Christian fiction, Wednesday Writings, What I've Learned Lately, Writing life

What I’ve learned lately … with Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I was added to an online critique group soon after joining American Christian Fiction Writers a few years ago. Jennifer Hudson Taylor was part of that group, and taught me so much by her comments! She’s now a published novelist with Abingdon Press; her debut novel, Highland Blessings, was released in 2010 and her follow-up, Highland Sanctuary, releases this month. We’ll finally meet in person when she joins the faculty at our local writers’ group conference in November. In the meantime, I’m she’s able to stop by to share with us here today.

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Micro Progress is Still Progress

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

 

How many times have you heard someone say, “I take two steps forward, and one step back.”

This cliché was born out of frustration. Most of the time we feel like we’re being pushed back. It isn’t a step we’re actually taking with purpose. It’s unplanned and it breeds discouragement.

The good news is even if you feel like you’re back where you started, most of the time you’ve learned something in the process or God may be protecting you from being in a place at the wrong time. There is a reason for everything—even when we can’t see it.

Recently, our family has been going through many things. My father-in-law passed away from cancer a month ago and at the same time my mom was battling a different kind of cancer. We knew he wouldn’t make it, but were assured hers was caught in time. Cancer is a kind of illness that takes a while to overcome or succumb. It not only wears out the ones battling it, but the loved ones trying to surround their loved one with strong support.

I was frustrated that I couldn’t take time off from work for every visit to be with my mom and help her make decisions. I had to rely on the info she relayed to me, hoping she had heard correctly and wasn’t forgetting something important in the midst of her distress. Yes, I may be a published author, but I still have a full-time job with a boss who owns my time during those 40 hours each week. My time is not my own, and I struggle with this concept—especially when I feel like I’m needed elsewhere.

During this time I had to let go of some things such as canceling a trip to a writer’s conference where I was scheduled to present three workshops, took a sabbatical from some blogs, stopped scheduling events and book signings for my new book release. These were temporary setbacks, but my family was much more important. The only thing that nagged me was falling behind on my word count each week because I had signed a contract that I would finish a book by a certain time, and I was already stretching myself to meet this contract obligation in my already limited schedule.

I’ve always been taught to meet my obligations no matter what it takes, so a bit of anxiety began to set in when my word count dropped until there were a few days with no word count. But I didn’t give up, and kept plugging away at what I COULD do. Guess what? By the end of September, I’d written 20,000 words—more than I’d planned by 8,000 words.

I can’t explain it, but what I learned is that if we are faithful in the small things, God will multiply our efforts. Pennies saved can become hundreds saved if we keep adding to it. We have to keep sowing seeds, and let God give the increase.

 

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-8)

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Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award winning author of historical Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas and a speaker on topics of faith, writing and publishing. Her work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, Romantic Times Book Reviews, and The Military Trader. She serves as the in-house Publicist at Hartline Literary Agency and co-owns Upon the Rock Publishing, an e-publishing/publicist company. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with family, long walks, traveling, touring historical sites, hanging out at bookstores with coffee shops, genealogy, and reading.

 

Wednesday Writings, Writing quotes

Word Touches

I haven’t posted a writing quote in a while, but read one a couple of days ago that’s absolutely perfect for many of us who keep plugging away on our articles, books, blog posts, and more.  It’s courtesy of a man named Lewis Greer who’s also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. He included it as part of his response to a lesson in our online class this month – and I loved it so much I had to ask if I could steal it. He was nice enough to say yes. 🙂

Lewis wrote, “I have only a limited idea as to how God will use what I write, but I know He will not be able to use it if it is not written.”

 This is good for me any day, but especially on those days when I have the ideas in my head but don’t sit down and write because I have “real work” to do … or I need to buy groceries … or the kids have piano lessons … or I’m just too tired … or … or … or. You get the idea.

The thing I need to remember is that these ideas and stories and characters that clutter my mind didn’t come from me. The desire to write fiction didn’t come from me. And the reason I’m doing it – isn’t for me.

