April 01, 2015

Keeping Fresh, Keeping Green by Sandi Somers

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Prompt:In spring, the world turns fresh and green. How do you keep yourself and your writing fresh as you produce new articles, books or songs without burn-out or repeating the same ideas?

A New Way of Gardening
When I moved to my current house near the edge of Calgary, I had visions of beautiful flower beds with crocuses and tulips, with petunias lining my driveway, and with perennials filling the back yard.

It was not to be.

Gradually as new houses were built up around me, coyotes moved away, and as a result, rabbits increased. And to my dismay, most of my favourite flowers made delectable rabbit dinner. They also loved my lettuce, even carrot, onion and beet tops. As the rabbits got bolder, they hopped up on my porch and nibbled at my potted plants.

How could I keep my flowerbeds and garden fresh and green?

I asked for advice from gardening experts, got a list of rabbit-proof plants, and experimented with new flowers. However, the rabbits hadn’t read that list and ate some of my new “rabbit-proof” plants anyway.

At first it was discouraging, but as I developed a new system, I discovered pink geraniums and white alyssum made an attractive display. I put my petunias in tall pots. 

Like redoing my gardening, my writing sometimes needs to be revamped. Just recently I looked at several articles in progress and knew God has deeper answers to questions of faith than I had planned.

How to develop those thoughts that would encourage my readers? I began listening more carefully to my pastor’s sermons, discovering new seeds of meaning that related to my writing. Discussing matters of life and faith with friends has broadened my perspective. Finding new and challenging artist’s dates breathes in new life to me.

But mostly I meditate more deeply in Scripture, asking God for wisdom and new insight.

And I know the Holy Spirit will infuse my writing with a freshness it didn’t have before.

Now over to you. How do you keep your writing fresh and green?

March 31, 2015

A Real Writer by Guest Blogger Brenda Leyland

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Many writers seem to know early in life that they want to  be a writer; they might even sense that they need to write.

Not so with me. When I was a girl, I had no thought of being a writer, no inkling or desire. Writing stories in school was no fun. I could never write anything under the pressure of a deadline as the clocked tick-ticked on the teacher's desk. My ideas and words, if there were any good ones, froze long before they reached the lead tip of my yellow HB 2 pencil with eraser nibbled off.

Yet, in retrospect, writing was being woven into the very warp and woof of my life. Perhaps Jo March did leave her mark on my imagination -- I certainly could see myself sitting up in an attic, a funny hat on my head, scribbling away in a miniscule diary with lock and key.

What I could not see was that those plays I used to write as a girl with my sister, putting on elaborate performances for our mom and neighbours, was writing. Or, that my grade nine English short story into which I poured all my girlish longing for romance (a story for which my teacher commended me) -- that was writing too.

Those timid attempts to capture visions of beauty in poetry (I think William Wordsworth and his famous daffodils had something to do with that, not to mention L.M. Montgomery and her beauty-loving Anne.) Well, they were just scribblings of a yearning heart -- that wasn't writing, was it?

Playing with words threaded their way not only through my personal hobbies (calligraphy, journaling, and letter writing) and volunteer jobs (writing skits and games for Sunday school), but even my job that turned out to be a 20+ year career, involved drafting thousands of letters and messages for publications for three Alberta Premiers.

Yet for all that, I did not -- I could not bring myself to say with any confidence that I was a writer. My husband used to introduce me to people he knew that I was a writer, but I was stutteringly embarrassed, especially if anyone asked what I wrote. Lord, have mercy! For I still operated from an earlier, deeply rooted belief that coloured every word I wrote: That real writers wrote books and were published; nothing else (holy hush) was real writing.

Something on the inside kept stirring. Around 2002, I registered for my first-ever InScribe event in Calgary. Kathleen Gibson was the keynote speaker, and her words that weekend dropped into my heart and began to bubble. I came away with visions of possibility, as I pondered them in my heart. Maybe I could call myself a writer.

So, we created business cards (except I was too afraid to hand them out) and when we bought our first home computer, I started writing in earnest and I read everything I could get my hands on about the craft of writing. My desire to write blossomed. And more importantly, like water dripping on a stone, that ratty old belief slowly eroded away. I was writing and words were touching hearts. Published or not -- I was a writer.



Dreaming about writing to inspire and encourage women, a beautiful opportunity opened that I could never have imagined -- developing and writing a monthly newsletter to inspire women in business. I accepted the job and loved it. From that first 4-page newsletter it eventually had an estimated monthly readership of 500. It was exciting.

In 2008, I took a leap into cyberspace when I created two blogs. Since then, I’ve written well over a thousand posts, connecting with hundreds of women and creating a kindred online community. Other writing steps included writing articles and a blogging column in FellowScript, book reviews for the local paper, two blogging workshops, and an e-course for new bloggers; I even won a contest or two.

