Posts Tagged ‘writing’
Posted on March 5, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
My current writing journey started with a television show. Oprah’s, to be exact. But let’s back up. I’ve written “my whole life” as have so many. While other people would draw amazing things, I’d doodled with new ways to write the alphabet. Honest! (and yes, a little weird)
While working in downtown Minneapolis, I wrote stories on the bus or read new books. I loved having that me time to just be in my head with characters – mine or someone else’s. One day, six years ago, I had to drive since I was picking my dad up from cataract surgery. Usually I got off the bus about 4:45, but after picking up my dad, we were back to my house by 3:30.
While he watched TV, I sat at the computer nearby, working on a story. At 4:00, Oprah came on. Since I was always on the bus at that time of day, I hadn’t watched the show in years. This particular show was about women and midlife crisis – what they were calling “midlife opportunity.” I loved the positive spin on where I was in life (only a few years from 50).
One thing you need to know about me is that very few people knew how much I loved to write. I could count on one hand who knew that writing a book was a secret dream of mine. Over the years, I had prayed (now I think rather haphazardly) about publishing a book, but I’d never moved on the idea. I basically wanted God to write the best seller and put my name on it!
So I listened to the show with one ear while still writing at the computer. Several stories caught my attention. One was about a stock broker who had picked up an antique chocolate mold at a flea market during the summer – just for fun. Six months later she got laid off. That impulsive purchase became her focal point. At the time of the show, she’d been running a highly successful, upscale chocolate shop in New York City for a year or so. And to top it off, she met her fiance in the elevator of the building where her shop was (at 48, she’d never expected to get married!).
Another was about a female radio DJ who’d always wanted to open a flower shop. Now she was happily creating flower arrangements. Story after story told of women’s secret dreams and how midlife (along with other extenuating circumstances) had made them look at their future in a new way.
By the time the show was over, I was sitting on the couch with my dad, tears running down my cheeks as I told him, “I’m supposed to write. I know I’m supposed to write seriously now.” (Poor Dad – he just patted my hand and told me that sounded like a great idea.)
It was clear that God was calling me to write. I’m still not sure that He’s calling me to publication but He has definitely called me to use the gift of writing. Within days, I had signed up for a novel writing class at The Loft where I received wonderful feedback from the bestselling author-teachers and met a gal with whom I’ve been in a critique group ever since.
I learned about RWA (Romance Writers of America) and joined the local chapter where I’ve been the lone inspirational writer among 80 members. Then I learned about ACFW. I traipsed off to Denver for my very first conference – all alone (a very brave thing for scaredy-cat me). By the time I left Denver, I’d agreed to start a chapter in Minnesota, now called MN-NICE.
Every step of the way I’ve questioned God. Am I doing the right thing? Would He lead me to the next person, place or idea to move my writing forward? Should I quit writing? (after a particularly difficult rejection)
And every step of the way, He’s been faithful. The answers haven’t always been clearly written in the sand. There are times I still question what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. But through these six years, I’ve met amazing, talented, wonderful people with a passion to glorify God with their writing. I’ve been to conferences, won contests, been rejected, found an agent, and made friends with people across the world I’d never have had the chance to meet otherwise.
God answers prayers we didn’t even know we had, or had given up expecting an answer for. Even when I’m not faithful, when I question everything that happens, when I flail after a painful rejection – He’s there. He put the passion in my heart and gave me the gift of words. It’s up to me to do something with it. I’m glad He’s there to guide me through the journey.
Posted on February 5, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
Okay, I’ll admit it up front – I am a huge fan of The Voice. I love the concept of aspiring singers being mentored by professionals. I love watching contestants learn and grow and change through the season. I love seeing them find their voice. But as much as I’d love to debate the idea of Shakira being a new judge, that’s not what this post is about.
Today I’m talking about the voice of a writer (some people might call it their style). Every writer has a voice that’s unique to them. (This applies to singers, songwriters, artists and actors as well.)
At some point, we finished a book that we’d fallen in love with and sighed with pleasure – and a yearning to write “just like that.” But that’s an impossible dream. Why? Because while you fell in love with the characters and the story and all the engaging parts that had you hooked, you also fell in love with the author’s voice. You can copy the story but you can’t copy the voice.
