Posts Tagged With: Writing

UW Writer’s Institute Conference Aftermath

April 4-6, 2014 Madison, Wisconsin

April 4-6, 2014
Madison, Wisconsin

Attending my first writer’s conference was mind-blowing. We conferees soaked up all things writing for three days till near saturation. Hours, and hours, and hours of  writers and writing. Networking, making new writer friends, meeting accomplished authors, learning, and more learning. Getting inspired.

So the cosmos-splitting boom heard over South Central Wisconsin last weekend was the sound of hundreds of writers’ brains exploding. (The collective groan heard late Saturday night was when the Wisconsin Badgers lost their Final Four basketball game by one point!) But that brain blowup feels so good. Challenged. Encouraged. Armed to write better.

For me, writing a novel has been like learning to play the Celtic harp—if I’d known how difficult it is, I might never have started. But then I’d have missed out on great joy. (Hmm, there’s a metaphor in there somewhere, something to do with children.)

 

UW Writer’s Institute Conference

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We Are God’s Artwork, His Artists

A friend gave me the book, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman.

The term art is painted with broad strokes. Freeman’s scripture-based premise is that we are God’s image-bearers, his artwork, and as such, it’s our task, our privilege, our terror, to find and live the individual artistry God has placed in each of us for His glory and the benefit of others. Everyone—even Dorothy, “the meek and small,” as she describes herself to Oz, The Great and Terrible—is God’s artist.

I’ve just started the book, but here’s a sentence that stopped me in my thought-tracks:

We’re desperately afraid of desire, terrified that if we consider for too long what we most deeply want, we will be confused about which desires come from us, which ones come from God, and how to tell the difference.

Bull’s-eye!

Daring to dream is God-given. And not following those dreams might be a waste of one’s purpose at best and disobedient at worst!

This same friend once said, “Are we going to be accountable for our unopened gifts?” Hmm.

I’ve known that God made me me for a reason: allowed me to develop certain interests, skills, and passions. Freeman gives us a gentle nudge, or kick in the pants, in the direction of doing something about it.

All right then—ready, set, GROW.

Categories: Christianity, Psychology, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Writing is Like Knitting

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My friend Sue keeping warm in the hat I knit for her.

Writing is like knitting. Here’s how—for me.

  • I’ve learned a lot by studying online. There are lots of videos, tutorials, tips, blogs—you name it—online.
  • It’s very technical. A new language of terms.
  • It involves words. Untangling the directions for a knitting pattern can be a challenge.
  • It takes practice, practice, practice (much like skiing!).
  • I make mistakes. Oh, do I make mistakes. Correcting them is both a pain and an art. The trick is to first find the mistake and then figure out how to correct it.
  • I get to give it to friends. I enjoy the process of creating, but giving away a gift is the best.
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Writing is Like Skiing

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The process of writing is a lot like skiing—for me.

  • It takes practice, practice, practice—for years.
  • I need lessons and critiques from experts.
  • I make lots of mistakes and feel clumsy half the time.
  • Sometimes it hurts—my body and my ego at risk.
  • It’s frustrating.
  • It’s extremely technical.
  • It’s hard to remember everything I’m supposed to be paying attention to.
  • It’s the most fun—ever.
  • There are times when it’s absolutely, crazily, achingly sublime: when it all comes together, and I feel like I’m flying, that I can’t do anything wrong.
  • I’ll never regret doing either.
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Defeated or Devotional

The semifinalist list for Operation First Novel 2013, a writing contest sponsored by The Christian Writers Guild, came out this week. I was not on the list.

After the hot flush of disappointment and disbelief subsided, (I wanted it so badly!), my next thought was, “OK, Lord, now what?”

It’s no good pouting—that’s not going to get my novel published—so I might as well learn from this experience and move on.

I’m galvanized to action. There are agents to query, another Christian writers organization to join, another contest to enter. More revisions.

This rejection comes at just the time when my Facebook page has taken a turn that’s amazed me. Like Henry Blackaby says, “Look what God is doing and join Him.” There are women joining who live in “closed countries.” That’s thrilling!

So is this contest rejection a defeat?

NO!

It’s a devotional.

From the beginning I’ve said, if God is in this writing endeavor, it will be what He wants it to be. But that also means I have to learn the lessons He sets before me and not mess it up. He can, after all, find other vessels to use.

Two scriptures light my path right now, both given to me by friends.

May He grant you according to your heart’s desire,
And fulfill all your purpose. Psalm 20:4

A bruised reed he will not break… Isaiah 42:3

Oh, I cling to the idea of being granted my heart’s desire, but I know that doesn’t mean getting what I want. The more I align my heart’s desire with His heart’s desire, the closer I’ll come to fulfilling my purpose for Him.

And this bruise to my ego and my desires is really nothing in the scheme of things. The Isaiah verse was poured like balm over me by a family friend who prayed my family through the deepest of deep hurts. The Lord will not break me. Or you.