In this journey, the steps have been small, sometimes slow, but looking back I see that Someone has been faithfully directing the steps of this woman, steadily bringing her toward her destiny of writing words from Home. Does she know she's a writer now?  Yes, now she knows.


Brenda C Leyland writes from her desk overlooking the backyard garden. When she's not watching the birds or blogging at It's A Beautiful Life, she pretends to work on The Memoir in Progress hoping Inspiration will lend a hand.  


If you enjoyed this post, click for Brenda's other posts:






March 30, 2015

A Writer's Journey by Susan Barclay

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[This is a shorter reprise of the post I wrote for the June 2014 prompt, which must have been on a similar theme!]
My love of words and stories began early. My grandparents first took me to the library when I was three and introduced me to books and story times. From then on, you couldn't keep me away from libraries and books. I was at almost every library program offered, and devoured books voraciously.

Some of my first memories are of me sitting on our family's front porch and making up songs. I wrote quite a bit of bad poetry, but I'm still not sorry my mother kept it for me in binders that I can go back and re-read today. It makes me smile to see those budding efforts and to know how far I've come.


Not so great on paper (sample from grade 3)

In school, English and creative writing were my favourite subjects, and I excelled in them. My grade two teacher can still quote the closing line to a story I wrote for her class (okay, it must have been better than the grade 3 sample above). In upper elementary years I remember writing about subjects like Hernan Cortez for Social Studies and the colourful mandrill for Science. Later I fell in love with the pun and titled one junior high story Steph's Sweet, Swede Dreams (a play on 'sweet, sweet dreams' in case you don't get it). The plot was of a romantic nature and my protagonist in love with a Swede.


In high school I had an amazing English teacher, Mrs. Perle Michna. Her passion for literature heightened the flames of my own and I aspired to be like her so much that when it came time to choose my college affiliation at the University of Toronto, I chose Victoria, which I thought was her alma mater. Imagine my dismay when she told me her alma mater had been University College!


I enjoyed my years at U of T and Vic nonetheless. I had the good fortune to take a Shakespeare course with the illustrious Northrop Frye, although I confess I don't remember a single word he said (I do still have my notes!). I only remember feeling extremely self-conscious riding the elevator with him one day. Word had it that he had no patience for small talk. I don't know if that was true or not, but I certainly was too intimidated to initiate a more meaningful conversation.


After completing my undergraduate degree, I went on to get my Master of Library and Information Science. Had I known anything about a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I suspect I’d have taken that instead, no matter how impractical. Writing was the job I always wanted. Ah well. I’m sure God had His plans, and my work in libraries has helped to pay the bills. The main thing is I’m writing now and my work is being published, not only here and on my personal blog, but in various anthologies.

So maybe that was more than you actually wanted to know, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

________________

For more of my writing, please visit www.susan-barclay.ca and www.notesfrominnisfree.blogspot.com

March 29, 2015

My metamorphosis into a writer - Ruth L. Snyder

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My journey to becoming a writer is more of a metamorphosis (by definition, "A profound change in form from one stage to the next") than a "Eureka" moment.


I clearly remember the day I read my first book. (It was actually more like rehearsing the memorized text of my favourite book, but to me it was reading.) I made everyone I encountered sit down and listen to me "read". A few weeks later I realized those squiggles on the page had meaning and began the process of learning how to actually read. Reading opened a colourful imaginative world I still enjoy today.


The next step in the metamorphosis came a year or so later. We lived in South Africa at the time and had just returned from a year of furlough in the United States and Canada. Writing letters formed a link across the ocean and helped me stay in touch with relatives. I remember listening intently as my mother read each letter, using my imagination to visualize the actions and people described. Soon I joined my mother writing letters back.

We enjoyed a visit from a special family friend, "Auntie Ngairie," a couple years after we moved to Botswana. Decades later, I remember her insistence that my writing would be stronger if I used a greater variety of words. "Try not to repeat any words. Replace repetitions with something that will add to the meaning." (Something I still work at today!)


A year or so later, my sister and I joined our two older brothers at a mission hostel in Zimbabwe. We travelled five hundred miles by train to attend school in the capital city of Salisbury (now called Harare). Writing became even more important to me because I was away from my parents for three months at a time. I eagerly anticipated the weekly letters my parents wrote, and in return, I searched for words to describe my activities and opportunities.



We moved to Canada in 1977 and other than school activities or the very occasional letter, my writing consisted of daily journaling. This continued through middle school and high school. In grade ten, I joined the school newsletter and yearbook committees. Here I discovered the joy of sharing my writing with a larger audience. I also enjoyed experimenting with layout and design.