I don’t believe you can truly love a book without loving how the story was told. There have been plenty of books I really, really enjoyed but couldn’t honestly say I “loved” because the writer’s style was a bit off for me. I might have thoroughly enjoy the characters and the storyline, but there was something that kept me from saying, “Wow!” That’s not to say there was anything wrong with their voice – I just couldn’t connect with it. Plenty of others could.
Case in point: A year or so ago I joined an on-line discussion group that was reading and discussing a non-fiction book. It’s a bestseller, acclaimed by many. While I learned a lot from reading it, and found many points I could apply to daily life, it was a huge struggle to reach the end. Her voice was too choppy for me. She seemed to write and think in bullet points. I found myself wanting to finish the abbreviated sentences, complete her thoughts, go into more detail on a topic.
Others in the discussion group LOVED the book. They had no problem with her voice, her style of writing. They were able to see beyond it and absorb her message. I had to work at it. Was there something wrong with her voice? Not at all. Was it just different from what I enjoy? Yup.
So how do you know what your voice is? Write. And write some more. Let yourself tell the story to its end, then look back (after you’ve let it percolate for awhile). Did you write in lovely, flowing prose? Did you write from your heart, even if it’s a dark and dangerous place? Did you write with a comfortable, down home kind of voice or was it concise and to the point?
Are any of these voices right or wrong? Nope. They’re just different. And that’s why our libraries are lined with books – every writer has their own unique, God-given voice (and an audience who loves it). Just think if we all wrote with the same voice. Borrrrring.
The contestants on The Voice are often scolded by the mentors for not being true to themselves. They’re told to be who they are. We need to do the same – figure who we are, what our voice truly sounds like, and be that writer. So sing your story in your own voice. And don’t let anyone try to change it. It’s yours for a reason. The world needs to hear it.
What’s your voice like?
Posted on January 15, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
Every writer has the story of their heart. The one that pulls and tugs at them until they write it, even if it’s something unsellable or hopelessly out of vogue. From the time I was fifteen, I had this story in my head. It played over and over. I’d change it as I went along, add new complications, try different endings. Sometimes late at night, I’d even act it out in my bedroom. I didn’t tell anyone about it. They’d think I was weird.
I watched a lot of detective shows then, mostly Baretta, Starsky & Hutch, and Vegas. My story was a girl in jeopardy and the detective who moved mountains to keep her safe. Of course, along the way, they fell in love. I thought it was a movie, but I wasn’t going to Hollywood. So what to do with it, other than play it over and over in my head, act it out, and tweak scenes?
After I met the guy of my dreams and had my own romance going on, I left the story in my head deep in the recesses of my brain. Until my new husband worked nights and I worked days which left me a lot of thinking and TV time. A short-lived detective series, Wolf, starring the yummy Jack Scalia got me thinking about that story again. But I still had no idea what to do with it.
About ten years later, when searching the library for a clean romance and not finding any, I finally realized–Hey, that story in my head could be a book. But I didn’t have a computer. And I wasn’t a very fast or accurate typist. I set the story aside again, but promised myself if I ever got a computer, I’d write it.
Three years later, my father-in-law got a new computer and gave me his old one. As soon as it was hooked up, I started the book. The words flowed from my fingers. A funny thing happened as I wrote. My characters started talking to God. I’d set out for clean romance and ended up with Christian romantic suspense.
Three months later, I had it completed. Now, what? I headed to the library and learned about the Writer’s Market Guide. I had no clue my book was badly written, that writing is a craft you learn and hone, that you have to show the reader your story instead of simply telling it. And I thought I was starting a new trend. I had no idea there were Christian romance novels since I always hung out in the music section of the Christian book store. Imagine my amazement, when I found fifty-two Christian publishers looking for books just like I’d written. Not necessarily the suspense part, but maybe I could still start a new trend.
I really thought that all I had to do was write a book, send it to publishers, and the right one would publish my baby. Everything was by mail then. I sent out ten proposals. With each rejection I received, I sent out another submission. Imagine my amazement, when all fifty-two rejected me.
