Monday, June 23, 2014

The Road Taken... - by N. J. Lindquist

A few people have been talking about what they took home from this year’s Write! Canada conference this year.  (E.g. Janet Sketchley's blog)

What did I bring home? Memories.

Most of us are familiar with the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken,” with its famous ending,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—   
I took the one less traveled by,   
And that has made all the difference.   

But there are times I think my life is more like the Dr. Seuss book, Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!

I must have read that book out loud a thousand times or more over the years. It was one of my sons’ favourites. Okay, one of my favourites too. :)

Basically, it’s about the reality that one small thing can lead to another and that leads to another and so forth. As I look back on my life, so many things, all of which seemed minor or random at the time, resulted in meaningful things later on.

This year's conference was my 26th.

In the fall of 1988, I went for the first time because a friend "happened to mention" that there was going to be a writers’ conference at Ontario Bible College in Toronto that November. Although I felt weird going, because I wasn’t a “real” writer, I went.

N. J. Lindquist with her husband Les and their family in 1992.
While I was there, thanks to a random conversation with another newbie writer, I discovered there were writers’ market guides. That first guide gave me no end of help.

The following year I submitted a couple of things for critiques, and was told by the editor of a major American Publishing company that I was definitely a good enough writer to have my book published and be able to afford a housekeeper—my goal at the time. (Said editor thought I was writing about hockey in my novel when it was actually curling, but I ignored that part. :))

In 1991, I had my first book published (by Moody Press), I had a Judges Choice story published in the Toronto Star, and I had several acceptances from magazines, many of them because of appointments or random conversations at God Uses Ink.

Conference director Audrey Dorsch asked me to teach my first workshop at God Uses Ink that year, with editor/author Elma Schemenauer, because Elma said she’d prefer to teach with someone else. Soon after, because I’d sent a letter to Audrey offering suggestions, I was asked to become part of the steering committee.

Fast forward to June, 2001, and the Wednesday night before the conference. I was part of a small group of Canadian faculty who were told that the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada was unable to continue putting on God Uses Ink, and this would be the last year.

At that time, there was email and Yahoo groups were starting to build up, but there was little in the way of social media, blogs, etc. The God Uses Ink conference was still my only tangible link to other Canadian writers and editors who were Christian. The others in our group, including the   current conference director Bill Fledderus, felt the same way I did—that we had to find a way to keep it going—but no one knew how to do that. We prayed for help.

I woke up before 6:00 Thursday morning with the scary but strong assurance that God wanted me to keep the conference going. At 6:30, I phoned my husband Les and told him what had happened.

Knowing my goal was to write full-time while we started a church plant in the area we’d just moved into, Les asked me if I was sure that this what God wanted me to do.

“Yes,” I said. I had complete peace about it.

Without a second’s delay, he said, “Okay, then. Do what you need to do. We’ll make it work.”

As we went through that long summer, there were many meetings with other writers as well as people from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and we had to prepare all sorts of proof that we could handle it, and that we were the best people to do it. 

We eventually got permission to use the God Uses Ink name, and then we had to scramble to organize the conference for the following year. At that point, Wendy and I took on official roles with The Word Guild as Executive Director (me) and Associate Director (Wendy) as well as co-directors of the conference.

Because Les had had experience as a church treasurer, he took on the thankless and generally frustrating job of treasurer, and began attending all of our meetings. He had little personal interest in writing at that time, and had begun the journey only to support me, but now he began to “get” it, and to become just as passionate as we were to make this happen.

In November, writer/editor Denyse O’Leary connected us with John Franklin, director of Imago, and The Word Guild was accepted as a project. This gave us credibility and also enabled us to raise money and give tax receipts. Wendy and her parents, Les and I, and a few others, put in as much money as we could so we’d have some capital.

N. J. with Larry Willard at God Uses Ink in 2002.
On January 31, 2002, we began taking memberships. Our first official member was Audrey Dorsch, who is currently a member of the board.  

And 13 years later, The Word Guild and its flagship conference, now called Write Canada, are still here, still helping writers like me learn what they need to learn to make a difference.

Wendy and I usually get the bulk of the credit, and while we appreciate our efforts being remembered, many people played a part, not only in the beginning when the small group of us were adamant to keep the conference going, but over the years when many have taken leadership roles, prayed, encouraged, taught, and done a variety of things as God has directed.

If I had to list everyone who has taken on a role with The Word Guild, this blog would be ginormous! The good thing is, God knows. And really, we were doing it because we believed it's what He wanted us to do.

