A Blessing for Writers

I spent my weekend at the Breathe Christian Writers Conferenceone of my favorite things EVER. I had the immense privilege of writing a blessing and prayer for this community that has given me so much and I just wanted to share it with you in lieu of a blog post today. I think this is something that can bless all creatives out there.

Last year we closed the conference with a statement by James Scott Bell:
“We are the storytellers. We bring the light.”

This year has proven time and time again that we are still called to this. These are dark and divisive times where the light is more desperately needed than ever before.

Each of us was called to this noble task ahead. How do we know we are called? We have been saved. And we are also called to share what we have been graciously given.

To adapt the words of Alvin Plantinga for the sake of us writers:
“We who are Christians and propose to be writers must not rest content with being writers who happen, incidentally to be Christians; we must strive to be Christian writers. We must therefore pursue our projects with integrity, independence, and Christian boldness.”

This is the charge I give to you, writers!

May we continue to encourage one another onward:

To create with integrity—knowing that to create costs, but that we have been called to create nonetheless.

To create with independence—knowing God has given us work that only we can do with the experiences and burdens he has bestowed to each of us.

But most of all to create with Christian boldness—to know that whether we write for an audience of believers or not, or even an audience of one, we have not been given a spirit of timidity, but one of courage.

We go out from this place to tell the truth in our stories, poems, songs, essays, scripts, letters, emails, even our ephemeral social media musings. We go out to invite the world to sit at the feet of our God and listen.

All great liturgies end with a sending, so may I pray with you to send you out?

 

Lord,

I thank you for this gathering where we may join together and affirm the gifts and words you have given to us. You have placed each and every person in these seats with great purpose and I thank you for the call you have placed on these lives.

May these souls leave here encouraged, connected to one another and even more deeply connected with you.

As we journey from here, do not let us shy away from the words you have given us to write, but instead let us push past resistance and sit down to our desks, our notepads, our computers and let us write. Let us write with the boldness you have granted each of us. Let us remember that courage follows obedience and not the other way around.

May the fruit of our worship and our writing be that which gathers, unites, and blesses.

Let us be a body that encourages one another when the truth seems too heavy, when the audience seems non-existent, when the deadline looms too quickly, when the enemy shouts too loudly, and when the words seem too few. Let us build one another up, pushing one another toward you—the giver of words, author of our lives and creator of the ultimate story.

We write because you write. We create because you create. We tell because you have saved.

Protect us as we leave this place. Give our words a place to land. Give our hearts a glimpse of home.

We thank you again, Father.

In your name,

Amen

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Celebrate Your Story

A photo by Thomas Kelley. unsplash.com/photos/hHL08lF7Ikc

I’ve been a writer for eleven years now. (Don’t do the math. It’s embarrassing.) In those eleven years, I have learned many things. Among them:

  • You should not send your entire manuscript to an award-winning author even if they have befriended your high school self and gave you their email address. That’s not why they gave it to you.
  • Sometimes those with more experience are wrong about your work. (Most of the time they are probably right, but sometimes their not.)
  • Read the classics. If you don’t want to do that, it is because you live under a rock where you’ve believed they are boring your entire life. You’re wrong. They are not boring.
  • Liking boys just because they said they like to read is an okay thing to do. Believing you will one day marry a boy just because he says that is an ill-informed belief.
  • Sometimes you will like your made-up people better than your real-life people. That’s okay for a couple hours, but don’t make that a permanent state of being.
  • You should send your first three chapters to the kid in your fiction workshop class who is unexplainably excited about what you’ve written.
  • You should also ask the girl who sits next to you in that workshop about her opinions on your characters, especially since she’ll still talk to you after reading what you’ve written. They are both good eggs and will be some great cheerleaders.
  • Don’t get discouraged when older writers get published when they’ve been doing this a shorter time than you. You’re 18 and you’ve got time.
  • Go to the conference your professor recommends. It’s going to change your whole perspective on the calling you’ve been given.
  • Don’t let the guy who doesn’t think art is a valid life calling get you down. But also stop dating him. First boyfriends aren’t supposed to be last boyfriends anyway. There are plenty of other mistakes to make once college is over.
  • Someone’s opinion on Oxford commas is a good litmus test for starting a friendship (namely, if they have one.)
  • Writing is hard and sometimes the time isn’t there and sometimes the words aren’t there. Don’t freak out. It will not always be hard. You will learn to make the time. The words will return. Breathe in, breathe out. That’s all you’re in control of.

These are just a few of the pitfalls and strange lessons of my writing journey that I’m celebrating. I owe a lot of these lessons to the Breathe Conference and the community I have come to know and love through it.
We celebrate the conference’s tenth anniversary this year and I want to invite you in to that. If you are on a writing journey, let’s celebrate it on October 7 & 8. James Scott Bell will be there as will a whole other host of great writers.
Register today and I’ll see you there!

celebrate-your-story-quote

Having Exhaled

This past weekend I had the great privilege of volunteering at the Breathe Conference.

