Posts Tagged ‘The Word Guild’

Whether introvert or extrovert, a writer often requires long periods of self-imposed isolation in order to create an ever-expanding body of writing. But every now and then, we need INPUT—remember Johnny-Five in “Short Circuit”—and one of the best places to find it is at a writing workshop or conference. Besides being a solitary species, we are also often misunderstood by non-writers. Finding renewal and refreshment from like-minded individuals is very likely to happen at writing events.People attending a Congress

One of the suggestions I offer new writers is to join writing groups, either online or in person. We often hear about workshops and conferences through memberships in various writing groups. As a Canadian who writes from a Christian worldview, I hold membership in The Word Guild. TWG offers many offshoot groups including listservs, editing groups, conferences, workshops across the country and contests.

Another of my memberships is with InScribe Christian Writers Fellowship. ICWF offers similar events to TWG, and their annual conference is geographically closer to where I live, so I can afford to attend most years.

A couple of years ago I also rejoined our provincial writing association, the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild. SWG offers me excellent financial support for author readings and workshops that I present, as well as exposure to local groups seeking a writer/presenter.

Besides these Canadian groups, I also belong to the American Christian Fiction Writers, and one of their affiliates, International Christian Fiction Writers.

Once you choose your path (obviously, mine is primarily Christian fiction), there are many opportunities to continue to learn, grow, teach, market, and generally find support from other writers.

Organizers, promoters and presenters spend much time and effort preparing for these writing events, and we, as attendees, should also be prepared. Here are ten simple tips:

  1. Book travel in order to arrive in plenty of time to settle in before the conference begins
  2. Book accommodations near the conference venue (there are often discounts for attendees)
  3. If possible, share travel and accommodation costs with other attendees
  4. Study the schedule, analyze all information and decide what best suits your needs
  5. Study up on presenters and their areas of expertise; if possible, read some of their work
  6. If you have publishing credits, prepare a one-sheet
  7. Bring business cards to distribute as you meet other writers (make them yourself to save on cost)
  8. Check if there are opportunities to sell your books. Inquire as to selling fees.
  9. Prepare manuscripts for hands-on workshops, or for readings, or for editor / agent interviews
  10. Get enough sleep before the conference, and take time to review everything immediately after the conference, with plans to follow through on your commitments.

So join, listen, plan, prepare, attend, and look forward to some great INPUT!

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Janice: Welcome to my blog, Carolyn. I look forward to learning more about you and your writing through this interview.

Carolyn Wilker

Carolyn Wilker

CAROLYN: Thank you for the opportunity, Jan.

Janice: What kinds of writing are you involved in?

CAROLYN: Besides stories that I develop for storytelling, I write articles for my newsletter, blog at storygal as well as Inscribe professional blog and Canadian Writers Who Are Christian. I write short stories for children and am working on short stories for adults as well. I’m working on a devotional assignment. There are also manuscripts in my files that require revision. Poetry is one of my loves and I’ve lost count of the number published.

Janice: Why do you work in these genres / fields?

CAROLYN: At first I wrote a lot of different things to see what I liked best, felt most passionate about. Poetry is one of those and it remains, but I also enjoy writing for children.

Janice: What first interested you in writing in general? What continues to inspire and motivate you and your writing / editing?

CAROLYN: I have always been an avid reader, but writing, apart from schoolwork and letters, came much later for me. I was grappling with issues in my life and began writing about artificial fragrances and their effect on humans. Then as I wrote, discovered that I enjoyed writing. It was quite a while later before I called myself a writer.

Janice: How do you write? What’s your process?

CAROLYN: I prefer quiet; it’s the way I hear the words that are coming to me. Early morning is most productive, but when I have deadlines for editing, my writing time has to be shifted. Most often I write in my home office where I can shut the door to everything else, however, I have written in places where I am not alone—at least to get down the main story idea. I still like pen and paper for initial drafts of short pieces but I have learned to compose on the computer, though sometimes my typing fingers have trouble keeping up with the words. I edit in quiet too, so I can focus on the writer’s words and ideas.

Janice: What’s your favourite part of writing? And the most challenging aspect for you?

CAROLYN: When a new story comes to me, I love that writing. I could keep on going, but I must say when I have some distance from my writing that revising the work brings its own benefits. And my critique group helps me define or cut details when the story gets a little muddy or unwieldy. Challenging aspect? Conflict. I’m not as good with that; it’s something to work on.

Janice: How important do you think editing is? Do you recommend professional editing for fiction writers?

