24-8:4 (ESV):

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” 

These are just a few of the Scriptures that show that those of us who are restored to God our Father through Jesus’s death and resurrection are far from sinless. And if we sin, you know we’re gonna feel guilt. More important, be in a factual state of guilt. The truth is that guilt, or feeling guilt, doesn’t damage our witness or hinder our obedience in whatever tasks God gives us, including our writing. 

I can hear you now: How can we write for others, to inspire and uplift them, if we’re guilty? Well, as Jesus pointed out in Luke 5:31:

“It is not the well who need a physician, but the sick.”

Guilty or not, OF COURSE we can inspire others in our writing because we’re not writing from some “holy” point above what our readers struggle with. We’re right there with them, in the struggle. Those who haven’t faced what our readers have are the ones who have little to say. 

So yes, we do—and should—feel guilt. But why, exactly? What’s the purpose of guilt? Is it just emotions or is it something else entirely?

John I. Snyder wrote in his blog post, “A State of Being: Guilt and Shame”:

From the Bible’s point of view, guilt, real guilt, is first and foremost not a feeling. It’s a state of being. It’s the position of being out of line with our God by virtue of our sin. It can be fixed only by being placed into a right relationship with him, a solution that’s brought about only by God himself, not by us. It is his specialty to fix this problem. Resorting to our own measures only makes things worse…[When God fixes our guilt] nothing more can be—or needs to be—added to it. We can’t make it better or earn it.” 

So guilt, true guilt (yes, there’s false guilt out there, but we’ll talk about that another time), is a twofold proposition. It’s a state or condition. When we do what we know is wrong—or when we don’t do what we know to be right—basically, when we sin, we are guilty. Our emotions have little or nothing to do with our guilt. We are, factually, in a state of being guilty. 

Guilt is also the emotional response we feel when we’re in a state of guilt. Whether our wrongdoing is in violation of God’s laws, civil laws (that don’t break God’s laws), or our own personally held values, the result is the same. True guilt. We sin, and we feel guilt. 

I’m betting we all know that terrible feeling. The heaviness inside. The regret. The restlessness and even sadness or grief. The awareness that we’ve damaged something—whether that’s our integrity, our relationship with God or people, or our witness as believers—and the holy nagging to put things right. 

How does this affect writers? Writers seeking to honor Christ are constantly presented with opportunities to violate what we know to be right. Temptations for writers are out there. For example:

  • Publishers want to contract you if you’ll just take out the Jesus stuff. 
  • You include something in the book that’s “true to life,” but doesn’t honor God. 
  • You fudge the truth about your sales or career to make yourself look better. 
  • You make getting published your goal rather than obedience. 
  • You ignore agreed upon responsibilities to family and friends because you have to write.
  • You put off writing even though you know it will make you miss a contracted deadline. 

Those kinds of things, and so much more, leave us with uncomfortable, nagging, even devastating guilt. As they should, because we are guilty when we’ve sinned. 1 John 1:8-10 makes that pretty clear:

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

Now there’s some guilt I wouldn’t want. 

So yes, we’re created in God’s image, and we’re commanded to be holy as He is holy. We’re given clear guidelines in Scripture as to what’s right and what’s wrong. When we go against those truths, of course we’ll feel guilty. It’s only natural. And it’s natural that true guilt negatively affects everything—keeping us from moving forward in our relationships, career, and faith—until we make things right.

Let’s repeat that: true guilt affects everything…until we make things right. That, friends, is a vital aspect of true guilt. And that’s what makes true and healthy guilt a gift in our lives and writing. 

God never intended for believers to live wracked by guilt. To feel guilt every day, in every way, and never get away from it. Let me put in a side note here: For unbelievers, guilt is absolutely intended to be there, to draw people to Christ. But for believers, God never intended us to live incapacitated by guilt and overwhelmed by how terrible we are. 

Isn’t that where guilt hits writers the hardest? In that place where we look at the task in front of us, a task God has given us, and let guilt tell us we’re not worthy to do it? If we live with unresolved guilt, it festers and becomes a barrier to our belief that God can use us. 

Which is why it’s such good news that God doesn’t want us to live with guilt! 

Grant Agler, a pastor, wrote this in his article “Guilt – Is it from God?“:

“God is for you. Remember that, he is not against you, he is for you. He has gone to great length just to demonstrate how much he is for you.”

Agler then points us to Romans 8:31-33: 

“If God is for us, then who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”

This amazing God who is for us, ALWAYS for us, knows what living in guilt would do to us. As Agler writes:

“[Our] loving father…would never heap guilt on you that has no clear resolution. God will give you something better than just guilt, he will give you a ‘path to repentance.'”

God wants to erase our guilt. To remove it so we no longer feel it. He uses true guilt, a good—although terrible—thing to move us to repentance and reconciliation. Again, that’s the purpose of true guilt: reconciliation, restoration, and freedom through forgiveness. That, without a doubt, is a gift. 

I (Karen) have never had a problem with confessing my sin to God, but oh, how I hated having to go through the humiliation of confessing my sin to those I’d wronged. But God, in His mercy, showed me the wonder of forgiveness and erased guilt when I was seventeen years old. I’d deliberately disobeyed my dad. He’d told me I could go out to dinner with my friends, but I was not to go cruising with my friends afterwards because it was dangerous. If they wanted to go cruising, he told me to ask to be brought home first.