It was a beautiful time to connect with both old and new writing friends and to encourage one another forward in our art.

Part of what I have come to be so thankful for at this conference is the lack of self-importance of everyone. I started coming to this conference as a punk seventeen year old who only knew she wanted to write stories. If the organizers of the conference had just stuck up their noses at the little girl with no clue, I am not kidding, my world would look a lot different right now.

Instead, I was welcomed with opened arms, mentored, and loved by so many awesome writers and publishing folks. They have encouraged me in my writing as well as my career and I am forever for grateful for them and the conference that introduced me to them.

So going to this thing is like meeting up with family. Only great family!…Not drunk/creepy Uncle Phil. It’s like the thanksgiving you wish was real. And it is… it’s just not thanksgiving, it’s a writer’s conference!

I have been writing fiction for ten years. It’s a good chunk of time considering my age, So much has changed and, then again, so much hasn’t. There is somehow a big difference in being a twelve year old writing in her parent’s basement every night after school than being a twenty-two year old writing in her parents basement when she makes the time. There’s more struggle now. More risk.

I am working toward finishing a novel and I’m having to think about what I’m going to do when that happens. It’s a little daunting. There may actually be some action there.

Despite the caution surrounding this area of the future, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude for having the opportunity to learn from so many industry professionals, both this year and years past; the chance to connect with some wonderfully encouraging writers; and the context to think through what art is in my life and how I engage that as a Christian. I feel so blessed that I have been given the calling that I have and so honored that God reveals himself to me through the written word.

This weekend was full of lovely reminders and great gratitude.

Thank you to everyone who put this lovely time together and for letting me join your motley crew. Thank you for those willing to share what they’ve learned on the journey with grace and encouragement.

Friday Favorites: August–My 5 Favorites Concerning Writer’s Conferences.

Autumn is usually a time in which I get to enjoy some writing events. I have found writing conferences to be valuable both professionally and personally. I have met so many wonderful people and have become a better storyteller.

If you’re a writer, journalist, fellow-blogger, reader, author-stalker, I’ve got my five favorite things about writing conferences here!

1. Meet industry professionals

I hate networking. It makes me feel schmucky. But writers conferences give you a chance to meet authors and publishers in a relaxed setting. It’s been really great to learn that networking is not just getting to know people to use them in the future. Not at all. It’s really just getting to know people.

And it turns out people in the publishing industry are pretty cool. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people while at a conference or writing event.

2. New books!

Some of the best books I’ve read in the past few years are those I heard of or bought at a writers conference. And there is usually a bookstore at these things. Seriously. It’s pretty great!

3. Know trends and tools of the industry

Want to know where things are headed in the writing world? Want to learn how to do things more efficiently or closer to industry standards? Writing conferences are great to get this kind of information directly from the horse’s mouth!

A lot of what I learned about blogging has been from writing conferences. It’s a great way to get pointers on building a platform as an author, learn how to put together a proposal, or even just find out what it takes to get a book to the public.

4. Better your craft

Want to be a better writer? Read a ton, write even more, and go to a conference. Seriously. These elements are what have helped me improve the most as a writer. But I’m still not great, so I find going to a conference so valuable. It’s like vitamins for your writing life.

Presenting authors share their struggles and what they’ve found to help. Getting a peak inside the mind of a more experienced writer can really encourage and give you some thoughts to make your own writing better.

5. The community

By far my favorite thing about writing conferences is catching up with writing friends. Western Michigan has a pretty tight-knit writing community that is so wonderful to be a part of. The best part is that it is tight-knit, but so welcoming to new comers.

Writing conferences really foster relationships between writers. We are there to encourage one another and share what we’ve been learning.

If you’re in western Michigan or don’t mind traveling here, there are a couple awesome writing events coming the the next couple months.

The first is Jot. I’ve talked about this free mini writing conference before. This time it is being held on September 21 at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids. Held in just one night, presenters give a fifteen minute hyper-session chock-full of great writing tips and tools. I highly recommend this for someone afraid to make the time or financial commitment to a full writer’s conference.

The second is my favorite writing conference, Breathe. The Breathe Conference is held every year. It is geared for everyone from beginning writers to publishing veterans. The discussions and sessions are rich and the folks in attendance are generous and so friendly. I highly recommend this conference to anyone.

The Breathe Conference is being held this year on October 10-11 at the Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Food is included in the very reasonable cost, so you can’t beat that. And you might even run into me there!

These are my five favorite writer’s conference things. Have you ever been to a writing conference? What are some of your favorite experiences?

