Wednesday, September 30, 2009
So here is what I gleaned from Kathleen Gibson’s workshops at the Fall Conference. In her Friday night plenary session, Kathleen talked about writing for Reader’s Digest—how she got started there and why she writes for the secular market. She says we should write because we believe God can make a difference in someone’s life through our words. For her, that meant writing for Reader’s Digest, because then the words God had given her reached a huge audience.
She recommended writing a column for your local newspaper as a way to improve your own writing but also to connect with people. To get started, pitch ten sample columns to a newspaper editor and say that, if he receives a good response to those columns, you’ll keep writing. In her own column, Sunny Side Up, Kathleen takes her readers into her home, trying to show them how one Christian home is. She tells people about how God works in her ordinary life.
In her Saturday morning plenary session, Kathleen gave us a list of seven things God requires of writers. First, God requires that our words be heard. If we are called to write, then we are called to have an audience; there is someone who needs to read what we have to write. Writing for ourselves is selfish and arrogant. Scripture says that we are never provided gifts for our own enjoyment, but to edify others.
Second, God requires that we become word-wrestlers. Writing means wrestling with concepts you’ve danced around before but now must pin down and confront. God gives words.
Third, God requires that we write and speak things that we’d often rather not. If God gives you a story to tell, he expects you to keep telling it as long as he requires. Kathleen talked about the story she and her husband share about West Nile Virus, and how at times she’s wanted to stop talking about it and move on to other things. But God has called them to tell that story. He gives us words with which to bless others.
Fourth, God requires that we do whatever it takes. Publishing has gotten complicated in the last few years. Being a writer means more than just waiting for inspiration. Writers have a burning to write, even when the glow or inspiration fades. So do the work required to dig the good words out: develop your writing (take courses), develop the discipline to write every day, develop a group of writers to encourage you and critique your work, and schedule consultations with the One Who inspires words.
Fifth, God requires our flexibility, our willingness to change. Don’t hold too closely to the gifts that God gives you; He may call you to something else. Writers must do what editors require to be published, and they must be willing to change with the times (Bonnie kept talking about “this is the industry standard now”). Publishing is a Volkswagen industry, not a Cadillac industry; you can’t make money writing anymore.
Sixth, God requires that we be willing to give feet to our words. Remember the scene between Eliza Doolittle and Freddy in My Fair Lady, where Freddy reveals his love to Eliza and she demands that, instead of giving her words, he show her his love. Act on the thing you’ve been writing about.
Seventh, God requires us to be effective people in our own backyards. We must make our words ring true in our writing, our homes, and our workplaces. Kathleen shared a story of welcoming two little girls into her backyard and spending time with them, then having them want to sit and watch her write. The Word of Life wants to be read on the pages of our life first.
And that was just the start of the conference! As a friend of mine says, it’s like getting a drink of water from a fire hydrant. Yet I did come away feeling refreshed. As soon as Bonnie’s workshop notes are up, I’ll post a link to them. Until then, tell me about your conference experiences or what inspires you to keep writing.
Monday, September 28, 2009
This year was my tenth Fall Conference, and it was good to see many others who've been there for quite a few other conferences as well as many new faces. I first met Kathleen Gibson, one of the main speakers, ten years ago, but she still remembered me and we were able to catch up quickly. I had to confess to her that, though I had taken her advice to always have a business card on me to heart, I didn't have any with me at this conference! Sunshine had fun playing with my last stash and with work keeping me busy for the last couple weeks, I didn't get new ones made up.
Kathleen Gibson and Bonnie Grove both gave inspiring, encouraging talks. They are down-to-earth writers with a heart for God and it showed in their words. In one of her workshops, Bonnie delved into the huge topic of showing vs. telling, helping to explain that somewhat confusing trend in the book industry. She had concrete examples for us to discuss in an attempt to see what the big deal is about and why "showing" is better than "telling."
I had some great conversations with a few other writers over lunches and breaks. One of my poems placed third in the poetry competition. Overall, it was a wonderfully refreshing weekend, as it always is, and next year promises to be even better... that will be ICWF's 30th anniversary and some big plans are in the works to celebrate. Right now all I can say about those plans is that the ever-popular Sigmund Brouwer is coming back as the main speaker! So if you can make it up to Edmonton, Alberta for the conference at the end of September, it's definately worth it.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Watching Sunshine’s abilities to communicate and relate grow over the last few months has been fun. Her latest word is “Daddy,” though why she’s started saying that now, when we’ve been trying to teach it to her since she said “Mommy,” I don’t know. The other morning, when my husband left before she woke up, she lay on the couch yelling, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” while I tried to explain to her that he’d be back in a few hours. When he finally did return, she ran up to him with her arms up, waiting for a hug.