But my story ends well. Eight badly written books later, I finally attended enough writers conferences, took enough workshops, and joined ACFW to learn to hone my craft, show the reader my story, and draw them in. I managed to polish one of those badly written books and interest a publisher. Three years later, six published books later, and a contract for three more books later, the Christian romantic suspense genre is thriving and I’m polishing the book of my heart. With some tweaks, that is.
My original story was set in a fictional small Arkansas town. The heroine was an interior decorator, the hero was a detective. But once my three book rodeo series turned into six books, I dusted off old ideas and manuscripts. The story of my heart is now book 5 in my rodeo series titled Rodeo Queen, the heroine owns western clothing stores at the Fort Worth Stockyards and the Galleria Dallas and serves as the rodeo queen at the Stockyards Championship Rodeo. The hero is a Texas Ranger.
I learned two things a long time ago: 1. I stink at fight and shoot em up scenes. 2. I don’t want to learn ballistics and deal with dead bodies. This version of the story of my heart is less suspense, heavy on the romance. The suspense basically just brings them together. I started from scratch on the manuscript. That’s another thing I’ve learned: It’s easier to rewrite than to polish a very badly written book.
Brenda recently critiqued the first sixty pages for me. She commented that she loved my voice and characters. This book has been a breeze to write. I know exactly what happens and I’ve known these people since I was fifteen. God is good!
Question: Based on what you know about me, who was I in love with–Starsky? Or Hutch?
Posted on December 4, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
Shannon here: I’ve never met Shawna, but she’s Arkansas gal like me. And since she has a Christmas book out, I snagged her for my inksper interview. Shawna is giving away an e-book copy of A Hand to Hold and a cute pair of snowman earrings (pictured). Comment on any post dated Dec 3 – 7 to get your name in the drawing. Deadline: Dec 8th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Shawna:
1.) What is the biggest writing challenge you’ve encountered this past year – craft, career, writing life, etc? How did you solve it?
This biggest challenge for me this past year has been balancing life with my writing career. This past year has been a tough one with the sudden loss of a close friend, spiritual attacks within our circle of friends, and the failing health of both mine and my husband’s parents. With the holidays, conference, and my dad’s numerous surgeries I found myself traveling every couple of weeks from about late November through May. Apart from writing, I also work as an editor for two small presses, home school three teens, and manage the social media for The Wordsmith Journal Magazine and work as their submissions editor for short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. I had a book due at the first of August. I managed to get it written, and I absolutely love the story, but my constant state of stress this past year was hard on me and consequently also hard on my family.
My solution for now is a promise I made to my family to not sign another book contract based on a proposal without the book being at least half written. The second half usually goes fast because at that point the story is firm in my mind. If it’s not firm, that means I probably need to scrap the first half because clearly there’s no direction.
My hope is this will encourage me to make time for writing in shorter increments, but more frequently, like daily, or every other day.
Last year I kept putting it off, trying to create space in my mind by tending to everything else first. While I’m very proud of the story that finally came together, the path I took to complete it was littered with more than a few “freak out” episodes. I tend to be one who holds everything in, so these weren’t pretty. Lol! My youngest daughter told me, “Mom, for fourteen years I’ve never seen you cry, and now you can’t stop.”
I’m happy to say the leak now seems to be plugged.
2.) What is the one thing you’d like to share with other writers?
Remember that you love to tell stories. No matter how frustrated you may feel. Never forget that’s why you chose this path. It’s not about notoriety, money, or whether or not everybody just loves your work. You write because you have to; you love it, and you will explode if you aren’t able to get these stories out of your heart and head and into the written word. In a sense, you’re making your characters real because they no longer just live in your head.
Also, be true to yourself and write what you feel passionate about — what excites you. That emotional involvement carries through in your choice of words. Readers can tell.
3.) Where is the coziest spot in your home?
The coziest room in the house is the reading room. Our house was built in 1941 and renovated in 1980, and currently under never-ending slow renovation again. I’m fairly certain that the reading room was formerly a porch and enclosed at some point in the past. Now it’s the cozy little room with the book shelves and Victorian sofa off at one end of the house. Very quiet and isolated for settling in for some alone time.
