Friday, December 11, 2015

Registration is open!

Please, please, please, fellow writers, tell me you'd like to attend this with me! (IA, MN, WI writer friends, perhaps?!)



https://uwwritersinstitute.wisc.edu/

Even better yet, check this out:

Special offer for month of December 2015:
If you have a friend that hasn’t attended a previous Writers’ Institute, “Bring A Friend” to Writers’ Institute this year and you and your friend can each save $35 on your registration (that’s $245 instead of $280 for the full conference, $145 instead of $180 for a day’s visit).
In order to receive this discount you will need to register together; just click “Add Another Registrant” button on the Order Details page.  This exclusive, limited offer will only be available for the month of December and will end at midnight on 12/31/15.

Early bird registration —which ends March 11— is $180 for Friday or $280 for Saturday/Sunday combo ($230/$330 after March 11, 2016).

Now to come up with $300. Hmmm. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Writing is quiet work

If you read the title to this post quickly, you can almost mistake it to read, "Writing is quite work." Well, that's true. But truer still is that writing is quiet work. I think, perhaps, this is my most difficult aspect of writing. It's difficult because it is exactly contradictory to the environment in which I work. You see, I homeschool. I homeschool 5 of our 7 children currently. Our household is always in a state of activity. Add two dogs, two cats, 3 fish, and 1 hamster, and you have yourself a hopping home!

Unfortunately, I am not someone who does well, believe it or not, with noise. (Yes, I have a houseful of kids and pets, but that doesn't automatically ensure me an extra dose of patience or tolerance to the volume level any more than the next person.) One of the things I crave is quiet. However, that doesn't happen unless I intentionally carve out a bit of space to myself. And this is where creativity and satisfaction must meet. I've learned to get creative in the locations I write, and I've learned to be satisfied with the amount of time carved out. This means that a half hour at McDonald's to write will have to do. Or ten minutes waiting to pick up a student from band class can be just enough to brainstorm on the next work in progress. Sometimes, if I get lucky, it means I get an hour to write after the kids are in bed. (Provided the dirty dishes from the kitchen sink aren't chanting my name!)

I'm not sure if all writers are like this, but I'm betting there are very few writers who can work productively in a noisy environment. I know how I work, that I need quiet in order to think. I also need accountability. Deadlines work great for me. However, I wasn't too sure about committing to PiBoIdMo. After all, at the end of the day, it's still one.more.thing. on an already full calendar. I can delightfully say, though, that it's been a blast. I've gleaned much insight from the various authors who have contributed to the daily posts. And thus far, I have kept up with the ideas!

I'm realizing that writing isn't necessarily about banging out 1,500 words in one sitting. (Though that's highly favorable!) It's more about pecking away, small word after small word, until the work in progress is done. It's about perseverance and dedication to the craft. It's about discipline and quiet work. And quite work.


Friday, October 30, 2015

PiBoIdMo what?

piboidmo2015participant
http://taralazar.com/

The picture says it all. Really. This is a challenge I'm up for! Who's in with me?


Friday, October 9, 2015

Guest Post




This gigantic, lightning-fast internet world never fails to surprise me. Typically, I despise surprises, (Yep, it's true!) but there are exceptions. The exceptions almost always garner a head nod and smile with an "Oh, yeah." I read the following guest post with joy and relief. Joy in finding someone who described my exact thoughts and struggles in writing. Relief in knowing I'm not alone. Read the whole story at: http://mandywallace.com/one-two-punch-writing/


Friday, September 18, 2015

They say


Writers often hear the phrase, "Write what you know." Well, I've been doing plenty of that lately. I know grief. I know it well. Grief entered like a thief, unwanted and without warning, the day my 16yo. died. I wanted to write children's picture books and a novel. Instead, I am writing a quarterly newsletter for The Compassionate Friends and maintaining the Grieving With Hope Facebook page weekly.

It certainly wasn't the kind of writing I had in mind. However, this writing journey grew wings when my son was made perfect in heaven. I have written several picture books and started a novel, but any attempts at getting them completed and published have stalled. I find myself frustrated because of this. I don't want to write what I know. I didn't want grief to be my platform. Yet, there is solace in writing about it, and even greater joy in knowing that others have been comforted by reading the newsletter and FB page.

I sense God telling me to be patient, that in time, it will all bear fruit. If I have learned anything about writers, they are persistent. (My mother preferred to use the word stubborn.) I've met many writers the last four years, and I am greatly encouraged to know that I am not alone in the struggle. The frustrations I'm facing are not unique. What I love most is the honesty they share regarding their own journeys. Writers are some of the most encouraging people I know. They cheer you on. They rejoice with you. They understand disappointment, and they know what it means to fail. I love their transparency.

I'm still learning the ins and outs of the writing industry and working on developing my craft. While I may not be writing exactly what I wanted to be writing, I know there is purpose in it. I know that it is not wasted. It may not be the platform I wanted, but if God is glorified, then I will write willingly, without reservation. I know there is truth to the saying, "Write what you know," because it is in writing what you know that you impact others most.

'Let us pick up our books and pens - they are our most powerful weapons' - Malala Yousafzai



Saturday, August 8, 2015

Gleaning

The last several months, I made a commitment to read more. I, like many people, I suspect, have a tall stack of "to be read" books, ever beckoning. Additionally, I determined a year ago or more that I would not crack open a new book until I had finished reading my current one. (Little did I know how hard keeping that bargain was going to be! I had at least six different books underway, yet had not finished reading any of them.)

It's either "feast" or "famine" with me and books. I'm either reading all the time, or I'm writing all the time. I struggle to find the balance. Currently, though, I've done well with keeping it equitable. Reading is a good reprieve from my ongoing writing commitments. And while it hasn't been writing focused on my children's books manuscripts, it's where I believe the Lord has me right now. I had my own ideas (and preferences) of what I wanted to be writing, but I also know well enough that there are seasons to everything. And right now, this is the season to write for others, to write a different genre.

I prefer reading for pleasure, but I'm striving to read more on honing this craft of writing. I have yet to finish Ann Whitford Paul's book Writing Picture Books. (One of the six I had going at once!) A writing tip I recently read suggested following a reading schedule. I haven't implemented it, but I may for books like this where it's not exactly "play." Especially with the impending return of school and schedules, I think it could be quite effective.

I'm thankful for the plethora of writing resources, even though at times it can be overwhelming. I often have to repeat my mantra of "One bite at a time" and "Take what you like and leave the rest." Ultimately, I need to remember the reasons why I write and stay true to them. I need to examine my motives frequently, but not let fear rule. My writing friend Kimberly Henderson says it well with this post. I am tremendously blessed to have met such incredible writing friends from whom I can glean much information, encouragement, and skill.




Friday, July 3, 2015

Big Life, big Grace

I've had a private personal blog for 13 years. I wrote faithfully (almost daily) until July 28, 2011. On July 29, 2011, my 16 year old son died, and I never thought I'd write again. In actuality, it was nine days later that I poured out my heart onto the pages of Blogger. It felt like I hadn't written in years, but my grief needed a release and writing was it.

I wasn't planning on having a "grief" blog, nor an "author" blog, for that matter. But after much persuasion from family and friends, I decided to go "public" and A Window Into Grief was born. Two years later, I kicked fear out the door and birthed this baby, Writing on the Sly.

Though I haven't trekked as far down the path as I would have liked in the wilderness of the writing world, I have walked far enough into it to have learned that it's pretty awesome. I've gained a bit of knowledge and insight (enough at least to no longer be naive about the difficulty or length of the journey) and have been inspired by many. Most recently, Sally Apokedak's words have been motivating and refreshing.

The path isn't a smooth one, but it's definitely colorful. I've loved "meeting" other writers via social media. It's overwhelming and exciting to have such an incredible amount of resources and information at the click of a button. One of the best things about these resources, however, is coming across websites that reaffirm and encourage. Writing Through Life is one of them. I stumble (isn't that the way we typically find them?!) across many resources and sites, but Amber followed me on Twitter, and I promptly followed back and checked out her web address. I swear she wrote "When Life Gets in the Way of Writing" just for me.

While I'm no longer in the "life with a capital 'L" season, Amber's post was a wonderful reminder to give ourselves grace. Writing is it's own person, and I'm happy to continue exploring our relationship. And goodness knows, every relationship needs a big dose of grace.


Friday, June 5, 2015

When I write

I have always loved the written word. My earliest memory of feeling the joy of reading is of lying on my grandmother's living room floor reading a comic book. Words have the power to bring laughter, to express love, to evoke fear, or make tears spill from the eyes. How powerful is that? I love that the written word can express what my mouth so often fails to translate. When speaking I am often frustrated by my inability to effectively communicate my point or my feelings. Yet, when I put my hands to the keyboard, the jumbled ball of yarn that is my thoughts begins to untangle. Unclear thoughts become clear, and I wonder if perhaps my mouth isn't actually located at the end of my fingertips!

Writing gives me great joy, though it is often filled with frustration and fear, frustration in finding just the right word to convey what my heart is saying, fear in putting myself out there, vulnerable to cyber-world, where we all know privacy is a mirage and criticism abounds. But I don't write for the approval of others. (Though let's be honest, it's nice to get it.) I write because I cannot not write. I know that God has given me a gift. Even if this gift He has given touches only one person, it is enough. It is enough because I know it's what He gave me and, ultimately, I write to please Him.

I've struggled with this whole writing thing, however, because I do what many do. I compare. I compare myself to "real" authors, published writers. But what I'm learning is that comparison is the kiss of death. Comparison will slap a pair of handcuffs on a writer faster than one can say, "I didn't do it!" Comparison shuts down the inner voice and squelches creativity. It is only when I stop comparing that I write productively and when my writing reflects and effectively communicates my intent.

I am a good writer. I am not a great writer, but I am a good one. It's hard to say that because I fear being prideful. Yet, to demean myself and say that I am not is an affront to God. After all, it is He who made me. It is He who gives gifts. It's up to us to use the gift(s) we're given well. When I write, I hope I make my Father smile. 


Friday, May 15, 2015

Online class

My online class with Kid's Book Revisions through Delve is going well. I still feel a bit in over my head, but I've determined to take what I can learn and leave the rest. I am content to crawl along like a turtle as long as it's forward motion in the right direction. (And it is!)

One of the things I find most challenging is resisting the urge to write perfectly. Because I want my writing to be "perfect," I find myself not writing or posting at all. This all-or-nothing attitude is a detriment to me as a writer! It becomes a huge stumbling block. I need to give myself Permission to make mistakes. What a great reminder and source of encouragement that is.

I never thought of myself as a perfectionist before (and if you saw my house, you'd know it's definitely not in that area!), but the Kid's Book Revisions class has shown me that I'm not alone in this struggle to put words on paper perfectly. Successful writers are not the ones who write perfectly. Successful writers are the ones who revise. They continue to learn and hone the craft of writing. They don't give up, using perfection as an excuse.

I've gotten encouragement and wisdom from the first few sessions of the class, and it's been wonderful to connect with other writers who are in the same boat, so to speak. It's a blessing to have the technology we do so that we can use the gifts we've been given in the best way possible. I don't have to aim for perfection, but I do have to have a teachable spirit. And I'm thankful for those willing to teach.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Invested

Several friends have asked about my writing lately. I wish I could say, "It's fabulous! I've gotten so much done, and I'm thrilled with my manuscripts." But I'm not known for lying. Instead, I have to say that I haven't worked on any of my picture books at all and that things are at a stand-still. Crummy news, but it is what it is. It's been months of frustration and prayers.

I've been asking God to somehow make a way. I've been stuck and haven't had a clue as to how to make the next step. It's been a bit of a downward spiral the last several months. Since I haven't been doing any writing or revising of my manuscripts, I also haven't been attending my critique group. Additionally, tight finances meant I couldn't attend the annual writing conference I've previously attended. However, as frustrating as it's been, I've also had peace, knowing that God would provide and answer in His time. Finally, this last week, He did!

I received an invitation for the opportunity to register for an online, six week workshop through Delve Writing called Revising and Re-imagining Your Picture Book. It is an answer to my prayers! It's exactly what I've been looking for, and I'm excited to finally feel hope and forward movement. The workshop starts in a couple weeks. I'm sure I'll feel as if I'm in over my head, but I trust it'll be a learning experience and one that will only help me improve as a writer.

Writing is an investment, but one that is well worth it. It's an investment of my time and resources, but I know that if this is what the LORD truly wants me to do, then He will also work out the details. I trust that He will develop the skills I have so that the words I write will be a return for His sake. In the meantime, I just need to keep a teachable spirit, patience, and perseverance. I'm invested and excited for the opportunities He gives!


Friday, March 13, 2015

Overnight success

So sorry to burst your bubble, rain on your parade, and step on your toes, but there is no such thing as overnight success. Yes, I'm the bearer of bad news, but it's the truth. Success (a.k.a. a published book) comes after years of work, after years of learning and honing one's craft. I'm so thankful to be a part of a critique group. I've met an incredible group of writers there, and I've gotten a first-hand look at the process. Success is a painfully slow, albeit educational, process.

I determined from the beginning of this journey that I wouldn't take any shortcuts. I'll make plenty of mistakes (already have!), but I won't put my desire to be published over quality. By quality, I'm referring to the countless number of self-published books I've seen (and read). I'm not saying self-publishing is wrong, but I've seen far too many self-published books that are simply pathetic. They contain numerous typographical errors and are badly, badly written. Many of the self-published authors I've met are not part of a critique group nor do they desire to hone their craft. They haven't attended any writing conferences or sought to further educate themselves through various professional resources such as SCBWI.

As much as I'd like to be published, I know that, in reality, it could be at least another ten years before I see that success. I'm o.k. with that, too, because I want to see quality. I want to be proud of the work I've put out. However, in all honesty, I'm not ready to be published. I have far too much to learn yet to be at that point. I am learning to be content with where I'm at. I am learning patience, diligence, and self-discipline with writing. I know that overnight success is not what writers are made of.

Writers are, however, a helpful group of people! I love finding resources for the journey. Online resources like blogs, articles, and writing courses are especially appreciated. One great resource comes from a fellow critique group member. My friend Marlys shares some wonderful lessons in writing. Marlys recently won the 2014-2015 SCBWI Writer's Mentorship contest. Again, she confirms the notion that overnight success is really a two-ingredient recipe: hard work and time. Take heart, dear writer! It may not be overnight, but it'll definitely be worth it.

http://annamarras.com/writer-mentorship-lesson-3/


Friday, February 13, 2015

Meet my friend Grace!

Wow. If ever there was such a thing as writer's guilt, then I've certainly had it the past several months. Since a flare-up with my herniated disc, I have struggled with the whole writing thing, frustrated because I haven't worked on my manuscripts. I kept hearing the sister voices of condemnation and comparison. They haven't been quiet, and I have listened to every word they said. Do you know what happens when one listens to them? I do. The result is definitely not motivational nor productive. I ended up throwing in the proverbial towel and falling for the "might as well not do anything, then" thinking.

What a joy-killer those girls are! Not to mention, BIG, FAT liars, both of them. Thankfully, though I wasn't working on my manuscripts, I kept reading. I follow numerous blogs of some amazing writers, and I repeatedly read the same message: God created each one of us individually and uniquely and gifted us each with unique talents and skills. Accordingly, those talents and skills are put into practice when the time is right.

I had chosen to play with the wrong friends, friends who induced guilt and shame. Well, guess what? Real friends won't do that. Real friends will encourage and support. Thankfully, I belong to a wonderful community of writers who are "real" friends. They've all faced the same doubts, temptations and fears. They've also fallen for the same lies and guilt at times. It's been comforting to know I'm not alone!

The wonderful thing, too, is being introduced to a precious "friend" named Grace. Grace is amazing. She has no relation to sisters Condemnation or Comparison. Grace is forgiving, gentle, and compassionate. She's also patient and always, always available. I had heard of Grace before, but I never really got to know her. I was too busy listening to the "C" sisters. This past week, I finally spent some time with Grace, and let me tell you, she is more than I had ever imagined. I know now that I don't have to play the comparison game or walk out the door with guilt because Grace accepts me as I am, yet desires the best for me. And because of that, she is always for me. Grace sets the pace and helps me move forward.

I'm happy to have finally met her. I know that this writing journey is tough, but I have a friend who cheers me on, no matter how slow I go or how many times I stumble or fall. Grace picks me up and runs right beside me. And guess what? I discovered that you can't outrun Grace.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Seasons

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..." I'm a busy mom. As are all moms. In fact, the word mom is synonymous with the word busy. What's important as a mom, however, is knowing when you're too busy. I am too busy.

The past several months, I've realized I can't maintain this pace any longer. In addition to my writing blog, I have a grief blog, a private blog, a FB page, and a message board website that I update weekly. In addition to these, I took on the task of putting out our local Compassionate Friends quarterly newsletter. Throw in homeschooling the five youngest kids and picking up the second oldest from her PSEO classes daily, as well as transporting one student to and from the public school for band class three days a week, then add a dash of doctor, dentist, physical therapy, and orthodontist appointments, and you've got one busy mother. And that's not even including the evening activities!

Something has to change because, as Einstein defined it, insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." I want to give so much more to my writing blog, but feel that I fall short every week. I'm tired of feeling guilty. I want to write something of substance, but this crazy busy season of my life only reminds me that I have perhaps expected too much of myself for right now. Additionally, I've been frustrated because I haven't worked on my picture book manuscripts in months. I need what author Dr. Richard Swenson calls margin.

So how do I create margin? I believe I need to cut back on my blogs, though it seems counter-productive. After all, it's still writing. However, I'm becoming more and more convinced that that's what I need to do. I can't move forward with manuscript submissions until my manuscripts are ready. And they're not ready because I have no margin. I hate cutting back, too, because I feel like a failure, like I've given up. Though I know that's not the truth, it still stinks.

The bright side of all this, though, is that I know it is for a season. I believe the LORD is telling me I need to slow down, to stop comparing myself with other writers, and to leave my work to His timing. I believe He's telling me to trust Him in all things, especially in the busy season I am currently experiencing. I have so much yet to learn and have really only scratched the surface. I need to do more reading and studying of the writing craft. I don't want to post merely for the sake of keeping a schedule. So all this to say that I will be posting monthly from now on. How's the margin in your life, dear readers? Is God calling you to re-focus, to slow down? If so, take heart. With His help, we will be better for it. There is a season.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Illustrator spotlight

Today's blog post puts our very own Ann Panning in the spotlight! Her amazing artwork speaks for itself.





Ann's FB page can be found here: Wisdom Works Art. Be sure to "Like" the FB page and spread the word about this wonderful woman's talent! Your home would be blessed beautiful with one of Ann's artwork pieces.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Friday Five




It's time for another "Friday Five." I'm listing five "survival" tactics I've used to help me get through this busy season.




1. Take advantage of waiting time.
Any and all appointments are opportunities to either read or write. Five minutes of writing has worth!

2. Ask for help!
I've met many wonderful people on this writing journey, and they have been more than willing to give feedback on my current manuscript when I asked. Additionally, just because a critique group meets monthly doesn't mean you have to wait a month to exchange feedback. Also, they are usually more than happy to be a guest-blogger/writer. Guest-blogging is a wonderful way to network, as well.

3. Skip the guilt!
During the holidays, cut out whatever is unnecessary. Instead of doing it all, why not purpose to do less? This year, I determined not to do any holiday baking. Not only am I not experiencing the sugar highs and lows, but I'm enjoying the freedom it has brought. It's been stress-free in the kitchen and a tad easier on the budget. However, I'm not at all opposed to my teen girls baking! ;) It's o.k. to do less. I've learned that, typically, I'm the one expecting the most from myself, not others. This year, I'm skipping the guilt (and lowering the expectations).

4. Read more.
I've been intentional about shutting down the computer and turning off the television each night. It's usually short, only about an hour, but it's an hour of worthwhile reading. I'm slowly eating that elephant one bite at a time! (The elephant a.k.a. the "to read" pile.) I also made a pact with myself that I couldn't start (or buy!) any new books until I finished the ones I'm currently reading.

5. Keep the routine.
This is probably the most difficult survival tactic to implement! There's nothing like the holidays and vacation to throw off one's routine. However, I've been focused and firm in saying no to things and activities that leave me feeling stressed. If I can't envision feeling energized or refreshed from a particular event, then I take that as a clue to decline in participating. I don't want to end the holidays feeling more exhausted or feeling as if I have to play catch-up once "real" routine resumes.

So there you have it. My survival tactics for the holidays. How are you doing, dear readers? Do you have any advice for surviving the holidays? Did you survive them well?  I'd love to hear from you. Leave me a comment!