Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Allegory of a Nest - Smith Meyer

It’s just an empty nest in a maple tree that has been visible all winter. Occasionally it was mounded with freshly fallen snow, sometimes coated with freezing rain—cold and uninviting. That vacant nest signified fledglings now matured and flown. The haven of possibility now barren.

The scene bore a marked resemblance to the writing area of my mind. My latest fledgling grown, matured and in print, the creative nest sitting cold and bare for several months now. Oh, the winter activity blustered and blew around it. The death of my brother, my cousin and three other close acquaintances just amplified the barrenness of this season in my life and the stark emptiness of the nest that once cradled creativity. The frigid snow attempted to cover and beautify it, but no life stirred inside.

Then came the warm days of last week—the pungent aromas of spring in the air, the snow melting like a piece of chocolate on the warm tongue of the sun-drenched earth, the first tips of daffodils peeking through the mulch in the flowerbed. They reminded me of the recent day I spoke to a group of precious women eager to learn and stretch their boundaries. Two came afterward to tell me how they had grown in self-understanding through reading my books. That affirmation, like the sun with the daffodils, pushed the pregnant bulb of creativity within me to stretch toward the light.

From the daffodils, my eyes travelled upward to the maple. The still-bare branches continued to support that same nest, but something was different. In my mind, instead of emptiness, I saw great potential—almost as if the nest was sporting a sign “Available for Immediate Occupancy.” That nest and my mind seemed suddenly to be wide open to new possibilities. The winter has ended My heart is filled with longing to once more hatch ideas that stir within me—the desire to see a whole new nest full of inspirational stories and writing is waiting to be given wings.

Why I Love Anthologies - Meyer

I just finished editing my 9th anthology and one may well ask – why? Why so many? And why anthologies?
I think of myself still primarily as an author but I only have 6 of my own books published – the anthologies are definitely winning the race!
Why then all this time and effort invested in other people’s writings?
I guess the main reason is that I may be an author by profession but I’m a teacher at heart. Growing up with a multitude of foster sisters and brothers, I was always in big sister/teacher/helper mode. It just seems natural to me to teach and mentor others. As soon as I learn something new, my mind automatically converts it to a lesson and I imagine how I would go about passing on this new knowledge to someone else. For me, it’s not enough to just write; I want to also teach others to write. And as I advance in the profession, I want to bring others along with me.
I think it actually brings more joy to me to see one of my students win an award or get something published than it does for this to happen personally to me. I can celebrate their achievements without all the often turbulent emotions that surround my own successes.

And I believe that everyone has a story that is worth telling – and that all of us are richer for listening to the stories of others – especially those who may be different from us in some way. Anthologies give voice to many people with differing opinions, backgrounds and cultures.

Besides editing anthologies, I also really enjoy reading them! They give me exposure to a wide variety of authors and I can then go on to read more of their work if I choose. It also enriches my life to read samples of writing from books that I might not necessarily choose to pick up and read otherwise. Reading Hot Apple Cider http://www.hotapplecider.ca/ was a real pleasure for me as I tasted a sampling of the works of many different Canadian authors.

I guess I’ll continue on editing more anthologies. It seems to be somewhat of an addiction for me. And perhaps at this time, I could invite you to read some of these also. At 7:00 PM on April 1st at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg, MB, we will be launching Northern Writers volume 2 and at 7:00 PM on April 17th , at Aqua Books in Winnipeg, MB, we will be launching an anthology of young Aboriginal authors entitled: Remember Me.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish all of our blog readers a very blessed Easter as we remember the extravagant love of God poured out to us through the great sacrifice that Jesus made for us. He rose from the dead, conquering death forever! Through faith in Jesus, we can have eternal life. Now, that’s something to celebrate!
M. D. Meyer
M. D. Meyer will be launching her newest contemporary novel, Jasmine, at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg, MB on April 1st at 7:00 PM. Jasmine is published by Word Alive Press and is available for sale in bookstores across Canada.
The ISBN is: 978-1-926676-87-6 and the price is $14.95.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pssst…..Hey EWE! – AYOTTE

Yes you! Now that I’ve caught your attention I really want to talk to you. By chance do you enjoy doing Crosswords and other types of puzzles? If so, this is the article for you.

Ever since I can remember, I have been a puzzle solver. I love the mental challenge of trying to figure things out. It is unbelievable how mentally stimulating and life enriching these puzzles can be. There is a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips just ready to be tapped into on a daily basis in most local newspapers.

Now why did I choose the word EWE in my title to get your attention? Most of you probably know that EWE is another word for female sheep. Over and over again this word comes up in Crossword Puzzles. Every time I see it when solving a puzzle, it reminds me of Jesus Christ and how He is described as the gentle Lamb. If we are to emulate Christ and follow in His footsteps we, too, must be like gentle lambs in our dealings with people.

As we all know, it is not always easy to be gentle and kind. Many times in life, our patience is tested as we become frustrated with the people around us. In some instances, people may be unaware of this fact but on other occasions we may only be fooling ourselves into thinking that they don’t take notice of exactly how we feel. The tone of our voice and our body language can quickly give away our true feelings despite what our words may say.

I find as I do my daily Crossword Puzzle that God works in mysterious ways. I hear God’s Word in many ways as I solve these puzzles. I can do an examination of conscience and ask myself if I have had any cross…words with any one in my life. God can prompt me many times throughout these puzzles if I am open to His cues/clues. He reminds me to be like the Lamb and follow in His footsteps when I come across the word EWE.

Other times, one of the clues will ask for the letters found on the cross. Yes…INRI. There again, I am reminded that the Lamb died on the cross for the salvation of humankind. This inscription reinforces that fact that I have sinned and Jesus’ forgiveness was so great that He chose to die on the cross to save my soul. He is the Teacher and I am the student. Often times, I need to be reminded to be ready to forgive at all times because my transgressions have so generously been forgiven. It is truly amazing to see the many creative ways that God can reach out to people. God has a way of utilizing all his followers and reminding them of their mission in life. We only need to be open to hearing the message! I much prefer Crosswords to cross…words, if EWE know what I mean.

Author of I'm Not Perfect And It's Okay

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Writing Life - Eleanor Shepherd

As writers, we receive encouragement from many different sources. Being raised in a home where I was surrounded by books, nurtured my love of reading. Before I went to school, I had already learned to read. I loved the sounds of words and the magical way when they were put together they could tell a story.

While reading became a passion while I was still quite young, it was in the sixth grade that the possibility that I might also be able to write began to dawn upon me. That year we had a teacher who required from us an essay every Friday. She assigned us a different topic each week. This first exposure to deadlines, also called forth my creative capacities. The adrenalin pumped as my pen flew across the page hardly able to keep up with the thoughts tumbling over one another that I tried to capture before they fled. What fueled my passion was the commendation of this teacher who really believed I had some writing ability.

