July 16, 2018

There’s No Expiration Date on My First Book by Nina Faye Morey

While my novel’s first draft flowed nimbly onto the paper from the nib of my pen, my second is stumbling unsteadily across my keyboard. But I’m not going to let myself get bent out of shape on account of this snail’s pace. The way I look at it, there’s no expiration date on my first book.

The slow progress of my novel is mainly due to getting sidetracked by an offer that seemed just too good to refuse. I honestly did try to decline it a couple of times to stay focused on my novel. But when the offer reappeared for possibly the third and final time, I decided God must have had a hand in it.

For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out and who will turn it back?
~ Isaiah 14:27 NRSV

You see, I’d always dreamed of writing for and editing a magazine. The writing side had already become a reality, but I’d begun to think the editing side was destined to remain in the dream category. Unless I founded a magazine of my own. Believe me, that thought—temptation—has occurred to me more than once in my lifetime. So, long story short, I accepted the offer to be the editor of InScribe’s FellowScript magazine.

Even though it’s a quarterly publication, working as FellowScript’s editor eats up a substantial portion of my time. So that means I’m often forced to let my novel rest undisturbed in my desk drawer for extended periods. But I view this editing opportunity as another one of those life experiences that will only serve to enrich my writing in the long run.

Frequently, I see those lists of bright, young, up-and-coming authors, who are celebrated as “the ones to watch.” But just because I’m getting a few grey hairs doesn’t mean I’m past my “best before” date. I like to think I’m still in the “prime of life,” and it’s not too late for me to achieve success as an author. Besides, just think of all the life experiences I’m accumulating along the way to write about. Despite having already passed me on the path to publication, those bright, young prodigies are still far behind me on the road of life.

I would hardly be alone in writing and publishing my first book rather late in life. Several successful authors have proven it’s still possible to find the path to publication in later years. These “late bloomers” have had their first book published after age 40, 50, or even 60. After all, “late” is a comparative term. Late as opposed to . . . ? Besides, I don’t believe creativity has an expiry date either.

I can think of several “mature” authors who’ve inspired me over the years. When I was a youngster, one of my favourite books was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. She wrote this beloved children’s classic in her last decade of life, and it wasn’t published until she was 57. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote and published her first book, Little House in the Big Woods, when she was 65. Like me, she’d written for some periodicals in her fifties, but her novel writing didn’t really get off the ground until her retirement years. One author who certainly proved it’s never too late is Millard Kaufman, who published his first novel, Bowel of Cherries at age 90.

As you can see, there’s no time limit on achieving your writerly dreams. So write, write, write; edit, revise, and repeat; and stop worrying about still not having made your way through the door of that publishing house. Just relax, take your time, enjoy the ride, and never give up on your dream.

Photo Credits: Best Before Date - Nina Faye Morey; All Other Photos - Pixabay

July 15, 2018

Firsts - Tracy Krauss

You may have already heard the story of writing my first novel - a sixteen year labour of love that took me on a journey of hard knocks and rejection for another decade before PLAY IT AGAIN found a publishing home. It taught me a lot about perseverance - among other things.

My first published book, AND THE BEAT GOES ON, also had its share of rejection before finally landing a contract in 2009. I have since received the rights back and republished it under a new title - CONSPIRACY OF BONES. (Too many Sonny and Cher references!)

I wrote a post here called 'A Pivotal Point In Time' about the first play I ever wrote back when I was just a child in Grade Four and how my class ended up performing the play for the entire school. It truly was an important milestone for me as a playwright and gave me confidence, I think, in later years.

With more than twenty published books and plays and over thirty years of writing experience, there are a lot of 'firsts' that I could talk about. There is something special about the 'first' of anything - first love, first loss, first kiss... the list goes on. It's why shop owners and entrepreneurs often frame the first dollar and hang it in their establishment - not because it actually has more value than the rest, but because there is something symbolically important about the 'first'.

