Laudable Linkage

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Here are noteworthy reads discovered this last week:

Reaching for the Light. A mom’s struggle to spend time with the Lord and four kids.

Why I Took My Six-year-old Son on an Overnight Trip. Thoughts on Scripture’s instruction, “Son, give me your heart.”

The Hardest Part of Mothering.

Youth Group or Frat House? HT to Out of the Ordinary. Wisdom about youth group activities that humiliate.

In Defense of Preachy Children’s Books. HT to Story Warren. “Kids want to be entertained and delighted. The first thing you can do is erase the words moral, teach, message, and lesson out of your vocabulary…keep authoritative figures, like parents, teachers, or older siblings, in the background. Lastly, never let the adults in the story tell what the main character should do. Remember, it is a sin to preach in fiction.” The author counters this advice with examples from beloved children’s classics, and I agree with her. There was something in me that rose up to meet and welcome moral instruction in stories. It can be overdone, of course. And there are times to let readers realize what the story is about rather than telling them directly. But, “Rather than detracting or distracting from the story, were these passages giving me the names of the lovely ideals I sensed in the characters I admired? Were they revealing to me an eternal, universal world of Courage, Sacrifice, Hope, Joy, Love that, unlike the long-ago and fairytale story-lands I longed to enter, was near at hand for me to dwell in? Could this be why didacticism, properly woven into story, does not ruin but elevates it?”

100 Summer Crafts and Activities for Kids, HT to Story Warren.

And a thought for the day, HT to Jody Hedlund re writing, but applicable to many areas:

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A Writer’s Survival Kit

When I got back from the writer’s conference I attended, a dear friend who had prayed for me while I was there, while I traveled, and especially while I was sick there, gave me this Writer’s Survival Kit. I thought it was such a sweet, thoughtful and clever idea, and I wanted to share it with you.

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I loved all of it, but I think the stress relief is my favorite. 🙂

Takeaways From a Writer’s Conference

Last week I told you about attending the Carolina Christian Writer’s Conference. This week I want to share some specifics I learned.

Writers make time to write. I was astonished to learn how incredibly busy everyone was. Each writer had several irons in the fire: family, books, multiple organizations, blogs, newsletters, and more. No one is luxuriating at a resort with nothing to do but write. Michelle Cox shared in the Lightning Learning sessions that she writes in 25-minute increments, a manageable goal. In addition, getting up and doing something else for a few minutes keeps writers from developing physical problems from sitting at the computer too long. Larry Leech told of one woman homeschooling several children who wrote for ten minutes at the top of every hour during the school day. If this is something God wants me to do, He will give me wisdom to discern how to make the time.

Writers learn. Writers are expected to know how to self-edit, format according to preferred standards, understand point of view, and myriad other aspects of writing long before they submit a manuscript for publication. Not knowing these things is seen as lazy, so I need to research, self-educate, soak up and glean all I can about the craft of writing.

Writers read. Most writers are readers, but writers are encouraged to read for more than pleasure. Nancy Lohr with Journeyforth suggested reading about the craft of writing, reading to see how other writers put together their work and what techniques they employ, reading books in one’s own field of interest, reading fiction even as a nonfiction writer. Craig von Buseck and Les Stobbe encouraged reading books like the one we want to write, both to see what’s already out there and to find our own unique approach.

Writers start small. Many of the speakers emphasized that writers rarely publish a book right off the bat with no previous writing experience. We were encouraged to start with writing articles, newsletters, blogs, etc., which will help us gain experience, write for an audience and receive feedback, work with deadlines and specifications, etc.

Writers are teachable. Candy Arrington emphasized the need for writers to be teachable and flexible. She and others encouraged joining a critique group so we can help each other with our blind spots, mistakes, clarity, etc.

Writers have a target audience in mind. Writing to our target audience keeps our writing focused. In addition, publishers want to know the target audience for marketing purposes. Sarah Bolme helped me clarify that my target audience does not have to be a certain age group: it just has to be the people who would have a particular interest in or need for my subject matter. “Adult women” is not a narrow enough target.

Since coming home from the conference, I started following a few of the speakers on Twitter to keep receiving tips and information. I also started reading:

The Write Conversation blog by Edie Melson. Edie is one of the coordinators for the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference. She was one of the speakers for the Carolina Christian Writer’s Conference, but, unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend any of her sessions. Her blog is considered one of the top writing blogs, and I have already learned a lot from it.

Writer’s Write.

Writing and Editing.

Have you attended a writer’s conference? What was your best takeaway from it? What other sources do you read to keep inspired or to hone your writing skills?