Throughout the rest of my schooling, the curriculum often offered opportunities for creative writing. I enjoyed these and knew that I could anticipate a decent mark for such endeavors. With the confidence this success engendered, I had no hesitation in signing up for a creative writing course my first year at university. I still am not quite certain what happened that year, but the professor and I were on entirely different wavelengths. I learned some valuable lessons about developing journalistic and writing skills, but I barely passed the course and concluded I was not cut out to be a writer after all. The experience was so devastating that I even doubted by ability to write a research paper, a problem that dogged me for the rest of my university career.

Although I still loved to read, my writing was limited to the prayer journals that I kept. They mostly recorded names and prayer requests.

In my early thirties, I needed to take an elective course to complete my requirements for ministry in our denomination. I gathered up my courage and enrolled in a journalism course that was being offered by correspondence. Though I doubted my ability, the desire to write persisted. I was amazed when each of my lessons was returned with such positive comments and good grades. Maybe I could write after all.

The clincher came when the editor of the women’s magazine for our denomination came to lead a women’s’ ministry Sunday service for our congregation. As we visited together over lunch, she asked about my interests; I mentioned the journalism course I was taking. She asked to see something I had written. I showed her a couple of articles. She requested that I send them to her for publication in our denominational women’s magazine. That was the beginning of my writing for publication and I have not looked back.

I still struggle with my fears. I write and rewrite and rewrite, and wonder if what I have written will be helpful to anyone; yet, I sense that to write is to exercise a God-given ability. Currently my book about listening is on its way to publication. The typeset proofs were sent to me last week, so I could check for errors and get them back to the publisher again by the end of the month.

This past weekend, I attended a conference in Phoenix related to my work. On the flight west, I began to read over the proofs and mark any corrections needing to be made. My goal was to finish this task on the flight home. I really wished someone else could also read it. I feared there were things I would miss since I am so familiar with the manuscript. I have been working on this project for ten years.

When we boarded the plane in Phoenix, I began chatting with the woman next to me. She had been in Phoenix to receive her PhD that weekend. When she saw the manuscript and pencil in my hand, she said, “It looks like you have some work to do.” I explained what I was doing.

To my suprize, she asked if I would like her help. She enjoyed doing that kind of thing and would be glad to read it over for me. I was delighted and handed her the first section of the book. This included the table of contents, foreword, acknowledgments, endorsements and introduction, along with the first chapters. She began to read and put her markings on the pages. I figured she would soon tire of this, but I was glad she was willing to help.

When she completed the first section, she handed it back to me and asked for some more. By this time, she was beginning to ask me the odd question about the book. She seemed intrigued by some things I say about listening. I handed her another bunch of pages and thought that I would be fortunate if she was willing to do even that much. By the time we arrived in Chicago, where we both were changing flights, she had read and marked about sixty pages. I thanked her and offered her one of my daughter’s CDs as a token of my gratitude.

Our connecting flights to Montreal and Syracuse were leaving from adjoining gates at O’Hare airport. Instead of taking the shuttle, between terminals we walked together and chatted about the book. When we got to my gate, we still had about an hour and a half before our flights. My new fiend sat down beside me and offered to proofread the next section of the book. Her interest in the book affirmed for me it is now ready to touch the lives of people in the way that the Lord intends. That is why I write.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Writer Interviews by Kimberley Payne

Many writers are now expected to take the lion’s share of work for their own publicity. This includes accepting radio and television interviews. Preparation is key. Here are some writer’s helpful advice to prepare for an interview:

Patricia Paddey offers this advice, “Take the time in advance of the interview to write out a few talking points - that is, the main things you absolutely MUST get across in the interview in order to walk away from the experience feeling like it was a success. Memorize those talking points frontwards, backwards and forwards. Then, when doing the interview, should the interviewer ask you a question you can't answer, simply say, "I can't speak to THAT issue, but what I CAN tell you is ..." and then go on to address the talking points you are prepared to speak about. Works to deflect uncomfortable questions every time. And nobody ever seems to notice the deflection.”

As the Communications Director for two Anglican Renewal organizations, Ed Hird has been privileged to speak on most major Canadian TV and radio stations. He agrees with Patricia. “One of the keys is to have one's key talking points, and to graciously redirect the conversation back to those two or three key points.”

Ian Walker works in PR and Media accommodations. He tells his clients to “prepare using the 5 "wh's...who, what, why, where and when...if you organize your interview into those sections...you'll accomplish everything that you want to be "questioned" or have the interviewer learn more about you and your book or opinion and your interview will be a success.”

Elma Schemenauer offers another thought on interviews, “I think it's important to avoid little repetitive things one does that can get irritating or distracting, e.g. - repeating certain words, e.g. " definitely," "things of that nature," "in actual fact." - repetitive hand or facial gestures. - laughing often. I think it's perfectly OK to laugh during an interview or similar, but it's better not to do it repeatedly.”

What tips do you have for writers facing an interview?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Writers and their Journals - Hall

Most writers - myself among them - did a lot of writing way before we called ourselves writers. In high school I wrote poetry (But everyone in high school writes poetry, don’t they?) Then I went on after high school and studied journalism. For a long time I wrote features and hard news as a reporter for a daily newspaper.

Then came the novels. And short stories. And still more articles and memoirs when the mood strikes.

But, there is one kind of writing that I have always done, and that’s journaling. In my young-girl-days the word was ‘diary’. I can still see my red ‘five year diary’ with the lock. When I was older I put away childish things and changed the word ‘diary’ to ‘journal.’ Still the same thing, however. If I were even more grown up I might call it ‘memoir,’ or ‘personal writing.’

I have piles of completed journals in a back closet, but in the last year or so, I’ve been journaling online. I don’t mean blogging, I mean password protected private journaling. At first I just used a password protected Word document hidden away in an obscure file in my hard drive. (As if anyone really gets into my lap top looking for those sorts of things!) Then I shifted to the ‘Notes’ feature in my Yahoo Mail, (very nice, because yahoo mail is automatically password protected.

Most recently I’ve switched to an online site; http://penzu.com. That website also has a number of resources on how journaling is so cathartic, and gives tips to get started. It’s also completely private. And I’ve added a password that even my closest friend could decipher.

There are many online journalling places like Penzu. Google online journalling if you’re interested.

My journal is a place where I- like David - can cry out to God. It’s a place where I can rail against him - like David did - and say “have you completely forgotten about me?’ And then I can go into the specifics. But - and this is cool - usually by the end of my journal entry - like David did - I’m praising God for his goodness and greatness and wanting to draw closer to him.

A King, I See ... An O.K. Potato - Black

Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter are drawing near, so I decided to reach back into my files and share two items, which between them will bear some relation to each of those commemorative events of great significance to Christians.

The first, a short poem, was written in 1977 to accompany a Palm Sunday message.

A King, I See

Not in chariot of glass or gold,
But a King on a donkey, do I behold.

Clothed not in robes which sovereigns wear,
But stripped of all, my sins to bear.

Seated not on throne, I see,
But hanging on a Cross for me.