4.) What is your most laughable dating story?
I once almost shot my date’s dad. This was before I met hubby.
My date had asked me over to his uncle’s ranch. Huge house, lots of land, four wheelers, swimming pool, equipment for every sort of outdoor recreation in existence. It was late fall, so it was too cold to swim. But after having a great time on the four wheelers, my date wanted to teach me how to shoot skeet.
His dad had come up for the weekend, so we went into the house and he asked his dad about the guns and clay disks. All three of us went outside and my date demonstrated how to shoot as his dad threw a disk. Then it was my turn, and he helped me position the rifle, explained the site and all that. When I said I was ready, he threw a disk. I watched it as it fell into the line of site and followed to make sure I had it. With very intent focus, I followed it down… and down… and just as I pulled the trigger my date hit the end of the rifle to knock my aim upward.
My response: “Why’d you do that?” Then I noticed his dad was lying on the ground on his belly looking at me with very large eyes. Apparently he’d been walking in front of me as I followed the clay disk as it fell. According to my date, my aim was about to line up with his dad’s head. Key words being “about to.” The date could’ve been much worse.
We went inside to watch a movie after that. Slim risk of injury while sitting idle.
5.) Which amusement park ride is your favorite and why?
Roller coasters. They scare me to death and I love it.
6.) Would you rather live a week in the past or a week in the future?
This is a hard question for me. I’m completely intrigued by the past. I love history and spend a fair amount of time researching and broadening my knowledge on it. But what you don’t know about me is that I grew up with a Trekkie mom. We were raised watching Star Trek, Star Wars… First in line at the movies to see Close Encounters or any other Sci Fi flick that came out. Some of them were real stinkers too.
Now that I have my own family, we have Star Wars marathons, Firefly marathons, Stargate marathons, Battlestar Galatica marathons, Lord of the Rings marathons… Oh wait, that’s fantasy, not future. Well, you get my point. I enjoy the escapism that comes with imagining futuristic possibilities and adventures. Except Stargate is actually current day science fiction, and hmm… Star Wars was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Okay, I digress.
As fun as the futuristic fantasies may be, I’d have to go with the past — ancient history. There are so many mysteries to speculate about and I’d like to know how it really was. Might need more than a week. The Egyptian, Greek, and Roman empires didn’t exactly coincide. If I had to choose one, I want to see what Pharaoh Akhenaten, Queen Nefertiti, and their new capital city el-Armarna (abandoned and dismantled after his death) was all about.
7.) How do you balance writing, exercise, home, etc.?
Not very well. My house is never as clean as I’d like these days, and as far as exercise goes, I have very fit fingers.
8.) Who is your biggest cheerleader?
That would be dear hubby. He’s not really a fiction reader, and for awhile after I started writing he didn’t want to read my stories. He was afraid they’d be sappy and he’d be bored. He’s blunt, so he’d tell me, which is actually why I wanted him to read them. I didn’t want to write sappy or boring and I needed to know. If I could hold his attention, then maybe I had some skill.
The biggest boost I ever got was one Saturday morning when I was sleeping in, and hubby woke me up by shaking my shoulder while holding my Kindle in his other hand. He’d woken up early and decided to read my latest WIP (work in progress). I’d loaded several chapters onto my Kindle to review. Well, he got to the end of those and couldn’t stand not knowing what happened next, so he woke me up to get me to hurry and load the next chapters so he could continue.
He’s always encouraged me, even before he read anything I wrote, but now he also believes in me, and he lets everyone know it. That feels really great.
9.) What is the best book you’ve read recently, and why did you like it?
I’m a huge Francine Rivers fan. The Mark of the Lion series is my favorite. I really can’t decide between the three books because they’re all just wonderful. I think God has really blessed her with the ability to portray human nature: our fears, longings, frailties. She also writes with great compassion, and the theme of Grace is continual throughout her stories. She never compromises on principal though, even the characters’ failings add to the underlying theme through both consequence and redemption. Her stories just fill me with hope. Who doesn’t need that?
10.) What is your favorite season and why?