Carbonated Holiness Among Other Things

I had the privileged of attending the Festival of Faith and Writing hosted by Calvin College two weeks ago. What a wonderful opportunity to be refreshed and taught by so many amazing writers. It was also great to connect with old writing friends and make some new ones. Plus there were some networking opportunities… ew. Networking.

Coming away from such a very full weekend, I discovered I had a lot of things to process, notes to sift through, and books to read. I am now excited to share with you some of the pieces of wisdom I took from the weekend. The following quotes are either from speakers or where used by speakers throughout the weekend.Some of them may not make sense, I’ve tried my best to take them down in context… it also becomes the Anne Lamott show in the middle there…with closed captions provided by Bret Lott (serious gold coming from those two!). I hope you’re able to get a small piece of how wonderful the weekend was.  Enjoy!

Art gives us a map of who we are and where we fit. The next generation will need that map.
–Gene Luen Yang

Make good friends with really accomplished dead people.
–Scott Cairns on reading well 

We are people of the word. Words matter because they carry ideas and ideas rule the world.
–Richard Foster

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightening and a lightening bug.
–Mark Twain

And What I believed in I wished to behold
–Charlotte Bronte 

It was the stuff I needed to write to get what I was after
–Anne Lamott

I all have to offer as a writer–as a Christian–is my version of things.
–Anne Lamott

You don’t take God to the lovely living room. You welcome him into the bedroom and say ‘I think there’s a couple drawers you need to see.’

Laughter is carbonated holiness.
–Anne Lamott 

To be a writer you have to be a good liar. So how do you lie for Christ? You must write with the integrity of Christ. You must write the truth–in love and compassion, but with dark reality.
–Bret Lott

I thought what you did was a tool–a utility. I had the idea that art was a utility; it wasn’t a manifestation of God. Our creativity is a manifestation of God’s image.
–Bret Lott 

The self-importance of being ‘a writer’ leads to the arrogance of metaphor and similie and overly adjectived sentences. The author’s gotta be the last person you hear from.
–Bret Lott

You strip out everything you think the story should be about and write the story. We must be humble before the story–humble before the words.
–Bret Lott. 

There something about writing fiction that is like wearing your underwear in front of the world
–Suzanne Woods Fisher (This was the second time I had heard this sentiment, the first was from a friend and fellow fiction writer–One of those moments of ‘what have I gotten myself into.’)

The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven; and as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shape and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.
–William Shakespeare 

Long Time No Post

Hello out there!

I’ve recently gone silent on the inter-webs and I’d like to apologize for that. I don’t plan to leave you out there without explanation in the future.

We just reach those seasons that become so full. My sister left at the end of last month so I was spending every spare moment hanging out with her before she left and since then, my family and I have been pretty preoccupied  with getting things moving with our house. And to be honest, I’m a novelist. As much as I LOVE blogging and getting to connect with so many of you, my fiction is my priority. And my, have the words and inspiration been flowing!… Not that I have time for that right now, but I want to make time for that.

But I’m back now! At least once a week, I’ll be sending a postcard your way. They might be a little shorter from here on out, but is that really such a bad thing?

I spent the last weekend at a wonderful writing conference talking with novelists, bloggers, and editors from all over the place. What a rich and splendid time it was! I love the opportunity to learn and glean from those further down the road on their writing journey. I left so encouraged, filled, and inspired. Not to mention my secret introvert, was about to implode with all the people time I had!

My biggest take away from the weekend was my need to find a regular time to come to my writing. When I’m writing regularly, my life tends to maintain some balance. I’m less stressed, I feel more productive. Life is just a little better when I can dwell in words on a regular basis. I’m so excited to implement this and a plethora of other discoveries made over the weekend.

If you’re looking for a conference to consider in the future, I would highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend the Breathe Conference. They are holding it next year on October 10th and 11th of 2014 in West Michigan. I have met many wonderful folks through this conference who have come to mean so much to both my writing and to me.

Here’s to the words!

xo,
         — Lex

No-Such-Thing-As-A-Free-Lunch, My Tuckus!

It’s Labor Day, so I’m gonna keep this short!

If you are a writer then I can say, almost without blinking, that you HAVE to attend a writers conference. Yes, you have to go out of your comfort zone, yes, they are worth it, and yes they cost money. Or do they?

If you are in the West Michigan area, then I am talkin’ to you. A wonderful local writing group–The Weaklings–puts on a splendid, single night conference that is so helpful and free. 

That’s right, free!

The first one was held in February and was such a wonderful time to hang out an extra night wiht my writers group as well as to network with other writers… not that networking is really my favorite thing, but I met some great people regardless.

This time around, it is being held on Friday, September 13th at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids.

You can check out the info here. I’d really encourage you to come. I got so much out of the last conference, as did my writer’s group. Drag a friend and enjoy a free Friday night. It’s well worth the money you are not paying 😉

Hope to see you there!

xo,
       –Lex