Shoes are still one of her passions. Often she’ll bring me her shoes shortly after she’s dressed. One morning, I changed her diaper and left her shoes laying on the change table. Several hours later, when we were getting ready to go out for a walk, I told her to go get her shoes. I expected her to head for the entry way to find them, but instead, she ran back into her room. I followed her, curious, but I had to laugh when I saw her pointing up at her change table. She had remembered, when I had forgotten, where we had left her shoes!
The other morning, I had a bowl of cheerios for breakfast and fed her a few as well. Then she tramped back into the kitchen, clearly on a mission. In a minute she was yelling for help, and I came into the kitchen to find her in the cupboard, trying to help herself to a package of instant oatmeal. It had been a few weeks since I'd made her instant oatmeal, so I was surprised that she not only thought of it, but knew where to find it to be able to tell me that she wanted it.
Seeing our families more since our move has really been nice. A few weeks ago, we pulled into my in-laws’ yard just as my mother-in-law was coming across the lawn. I got Sunshine out of the Jeep, and she began saying, “Mama, Mama” (the closest she can come to “Grandma”). When her grandma got up to her, she reached up her arms for a hug. While she’s never been the baby who “played strange,” it’s still been nice to see her grow closer to her grandparents and great-grandparents now that we are able to visit them more frequently.
And as always, I like watching how she keeps herself busy. Photo albums are her latest hobby; she can now pull a photo album out by herself, climb into our big armchair, and then sit flipping through the pictures. Right now, since I’m at the computer, she wants to be sitting on my lap (not much has changed there!), but she’s busy playing with a spare mouse and trying to put a highlighter lid on a Bic pen. There’s something new and smile-worthy every day.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I'm sitting in a Starbucks waiting for my fiance and feeling a desperate need to be doing something while I wait. I want a book or a laptop or a newspaper like the girl over in the corner. Everyone else here is busy with something while they have their coffee.
Behind me, a group of guys have rearranged the tables and chairs so they all fit at one table. Against the window, a man and a woman have their backs to each other as they sit at separate tables, one reading a book and the other working on a laptop, drinking their coffees. The girl with the newspaper has the already-read portions stacked on the table in front of her. I contemplate asking if I could borrow them, but that would be intruding, so I pull out a pen and a notebook instead.
No one comes in here just to sit - we all dash in for our coffee and out again to whatever we have to do or we bring something with us to do as we sit here. Except for the people like me, who are waiting for a fiance who won't show up for another few minutes. And so I have some time to ponder the dynamics of the coffee shop.
Funny, this phenomenon of being busy. There are half a dozen of us in here, all with our coffees and our tables, all lost in our own little worlds. And I, sitting here just drinking my coffee and looking around, am feeling vulnerable because I am not obviously lost in my own world. Someone could see that I am not busy and come up to talk to me.
If I were still single, that wouldn't be such a bad possibility. I'd be wondering what sort of cute guy would walk in and notice me. Maybe we'd both step up to the bar when the barista called out "caramel frappucino," and then we'd laugh and try to remember who ordered first, and stand there talking until the second caramel frappucino came, and then our conversation would carry over to a table and the rest, as they say, would be history. Sound like a story? Perhaps I should turn it into a novel and sell it to Harlequin.
Instead of finding someone to talk to, I turn to my piece of paper so that I too look busy and lost in my own world, at least until my fiance shows up and pulls me from my ponderings.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Even now, as I drive through the farm country around our small town, I find myself scanning the fields. Noting what's planted there—canola, barley, oats, flax, wheat, corn, potatoes. How ripe the crops are. How they are growing, whether tall and lush or weedy and thin.
I love seeing the patchwork quilt designs that spread across the hills as each crop has different colours or rests in different stages of harvest. The striped field that has been swatched but not yet combined. The polka-dotted hay field that has been baled. The smooth, even field just about to ripen.
Canola is one of my favourite crops—always so bright and cheery and easy to pick out from miles away. It's a common crop across Alberta. This year, farmers up north were talking about the dry spring and the fact that the canola wasn't sprouting. Despite that, we saw lots of yellow fields as we drove around the province.
The weekend that we moved, a hail storm ripped across the province. Power was out in several areas for several hours. We were staying at my in-laws', as they had helped us move, and waited for the weather to clear before driving our moving trailer to our new home. As we passed some fields, I was surprised to see that they were already cut. Then I realized that, in the time since we'd seen them last, the farmer couldn't have harvest them. The hail had totally decimated the fields. And yet my uncle's fields, a few miles north, were spared any damage at all.