It is a concept that has been brought to light for me this past while as I have been researching and writing a new devotional book based on the Hebrew calendar. Throughout scripture God set aside the first of many things - people, cattle, crops, and even days, instructing His people about how to honour Him with their 'first fruits'.

Nehemiah 10:35-37a 
And in order that they might bring the first fruits of our ground and the first fruits of all the fruit of every tree to the house of the Lord annually, and bring to the house of our God the first-born of our sons and of our cattle, and of the first-born of our herds and our flocks as it is written in the law, for the priests who are ministering in the house of our God. We will also bring the first of our dough, our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the new wine and the oil to the priests at the chambers of the house of our God. (NASB)

There is something powerful about dedicating the first, be it our children, material goods, or in this case, our writing. As I pondered this principle, I decided to pray over and dedicate my 'first' books. I decided to give away all the leftover copies of the original version of AND THE BEAT GOES ON to a creation science museum since the book delves into intelligent design and creationism vs. evolution. I also made both of the two books mentioned above free in one form or another as a way to give back to God and to readers.

As new books or plays come out I pray and try to think of ways to honour God with the first of each edition - perhaps giving a copy to my church library, public library or other people I think would benefit and appreciate it. I've given about 500 copies of my little prayer book THIRTY DAYS OF TARGETED PRAYER away, most recently to a denominational conference in Vancouver. It's the 'first' prayer book I made and I hope to make more someday on various topics. I don't say this to brag or somehow make myself look overly generous. I do want to make money with my writing, especially now that I will be taking it on full time after retiring from teaching public school. But God's principles don't always make sense from a worldly view. I am beginning to understand the power of obedience, and dedicating our 'firsts' is part of that. It's why I am so excited about finding ways to honour God in this way.

As we continue to hear the stories about our writing 'firsts' may I challenge you to also think of how you can give back to God in this regard?

Tracy Krauss continues to write from her home in northern BC. Visit her website for more: tracykrauss.com   'fiction on the edge without crossing the line -

July 13, 2018

The Write and Wrong of My First Manuscript- Wendy L. Macdonald

The Write and Wrong of My First Manuscript

I don’t have a book published yet; however, I’ve written several manuscripts. My collection includes three and one-half completed novels for a mystery/romance series and a finished memoir. But none of these books are ready to be published. I’m still an author-in-training. Each book needs more critiquing—more editing.

I learned a lot about the write and wrong of the publishing world while working on my first “book.” I discovered it pays off to complete a novel before starting a new one. Completing a project builds confidence. It creates momentum that carries over to the next writing goal.

  • My first project told me I can do it.
  • My first book told me I have what it takes to commence and complete projects.

This is huge. Most people who start a book don’t finish it. My first manuscript also showed me how rewarding it is to fall in love with characters. Although they tend to create a mind of their own, it’s fun to uncover their inner conflicts and motivations for why they do--and don’t do--the things they do. 

Writing a mystery is especially fun because I don’t find out which suspect did the deed until close to the end of the first draft. And because I love sweet romances, I included this genre as an equal partner in each manuscript (Although I may have to change that in order to fit better on a particular genre's bookshelf.).

I enjoy having both my heart and mind engaged. 

The wrong I learned from my first book is I queried agents before I subjected my manuscripts to several rigorous round of critiques. Although I got three requests for a full manuscript (Wow, was I stoked.), they weren’t ready to be published. My idea was good, but my work needed … well… more work. I was invited to resubmit after I polished my projects.

And so the polishing, reading, platform building, networking, and learning have continued since then. I’m grateful for the opportunity to resubmit. I appreciate the generous tips from agents. And I’m thankful for an abundance of writing craft information available for those who desire to learn the write and wrong of how to be published. 

I'm nosy-to-know what recent lessons you've learned about the write and wrong of publishing.

Wendy L. Macdonald is an inspirational blogger and podcaster who loves to photograph nature on Vancouver Island. Her byline is: “My faith is not shallow because I’ve been rescued from the deep.” Her main website is wendylmacdonald.com where she enjoys interacting with readers.