As much as I adored my dad, well, I was seventeen! So when my friends decided to go cruising, I went along. When I came home, I was consumed with guilt. This was the first time I’d flat gone against my dad. I went up to my room and lay on my bed crying and suffering.

I pulled out my Bible and God led me to Psalm 32, which is a wonderful testimony of the effect of feeling guilt when we sin. In verses 3-4, it was clear David had an intimate knowledge of feeling guilt:

When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.” 

That, my friends, is a terrible place to be even temporarily. I can’t imagine living there. 

Which is why it’s so wonderful that we who believe in God never have to stay in a state of guilt. The very millisecond we surrender to the Spirit’s leading and confess our sins, God’s forgiveness washes us clean. When we follow the Spirit’s leading to make things right, freedom is restored. 

Best-selling author Tamera Alexandar shared with us in podcast episode #130 about a devastating time in her career when she sinned. If you haven’t listened to that podcast episode, do so. You’ll see how God wouldn’t let her live in that sin. How, as humiliating as it felt, she confessed to those she’d wronged. And how God not only set her free, but made her so much stronger in her faith and obedience. Her experience is the perfect example of the gift of true guilt. 

So that then, is the grand news for all of us. Yes, we sin. Yes, we put ourselves in a state of true guilt. And yes we feel the emotion of guilt. But it doesn’t end there! Thanks be to God, as Paul said, true guilt isn’t permanent! 

In fact, it serves God’s purposes for our life, faith, and writing. True guilt:

  • is natural and healthy in the life of a believer 
  • wrecks us when we sin and makes us admit our weakness and sinfulness
  • permeates our spirits until we go to God and repent
  • is TEMPORARY! 

Once we’ve taken our guilt to God, once we’ve done as He leads to make things right, it’s done. Gone. It evaporates in the warmth of holy restoration. We are free and able to rejoice in God’s and others’ forgiveness. 

Now, as much as true guilt is healthy for us, there is something else at work where guilt is concerned. Remember how we mentioned false guilt earlier? Well, sometimes we feel guilty but we’re not sure why. We can’t tell if what we’re feeling is true guilt, or false guilt. False guilt is devastating, and it’s an effective tool the enemy uses against believers. 

It’s especially effective against writers seeking to honor God because writers are already so vulnerable to something we’ve talked about before in episode 81: Imposter Syndrome. Which is why we’re devoting our entire next podcast to understanding, exploring, and erasing false guilt. 

Until then, here’s a handy list from the article “How to Tell the Difference Between True and False Guilt” on to help you determine if what you’re feeling is true guilt. Well…their list with a few tweaks from us. 

When you feel true guilt:

  • You know exactly why you feel this way. 
  • It’s clear you did something wrong and are responsible.
  • You can’t ignore it and it doesn’t just go away over time.
  • It leads to learning, forgiveness from God and others and yourself.
  • It’s resolved by:
    1. facing and stopping the sin 
    2. confessing the wrongdoing to God and those you’ve wronged
    3. taking steps according to God’s word and wisdom to make it right.
  • It ends.

If those things resonate, then yes, what you’re feeling is true and healthy guilt. And yes, it’s a gift. We’re not saying it’s easy. Or fun. It’s going to take courage to deal with. And humility. But remember, God already knows your sin. Nothing you can do will surprise him or make him take his love from you, because God IS love. It’s his nature, and it doesn’t depend on you. Thank God, right?

When God has used good guilt to work His purpose in your life, you will be able to walk and write in the freedom of forgiveness. And your stories, be they fiction or nonfiction, will resonate with the authenticity of one who is forgiven and restored. 

Then you’ll be able to sing with David the rest of Psalm 32. You didn’t think we’d forget to share that, did you? Well buckle up, friends, because the following verses are why this Psalm was so powerful to my (Karen’s) seventeen-year-old sinner’s self, and why I wept when I read it. I’d just confessed my wrong to my dad, and his forgiveness was swift and complete, and ended with the assurance, “Karen, you could never do anything that would make me not love you.” 

Trust me, those are the same words you’ll hear from God when your guilt is forgiven. So, here are the words God gave me that night so long ago: 

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!… Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” Psalm 32:1-2; 5


Do you feel guilty? Find out when it’s a gift...and when it’s not! #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1 Click To Tweet

How has God used guilt in your life?


For the next few months, we have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing podcast, and we’re bringing you Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing. We highly recommend this podcast with host Thomas Umstattd Jr., a genius on marketing and all things publishing! You can find the podcast at

Today we’re covering commandment number 7: Thou shalt weigh thine options before investing in marketing.

Investing in marketing is a given. Every successful author does so. But how much of which resources do you invest? For example, one resource is time, and another is money. They’re both valuable. But how much do you have of each? And how do you allocate them?

You can’t spend the same marketing dollar on two different things. You’ve got to choose. Nor can you spend the same hour of time on two different things. There is always going to be a cost, a thing you chose and a thing you didn’t choose. The best thing you can do for yourself is understand and weigh your options so you can make the best decisions you can. 

You also need to be asking the right question when it comes to marketing. Don’t ask: will this tactic or thing I want to try help me sell more books? Lots of things can help you sell more books. Ask instead: Will this help me sell more books than the next best alternative?

For that, again, you need to know what those alternatives are. Listening to the Novel Marketing Podcast is a great way to be informed about those options, which is why we recommend that show. You can find more book promotion and platform help by listening to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at


Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our June sponsor of the month, K.D. Aster. She’s hard at work on her novel: Kingdom of Azur, and we’re excited to see how it turns out. K.D. Aster, thanks, and keep writing!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!


