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Archive for the ‘Inspiration for the Writer’s Heart’ Category

By the time this blog appears live, I will have been and gone to my favourite annual writer’s conference: InScribe. It’s a treat I look forward to every year, and this one’s accessible; I can drive there or ride with a friend.

Conferences are superb confidence boosters, in that our association with other writers helps us to believe we really are writers too.

Conferences are comfortable places for introverts to network! We’re most of us—but certainly not all—introverted types that gather at writing conferences. We spend a lot of our time in solitary, with only our computers as companions, and mostly, we’re okay with that. But from time to time we need more than virtual input. A conference is a time when we can reach out to others who understand our boundaries. Maybe we can find someone who can fill a gap in our writing life: a story editor, a cover designer, a formatter. And just maybe we can fill a gap in someone else’s writing needs as well.

Conferences are memory makers. We meet people we’ve met before and renew our acquaintance. We meet people we’ve never met before, and often our personalities will click. Or we meet people we’ve heard of but never met, and find out they are accessible and normal folks. We feel surrounded by friends of like mind.

If there’s a conference in your area, save up your bucks through the year and take advantage of it. You won’t regret it.

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I’ve visited a couple of local cemeteries recently, because my siblings and I need to choose a memorial marker for our mother. Some people stay as far from graveyards as possible, but I find them restful, at least in broad daylight. The dates and names give wings to my imagination.

Just as the people buried in the churchyard are more than granite engravings, our fictional characters need to be more than life-size cardboard cutouts. The years that lie between birth and death dates are mysteries, untold stories of real people.

One stone marks the life of a wife/mother who died at the age of 22. Why? An accident or illness? What happened to the child? I feel the grief and lay my hand on the stone as I pass.

A large, flat engraving includes details of birthplace, emigration, moves, farm locations, spouse, children. Few are this informative, but it tells the story of an eventful life, well-lived. These details considered important enough to be carved in stone.

Several small graves lie in the shade of the poplars, babies that died at birth or in their early childhood. Stories of unexpected loss and grief.

Ideas come from everywhere, and a cemetery is a tremendous resource. It can also remind us of the fragility of life, the brevity of the time we have to make our mark between two dates.

If you’re looking for writing ideas, inspiration, or perhaps a quiet and meditative walk, visit a cemetery, and remember that:

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants” Psalm 116:15 NIV.

 

 

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Many years ago, about 1994, in fact, I read Linda Hall’s first novel, The Josiah Files. I loved it, but although I’ve forgotten the story by now, I will never forget the strange and unlikely—so I thought then—technology of characters carrying small handheld devices on which they could communicate and read. I wished with all my heart that I could have a device that carried books and could be accessed anywhere, anytime.

Well, what do you know? Last night I was unable to sleep, so I grabbed my iPhone, and with a few clicks, accessed a novel I couldn’t wait to finish. How the world, even my little world, has changed over the past twenty-four years.

 

 

There are varied responses to these innovations in our world:

  1. Some people conceive the ideas that become new technology
  2. Some people embrace these changes
  3. Some people struggle to keep up with the latest tools/programs
  4. Some people choose to ignore the changes
  5. And some refuse to accept or be involved in using technology

I’m definitely not the first type, nor the second. Nor the fifth. You’ll catch me on #4 and then grudgingly moving up to #3 most of the time. Because I really don’t want to be left behind.

In my writing life, I’ve had to accept some changes. One publisher I worked for expected his authors to learn and use social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Scribble, Scrabble, Bing Bong, etc. (Please don’t look up those last three.) Whatever was available, we were expected to go with it. I did my best, eventually settling on Facebook and Twitter, with LinkedIn as a more silent partner. I have to say it was good for me. Stretching is a good thing, and although I have always disliked the phrase “getting out of my comfort zone,” it was a necessary and beneficial exercise.

A couple of years ago, I decided to embrace the independent publishing scenario. It took a lot of research, observation, questioning and faith, but I jumped in and still have my head above water. I think. Just this week, I heard more about a company I’d been interested in but didn’t understand: Ingram Spark. After emailing with friends, I decided to give it a whirl for the sake of one of my oft-neglected goals: book distribution. I now have an account and we’ll see where that leads.

There will always be technological obstacles in our lives, personal and professional, and it’s our choice how we respond. But maybe, just maybe, we will be able to benefit from some new technologies or programs. My personal line: “If technology is a car, I’m hanging onto the back bumper by my fingernails. I can’t let go, because I’ll never catch up again.”

Whatever the next obstacle, I’ll deal with it…or ask for help to understand. Because times will continue to change. I hope you will also keep on learning and experimenting.

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As you already know if you follow my blog, I had a different year in 2017. My mom lived with us for seven months before she passed, and after that I couldn’t seem to engage in my writing. I’ve kept up with my blogs, but my novel plans have languished. I needed to grieve and to heal.

