April 30, 2014

Writing Wishes by Susan Barclay

My family has used up our Internet usage for the month, so I am writing this at the library, just a few hours before the post would be overdue and less than an hour before the facility closes. This should be blessedly short.

The question posed this month has to do with what we want to accomplish through our writing. This is my hope:
First, that I connect with my readers. That I create characters they can relate to and write stories that are relevant to their lives.
I hope also to make them think. I want them to finish the book, story, or poem, not just to move on to the next piece of reading, but to reflect on what they have read, to consider its message more deeply and to think about what might happen if the story didn't end there.  
I want readers to feel something. Pleasure is good, but discomfort can be good too. It depends on the purpose of the particular story. Some writing is mere escapism, to relieve stress and provide delight in its stead. Other writing is meant to evoke a change in perspective or encourage action.
I hope readers are left wanting more. Whether more of those particular characters, that particular story, or other work I've created... If my work is good, they'll want to read it again and again and share it with their friends. I do want my work to build a readership. 
Mostly, though, I want my work to please an audience of One; the One who predisposed me to write. If I succeed in doing that, I'll be satisfied.
And on that brief note, I must go. But I'd love it if you stopped by my regular blog and checked out the writerly wisdom I shared during April's A-Z Blogging Challenge. 26 tips  from a variety of published authors. You can't go wrong!


April 29, 2014

Writing so that . . . by Ruth L. Snyder

I'm currently participating in an online Bible study from Proverbs 31 Ministries. We are studying Scripture using Wendy Blight's book, Living So That. She explains:
". . . our lives should not be self-centered and static; rather, they should be others-centered and active, making a difference for the kingdom of God."
"The authors of Scripture . . . intentionally chose to use these two words to connect a truth of Scripture to a practical application of that truth. They used them to bring truth alive and make it relevant and applicable to our everyday lives."
This month we've been encouraged to think about what we want our writing to make happen inside our readers. This is one of those questions where there is no right or wrong answer. Each of us as writers is unique with particular giftings from God.
  • Some are "prophets" - called to point out and correct error
  • Some are "teachers" - called to help others understand God's truth
  • Some are "helpers" - called to come alongside others
  • Some are called to hospitality - called to make others feel comfortable 
And the list goes on (See I Corinthians 12).

As I thought about my writing and how I want it to affect my readers, I realized that no matter what type of writing I'm doing, whether memoir, fiction, devotional, creative non-fiction, etc., I want my writing to evoke emotion. Readers become engaged when their emotions are involved.

I also want my writing to effect change in the reader. This change could be as simple as giving the reader a good chuckle or as complicated as shifting the reader's world view. When I write, I want to be intentional, not haphazard. Mary DeMuth sums it up well:
"I'm on this world to write words that change people."
I am writing, so that my readers are engaged and moved to change. These are lofty goals, but I remind myself that I'm employed by the King of Kings and empowered by the Holy Spirit. I dare not aim for anything less than the best. 

What do you want your writing to do?

For more information about Ruth L. Snyder and her writing, visit http://ruthlsnyder.com

April 27, 2014

Give Them What? By Ruth Sakstad

What do I want my writing to make happen inside my readers? That is a very good question.

I want my readers to come away with similar things that I want whenever I read a book, essay, or devotional. I want them to find hope and encouragement. Heaven forbid that my writing causes someone to feel discouraged or hopeless after reading something I have written.

I also want my future novel readers to feel satisfied that they have read a good story and would like to read more.

I would also like it if my readers are challenged by my writing.

Lately I have been reading some new authors and the thing that makes me want to read more of their work is because they have given me hope, encouragement or they have satisfied me with a good well rounded story. They have given me hope that I can do the same thing for my readers. They have encouraged me to take those sometimes hard and challenging steps into the unknown.

I have learned that life is too short to read crappy writing. Therefore if I want people to read my stuff, I have to give them quality. Not necessarily quantity.

April 25, 2014

Do you see what I see? by Vickie Stam

I'm a people watcher. I notice some of the simplest things. I appreciate people's strengths and weaknesses. I pay close attention to their likes and dislikes..... I want to know what makes them tick.

I find it incredible when I walk by someone on the street and notice their appearance shares a striking resemblance to that of a friend or family member, someone I know well. I feel as though I have just seen that person's "twin." Curious, I can't help but turn on my heels and watch as they go about their business unaware that I am fascinated by them. My mind immediately begins putting together mental notes of further similarities.

I consider their smile and how contagious it felt, the way they stepped over every crack in the pavement, careful not to land on it or how their baseball cap rested on their head; its beak looking back as if to bid me farewell. Eventually I turn and continue walking unable to let go of the images that flood my mind. The likeness is so astonishing, I shiver.

Their outward appearance is indeed eye-catching and I wonder if it's possible for them to share the same accord on the inside as that of the person they reflect.

Why not? Are not all things possible with God?

If you're a writer like me you might find yourself somewhat more intrigued by such similarities. Do questions chase your thoughts long after the person has disappeared?

Do find yourself wondering if they are someone overflowing with joy and happiness in all circumstances or are they consumed by pain and suffering, struggling from one day to the next, desperate to overcome the very thing that weighs them down?

It's not always necessary for such questions to be raised simply by a reminder of someone we know. People all over the world are living examples of joy and suffering. Their lives are captivating; everyone with a story to share.