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142 – Seeing Through God’s Eyes with Guest Tim Shoemaker

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Seeing Through God's Eyes with Guest Tim Shoemaker Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungIt’s hard to let go of our expectations when we embark on this journey of writing God’s truth. Whether the path we’re on is to write fiction or nonfiction, we think we have an idea of how it will go. Then reality smacks us between the eyes. Guest Tim Shoemaker reveals how it all makes sense when we look through God’s eyes.

About Tim Shoemaker

Tim Shoemaker has authored sixteen books, is a popular conference speaker, and serves at his local church. His latest book, Easy Target, released in March, 2021, with Focus on the Family, and Escape From the Everglades releases in July. Tim has been happily married for over forty years to Cheryl, his high school sweetheart.

Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast! 

Karen: Hey guys, it’s time to enter into the deep and we are so glad that you’re here with us today. And with our guest, Tim Shoemaker. Erin will introduce him.

Erin: I will. Tim Shoemaker is the author of sixteen books, and he writes both fiction and nonfiction. His latest book, Easy Target, is a middle grade thriller that just released with Focus on the Family. For all you people looking for middle grade stories out there, that’s a thriller that your kids might like.

Tim also speaks at schools, churches, conferences, and para-church organizations like Focus on the Family. He’s happily married to the love of his life, and he has three grown sons. On his website he lists several of the things he’s passionate about, but I think this one is my favorite. He says he’s passionate about being a man of integrity who loves God and others with all his heart.

Tim, we are so glad to have you here with us. Thank you and welcome!

Tim: Erin, Karen, thank you so much for having me. Happy to be here.

Erin: Tim, let’s just jump in with our first question that we always give. What does the deep mean to you?

Tim: Well, I think, we were talking just a moment before we got on the air, and here in the Chicago roots, I would have to say deep dish pizza is certainly a big one there. And I would be a Giordano’s guy.

Erin: Me too! We all have Chicago roots here. Now we’re all wanting pizza.

Karen: Yeah, that’s right!

Tim: No, but really I think the deep to me is about those deep places in your heart. When you’re writing, it comes from those strong passions that we have that are deep down. Our deepest convictions. It’s these core things, these foundational beliefs that we’ve got.

To me, I think that’s what the deep is about it. I feel like—you’ve seen this too, right?—when you’re reading fiction, can’t you tell about an author you’ve never met before just by reading their fiction? Because if they’re writing from their heart, you’re going to find out what they’re really about and what makes them tick. To me, that’s it. It’s definitely about those deep places of our heart.

Erin: I love that. Tim, you’ve been a full-time author and a speaker for quite a few years, more than fifteen years now, I think. But tell me, how did your writing career start?

Tim: Well, it started by just telling stories to nieces and nephews and my own three sons.

I love telling stories. Seeing their eyes get wide, you know? And if you think, “Okay, maybe I’m going a little bit too far here, we’ll tone it down.” That type of thing. I love doing that. But I would keep hearing, “Dad, you’ve got to write these stories down.”

I will tell you, I had zero interest in that. None. You know, you’re just sort of making things up. I figured I’m never going to remember what I just talked about anyway. But one time I tried, and I found out I loved it.

I could not believe it because that had never happened to me in school. Maybe because everything was so regimented, it was so formulaic in school. But just to be able to write like this? I loved it. I was actually in the photo business. I had a one hour mini lab.

Erin: Oh, cool. Way back when those existed.

Tim: Yeah, exactly. I had that mini lab and studio, and I was starting to write on the side then. My dream was that someday that business would do well enough where I could hire somebody to do part of what I was doing so I could have more time to write. But that was not God’s plan.

But that’s how it started with me. Just telling stories to kids, and kids encouraged me to put it on paper.

Erin: What happened then with the photo shop?

Tim: In 2004, we had to close. Digital was taking over where people weren’t making the prints. That’s how we made our living. Making pictures. We just saw I was losing my shirt, for one. My wife and I were in it together. So we just felt this was it. That God was making it so clear that we had to close the store.

We closed it in June of 2004, and that was it. I felt that was God’s nudge to try writing full-time. I had some books out at that point, but it was all nonfiction. It was that elusive fiction that I was trying so hard for.

Karen: What kind of struggles did you face at that point? Did you struggle with feeling like a failure? And don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying you were. Or were you excited because you felt as though God was saying this activity is done, now I’m asking you to go down this path?

Tim: I think there was a little of both. But there was a lot of that when I was there at the store, you know, working late into the night and things like that, there was very much a feeling of failure. I would say that was an attack of the enemy in so many ways.

You know, everybody ended up losing their stores. For the most part, all the independents, they went. Everything was changing, but there was this sense of supreme failure. “Wow, I couldn’t even do this right. And you’re going to go into something different?”

Erin: And risky!

Tim: Yeah. We left on, oh, it was June, I want to say 25th. I may be a day off on that. But we closed the store, and I took the money from the register, you know, like our change, the backup change you have. $300 in change in singles and fives, and all this. We took our $300. We drove from Chicago down to Atlanta where the Christian booksellers convention was.

We left right from there, from closing the store. Because I had a book that was going to be coming out at that point. It was a devotional for boys. So we were going to be there and do whatever we could to publicize it. The crazy thing was there was a little glitch and the book didn’t even make it to the convention. You know, these are great times.