CAROLYN: Without editing, the reading would be hard. Though ideas often come fast while writing, I know that early drafts are not so easy to read. I recommend professional editing for all writers. Any writer can benefit from an objective eye. Editing makes the really good writers look brilliant.

Janice: I believe that reading is one of the most important things any writer can do. What do you read for pleasure? What are you currently reading?

CAROLYN: My reading spans a wide variety of genres and topics: memoir; children’s books (fiction and nonfiction); main-stream fiction, some suspense but nothing too scary or edge-of-the-seat reading; nonfiction on a topic of interest; short stories and poetry. I’ve recently finished reading Words Words Words, by linguist David Crystal and The Light Between Oceans, by Australian author M. L. Stedman. Stedman is a brilliant writer and the book was a stunning first novel. I’m currently reading Knife by R. J. Anderson. Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo, is next on my pile and there are a few more waiting. People have been talking about the movie, Heaven is for Real, but I like to read the book first when I get the chance. There’s often more than one book “on the go” at a time. I still like holding a book, but I recently had a lesson at the library on using the Playbook and reading books on the device.

Janice: Tell us a bit about yourself.

CAROLYN: I’m a wife, a mother to three daughters, and a grandmother to two little girls. We live in Kitchener, Ontario, and our daughters and sons-in-law live in the same city. Growing up on a farm in rural Ontario is much different than living in the city, but I’ve adapted to city life. I take my camera with me most places and use some of those photos for my blog and scrapbooking, when I get to it. I love to listen to music at home or when I’m driving somewhere (but not when I write). Musical theatre and choir concerts are enjoyable as are visits with good friends and family. For exercise, I put on a good pair of walking shoes and go out with friends or on my own. I’m a storyteller, who has just hosted Stories Aloud at the Button Factory for the first time.

Janice: You have written a book called Once upon a Sandbox. Would you tell us about this book? Once Upon a Sandbox

CAROLYN: This book is a collection of prose and poetry about growing up on a family farm in the 50s and 60s, a way of life that’s changing. When I began to write, I discovered those were the stories that came to me readily and I’m forever grateful to my editor for helping me to flesh those stories out more fully and make them stronger. The stories were too personal for magazines and I wondered what to do with them until I met Sally, a fellow storyteller, who put stories together of her childhood. The book is not as much about me and more about life around me and how that looked. About community, how it was growing up on a farm, and who my parents and siblings are as people, as well on others in my life who had an influence on me.

Janice: Do you have any more books in the works?

CAROLYN: Yes, I do. I have one that needs a partial rewrite; a children’s book manuscript to finish writing (and then revision), and picture book manuscripts. I hope one day to put my poetry together in a collection.

Janice: What are some of the editing projects you’ve worked on?

CAROLYN: I’ve edited two children’s books, a book of poetry, two biblical studies books. There were two book manuscripts by real estate agents. I worked with a chaplain on her book that won an honourable mention in a publishing contest, and more recently with an international speaker who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2011 and then wrote about it. A travel memoir about travelling in South and Central America was also appealing.

Proofreading projects included one on finance; the Africa Bible Commentary, and the Powerful Women magazine that I worked on with the editor for several years. Also business and industry newsletters, Ray of Hope and Community Justice Initiatives. I enjoy the variety, but I do like to edit book manuscripts and have been working with a publisher as a freelance editor.

Janice: Your bio mentions your connections with Toastmasters. How did you get involved and what has this program done for you and your writing?

CAROLYN: I figured that, someday, I would need to speak and I’d better get prepared. It happened sooner than I thought and so I was glad of the early start; it made book promotion more enjoyable and the workshops and speaking opportunities easier to manage. Teaching creative writing at a city community centre, and memoir sessions to Women’s Institute groups were also offshoots of speaking. Having the Toastmasters experience has helped me to grow not only as a speaker and leader but has helped me in my writing, communicating with editors and authors in my business, and in storytelling.

Janice: What part does research play in your writing?

CAROLYN: In January and February of this year, I wrote a children’s book I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but I also needed to do some research, and so I read every book I could find in the library on that topic and perused some of the larger resource books until I found what I needed. The Internet is a great research tool as well. There’s always more to learn and as writers, we need to know more than actually goes in the book.

Janice: Do you have any suggestions for good writing/editing resource books?

CAROLYN: Always a good collegiate dictionary and a thesaurus. Two grammar resources I recommend are Checkmate or Practical Grammar. There are too many to list on other aspects of writing, but I will mention that the Writers’ Digest series on Writing Great Fiction, and for writing memoir, Writing Life Stories, second edition, by Bill Roorbach and Kristen Keckler.