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Inspire Me Monday)

My First Writer’s Conference

I mentioned in Friday’s post an adventure. I spent Friday and Saturday at the Carolina Christian Writer’s Conference!

I had read about writer’s conferences, but attending one was a distant dream. I had never heard of this particular one until Mary mentioned it in a Facebook group we’re both in. I was surprised to see that the conference would take place in a city where I had lived for twelve years. That would take away the anxiety of traveling by myself to a strange new place. Plus it was just overnight, not several days. It seemed smaller than some of the others I had heard about, which would not be so overwhelming as some of the bigger ones. I didn’t think we’d be able to work around my mother-in-law’s care so that I could attend, but my husband said he could be home, and he encouraged me to go. So I did!

Authors, editors, and publisher representatives made up the faculty who presented the workshops. I had read one of the authors, heard of one other, and knew one of the publisher representatives years ago when she was on staff at my sons’ school, but everyone else was new to me. I came away with many of the faculty’s books added to my TBR list.

Four workshops divided into eight sessions each, covering topics like a writer’s social platform, managing time to write, self-editing, storytelling, plot, character arc, book proposals, publishing, and so much more. I wish I could have attended the majority of them! The one most beneficial to me was Craig von Buseck‘s “Fiction Techniques in Nonfiction Writing.” He explained that even though nonfiction informs, persuades, and inspires, it must also entertain or engage the reader, or else the reader will put it down. My writing sometimes tends to be “Just the facts, ma’am,” which might work for a Wikipedia article, but not a book. I gained both ideas and inspiration from Craig’s workshop for fleshing out my writing.

Todd Starnes was the enjoyable keynote speaker, and two panels covered editors’ pet peeves and publishing trends. Friday night after the last session we all divided into genre groups with faculty members available to answer questions.

A “Lightening Learning” session was both fun and informative. All of the faculty were stationed at various tables, and conferees went in small groups from table to table, changing tables at the blow of a whistle. Each faculty member had three minutes to share their favorite writing tip. Though all the tips were beneficial, one faculty member gave me a great idea for narrowing down my target audience.

We had an opportunity to submit an outline and the first ten pages of a manuscript for a critique before the conference, and during the conference we had a fifteen-minute appointment with the person who critiqued our work. That was a humbling experience, but then that was somewhat expected. We can’t improve our writing until we see what we’re doing wrong.

We also had the opportunity to sign up to meet with a faculty member for at least one 15-minute session just to ask questions, share our project and get feedback, etc.

Before the conference when I was trying to determine whether to spend the time, money, and emotional energy to go, I looked over the workshop topics and thought, “You know, I could read about most of this in books or online.” And though that’s true, and though I am sure I will read more, the conference sessions helped distill some of these topics down to their most important essence. Besides all the information and inspiration, one of the biggest takeaways from the conference was encouragement. It’s hard sometimes to know when or how to bring up writing in everyday conversation, but at a writer’s conference, everyone asks what you’re working on, and no one thinks you’re silly or self-promotional. Plus, at an event like this, editors and publishers are encouraging and instructive. They know we don’t know everything we need to and they’re there to help. But once you submit a manuscript to them, you’re down to business, and they expect you to know the ropes. Meeting a variety of editors and publishers gives you some sources to pursue when you do get ready for those steps. It was also encouraging to meeting others at various stages of the writing journey.

And since this was a Christian conference, two of the themes that continually emerged were prayer and responsibility. We need to seek God at every step in the writing process and ask others to intercede for us. And we need to remember that all we do is by His power and grace and for Him. If writing is a calling, we’re responsible to obey God’s call, and if it is a gift, we’re responsible to develop it for His glory.

One other plus for me was meeting Mary Hill at Maryandering Creatively! I have been participating in her Literary Musing Monday for some time now, so it was great to meet in person.

Before the conference Mary had also pointed me to Edie Melson’s The Write Conversation. Her sidebar contains a wealth of information about preparing for a writer’s conference, an invaluable help to me. Edie was also on the conference faculty, and I was sorry to miss her sessions. But I’m delighted to find her site and glean the information there.

I had let a couple of you know privately that I was going and asked for prayer: thank you! I had not traveled by myself since I had to drive from Spartanburg to Knoxville to house-hunt before our move here almost eight years ago (and since college days before that!) I am not a good traveler anyway. During the trip as well as before and after, I kept thinking, “I can’t believe I am doing this!” Excitement battled with fear, anxiety, and even dread at some points, but excitement won out, and God gave me peace. Everything about the trip itself went well: God kept me safe on the road and in parking lots. I spent all of Saturday morning sick in the hotel room, and I was sorry to miss those sessions. I had considered going home once I felt well enough to drive. My dear husband offered to drive up with my son so that he could drive me home and my son could drive his car back, but I didn’t think that would be necessary. I texted a friend to request prayer. I’m so thankful that I felt well enough to attend the Saturday afternoon sessions, as those were the best of the conference for me.