Erin: Wait, I’m seeing what people might be tempted, in your shoes, to think: failure upon failure upon failure. How did you react to that?

Tim: I think in a very real way, my faith was strong. Fantastic wife. Incredibly encouraging and supportive of this. Which, I mean, as big of a step as it was for me, look at what a step that was for her, right?

So I was surrounded by family who were very supportive, which was huge. Strong connections in our church, so we had all of that. But I will still say the enemy, you know, he did his best. There were times there was this thought. Not a voice, but a thought. It did come to my mind. “You know, you need to do it. You failed. It’s over. Put your house in order. You’re done.”

It scared me. It’s like, “Oh my goodness, I don’t love that.” It was this attack from the enemy. I took it as that. He kept saying, “You failed. You’ve blown it. You’ve let everybody down.” It was like one of those Jimmy Stewart things, right? It’s a Wonderful Life. You’re worth more dead than alive. You’ve got a good insurance policy.

Karen: You’re looking around for Clarence.

Tim: I don’t think I was at risk, but it was a thought that was like the enemy was trying it out. “Let’s see if this works on him.”

I think that all stopped when we actually closed the store and left. That was it. It was done. From that point on it was the new career.

Karen: God took you off the cliff, and you just sailed on from there.

Tim: Well, it was not all flying. There was still a lot of bumps. But it was good.

Erin: I know you said that first book was nonfiction, but you wanted to get into fiction. How did that become a passion and how did that lead you into wanting to write that kind of fiction for your kids?

Tim: I think again going back to that storytelling, and I’ve got a love for kids. I’m trying to think where that started. I’ve got two older sisters, two younger brothers. But my two younger brothers, one is nine years younger, one is twelve years younger, so it was like a whole different family. I did a lot of babysitting and stuff for them, and we had so much fun.

I mean, there were broken bones and stitches and stuff, so, uh, we just had a ride. That’s where my love for kids grew. Then of course, I had kids. But in the meantime, I taught junior high and Sunday school and all kinds of things. I really loved the power of a story and wanted to get through to them that way. I was also trying to connect with my kids, like in family devotions and all that. So some of those early books, they were family devotion type books.

By the time we closed the store, I probably had four or five books at that point. But everything’s nonfiction. I wanted to write fiction. The short stories were beginning to go. They were starting to get picked up by Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine, things like that. But I just couldn’t get that fiction. And that’s where I was just living for that fiction.

Erin: Well then how did that happen? How did you end up sticking with it?

Tim: I guess I just always thought it was to happen and was going to happen. I had some great encouragers that felt I should. They’d point out it’s just a bad time in the market. Your writing’s good. Keep going. You know, all that type of stuff.

But it was years of that. I also heard from some very wise people that it takes a lot of time for fiction to break in for traditional publishing.

But I didn’t always have good advice, either. I can remember I was at a Christian writers’ conference, and I was teaching by this time. Another faculty member came up to me and said, “You know, you really need to stop writing for kids. You need to write for adults. You can write that good. You should be writing for them.” And their closing comment is what sort of sealed it for me. They said, “That’s where the money is.”

Right at that point, I’m not thinking that this is necessarily a word from the Lord. I ended up rejecting that. My passion was this: My heart is for kids. There’s a bazillion things written for broken adults. I want to write for the kids. I want to write to them. I want a chance before they’re broken. Let me try to inspire them there.

I want to bring friends to kids that don’t have friends in the characters of these stories. I want to help show a path to these kids who are smart, but they lack experience, so they’re going to make dumb mistakes. How can we show them traps that are out there, but all wrapped into a good story that they can be involved in? Because we learn from experiences, right?

So I kept with it. Again, God’s grace, just God’s grace that he kept me knowing I was to do this. And finally it broke open.

Erin: What’s so interesting about this to me is that here you are needing to help support your family and the money temptation would be super strong. I love that you recognized that that was simply just a temptation, simply just not suited to your passion. I love that.

You and I had talked a little bit before and you talked to me about some waiting times in your career, and you were telling me about the sled. I love that story. Share that so our listeners can hear how waiting can sometimes come to fruition. Or often, or always, in God’s plan.

Tim: When the fiction finally broke, it ended up being first a one book contract, and that turned into a three book contract. So that was great. That was with Zondervan. We completed that contract in June of 2014. Now my editor had left, so I’m a bit of an orphan author here. So, I’m gonna pitch another idea, and they really wanted to see how the series would do. That was going to take time, right?

As it turned out, things changed in the publishing industry. Sometimes people are more into one target market, or not, depending on where things are going. Suddenly here I am with no contract.

I wasn’t so worried at first, but as time goes on, I did get some nonfiction things going, and God had led me to speaking. Oh my goodness, that was another whole thing where when you are so dependent on God, you are so desperate to do it right. I learned to say yes to just about anything if I felt it was out of my comfort zone, but I felt this was an opportunity God was putting there. That opened up so many things. I never saw the speaking. That was a huge thing.

But yeah, I’m waiting and that goes into two years. And then three years. June of 2017, it had been three years. I had a complete novel done. I had started another one. I had four proposals out with our agents. Let’s see, two were nonfiction. One was the standalone fiction I just finished. And one was another book that I’d hoped would start into a series. So I’ve got four proposals out there.

Karen: You’re definitely doing the work.

Tim: But nothing’s happening. So, it’s a June day. Picture Chicago, June. It’s 80 degrees, and I’m walking a couple of miles, which is my practice to walk a couple miles and think and pray and different things like that. So I’m walking and I’m kind of at the place where I make my turnaround.