© Peter A. Black, 1977.


The following short story was written as an illustrative scenario to accompany an Easter Sunday morning sermon.

An O.K. Potato

It was an O.K. potato – nicely shaped, and with no ugly blemishes, and sat in the bag along with others – many of them quite huge. Day by day, a hand reached into that bag and drew out some potatoes.

First, was french-fry day. And so, the hand reached in a number of times and felt about, each time withdrawing a large potato – ideal for slicing up for fries.

Next, was baked potato day, and again, the hand reached in and fished around for the large tubers. More than once, the hand grasped the smallish-sized one but rejected it, letting it go.

Then came mashed potato day – offering another chance that that good, ordinary, and O.K. potato would hopefully get to fulfil its culinary and gastronomical destiny. But again, it was passed by, and before long, that perfectly good and wholesome potato wound up at the bottom of the bag. Eventually, it was the only one left, apart from a couple of ugly-shaped spuds, and one that had gone mushy and bad – and boy, did it stink!

However, that nice little potato had sprouted, and the lady of the house decided to plant it in the garden. It took root in the fertile soil, and quite some months later, the shaw was dug up, and there was a whole family of healthy brand-new potatoes where that one had been planted. But, there was also a rotting, shrivelled up dead potato. It was the original, and had effectively given its life. It was now dead. The new batch of potatoes represented new life, and was like a resurrection coming out of the death of the old.

That’s how it is with all kinds of seeds in the realm of nature. And Jesus said that’s how it is in the spiritual realm of God’s Kingdom (John 12:23-24). That’s how Paul said it would be in the resurrection. What is sown is not exactly the same as that which is raised. What is raised has similarities, but is distinct (1 Cor 15:37-38, 42-43).


© Peter A. Black, 2004/ 2010

2 Cor. 5:17 (NRSV) So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

May every blessing be yours and of those you love throughout this wonderful season.

Peter writes a weekly column in The Watford Guide-Advocate.
His book, "Parables from the Pond" is published by Word Alive Press.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Endangered Walker - Boers

I recently volunteered to be endangered. I became a Toronto pedestrian when the media was preoccupied with the number of walkers killed on our streets.

My wife and I moved here last year, determined to reduce our reliance on motor vehicles. At first, I traveled to work by taking the bus with my bike in the morning (concluding that trip with a quick largely downhill bike coast to the school from the last stop) and then riding my bike all the way home in the evening.

I don’t mind riding in the cold. So I did that until late November. But once the snow came down, roads grew slippery, and drivers even more predictable, I decided no more bicycling until the spring. So I caught the bus and walked the remaining 15 minutes to work every morning through a lovely East Don River park.

That did not seem enough exercise, however. I am middle-aged guy with a middle-aged shaped body and a long aversion to athletics. Add to that a family history on both sides of heart problems and I am a very good candidate for very bad coronary issues. What’s a geek like me to do?

On and off over the decades, I exercised on foot. One year, I walked 7 kilometres every day at 5 a.m. I wondered if I could do something similar again. I explored our area, trying to find a one hour early morning route. This was not satisfying. Although we are within city limits, it’s solidly suburban here, reflecting what some call the “geography of nowhere.”

Around then I read a book about urban walking and the author made a throw-away observation that people once did not think much about walking an hour to work. That struck a nerve. Many friends casually drive or bus an hour or more each way everyday but few go on foot for that long.

I wondered what would happen if I strolled an hour toward work and then grabbed a bus the rest of the way? I was delighted to find that 60 minutes got me into the East Don park. Then not much distance remained. So on most days, I walk to work. It takes between 65 and 75 minutes, depending on sidewalk conditions and how I feel that day.

When I begin I’m often preoccupied by what lies ahead in the day and the tasks that need completing. But as I walk, moving legs and swinging arms, I gradually release preoccupations. By the time I get to the park, I’m no longer anxious but in a good space to enjoy the scenery of icy stream, snow covered trees, and frozen fields. As I descend from the street into the greenbelt, traffic noises recede and I am embraced by growing silence. Even better, I see wildlife right in the city. One morning I studied a clump that looked like a deer. I realized that it was only a bush but then heard a noise, turned around, and saw a fox trotting nearby. The following week I saw a bush that resembled a deer. This time it was two deer!

Walking can be countercultural. A friend likes to stroll two hours every evening. He’s afraid to tell anyone because they might consider it eccentric. But not many of us are embarrassed about watching television, surfing the net, playing video games, or driving for two hours. Why are those things normal but walking not? Walking habits are endangered too.

For now, I lace up my boots most mornings and walk to work. I just make double sure – even at intersections with traffic lights – to look both ways and around the corner behind me as well. Endangered is one thing; extinct is another.

Arthur Paul Boers is the author of The Way is Made by Walking: A Pilgrimage Along the Camino de Santiago (InterVarsity) and holds the RJ Bernardo Family Chair of Leadership at Tyndale Seminary, Toronto.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sharing Twists and Turns in Life - MANN

My husband, Doug and I recently returned home from a winter holiday. As usual there were the immediate tasks that needed attention: emails, phone messages, post-mail, bills to pay and even notes from visitors and house-sitters Although new technology made it easy for us to keep in touch, there was still the onslaught of new information upon returning home.

While we were on the road, it was easy to be distracted from friends and relatives’ ongoing stress and difficult situations. The excitement of new experiences easily took our attention and numbed past memories. Even though it could appear as running away or escaping the reality of stress, obligations and expectations, it was still important to do this.
After changing my pace for this time, it surprised me how certain people, tones of voice, a particular song or landscape reminded me of the very person or situation for which I needed to pause, remember, offer prayer or contact. It was unfinished business and a privilege to remember.

During this holiday, I was privileged to attend the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. I was pleasantly surprised to see some familiar faces in the industry and hear an echo of many writing styles and interests I’d heard at Write! Canada. Cec Murphy was the theme speaker and he reminded us as writers to be vulnerable, honest, real and candid. In his usual speaking style laced with humour and information and life's twists and turns, he shared authentic areas of his own faith and writing life.

This experience reinforced a benediction I’d heard at an Ash Wednesday Service in an Alabama United Methodist Church. The minister said something like, “I’d like to tell you, as a follower of Jesus, that life is going to be without problems when you go out that door. Not so! But, you are a Child of God, and God loves you and is with you to strengthen and enable you. Talk to God! Amen.” This benediction meant so much more as the minister had earlier shared difficult twists and turns in his own faith journey—a perfect example of honesty and vulnerability proving faith in action.