The bible teaches us to live by the Spirit possessing character traits we know as fruits of the Spirit, such as....love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All of these attributes make for a heart-warming tale.

Yet, if I'm honest I would have to admit there are times when it feels like a tall order. I don't want to be kind. I'm impatient with the situation at hand and I can't always find joy in the midst of tears. But God didn't promise a life without trials. Certainly I'm not alone. The truth is.....if we make known our experiences we will most likely assist in someone's healing process, maybe turn a frown into a smile or sustain someone's laughter a little while longer.

I hope my writing exposes the everyday occurrences that transpire in life revealing the highs and lows that undoubtedly shape our character, show where we've been on our journey and explore where it is we plan to go.

God wants us to rejoice always and in all circumstances.....but it's not always easy. Isn't it wonderful to know that we are not alone! Someone out there has walked that familiar path, cried those same tears, and reminded us that a smile can be contagious.

I want my readers to know that no matter what we look like, where we've been or where we're going, we can do it with the help of God who walks beside us and along the way places people in our path who have gone there before us.
1 Thessalonians 5:11  "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."
When we're ready to share our story.....someone is longing to hear it.

April 24, 2014

Work in Progress by Lynn Dove

567532_14597581-prn01_lzI while ago, a fellow Inscribe writer asked during a blog hop about my current work in progress.  This was my answer:

I don't have a current work in progress...I AM the work in progress!

This past year I've learned that there is so much more to being a writer than actually writing. Did I actually say that? It's true.

In 2010 and the three years that followed, all I thought about was writing and publishing my Wounded Trilogy books. I was so all consumed with that project I forgot I had a family who needed my attention more than my novel needed another edit. I forgot that I needed to eat and get much needed sleep...instead of the unhealthy snacks I munched on while I tap tapped on the keyboard in the wee hours of the morning, causing my son much grief because my office was right next to his bedroom. If I didn't sleep, he didn't either. Sorry Brett. I forgot that I had a life away from a computer.

I stopped volunteering. I stopped going to Bible Studies. I stopped being productive in anything else except what I was accomplishing on my manuscripts. I loved what I was doing but at what cost?

So this past year, I have made a concerted effort to NOT take on another book project. I blog. It's fun, it's rewarding and though at times time-consuming, I'm on my own deadline and I write when I can (and not in the middle of the night) and I try not to create pressure upon myself to meet certain deadlines. It's been wonderful to write about what I'm truly passionate about: my faith and my family!

This past year:
  • I've hugged on my grandbabies...a lot!
  • I've spent quality time going on shopping trips and lunch dates with my children.
  • I've talked to my husband and not laced every conversation with wanting his input on another plot line or character development for another one of my stories. I've enjoyed our being empty nesters and going away on trips together and going "media free" and not being guilty about not connecting and marketing every day on social media.
  • I've gone back to teaching Junior High, and spending time with students who challenge me and bless me every single day in the classroom.

So, I AM my current work in progress. Oh, I still write, but I'm not making it the priority this year. I have to keep working on this current project (me) a little longer.

Lynn is a 5X contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul books.  She enjoys connecting on her award-winning blog: Journey Thoughts, Facebook and Twitter.

April 23, 2014

Welcome Home by Terrie Lynne

As you open the cabin door you're welcomed by the aroma of freshly baked cinnamon buns. It's like love is in the air. Your mouth begins to water as you anticipate that first bite.

You quickly remove your heavy backpack and jacket, sighing with relief from the burden that carrying all that weight has had on you. As you move to the centre of the room your eyes are captivated by the flames as they dance and flicker in the fireplace. The warmth from the glowing embers draws you closer.

You snuggle into your favourite  chair under a  soft  warm blanket. You reach over and take a  sip from a cup of steaming hot chocolate. It has never tasted so good.

Suddenly you hear that familiar voice, bringing comfort to your tired and weary heart.  The voice of love.  Your eyes fill with tears as you know you are finally in a safe place. You are home, and all is well with your soul.

I hope you enjoyed my posting. I thought I would just write the style of writing that I enjoy doing most. It's with the hope that I took you to a place that touched all of your senses and spoke into your heart. I believe it is said that if we can attach an emotion or feeling to what we are reading it settles into our heart a little easier. The Bible is filled with many scriptures that have this impact on us. My hope is that I can bring encouragement to a lost and hurting world by using this form of writing.

Pictures courtesy photostock.com

April 22, 2014

Persisting In Sending Out The Lord’s Message by Melanie Fischer


Today we are delighted to welcome InScribe member Melanie Fischer as our Guest Blogger.

A dandelion is immensely more than a pesky weed; it is a grand lesson in persistence. This wildflower possess soft petals and unique beauty in its young flowering state. When it matures though, its sole purpose is to get its message (its seeds) out.

When push comes to shove, the dandelion does not take “no” for an answer. Even when mowed down and raked into a heap of grass and other weeds, the dandelion persists to seed. When a breeze sweeps over the withering plant, the wind grasps the seeds and carries them away. New dandelions then sprout wherever they have found fertile ground.

This reminds me of when Paul was in jail. Even when bound in chains, he did not cease to spread the Lord's message.

“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” Ephesians 6:19, 20 (NIV).

Paul persistently sent the words out, and because he did, we continue to read those letters today. Even though the messenger Paul eventually perished, the message never did.