It’s garbage day in this neighborhood that I was walking through, and I see these four sleds by the curb. Now, they were in terrific shape and they all had ropes. I mean, they’re great. Obviously somebody is cleaning out their garage and they’re saying, this is it. No more. The kids are grown.

But they were good sleds. I thought to myself, “You know what? My sons would like these. They’re starting families themselves. They’ve got young families. They’d like these, but in winter, not right now.”

Well, you know, I could walk home, I could get the car and pick these up, but I knew the garbage truck would be there. They’d be gone, and I would be kicking myself, come winter, that I didn’t get these sleds when they were available.

I thought, “Okay, I’m going to look like an idiot.” But I picked up these four sleds, slung them over my back, and started my walk home. I was, I don’t know, maybe a half a mile from home. I’m walking, and I hear this voice, and here’s this guy on this porch. I don’t know who he is, but he says, “Mighty fine collection of sleds ya got there.” Just real sarcastic.

We’re joking around a little bit because obviously I look like this complete idiot. As we break up that conversation he says, “Hey, I’m going in to get my skates. You know, you’re probably right. The weather’s going to change. I’m going to be ready, too.”

As I left there, I don’t think I’d walked ten steps before this thought popped to my mind that this was representing my life. I felt as out of place right then, an 80 degree day, carrying sleds, something that was definitely not needed now, but it would definitely be needed in the future. And here I was with four proposals just weighing on me. Just weighing on me daily that I’ve got four proposals and nothing’s happening. But in that moment, I thought, “They are going to be needed. When that time comes, you’re going to be ready. Just keep on the course.”

It was a huge moment. And you know what? Erin, when we were talking about this, I pulled up my journal and I was looking at that just a little bit. In my journal, before I went on that walk, one of the verses that day, in my journal, I’ll just read it here from Psalm 71.

It goes, “Since my youth, oh God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I’m old and gray do not forsake me, oh God, until I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”

That’s my deep. That’s what I want. I want to impact this next generation. So that’s what I was praying that morning that I ended up walking with four sleds. And God gave me the encouragement to keep walking.

So that was three years I’d been without a contract for fiction. Now, as it turned out, I don’t know, in the next six months or a year, I think one of the nonfiction ones did get picked up, and that did very well, so that was terrific.

But it was two and a half years after the sleds that the fiction all went. Easy Target was one of those books. Escape from the Everglades, which comes out in July, was the one that starts the series. Those were those other two proposals. So three of the four proposals have gone. In fact, one of them, they expanded from a one book deal to a three book contract.

God gave all that. But it was a long haul. But I’ve got to say this: I changed in five and a half years. My writing deepened in five and a half years. I mean, by deepen, I don’t know if I would say, you know, it got better. I mean, we all want to say that it got better. But it was deeper. There were things that were more important that I wanted to get out.

I think even the publisher, that was Focus on the Family, I think they went through things. So it all came together at the right time. But yeah, five and a half years. I mean, talk about doubts. I’m teaching fiction writing, but I don’t have a contract. What is this?

Karen: I absolutely love what you’ve shared because my life verse is Habakkuk 2:3 but I’m going to read Habakkuk 2:1-3 because your life and all that you’ve been through, and in what you’re saying, it is the perfect example of this.

Habakkuk says, “I will climb my watchtower now and wait to see what answer God will give to my complaint. And the Lord said to me, ‘Write my answer on a billboard, large and clear, so that anyone can read it at a glance and rush to tell others. But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair for these things will surely come to pass, just be patient. They will not be overdue a single day.'”

And we see, you know, as you were telling the sled story, I’m thinking, well, surely the week or two weeks after he got the contract… No. Two and a half years! But they weren’t overdue a single day. God knew exactly how long it needed to take. God knew exactly what he needed to do in you.

For those of you listening, God knows. He knows exactly what his vision is for you. Nothing will keep that from being fulfilled. We don’t know what God’s plans are for you in what you’re writing. Maybe for publication, maybe not. But whatever it is, if you’re obedient to the task that God has given you, slowly, steadily, surely the time will approach when the vision will be fulfilled. Do not despair, friends. These things will surely come to pass. Just be patient. They won’t be overdue a single day.

Tim: That’s good.

Erin: Amen.

Guest Tim Shoemaker helps you see your writing journey through God’s eyes. #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1 @TimShoemaker1 Click To Tweet

Are you waiting for God to bring something to pass? What helps you be patient as you wait?


For the next few months, we have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing podcast, and we’re bringing you Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing. We highly recommend this podcast with host Thomas Umstattd Jr., a genius on marketing and all things publishing! You can find the podcast at

Today we’re covering commandment number six: Thou shalt own thine own platform.

You only need to look around at what’s happening in the world today, where a social media platform can cancel you in a heartbeat, and you lose access to the readers you may have spent years growing. Or those platforms can make you pay, anytime they want, for anyone to see your posts. And this has happened. That makes growing your platform on those types of ground an unwise investment.

Own. Your. Platform.

The two most important things for you to own is your website and your newsletter list. This is what you should be spending time and money developing. Your website is your home base. It’s a place readers can find you and connect with you. A place you own, so it can never be taken away from you. 

Your newsletter is how you communicate directly with your readers. Again, those email addresses can never be taken away from you by some company that decides to cancel you.