I adore late fall and early winter. I just love crunchy leaves under my feet, the smell of burning wood in the fireplace, and the stillness that settles in after a good snow. When it snows, I bundle up, go outside and walk until my limbs are numb, come inside and thaw, and then do it again. Just love it! It’s so cozy and peaceful and something about it makes me feel appreciative of everything around me.
11.) The biggest challenge in writing this book?
The biggest challenge in writing A Hand to Hold was time and space. Head and heart space. I can’t write a story with an uninvolved heart, and for my heart to be involved, I need to immerse myself in the setting and with the characters and their journeys. That’s hard to do when your world is in turmoil and head cluttered.
My dad has Parkinson’s disease, and he also has a degenerative spine. He’d had surgery last Nov to fuse discs, but he fell and the screws all pulled out of the bone. The other issue with my dad was that something about the anesthesia and his meds caused him to hallucinate and not be rational at all. His advanced Parkinson’s contributes to this but after his surgery it was far worse, and for a while we didn’t know if we were going to get him back. This pattern continued following his next three surgeries, and well into his recovery. My sister and I both live eight hours from my parents, so we were trying to balance life with our own families and see that our parents’ needs were met.
This plus other struggles here in our community and financially kind of cluttered my mind, kept me busy, and then other duties I’d put on the back burner while looking after my dad took priority. I kept thinking, “Just let me get this out of the way, then I can focus.” Next thing I knew, I had two months to my deadline and nothing written but a synopsis and the first two chapters of the book — lousy chapters I might add.
This is where God stepped in because I swear, writing this was such a blur. He brought me to that place where I could immerse myself and somehow a story was formed. Rewrote the two lousy chapters and the rest just followed. I really love how it turned out. I think readers will too.
12.) What do the Post-Its around your computer/screen/ bulletin board say?
I don’t do Post-Its. I’m a random file maker. Every time I think of something I make a file. Sometimes I send myself emails. My documents section is loaded with files titled, “To-do list number 35″,”Confused character ramblings” (I use these a lot to work out my character’s mindset) “Story title outline # 10″, “To-do list number 36″, “Christmas list”, “Stuff to remember”, “CLEAN YOUR HOUSE schedule”, etc.
13.) If you could have free unlimited service for one year from a cook, chauffer, personal secretary, housekeeper, or masseuse, which would you choose and why?
Housekeeper, hands down! I hate having a messy house and I can’t seem to get on top of it.
14.) Which character in your books is the most like you? How?
Hmm… This is a hard question. I know that there’s some of me in each character. I probably identify most with Pennye and Jakob. Pennye is the heroine from my book The Good Fight, and Jakob is the hero in No Other and In All Things. He also has a fairly large role in The Good Fight as Roger’s once rival now determined to be his friend.
With Pennye, I think I can relate to the underlying insecurities she struggles with. Despite how confident I may try and convince you I am, I struggle. She’s the same. I think we all have those little areas of sensitivity we try and conceal because it really hurts when they get poked! At the same time, these very things make us who we are, and give us the ability to empathize and show compassion. I wouldn’t want to lose that ability, and if having a few sensitive spots helps me to be more caring and understanding of others, I’ll take it.
Jakob is actually similar. His character feels very deeply, not just for himself but for others, and he wants to fix everything for everybody because of this. When he can’t, he views it as an inadequacy on his part. Of course, that’s twisted and wrong, and learning to rely on God for this role is the major part of his journey in the books No Other and In all Things. I guess that might have been a journey for me too.
About Shawna: Having never considered becoming a writer, Shawna K. Williams’ path changed in a single night all because of a dream. Her early writings were a mere attempt to fill in gaps within the dream and satisfy her curiosity, but later became the inspiration for her first two novels. She is a content editor for Desert Breeze Publishing and Solstice Publishing, acquisitions editor/social media specialist for The Wordsmith Journal Magazine, speaker, homeschooling mom and multi-published author of twentieth century historical fiction. Shawna enjoys books in almost any genre as long as they contain strong characters tackling real-life grit. She also has a thing for dogs and pygmy goats, and believes the world would be a better place if people aspired to be the person their pet believes them to be.