July 12, 2018

The Path to Writing My Story - Michelle Brown

I’m scared. More scared than I’ve ever been before. The kind of fear that paralyzes you for years, that keeps you from moving forward and doing what you know you have to do. The type of fear that makes you say, "No" to God when He asks you to walk His path. It is this fear that has made me turn away from my most important belief. God first, my family and then myself. I have spent the last several years trying to compromise with God, asking for a path with less risk. It is because of this I broke my most fundamental life rule. Instead of putting God and others first, I put myself first, desperately clinging to the fear of loss.
I am so afraid of losing my husband that when God asked me to write my story, I froze. I knew God did not want me to write a pretty tale for others. He wanted me to write about the lost years. The years that I did my worst; to myself and others. All the shame and regret that went with it. He wanted the whole ugly truth. The truth that I fear will take a loving man of God who has been my constant pillar of strength for the last seven years, and change the light of love in his eyes to carry a shadow of doubt about who I am. The man I trust with my life but not my darkest secrets. I’m scared he’s going to finally know that he made a horrible mistake in marrying me.
“You are a powerful woman,” my therapist tells me in our third session. I look forward to seeing her each week, not because she gives me these grandiose ideas about myself but because she is real. She is a beautiful, daughter of God, a follower of Jesus, and she doesn’t let me lie to myself. I know why my therapist told me I am a powerful woman, but at this point, it’s only conjecture in my mind because my greatest power will be in fully complying with what God has asked of me.
I started seeing her to help me deal with the fallout of being verbally and sexually harassed at work. That was the catalyst that led me down the path to one-moment coping and the next in crisis. I had tried to cope relying on God and my husband alone to manage the stress and anxiety. It worked for a while until the moment that triggered a suicidal episode. God is big enough for everything, but he put other people on this earth for a reason; so I went to counselling.
In our first session, my therapist reiterated what the crisis counsellor had told me when I called the crisis line; I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my past which was triggered by my current situation. Through the weeks with her, we talked about my path with God, what I believe God was asking me to do and how I felt about revisiting my past. We explored my fears of losing the love of my husband. I have forgiven myself for what I contributed to my secular years. I have told my husband, the 'need to know' version over time. He knows I have a painful past, so he doesn’t ask questions, but now we come to the idea of exposing him to the details; the ugly me.
How strong is your faith? It’s an interesting question because when you are first challenged with it in God’s presence, it is often not as strong as you believed it would be. I thought my faith was strong. I have no problem when faced with trusting God quietly with my past. However, when faced with trusting my husband with a detailed account of my past, I'm having a problem. I, first hand, know how flawed humans are and what we think is unconditional love starts accumulating conditions very quickly when our biases are challenged.
You are probably wondering, why then would I write a book about this? My answer is simple. I don’t believe God has asked me to write my story to share with my husband. I believe he has asked me to write my story to share with you. There is no half-way or compromise on this. My testimony is your hope. God uses our stories of bringing us up out of the ashes to show others His promise of a new life. Only through the truth does Satan lose his hold on us.
I finally found the faith to tackle this book after my therapist asked me three questions during a session, “Do you believe that God wants you to write your story fully and completely?” Yes. “Do you believe God gave you your husband?” Yes. “Do you believe He would give you this man, after everything you’ve been through, who loves and cherishes you in such a beautiful way, and then ask you to do something that would take him away?” No.
So I began writing.
Michelle M. Brown was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada. She has a background in Marketing & Design. An avid hiker and adventure junkie she has embarked on a journey to conquer 50 adventurous activities in her 50th year. You can follow her journey at https://www.instagram.com/michelle.m.brown/

July 11, 2018

My First Book - Carol Harrison

Unlike some authors who have written a book, no matter how simple, at a young age, I only began to write my first book a dozen years ago. Prior to that I had buried my former love of writing for more years than I care to admit. I had convinced myself I could not write anything for other people to read - ever!