Yet, knowing this to be true, and wishing I could make this work better in my own life, I am often tempted to use poor examples of phrases and over-used words to prove that faith works, while it’s living in the pain and suffering (twists and turns) that truly reinforces an active faith. I often wonder why, I seek to offer the end result of particular experiences, rather than staying in the struggle. Is it a little like someone asking me how I am, and instead of responding “Do you have an hour?” I automatically say, “Oh, just fine.” Didn’t someone say, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!” And too often I want to close a situation, claim it’s all over and say that I’m a happy camper and that God is smiling. And then when the dust settles, if I’m being honest and vulnerable, I’m going to admit that in ongoing daily encounters in life, I need to
“talk to God! Amen.”
Donna Mann
WinterGrief: A personal response to grief
Aggie's Storms: the childhood of the first woman elected to Canadian Parliament

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Two-Minute Miracle- Carleton

Aug 22.09 border I gave myself a challenge for the month of March.  The challenge is to study a chapter of Proverbs per each day of the month; I called it the 31 Day Challenge.  I decided that I needed something to hold myself to it, so I have been blogging about it each day as well.  I advertised what I was doing to my Sunday School class, to my friends on Facebook and my “followers” via my blog.  To my surprise and excitement several others were up for the challenge as well; we are all becoming wiser by the day.

It has been great to start my day in the Word, too often I find myself only reaching for my Bible because I am not sure what else to do and I am procrastinating on my housework.  Now that I am accountable to post on my blog each day I get excited to see what I am going to learn and share with my readers.

I do have to admit that on occasion I have found it rather difficult to do my daily studying of scripture; my daughters had three days off of school and trying to find “me” time in the morning wasn’t happening.  One night I did my post at 11:45pm, that was cutting it pretty close.

On Saturday I thought I would pull out a book to read with my morning coffee.  Since my time seemed frazzled lately my eye51yD5ZvsA0L__SL500_AA300_ caught a book that had been sitting on my shelf for a while.  It is called, “Sacred Chaos” by Tricia McCary Rhodes.  I saw her interview on 100 Huntley Street and I ordered the book but had yet to read it.  It is organized in short chapters and it is about connecting with God in the midst of our crazy chaotic lives.  It seemed a perfect fit!

In Chapter One you read about the Two-Minute Miracle.  I love this!  The premise of the Two-Minute Miracle is--- if you are having a hard time trying to dedicate or make time for something, such as studying your Bible.  Make a promise to yourself that you will do it for two minutes.  Most of the time it is the getting started that keeps us from doing things.  So if you can get to the two minute mark mostly likely you will be engaged and continue on a little while longer.

This has been good for me on the days when I can find several others things that I think I should be doing rather than studying another chapter of Proverbs.  But I make myself sit down with my Bible, commentaries and IPOD (we are listening to a Proverbs Podcast as well) and as soon as I have everything set up and my Bible is open I can’t think of another place that I would rather be.

If you are finding yourself struggling to find time to include things such as prayer and studying scripture in your daily life give the two-minute miracle a try; it works! (I’m starting to sound like a infomercial J)

front cover

Cj Carleton is the 2008 Canadian Christian Writing Award winner for her first book “What Makes You Unique? Discover the Truth or Believe the lie”.  Learn more about Cj and her upcoming Online Girls Bible Study by visiting www.cjcarleton.com  You can also connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Words and Meanings - Boissery

(This is a guest post by Dr. Beverley Boissery formerly a legal historian. When she became a Christian, God switched her from writing about the law of treason to young adult fiction. She has since received a Canada Council award and won Word Guild awards for both Sophie's Rebellion and Sophie's Exile. She lives in Vancouver with her elderly and arthritic cat, Lillee. You may find her at www.boissery.com )

“Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words,” Professor Henry Higgins sang in My Fair Lady. I’m not sick of words, they actually fascinate me. But I am frustrated by them. When I look out my window I can easily count eleven different shades of green. The trees will finish blooming in a couple of weeks, and the meaning of “green” will become even more general. As a writer though, I need precision. The right words can capture, for example, a spectrum of political thought. As a Christian writer I want words to tell about God and also to scythe through muddled thinking.
If I tell you I am slightly left of centre politically, you know exactly what I mean and where you might expect me to line up on various issues. When I tell my secular friends that I have become a Christian, however, I encounter confusion.
“What kind?” they usually ask.
“The repentant kind,” I reply.
Conversation ceases. Memories are pummeled, vocabularies examined. “What do you mean by that?” some brave soul eventually asks, and I inwardly smile as I’m given this chance to talk about my Lord.
However, confusion abounds as well in the Christian realm. When I announce I’m a Christian to other Christians, the reactions are vastly different, and I find I’m supposed to use words in a way that defies my sense of logic. Rather than order a fatted calf for a barbecue, as in Luke 15, the reaction of many long-term Christians is usually, “When did you come to faith?”
Conversation stops as I ponder. I have faith in many things. When I finish these musings and press the Send key on my computer, I have faith that they will find their way to Ottawa. How, I don’t know. I do trust the process though, and that’s faith. I have faith that my microwave will cook food after I punch in the required cooking time. But when did I first experience faith is a question I can’t answer.
As a baby, did I ever consciously wonder that my mother might drop me? Did I ever work out that if I screamed long enough, she would feed me? Were such screams those of faith, manipulation, or desperation? Sensing my incomprehension, many ask a follow up question, “How did you come to faith?”
It took time to understand that question. I now know it means that I should explain how I became a Christian. Strangely enough, the story is easier to tell to my secular friends. Christians sometimes find my experience off-putting, because it concerns alcohol. God brought me to repentance and faith in the efficacy of the cross of Jesus in a restaurant.
How? Someone I respected kept insisting I read the gospel of John. In an effort to make the problem go away, I phoned Regent College in Vancouver, where I live, asked if it had a bookstore, and if the bookstore sold Bibles. (At that point in my life, I couldn’t imagine Chapters selling Bibles!) I drove to Regent, found that the bookstore sold stand-alone Gospels of John, and took myself off to a nearby restaurant. There I ordered a half litre of wine, settled myself in for the long haul and began reading.
I read John as I would any academic book. First of all, I tested the writing style. It seemed authentic and true to what I imagined the real John to be. I underlined as I read, checked off certain passages, wrote questions in the margin, and as I did this, God interacted with me. By the time I reached the end of chapter 14, I was a Christian. I walked out of the restaurant, the half-litre of wine barely touched, and went home to finish the gospel.
C.S. Lewis wrote that he got onto a bus as a theist and got off as a Christian. That was how it was for me. I did not know a single Christian (other than the person who kept insisting I read John). I did not have a single Christian friend. But, in his grace and mercy, God met me over a glass of red wine and gave me salvation.
You know, as I think back to that experience, my frustration with words seems rather petty. I don’t really care that Christian-ese is full of nonsense. I don’t even care that the current buzz-phrase is that our prayers be “intentional.” Of course, I intend to pray when I pray. But getting the subject back to God, to where it should be. Who I am? How do I define myself?
I am the person for whom Christ died. I am the person so deeply loved by God that he sent Jesus to that horrible death. I am the person who is desperately grateful that Jesus battled evil and overcome death to sit at his Father’s right hand. I am the person who, filled with joy and love, looks forward to a future where words won’t be meaningless, ambiguous, or frustrating. In that future, I won’t be worrying about them at all when I sing praises to my God.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Whistler's Mother

by Glynis M. Belec

I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

I remember it well.