Shawna’s books: No Other, In All Things, The Good Fight, Orphaned Hearts, and coming in Dec. 2012: A Hand to Hold. All books are available as ebooks. No Other is also in print, In All Things releases in print in November 2012, and all other books will be available in print in 2013. Learn more: http://shawnakwilliams.com/, http://shawnawilliams-oldsmobile.blogspot.com/, https://twitter.com/shawnakwilliams, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shawna-K-Williams/236629884245
About the book – A Hand to Hold by Shawna K. Williams:Having come to Brady Hill as an orphan, Caleb Langley cherishes his memories of growing up in a place where he was embraced, nurtured and loved. With the zinc mine closed and the town in near ruin, he agonizes over what can be done to save his home.
Sarah Sheldon, the little girl Caleb adopted in his heart as a sister, has lived life in the shadows of a once glorious town. She’s resentful those around her are held captive by old memories, and refuse to let go and move on. To Sarah, the demise of Brady Hill may be the best thing that ever happened.
Caleb is dismayed that Sarah’s view of growing up in Brady Hill differs so much from his own. In his determination to save the town, he also sets out to alter her perception. In doing so, might he learn to see Sarah in a new light as well?
Posted on November 7, 2012 - by Rose Ross Zediker
Proverbs 14:29 Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.
Hi, I’m Rose. I have a temper, a quick one. This is not a good trait to have, so I was told time and again by my parents when I was younger. “You’ve got to stop that,” they’d say. “It will get you in trouble.”
I’m happy to report, other than getting sent to my room, my quick tempered ways never got me into physical danger, but it did make me feel lousy inside. However, telling me to stop, and not showing me how to deal with this emotion didn’t do me any good either.
“It’s my dreadful temper. I try to cure it: I think I have, and then it breaks out worse than ever. Oh, mother, what shall I do? What shall I do?”
“Watch and pray, dear: never get tired of trying; and never think it’s impossible to conquer your fault.”
I realized other people struggled with a quick temper too. But rather than just being told to stop feeling that way, Mrs. March actually gave Jo practical advice. I imagined Jo bowing her head and asking for God’s help, so I did too. Then I read on eager to see if Jo conquered this fault and how she did it, mentally making notes that I could apply to my life.
I can honestly say I didn’t see immediate results. But years later, when Christ moved my heart to walk a closer path with him, I started reading and studying the Bible.
One day I read Proverbs 14:29, Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.
It really struck a chord with me. I thought about recent times I’d lost my temper, realized all the stupid things that I say in my anger, and how horrible it made me feel both physically and mentally. This time I prayed daily for his help with fault. It worked! Many times before I ‘let my temper’ fly, this verse would pop into my mind. I’d take a step back, try to get my emotions under control then calmly try to resolve the issue.
Does it work every time I’m angry? No, because like everyone else, my walk with God is a work in progress. However, I do keep trying to handle this strong emotion, and I believe it is possible to conquer this fault. I attribute the urge to change my temperamental ways with that passage in Little Women. It was very first book that moved my heart to be a better person so it’s no wonder it’s one of my all-time favorite books.
Posted on May 25, 2012 - by Dawn Ford
It’s been a year since I finished my YA speculative manuscript. I rushed it a bit since it had been a request by a publisher and it wasn’t finished at the time of the request. Although outlined, I still floundered at the end. Why? I had two possible endings in mind, one that would leave it open for a series, and one that would wrap it up tight leaving it a stand-alone book. And it just didn’t feel right.
Lately I have been reading several mainstream YA novels, trying to keep up with the market and stay immersed in the genre. Many of those novels have had rushed endings or endings that weren’t as satisfactory as I had hoped. My mind kept wandering back to my baby, sitting untouched on my hard drive. Back and forth I would debate with myself on starting back up. Something always seemed to hold me back.
I had a discussion this past Sunday with my critique partner who had just finished her manuscript and was having a difficult time getting into a new one. I agreed with her that sometimes writing can be like pulling teeth. I pondered my abandoned manuscript.
