Beyond the Smoke
Terry Burns

Terry Burns is an agent with Hartline Literary as well as writing inspirational fiction. As a writer he has over 40 books in print including 10 novels. He has a new 4 book series from Port Yonder Press entitled “The Sagebrush Collection” of his collected short works and the first released March 2010 entitled “On the Road Home.” A Young Adult entitled Beyond the Smoke won the Will Rogers Medallion and a new book “A Writer’s Survival Guide to Publication” also from Port Yonder Press was developed out of the month long course he held for ACFW. A popular speaker at workshops across the country, a bookstore of his available works as well as a regular blog can be found at As an agent Terry says "I'm looking for a good book, well written in a unique voice, aimed at a market that looks promising, and where I feel I have the contacts appropriate to be able to sell the book in that market. I’m pretty open as to genre but I don’t do children’s, sci fi or fantasy. He’s a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR).

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Are You an Effective Communicator?

Most of us use the written word, probably more than we realize. But it seems it has four primary uses.

For information: newspapers, magazines, nonfiction books, warranties and instruction sheets, etc.

For entertainment: books, short stories, some types of blogs

To convey a message or inspiration: articles, devotionals, blogs, again nonfiction books, and even inspirational fiction.

To stay in touch with family and friends: letters, postcards, e-mail, social networking.

Even in our conversations, chances are we use our words for giving information, entertaining, conveying a message, or just networking. Which of them is the most important? It depends on what is going on in our lives at that moment.

If we are concerned about something that is taking place in the world (these days often related to what the idiots in Washington are doing), then giving or receiving information may be what is on our minds. If the water heater is on the fritz, the warranty certificate or owner’s manual becomes important.

If we have something to say, then conveying that message is important. It goes without saying, when we have a friend or family member on our minds, conveying exactly what we want the other party to know is of primary importance.

So written words are important. I had a professor in a college course say something over forty years ago that has always stuck with me. He said we need to think of ourselves as having a box full of index cards (remember, I said forty years ago), and on those cards are written the sum total of our upbringing and family environment, our education, our experiences, our likes and dislikes, everything that makes us what we are. When we convey a message, written or spoken, we thumb though the cards and compose a message that says what we want to say.

The problem is the receivers of our messages have a box of cards, too, and chances are every card in their boxes is different from the ones in ours, but they use their boxes to decode the message. Possibilities for misunderstanding are rampant. The key is for as much of the message as possible to be written or spoken in areas where the boxes have common ground.

The words themselves can get in the way. This is why most things are written at about a seventh-grade level, where most people can read and understand, and even people with much larger vocabularies are comfortable reading this level. It would kill a good story, for example, if the flow were interrupted every page or two because the reader has to stop and look up a word to know what the author is saying. I figure two maybe three times and the reader would put the book down, never to pick it up again.

The bottom line is that being an effective communicator is important whether we are writing for publication or just standing in line at the grocery store, talking to someone. How often have we said something to someone only to have them get indignant because they took a meaning from the message that we didn’t even know could be there? I’ve done that a lot. I remember asking a friend how it went after he spoke at a board meeting. His response was “I think I just missed a wonderful opportunity to keep my mouth shut.”

We are never “just” talking or “just” writing. We are always communicating, and that is a skill that can and should be learned and developed.


Survival Guide