Janice: What did you learn while writing your most recent work?

CAROLYN: That there’s always more to learn, and that I just need to focus on a particular area. It’s like osmosis the more I read on a topic. The information sticks, and I make notes on what I need.

Janice: Do you have any advice for beginning writers / editors?

CAROLYN: For writers, learn all you can about writing, save your pennies (or I guess it’s your nickels) and go to a writer’s conference whenever you can. Seek out a critique group and be willing to look at your fellow writer’s work, and be a reader.

For anyone wanting to learn editing, take courses from a reputable university that offers publishing programs. There’s more to it than you think, even for those with an English degree, although that education will give you a good background in literature. And read widely, on many topics then learn what expertise you bring.

Janice: How involved are you in social media and how important do you think it is in promotion?

CAROLYN: I blog and I’m on facebook, but I get to Twitter less often, for good or bad. A profile on LinkedIn is a good thing too, more of a business connection, and I’m there too. But don’t just stay at your desk. Get out and meet people and try out new experiences, because that will give you more to write about. It may not be easy if you’re an introvert, but it’s worth the effort.

Janice: In your opinion, what’s the best marketing/promotional method? What has worked or not worked for you?

CAROLYN: I’m still learning. When I was preparing for my book launch and readings or signings, it was calling people on the phone and meeting them in person that was effective. Friendly emails, and keeping in touch, and not always “do this for me.” Make genuine connections. Get involved in activities that interest you and your passion will come through.

Janice: Thanks so much, Carolyn, for taking time to chat with us today. All the best as you continue in your career of working with words.

Carolyn Wilker is a member of The Editors’ Association of Canada and The Word Guild, an association of writers and editors. She works with business owners to improve their communications, and with writers to improve their manuscripts. Carolyn was a member of the proofreading team for the award-winning Africa Bible Commentary and has worked on a variety of projects, including fiction and non-fiction manuscripts.

Through her involvement in The Energetics Toastmasters club in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, Carolyn has gained valuable leadership and communication skills. Awarded Toastmaster of the Year for her club in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008, she has also been a panelist in 2007 and a workshop leader in 2008 for Write! Canada

Find out more about Carolyn at the following links:




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Let’s begin our interview with Marcia’s photo and bio:


I was raised on an island off the north shore of Lake Huron, ran away to Alaska and then the Yukon, had a “road to Mayo” conversion in 1982, leaped by faith into Briercrest Bible College with my husband in 1985 and landed in the “promised land” of central Alberta in 1988.

I’ve also had the privilege of living a few miles south of the Arctic Circle (Dawson City Yukon) and a couple of degrees south of the equator (Papua New Guinea).

I suppose that’s why my writing is steeped in the imagery of winter with the odd palm tree thrown in.

For the past thirty some years, I’ve been a pastor’s wife, mother of three girls, caretaker of two dogs, two cats and sundry fish, and oh, yes, a freelance writer.

The writing began in the attic of my parent’s house where I wrote stories for my dolls. None of them complained, so I kept it up. The Lord has abundantly blessed, challenged, rebuked, healed and restored me through the process of writing and being involved with writers. I now have two award-winning novels in print as well as three devotional books. My ebooks are available on www.smashwords.com and some on Amazon, Barnes and Noble etc.

I am honored to have served on the executive of Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, been a long-time member of The Word Guild and American Christian Fiction Writers, and been privileged to teach for some of these groups.

I am also a sought-after speaker for women’s retreats and one day events. I have spoken widely for Stonecroft Ministries.

Janice: Hi Marcia. Welcome to my blog. Glad you could stop by today. Marcia (pronounced Mar-SEE-ah), you are a multi-genre writer, as well as being very involved in Christian ministry. Tell us a little about your various involvements and how they came to be.

MARCIA: Well, it seems that the Lord often just drops things into my lap. I began writing for publication when we first moved to Alberta. My husband took over as the senior pastor of a good-sized church and one of the things he was told he had to do was write a faith column for the local newspaper. He was already overwhelmed with everything else on his “to do” list so asked if I would do it. I put together a short piece and took it to the editor. He was happy with it and that was the beginning of writing for local and provincial papers for more than 20 years. About that same time I sent off my first short story to a magazine and received a cheque in the mail. Then began writing short stories for Sunday school publications and my hobby became a career.

I have always been very involved in women’s ministries since becoming a believer at the age of 32, so when I heard about Stonecroft’s Christian Women’s Clubs it seemed a good fit. I took their speaker training and began travelling around Alberta and Saskatchewan, speaking to women. That has led to invitations to speak at retreats and other events. I’ve since had further training under Carol Kent. I love speaking and teaching and God has blessed me abundantly with this ministry.