I’m not sure what it was about that conversation that got the fire going again, but Monday I sat down and wrote over 3,000 words before I knew it. The start is not quite what I want, but it felt wonderful just sitting down with words flowing out of my fingers freely. I admit, I haven’t had that feeling for quite awhile now. My current manuscript is set aside while I tap into my Muse to breathe life into the old one.
Maybe it’s just that September’s conference is slowly creeping up on me. Possibly, it’s just that I needed another outlet for my creative urges now that I had spurted to a crawl on my fantasy MS. It could be that I’m part ADD and it slips out from time to time. Hopefully it doesn’t speak to the fact that I start things much easier than I finish them.
Whatever it is, I’m running with it. This weekend we leave for Okoboji on a fishing trip. Since I don’t fish, I am left with plenty of time to work on my writing. Honestly, it will feel like a vacation to be able to get something productive done.
I pray you all have a safe and happy Memorial Day holiday.
Posted on April 26, 2012 - by Shari Barr
Surviving life as a writer is tricky at times. This was especially true back in the early days of article writing. People looked at me funny when I told them I was a writer. It seemed as though no one actually knew a writer. A few people muttered shyly under their breath that “someday” they wanted to write a book, but essentially I was alone in my little world of Writerdom.
I knew I needed to spend time with other writers but that seemed impossible when I knew no one who wrote seriously. Living on a farm has way more advantages than disadvantages, but it can be a lonely place when looking for a writing buddy to share dreams and disappointments, especially in the pre-computer era.
Years ago, I realized that frustrations were going to get the best of me unless I had fellow writers to support me. I remembered a writer’s conference in a college town I had attended several years earlier. Fortunately I had saved the materials from that conference, so I dug them out of hiding and found some information about a woman I had met—Amy Houts. By this time, internet had found its way into our home, so I Googled her name and learned she still lived in the area. I emailed her and she readily invited me to her writer’s group. Driving an hour seemed a small price to pay for basking in the companionship of other writers. Finally I was surrounded by people who “got” me.
From that day forward, I knew I was where God wanted me. Not only did Amy become my cheerleader, she is now one of my best friends. She has rooted for me from day one and continues to do so. Without her I would have given up a long time ago.
Everyone needs a support system, not just writers. Anyone who has a job outside the norm would benefit from surrounding themselves with like-minded people, at least once in awhile. Though I know I’m writing for God, I still need earthly encouragement on a regular basis. The confident words of other writers who have walked the same path help me through those times when I think I’d be better off picking up pop cans and redeeming them for a nickel.
Everyone needs an eternal cheerleader. If you don’t have one, go where they hang out—conferences, classes, or specialized online groups. You’ll find plenty to choose from, many of whom need your support every bit as much as you need theirs.
Posted on April 24, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
In twelve years of writing, I’ve come up with a list of must haves for the diligent writer:
1. A quiet house.
When I first started writing, my husband worked later in the evenings than I did. For about an hour and a half, the house was quiet. Me–home alone–writing. Once our son was born, a quiet house was impossible. I adapted. Before long, I realized I could write with the TV on in the same room as my desk. Three years of noisy writing. Then we decided to send him to preschool three days a week because he had no clue what to do with other kids. Miraculously, my house was quiet again. Since then, I once again require a quiet house. During the school year, I write during school hours. In the summer, when everyone else is in bed.
I don’t know how non-coffee drinkers write. When the story stalls, I go get a cup of coffee. When the edits come from the publisher, they make me so sleepy. In editing mode, I’m not into the story, just searching for things to fix. Coffee time and my eyes pop open. And lately, I’ve discovered something even more effective.
3. Chocolate covered coffee beans!
The chocolate is yummy. The bean is gritty, so make sure you have something to drink to chase it down with. Preferably coffee. These little jewels pack a powerful punch. I’m not a morning person, never have been. No matter how many hours of sleep I get–3 or 10, when I get up, I’m heavy-lidded and brain-stalled. No matter what time I get up–5 AM or noon (doesn’t happen often), I’m heavy-lidded and brain-stalled. I pop one bean and I’m awake and ready to write. But be careful, I ate 4 in one day once and the top of my head started tingling. I usually only have one in the morning except during edits. Then I allow 3.