This fall, I'm grateful to all the farmers across our country who work hard, with uncertain weather and changing markets, to grow crops that feed families. I'm glad I'm a farmer's daughter.
Friday, September 18, 2009
I didn’t interview for that job either. My dad’s company ran a program where they hired sons and daughters of employees during the summer. It was a way of helping employees’ fund their children’s university educations. My dad had always insisted that my brothers and I try to get our high school diplomas, because his company didn’t hire anyone without a high school diploma. None of us got that diploma. When I applied for the position, I simply included a copy of my high school marks and a note explaining that I didn’t have a diploma but these marks were proof that I had completed high school. They hired me.
I worked there for the next summer, and then took off to Australia for my third summer. I had a working holiday visa and so after about a month of touring around and spending a money, I began looking for a job. Again, no interview required. The first job—which ended after a week because the person I was supposed to replace decided to stay on—involved an online application and a telephone job offer. After that ended, I bummed around Alice Springs for a week and then walked the trail out to the Telegraph Station. They had a “help wanted” sign; I asked if they hired backpackers; they said they’d think about it and call me back; two days later I had a job for a month.
And so I didn’t have a job interview until I finished university. As I interviewed earlier this week for a position at Starbucks, I thought about that. I’ve had four interviews and gotten three jobs out of it. Not a bad record, I guess. I've always thought Starbucks would be a fun job and not just for the free coffee. I liked the people side of working at the gas station and Telegraph Station, and I think that'll be fun at Starbucks.
So as of this week, I’ve started my fifth job (not counting babysitting or temporary jobs in Australia). I’m now a shift supervisor at Starbucks. Triple venti latte, anyone?
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I’m like most people—if I’m browsing at a bookstore, I tend to gravitate towards the books whose authors names I recognize. Especially if I’m in a huge store like Chapters where I hardly know where to start looking. It’s safest to grab a book by an author I’ve read and loved than to take a chance on someone I’ve never heard of before.
Yet as I thought about that, I also thought about all the debut books I’ve read lately—and really liked. Probably top of my list is Bonnie Grove’s Talking to the Dead, an amazing debut novel that you’re probably getting tired of hearing about because I keep raving about it. Susan Young di Biagi’s debut novel Cibou also jumps to mind as an excellent work by a new author. I’ll definitely be looking for more work by these authors.
Other debut fiction I’ve reviewed includes:
- Miss Fortune by Sara Mills (an Alberta author)
- Running Toward Home by Betty Jane Hegerat (an excellent read)
- The Other Daughter by Miralee Ferrell
- One Smooth Stone by Marcia Laycock (another Alberta author)
That list surprises even me—I didn’t realize I’d read quite so many books by new authors. Some of those books (Cibou and Miss Fortune) I read because of recommendations from a friend. Others I read because I knew or met the authors (Running Toward Home and One Smooth Stone). And some I was simply able to read through being a book review blogger (The Other Daughter and Talking to the Dead). Either way, I’ve really enjoyed all of them.
Do you pick up debut fiction? What work of debut fiction have you read and enjoyed recently?
Monday, September 14, 2009
Mariska is a nurse in a busy hospital—until a publisher dies on her shift, leaving a manuscript behind. She sells the manuscript for a fortune to another publishing house and is happily living the lavish lifestyle when two angels show up. One is the Scribe whose story Mariska has stolen. As punishment for her actions, they place her in the story—but without any way to communicate, because she stole another person’s words.
Mute and terrified, Mariska watches as the Black Death unfolds on Europe. Lazarro is the priest, trying to bring comfort to the dying. Gio is the herbalist, considered by many a witch because her remedies aren’t understood, and blamed for this unexplained plague that has descended. Panthea is a nobleman’s daughter who wants only fortune and sees the plague as a way to attain this. Armando is a knight, one who has fought in the Crusades and now musters the villagers to fight the plague.
Gio was my favourite character; I liked how, though the villagers despised her, she still loved and cared for them. She didn't give in to hatred or bitterness. Something else I found neat was that she collected pigments to sell to artists painting the cathedrals of Europe. She explains how the artwork in the cathedrals told the Bible stories for the illiterate villagers.
As the characters cross paths with each other and their pasts are revealed, God’s work in their life is also apparent. Mariska’s eyes are opened to the spiritual forces surrounding the people. The end came with a surprising twist. I also enjoyed the tidbits of extra information about the black death provided in the “After Words” section, along with an interview with Ginger Garrett about the book and that era of history.
This book was provided for review courtesty of the publisher or publicist.