For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at


Easy Target by Tim Shoemaker

Easy Target by Tim Shoemaker

Escape from the Everglades by Tim Shoemaker

Escape from the Everglades by Tim Shoemaker


Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our May sponsor of the month, Stacy McLain! We’re praying for you on your writing journey, Stacy!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!


Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.

141 – Writing with a Full-Time Job

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Writing with a Full Time Job Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungWriting is never easy, but it can be especially challenging when you have a full-time job. It can seem so hard to find writing time on top of everything else! But we’ve got some great tips and strategies, shared by those facing the same challenges, to help you in this seemingly impossible task.

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

We recently heard from one of our new listeners that the hardest thing for her about this task of writing was balancing between her day job and time to write. We’ve never done an episode specifically about that, and clearly it’s needed. Thanks for the idea!

Like many struggles on the writing journey, it helps us to hear, and learn from each other’s experiences. Remember Hebrews 10:24-25:

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

With that in mind, we sent an email out to other authors for their feedback, which we’ll be sharing. And because we’ve have both had times when we’ve been writing while working day jobs, we’ll mix in some of our thoughts as well. 

Christina Sinisi, who works as a professor, has this to say:

“Schedule your down time, set boundaries, and be flexible. I know these may seem contradictory, but they’re real. I schedule my work time, including grading at home, so I have a built-in nap, outdoors time, etc. I even schedule expected times for meals. That way, I don’t run out of time and discard important things. And then I protect those times. Students would seek help at all hours in this digital age, but I have cut-offs and stick to them.”  

I (Erin) like the idea of setting boundaries and protecting them. My hubby’s a professor, too, and I can testify that students do seek help at all hours. There will be an email at 10:30 at night about an assignment due at 11:00pm, as if my hubby has nothing to do 24/7 but watch for their emails.

But the same thing can happen with coworkers or your boss. If you answer that email on Saturday afternoon, or at 10pm, instead of waiting until you get back to work, you’re training people to expect that, and it’s hard to retrain them, or not feel guilty when you want to set boundaries. Obviously emergencies happen or there are jobs that require you to be on call, but you get the idea.

Christina goes on to say:

“Finally, I allow myself leeway. It’s the end of the semester, and I didn’t write for my fiction yesterday. That’s okay. I’ll make it up when the semester is over. Priorities have to shift depending on needs, while maintaining health and faith.”

That’s so good to keep in mind. And to stay flexible even when those shifting priorities have unexpected results. Sometimes shifting priorities can feel like a juggling act but having that flexibility can help us not be frustrated, and that saves our emotional energy for writing when we do have time.

Linda Harris shared this with us:

“When I was employed by the US Dept. of Education, the work and environment was structured and rigid. I write historical fiction. My lunch hour was one-hour, no exceptions. If I stayed in my office, I was open to interruptions and work-related issues. I found a place out of my assigned area where I could work in relative quiet…My first five published novels were before personal computers, and work equipment was off limits. I transcribed my noon-time writing to the home typewriter. We lived in the country so I could dictate to my hand-held recorder on the way home. A commercial dictaphone machine made the transcribing go faster. Knowing Shorthand was a plus. Even knowing a few basic strokes and abbreviations for characters would help today when pencil and paper are the only tools available.”

I love the dedication this shows. Linda made a work around for so many of her challenges. She goes on to say:

“I learned to write in scenes instead of chapters. Scenes were easier to rearrange and develop than full chapters. Staying in POV (point of view) is easier in scenes. Dividing into chapters later was a snap. A detailed outline, while time consuming to create, kept me on track. I added historical notations to the outline to keep the flow and not miss an important point… Since time was premium, I allowed 15 minutes to gather my gear and get to my writing spot, and another 15 to gather my gear, get to my office, and be ready to work. Obviously, all minutes saved during these 30 minutes were added to writing time. Fast forward to laptops and computers and marvelous programs like Scrivener, AutoCrit, etc., and production is streamlined.”

What a great job Linda does with optimizing her writing time to make the most of it. Think about your own job and the flow of your day. Are there ways you can optimize your time? Routines you can establish to help make the most of your time?

Linda ends with this:

“God is the ultimate redeemer of my time spent writing for Him.”

What a wonderful reminder that the burden of accomplishing this task doesn’t rest on us, but on HIM! He’s given you this task, and He will enable you, and bring His purposes to fruition. 

Jessica White offered these tips:

“It’s 100% about making the most of the small times. The in between moments. Plotting while you wait. Using an app like OTTER so it transcribes your thoughts and you have a template to start with. Also just knowing yourself and how you write so you can find prime time. For example, my brain is more relaxed [at night] so I can free-write first drafts then, but don’t ask me to edit. But if I try to draft in the morning, my inner editor makes it slow and painful. Working with myself instead of against myself is the key.” 

I love that because it’s another way to optimize your time. You’re being more efficient with the time you have. I realize not everyone can do this. You may need to be at your day job during your most creative time. In that case, maybe take some quick notes during your break times, if you get them, or like Linda Harris did, use your lunchtime if you can. Try to save that time during weekends and your days off, and try to find your second best creative time.

Jessica continues:

“Just being realistic about how much it’s going to take to write a book [helps]. For me it is about an hour a page from first draft to editor’s desk. So if I need a 90,000 word book, that’s going to be about 360 hours. If I could only give it an hour a day, then it would take me a year.” 

As an editor for major publishing houses, I (Karen) can tell you how important it is to turn your manuscript in on time. You need to know how long it takes you to write a book so you can make sure you’re not signing a contract with an unrealistic deadline that’s going to cause you stress, or cause you to produce less than your best effort because you ran out of time.