God had other plans and used my husband and my youngest daughter to convince me that one story in particular needed to be told and I must write it. No matter how much I argued about my lack of ability to complete such an immense project as this book, a memoir, they refused to listen.

I pulled out years of journal entries, doctor's notes and other reports. I filed them in chronological order and reread each one. I shed a few tears. I procrastinated taking another step in a project I had no confidence in knowing how to start, let alone complete. The first book lay untouched for more months. Finally, I sat at my computer and began to write. Then I deleted and tried again. I do not remember how many times I hit delete or how many tears I shed.

A good friend of mine, who knew about the book that could not get started let alone completed, heard about a one day conference for Christian Writers being held in Saskatoon. She urged me to attend. I could think of many excuses not to show up and yet I finally gave in and walked in the door. God introduced me to some amazing people that day. People like Jan Dick and Marcia Laycock. I heard about Inscribe Christian Writer's Fellowship and the local His Imprint Christian Writers group which met in Saskatoon.

I decided to continue to try to write the book. I attended the next several meetings of the local group and finally got brave enough to share my journey and how stuck I was on this book project. I even read the first few paragraphs and received some critique on them.

One of the published authors asked me to consider who my audience would be and then suggested an alternate starting point. I huffed a bit, quietly of course, about drastic changes to MY story! Then I remembered I had asked for her input. I went home, ate a few bites of humble pie and started a new document in order to begin yet again. Her ideas worked. The words began to flow.

It took many pushes from my family and friends. I had to let go of negative self-talk. Listening to and accepting the critiques of those further along the journey gave me a fresh start and wonderful insights. My first book, a memoir called Amee's Story, arrived on my doorstep one cold winter January day in 2010. God has used it to touch many people. I continue to be amazed and humbled at how he has used my reluctant efforts for His glory.

As a speaker, published author and storyteller, Carol Harrison is passionate about mentoring people of all ages and abilities to help them find their voice and reach their fullest potential. She shares from her heart, telling stories from real life experiences and God’s Word to encourage people and help them find a glimmer of hope no matter what the circumstances. She believes we need to continuously grow in our walk with God and lives out her storytelling passion by speaking at women’s events and retreats, Bible Camps as well as school assemblies and church events. Carol is a wife, mother of four adult children and grandmother to twelve. She makes her home is Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

July 10, 2018

Hidden in My Cupboard by Sharon Espeseth

Sharon's Cupboard for Unfinished Books One and Two--Google Images
Just realizing the blog theme of first and/or hidden books was scheduled for July 2018 jangled my nerves. I procrastinated. With the deadline staring me in the nostrils, I needed to come to terms with the assignment. For accountability to my writing comrades, I hereby admit that I have two unfinished books hidden in my cupboards. These books exist and are in the cupboard for posterity to discover or discard, as they so choose.

Book One is a gathering-up of family stories written in memoir fashion. Some have been published and well-received by my readers; others have not seen the light of day. Book Two is a book of devotionals for Christian writers. Perhaps those of you who have written either of these two genres could weigh in on the viability of one or the other.

Leading up to my scheduled appearance of my blog, I went into a tangent of accountability and excuses for why I haven't finished these two, or any other, books. Like many of the rest of you, I have legitimate reasons/excuses why they are not in print. But then, so, I'm sure, could others of you who have written and published any number of books.

At this point in my life--I am no longer young--I don't know if these two books, or any other books by me, will get written. That's where I begin thrashing around in my sleep. With rapid dog-paddling motions, I began the debate.

Was it other priorities that got in the way of writing, or was it other people that got in my way, or was it other people's priorities that held me back, or was it my  allowing  life to keep getting in the way? By my not being firm enough, or not determined enough, or not dedicated enough, did I let other people, other priorities, or other people's priorities control my time and efforts?

Around and around I went.