I also enjoyed just the aspect of getting away from everyday responsibilities for a while, and the quiet hotel room provided a counterbalance to all the new experiences and being with so many people. I’m so thankful to my husband for not only allowing me and providing for me to attend but encouraging me to and taking care of things at home while I was gone. It’s not easy being the sole caregiver for his mom, so I appreciate his being willing to do that for a few days.

My emotions definitely hit highs (“Maybe I really can finish a book!”) and lows (What was I thinking?!“) But I came away from the conference challenged and encouraged to move writing from the back burner. I have a lot of work to do, but I gained some good ideas, more direction, and more awareness of what needs to be weeded out. I tend to be wordy (in case you haven’t noticed… 🙂 ), so I need to tighten up in some areas and flesh concepts out in others. My head is still spinning and I am still processing much of what I learned.

If you enjoy writing, I’d encourage you attend a writer’s conference! I am already hoping to attend next year.

Special thanks go to Linda Gilden for organizing everything, for her patience with this newbie, and especially for her warm and encouraging tone in everything she did. Thanks to all the team who helped everything go so smoothly! Great job!

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Faith on Fire)

Laudable Linkage

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It’s been a little while since I’ve been able to share some of the noteworthy items found around the Web lately. Enjoy!

Repeating My Father’s Words. Spiritual lessons from a toddler.

As We Empty Ourselves For God, He Will Fill Us. This was a helpful principle for me. I used to get discouraged when I felt depleted after extending myself for someone instead of realizing that that’s perfectly natural.

What’s Worse – Removing Scripture or Adding to It? (HT to Challies). Both are wrong, of course, but this particularly addresses that some versions of the Bible that people accuse of leaving out verses don’t, actually, and some add them in, which is just as wrong.

Being Pence-ive About Dinner With the Ladies. You’ve probably seen a number of posts about Vice-President Mike Pence’s rule of thumb about not meeting alone with women, some thoughtful and some ridiculous. I thought this was one of the best.

Should it be illegal to be a stay-at-home mom? I am astounded anyone would seriously propose this.

25 Tips for Moms of Boys. I had three, and I can agree with most of these.

Buy nice not twice. Good advice. Being frugal doesn’t always mean buying cheap. But beyond that, this was one of the most balanced posts about minimalism that I have read.

Showing vs. telling, the main principle of good writing these days, and how best to do it.

Charting the Legacy of Les Miserables. If you’re a fan of the novel, you might like this article about a book about it. I particularly liked the paragraph about the impact on French society.

And, finally, for a smile: this is adorable. A little girl sees an old water heater set out on the street for pickup and thinks it is a robot.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

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This is later in the day than I usually post these, but, looking at my list, I wanted to go ahead and post what I had instead of waiting for a week and having a longer list. If you’re like me, the more there are, the more I get kind of lost in them and lose interest in looking. I found these all thought-provoking in one way or another: perhaps you’ll see something of interest as well.

Irritability. HT to Challies. This one hit me right where it hurts. “Life is never lived in the sterile confines of a sinless, utopian laboratory well-removed from the Curse’s numerous provocations. This side of heaven, we are either about to be provoked, being provoked, just having been provoked, or some combination of the three. Everything inside and outside of us has the potential to provoke in one way or another.”

When They Walk Away, HT to Challies.

Words Matter: Recovering Godly Speech in a Culture of Profanity

Synonyms For the Word of God. Have you ever wondered, especially in places like Psalm 119, what the difference was between a statute, testimony, precept, etc., or whether they were all just synonyms for God’s Word? This article explains the differences.

4 Things to Remember When Thinking About Curses in the Psalms, HT to Challies.

The Threat of Joy in Ministry – one time Jesus tells us not to rejoice.

Creating a Church Culture That Invites Children Into Worship.

Do Children Have a Financial Obligation Toward Parents?

The Craft and Courage of L. M. Montgomery. I was surprised to learn a few years ago that the author of Anne of Green Gables was not happy in her personal life, in contrast to many of her characters.  This was a good perspective.
My Oath of Office. Good no matter who is elected.

Frugal Grocery Shopping Strategy. I need to do better at this.

