April 30, 2016

Dear Writer - by Susan Barclay

My best 'Dear Abby' look

It’s been a busy month. I just completed the 7th annual A-Z Blogging Challenge (minus Q-U, but that’s another story). Unfortunately, I didn’t have the prep done ahead of time and that’s something I will ward against another year. – All this to say, my response to this month’s Inscribe theme is likely to be briefer than I’d prefer.

If you’ve been reading Inscribe consistently, you’ve probably heard the prompt already:

As you think back over your writing apprenticeship, share some of your key discoveries, turning points. What would you do differently? What advice do you have for a new writer?

1. I wouldn’t put off the writing bug once I’d caught it. Forget that whole image of the starving artist and the necessity of being practical. Youth is the time to try things out and to see where your dreams might take you. Once you have “responsibilities,” you’re less apt to explore creative avenues if you haven’t already started along them. And if you wait until retirement, who knows if you’ll make it that far?

2. Learn as much as you can about your craft. Take courses, whether in an actual classroom or online or via correspondence. Whatever works best for your schedule. Attend conferences and workshops to learn more and connect with other writers.

3. Join a writers’ collective to give and receive feedback. Again, this can be online or in person. I like in-person myself but, either way, what you glean is invaluable in your development as a writer. And if you stay in a group long enough, the relationships you form become precious.

4. Read, read, read. Read good writing and bad writing so you learn how to distinguish between the two. 

5. Support your local bookstore and the work of local authors. They will return the favour.

6. Accept opportunities and walk through open doors. You never know where they might lead.

Probably the most important piece of advice I have – hence saving it for last! – is to pray over your writing. Pray that God would guide you in what to write and what to do with it once it’s completed. God wants to be involved in all that we do; He cares about the things we care about. He is waiting for us to come to Him to ask for wisdom and blessing. Dear writer, you do not have because you do not ask. If you’ve been doing things in your own strength, why don’t you change that starting today and see if He won’t do a major work in your writing?

Susan’s website can be found at www.susanbarclay.wordpress.com

April 29, 2016

The Apprenticeship of Robert W. Jones by Bob Jones

The Apprenticeship of Robert W. Jones

Mordecai Richler authored “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,” – a classic about a poor Jewish boy raised in Montreal, Quebec. The novel was part of my high school education.

I never imagined that one day I would be composing something others would read about my own writing apprenticeship. 

Apprenticeship is how Jeff Goins in “The Art of the Work” suggests writers view their learning process.

I started writing for publication in 2013. Now I’m composing two blog posts a week, write for a local newspaper, a national magazine and on two sites for writers. My first book was published in 2015. 

I’m still at the early stage of my apprenticeship, but I’ve learned a lot.

My Turning Point

My writing process changed for the better when I learned to separate the writing function from the editing function.

When I began writing I edited on the fly.  I would get a couple of paragraphs down. Then I’d go back and change a word or a phrase or a whole sentence.

Then I would do it again.  And again.

I am a perfectionist.

Jeff Goins encouraged me to let my writing “flow.”  Get your words out – spelling mistakes, awkward wording, imperfections and all.

Now I write and then leave it alone. I come back to edit in an hour or a day.

That’s how I wrote this post. I started it on April 26th and now I’m editing it aboard Air Canada flight 176 to Montreal on April 28th.

As a new writer, I’m indebted to Jeff to have learned this lesson soon than later.

My Two Most Important Discoveries

First, I discovered that my content can always be bettered.

I return to posts I published twelve months previously.

Posts I edited.

Posts I liked.

A year later I immediately see ways that I can improve the post.

I know I’m getting better as a writer. It’s a slow, but gradual process.

I know I’ll become an even better writer.

At one time I felt intimidated by the realization that I could do better. I hesitated to share content that I knew could be improved. I delayed publishing posts until they were perfected.

Now I write, edit and share.

Second, I discovered that the visual aspect of a post is as important as the content.

I owe that discovery to Cindy Keating at Red Carpet Life.

Cindy’s writing content is engaging and makes me want to come back for more but it was the layout of her posts I realized helped me to engage.

I used to write long paragraphs, as in essay style. I didn’t use images to support my writing because I believed them to be a crutch. Good writing should stand on it’s own.

Red Carpet Life taught me the use of vibrant colors, rich images, single sentences rather than paragraphs and section headers for ease of scanning.

What I Would Do Differently

I would never have stopped publishing.

Twenty-five years ago I wrote with a purpose.

I submitted articles that were issue-oriented to national magazines and local newspapers. I thought they were important. Some were occasionally published – I’ve got a scrapbook of them.

I stopped publishing because I wasn’t getting enough affirmation.

No one, other than the editors, ever commented on my content.

After awhile, others pursuits that garnered better response rose to the top of my priority list and I stopped publishing and then writing altogether.

My regret, that I hope I can help you avoid, is imagining where I could be as a writer if I had continued my publishing and writing pursuits.

Twenty-five years is a lot of lost experience and practice.

You’re reading this because you are a writer.

If you keep writing someone will keep reading.

Who knows which reader may themselves be a writer needing to be heard.

