Saturday, July 30, 2016

Writers4Higher welcomes Becca Engelbrecht

Hi, Becca. Welcome to Writers4Higher!

1. Tell me about yourself. Your books, your life, your inspiration.

I was born in Tallahassee, Florida where I have lived my whole life, except for four years that I lived overseas in Scotland as a missionary. In Edinburgh and Bathgate Scotland, I helped with music and children’s ministries. My passions are music, writing, and working with children.

Although I have a serious side too, I enjoy being funny and making people laugh, feel comfortable, and feel like they belong and are valuable. If you ask nicely, I may even do my “famous” monkey sound for you ;0!

Relationships are important to me. I’d rather be with my friends and loved ones than alone. We can learn so much from each other. I had an awesome relationship with my two grandmothers (My two grandpas died in the same year when I was three, so I didn’t get to know them very well.). I believe that I am a better person today for spending such quality time and learning valuable lessons from both grandmothers. Now, I am watching my two boys build those wonderful relationships with my parents.

My first published book, Birthday Grandpa and Me, was written to celebrate those important inter-generational relationships. It is my hope that the book will celebrate life and bring people together.

I currently teach elementary school which I have done for a total of 12 years. In my free time, I enjoy making music, writing, and going on adventures with my husband and two boys (ages 7 and 3).

I started writing songs in my teens and my love for writing stories and books grew when I had the opportunity to teach writing in an elementary school. I earned a Master’s degree in Publishing from Napier Univeristy in Edinburgh, Scotland in hopes of gaining more knowledge for publishing my ideas. After graduating in 2007, I took some time off of writing to care for my husband (who was wounded in Iraq) and my two young boys. My husband is on the mend, the boys are growing, and I am now back in the swing of things and “making time” for my writing.

2. Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

As a teacher, I have seen a decline in the love of reading due to competition with gaming and a resistance to rigorous standards. I want to help change that. The new educational standards don’t allow for as much imaginative and creative writing as there used to be. Kids want to have fun and enjoy reading fun things that make them laugh and feel good. I want kids and parents to know that they can still master the standards AND have fun loving to read and write at the same time.

I hope to continue publishing more children’s books that celebrate the joys of life, fun, relationships, love, and laughter that will give hope and bring people together. My second book, Goodnight, “I’m Not Charlie”, will be out later this year. It celebrates the joys of bedtime through a resistant little boy who comes up with all kinds of imaginative excuses as to why he can’t go to bed, until Mommy uses a trick of her own to get him into bed. I am actively seeking an agent to represent me so that I can publish traditionally. The company I used for my first two books is a hybrid (Tate Publishing) which I used in hopes of getting a start as a new author.

In addition to writing and sharing books with others, I am interested in providing workshops that will help other up-and-coming writers to gain more knowledge in the writing field.

Other than children’s picture books, I have ideas for chapter books (fantasy) and adult nonfiction relating to being a missionary and an army wife.

3. How do you use your talents/time to help others?

As a teacher, I use my time and talents to help others learn and grow on a daily basis. I enjoy watching students and parents bond in rejoicing over progress. I use my music and writing talents to inspire the families to courageously take on new challenges and desire to better themselves through reading, music, and the arts. I am also involved in the music and children’s ministries at my local church, where I participated as a lead role in our Christmas musical last year as Alice in The Christmas Post. That was so much fun- my first musical ever! Why did I wait so long to participate in one? Another thing I do is write commissioned poetry gifts for friends, family, coworkers, students, and parents. They give me information about someone, and I put it all together in a fun rhyming poem as a gift. 

Where to find Becca:

Barnes and
National Press Release:
Youtube trailer:

Thank you for joining us on Writers4Higher!

Rhett DeVane
southern fiction author and blogmaster

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Writers4Higher features author Ellen Thomas

Hi, Ellen. Welcome to Writers4Higher!

1.  Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

Life is messy, unpredictable and full of mistakes. However, like the puzzle pieces on the autism flag, our happenings usually fit together. I met my husband during my senior year at college. I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education. He was finishing up his Master’s degree in the same field. We had no idea our union of knowledge would be tested years later when we  adopted our daughter, Grace. Before Grace was two, she displayed behaviors we hadn’t seen with our boys. One day, she became angry, piled books on her floor, ripped off her diaper and wet all over the beloved stories. Other times, she screamed for hours. An enigma because Grace was extremely loving. Her behaviors intensified as her body grew. Raging hormones was an understatement. Impulsivity produced shoplifting behaviors. When her psychiatrist gave a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, my head pounded as if someone had hit me with a baseball bat. This was a life sentence for our beautiful, creative, fifth grader. Classmates put her into solitary confinement by bullying her. My husband and I were helpless to explain why no one wanted to attend her birthday parties. Our stress increased when Grace tried to commit suicide at high school. Good can come from bad because that led to her duel diagnosis of autism. She hadn’t seen suicide as permanent. 

I never thought about being an author. It was overwhelming frustration that led me to a keyboard. My fingers struck the keys, releasing feelings of loss, confusion, helplessness, loneliness and anger at God. If my child had cancer, I could yell it from the rooftop. People would have presented us with casseroles and offered prayers. They would have brought their children over to visit. “Mentally disabled," “bipolar disorder,” and “autism,”  scares people. Bewildered parents try to hide their special needs child under a blanket of secrecy. It might work if those pesky, odd behaviors didn’t pop out in public places. Glory to God for holding us in his hand. He chose my husband and I, our sons, and extended family to make a great team. Grace has grown into a successful young woman. 

2.  Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

I’ve written two books about our life with Grace. THE BIPOLAR EXPRESS STOPS AT AUTISM STATION: One Christian Woman’s Life Journey In The Company Of A Child With Bipolar Disorder And Asperger’s Syndrome chronicles her adoption and life through her freshman year at high school. The Bipolar Express Stops At Autism Station is the sequel. Readers see Grace's idiosyncrasies of autism, her fight to control her range of emotions, and our struggle to get her a free and appropriate education. Our daughter is on the right track so I’m working on a children’s series. This series will be lighter on my heart but just as challenging.  Writing fiction is a huge leap of faith. 

3.    How do you use your talents/time to help others?

My daughter is my hero. She has allowed me to make her private life public in the hopes of inspiring others. It’s our family's desire to let parents of special needs kids know they are not alone. We hope to educate the public about mental disabilities. People shouldn’t be so quick to judge the parenting of a child throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. He or she might not be spoiled but is having a meltdown due to sensory overload. 

There are many fantastic teachers, schools, and school districts, however, parents need to understand their child’s educational rights. To effectively work with teachers and administrators, parents should familiarize themselves with their county's procedural safeguards, understand the laws pertaining to a 504 Plan and the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA).

It’s difficult to work on a relationship with your spouse when a battle rages inside your child’s brain. My husband and I began ballroom dancing. Working as partners on a dance floor has helped us be partners in life. It’s provided exercise, stress relief and new friends. I became a yogi a year ago. Yoga helps me to remember to breathe deeply and stay in the moment. When I’m tied up in knots, I tie knots with knitting needles. I’ve knitted a few scarves and hats and have become a Knitwit. Scrapbooking brings happy memories to the forefront. 

I try to remember the instruction given while flying on an airplane and apply it to everyday life; put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. Prayer continues to sustain me. 

You Are Not Alone,

Ellen Thomas


Would you like to find out more about Ellen Thomas?




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Do come back! You are among friends.

Rhett DeVane
Southern Fiction author and blogmaster

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