Wendy (on left) and N. J. (on right) with Sandra Manning (middle), getting the
Leading Women Award for Communications and Media in Calgary in 2006.

Just as I hope that's why you do what you do. Even though we may not see where it's going at the beginning. I just wanted to write, and then to keep the conference going. Everything else was God's plan, not mine.

I expect that each of us can look back on our lives and see the chain of events that has led us to where we are today. One little yes or no, one random or not too random path taken or not taken, can truly make all the difference.

N. J. and Les with The Word Guild member Sally Meadows.
Photo taken by Sally's husband.
The strangest thing, to me, is that during the last two years, while I’ve finally been able to focus on my original goal of being a full-time writer, Les has been the one who is actively involved with The Word Guild. And he’s just as committed as I ever was to the vision of releasing the voices of the Canadian writers who are Christian in order to impact people of our country and beyond.

Funny how these things go, isn’t it? Or maybe not.

N. J. Lindquist is writing a third mystery and a memoir, among other things.

You can get a free book at and a free short story at Yes, she has two identities now. 


Kimberley Payne said...

Thanks for the walk down memory lane! I remember going to my first writer's conference (God Uses Ink) in 2003 (the last year before the name change to Write! Canada) and then becoming involved with the Leadership Team of The Word Guild in a number of positions. Great memories!

N. J. Lindquist said...

Yes, you are definitely one of the many who have been part of the team.

Tracy Krauss said...

I was genuinely intrigued by this 'Write Canada' histoy lesson and your own fascinating journey as a writer. It is always amazing to look back and see God's hand - why we should never despise the day of small things

N. J. Lindquist said...

Yep, I was just another person trying to write, and suddenly I was doing things I'd never planned or wanted to do. But when God puts something on our hearts, we have no choice but to follow. And because of my extensive church and small group leadership as well as my varied writing and publishing experiences (including the frustrating ones), I was able to see what needed to happen.

I also knew I had to get out of the leadership a couple of years ago because He made it very clear to me I had things I needed to write. So I had to trust Him to look after TWG, just as I've had to trust Him to take care of my now-adult sons over the years. Bottom-line, it's His organization.

Glynis said...

A prime example of how blessings fall when people of God are obedient to His direction. Yes, there certainly have been many who have had a hand in establishing TWG but you, Wendy & her folks & Les certainly were the pioneers who kept the boat afloat and inspired the crew to keep paddling. How blessed and grateful we all are for that.

Peter Black said...

Yours is an inspiring story, NJ—thrilling really, a testimony to the wisdom of God in bestowing His gifts and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Through your obedience to God's leading many hundreds of us have become part of the larger story (and through our combined work, many thousands), and it's still being written.
Thank you NJ and Les, Wendy and Audrey, Bill and everyone else. ~~+~~

N. J. Lindquist said...

Thanks, Glynis and Peter. I'm sure you have similar stories you could write.

Ruth Smith Meyer said...

I got to go to the conference because of Brenda Lundy's prompting. She was also involved in the early conferences, but because of cancer, by the time I got there, she wasn't able to attend and died shortly after that. I first heard about you all through Brenda. I'm so glad for all that you people did to keep the God Uses Ink from dying--but brought it to life in under a new name. I know many have been blessed and many more will be!

N. J. Lindquist said...

Ruth, it was Brenda who first told me about it! She was one of my best friends.

We knew Brenda and her first husband Don from way back. They were 1 of 4 couples who began the church plant that is now City Center Baptist in Mississauga (we were another). We moved to Ontario from Regina to plant that church.

Brenda and Don even lived with us for a while before they went overseas.

And she was definitely part of the team in the early years.

So add another couple of links to the chain!

Maria jemmott said...

Your story is so inspiring. I am a Christian and an aspiring writer. I write short stories as led by the Holy Spirit. there are always non-fiction and show Goo's power at work in me and His faithfulness. My only forum so far has been an article in my church's newsletter and sharing my stories at some community events. I recently joined Spiritual Writers' an online group and we are tossing the idea of collaborating on a kindle book. I feel that God wants me to share my stories to inspire and bring hope to others. Do you know how we can start to get this project started? I've read second Cup of Hot Apple Cider, which was a similar project and I do know some of the authors of that book through WCDR. I appreciate any help you can offer. Please continue in your writing to uplift and inspire others. God Bless.

leducandbarriomysteries.blogspot said...

I really enjoyed the 11 times I attended God Uses Ink/Write Canada.

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