Kelly Scott shared this with us:

“My biggest tip is using the Google docs app on my phone. Every time a scene came to mind or I had an idea, I could quickly write it out while I was sitting at my work desk. I would also designate Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons to writing.”

Kathleen Y’Barbo Turner offers this advice:

“First, for writers employed full time outside the home, if you spend all your free time wishing you had more time to write, you’ll never find time to write. I cringe when I think of the time I wasted on evenings and weekends, wishing I didn’t spend 8 hours of every weekday as a paralegal at a law office.” 

Paul gives us the foundation to deal with this discontent in Philippians 4: 11-13: “…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Kathleen clearly learned this principle. She goes on to say:

“Then I remind myself how stressed I was when I was depending on hit-or-miss royalty payments and book advances to pay bills that came every month no matter what. And I really do like being a paralegal. It uses the other side of my brain. And though I can’t write about our cases or clients, it does spark ideas just being out in the world that I didn’t have when I was home writing all day.”

I totally agree with what she says about sparking ideas. Part of what builds creativity is taking in stimuli from lots of sources all around you and finding new connections and new ways to solve problems, like for example, writing your character out of the corner you painted him into!

As far as how to manage the writing time, Kathleen says:

“First of all, ignore the urge to lament what you don’t have time for and make a plan for the time you do have. Your plan can be a writing schedule or just an acknowledgement that you’ve got a certain number of hours today and using those hours to do something productive and writing related… The best thing I did, other than learn how to write ANYWHERE, including but not limited to cars, airplanes, and waiting rooms, was to get my priorities straight. God first. My daily reading before work happens no matter what.”  

Amen to that! Kathleen also says:

“If I can sneak some writing time in before I leave for the office, I do it…When I get home from work, I’m usually tired. We don’t break for lunch at my office, so after dinner I’m ready to throw myself on the sofa and watch mindless television with hubby. So I do. Yep. I do. But only for a pre-determined amount of time. I don’t have children at home now, but I started writing when my eldest was four. I think writing with children around is great training for writing with a job. You just get on with it. Do the work. Manage as best you can but above all, protect your time, your faith, and your creativity. God will give you the ability. You just have to ask. And listen to His response.”

I love that because our ability really does come from God. You have to protect your time with God. Sometimes in the midst of all the busyness of life and writing, what we need most is to stop moving and be quiet before God for even just a few minutes and let him wash over us. Let him be our rest. Let him refill our well. Take time where we’re not trying to create, not trying to speak, not trying to do anything but soak in the awareness of his presence. And his majesty. You might be surprised how refreshing that can be. 

Psalm 62:5 says, “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.”

Psalm 23:1-3 (NIRV) says, “The Lord is my shepherd. He gives me everything I need. He lets me lie down in fields of green grass. He leads me beside quiet waters. He gives me new strength…”

When I (Karen) worked a full-time job as well as being a writer, I had a special difficulty because my full-time job was in publishing. As many of you know, I headed up fiction for Tyndale as well as three other major publishers in Christian publishing. I worked with books all day long. I was editing, brainwashing, and doing all those things with writers. My whole world was about writing and story and all the things that needed to be done as a writer, but I was working as an editor.

It took me awhile to realize that they were two different hats for me. They’re two different functions of the brain. One is a more collaborative, synergistic action, and that’s the editing. In that, I’d use one part of my brain. But then when it came to just letting the right side of my brain out to play, that’s when I went into writing. I had to shift. On the drive home from work, I would decompress from the day and then prepare myself for, when I got home, the writing session.

I had set times for dinner when I got home, and Don and I would spend time together. But I also had a bedroom set aside as an office. When I went into that bedroom to do the writing work, Don knew not to come in and try to talk to me unless it was some kind of emergency, like a severed artery or protruding bone. I had a set amount of time that I spent in there.

I had to be careful not to go in there when I couldn’t sleep. Not to go in there when I was frustrated. Not to use that room for anything other than for just sitting and entering into the phase and the work of writing. I had to protect the space, as well as protect what I did in there.

Linda Goodnight wrote this:

“When I first began pursuing publication, I taught school and had three active children at home. In addition, I was working part-time as a home health care nurse. So, yes, time was tight. I specifically remember brainstorming scenes as I was driving between patient homes each evening and on weekends. I kept a notepad on the seat next to me and when I stopped, I’d jot down snatches of conversation or whatever brainstorm I’d had. I was never good at speaking into a recorder. Frankly, during those days I was so compelled to write that I literally always had a pen and paper. To me, the whole time management thing is about priorities. We find time for the things we really want to do. I hear people say they’re going to write a book when they get time, which means they probably never will.” 

We all say that we have no time, and yet we have time, I know I have time, to sit and watch a movie on TV. If I have something else that’s a higher priority, then I need to put that in place of what is a mindless activity. Although, I want to give you all permission to involve yourself in mindless activity, because there are times when our brains and our creativity need that.