Friday, September 11, 2009
InScribe Christian Writers' Fellowship (ICWF) is hosting their premiere conference for Christian writers on September 25 & 26 in Edmonton. Writers of all genres and experience levels from across Canada will gather at Providence Renewal Centre, Edmonton, to attendworkshops and hear award-winning authors Bonnie Grove and Kathleen Gibson.
Bonnie Grove has published short stories, a non-fiction book (Your Best You) and a novel (Talking to the Dead). She will lead two fiction workshops and bring the closing keynote. Kathleen Gibson is a veteran speaker, freelance writer, educator, editor of Prairies North Magazine and nonfiction author (West Nile Diary). She will provide keynote and plenary talks and lead a workshop on Effective Personal Writing.
The Fall Conference features skill-building workshops and inspiration from renowned instructors Barbara Mitchell (Poetry) and Marilyn Hahn (Writing for Children). Open mic readers' sessions and meals are included. The conference is open to the public.
Marcia Laycock, award-winning author and president of Inscribe, says, "Our Fall Conference is always a time of learning and fellowship. We have excellent presenters coming prepared to teach and inspire us all. It's a conference any writer at any stage will not want to miss."
InScribe maintains a comprehensive website with access to thousands of writing links and organizations, writing contests, online courses, member’s groups on Yahoo and Facebook, regional groups for networking and skill building, an annual Fall Conference in Edmonton and Spring WorDshop in Calgary. Benefits of membership include connection to other writers who share a love for the written word and for God, conference registration discounts, a subscription to FellowScript (our members-only quarterlymagazine) and more.
For more details and conference registration, see the website or call Gwen at 1-780-352-4006.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Beyond the word, though, I knew little about ghostwriters except that they were people who wrote books for other people and remained invisible. Then this article floated into my inbox in an e-newsletter, with permission to reprint it. Gary raises some good points about ghostwriting. Do you think it's ethical? And would you do it? Why or why not?
WHAT IS A GHOSTWRITER?
From Worldwide Freelance Writer (Sept 2, 2009)
by Gary McLaren
Do you believe in ghosts? They are mostly unseen. Unnoticeable. And believe it or not they are moving behind the scenes in the publishing industry. If you're lucky you might catch a fleeting glimpse. They are officially called ‘ghostwriters'.
A ghostwriter is a writer who writes on an assigned topic under someone else's name, with their consent. They often write books completely from scratch but sometimes their work involves rewriting or polishing an existing work.
Most books by famous personalities are actually written by ghostwriters. When you see an autobiography or memoir from a politician, businessperson, or celebrity, chances are that it has been written by a ghostwriter.
Here are a few examples. The autobiography "Ronald Reagan: An American Life" was ghosted by Robert Lindsey. "Learning to Sing", the autobiography of American Idol star Clay Aiken, was written with ghostwriter Allison Glock. The autobiographies of Doris Day and Sophie Loren were written by A.E. Hotchner.
So how popular is ghostwriting? Statistics are hard to come by since many people don't want to reveal that their book is ghosted. Some industry estimates suggest that up to fifty percent of all non-fiction books are ghostwritten. A client may decide to hire a ghostwriter because the client does not have any writing talent or because they are too busy. Ghostwriters, for their part, are usually well-established writers already, and are selected on that basis.
What do Ghostwriters Write?
Ghostwriters are hired to write many types of documents, from autobiographies for famous personalities to e-books for internet marketing gurus, and even letters for politicians. They also write fiction. Sometimes it is for a series of books written by several ghostwriters under one name, as with the stories of Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys. Ghostwriters also continue to write novels under the name of popular authors who have died, as in the case of Robert Ludlum.
Is Ghostwriting Ethical?
Although ghostwriting is a widely accepted practice within the publishing industry, some people outside of the industry complain that ghostwriting is deceptive. But that is not necessarily true. Consider for a moment the ghostwriting process. The client is the author of the work in that they are the person who is really behind the content. It is the client's ideas, the client's stories and experiences. It is the client's words recorded on hours of interview tapes. The ghostwriter is a professional consultant providing expertise in the area of bringing together all the information, organizing it, and writing it up in a way that will produce a marketable and readable masterpiece.
What Skills does a Ghostwriter Need?
A ghostwriter must be a good writer.
He or she should also have good interviewing skills, since they will spend many hours and days interviewing clients. They should have the ability to ask good questions that will draw out the best aspects of a story. Another skill - which may need to be developed - is the ability to maintain the client's voice so that the book reads like the client, not the ghostwriter.
How is a Ghostwriter Paid?
Ghostwriters usually charge a flat fee for their work. Sometimes they will reduce their ghostwriting fee in return for a percentage (perhaps 25-50%) of the royalties, or in rare cases they may waive their fee in return for a percentage of royalties.