Janice: How do you balance your writing and personal life?

MARCIA: It’s not always easy. When my kids were young I spent mornings doing housework etc and most afternoons at my keyboard at a small desk in our living room, until the girls came home from school. As they grew that time increased and now that they are grown I am able to spend as much time as I like writing. My husband has become very supportive over the years. I’m blessed to have family who understand and support my ministry. I am quite active in our small church as well, so there are days when there aren’t enough hours, but I love being busy. My challenge sometimes is learning when to say no, when to take time to just be with the Lord. In 2011 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and spent the next two years in treatment and recovery, a time that was a blessing in many ways as the Lord taught me to draw close to Him. That time changed my perspective on many things and helped me to see the importance of being still and focusing on Jesus.

Janice: When did you first take an interest in writing and what sparked that interest?

MARCIA: I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I was always scribbling something or other, leading my mom to say she thought I was born with a pencil in my hand. But at the age of eleven an aunt gave me a copy of Emily of New Moon, by Lucy Maude Montgomery. As I read it I was thrilled to discover that you could actually call yourself a writer and determined at that time that’s what I would be. I was blessed to have some wonderful teachers who encouraged me in that pursuit. When I became a believer it was another blessing to realize that I could write for the kingdom of God.

Janice: What prompted you to branch out from non-fiction to fiction?

MARCIA: I had always written fiction – mostly short stories and poetry when I was young, but I knew you couldn’t make a living doing that, especially in Canada, so I decided to go to Carleton University to study journalism. I discovered fairly quickly that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, but I received some good training there that has come in handy over the years. I did a fair bit of journalistic writing for local newspapers when we first came out to Alberta, while still writing fiction on the side – mostly children’s short stories. Fiction really was my “first love” as far as writing was concerned, so it was a dream come true when I won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award and One Smooth Stone was published.

Janice: You’ve had interesting experiences with regard to publication. What have you learned on the journey?

MARCIA: A great deal! Some of the highlights:

1 – the industry is always changing and you have to try to keep up by following blogs and staying in touch with other writers, editors and publishers.

2 – when you view publication as a ministry as well as a business, you begin to realize that it’s not all about selling books. It’s about relationships. I’ve been blessed to have developed some wonderful relationships that have made the journey a joy.

3 – you never know when a door may open so you need to be ready and willing to jump through it. For instance, when the Sunday devotional columnist at Novel Rocket.com had to quit, I emailed the woman who owned the blog and offered my services (with fear and trembling I might add!). I’ve been writing for them for several years now and that has opened doors for me with people in the industry. The blog has been on Writers’ Digest’s list of best 100 blogs for writers for some time.

4 – never “despise the day of small things.”(Zech. 4:10). A small thing in God’s hand is a mighty sword.

Janice: What social media do you use and which do you find most effective?

MARCIA: I love Facebook and have made some good connections there. I use twitter a bit, but probably not as much as I should and am now investigating Google + and Goodreads. I think as far as marketing goes it has really helped to do a lot of guest posts on other blogs besides my own. It’s been a thrill to see some of my posts picked up by people in the industry who have huge followings. I try to keep in touch with members of writers’ groups, comment in forums etc.

Janice: When you begin a novel project, what comes first: characters, theme, plot?

MARCIA: Usually the characters and often one or two single scenes will spark a project. The theme emerges as I write, as does the plot.

Janice: What prompted you to write One Smooth Stone and A Tumbled Stone? One Smooth Stone A Tumbled Stone

MARCIA: A woman from a local crisis pregnancy centre was speaking at our church. I chatted with her afterwards and she said something that stuck in my mind: “Can you imagine what it would be like for someone to discover his mother had tried to abort him?” I did imagine, and the character of Alex Donnelly in One Smooth Stone emerged.  When I came to the end of that book I wasn’t ready to let go of the characters so talked with my publisher about a second book and wrote an epilogue that led into it. The character of Andrea, Alex’s sister, formed quite quickly. A Tumbled Stone had a rather drawn out journey to publication and there were many times when I thought it would not happen, but the Lord had a plan and it was an exciting day when that book arrived on my doorstep.

Janice: I have to tell you, I loved your Christmas short story, An Unexpected Glory. It’s such a “Best Christmas Pageant Ever” kind of tale. How did you come up with the idea?