Over the years, I can relate to all of the above. But rehashing them is a moot point. Here I am in my senior years and I have much for which to be thankful. I would also be thankful, I believe, if I had books to show for my efforts, but I am thankful for my faith, my family, my friends, my computer, the sunset that is fading and reminding I should be in bed.These are the real things, whether I get them down in writing or not.

Over the decades, I've spent time with good friends. I've enjoyed sunrise and summer evenings at the farm--sometimes with my pen in hand. Sometimes not.

I've baked a lot of bread. I've grown huge and healthy gardens with my family. I've cared for my elderly parents and a few other relatives. I've stayed married to the same man for 43 years. And I'm thankful for the man he is, even if I don't agree with him all the time.

We recently celebrated 43 years of marriage

I've raised three children, adopted as infants. I loved them when they scraped their knees and when they brought me dandelions. I loved them through and beyond their teen years. Each of our kids have a big spot in my heart. I've bounced grandchildren on my knee and celebrated their "birth days" and their birthdays. . .

Our Jenny with her daughter Isabella
and her new brother Logan.
I was there to witness and then write this interesting story
for Celebrate Life Magazine.

Others of you may have done all of this and written books too, but that is your life and not mine. God made each of us as individuals and he did not mean we should compare ourselves to others. Jesus gave us a new commandment: Love your neighbour as yourself. He didn't command us to love our neighbours and measure ourselves against them.

If I sound defensive, it's only because I've been having this argument with myself for years and I want to settle it once and for all. I love the people who write books, because what would I have to read if good people didn't write the books. I have written articles and blogs and poems and so on, but I haven't tried to squeeze my thoughts, ideas and stories between two covers. So far, I am not one of those writers, but that's okay. I may some day get Book One or Book Two or Book Three written, but if I don't, that's all right too.

Right now, I am too busy living today and being myself to get all of that figured out. Like others, my husband and I are having health challenges. But we know that "God has plans for each of us, plans to give us hope and a future, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

I continue to seek the kingdom of God and what he has to teach me. I know "all these things. . ." will be given to me as well. Therefore I do not need to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own. (Matthew 6:33-34 Paraphrased by me from NIV)

A Word and a Prayer for All of Us

May each of us abide in Christ and learn that it is good to "Trust in the Lord with all (our) hearts and lean not on (our) own understanding." May we submit to God so that "he will make (our) paths straight." 
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

I thank God for his love, wisdom, guidance and promise. I thank God for "all these things." Amen

July 07, 2018

Marketing as a Ministry by Kimberly Dawn Rempel

As authors, we kind of curl our noses at marketing, don’t we? It’s a bit… cringe-inducing. Really, we just want to flourish words onto a page, plumbing the depths of mind and soul, and let that be our life’s work. Selling it though? Blech. 

Despite having loved marketing and sales since my teen years, I’ve felt this same way about my writing. I’d sold furniture in store, hocked coupons door to door, and sold carpet cleaning services over the phone with great success. I enjoyed the challenge and didn’t feel at all sleazy. When it came to selling my own writing though, it was a completely different story. Somehow it felt pushy to tell people about the new book I’d written, so I kept quiet about it and then became frustrated when people didn’t buy it. It was much easier, I found out, to promote someone else’s things than my own. (Can you relate?)

When I first learned about sales and marketing some 25 years ago, we were taught to talk about product features and trained to handle objections. To me, it felt like talking someone into submission – like with enough of a silver tongue and manipulation, we could get anyone to buy anything. This silver tongue approach served me well in all those sales jobs, but times have changed. People are desensitized to sales messages. They’re sick of being ‘sold’. We all are. Even being on the salesperson side, I was sick of that style of selling, too.

Thankfully, things are different now.

Marketing isn’t about the marketer and their slick pitch anymore. (not as much, anyway.) It’s about human connection and providing real value. As Tim Grahl, best-selling author says, “Marketing is the act of building long term connections and then being relentlessly helpful.” Not relentlessly saying, ‘buy my book’, but being relentlessly helpful. Relentlessly adding value to other people’s lives. THAT’S what brings sales.