4. Sunflower seeds.
The kind still in the hull, so you have to work to get them out. Another handy dandy trick for combatting sleepy eye when my edits come. They’re good for you and very filling, so you eat less for lunch and supper.
5. Things that inspire me.
I have framed covers of all my books in my office, along with poems and pictures, inspirational sayings, miniature high heel shoes, my name tags from all the ACFW conferences I’ve attended, writing awards (from the first one I won at a local writing contest to my IRCA), handmade gifts from my son, gifts from my husband, writing craft books, writers market guides, novels by other authors, seashells, and a cotton boll. Each of the items inspire me.
I’ve always loved seashells. To me, it’s proof of God’s hand. Such intricate shells where tiny creatures live. The cotton boll reminds me that my parents grew up picking cotton and I don’t have to. One gift from my husband dates back to our dating days. It’s a plaque with a silver platter and a red heart in the center. The poem says, ‘You’re the only who’ll ever matter, so here’s my heart on a silver platter.’ He dated it and signed it. This reminds me of our longevity. A gift from my son, a cardboard trinket box from Bible school. The box was already made, but he painted and decorated it in seashells because he knows I love them.
Each item has special meaning to me. Most people, including my husband, would say it’s clutter. But with all my special things around me, the words flow.
6. My idea book.
It’s really a journal. Hardback with spiral bound pages, but not your typical notebook. Sturdy, with lots of pages that don’t tear out unless you really work at it. I write all my ideas in it. One sentence. Partial sentences. Pages and pages on one story. Everything I think of that could go in a potential book goes in my idea book. Sometimes I get up in the middle of night and write things in it. Sometimes, I capture dreams in it. I also take it with me for notes on research trips. When I’m between projects, I flip through my idea book and see what grabs me. Whatever idea I think about most is the one I go with.
Anybody else have any of the items on my list in your survival kit?
Posted on April 22, 2012 - by Lorna Seilstad
Man survives 4th floor leap
Nevada man survives 10 days in the desert
Man survives shooting four-inch nail gun into his heart
Swedish man survives two months inside snow-covered car
Man survives skydiving fall
It’s hard to ignore these kinds of headlines. Surviving catches our attention. We want to know how the person made it through despite the odds against him and we shake our heads in amazement.
But while the survival of these people seems to be almost miraculous, our day to day survival is not nearly so newsworthy. We have to make plans to survive difficult times. Have you put together an emergency kit for your car? Do you know first aid? Do you have everything the experts suggest if you’re in a tornado warning?
If you answered no to all of those things, relax. This blog is not about that kind of survival–even if maybe it should be. For our next round, the Inkspirational Messagers are going to be discussing what every writer needs to survive. We want to take you beyond the keyboard into what it takes to put words on paper, day in, day out.
And if you’re not a writer, please join us anyway. The things we will be sharing apply to anything you are intentionally pursuing in your life, whether it’s a closer walk with God, being a better mother, or a new career.
Since I get to start, besides a Bible and chocolate, which are givens, here are three things, I’d put in the survival kit of any passionate person.
A rubber ball. This ball would remind you to bounce back and to have a teachable spirit. No matter where you are in your craft, there’s always more to learn. Being open and willing to humbly listen is vital. Even when it’s hard to hear, you can learn a great deal if your heart is open. There will also be things that happen that hurt or are beyond your control. How well you bounce back may determine a great deal.
Duct tape. Yep, you read that write. It can fix everything, right? If you want to do something you’re passionate about, you have to stick to it. You have set aside time for it (and maybe even tape yourself in your chair).
A Slinky. When you are passionate about something, you often have an idea of how you’d like things to go. Things seldom turn out like you plan. The Slinky is there to remind you to be flexible. I’m on deadline right now, but one day last week, one important interruption after another occurred. If I didn’t pull out my hidden Slinky powers, I’d have been pulling out my hair by the time I went to bed.
Now, it’s your turn. Which of the above do you need most to put in your survival kit and why?
Posted on April 10, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
I’m celebrating Drop Everything and Read day by sharing some favorite lines from recent reads:
From Buffalo Gal by Mary Connealy: