Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Few February Links

On February 15 I posted on Inscribe Writers Online with my review of Julia Cameron's iconic book The Artist's Way.

On February 27 I offered up a story about a man with a hoarding problem - part of a month long theme on random acts of kindness on The Word Guild's blog.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A New Rhythm

Another month is drawing to close. Where has the time gone and more importantly, what have I been doing all this time?

When I open my list of goals for the year, I see that I am sadly off track. I set high expectations for myself, especially in terms of writing goals and word count. Yet two months have almost passed and I have very little to show for it.

Sure, I managed to get my submission in on time to an anthology project. I've posted on my blog, read a couple of books and wrote reviews, and generally 'kept up' with my online responsibilities. Not to mention I've been preaching in church quite frequently, so I've had sermons to prepare...

The fact is, these are just excuses. I've had plenty of time to write... I just haven't felt the spark.

Ecclesiastics 3:1 says, To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heavens...

Perhaps this is a new season. A time for more quiet reflection instead of so much 'doing'. Last year I wrote at a frenetic pace. This year I'm sitting thinking more, quietly reflecting. When I allow myself to shed the guilt, I see that this new rhythm might be just what I need at this time. The call to write is still strong, but if it's not done in God's timing, the effort will be too great; the effects not great enough. 

I'm resting in this new rhythm for awhile. Let's see where God takes it from here. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ruth L. Snyder - Interview

Ruth L. Snyder is one of six contributing authors to UPLIFTING DEVOTIONALS III published by Helping Hands Press. I've been doing a series of interviews with all of the authors, who, by the way, are all from Canada.

I consider Ruth to be a personal friend as well as a colleague. As the president of Inscribe Christian Writers' Fellowship, a Canada wide organization for Christian writers, she has amazing leadership skills. In true 'Ruth' form, her contributions are practical and down to earth, especially geared toward parents, but enjoyable for anyone.

Here is my interview with Ruth L. Snyder:

Where do you currently live? If this is different from where you grew up, tell us a little bit about where you are from.
I live on a quarter section of land near Glendon, a Ukrainian village in northeastern Alberta. I was born in Michigan while my parents were waiting for a visa to enter South Africa. When I was six weeks old my parents, two brothers, and I flew to South Africa where my parents served as missionaries. My family spent ten years in southern Africa where my dad served as a printer, and both my parents led Bible studies, and mentored other believers. Our family vacations often consisted of camping and visiting game parks where I was privileged to see lions, elephants, wildebeests giraffes, hippos, and many other animals in their natural environments. The other half of my growing up years, we lived in Three Hills, Alberta at Prairie Bible College where I had the privilege of hearing many theologians and missionaries speak, as well as being exposed to an incredible array of musicians.

Is writing your primary vocation? If not, what else do you do?
Maybe someday writing will be my primary vocation, but right now I squeeze it in between parenting five children (ages 7-17) and teaching music, as well as volunteering in our church and community.

How did you become involved in the Uplifting Devotionals project?
Last year I participated in several projects with Helping Hands Press. One of my Canadian author friends suggested it would be fun to put out a devotional which featured all Canadian authors. The publisher agreed. I feel privileged to be part of this project.

What is the primary theme of your section in this book?
I chose to write devotionals on the topic of parenting, since that's where I'm at during this stage of life. I share some of the lessons God is teaching me. Parenting is a challenging but rewarding task, and thankfully God walks with us through the joys and trials.

What do you hope readers take away from your writing in general?
My prayer is that readers will enjoy the stories I share, be encouraged to consider God at work in their lives, and be better equipped to do the good work God designed them to do.

See all of Ruth's writing at her website. 

Other interviews in this series:
Murray Pura
Marcia Laycock
Janice Dick
Tony Hilling

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Improv Rules for Life

After teaching highs school Drama for more than fifteen years, I've narrowed the rules of successful improvisation down to just two simple things:

1. The Rule of Agreement
2. Be a Giver

It occurred to me that these two 'Improv' rules can be easily applied to life in general. Let me explain.

1. The 'Rule of Agreement' simply means that the actor must 'buy in' to whatever is suggested by his or her scene partner. Some people mistakenly interpret this to mean "Always say yes," but it's a little more complicated than that. Without the rule of agreement, a scene can die a quick and often disastrous death. I've given some examples below.*

So it is in life. As Christians we need to 'buy in' to God's plan for our lives. This means we are acting upon what God is telling us, not necessarily what other people suggest. We can't always say "Yes" to people, but we must always say "Yes" to God, knowing He will bring about an outcome that will be just right for my life.

2. 'Be a Giver' is the next most important rule in acting. It's not enough to 'buy in' to a suggestion on stage. It's each actor's job to provide information to keep moving the scene forward. If one actor is carrying the entire scene it begins to look lopsided. The 'giver' might even get tired and give up. When the actors work in unison, however, bouncing ideas off one another, it is a spectacular thing to watch.