“Pucker your lips. Take a deep breath and blow gently.” Learning how to whistle can be a momentous task for a little person. My son was five and he was determined to sound like a bird.

If I was to remain a contender for mother of the year I had to be at his beckoned call, guiding him through the puckering process.

“Pfffft…but I can’t do it, mommy,” came the pathetic wail.
“Yes you can, sweetheart. Keep trying. Keep practicing and you’ll get it.”
I was beginning to sound like an Olympic coach.

No one dared stand within five feet of the lad during training sessions for fear of being caught without a towel. He was sensitive about his attempts, too. If anyone laughed at his fizzled “pffffts” we’d be in trouble. He had the will and he was persistent in his pursuit.

One day my son’s brown eyes sparkled with joy.
“Mom! I did it!”
I was equally excited when I heard the little peep.
"Super! Keep practising!" I said as I picked my little lad up and hugged him.

His tenacity was rewarded. His determination compensated. My son could whistle, albeit one little peep. His sweet one note whistling continued for a while. Then one day my little whistler came home from school looking dejected.
“What’s up sweetheart?” I asked.
He confessed all. “Mandy said her three year old brother can whistle a lot better that I can, Mommy!”

He was devastated. Stifling a giggle I told him not to worry. I reminded him about the importance of practicing to get better. So he kept at it. His occasional peeps eventually progressed to continuous ear-piercing sounds. Eventually he managed his own rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. My little boy’s dogged determination had finally paid off.

Some days I wonder if I am as determined as my little lad was. When I think of the times that God has urged me to accomplish a task, I wonder about my tenacity. Do I stick to it? Do I see all my projects to fruition? Or do I give up in the face of criticism and fear of failure? Over the years I have learned a lot from my son, but this one memory remains etched in my soul.

When God puts something on my heart, like starting a ministry, or honing a skill, or helping a neighbor, or stepping out of my comfort zone or sending off a book proposal - do I give up citing that it is just too hard? Or do I listen to my Coach and draw strength and encouragement from Him? I know what the right answer should be, but do I do it? Time to take stock!

Composers should write tunes that chauffeurs and errand boys can whistle - Sir Thomas Beecham

A Cheeky Ask - den Boer

“May I borrow $5,000?”

“No, I don’t have $5,000.”

“Borrow it and lend it to me.”


“I didn’t want to ask you, but I felt a nudge to do it anyway.”

“No. If I had $5,000 that would be different, but right now I don’t have $5,000.”

“I can give you a cheque for it.”


“I know you are strong-willed as I am, but please just think about it, pray about it and consider this request.”

Consider this:

“Dear friend, if you’ve gone into hock with your neighbor or locked yourself into a deal with a stranger, If you’ve impulsively promised the shirt off your back and now find yourself shivering out in the cold, Friend, don’t waste a minute, get yourself out of that mess. You’re in that man’s clutches! Don’t procrastinate—there’s no time to lose. Run like a deer from the hunter, fly like a bird from the trapper!” (Proverbs 6:1-5 The Message)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Making a Difference at Vancouver 2010- HIRD

by Rev Ed Hird

I have never seen Vancouver so electric, so dynamic, so alive. When Vancouver won the Olympic Men’s Hockey game, more than 500,000 Vancouverites flooded the streets, so many that the police had to temporarily shut down the bus system. Canada, who has never won Gold when twice before hosting the Olympics, was privileged to win 14 gold medals, the largest number ever won by any country.

In the midst of Canada’s unexpected Gold Rush, the Body of Christ was there pointing to More Than Gold. More Than Gold is a movement of churches that gathers at each Olympics to let people know that while winning gold is exciting, there is something worth more than gold: the good news of Jesus Christ. The Christians in Vancouver have been preparing for years for this 17-day Olympic outreach. We had extensive training by the Billy Graham people, Campus Crusade for Christ/Power to Change, Alpha, and many others. Serving as an Anglican representative on the MTG Executive Committee, I was impressed by the phenomenal response of the local churches with over 4,000 people volunteering to serve. Perhaps the biggest hit was the over 600,000 cups of free coffee and hot chocolate handed out at skytrain, subway, and bus stations. The buzz around the complimentary hot coffee was palpable. As one of the 40 Community Chaplains, I was able to visit many Olympic pavilions and More Than Gold CaPA Aha! concerts, sharing the love of Jesus Christ in word and deed.

Tens of thousands of Olympic visitors were willing to receive the high quality More Than Gold literature with its focus on Olympic athletes who profess Christ. The Pocket Guide sponsored by the Billy Graham Association and produced by More Than Gold was a big hit, with its free maps and personal testimonies by Athletes. Based on loving conversations, many visitors were happy to receive special Olympic-edition Gospels of Mark produced by the Canadian Bible Society. Over 1,100 missionaries came to Vancouver from North America and around the world, including over 180 YWAM youth who did street drama, served coffee, and set up ‘free prayer’ stations.

Seldom have we seen Christians work so well together in reaching out in mission. The Anglican Coalition in Canada, which is the Canadian wing of the Anglican Mission, was an official sponsor of the More Than Gold outreach, along with our sister ACNA jurisdiction the Anglican Network in Canada. Virtually all faithful churches were involved in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Our own congregation St. Simon’s North Vancouver commissioned fifteen volunteers who served free coffee and hot chocolate at 430am in the morning to people going to the Cypress Mountain Olympic site. They came back from doing this, excited and grateful to God.

Christians in Vancouver are asking ‘what can we do together in the future?’ More Than Gold is encouraging the local churches to play their part in the Paralympics and beyond. Please keep us in prayer in Vancouver that this new ‘unity for the sake of mission’ momentum will be maintained for the sake of the lost.

Rev Ed Hird, Rector, St Simon’s Church North Vancouver, BC
Communications Director for the Anglican Coalition in Canada
-originally published in the Anglican Mission March Currents

Friday, March 12, 2010

Reflection For a Fallen Sparrow - Gibson

Lakshmi* is a Christian Dalit woman I met in India years ago. Her gentle smile and deeply haunted eyes, caught in a photo, captivated me long before I made the trip.

Over there, despite the barriers between us—language, nationality, distance—we formed a connection I can’t explain.

During a Bible study in her Eastern Indian city recently, Lakshmi—lovely, wraith-thin, long-ill—sank to the floor, seized with convulsions. An even closer friend, the study leader, snapped a photo and emailed it to me.

Lakshmi lies on the floor like a fallen sparrow. Her tangled saree, a puddle of azure blue, splashes over the cement. Its colours blur—she writhes. Brown hands hover over her skeletal frame, entreating the monstrous motion to stop. Praying for healing, for Christ’s presence, for her not to swallow her tongue.