A couple about writing:

3 Simple Ways to Create Memorable Lead Characters

What Being an Editor Taught Me About Writing, HT to Challies.

And this is all too true these days:

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Have a great weekend!

Laudable Linkage

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I usually go a couple of weeks or more between these, but had so many, I decided to go ahead and list them. These are all thought-provoking reads found in the last week or so.

Believing in the somehow.

God’s Work in Your Bible Reading. “The Bible was precious because it mediated a sight of God, and a relation to God, which are sweeter than any other experience. This was the spring of what Sweeney called ‘Edwards’s lifelong love affair with Scripture.'”

Rethinking Phil. 4:13. It’s for far more than positive thinking and winning ball games.

How many days would it take to read through the Bible? A friend and missionary tried reading straight through the Bible in a week and discussed it here, then followed up with Meditations on binge-reading the Bible afterward.

Friends your age are not enough. We need friends of all ages.

#NotMyPresident. I’ve been appalled at some of the reaction to the president-elect. Many of us weren’t happy with the last two elections, but we didn’t act like this. I don’t agree 100% with everything about Trump, but, as a Christian, I appreciated this perspective.

Why Kids Ask Why (and How to Respond Lovingly)

Want to raise successful boys? Children, especially boys, learn better when they have more opportunities to move around than the average school gives them.

Must Christian Homeschool? Well thought-out response from Rebekah.

More than slightly Christian novels. Yes! This resonated with me.

Writing tips from Charles Spurgeon, HT to Challies.

And finally, someone posted this on Facebook, and I found it adorable:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

It’s a busy time of year, but I’ve discovered several thought-provoking reads online the last couple of weeks. Perhaps some of them will pique your interest as well.

Weep, Groan, Wail: The Need to Lament. “How is it possible to grieve, mourn, and wail but still know God is good?”

Even If He Doesn’t. “When the bad things come, when the kind of rescue we think we need just isn’t part of our story, will we be able to testify before a watching world that God can do it, that He will do it, but even if He doesn’t, we won’t turn away.”

Immanuel. From a friend’s whose 25 year old daughter is fighting yet another setback in her cancer battle. God is with us, even in the hard places, even in bad news.

5 Reasons to Read the Bible When You Feel Absolutely Nothing. I kept thinking Yes! all throughout reading this.

Jesus Isn’t Threatened by Your Christmas Gifts. Loved the practicality and balance in this. “The implicit messaging is that Christmas is a kind of either/or proposition in which we can either emphasize Jesus or emphasize gifts. But one always threatens to displace the other. I disagree with this.”

Miracles at Midnight.

5 Ways We Stunt Our Spiritual Growth.

Seekest Thou Great Things For Thyself? HT to Challies.

It’s Time to Take Your Medicine. “As we read the letters of Paul we find he always frames things this way: ‘God has done this for you in Christ, therefore you should respond in the following ways.’ ‘Thus the motivation, energy, and drive for holiness are all found in the reality and power of God’s grace in Christ.'”

Words That Shimmer. “For Christians, isn’t it amazing that our gracious God chose something as powerful as words to communicate to us His glorious truth? Everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). What a gift! What a treasure! Collectors of words take heart:”

Praying Biblical Prayers.

(Re)Remembering What We Mean. “Fairy tales employ the tool of the fantastic to jar us back to a truer vision that sees that all things are fantastic. Wonder is an appropriate response to all things because all things are wonderfully made.”

On parenting:

Should Parents Lay Down The Law Or Give Grace? “Grace is not rejecting authority. Grace is not walking away from the need of my children to have boundaries in their life—grace is about the way that I do that.”

My Changing Thoughts On Being a Mother. I wrestled with many of the same things mentioned here.

On writing:

Why Backstory Is Better Than Flashbacks.

And finally, I loved this video of a deer and rabbit playing. At least the deer is playing – it takes a while for the rabbit. Someone posted this on Facebook with the caption “Bambi and Thumper are real!”

Happy Saturday!

“Edgy” Christian Fiction

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“Edgy” Christian fiction is becoming an increasingly hot topic among authors and readers. Those for it contend that stories need to be realistic for people living in the real world with bigger problems than the color of the church carpet. Opponents say that Christian fiction, of all places, should be a safe haven from objectionable elements in literature.

I think, as do many I know, that we should take our cues from this as well as every facet of life from the Bible. Yes, the Bible is different from a novel, but even in our novels we can operate within its parameters.