MARCIA: I’ve always had a soft spot for Christmas pageants (you can read a bit about that here) and I like playing with the idea that God’s “economy” is so very different from ours, so when Kathi Macias asked me to write the novella, I jumped at the chance, even though I had a few other things on the burner at the time. That story seemed to almost download itself into my brain. I had a lot of fun writing it and have been really thrilled that so many people have referred to it as a “Christmas classic.” Many have mentioned the Best Christmas Pageant Ever when they refer to An Unexpected Glory and I’m kind of ashamed to say I’ve never read that story – but I plan to! 🙂

Janice: What kinds of books do you most enjoy reading? What format do you read in most?

MARCIA: I love a good story, no matter the genre and I tend to read quite widely across genres. I tend to like books that are more ‘literary’ in style, with strong characterization and setting. If I had to pick, I might say the mystery and fantasy genres are my favourites.

I won a Kindle a few years ago and got to really like it, especially for travelling. I now own an ipad mini so use it for reading at times, using a Kindle app, but I love the feel of a real book in my hands and do most of my reading in a comfortable corner of our living room.

Janice: What hobbies or special interests do you have and how do they affect (or not affect) your writing?

MARCIA: I’m intrigued by technology and science, but that doesn’t seem to have affected what I write – though I love sci-fi and may write a novel in that genre someday. I also love horses but have never written much about them, other than a few children’s short stories for Scripture Press that were set in cowboy country. My main hobby is reading and I do enjoy watching some TV, which I think has made my writing more visual and fast-paced.

Janice: How important are writing conferences, in your opinion? Writers’ groups?

MARCIA: Essential. If you are serious about a writing career I think it’s vital to join a writers’ group, connect with other writers and attend conferences whenever you can to meet editors and publishers. I have been an active member in InScribe for many years and have gotten to know many writers across Canada through The Word Guild as well. I attend both of their conferences each year.

Janice: From your perspective, what is the most difficult aspect of writing? And the best?

MARCIA: The most difficult for me has been the isolation and facing the lack of understanding from some Christians in our churches who don’t realize that writing is my ministry. I have faced a frustrating lack of support from some churches who seem to look on a writing career as something frivolous that has no value.

The best part is hearing from people whose lives have been changed in some way by what I’ve written. I’ve had some amazing emails, letters and phone calls from all over the world that tell me that God has a purpose for what I write and He often uses it in powerful ways. That keeps me going.

Janice: How do you write? Are you an outline person? Do you work better alone or in a busy place?

MARCIA: I’m in the ‘seat-of-the-pants’ category – I jump right in and then outline a bit as I go. At some point I’ll stop and do a bit of a time-line but that’s about it.

I know writers who do their best work in Starbucks, but I need a quiet place with little distraction. That’s been a challenge since we planted the church we are in now, because my husband and I share an office in our home. We are literally back to back so it can be interesting. 🙂

Janice: How do you research your books? What is the importance of research, in your opinion?

MARCIA: My two novels did not take a lot of research since they were set in places and dealt with things with which I was very familiar. But I do try to be careful to get the details right. I think it’s vital to the credibility of a story. For instance, when I was writing One Smooth Stone I woke in the middle of the night in a panic because I realized I had to check some details about the use of radio phones and cell phones in the Yukon. We had used a radio phone a lot when we lived there but I had to find out if they were still used and if it were possible to connect from that to a cell phone. I had no idea where to find that information so I simply called a telephone operator and asked to be connected to a Yukon operator. She was very helpful and gave me all the information I needed to know. I’ve read stories where those kinds of details are wrong and they really throw me off the story. I edited a romance once that was set in the north. The writer had the heroine walking along a sandy beach in the Yukon, staring at the stars with her romantic interest. The problem was that there are very few, if any, sandy beaches in the Yukon and it’s impossible to see the stars in the middle of the summer due to the twenty-four hour daylight. Those kinds of mistakes are deadly. Research is important.

Janice: If you were to give three writing tips, what would they be?


1. Write every day, even if it’s just for a few moments squeezed into a busy schedule.

2. Read widely and read good writing.

3. Never quit, even in the face of discouragement. God has a purpose for your work.

Janice: Thanks so much, Marcia. I enjoyed visiting with you today, and I’m sure my readers will also. All the best in your future writing career.

MARCIA: Thanks for having me, Jan. It was fun. 🙂

Connect with Marcia at the following links:

Website & Blog – www.marcialeelaycock.com

Facebook – www.facebook.com/marcialeelaycock

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/MarciaLeeLaycock

Blog for Reviews – www.writer-lee.blogspot.ca

Twitter – @marcialaycock

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