Persist in sending out the message that the Lord has placed in your hearts, on your tongues, in your pens and on your computer screens. Press “send”.

Melanie Fischer is fresh out of the published gate, releasing her works into the world. She is a writer - story telling style, blogger and teacher of technologies behind getting the Lord’s message out. You can visit her website at www.hungryforpurpose.com or follow her blog at www.hungryforpurpose.com/blog

Photos source:  Melanie Fischer and Ashley Fischer


April 20, 2014

Hope Springs Another Leak by Jocelyn Faire

What do you want your books/writings to make happen inside your readers?
I want my writing to bring a sense of hope to people.

Is Hope more than wishful thinking? ... more than the carrot dangled? ... Is it more than waiting for spring to arrive after the long winter?

The dictionary defines hope as: the state which promotes the desire of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one's life or in the world at large.

This past Tuesday the news on the TV screen at the Winnipeg airport, while I waited for my flight to Calgary, exploded with the story of five young people stabbed to death at an end of term university party.

Shock, disbelief!

The city of Calgary's worst mass murder ever.

The grey clouds of mourning have hung over the news, the city and the skies. One more tragic read for the masses, but a lifetime of dashed hopes for the families and close friends of all those involved, victims and perpetrator.

Where are the spring flowers for this situation? Delayed, due to an extension of winter.

The heaviness of the loss of a child had been with me as I went to sleep, and the clock radio woke me to a strange mixture of music. In the one ear I could hear the Third Day song, Nothing Compares, and just below that a rap artist was going on about the strife, misery and hate that seems a frequent topic of rap. The mixture confused me momentarily as I had not knowingly set my alarm. Then as I recognized the first song, I thought it was brilliant—the words of hope, of the greater good written/sung over top the disappointment in life. And then I realized it was actually a tuning issue ... I was on the airwave border of two radio stations that were competing to outshout each other. What an image of what happens every day. Listen to the news at night and we can get the overwhelming sense of despair ... watch the National Geographic or Discovery channel and I sense awe as I view the incredible beauty and strength of whales breaching in the ocean, remote mountain vistas at sunset, or time lapse photography of flowers unfolding.

Simone Weil has said that there are two things that pierce the heart, beauty and affliction.

Restated as moments we wish would last forever, and those we wish had never begun.

This is the Easter weekend, and this is the ultimate story of the resurrection of hope over the sorrow of death.

The promise of new life erupting after the long winter.

May it be so for the families in sorrow.

Meanwhile, I await the return of the crocuses as the reminder of spring and hope.

Here is the link to the Third Day song that played. I didn't recognize the rap song, so I cannot give you that link—you can play it over your own selection of disappointment.

Jocelyn blogs about hope in the hard places at Who Is Talking. She is the author of the book Who is Talking Out of My Head? Grief as an out of Body Experience, available online and through Amazon.

April 19, 2014

Murphy's Law to Peniel - by Linda Aleta Tame

It all started in the airport in Minot, N.D.  My flight to Phoenix was leaving at 9:30 p.m., but I arrived five hours early (long story).  I had my MacBook Pro with me, so I had something to do during my wait.  Check-in staff assured me I'd find a snack shop in the gate area, so I went through customs clearance, found a quiet spot for myself and settled in.

A couple hours later, my MacBook was running out of battery, there was nowhere to plug it in and I was hungry.  I was dismayed to discover the snack shop closed precisely fifteen minutes earlier.  Surely I'd find a vending machine, I thought, but no, there was only a drink machine which would not accept my U.S. bills.  I gave my most pleading expression to the customs officer to request change, or maybe a quick return to the check-in area where I could see machines brimming with sandwiches and chips, but that was not going to happen.  Okay, I thought, this is a First World problem.  I will survive.  Water will be served on the flight.  I finally got up to board the delayed flight at 11:00 p.m., and it was then I saw the plug-in for my MacBook, a few hours too late.

I'm learning that what once were expectations, should now be considered wishes or better, prayer requests.  The flight attendant said, "Two dollars."  With my eyes fixed on the water bottle, I handed her my U.S. bills.  "We don't accept cash," she responded, so I decided to thirst and hunger another three and half hours, because my debit/credit card was in the overhead compartment. After finally arriving in warm beautiful Phoenix, I recovered with a light snack, water and sleeping, but perhaps from the hours of sitting or the twenty hours of sleeping, I now had a severe stabbing pain in my hip.

Okay, Lord, I think you're trying to get my attention, I thought.  I took my green juice out to the patio, and relaxed into the embrace of my heavenly Father.  What's going on, I asked?  The first thought that came to me was Jacob in Genesis 32:22-32.  Jacob, who wrestled with an angel, Jacob whose hip was badly wrenched.  In verse 31, he received a new walk.  As Edward K. Pousson says in his article Bethel to Peniel, "Nobody struts into the Kingdom."  In verse 28, Jacob received a new name, a new identity.  He was transformed from Jacob to Israel, from "just me" to "commUNITY."  Also in verse 31, when the sun rose upon him, he received a new day, a new beginning.  All this newness in a time of loneliness and discomfort, and Jacob named the place of his transformation "Peniel," which means "face to face with God."

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Eugene Delacroix
Image from Free Christ Images
The following Sunday, I found a wonderful church near our home in Phoenix.  It's called "New Life!"  I love how God works, don't you?