Someone inserts a silver spoon in her gasping mouth. Stainless steel. The irony doesn’t escape me. The spouse of a no-gooder, a wife-beater, Lakshmi was born impoverished. Lakshmi is still impoverished.

The shot slices me. I loathe it.

I have sent Lakshmi aid, as we rich Westerners often do when confronted with mountainous need. Rupees for a few groceries, a little medicine, a trip to the doctor perhaps. But my friend needs much more than I can give.

Jesus said that human need will never end. I’ve come to accept that to be a child of Adam is to suffer, to experience want along some lines—conscious or unconscious. Somewhere, there will always be a pain in need of a balm, a stomach that needs refueling, a child who cries alone.

Yes, God shows up, often miraculously banishing need. But sometimes people of faith die in fear and pain, while people of no faith whatsoever accept their end quietly and peacefully.

I’m so glad I don’t have to figure all that out. Glad too, that I’m neither judge nor savior.

What I know is precious little, but what I know is precious: Creator God, for whom our cosmos is but a speck of lint on his breast pocket—had he one—chooses relationship with us earthlings. Pursues us with love. Rewards faith. Meets our deepest needs for validation and inner peace. Sends the sweet companionship of his Holy Spirit – wherever we fall.

Life is but a dandelion puff, and I’ve had my fill of leaning on spiderwebs. Simple certainty remains: God cares for us and our needy friends in ways we cannot now comprehend. He allows us the blessing of lifting each other up, and not one of us deserves that.

We especially don’t deserve to benefit from what Christians prepare to celebrate: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet his sacrifice, if we accept it, dissolves our sin, stamps us “forgiven,” and restores us to an eternity of opportunity.

Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

But oh, my God, hold tightly to my fellow fallen sparrow.

*not her real name


Kathleen Gibson author, faith and life columnist

this column was published in Yorkton This Week, March 10
and at www.kathleengibson.ca/sunnysideup,

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Anatonomy of a Suicide Part 2 - Austin

(See Blog Post from Feb 9, 2010 for Part 1)

Appalling ignorance best describes my level of preparation the first time I called a Crisis Line -- the night before a friend attempted suicide. Multiple interventions since then, an Intensive Suicide Intervention Workshop, and a number of books have given me at least a basic understanding.

I have written extensively on this topic, but published very little. Most of my writing is a struggle to come to grips with questions I cannot answer. Most of it wrestles with the reality that I have some understanding but no expertise. Most of it has a disturbing level of "me" focus, because I've written from the raw emotions of fighting, one breath at a time, to keep a friend alive.

Posting Surety is an education all its own. The odds were stacked against my friend from the start. Stringent, court-imposed restrictions held him accountable to me. In turn I had committed myself legally, morally and ethically to hold him to those restrictions, including any repercussions for violations. Friendship is subject to great strain when one party is suddenly put in a position of authority and obligation over the other. Violations -- highly probably given the specifics of the restrictions -- in a very real sense would put the power and the obligation of slamming prison doors shut into my hands -- but without access to keys to open them again.

How do you interpret the heart-cry when the man accountable to you has vilated one restriction to obtain money, then used that money to violate another restriction? How do you share the pain when wild eyes stare at you from a darkened room and a slurred voice repeats: "It's been Hell man! It's been Hell! It's been Hell," and you are the one legally and morally bound to turn him over to the police?

He had been helping his wife move. Their children were with her parents. Restrictions from the court and from Children's Aid did not allow him to be with his children, consequences of his own actions, but emotionally devestating none-the-less.

The call from his wife confirmed my fears. I tracked him down, already sick with the knowledge that the best possible outcome for the night would probably see him behind bars again. Daring to call myself his friend -- more, a friend who has poured life and energy into him, the responsibility of sending him back to jail did not sit lightly.

Is there any dignity salvageable when someone intoxicated, angry and suicidal has two poor options to choose fom? (1) Turn himself in to the police -- or (2) wait until the police find and arrest him? He chose a third option, one I had not forseen. He stomped down the stairs from the apartment, then in a staggering half run, headed for the bridge and climbed onto the railing. His eyes stared at me from that railing -- showing terror of actually jumping, and equal terror of facing another hour of life.

How do you share that kind of pain? How do you take enough of that on yourself that a friend can bear what is left?

He clung to the railing with both hands. His eyes continued to stare wildly. He told me over and over that he was going to jump. I said I would go over after him. The water was a long way down, but less than a meter deep. We could both expect broken bones. But giving up on him was not an option.

I have not broken my word to him yet. I had earned the right, in his life at least, to be believed. There wasn't much point in jumping if a meddling friend was going to be down there keeping his head above water. He came off the railing.

Interference by drama seekers is a painfully common part of suicide intervention in any public setting. I had never experienced it before. I am thankful I have never known who aggravated a slowly calming situation and pushed it once more past the breaking point. My friend threw himself over the railing again.

I caught his arm as he went over and pinned it against the railing -- all my strength and weight and stubbornness in the conflict.

I made a mistake then, a mistake I'm still grappling with, trying to fully understand. I began to pray -- OUT LOUD. I am a strong believer in prayer. I suspect it is the most untapped resource of the North American church, and too often, of my life. I had been praying almost constantly in the hour before that moment, but praying silently.

There are clearly times when a hurting person is helped and strengthend by verbal prayer. Highly intoxicated and hanging off a bridge while trying to jump does not seem to be one of those times -- hard as that is for us steeped in church types to grasp.

He screamed curses at me and at God while he fought to break my grip on his arm.
I don't know when someone finally called 911. I know the ten minutes or so that I held him seemed hours long. My physical strength was exhausted. Stubbornness alone held on. I deliberately and consciously tried to break his arm. It seemed the one thing that might save his life, convince him to stop fighting me. I did not have the necessary strength. I hung on like death itself, every second feeling my weakness grow. I continued to pray -- out loud. The battle had been engaged on the spiritual level as well as the physical. Now was not the time to back down.

He clawed my glasses off my face and threw them onto the roadway. I was incredibly vulnerable. I could not protect myself without releasing my grip on his arm. He is a strong man. His rages are ugly, violent things. My face, my eyes were open to him. Yet my glasses were the beginning and the end of his clawing at me.

He gave up. My stubbornness outlasted his. He came off the railing and then off the bridge. The same drama seeker showed up again, and threats and curses crossed the highway. But within moments the fire department arrived, prepared to risk their lives to save someone intent on destroying his. They showed exemplary restraint, giving space, but moving quietly into position to cover access to the bridge, moving gawkers back. They spoke quietly, courteously, bringing a non-threatening authority and strength to the situation.

The police arrived a few moments later and they too showed a courtesy and gentleness that astounded me. I followed the cruiser to the hospital and gave the pertinent information to the police officers -- information I was legally bound to give. Perhaps an hour later they formally arrested my friend. He left the hospital between two officers, throwing bitter accusations back at me.

I dragged myself home, exhausted in body and spirit, unanswerable questions assulting my mind. Yet my friend lived to see the morning. He continues to see mornings each time the sun rises.