Linda goes on to give these specific tips that helped her: 

  • Set a specific goal. Mine was publication by a major publisher which meant producing full manuscripts,  and I was obsessed with making it happen. A very successful NY Times author told me early on that successful writers aren’t necessarily the most talented. They’re the most persistent. I found that to be true.
  • Always have a pen and paper with you, or a recording device. Write down that clever bit of dialogue. If you don’t, you’ll forget it and be mad at yourself. 
  • Write when waiting: at a doctor’s appointment, while a child is at sports practice, while dinner is cooking, etc. Don’t write at traffic lights. People honk.
  • Prioritize. There are things you can let slide and some you can’t or shouldn’t. The sock drawer doesn’t have to be organized, but kids need you and they grow up fast. I admit to letting my windows get dirty and not vacuuming my car as often needed, but I never missed church or any of my kids’ many school activities.
  • Look at your lifestyle. Where do you waste time? Playing games on your phone? TV? Social media? Mine was TV, so I made 7 to 9PM each night my designated writing time instead of watching TV. By blocking out those two hours, I consistently produced 3-5 books per year.

Becca Wierwille wrote this:

“I work as a kindergarten teacher, and by the time I get home, my creative energy is often drained. While I do occasionally have time to write in the evenings, I’ve learned I can’t count on it. My strategy this year has been to write in the morning before I leave for school. My daily goal is to write for at least ten minutes—ten minutes is enough to get me started, and once I’m into the story, I almost always write for longer than that. Sometimes the excitement from my morning writing time carries into the evening, and then I’m able to continue it later as well.”

What’s so great about this is that Becca is setting herself up to succeed in her daily writing goal because she’s wisely made it easy. Anytime you’re trying to develop a habit, you want to make it so easy that you almost can’t NOT do it. And for getting our writing time going, sometimes the hardest bit is just overcoming inertia. Getting started each day is the biggest battle. If you tell yourself you only have to write one paragraph, or one sentence even, or five or ten minutes, that can get you started, and then more often than not, you’ll be off to the races. 

Becca goes on to say:

“Revisions are a bit more difficult because I find I need larger blocks of time in order to get into a good rhythm for editing. So when I’m revising, I try to set aside time on the weekend, or very intentional time in the evenings on weekdays. I used to do a word count goal for both writing and revising, and I know that works well for some people. But for me, a time goal has been more encouraging and less stressful overall, especially during the school year.”

I (Erin) love time goals, too. I’m a slow writer, and somehow knowing I had to make a certain number of words each session made me self-conscious. But simply working for a set time felt more freeing. The key is to learn what works best for you.

Robin Lee Hatcher gives this advice:

“I wrote and published my first 9 books over 10 years while working an 8 to 5 job (never worked anywhere that started at 9!). Most of that time, I was a single mom of two. I set myself a schedule and stuck to it, but I also, as a mom, had to be available to my daughters. So I had an open door policy. They could interrupt me any time they needed me. I came home from work and fixed and ate dinner. Then I wrote from 7 to 9PM on Monday through Thursday nights. Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays were reserved for family. Since most of those years my girls were tweens and teens, they usually slept in on Saturdays so I often got to write on Saturday mornings. The key is to think of it as a job, whether or not under contract. I believe that having a set schedule and a set writing place helps with discipline, so that your brain knows, when [you] sit down here with [your] computer, it is time to write. When necessary, a writer can train her brain to switch from creating to dealing with family matters and then switch back again. It may not be ideal, but a writer really can learn to do it when necessary.”

Cara Putman offers this:

  • Think clearly about what you will give up to make space and time for writing. For me that was giving up TV, so that I could turn that time into writing time.
  • Use tools like (a web version of a writing program similar to Scrivener) so that you can write from any computer to maximize pockets of time. 
  • Be consistent in writing each day — or establish a routine that works for you.
  • Get buy-in from family that this is important and part of what you do.

When I (Erin) was homeschooling my kids, I would try to get all the grading and prep done during the day with them, then after the school day, that was time I’d be writing and they’d do their own thing. It was easy to get buy-in. After having Mom as teacher all day, they were tired of me! Think about the best ways to get buy-in from your family.

Cara has a short video with tips and strategies for maximizing your writing time as well.

This has been a lot of information. However, there’s one important thing to keep in mind about all these strategies and experiences we’ve shared with you: They’re meant to inspire you. To encourage you. To help you get a springboard for ideas about what might work for you.

They are not for you to compare yourself to others, to go on that path where you feel like a failure because you’re not doing what someone else is. You are not allowed to compare yourself to anyone but yourself. Instead, focus on what works for you, using these ideas to help you figure that out.

Colossians 3:15-17 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Let this encourage you. Let this be an inspiration for you. And let it remind you that if God has given you this task, he’ll help you figure out how to do it.

Do you struggle to find time to write because of your job? Have we got some great tips for you! #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1 Click To Tweet

What tips do you have for writing with a full-time job?


For the next few months, we have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing podcast. We’re bringing you Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing. We highly recommend this podcast with host Thomas Umstattd Jr., who is a genius on marketing and all things publishing. You can find the podcast at

Today we’re covering commandment #5: Thou shalt not dig thy well whilst thou art thirsty.

It takes time and money to develop your craft and build your platform. A successful writing journey isn’t an overnight trip, so don’t fall prey to anyone who promises that it is. You have to plan ahead and work at a pace you can sustain over the long haul. 

Be leary of anyone who offers you an instant audience for a price, or instant sales. They’re often better at taking your money than anything, and they’re taking advantage of your desire to make a quick profit from your writing.

Instead, create a budget for both your time and money, no matter how small the amount, and stick to it. Don’t go into debt, and don’t bet the farm. Invest. That’s the best way to ensure steady growth over the long term.

For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at


Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our May sponsor of the month, Stacy McLain! We’re praying for you on your writing journey, Stacy!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!


Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.