It's hard to put into words how much these thoughts meant to me.  It wasn't because of my unfortunate airport and flight experience, or because of my painful hip.  Those were only preparatory for my encouraging Peniel encounter.  The significance was that my spirit was longing to hear from the One who makes all the difference in my life. My spirit was longing for fresh revelation, for transformation.  I've written before about my long dark journey, a time of introspection, reflection and spiritual bewilderment.  The emerging process seems long too, but it's so rich and valuable.  It's essential. 

Reading about Jacob in Bethel to Peniel by Edward K. Pousson gave me incredible comfort, inspiration and hope.  I hope you'll read it too.

April 17, 2014

The Primary Fact of Life by Bryan Norford

One revelation, the most obvious and natural fact of earthly life, has taken me a lifetime to discover. Unfortunately, my fallen nature can be as impenetrable as the ocean depths to an enlightening Spirit.

The most formative question about life is about God: is He or isn’t He? If He is and created us, then we will give account for how we have lived. Conscience—which we can manipulate or stifle—and His Word—which we may ignore or trash—warn us of our obligation to Him.

Without God, no rules, justice, order or love exist. It leaves a void for personal opinion and ambition. This fractures humankind and leads to the human chaos that history records and we observe. The sense that humans can and will overcome their fallen nature Is the principal lie of earth’s existence.

If my mind is dark, how much darker is the mind that conceives of humanity rising from its moral anarchy by its own efforts. William Ernest Henley’s words ending Invictus, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul,” meant to portray the ascendancy of the human spirit, also condemn us.

Those words, sung by a few with ability to overcome obstacles—at least for a time—are daily mourned by billions who find no hope from oppression, poverty, and disease. The human spirit can endure so much, but cannot cope alone with adversity.

Augustine penned the obvious answer “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Pascal confirmed: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”

So here is the basic idea about life that has recently become meaningful to me:

The most natural and imperative way of life is to walk through it with our Creator.

Anything less is the world’s greatest folly.

April 15, 2014

Confirming Purpose - Tracy Krauss

Many of this month's posts have focused on 'purpose' - what we want our readers to take away after reading something we have written. I found Shirley S. Tye's post 'Writing In the Nude' especially thought provoking. Putting your writing out there for all to see is a lot like exposing yourself. It's scary, uncomfortable, and even embarrassing at times. A sense of inadequacy accompanies the excitement, and inevitably, no matter how polished you thought that manuscript was, you wish you could 'make it better' once it's been put out there for all to see.

Several novels and plays later, I still feel inadequate. Then why put myself through all the hard work and stress? Simple. God has given me a desire to write.

I have learned that one of the worst things I can do is compare myself to others. I'm not talking about learning from others. This is a good thing and we all have room to grow. I mean the comparison game that leaves one feeling envious. Connie Inglis addressed this well in her post 'Sehnsucht'. Even Christian writers are not immune to the green-eyed monster. It takes purposeful prayer to eliminate these feelings of envy so that we can truly rejoice with our brothers' and sisters' successes. It also takes reliance on the Holy Spirit to rest in the fact that God also has a plan for me and my writing, separate, and different from what He may have in mind for someone else.

I write fiction. I'm not that interested in writing devotionals or other non-fiction, and I usually don't feel apologetic for that. (I did self publish a devotional recently called 'Life is a Highway' based on a series of speeches I gave at a women's retreat.) I was pleasantly surprised when a reader contacted me and told me she could identify with some of the things I said. I also got a personal card in the mail thanking me for my children's book 'The Sleepytown Express', saying how it touched her heart and reminded her of her own childhood memories. Cool. Truthfully, however, I don't plan on illustrating any more kids books or writing any more devotionals.

Like I said, my passion is to write fiction. I believe fiction can be a powerful tool and can profoundly affect people, just the way non-fiction can. Sometimes I feel like what I write is drivel, however, compared to what others are writing. My books lean heavily on the romantic side of things, (even though I insist that I am not a romantic!) This is why positive responses from readers of my fictional work is so encouraging. Even seemingly simple comments on facebook or elsewhere can be hugely validating.

One of my favorite examples happened several months ago, before Christmas. My daughter had lent my book MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER to one of her colleagues. (Just as a side note, the book is quite long and in retrospect, I see lots of things I would like to change...) In any case, her co-worker was touched by Joleen's story because she also had a less than perfect past. She wanted her own copy and also bought one for her sister-in-law who was not a Christian, but whom she thought might also be able to relate to the 'realism' of the characters.

These are the kinds of responses that give me confidence; that confirm I am writing in God's will. I don't need to become a New York Times best seller (although this would be nice) and I don't need every reader's approval. I just need to continue to write what I feel God is calling me to write and let Him do the rest.

Tracy Krauss is a multi-published author and playwright living in Tumbler Ridge, BC. Visit her website for more details. tracykrauss.com

April 14, 2014

Scent-Free Writing - Pam Mytroen

What I want my readers to feel

I have been known to get so caught up in a movie that I will yell out loud in the theatre. I have squeezed my popcorn bucket and hollered at Liam Neeson, "Get out! Get out of the car!” and fervently screamed "Please, please grab the gun!" 

Both times I noticed my teens had left the theatre before the lights came back up. So, naturally, when I first began writing I felt my mission was to evoke a dramatic response from my readers. They would pull kleenex after kleenex from the box and stuff their fist in their mouth to stop the sobbing.  They would sit back in their chair and shake their heads in awe at my finely crafted pieces.  

After a few published articles I waited for my inbox to fill with notes of thanks, or for the phone to ring. Thankfully I had four children to take care of so I got yanked back to reality pretty fast. Granted, three people did say a very quick thank you for my writing when I spotted them at the local drugstore, after I trapped them with my shopping cart in the "Depends" section. One lady even said that without my writing in the paper, it was not worth reading. (I have a feeling that she yells in theatres and spills her popcorn too). But most people didn’t even know I was writing. In fact, they are still surprised when they discover that I have articles and stories published. Hmmm . . . not exactly the soulful applause I had hoped for. 

Then one day something happened that changed my approach to writing. I still have the scar. I had opened the file of an interview I had written, wanting to remind myself of my outstanding talent, and pat myself on the back again. I hadn’t finished reading the first 3 lines before I was so moved I nearly bit my lip in half to stop the tears. Between sobs I mumbled, "I can’t believe I wrote this garbage!” In my attempt to impress, to draw a tear, I had layered heavily perfumed phrases, one on top of the other. In today’s world, my writing would not have been allowed in most public buildings due to allergies and sensitivities. People would have had to bring their nasal spray along every time they read my stuff to clear the sinus headaches and stuffy noses. Purple prose, I believe it’s called, had so clouded my writing that even if my readers had cried from the sheer beauty, the most they would have benefitted was an olfactory catharsis.

These days what I want my reader to feel is connection. Just to understand what I’m trying to say. I go for the simple wording when possible, and leave the lotions and perfumes in the desk drawer.

I’m happy with a much more sedated response now. A nod of the head is sufficient, a moment of enlightenment, or a resolve to make a small change in their lives. Oh I suppose I wouldn’t protest if they did a spin in their computer chair or even enjoyed a chuckle or two. A scene I like to imagine from my readers, instead of sneezing off the perfumed-prose, is to see them lifting their hands in praise to a majestic Creator or bowing their knee to an amazing Savior.  I don't corner people anymore with my shopping cart, but I wouldn't object either if they yelled out loud and spilled their popcorn while reading my writing. It sure would be nice, though,  if they sent an email to let me know, because after all, my children are grown now and I have time to sit all day waiting for the "ding" in my inbox. 

Pam Mytroen


April 13, 2014

Time By T. L. Wiens

I wish I could say I have something amazing to share with you—some insight about writing that would touch your heart. I don’t.

Instead I am exhausted and my mind is on my maternity ward in my barn. We’re lambing on one end and calving on the other.

I’ve spent the last couple of months assisting in the planning of His Imprint Writer’s Conference. There’s been exciting times updating the website, creating brochures and posters, answering questions that come in…whatever comes my way.

When I’m not doing that, I’m helping my daughter with her tea company, Jenna’s Steapin Party. Did you know every tea has a story? I’ve finally finished putting together the tea half of the catalogue.

There is still the trucking company we run and the editing I do to take up any spare time. And of course, my granddaughter. She can override the needs of all the above.

Time—it’s always my enemy when it comes to my writing.

April 12, 2014

Eaten Off the Premises by Lorrie Orr

Takeaway: (food) eaten off the premises

Writing for myself is like eating a meal alone in front of the television. I choose what to eat, when to eat, and the channel I watch. I might slurp my soup. I'm the only one who directly benefits. It's satisfying, but doesn't fill anyone else.   

Writing for others is like preparing a dinner party. I think about the needs of my guests. This one can't tolerate gluten. That one hates cheese. Dinner party preparation is, for me, like writing a poem. This element balances this one. A surprise is thrown in here. Flavours meld into a cohesive whole. Flowers, candles and linens add to the atmosphere. Conversation flows. Guests push away from the table satisfied. Sometimes I'm asked to share a recipe. Perhaps a guest ponders a bit of conversation later in the car. 

During 20 plus years of mission work in Ecuador, I wrote many, many news/prayer letters. Before sitting down to write one, I'd imagine writing a letter to one person, usually a friend. Then I'd think about what I wanted that person to take away from my letter. I wanted my reader to be encouraged about God's activity in another part of the world, to know that I appreciated the prayer and financial support we received, to be inspired to pray, and to have a new realization of God's faithfulness.

I currently write a "slice-of-life" blog. Here I share bits of beauty and creativity, recipes, thoughts on life, and whatever comes to mind. It's not overtly faith-based, although most of my readers will gather that I am a woman of faith after reading for awhile. What I want my reader to take away from that blog is to cherish the small moments of life, to see the beauty in every day, and to be inspired to create beauty in her own life. 

I want to engage my reader to not merely read and leave, but to take away something for them. When I write for others, my questions are:
"What's in it for them?" 
"How can this help encourage, inspire, comfort?"
"What feeling will she be left with?"

Other ideas for take away value might include:

* links to resources...(creativity, writing, food, sewing, fashion, faith)
* to make someone laugh
* to learn something new
* to not feel alone - someone else has been where you are now
* how to....(write an outline, embroider a monogram, submit to a publisher)
* motivation to get up and do something...(take a walk, start a book, write a letter0

Ask yourself what you can put into your writing that will spark the appetite like olives, refresh like lemon sorbet, satisfy like roast chicken or linger sweetly like chocolate? What's the takeaway to be savoured when "off the premises?"