After I finished Bible College, my mother showed me an advertisement for a writing "aptitude test". "You should do this and send it in." More to get her to leave me alone than anything else, I complied. A few weeks later I received an invitation to take a course on writing for children from the Institute of Children's Literature in Connecticut. I received encouraging comments from my instructor and learned the basics of writing for children. After two courses from the institute, the metamorphosis continued with two more courses from their sister organization, Long Ridge Writers' Group.


One of my instructors encouraged me to join groups where I would have the opportunity to interact with other writers. Through the internet I found and connected with The Word Guild, InScribe Christian Writers' Fellowship and The Christian PEN. These groups provided more nurturing and encouragement. Winning the Fresh Ink contest with The Word Guild finally convinced me I am a writer. Conferences provide opportunities to learn from and network with other writers. Through a course with The Christian PEN I met Kathi Macias, who invited me to write my first novella, Cecile's Christmas Miracle.


The metamorphosis continues. This week I learned how to format my own manuscript for Kindle and uploaded my Learn Twitter: 10 Beginning Steps to Amazon. Launch date is set for April 27th. I'm excited to see where God and my writing lead next!



Follow Ruth's adventures in writing and life at http://ruthlsnyder.com

March 27, 2015

My Eur-Ek-A moment by Melanie Fischer

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My Eureka moment hasn’t really been “A moment”. It hasn't appeared in a flash of light, a flick of a switch or a bolt of reality. It has trickled in, and has come in three parts. 1.Eur 2.ek 3.a.



PART ONE

"Eur"…as in "yur a writer" 


Part one happened when I was about seven years old. 

I wedged my pale-blue-colored, Holly Hobby sticker-covered dresser into my bedroom doorway. I plunked a pile of scrap loose leaf and a jar of pencils on top. Mom’s manual typewriter weighed about as much as I did, but I managed to hoist it up on that writing surface. I then positioned a stack of side tables behind that chest of drawers and crawled up them. I popped open the typewriter cover, slid a pencil behind my ear, then declared my journalist’s office “open for business.”

That was when God told me “yur a writer.” It wasn’t for another 30 years that I would take Him seriously though. And why would I? Sure…I could type a line of “sdkfjlskjflkjldskjf” so fast that it would make those little metal arms jam together. But my English teachers certainly never took me serious. And this brings us to Part two.


PART TWO

"Ek"…pronounced "eeeeeek"


As for my English teachers, it was harder for them to make me write an essay than it was to get the gum off the bottom of the desks. I didn’t like structure. I didn’t like the rules of grammar and punctuation. And I certainly didn’t like writing what I was told to write. I protested against such controlled writing all the way to a solid “C”. A day came though—there was that list on the chalkboard under the heading “choose one of these people to write about.” As if it were flashing in neon lights, the name “Mozart” caught my immediate attention. As luck would have it, I was fascinated by this musical genius. I could hardly wait to sprint down to the library and take out every book I could find. I ate the history of Mozart for breakfast and poured out his story onto my scratch pad. With the confidence of a champion I handed in my completed work. 

I could hardly wait to get my grade back. I was more eager than a kid in the lineup to Splash Mountain. The day finally came. In traditional teacher fashion, she placed our assignments face down on each of our desks. I flipped those pages over to reveal…”Eeeeeek!” Instead of my anticipated A+++, the words written in red pen across my page said, “plagiarism is not acceptable.” I was a bit confused. I didn’t know what plagiarism was. I probably wasn’t paying attention in that class. Once I had it explained, I trucked back to the library, took all those books out once again, plopped them on my teacher’s desk, and told her as nicely as I possibly could that if she found a single sentence that I took out of any of those books I would accept an “F”. I ended up with my only A in that class!

Interesting enough, that false accusation of fraudulent activity didn’t discourage me from writing. It was simply a very loud “not yet.”


PART THREE

“A”…said like this “Ahhhhhh”


“Not yet” alright! And it wouldn’t be “yet” for another twenty years. Life took me on a detour through parenting, a career in science, some hobbies, many interesting experiences, lots of ups and downs, some self-discovery, and eventually into a relationship with Christ. 

And then. My path collided with desperation to understand my purpose. That was when the Lord began to rearrange my life and awaken my calling to write. Opportunities began to emerge and I was clocked on the side of the head with a resounding “Ahhhhhh…now it’s time!” 




As it turns out, if it wasn’t for all the "Eeeeeek's" between the “Yur” and the “a” I wouldn’t have anything to write about. The Lord knows our path before He even places us on it. The time comes when we will see the little crumbs of evidence of our purpose peppered along our trail. We just need to do our best to be patient and wait for His timing to bring our Eur-ek-a moment together.