This more authentic, human approach aligns more with who I am and how I want to live. Thank goodness it’s also the effective approach!
I’d take it one step further though, and add that marketing can actually be an act of ministry – of worship, of obedience, and of ministering to others.

My story:

I remember when I launched my first book, a poetry collection, which ended up being a poetic summary of my testimony. As I packed up supplies for my first-ever craft show and prepared to stand behind the table spread with my books, insecurity ravaged me. Who was I to think I had anything to offer? Who did I think I was, standing there, offering my book for sale? Why would anyone want a book of poems anyway?

Then I remembered something. God was the one who had given me that book to write. Whether it sold or not might not actually be the point. Maybe God had asked me to write, publish, and sell that book as an act of obedience – as a way to train me and give me practice for some future thing.
In that moment I realized God was the one who opened and closed doors, and any amount of fretting or “selling” I was going to do wasn’t the point. Trusting Him was. I decided I would approach the day, not as a time to sell books, but as a time to connect with people – to use this book (my poetic testimony) as a way to talk to people – to meet them in their hurt, to talk with them about faith and God’s faithfulness in their own journey.

As I stood in front of that table, divorced from my need to sell product, I was shocked at how openly some people were as they stopped and talked with me. They shared some of their faith journey, how God was faithful… even the pain they’d recently walked through! I listened, smiled, and said nothing about my books unless they asked. This wasn’t about books. This was about ministering to those I met.

The interesting thing was that many of the people I spoke with DID end up buying. They initiated it too.  At the end of the day, my soul was fully content, and it had nothing to do with how many book sold. It had to do with following through on the ministry of words – this ministry of writing, of which marketing is a part.

How Marketing Can Be Ministry

These days, I don’t stand behind craft tables to sell books. I connect with people online. Mostly, those connections happen in Facebook groups where my readers congregate. When I’m in there, I never talk about my books or services (unless the group host specifically invites people to do so). Remember, the goal is connection with humans – relationship. And being helpful. So I help. I’ll scan the feed to see if there’s a problem or question I can help with, and then comment with a solution. I’ll read people’s posts about struggles or victories, and chime in with empathy. Basically, I’m making friends.

Here’s the thing: As I’ve been doing that, my email list has been growing. I haven’t been marketing it or advertising it, or even talking about it. They just FIND it. It’s nearly the size of one of my other email lists that I had to work HARD to build. This one is effortless. That’s because Tim Grahl is right. It’s about human connection and being relentlessly helpful. (It’s also partly because I’ve set up my profile and page in a way that directs them to sign up when they stop by my page or profile, but that’s the more technical, preparatory stuff to save for another time and place.) 

The results have been wonderful. I’ve met lovely people who encourage and teach me through their own groups and writing. I’ve been invited to speak at a conference, offered guest posts, and have had multiple collaborative opportunities because of these connections. Likewise, others have also been encouraged and helped by me and have become friends. The natural progression is toward deeper relationship – they join in my free offers, and I keep making content and products that continue to help them. Some are free, some are paid.  

Sure, I want sales. We all do. But sales and marketing isn’t about hocking goods and making a buck. It’s about helping real humans with real problems.

And isn’t that why we write a book in the first place? To encourage? To help? To connect our heart to another’s?  

If you’re like I was, cringing at the thought of hocking my books, I want to encourage you – it is much more meaningful than that.  

Your story was a gift from God, and the writing of it an assignment from Him and for His glory.
But who will hear if there’s no one to tell them?  People need to know your powerful story. Talking with others about it  – sharing it with them and meeting them in their own story – this is the connection we make for Him. This is the ministry of our life, our story, and our words.

Anything is possible with God – even learning how to market your books in a way that impacts lives both by connection with you and the actual reading of your book.