This principle also works in real life. We need to be supporting others in their journey, not always taking for ourselves. Being a giver isn't always easy. It can be hard work and sometimes it takes us outside our comfort zone, but in the end the rewards are great for everyone involved.

It reminds me of Jesus' response when He was asked which was the greatest commandment. In Luke 10:27 He said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind." This is a full scale 'buy in', just like the 'Rule of Agreement'. Then He goes on to say, "And love your neighbour as yourself." What better way to love other people (even a scene partner!) than by being a giver?

With these two rules in mind, anyone can create a successful improv scene and anyone can move forward in their life.

*Examples of the Two Rules in Action

Peggy: Hi Grandma. How are you today?
Bill: I'm not your Grandma.

Done. Dead. Scene over. Nothing kills a scene more quickly than Bill NOT agreeing to Peggy's suggestion that he is her Grandma. Boo! Let's do that over.

Peggy: Hi Grandma. How are you today?
Bill: Your meds are making you hallucinate again. I'm not your Grandma, remember?

Bill still isn't buying in, but at least he gave Peggy another avenue to carry the scene forward.

Peggy: Hi Grandma. How are you today?
Bill: Just fine, dearie, Come on in and I'll fix you some cocoa after I feed my pet rhinoceros. 

Okay... probably not what Peggy was expecting, but Bill bought in to her idea AND offered new information that she now has to run with.

Photos are from various plays I've produced over the years. Visit the 'Theatre Buff' page to see more. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Marcia Laycock Speaks

I am thrilled to have author Marcia Lee Laycock as a guest today. She, along with five other Canadian writers, (including me) teamed up to put together UPLIFTING DEVOTIONALS III, a smorgasbord of devotions published by Helping Hands Press. 

Marcia has mastered the art of descriptive eloquence. Her use of metaphors is so beautiful that one almost forgets that she is really talking about deep personal trials. The reader is left with a sense of the profound magnificence of the God we serve. This devotional book is worth reading just for Marcia's section alone! Here is my interview with Marcia.

Where do you currently live? If this is different from where you grew up, tell us a little bit about where you are from.

My husband and I now live in central Alberta Canada, in the heart of cowboy/oil country. So I’m a dyed in the wool westerner now but was born in the east – in Sault Ste Marie Ontario and raised mostly on an island in Lake Huron. (I love large bodies of water and have to get my “water fix” at least once a year).
I made my way north when I was quite young and fell in love with the place, settling in Dawson City, Yukon where I met Spence. We lived there for about 12 years, came to Christ and went off to Bible college in Saskatchewan in the mid 80’s. Our first Church was in Ponoka, Alberta where we lived and ministered for almost 20 years. We spent some time on the mission field in Papua New Guinea, then moved to a small town called Blackfalds to start a new church. That work has grown and we are about to move into our own building after 10 years in a community hall.

Is writing your primary vocation? If not, what else do you do?

Yes and no. I’m a pastor’s wife so have to switch hats often. I’ve had various day jobs over the years – everything from store clerk, unit clerk in a hospital, and teacher’s assistant, but always made room for writing. I no longer work outside my home.

How did you become involved in the Uplifting Devotionals project?

I was approached about participating in Kathi Macias’ 12 Days of Christmas anthology and from there began publishing novels and devotionals with Helping Hands Press. It was great to know some of the other Canadians publishing there and I thought it would be great to be part of a project written by Canadian writers of faith.

What is the primary theme of your section in this book?

I would say the primary theme is hope. Some of the pieces were written when I was going through treatments for cancer, so hope was a big thing in my life at that time and remains so.

What do you hope readers take away from your writing in general?

I want my readers to think; to ponder where they are in their relationship with Jesus and to walk away from my writing holding onto something that moves them closer to Him.

Marcia is the author of several other devotionals and novels. For more about Marcia and her published work, visit her website:

Stay tuned for more interviews in this series:
Murray Pura
Ruth L. Snyder
Janice Dick
Tony Hilling

Friday, February 13, 2015

Love and Superstition - Colliding!

Love and superstition are about to collide! It's Friday the thirteenth but tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Good thing I'm not superstitious...

It reminds me of some random thoughts that were going through my mind the other day as I was walking to school. It was dark and cold, but I was dressed warmly, and the snow was coming down in big heavy flakes. It made the landscape a vision of beauty, even though there was a layer of treacherous ice underneath. There's that paradox again.

I was thinking about all the things I love about where I live as well as all the things I dislike. I came up with a list, and as you will see, that love/hate relationship is often the same!

1. The beauty of my surroundings. Mountains, trees, wilderness... there is almost a resort feel to this little town.

2. I can literally get anywhere I need to go in five minutes or less.

3. You can walk safely alone even after dark. (In the fall, bears could be a problem, but the danger from other people is so minuscule as to be non-existent.)