There are certainly edgy people in the Bible: harlots, polygamists, thieves, liars, evil kings, adulterers, murderers, zealots, and so on. And edgy situations abound: a man rapes his half-sister and in return is murdered by his brother; a man cuts up his murdered and abused concubine in pieces and sends her out to the various tribes of Israel to drum up support for revenge; a woman seduces a young, naive man; a king sees a woman bathing and takes her to himself though they are both married, then arranges to have her husband killed in battle; a woman has been married five times and is living with a sixth man.

But nowhere in the Bible are any of these situations written in a way to entice people to sinful thoughts in the reading of them. Profane men are shown to be such without spewing profanity. Sexual sin is portrayed in ways to show how it came about and how the people were tempted, but not in enough detail to cause arousal in the reader. Violent scenes are not written with gratuitous detail.

I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in an unsaved family with a father who used bad words (in three different languages! It was humiliating and embarrassing as a child when I said something at a Hispanic neighbor’s house only to find out it was an offensive word. Thankfully I don’t remember what it was.) So it doesn’t necessarily shock me when I hear people say those words. But when I read them, they float around in my head, and I don’t want them there.

Novels will by their nature share more descriptive detail than a Biblical narrative. Good authors know how to draw a reader into a scene and make them feel and experience what the characters do. But that is the very reason Christian authors need to be so careful with sexual or violent scenes. We need to take responsibility for the fact that we’re putting thoughts, images, and ideas in people’s minds and make sure they’re not the kind that lead the reader into a lustful or lurid state.

I don’t object to edgy people or situations in books, depending on how they are handled. I can understand a person is foul-mouthed without hearing the words. I can understand a person succumbing to sexual temptation without details of bodily form and feeling. I can appreciate a violent scene, such as a murder in a crime drama or a battle scene, without descriptors like eyes bugging out, blood spattering, etc.

In addition to how such scenes and people are described and what images those descriptions put in our heads, another factor is how the situation is treated in the novel. For instance, in searching for something in my blog recently I came across a forgotten book review for a story that included a suicide. That happens, so it’s not in itself an objectionable situation in a Christian book. But in this particular novel, it was treated as the only thing the character could do, and more than that, right and sacrificial and even heroic, when Biblically it is never regarded that way. “Thou shalt not kill” certainly applies to one’s own life as well as others. There is a difference between taking a bullet for someone and aiming that bullet at yourself. Suicide is the ultimate taking of your own life into your own hands and the ultimate lack of faith in God to handle one’s life circumstances as He sees fit. There were Bible people who wanted to die, but they left the actual process to the Lord. Suicide is a tragedy, and I can understand its happening in a story, but I think it’s wrong for a Christian book to condone it or present it as a good thing. Similarly, the tone, consequences, and character responses to profanity, sexual sin, and violence can convey that those things are not right without devolving into preachiness and judgmentalism.

I think it actually takes a great deal more talent to portray certain scenes without going into unnecessary specifics. One of the most violent scenes I ever witnessed on film just showed the victim’s feet, kicking at first and then lying still. No blood, no gore, but the effect was chilling. “Less is more” applies in a number of these areas.

I do want to encourage Christian authors that readers don’t want insipid, plain vanilla plots and we do want authentic, full-bodied, real characters and believable circumstances. I know it’s hard sometimes to know where the line is, but it’s possible to write great and realistic Christian fiction without crossing it. I know; I’ve read it. And I’d love to read more.

Related posts:

Why Read? Why Read Fiction? Why Read Christian Fiction?
The Language of Christians
Sexuality in Christian Fiction
The Gospel and Christian Fiction

(Linking with Thought-provoking Thursday) and Literary Musing Monday)

 

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Laudable Linkage

Here are some interesting reads rounded up from the last couple of weeks:

Dr. George H. Guthrie has been publishing a series dealing with Bible translations that I have found very helpful, especially these (HT to Challies):

6 Reasons We Shouldn’t Freak Out over Word Variations in our Modern Translations

6 Surprising Ideas the KJV Translators Had about Other Bible Translations. The preface to the KJV is pretty fascinating if your Bible contains it and if you can read it. A couple of the fascinating ideas: they used and endorsed other translations and never claimed that theirs was the only one that should be used.

4 Interesting Facts about the Production of the King James Translation

Some Things You Should Know About Christians Who Struggle With Anxiety.

What the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Miss About Simone Biles

Top 10 things I Wish Worship Leaders Would Stop Saying and Top 10 Things I Love That Worship Leaders Do

With Love, Your Single Daughter

10 Things to DO Instead of Asking, “What Can I Do to Help?

A couple about writing:

Avoid These Sneaky (But Deadly) Point of View Mistakes.

A Quick Lesson in the Writing Process.

And finally, this is just adorable:

Happy Saturday!