Kimberly Dawn Rempel helps authors and entrepreneurs build their business and their faith through 1:1 coaching, editing, and book marketing.  Click here to Download her free guide, 14 Ways to Leverage Your Book  or join her Facebook Group, Marketing-Savvy Authorpreneurs HERE to learn more about audience building and effective book marketing.

July 05, 2018

My Reading Life: A Review by Brenda Leyland

by Pat Conroy (1945 - 2016)

2010. Published by Nan A. Talese / Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., New York and in Canada by Random House of Canada, Toronto.

In his memoir, American novelist Pat Conroy shares the story of his lifelong love for reading. He writes about the books that changed his life, and he introduces readers to the people who made the greatest impact on him as a budding author. It was his southern-bred mother who ignited his great love for words and his passion for books. She started reading aloud to him when he was a boy—volumes of the world's great literature, including her personal favourite novel, the timeless Gone with the Wind.

Mr. Conroy's essays, rich with description and emotion are, in fact, wildly wordy. Many an editor would be frantic for him to edit his many effusive words and exchange them for simple, lean ones, but Conroy seems to be in his element, and more to the point, he knows how to make all those words work for him. His grand use of words makes me think of the Baroque era, a time when artists, musicians, and architects embellished their creative work with flourishes, swirls, and ornamentation. Perhaps he was influenced by that era in some way. Or, perhaps it was all the Russian books he loved to read—War and Peace by Tolstoy, to name just one—for we all know how thick with description that book is.

Wordy or not, the memoir is compelling to read. I love it because:
  • It’s personal and intimate. It's sometimes poignant—when he gives hints of his childhood with his violent military father; and sometimes humorous—when he describes himself shooting through river rapids in a canoe with his favourite poet. Although I haven't read anything else by Mr. Conroy, I felt a strong connection to him—he'd be an author I'd want to meet in person. Saddened, therefore, was I to learn that the man passed away a couple of years ago. 
  • The language is rich with imagery and salty with honesty. I am lured time and again to favourite lines just to experience their beauty, savouring them on my tongue like dessert. I copied these lines into my quotations notebook:
“I grew up a word-haunted boy. I felt words inside me and stored them wondrous as pearls. I mouthed them and fingered them and rolled them around my tongue … The precise naming of things served as my entryway into art. The whole world could be sounded out. I could arrange each day into a tear sheet of music composed of words as pretty as flutes or the tail feathers of peacocks.” p. 84
  • The author has named dropped quite a few titles and authors, both familiar and unfamiliar to me. If someone likes to glean from the reading lists of other writers, this book is sure to make eyes light up with the numerous reading possibilities.
  • It's a nice fit, size-wise. I know this isn’t why a person should recommend a book, but this lovely hardcover copy slips nicely into a carry all bag or a large coat pocket to take along for coffee shop reading.
Pat Conroy has written several bestselling novels as well as other memoirs and non-fiction, including A Lowcountry Heart, Reflections on a Writing Life (2016).

A long-time InScribe member, Brenda Leyland writes from her home in Sherwood Park, Alberta. She also blogs at It's A Beautiful Life

July 04, 2018

Stories My Grandmother Told Me by Susan Barclay

I've been writing stories and songs ever since I can remember. My grandmother was an excellent storyteller and I recall publishing a "book" for my elementary school library somewhere in the grade 4-6 period. I titled it "Stories My Grandmother Told Me" and it was put together on laminated paper and bound with a yellow spiral. It included a pocket for the check-out card. Those were the days of low technology!

My book included stories about my grandmother's Newfoundland dog, Major, who rescued her on two occasions. Once when she was little, she fell into a brook and the dog hauled her out; another time she almost sat on a snake while blueberry picking and Major shook the snake until it died. Another story tells of the time the family's house caught fire and her grandmother threw furniture out of the upstairs window. Grandma lived a pretty thrilling life.

It was so exciting when students checked my book out of the library and told me how much they enjoyed it. Even better when they said they hoped I would write a sequel. I told my grandmother that I would write more about her life when I "grew up" and sadly, I still haven't done so.

