August 11, 2010

Wise words from a writing mentor - Violet Nesdoly

I recently received a rare gift — the book The Voice of a Writer: Honoring the Life of Katie Funk Wiebe. I took a course from Ms. Wiebe many years ago, when a writing life for myself was only a daydream. Thus I read this book about and by her with great interest.

It is a collection of essays on Wiebe's contribution (to especially the Mennonite Brethren denomination) as a writer, teacher, and person. Pieces by writing and teaching colleagues, Mennonite historians as well as one of her children give us a multi-faceted picture of this woman, teacher, writer, and thinker. Between the essays of others are her own writings, picked from the multitude of articles she wrote over her 30 years as a columnist for Christian Leader and Mennonite Brethren Herald.

The book gave me valuable insights on what it meant to be a writer when that career choice was one rarely made, especially by Mennonite women.  But not that much has changed. For many of the issues Wiebe struggled with in the 60s, 70s and 80s are still ones we grapple with today -- even though the medium of delivery is changing. As I read her columns I think what a great blogger she would have made. Here from the book are a few snippets of her writerly wisdom:

"...writing is often an exercise in self-revelation...the more personal the writing, the more universal." p. 10

"Writing is a form of giving oneself away, of standing in the public square without clothes." p. 70

"As I clarified an issue for myself, I helped the fog to lift in others. That column became a journal of my life and concerns. In it I can trace my interests, ups and downs, periods of growth and stagnation. Grappling with a problem in my own life by putting it into words helped me find myself. I am grateful I had the opportunity to write this column for thirty years. It taught me the discipline of the deadline, the joy of creating with words, and especially the stewardship of ideas and words." p. 124

"Write, keep on writing, write about what you know. Write and the inspiration will come." p. 185

Title: The Voice of a Writer: Honoring the Life of Katie Funk Wiebe
Author: Doug Heidebrecht and Valerie G. Rempel, Editors
Publisher: Kindred Productions, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-894791-22-9


by Violet Nesdoly


  1. Thanks for this woman's sage advice. You are right that even though it was written many years ago, it's still pertinent today.

    I find it difficult to let go and pour my feelings onto paper. Do you? Past hurts or disappointments always involve somebody close it seems. I'm always afraid that the person I'm referring to will read them and feel betrayed.

    I guess it could be done privately in a journal, though, instead of in a public forum, but that doesn't leave much for others to read! Your thoughts?
    Pam M.

  2. Pam I've struggled with this myself. Especially when writing online - where everything is so public and wide-ranging and long-lasting.

    Perhaps there is a balance somewhere in between, or a line of privacy you make for yourself which you determine never to cross, even if it means your writing doesn't relate as powerfully.

    I've read of writers for whom honesty on the page comes before the hurts and damage to relationships such transparent revelations can cause. I personally could not go so far.

  3. Yep, I agree. I guess one has to find a balance they feel is right and good. Maybe fictionalizing our memories is a way to pour them out and release them.


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