I have questions I cannot answer about personal atonomy and the freedom to choose -- even choices as permanent as death. As our nation moves closer to accepting euthanasia and assisted suicide as "Rights," I wrestle with those questions. But my friend is at home with his wife and children tonight as I sit at this computer. He has had many tough times since that night, but he has had many rich times as well. Somehow, my questions fade in light of that.

Changing "Rights" in this nation may make such intervention a "Crime" in the not too distant future. It may be me who goes to jail if I insist on saving someone's life. I dare to believe life is worth the risk. But I don't think I'll post Surety again any time soon. I'd rather not put myself back into the position of being legally and morally bound to send a friend to jail.

A Time for Everything (An Interpretation) - Atchison

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven…
(Ecclesiastes 2:20 3)

We forget. That life has seasons for every activity, for every experience. We forget that there is a time to be born and indeed, a time to die. We live each day without thought there may be no tomorrow. Sure, we dream, we plan, we look to the future – in some cases it gives us hope. But do we live for today? For what is important now. For what matters most?

The sudden loss of my brother-in-law this last month has had me looking at my past, my present and my future. There is a saying that says, yesterday is gone, and tomorrow hasn’t happened yet, so all we have is today.

Today a baby is born and today it’s someone’s time to die.
Today we plant, and we harvest.
There is no time to kill today, but my healing starts one step at a time.
While the walls of Haiti and Chile have been torn down, today is their time to rebuild.
Today I weep and laugh as I struggle with my grief.
While I mourn the loss of a family member, today I dance to the sound of nature in my backyard.
Today my thoughts are scattered. I’ll gather them during a quiet time.
I embrace those around me who need it, but know when to refrain and give them space.
I search for answers, but while I might not find them I give up.
I keep those memories that make me happy and throw those away that make me sad.
My family is torn upside down today, but we will mend.
Today I am silent with my emotions, but know when the time comes I will be brave enough to speak my feelings.
Today is the time to love my family and friends, the beautiful day and sunshine that falls upon my face. I have not time to feel hatred towards the situation.
Today while war rages, I seek peace in the world.

Today is all we have. Take the time to put a smile on the face of a stranger, for you know not what they are feeling inside. It could be they are in pain; perhaps they have lost a loved one and are dealing with grief today.

Today I send my love to all. God Bless.
Patricia L. Atchison

Website: www.patricia@patriciaatchison.ca
Writing & Publishing Blog: www.aboutwritingandpublishing.com

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Kingdom Poets — Martin

Announcing Kingdom Poets — a new blog intended to be a resource for those who are interested in Christian poetry. Every Monday you’ll be able to see a new post: a brief introduction to a Christian poet, along with one or two sample poems.

It’s brand new. My very first post went up Monday, February 15th, and features George Herbert: a fine 17th century English poet of deep faith. For my second and third posts I leapt into the late 20th century — with George Mackay Brown, a Scottish poet who wrote of his community in the remote Orkney Islands, and is not well known on this side of the Atlantic — and Jane Kenyon, a fine American poet who died while she was still quite young.

Yesterday, I posted about one of the most influential poets of the 1800s — Gerard Manley Hopkins. I’ll leave it to you to check it out here. If you want to know who else is being featured, check back every Monday.

The poets represent a wide range of denominations. Early poets, of course, are primarily Anglicans and Catholics. This, however, tends to also be true today. Some poets raised in Evangelical circles have been drawn towards more traditional denominations — Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox — due perhaps to their rich histories, appreciation of the arts and beauty, liturgy, or their acceptance of poetry as an acceptable service.

Check out Kingdom Poets, become a follower, and leave a comment.

D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca

Monday, March 08, 2010

Bad News/Good News - M. Laycock

I attended a seminar recently put on by the Writers’ Union of Canada. The first presenter, Ross Laird was obviously very savvy about all that is currently going on in the publishing world. At first the changes he outlined were rather discouraging. He stated there are now fewer opportunities for emerging writers in the traditional publishing spheres and even established writers are finding it hard to get their next book into print. Editing is no longer done by many houses, leaving it up to the authors to make sure their work is polished, at their own expense. Mid-range publishers are having a hard time staying afloat and at every turn the bottom line is paramount.

It would seem that publishing is no longer driven by the quality of the manuscript but by the marketing department. A “platform” is mandatory for all authors and they have to present a solid marketing plan of their own before a publishing house will consider their work.

Add to that all the changes that are happening due to the world wide web, and things look unstable at best. Ross quoted an agent who lamented, “the sky is falling and the ground is shifting all at the same time.”

But then he smiled and began to talk excitedly about the opportunities these changes are opening up for writers of all kinds all over the world. He showed us clips from YouTube and examples of web pages and blogs where people are doing creative things and even making some money while doing it.

Then he said something that made me smile. “Freedom for writers today means finding joy in the turbulence.”

I like that perspective. Instead of moaning about all the changes and fearing the future, we can jump in and enjoy it as we adapt and learn and reach out to the world. Never before have we been able to reach so many people so easily and quickly. Never before has there been so much potential for creativity and free expression.

As writers who are Christian I believe finding “joy in the turbulence” is particularly apt. Who better to smile at the chaos than those who know there is One who stands firm and unchanging? Who better to embrace the changes than those who recognize the world is illusory and true reality lies beyond. Who better to step up and engage the world with all the creativity we have been blessed with than those who know its source?

Some have said the changes in the publishing industry can be compared to the invention of the first printing press. That event changed the world. The current events are taking us into worlds we didn’t even know could exist. I wonder, what amazing things does God have in store for us all as we leap into them?

“Joy in the turbulence.” Amen.

Visit Marcia's website - http://www.vinemarc.com/

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Before You Self-Publish: a Checklist - Lindquist

This may be a bit outside of what we normally post here, but the problem as I see it is that people frequently come to The Word Guild after they've self-published a book, when we'd really like them to come before they commit to spending their money. So maybe if I post about it in a variety of places, they'll see my thoughts before they jump into publishing.

The problem, I believe, is that Christian writers seem to be very naive about publishing. We typically see our book as inspired art, a handcrafted masterpiece made from parts of our soul, or perhaps our best chance to minister to others. And we become focused on getting this marvelous creation into print so that as many other people as possible can enjoy it with us and benefit from what it says.

What we don’t do, either because we just don’t get it or because we don’t even want to go there, is see our book as a product, and publishing as a business. But alas, it is a business. In fact, it's big business. And if you decide to self-publish your book while focusing on it only as art, or craft, or ministry, you may well get shafted by one of the many self-publishing companies out there who are well aware of the profits to be made, and more than ready to take advantage of naïve writers who are focused on the intangibles.

Companies whose product is self-published books are primarily in business to make money. That’s not abnormal. And it’s not wrong. Very few businesses don’t hope to make money. They don’t tend to last long otherwise. And the fact that they need to make money to stay in business doesn’t mean that they don’t have a vision or morals or integrity, or that they aren’t essentially nice people. But it does mean that we need to go into any discussion with them with our eyes open, filtering everything that’s said through our own business plan, and not through our ego.