The advantage of a flat fee is that a ghostwriter knows exactly how much he or she will be paid. The risk of relying on royalties is that even if the book is well-written, the ghostwriter has no control over the book's marketing and promotion.
Does a Ghostwriter get Any Credit?
More often than not, the public never knows that a book was ghostwritten. Sometimes ghostwriters are even legally bound to not reveal that they have ghosted a particular book. Occasionally ghostwriters will receive some credit. The writer's name may appear on the cover as a co-author or it might read "as told to Jenny Ghost."
Another way to thank the ghostwriter is under the acknowledgements, for example "...and thanks to Joe Ghoul without whom this book would never have been completed".
Are You Thinking of Becoming a Ghostwriter?
It could be an excellent career move. You've probably heard it said that everyone has a book inside them. Well, the fact of the matter is that not everyone has the time or the skill to write it. As long as there is a story to be told, ghostwriters will continue to be in demand.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gary McLaren is the editor of Worldwide Freelance Writer, a leading source of information for freelance writers. If you would like more information on starting a ghostwriting business, check out http://www.worldwidefreelance.com/i/58.htm.
Monday, September 7, 2009
We step inside to colour. Medium blue in the living room and hallway, brown accent wall across from the door, brown trim. Through a doorway, the bright green of the kitchen peeks at us. Around the corner, more colour waits in the bedrooms: red and yellow in one, purple and green in the other.
I’m already figuring out what colours would look better—maybe light purple for Sunshine’s room—when my husband says we’re only here for a year so we can put up with the colours. We like the ten-foot ceilings, the private laundry room, the big windows.
Later, I tell him that we’ve lived in rental places for the last two and a half years. We’ve had to put up with whatever was there (like the khaki green carpet in our first place) because we were just renters. Now, we have the chance to make it ours. To make it home. And I want to take that chance, so that everyone who walks into our new place doesn’t say, “Wow, quite the colours.” (Or something stronger and less polite.)
We stop at paint stores, browse colours. I find a nice light green described as Tennessee Haze. My husband isn’t so sure. We look around some more. He suggests that we find a colour to match the cranberry red wall in our room (which we do like), and then we can repaint both bedrooms the same colour. If it gets rid of that yellow in our room, I’m game. We finally pick “Coffee Crisp.”
While most of the house is colourful, it’s well-painted. Sunshine’s room is the exception. Whoever did the rolling didn’t bother cutting in the corners. Paint is smeared up onto the stippled crown moulding. And it looks like they used the black doorframes as a place to clean off their green and purple brushes once they were done painting the walls.
We move Sunshine’s stuff into the living room (to her dismay—she was starting to settle in after our move). While she naps, we transform her room. The trim is restored to black. And “Coffee Crisp” covers lime and plum remarkably well. I cut in with a brush; my husband rolls. We discover that cheap painting supplies don’t work very well, and run to the store for better.
Now, as the painting is almost finished, I’m enjoying the new colour. It’s warmer. Homey. Soon we can hang pictures. Settle furniture permanently. Enjoy our place.
Friday, September 4, 2009
In my final year of university, I had the opportunity to take an independent studies course, where I could choose my own topic to study and research it on my own. My favourite professor, from my first-year English class, was my supervisor. As I considered several topics to study, Anne Bronte stood out. I wanted to know more about this little-known author.
I read Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall again in the summer before classes started. That fall, I spent a lot of time in the library, reading articles about Anne and her works and even tracking down contemporary reviews of her novels. It was fascinating. Anne’s novels were usually compared to her sisters’ novels and most people preferred her sister’s. While Wuthering Heights is probably my all-time favourite novel, I prefer Anne’s novels to Charlotte’s.
One of the things that really caught my attention was learning the context for the novels and seeing how Anne was a social reformer. Like Charles Dickens and many other nineteenth century writers, she wrote "to teach and to entertain"—to make a difference in her society. In doing so, she trampled on some toes, because even Charlotte considered The Tenant a "mistake." I've often thought of this third sister as shy and submissive, yet when I read her work, I see a crusader, one who wasn't afraid to say what she thought about the evils of her day.
The differences between Agnes Grey and The Tenant clearly reveal Anne’s improvement as a writer. The Tenant had a better plot and a more complicated structure—a structure so complicated, in fact, that her reviewers usually didn’t like it. I found myself wishing that she hadn’t died before she turned thirty, because surely there was another masterpiece just waiting to be written.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
If you're here from CFOM, welcome and thanks for dropping by! You'll find links to more of my writing on the right. Leave a comment and say hi—I'd love to meet you.