April 28, 2016

Be Not A Self-Starter - Bruce Atchison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 26, 2016

Being Yentl by Marnie Pohlmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 25, 2016

From the Beginning By Vickie Stam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 139:13-14

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

April 24, 2016

I've Only Begun by Tandy Balson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 23, 2016

Casting off by Lynn J Simpson


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

I wonder if Ray Collins was among those hundreds?

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

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

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

May he have considered himself a failure?

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

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

One word: tenacity.

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

Twenty-nine years.

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

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

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

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

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

April 22, 2016

A Journey of a Sixty-Something Writing Apprentice by Alan Anderson

Okay, I admit it!  I’m an apprentice when it comes to writing.  I began writing as a boy.  Now that I’m a big boy and getting closer to being an “old boy,” I have gained some confidence in my writing.  I think too that my writing is older than I am.  Weird huh?

Please bear with me as I try to expand on the previous thought.  I don’t tend to gravitate toward jovial or humorous stories or articles.  Pretty well anything I’ve written or write strives to penetrate human emotions.  This could be because when I was a boy I was conditioned to believe that my emotions didn’t matter.  I grew up believing to show or express emotions like sadness wasn’t what men or boys did.  That hurt because I was born with a sensitive nature.  I suppressed my emotions for years and paid a price inside my being.

My writing is in a sense older than me because it took years for me to express myself emotionally.  Writing was one of my mentors and convinced me to begin my apprenticeship.  The words that have found me have been gentle teachers in my apprenticeship and now are directing me to move forward.

I’m sure those who read this post know that words teach us.  Think of God’s Word and how wonderful a teacher it is to lead us, through God’s Spirit, to find life.  Words know us and what we want to say to the world.  First the words are born within us and we are given the opportunity to find the story.  The story however has already found us.  We then offer this story to the world of readers.

Throughout my apprenticeship I know I can’t do it on my own.  I value the critique of other people.  I also value the guidance and suggestions of experienced writers.  This is why I am a member of InScribe and The Word Guild.  You have taught me a lot about writing.

I am also thankful for people like Jeff Goins.  Right now I am reading his book You Are A Writer.  Some of you probably know this but Jeff says there are three tools a writer needs to extend the reach of one’s writing.  As an apprentice I find this interesting and will note these tools here.  1) A platform to share your writing.  2) A brand to build trust with your readers.  3) Channels of connection to distribute your art.

I’m going to use the wisdom and knowledge that you all and people like Jeff teach me.  Who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll move on from being an apprentice!  Until then, I’m fine with taking my writing step by step.  God has laid a message on my heart.  I’m at the point of wanting to share it.

Life is incredibly full isn’t it?  For the first time I’m late with my monthly post.  It seems time just flew by.  This reminds me that I have to get busy writing.  It reminds me that there are words that ache to bring a message to other people.  It is my time to release them with my blessing!

Blog: ScarredJoy@wordpress.com

April 21, 2016


This past month, I have been visiting my daughter's family in North Africa. They live there intentionally for kingdom purposes, and I try to visit them every year for an extended time. I will not get to know my grandchildren if I do not spend the time. Like everyone else trying to write, the battle for our time includes a surplus of great activities. I see it in my daughters household where ongoing urgent needs surround her and I see it here in Canada.
I will not learn to write if I do not spend the time.
My grand-daughter, two grandsons and I spent an evening with popcorn, drinks and the Disney movie Ratatouille—the animated story of Remy the rat who loves great food. But who would allow a rat in the kitchen? The plot follows along as Remy forms an alliance with a busker boy to fulfill his culinary dreams. Remy is inspired by a famous chef's cookbook called “Anyone Can Cook.”
I will not learn to write If I do not spend the time.
As Remy overcame obstacles, (he was gifted but lacked opportunity) he convinced the stuffy food critic that anyone could cook, including this rat. When I took a creative writing course at University of Calgary, we were told that writing was a craft, and anyone could develop the skills. Anyone could improve their writing. That was an encouraging point.
I will not learn to write If I do not spend the energy.
We were assigned to read Betsy Warland's essay Sustaining the Writer. One of the things that haunts me and most of the writing people I know was addressed in her piece:
Their [writers] inability to write, however, is more about their self-doubts and nascent discipline than it is about time;” She also mentioned that writers often undermined themselves by their own “harsh misguided self criticism.”
When the doubts assail, as they routinely do, especially when I have been away from my writing for various reasons-visiting grandchildren is certainly one of them-I refer back to several key scriptures: 
Isaiah 48:6 You have all this evidence confirmed by your own eyes and ears. Shouldn't you be talking about it? (The Message) God has given me a challenging grief story. He has also given me His consistent strength and grace in the journey. I have experienced it, I should be talking/writing about it.
Galatians 6:4,5 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for being the creative best you can be with your own life. (The Message) We are given the freedom to avoid getting caught up in the comparison game, and the challenge to do our own creative best.

But I need to spend the time and energy in order to learn to write. Yes, Remy—anyone can cook and anyone can write.

Jocelyn blogs at: http://whoistalking.wordpress.com