April 28, 2016

Be Not A Self-Starter - Bruce Atchison

 It's a reoccurring pattern in my life. I'm invited to participate but nobody mentors me when I do. Mrs. Blacklock didn't disciple me after I gave my life to Christ at her vacation Bible school. VE6BOS had no time to "Elmer" me when I studied for my amateur radio exam. And freelance writers were too busy to coach me. Consequently, I wasted a lot of time, money, and effort trying to be a self-taught writer.

Twenty years of trial and error have taught me much. One important lesson is to find and join a writers' group. Members are more than willing to help novice scribes since they were once in that situation.

Reading writing magazines is another must for new writers. We all thought we were good when we began but in retrospect, we stunk. I still cringe when I open files from years ago and realize how poorly I wrote. So the price of those magazines proved to be a bargain after all since they taught me so much.

Self-publishing also gave me much to learn. Helpful editors not only pointed out my errors but explained why what I wrote was incorrect. Though they were busy, they did point me in the right direction.

Writing courses are also valuable to new writers. Instructors give relevant feedback and often correct our misconceptions on various writing styles.

The best advice I can give to beginners is that it isn't as easy as it looks. You need to listen to other writers and read guidelines thoroughly. Magazine and news paper editors are swamped with work and have no time to critique your submission. They often don't even bother to reply if your work is clearly wrong for their publication.

Don't be shy. Join a writing group for support and critique. Chances are that people will help you to write powerful and mistake-free prose or poetry. Persistence pays off in the end but you need others helping you to become skilled at the craft.

April 26, 2016

Being Yentl by Marnie Pohlmann

“Follow Me,” said Jesus, and by ones and twos the men we know as His disciples began their apprenticeship. That’s not really where their training began, though.

In Jewish culture, boys were taught from a young age what the Torah and Tanakh said, and also what the Talmud said as interpretation of the Torah. While girls were not necessarily taught in a formal manner, Scripture’s examples of women as prophets, judges, and leaders indicate girls also grew in knowledge of the Lord and God’s Word.

I am reminded of one of my favourite music movies, “Yentl” with Barbara Streisand as a Jewish girl who poses as a boy so she can learn. I won’t share the details so the twists of the movie are not spoiled if you haven’t seen it, so please look for this entertaining show. Suffice it to say; learning the Word of God was a central part of Jewish culture.

So the fishermen, tax collector, doctor, and others were already knowledgeable about the foundations of faith. When their call came, they recognized it and responded to the invitation of the Master. Jesus taught them by example, by word, and through discussion, reminding them and illuminating for them things they already knew. He challenged them to more and greater than they ever imagined.

My writing apprenticeship also started long before I responded to the call.

Heading to school, I was already a lover of reading, so when we learned to print our names I was so excited! I ran home to show my Mom.
“Marjorie. That’s spelled wrong,” she said.
So she sent a note back to my teacher, explaining my name was spelled “Margery.” I didn’t mind – now I knew how to write more letters, and put them together to make words.

About Grade Four, we were asked to write a story from the point of view of an object. The teacher was impressed with my tale of a tire that was happy to be recycled as a flowerbed. I had seen such a garden on my walk home from school. And so I learned the basics of POV and personification.

By Grade Seven I knew I loved creative writing, and discovered synonyms and antonyms to make my writing more interesting. I wrote about a conflagration and described how the blood of an animal teemed. What fun!

Throughout school, but especially in High School, I discovered recognition for my writing by winning National contests. I also wrote for the school newspaper, and enjoyed writing essay assignments.

But what happened when school was done? How did I continue to write? Was the saying true, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”? Perhaps! My writing turned inward with journaling, and occasional pieces for non-profits or my job, but nothing to move me forward.

Yet that is when the call came. As I wrote just between God and me, journaling my past and present pains, the call to follow God as a writer came. At first I refused. I struggled with God. I wanted to write exciting things, not happy-ever-after religious stuff.

And so began my apprenticeship. First lesson – with God an integral part of me, no matter what genre I write, His influence shows. Only with God is there a happy-ever-after, so even the most difficult, realistic stories I pen will show that Hope in some form. It’s just who I am.

Now, as I follow God, I will learn from the example of others and through discussion and correction. We journey together bravely sharing what we are led to write. Writing seems solitary, but it takes teachers and companions to learn our ministry and craft. I grow stronger by following God with others on this adventure.

Like Yentl, a writer’s desire is not met by just having a foundation. We must apply that basic knowledge and seek to understand more, to practice and share more. And like Yentl, I pray we will travel to new places as we follow our desire to know and show God.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12 (NASB)

Marnie Pohlmann writes from a small northern town to show the world that God’s light shines in darkness. Read Marnie’s blog, Phosphorescent, at marniewriter.com

April 25, 2016

From the Beginning By Vickie Stam

"She prints very good stories and knows all her reading words." These words leap from the page of my 1971 report card; one of the few my mother kept.   

"Vickie reads well with comprehension applying phonetic and word attack skills without difficulty." A year later, at the tender age of eight, I'm still doing very well with syntax. My formation of words is coming together. I smile at the very thought of my teacher's comments. I only wish my mother had kept some of those stories from long ago.  

But, what I discovered when I read those old report cards is that they indeed mark the first real evidence of my writing apprenticeship. The start of a passion. I learned at a very young age to "attack words" -- hear the individual sound of the letters, link them together and build a relationship among them. I learned that stringing words together would form a sentence and eventually a story. An expression of me!