Now, before you think I have something against businesses, let me explain that my father owned a clothing store in a small town, and his days were spent selling shoes and dresses and shirts and pants and towels. I worked part time in that store from about the age of 11 until I went to university. I also worked one summer in a drug store and I ran an ice cream shop another summer (during which it made the most money the shop ever made.) And for a while after I was married, I worked in a hardware store. So I know first-hand that businesses need to make money to survive. And I also know that businesses need people who can sell their products.

In other words, when you go to a self-publishing house, the person we talk to is usually a salesperson. A large part of that person’s salary comes from the money people pay to have their books published. Some salespeople are even on commission, so the more services they sell, the more money they make. And that’s okay. It’s their job. What’s not okay is for you to be unaware of this.

So, for a few minutes, put aside the fact that you think of your book as your baby, a sparkling gem, or much-needed help for a clamoring public, and focus on it as simply a product. Something you want to sell. Maybe even something you want to make a little money from.

What should you do before you knock on the door of a self-publishing company?

Here's a checklist:

1. Make sure your book is actually ready to be published. Family and friends usually aren’t good judges of that. Friends and family normally like you. They love your talent. And they should be encouraging you. But even if they read a lot – even if they work in a bookstore – they still aren’t experts in publishing. Oh, and in case you’re still wondering, salespeople from self-publishing companies aren’t necessarily good judges of your book’s quality or market potential either. :)

2. Connect with published authors and editors who can mentor you and help you make good decisions. Maybe you can have someone critique your book, or hire a professional editor. Yes, I do recommend joining The Word Guild. and coming to Write!Canada.

3. Talk to authors who have self-published. Don’t get starry-eyed by the fact they have books; ask for numbers and prices and things to avoid and what they would do another time. Ask to see their business plans.

4. Talk to agents and editors and royalty published authors. Ask what they think your book's potential is. Try to identify your target audience. Learn how to create a one-sheet. Begin to create a platform.

5. Talk to several booksellers. Learn all you can about how books get sold. Find out what kind of books are selling right now, what covers are working, what a distributor is.

6. Buy books on self-publishing and look for websites that will give you good information on the process. You can do a search for blogs on "publishing" or "self-publish" on my Write With Excellence website for starters.

7. Buy books published by respected publishers that are similar to yours in content or audience. Read the books. Mark them up. Study them from cover to cover. Look at the covers, the title pages, the layout, the fonts, the amount of white space…. Then buy some self-published books or books from small independent publishers and compare them to the books from major publishing houses. Look for differences and similarities. Look to see where the books were published, who the printer was...

8. When you approach a publishing house, realize that the job of the salesperson from the publishing house is to sell the company’s services. That doesn’t mean salespeople have no integrity - selling is their job! But it does mean that if they tell you they love your book, you need to take it with a grain of salt. And you also need to realize that salespeople are typically friendly and personable people – that’s why they’re in sales!

9. Get quotations from at least three possible publishing houses. Then get quotations from several editors who could help you walk through the publishing process on your own. Investigate working directly with a printer and hiring a layout person so you can publish your own books. Consider all the options.

10. Put together a budget and a marketing plan.

11. Then, and only then, decide what you're going to do.

Of course, you need to pray through this whole process that God will lead you to the right people and the right plan for you. And it you end up blowing it the first time round, assume that God will use it in some way for good, and learn from your experiences.

Ultimately, you are the only person who can determine what’s best for your book. Only you can decide whether to hold out for a royalty publisher, self-publish a small number of books for friends and family, or try to publish for a wider audience. Just recognize that publishing anything beyond a few copies for family or friends is not a hobby but a business, and you need to treat it as such. No more naïve Christian writers - please! :)

N. J. Lindquist


Friday, March 05, 2010

Did you believe? - Nesdoly

I was sad to see the Olympics end on Sunday night. Canada will not soon forget those 17 days; I will not soon forget those 17 days - all the more because my province and my neighbor city hosted the event. The triumphant finish felt like a hard-fought win.

The 2010 Winter Olympics have been on the front burner here for a long time - and not always in a positive way. It seems as if the human penchant to expose, predict, emphasize and sensationalize the inevitability of disaster has been much in evidence in B.C. during the last few months.

There were complaints about the cost, about the disruption to traffic and business, about ticket-buying problems, about free tickets to dignitaries who probably wouldn't attend and so there would be empty seats. There were legitimate concerns about the mild weather and lack of snow on some ski and snowboard venues. There were poverty and homeless protesters disrupting the torch relay and predictions that the security for the games would never be enough. I must admit as the games approached I felt not a little dread. What if the Olympics turned out to be a big, embarrassing, flop?  So I prayed for safety, good weather, a positive spirit on the streets, and was confident that all would be well despite the naysayers.

Thus I'll never forget the horrible feeling I had when I heard of the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili  on the luge track just hours before the Opening Ceremonies. Were my worst fears going to come true after all?

For a while it seemed so. At the Opening Ceremonies the crew couldn't get the fourth cauldron leg to come up. On the ski hill rain and fog made it necessary to cancel events. At the speedskating oval a Zamboni broke down.  At Cypress VANOC was forced to refund standing-room ticket monies after the melting snow made the standing room area unsafe. Downtown, people were riled because the chain-link fence obstructed camera shots of the Olympic cauldron. The British press called it the "worst Olympics ever."

Vanoc remedied the cauldron photo problem by creating a camera slit in the chain link.

But everyone soldiered on. Alex Bilodeau won Canada's first gold medal on home soil. The weather cleared. The people of Vancouver and area came out to celebrate Canada and our athletes, showing unheard-of patriotism, good cheer and hospitality. Joannie Rochette inspired us with her brave and determined performance just days after her mom's death. And our athletes won medals - bronze, silver and gold upon gold. The crowning achievement came on Sunday afternoon when, just hours before the Closing Ceremonies, the Canadian hockey team won the gold medal - in overtime no less (but why am I telling you this - you all know it)!

In an interview Monday, VANOC CEO John Furlong said (and I paraphrase), "We couldn't have scripted the ending so well if we had tried. In the end, some kind of cosmic justice prevailed to reward all our hard work." If there was anyone who was a personification of the Canadian Olympic mantra, "believe," it was he!

The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver remind me of the "games" in which we are involved as Christians. How often don't things look bad for people who are running the race of life by the Word of God. The news is negative. Christian leaders fall from grace. Church attendance is shrinking. There is division within our own ranks. Popular culture is against us.

We had no certainty about how our international games-hosting event would turn out, but the end of our Christian games is sure.

"Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ." - 2 Corinthians 2:14
And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

      “ Blessing and honor and glory and power
      Be to Him who sits on the throne,
      And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” - Revelation 5:13
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” - Revelation 7:9-10

Do you believe?


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