For whatever reason only He knows, God has called me to write. Sure, I spend my days writing things for work that help pay the bills. But He’s also called me to write other things that might help someone’s heart.

A little girl who feels overlooked and ignored.

A middle school girl who’s trying to figure out how Sunday school faith works in the real world.

I don’t know who I’m ultimately writing for, but God does – and that’s what counts. I think I’m going to add Lewis’s quote to the collection over my computer to help keep me going on those tired/crazy/overloaded days when it’s easy to shove my writing aside. Maybe it’ll help me remember Who I’m doing this for in the first place.

But how about you? Even if you’re not a writer, I think just changing a word or two in what Lewis said makes it apply to everyone. How about, “I only have a limited idea of how God will use what I [do/say/teach], but I know He will not be able to use it if it is not done.” What do you think?

Christian fiction, Wednesday Writings, What I've Learned Lately, Writing life

What I’ve Learned Lately … With Lisa Lickel

I’ve taken a couple of weeks off from the blogging world, thanks to work things and enjoying spring break with our kids. It’s nice to be back today, and especially nice to introduce you to author Lisa Lickel. Lisa and I met through American Christian Fiction Writers and are both posters over at the Favorite PASTimes historical blog. She’s also a regular contributor to other blogs that have great posts about writing and life in general. So, yes, she’s a busy lady!

Here’s the official short bio … Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and fifty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her novels include mystery and romance, all with a twist of grace. She has penned dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, magazine articles and radio theater. She is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin Magazine and loves to encourage new authors. Find her at LisaLickel.com.

And now here’s Lisa!

 

Learning Experiences in My Corner of Life

 

Thank you, Leigh, for having me.

 

A Matter of Perspective

 

I’m like a lot of you, I think — my mom calls fairly often. We live across the state from each other; in the winter, across the continent. I dread the question I know she’ll ask: “Anything new with your writing?”

Perspective, attitude, goals, discipline: these all change the same way we introduce ourselves to different people. When strangers ask me what I do, I sound glamorous; when my family asks, I can be more honest about the drearier side of being an author—the constant submission whether by me or my agent; the waiting and the hoping.

A recent message I wrote about attitude took a page from winning Super Bowl coach Mike McCarthy’s playbook: when do you get measured for your Super Bowl ring? The fact that the coach had his players measured the night before they played and won probably didn’t cause the players to win the game, but I’m sure it reminded them of the goal. Winning in this business means being read.

To reach that goal of establishing a readership, I employ discipline. And here’s where I tell you my other secret: I don’t put clean words on fresh paper every day. The act of writing takes a village of disciplines. The successful author knows that research in many forms, editing, reading and marketing actually take up the bulk of the process we call writing.

Being an author is always thrilling in one form or another: either we’re riding high or we’re on the down-swing of the bungee ride; the wind beneath our wings. The journey involves both trust and vulnerability. I write from my gut, spilling out my best words and phrases, sharing my dreams, my heart, in the hope of somebody (in the best Sally Field moment) will LIKE me! And tell all their friends.

What’s new with me? I’ve written two novellas and will start another batch soon. I’m so delighted by the direction my new group blogs are taking. Check out thebarndoor.net and reflectionsinhindsight.wordpress.com. I’ve sold some short stories to Harpstring Magazine (check out writtenworldcommunications.com). I became the editor-in-chief of a Wisconsin literary magazine, I’ll be leading two workshops in March and April; I’ll be teaching a course for ACFW online in May, and my sales are picking up.

Who else will bleed for you like an author? What’s new with your writing?

 

Great thoughts to leave us with, Lisa. Whether we’re writers, readers, or just trying to get through life, we need to work on perspective and discipline. Sounds like it’s definitely working for you, and it will be great to hear when some of your other projects find a publishing house. Thanks for stopping by today!