In grade six my report card brings more great news. The letter, "A" stares back at me in bold blue ink; smack dab beside the subjects, spelling and phonics. I see this marvelous achievement as a stepping stone to something bigger; something I know could only have come from God. The letter "B" is penned beside the task of written expression. It's clear that writing still agreed with me.        

Unfortunately, those are the only report cards I have. Each time I look at them I'm reminded of the fact that I liked words then and still do today. 

As I jump forward in time, the memories flip like a slide show in my mind. I can see myself sitting at my desk. My English teacher's blond hair barely moves as she strolls up and down the aisles between our seats. She allows us to hide an open bag of chips in the cavity of our desks. We're granted permission to eat them during class, "Only if you promise to do it quietly." She says. Hmmm...a challenge for me. She was quite the teacher! She would belt out the day's lesson, pronouncing each word with such clarity and then proceed to rake the white chalk across the black board up front. The thought of her nails catching the chalk board still makes me shiver.  

Not only did she want us to use our visual skills, she wanted us to listen; something that would also become quite an essential part of the writing process. All writer's use words to unlock the senses. The things we see, hear, smell, taste and touch need to paint a picture.

That was 1979 and like most teenagers, I remember thinking, I can't wait to get out of here. My social life seemed much more important. Even so, nothing deterred me from earning high marks in English. My passion for writing was there even if I didn't acknowledge it at the time.  

In my twenties I entered a poem in a poetry contest. Nothing ever came of it but the desire for me to submit something was obviously sparked when I came upon the request for submissions. 

But, the biggest turning point for me in my writing journey came in 2010 when I enrolled in a writing class at the University almost an hour's drive from my home. What was I thinking? I remember wondering if I'd made a mistake. My stomach flipped several times on the drive to school yet I walked out at the end of my first class -- on fire. I could hardly wait to do my homework.   

I'm not brimming with any outstanding advice, really. But if there is one piece of encouragement I can offer to someone, it would be, "Never let someone tell you that you cannot write." If you feel it --- write it. 

Unlike other types of apprenticeships, no one paid me while in the process of learning. I simply write because the evidence shows that it's been in me from the very beginning.  

Psalm 139:13-14

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

April 24, 2016

I've Only Begun by Tandy Balson

Looking back on my life, I realize my apprenticeship started long before I was aware of it.  There were many signs I failed to recognize on my journey to be a writer. So many prompts were ignored.  Nevertheless, they combined to form the essence of who I am and how I express myself.

When I felt called to write I started to carry a journal everywhere I went.  Inspiration could strike at any time and I wanted to be able to capture the thoughts before they escaped. I later learned that I’m not alone in this practice.

Before long I joined a local writers group for support.  They only had positive things to say and my confidence level increased.  It was more than a year later I found out they didn’t give critiques unless they were specifically asked for! Perhaps the encouragement was what this beginner needed to build confidence.

The first negative feedback I received took me by surprise.  If I was following God’s will for my life, shouldn’t everyone love what I was writing?  I had no idea how na├»ve that mindset was. It was a rude awakening but necessary for me to realize how much I had to learn.  

Conferences, workshops and honest feedback from writers and editors set me on the right path.  One editor saw potential in my writing and offered to mentor me. The direct tutelage of a professional was integral to me becoming published. 

I understand that I am still in the early stages of my formal apprenticeship. The more I learn, the more I am aware how much more there is to learn.

God has given me the desire to write.  As my master instructor, he has led me to InScribe and the fellowship of others called to share his inspired words.  What better apprenticeship could anyone ask for?

April 23, 2016

Casting off by Lynn J Simpson


May 4, 1995, under a clear spring sky, the Edmonton Queen Riverboat navigated the North Saskatchewan River waters for the first time as  hundreds of spectators lined the banks. 

I wonder if Ray Collins was among those hundreds?

See, according to the stories told, Mr. Collins since a young lad  had been fascinated by the stories of steam boats that once sailed the river of Edmonton.  Delivering lumber to the North West Mounted Police in Fort Saskatchewan, the steamwheelers operated from 1874 until  1915 when the big flood halted the operation. But that flood is another story. 

Mr. Collins first approached the project of building a steam boat back in 1964, but it wasn't until 1992 that his dream began to float when the mayor of Edmonton said yes to the 3.4 million venture. Scheduled to launch a year later, the boat was docked in money battles until finally Mr. Collins drifted into bankruptcy and Carrington Properties cruised in to save the Queen. 

Now, I don't know Mr. Collins and have no idea what his mind state may have been that day his dream sailed when he was no longer anchored to the project.

May he have considered himself a failure?

Or maybe, just maybe, Mr. Collins took on a mind state that he had done his due diligence in piloting a dream, a project that did voyage? Just most likely not sailed the direction expected, possibly due to hasty decisions along the way. 

Why the boat story when it comes to writing about our theme this month of apprenticeship? 

One word: tenacity.

Remember it was May 4th, 1995, twenty-nine years after his first launch attempt that the Edmonton Queen floated the North Saskatchewan River, and Mr. Collin's dream got under way. 

Twenty-nine years.

There are many, many stories of dreams started and finished, with a boat-load of time in between.

May we always be encouraged that time is our friend, and that diligence does pay-off.  And even though our dream may look different between launch and sailing, we've got our great Captain whose purpose prevails. 

Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead only to plenty, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans of a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. 

You can find more tenacious musings by Lynn J Simpson on her Website