April 11, 2014

Sehnsucht by Connie Inglis

A few weeks ago, when I initially pondered the question posed for this month, I thought of some noble reasons for my purpose in writing. But when I really searched my soul I realized that my main reason wasn't lofty at all. The green-eyed monster of jealousy was gnawing on my heart and mind--that desire to be recognized like some of you have been recently--that desire for my readers to pat me on the back and say, "Well done" or, "Wow. You are talented." It was all about me. Ugh! I thought I had dealt with those feelings when I started to take my writing more seriously. So I was not only feeling "ugh" but also ugly. I had to go to the foot of the cross and confess that selfish junk to Jesus once again.

The Holy Spirit brings sin to mind but the beauty is that once it is confessed, He brings comfort and assurance and peace. In this case, He reminded me of what I seek as a reader. I seek sehnsucht--a word I just "happened" to come across a week ago. It was an epiphany moment because it was the word I was looking for to write this blog entry.

According to other-wordly.tumblr.com, sehnsucht is "the inconsolable longing in the human heart for we know not what; a yearning for a far, familiar, non-earthly land one can identify as one's home." Ecclesiastes refers to it as, "eternity in the hearts of man." (Eccl. 3:11) God has placed a longing within the human heart to be seeking someone or something outside of the physical world we live in--a longing only He can fill. I want my writing to cause the reader to feel that longing for something more. For the believer I want them to get a fresh glimpse of God and future hope that leads them to thanksgiving. For the unbeliever, I want them to see God's goodness and grace and beauty so that it will lead them to search for God and that land He promises for them.

Sehnsucht was particularly significant to C.S. Lewis. In the afterword to the third edition of The Pilgrim's Regress he describes sehnsucht as:

"That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World's End, the opening lines of "Kubla Khan", the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves."
I think you all know what he's talking about. Maybe that's why his works lead the reader to sehnsucht, at least they do for me. I'm not just referring to his theological books. It's The Chronicles of Narnia, his Space Trilogy and his allegorical works that speak more deeply to my heart and soul; they call me to that "other" world, proving that the Christian message doesn't need to be blatantly stated to move a person.
In his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning put it this way:

“Grace abounds in contemporary movies, books, novels, films and music. If God is not in the whirlwind, He may be in a Woody Allen film, or a Bruce Springsteen concert. Most people understand imagery and symbol better than doctrine and dogma. Images touch hearts and awaken imaginations."

I agree with Manning, especially when it comes to music. I can worship God as much through a song by The Who or Leonard Cohen as a song by Chris Tomlin. There is something "other-worldly" about music. It beckons us to seek the Creator of the universe.

Yesterday I was driving home to Edmonton from Calgary. I was listening to Gungor's, "Ghosts upon the Earth" album. I find that sole road trips, with just me and my music, lead me to sehnsucht. This whole album did that for me. I was overwhelmed with thanksgiving to God and I worshiped Him. That is what I would like to instill in my readers--a sehnsucht that would cause them to seek and find the God of grace, goodness, love and hope and that He would be glorified.

Here is one of the songs from my road trip. It's called, "Brother Moon." I recommend the whole album. Another song I love is, "This is Not the End." It's a song about heaven. It makes me dance!

April 10, 2014

Gestating an Elephant by Sharon Espeseth

Although elephants have the longest gestation period of any mammal, I may need to contest that record. Guinness World Records should be warned.

On January 11, 1996, my first memoir piece, "The Man Who Loved Auctions" was published in Western People. Since then a number of other stories of unique characters I’ve known and incidents I’ve experienced have been published here and there. With positive feedback and encouragement from readers, I continued writing memoir stories.

I didn't plan to make a book of these stories in 1996, but over the last decade, I have considered pulling some of these pieces into a book. So when was this book-child of this mammal actually conceived?

Last March, I prepared an introduction to the book and supporting samples for a memoir workshop with co-presenters Caterina Edwards and Jean Crozier. With prep work submitted for critique in mid-March 2013, this may have been the recognizable conception of my project. If so, I'll aim for March 2015 for my baby elephant walk.

Here is a sample from my Introduction. Honest feedback or suggestions for my project are welcome.

Note to Self: It's never too late to be what you might have been.