No doubt just about to launch into another story :)

I recently lost all the revised files of my first novel. Yeah, I know - back up your back-ups. Thankfully, I found earlier versions and have been able to piece it back together with a gap here and an overlap there. A lot more work lies ahead in the revision process. Hopefully, like Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (dare I mention them in the same breath?), it will be better for the loss.

In the meanwhile, maybe it's time for a break. Maybe I should work on my grandmother's story and keep my promise to her... What do you think, dear readers?

July 01, 2018

An Author’s First Book by Sandi Somers

Many people have dreamed of writing a book.

Author Madeleine L’Engle said she wrote her first book when she was five years old, a book called, “Gurl.” 

Margaret Atwood’ first was a book of poems, Double Persephone, written when she was twenty-one. She hand-bound copies and sold the books herself, winning the E. J. Pratt Medal. (Recently I checked Amazon to see if any copies were still available: a signed copy was listed at US $4,000, or $5,136 Canadian.)
 I began my dream in high school, with as-yet unformed ideas about what to write and how I would go about it.
Then in my twenties I was ministry support teacher in Colombia. I kept a journal and copies of my letters to family, supporters and friends, with the intent to someday write my memoir.
Some years later I selected a highlight—an extended trip through Colombia--and wrote a small book. It was modest; I photocopied it for my mom, a few close friends and my missionary companion that Christmas. (Success!!)
Still later I attempted writing the whole memoir.
I started well, with chapters of God’s confirmation to go, my first days, the culture shock. But then I got bogged down.
I got bogged down with complexities and interpersonal difficulties I saw on our mission station. How could I bring in realism but show compassion and understanding—or could I even write about them? Then I read about myself as a timid young woman facing tough issues (some issues that in retrospect have obvious solutions). How could I expose my vulnerabilities?  Or could I?
Annie Dillard, an American Pulitzer Prize winner, said that, “a work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight.” How true!
When you cannot go on, she said, you’ve discovered a fatal flaw.
Perhaps it’s the structure, or perhaps the logic has a hairline fracture that will shortly split up the middle. “If you pursue your present course, the book will explode or collapse.”
The book collapsed and I stopped writing.
What would I do if I were to pick up and complete that book? (Writing this blog post has been a wonderful diagnosis!)

Decide on a focus. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian literary giant,  put it so clearly: “What is the question that this book asks?” In other words, what is the focus, the theme? I had so many new and different experiences in Colombia; I would need to narrow my story to bring in unity.
Ask: Who is my audience? Answering that question would help to clarify my focus. My family? People wanting to gain an understanding of living cross-culturally? Those wanting to understand a young woman’s psychological and spiritual journey? Those wanting to understand missionary life?
Choose the sharpest and most essential events, Solzhenitsyn said. Of course! They’re the highlights within the focus. Some memoir instructors said to start with ten highlights, and the structure will gradually take place.
Edit and revise what I’ve written. As an unknown author said, “Just take one article and begin again.”
Get feedback: from beta readers, from my writing group, from writers in residences, from contest critiques. Perhaps I could still benefit by taking an online course in writing memoirs.
Publish some chapters. (Which I’ve begun doing). Some chapters can stand alone, and publishing would be a great incentive to keep going.
Be patient and persistent. A number of authors have said that it takes two to ten years to complete a book. The gift of determined plodding would be an asset here.

Will I ever complete that book? I don’t know. But this summer I’m taking time to pray and wait before God for His way forward in my writing.
          “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps”
                                (Proverbs 16:9 NLT).

* * *
Now it’s your turn.
Tell us about your first book. Was it a childhood project like Madeleine L’Engle’s? Was it a book you published, and if so, what success did it bring you?  On the other hand, maybe your first book is in folders in your computer. Or sitting in a closet under a pile of other items. Or in a landfill. Perhaps your first book is still a dream.  Or maybe you haven’t dared to dream—yet.

      Whatever your story, tell us about it.