Then two things happened:

  1. My husband and I read a devotional writing this morning (mid-March) that revolved around Ecclesiastes chapter three:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (verses 1 and 4b, NIV).

My mind went to seasons and times, and I realized that I had spent enough time in this season of mourning. Yes, it’s important to mourn, and I will never forget my dear mom, but I think it is time to move ahead.

  1. That same morning, I received a phone call from a dear friend. “My neighbor called me,” she said, “and told me she can’t find your third book in this latest series.”

    from pixabay.com

Hmm. That’s because it’s still in my head and on my heart. It has not yet fully migrated to paper and certainly hasn’t come near publication. I confessed this to my friend and she said, “I thought so. You had told me about your mom, and I told my neighbor. We understand.”

But her words were the kick-in-the-pants I needed to confirm the nudge from Ecclesiastes.

This missive is to inform you, my faithful blog-followers, that I have re-engaged in my novel activities. I have been writing, with paper and pen at the moment, a manuscript that will become the third book in my In Search of Freedom series. I plan to use a somewhat different format, so it’s a challenge, and that’s another reason I’ve been procrastinating. It’s scary to try something new.

If you are a praying person, I could use your prayers. I’ll let you know how it’s going, and please feel free to contact me and ask, or to offer another gentle kick-in-the-pants to keep me motivated.

Thanks for listening, and I wish you a day that matters.

 

 

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It’s called perseverance. That stubborn drive to reach for a goal. Dedication to a cause. Steadfastness. Endurance. Growing in spite of obstacles. Doing our absolute best.

These days of winter here on the prairies continue to drag. Temperatures are cold enough to freeze my brain. My focus shifts like the drifting snow and ideas are elusive. All I really want to do is curl up by the fireplace, wrap myself in a cozy blanket, and read a good book.

But where do those good books come from? They come from persistent writers who push through the dreary times when ideas are hard to pin down. They come through the tenacity of dedicated storytellers. Good books take work and resolve and heart.

Good books require effort, just like good marriages, good parenting, good friendships. All of life requires commitment to make it rich and worth living. But no one is going to do it for us.

I’ve come to the realization that no one is going to pull me along on the path to my goals. I’m the only one who can stretch to attain them. I’m thankful that over the years, God has pushed me in the right direction, helped me find connections, gently reminded me of my responsibility to apply myself to my calling (vocation, mission, passion). That’s because I foster my relationship with him. But the work is up to me.

Whatever your work, I encourage you to put your best into it and keep on keeping on. That’s what it takes to make a better world. I remind myself that God’s creation was never “good enough.” It was purely and simply “good.”

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I love to watch Hallmark movies at Christmastime, and they are numerous. I’ve noticed that many of them have a similar theme: single parent with cute young child returns to his/her hometown and meets a man/woman they used to know. Love grows, obstacles pile up, love overcomes.

The details differ, but the themes are similar. So why do I keep watching? I know the setup, I know the outcome.

For me, it’s the journey. Who are these people and what makes me care about them? What problems come into their lives? How do they overcome them? What tools do they use to do so? What are their values? What finally brings them together?

These are the same questions that apply to the books we read, and we usually invest more time reading (unless you read a lot faster than I do) than watching. Whether we are readers or writers, finding a connection between the main character at the very outset it enormously important, or I don’t care to read / watch. The more I care, the more I’m invested in the story.

One more thing: I also notice that the real meaning of Christmas—the birth of our Savior—is completely missing from many, if not most, of the stories. I wish that your journey to the manger this season doesn’t stop there. The reason for the season is Jesus, and his journey goes on to the cross. That’s our reason for joy and celebration.

Blessings to you on your particular path this Christmas.

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“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” Psalm 90:12 NIV.

That’s good advice, especially these days when so many people are distracted by their tech devices and busy lives, and fail to realize that life is passing them by.

This year turned out very differently than I had originally planned. As some of you know, shortly after Christmas, my husband and I invited my mother to live with us. She came in April, and our home became hers until her passing in November.

My mom

I had planned to continue writing as usual, but I also wanted to spend time with Mom, having tea or playing a game of dice or watching her favorite game shows. We enjoyed all of the aforementioned activities, and when I look back, I do not regret any of the time spent with her. However, it was not always an easy decision for me, because writing waited, and games are not my favorite thing.

We writers love to be alone with words and ideas and characters, but sometimes God has other plans for us. When I realize how quickly time has flown, how short my time with Mom turned out to be, I’m so glad I chose to be present in her world. Because I won’t have another chance for that.

As David says in Psalm 103:15, “As for man, his days are life grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone and its place remembers it no more.” Or, to quote the lyrics of an old song, “Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.”

We each have decisions to make about how we spend our time. I pray for discernment as we review the past year and look forward to what God has for us in the future. In the meanwhile, let’s celebrate the mystery and miracle of Christmas, and be present in the lives of those we love. And happy writing too!

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