Glancing in the Rearview Mirror
By Sharon Espeseth
            Mrs. Jacobson,* a fellow parishioner at the Evangelical Covenant Church, used to drive our clan from West Edmonton, Jasper Place in those days, to our church on the south side for Vacation Bible School. With my dad and uncles working out of town, Mom appreciated Laura Jacobson’s offer to drive the three Augustson women and four kids across town daily for a week of fun and learning and a social outing for all.
            Mom didn’t drive and my two aunts weren’t ready for city driving. Riding across town by bus was a long and costly for families just arrived from Saskatchewan. Mrs. Jacobson, gray-haired and older than Mom and my aunts, was a teacher turned homemaker with one adopted daughter, Betty.
            Aunt Elaine, with Baby Cal bouncing on her lap, sat in the front seat with Mrs. J. and Betty. Squeezed into the rear seat of the gray sedan were Mom, Aunt Ruth, my two sisters and I. Without seatbelts and baby car seats—unheard of restrictions in the 1950s--no one worried about a crowd of nine in the car. 
            Slightly rotund and slow moving, Mrs. Jacobson was a cautious, but not necessarily confident or competent driver. To further distract her driving, she spent considerable time gazing in the rearview mirror.
            Returning home from VBS one late afternoon, while crossing the North Saskatchewan River on the 105th Street Bridge, traffic dragged to a crawl. With Mrs. Jacobson’s attention diverted by what was going on behind her both inside and outside the car, she struck the vehicle ahead. I can still hear the sound and feel the jolt of bumper to bumper.
            The right door flew open and my ten-year-old body shot from the crowded vehicle onto the metal slats that were the surface of the bridge deck. As the metal slats assaulted my hands, I realized I could see the muddy waters of the swift-flowing North Saskatchewan River below. Before I digested this fact or developed vertigo from the river churning below, Aunt Ruth had yanked me back into the car and slammed the door on the whole incident. 
           Apart from my sore left arm and tender hands, no harm was done to any of us or to either vehicle. The solid metal bumpers of those days withstood the shock. Mrs. Jacobson, showing no outward signs of emotion over the mishap only said a calm, “Oh, my!” I’m not sure if this incident improved our chauffeur’s driving, but it did concern the adults of our family. My arm and hand felt better long before the story died down.
            Like others, who’ve passed the midpoint of life’s journey, I have experiences, amusing or otherwise, to share but I’m choosing to tell them as vignettes or glimpses of what I see in the rearview mirror. Glancing, rather than gazing as our chauffeur did in the rearview mirror, I will still have time to enjoy the present moments of my own life. Reviewing my life in snatches, I may brighten the day for a reader or take my readers along for those rides when I actually let God take over the steering wheel for my travels.
*Names of people outside the family have been changed to protect the innocent.

April 09, 2014

Writing In The Nude - Shirley S. Tye

When I began writing several years ago, I gave no thought about how my writing might affect a reader. I wrote for the sheer enjoyment of playing with words; hoping to project the vivid moving pictures in my mind onto paper. I sought entertainment; for me and for readers. But more than anything else, I wanted to see my name in print.

When I finally did see my name in print, it was a mixed feeling of pride and embarrassment. I was proud that my work was viewed by someone to be worthy enough to be published and yet I was also embarrassed that the “whole world” could see my thoughts, and I worried that others would laugh at me and criticize me. But of course, the “whole world” didn’t read my writing; I’m far from being a world renowned writer. And no one laughed at me or criticized me, at least, not to my face. And now it’s no longer important to see my name in print.

Writing is a strange business. No matter what I write, whether it’s an article, a piece of humour, a devotional, I feel I’m exposing myself; sharing more than just secrets with strangers. I’m not comfortable doing that. Yes, I realize I lack confidence. And I prefer to keep my life private. Yet I go on writing. Why? Just for the fun of it I suppose; the fun of hearing or seeing a reader’s reaction. If I’m attempting to stir anger or disappointment with a character, did the reader or audience show that reaction? Did they laugh when I wrote something funny? It’s much the same as when I’m performing in a comedy play. It’s great fun pretending to be someone else and to hear the audience laugh. It confirms that I’ve said my lines correctly and on cue, projected my voice, and that I’ve brought the character to life. What fun!

Later, my purpose for writing changed. I began writing to inform, to encourage, and to provide a little relief, at least momentarily, from the stresses and worries of life. Perhaps some of my writing has met this mandate.

Well, again I feel I’ve exposed myself; been writing in the nude. Oh, I’ll get over it – in a week or two.

April 08, 2014

What I Want to Happen Within My Readers by Eleanor Bertin

We are delighted to welcome InScribe member Eleanor Bertin as our Guest Blogger today.


Lisa looked at me from intense dark eyes and said, "One thing about you is, you always make me think."

Now, I'm fully aware my friend simply may have been diplomatically saying, "You get under my skin!" But knowing her, I think she would have come right out and said as much. So twenty-eight-year-old me took that as a compliment. She'd revealed that I was strongly motivated to make people think, to reconsider, to examine and even change their beliefs.

Her comment helped me make sense of something I'd done years earlier. On reading advice columnist Ann Landers' announcement that she and her husband of many years would be divorcing, thirteen-year-old me wrote to her, roundly scolding her for her inconsistency, hypocrisy and general bad example. Fortunately for Ms. Landers, initiative and a ready supply of postage stamps to actually mail the letter were not my strong suit.

In the years since then, while I still long to influence people towards God's truth in my writing, He has ground at least a few rough edges off me. I'm far more inclined to heed my mother's frequent advice, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."

In scripture, I see how the prophet Nathan used a gut-wrenching story in the ticklish and fearful business of confronting the king about his sin. (see I Samuel 12:1-7) The power of Nathan's story was in the love and empathy he evoked in his listener. That initial bait prepared the way for the "hook" – the truth that David was "the man". I would love to find that something I wrote could be used by God to do that within my reader. As in David's case, it would be my prayer that readers might recognize themselves through my characters and that similar transformation could happen within them.