4. There is basically zero crime. People leave their doors unlocked most of the time.

5. You know everyone you meet. Even people you don't know look familiar when you meet them in the store.

6. Neighbours help each other out

7. All my children live within a two hour radius.

8. Winters are milder than in many other northern communities, with regular chinook winds making it almost balmy at times.

9. I have a good job that I like.

10. I like my small, intimate church.

1. Isolation. There is basically nothing but wilderness for an entire hour's drive.

2. The 'road in' is mountainous, windy, narrow, and has lots of steep drop offs. Not great for winter travelling.

3. No shopping. (Beyond the essentials....) Helps save money but the 'city shopping list' get really, really long.

4. Remember I said I could get anywhere in five minutes? Well, there really isn't anywhere to go... A little more variety in terms of restaurants and entertainment would be nice.

5. No anonymity. In other words, everybody knows your business.

6. An economy that is essentially resource based means a boom and bust roller coaster ride. Right now we're on the down swing due to low coal prices. Lots of people are leaving and there is a cloud of discontent hanging overhead.

7. Even though we're relatively close, I don't see my grandbaby often enough! Two hours one way is still two hours one way!

8. Those mild days in the winter can be nice, but then the ice builds up and it becomes a circus act. People wear spikes on their boots as a fashion statement.

9. My job is great, but I'm tired! When can I retire? Please?!

10. Sometimes I long for a big church with awesome music and lots of programs. When you live in a small town and are responsible for much of the ministry work, sometimes you wish for a break to just get fed.

In the end, I'm content. I will try to focus more on the positive list and ignore the negatives. Spring is just a few months away... 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sisterhood Bloggers

Thanks to Patti J. Smith (the 'Grid Iron Granny') for nominating me for the 'Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award'. (Now if that isn't a mouthful I don't know what is!) I know Patti through a mutual publisher, Helping Hands Press.

Part of the award is answering Patti's questions. Here they are:

1.      How old were you when you realized you wanted to be a writer?

I was 23 years old when it actually dawned on me. Before that I was channelling most of my creative energy into my visual art. Then I had my first baby. We lived in a very small house with no room for me to leave my painting supplies out. It was too much work to take them out, make a mess, and then put them away – all while my daughter was down for her nap. So I started writing instead and I was hooked.

2.      What was the very first story you wrote and what was it about?

When I was in Grade 4 I wrote a play based on a children’s book called Ghosts Don’t Eat Sausages. I organized an acting group and we rehearsed at recess. My teacher saw what was going on and organized for us to perform in front of the school.

3.      Who has provided you the most encouragement in your writing career?

My husband and family have been my biggest cheerleaders throughout the years. Even though he doesn’t like to read, he understands my need to tell stories. My daughters have been very encouraging, too, both as beta readers, proofreaders, and general cheerleaders.

4.      Many readers avoid reading works from unfamiliar or indie publishers as well as self-published authors.   What can we do to pull them into that undiscovered treasure?

Number one is making sure our work is of top quality. Too much shoddy work is now available because of the ease of self-publishing. Things are changing, though.

5.      What do you think are the drawbacks of electronic readers?

I like to flip back to certain parts while reading and I find that is almost impossible with an electronic reader. You have to know the exact page.  

6.      Which author inspired you the most?

Oh dear. This is hard. I still love Frank Peretti, but there are a ton of other authors, new and old, that I love and that have made me feel like writing my own stories.

7.      What is the one thing you would stress when speaking to a group of young, up and coming writers?

Be realistic. Making it big (or even making a living) is not easy. It takes hard work, professionalism, and a bit of good fortune.

8.      Do you think Christian fiction is becoming more mainstream? 

I think it is broadening its scope. Not all Christian fiction is created equal. There fore there are a few big names who will sell well in any brick and mortar store, while there are those that will be strictly in the Christian book stores and still others that are carving out a niche that is really only doable online.

9.      What can we, as Christian writers, do to increase readership in Christian fiction, especially for young adults?

Find your niche. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Christian readers are just as varied (and discerning when it comes to good literature) as the general market. Find some fans – people who genuinely love your work (not just family and friends) and then cater to them.

10.    What do you love most about writing?

There are so many things! I love getting into that zone when time seems to stands still. I love the initial excitement of an idea. I love working through the manuscript and seeing my word count grow. I love the satisfaction that comes when you finish the first draft. 

And here are my ten nominees - all INSCRIBE 'sisters':

 - Loretta Boullion - Life With Teens
- Kathleen Gibson - Sunny Side Up
- Mary Waind - Beach Croft Tales
- Joanna Clarke Dawyd - To a Pretty Life
- Ruth Ann Adams - Ruth Ann Adams
- Janis Cox - He Cares For You
- Janice Dick - A Writer's Life
- Linda Hall - LRHall Books
- Mary Haskett - Mary Haskett, Author
- Janice Keats - The Master's Path