 

Wednesday Writings, What I've Learned Lately, Writing life

What I’ve Learned Lately … with Dina Sleiman

Today I’m happy to welcome fellow writer  Dina Sleiman as our guest blogger. Dina and I met at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference in 2009; she’s a joy to be around and a very talented writer.

A little background and intro … Dina writes lyrical stories that dance with light. She is an aspiring novelist and a published poet, but she is also much more. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. She is passionate about anything related to creativity. Over the years she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her primary goal is to serve God and live a spirit-led life. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/

 

The Importance of Being Still

God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction. ~ Psalm 23:1-3 (The Message)

 

Not quite revolutionary. I know. But as I considered what I’ve learned recently, the importance of being still kept moving to the forefront of my mind. I mean, if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time you should be aware of this concept. Be still and know that I am God and all of that, but how many of us actually take the advice to heart? Even if we take out a few moments each day for prayer and Bible study, how much of that time is spent actively doing something, and how much is spent being still and listening?

I think being still, in this context, is more a state of mind than an issue of what we’re doing. In our modern culture, we feel we must always be pressing forward, always accomplishing something. But what about taking time to dwell in God’s presence? To relax in a lush meadow and drink from a quiet pool? To imbibe upon the very essence of divinity?

In late November I felt God calling me to be still. Specifically, to be still in my writing career. I was not at all thrilled with this instruction. I needed to find a new agent. My latest novel had been requested by several editors, and I wanted to get moving on that. After all, my first book seemed to be going nowhere fast. And realizing that many novelists don’t get published until they write their third or fourth book, I figured I should get started on my next big project. Quick!

Be still…

Well, the Christmas season was coming. Extra shopping, Extra cooking. Extra visiting. Okay. I could be still. Until approximately 8:32 am on January 3rd when the kids started back to school. Then I would work up a storm. So I focused on family and friends. I spent extra time mentoring some local writers. I even choreographed and directed a Christmas dance for church. And when January 3rd came, I was poised and ready to go.

Be still…

Unfair, God! This is not amusing. I took a six week break already. This little sabbatical is getting out of hand. I took a mental break. I realized my writing had been a bit obsessive. I refocused on what was important. I need to…

Be still!

All right, already. When God makes his orders that clear, we really don’t have much choice. So I did it. I was still. I spent extra time in his presence. I rested. I read. I even watched some television.

And you know what. Those few weeks turned out to be incredibly productive. God actually had a point in all of this. Who knew?

During that time, I discovered that I actually only have about two or three free hours a day to write. No wonder I kept falling behind with life. In addition, I figured out some scheduling and organizational issues that freed up another hour or two per day. I got some minor health issues sorted out. And, I also realized that the new novel I was so anxious to send to publishers was not by any means finished.

Oh, but that’s not all. Not nearly. Mid January I discovered that my top choice for new agent would be speaking within driving distance of my house. I had total peace about taking a road trip with a friend who is an aspiring novelist. I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that it turned out to be the perfect opportunity to talk to the agent, and I have since submitted to her in a much more targeted and personal way than I ever could have otherwise.

There’s more. Late January I received a note via email. “Loved your rewrite. You’ll be hearing from us soon. Wink. Wink.” This was concerning my first novel, which I had just about given up on.

Now, none of this is official yet. But here’s the thing. As I was busy being still, God was clearly working on my behalf behind the scenes and accomplishing more than I ever could have one my own.

February has arrived, and I am back to working diligently once again. Rewrites are underway for that novel I thought I had finished. Proposals have been emailed. I’ve been invited to work on several novella collections. But, this time I’ll remember to do it in his strength, not my own. And to take time out to be still and listen. Because after all, being still is not even the real point here. The real point is knowing God’s voice and allowing him to lead.

 

Leigh here … What a great lesson to learn, and one that I have so much trouble with! I have a terrible time slowing down enough to hear God’s voice sometimes, let alone listening well enough to actually follow it. I think nothing’s happening, but God’s always working in ways I have no idea about — until He’s ready to let me know.  Thanks for the reminder, Dina, and keep us posted on how things go from here!