Which is what I hope for in scenes like this (from my as-yet unpublished novel):

"Recalling the conversations Amy and her dad had had during the holidays about relationships, she now considered another perspective on her own marriage. It pained her to think of Dad throughout the years, doing his wife's bidding, held hostage by her moods, holding his peace. Yet again she pondered her father's statement that she was nothing like her mother. Amy thought of the years of her marriage and in a flash of lucidity, she saw her husband going along with her plans for the house or for their schedule, held hostage by her moods of grief or depression, holding his peace. Had she, like her mother, been guilty of revisionist history? Of thinking all of the past could be funneled into a single paradigm – or in her case, a single panicked action? This way of looking at it was so unfamiliar and so very unpleasant that she tried to slam the door on the images. But like the contents of her overfull suitcase, the truth kept popping out at her. To be forgiven, she would have to forgive her husband. Yet to reconcile with him seemed an act of betrayal of the child she carried under her heart. The child he had wanted to get rid of!"

I want my writing to be so saturated with a biblical worldview that the reader would not merely think, "Oh So-and-So should read this. This would be good for her!" No, what I hope to make happen inside my readers is the mirror effect.

"For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;…But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." James 1:23, 25

After a long career raising and educating seven children, Eleanor Bertin is dusting off her interest in writing at last. Currently, she is polishing her query in the hope of finding an agent who would take on a literary novel she's recently finished. Eleanor hopes that her writing would engagingly reflect her love for theology, philosophy and observing human nature. Eleanor can be contacted further through her website and blog.

April 07, 2014

Making Good Things Happen Inside Readers – Ramona Heikel

Frederick Buechner wished that he had told his writing students to think about what they wanted their books to do inside those that read them. That makes me ponder what I want my books and articles to do, and actually, I think I did it the other way around. First, I imagined other people reading the same great books and having the same positive reactions that I did. Then I ended up becoming a writing student.

So what exactly do I want my writing to do inside my readers? Thinking about people who are discouraged about themselves, hurt, angered by others, or disillusioned about who God really is, leads me to write something that will change those disheartening feelings. I want to encourage readers by bringing them into a welcoming global “community” of humankind, showing them that they are in good company, not so different on the inside than many other people, and therefore—most importantly—not alone.

I especially want to help people understand themselves, or understand why others do and say the things that hurt or anger them, because this can be the beginning of self-acceptance and forgiveness toward their enemies. I personally have found reading books about personality types and motivations fascinating and helpful, and I try to share what I’ve learned in my writing.

I want to truthfully portray God in his power, love and majesty, to counteract the many weak and negative ways that He, and Christ-followers, are perceived in society. The enemy, of course, is always at work deceiving people about these things, so it is no surprise how many people don’t bother to know God for themselves. But I join all of you and believers everywhere to tell the truth. No, I am not entering a religious jousting match to prove who’s right and who’s wrong, but trying to offer my perspective and experiences of finding joy, hope, better relationships, and peace of mind as I have grown closer to the Lord.

I have presented another way of looking at my hopes for my writing, by imagining an article that I’d want to be written about me in the future. You can read it in my wishful-thinking Inscribe post called “January 7, 2022” posted on January 7, 2012. Although it seems even farther in the future than it did when I wrote it, it is still my dream!

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker's ABC

By the way, I looked up the pronunciation of Buechner and found out that it is pronounced “Beekner”, and if you’re interested, you can mine more of the riches of Frederick Buechner’s writings here, http://www.frederickbuechner.com/. I was also surprised to find him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube!

Posted by Ramona

April 06, 2014

Encouraged in the Lord by Glynis M. Belec

When I would write my weekly column in the Drayton Community News, one of the highest forms of encouragement for me was when someone would come up to me on the street, at church or in the store and say, "I really could relate to your column this week" or "I totally understand where you are coming from" or "Thanks for making me feel like I am not alone."

I wrote a weekly humorous, slice of life editorial, that often focused on my family, for over eleven wonderful years. Admittedly, my original motivation for my writing was to be published and earn a little bit of cash in the process. But I soon discovered, that God was prodding me in some interesting directions. I was a babe in the Word. A new believer. A Jesus girl.

As I look back now I see an interesting pattern. I had given my heart to the Lord and in return he had unleashed my gift. Before I knew it I was sharing my heart and words through the Community News and as a sideline, others were being encouraged and because they were being encouraged, so was I. It was a beautiful cycle orchestrated by God. I miss writing that column, but I know it was a beginning and a base for something greater. I gained experience and confidence. People began to see me as a writer and their expectation from my column was to laugh with me about life's foibles to be encouraged and inspired. Life was good.

When I stop to ponder today what I would like readers to get out of my writing, my thoughts have not changed. I love it when someone remarks about how they were encouraged by my words. I especially love it when they intimate the blessings of God.

My latest children's book, Mrs. B Has Cancer , is the new kid on the block and when I get feedback from children about something specific in the book, I am head over heels grateful to God for prodding me into action and getting that done. Again, with this book, I want children to be encouraged and find hope.

The original prompt (quote by Frederick Buechner) "I wish that I had told my writing students to give some thought to what they wanted their books to make happen inside the people who read them" is a great statement to put before the mind's eye of every writer.

We, ultimately, have no control over the response of our readers, but what a wonderful discovery it is realizing God not only blessed me, as a writer, with a passion to express myself in such a way, He also dished out a double blessing when a reader of my words says, 'Thank you. [That] touched my heart!' Now THAT's encouragement that spurs me into action. Thanks be to God!