Would you like to share scripture verses that have encouraged you when you stood on the cliff of disappointment?

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Hopes and Dreams

Time to take stock. I launched this blog in June 2012, and my Facebook personal page and community page, Full Pitcher Christian Women, on Christmas Day 2012. What have I learned? Why do it?

I have a big dream—to reach Christian women around the globe with messages of insight and encouragement. I have no illusions that my efforts are unique or special—there are thousands of sites such as mine—but I always did like singing in a choir.

What I’ve learned:

  • You readers are shy with Likes, Comments, and Shares. I get that in this crazy cyber age of assaults on our privacy. However, let me give you what assurances I can. Before I approve a comment on my blog I edit out last names unless you tell me you want traffic to your blog or url, so there isn’t a cyber trail to you that I’m aware of. On Facebook my understanding is that if you lock down your privacy settings, no one can get past your FB front door, even if they see your name on a Comment. Please correct me if I’m wrong. So, if you’re comfortable, Like, Comment, and Share away.
  • You like photos. So do I. Feel free to share and plaster my copyrighted photos all over the place in any free application.
  • You like short articles or snippets. This seems especially true on Facebook where the News Feed goes by so fast and there’s so much to read. And, the universal lament, so little time.
  • You really are friends. I admit to being a cyber grinch at heart, skeptical of cyber relationships. But I’ve learned they are what they are, and they are something of value. That’s YOU.
  • Some of you readers are men. That’s great too. Though Full Pitcher Christian Women is intended for women, men are welcome to have a look. After all, it’s not a bad thing to have men learn more about our thoughts, our hearts, our needs. My blog is more gender neutral and guy-friendly.

Why do this social media thing?

  • It’s a ministry to you. Plain and simple: if you don’t benefit from it, there’s no point. Any feedback you have for me on what works, what doesn’t work, would be appreciated. If you want to keep it private, Message me.
  • It exercises my writing muscles. This is the part for me—writers write, and social media is a great platform for writing.  I’ve written a novel for Christian women that I’ll be letting you know about in the next few months, as soon as I find out how it fared in this year’s contest at The Christian Writers Guild.

You’ll notice that “you” appears many times in these taking-stock thoughts. You are why I do this. You are the key to spreading the word. So thank YOU.

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Writing as Worship

Dry, shriveled leaves blowing down the alley. Hard, scraping noise in the dark. The sound caught my attention and found a place to hold on.

I’ve felt dry. Since submitting my novel to the Operation First Novel contest, I’ve felt withered—disconnected—in general, and from the Lord. I thought it might be just the letdown of completing a huge fourteen-month work during which I was happily cloistered from reality. But it’s more than that.

I realized writing is an act of worship for me—a gift I give back to the Lord—and I miss it.

I’ve said and prayed that I rely on the Lord for every breath. And for every word.

“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Deuteronomy 8:3 NIV

It was a blessed time, writing my novel—in a nearly constant loop of seeking and praising the Lord.

Now I’m in the praying-about-the-next-story phase, casting for the starting point. I have to remember that for some, the waters part before they take a step—others have to stick their toe in, and then the river parts.

I picture myself, sitting on my heels in the presence of  the Lord, with my gift of writing in a wooden box before me. I shove the box out to the Lord. The world pulls it back to me. But I keep pushing it out, until finally I take my hands off of it, close my eyes, and watch and pray while I wait. Worshipping.

Cristine Eastin © 2012
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Next Novel—Like Climbing A Mountain

Pity me—I’m starting to think about beginning work on my next novel.

It’s fun, but it’s also like standing at the bottom of the mountain, looking up at how far you have to go. We wonder—why in the world do people climb mountains?—really. Because they’re there? Not likely—it would be much easier to go around.

Taurus mountains, Antalya, Turkey

I think people climb mountains because the process of getting to the top fulfills some need—maybe a dysfunctional, masochistic need, but a need nevertheless—and the view is gratifying, even incomparable.

I climbed a mountain once, sort of. I got up at 3 a.m. and joined a group for a trek up a smallish peak in Switzerland. We had to start early to get off the mountain before snow melted, opening up unseen crevasses. It was mostly a hard slog. We followed switchback paths, marched over a snowfield, and clambered up the rock pinnacle with the assist of embedded chains, to the hut at the top. But what a view! Of the Matterhorn, Dent du Midi, and other surrounding peaks. On the way down, a woman panicked when we had to leap over a petite crevasse (the bottom of which I couldn’t see), and she had to be encouraged down step by step.

Writing is like that. Regardez la petite crevasse! Watch out for the little crack! (Our Swiss guide really said that.)

My next novel might be set in the Scottish Highlands or an island and then England, starting in the ’50’s or ’60’s and moving forward in time to the ’70’s or ’80’s. I foresee complexity (crevasses)—things I’ll have to research—all over the place. “Why?” the writer laments, “Couldn’t I pick something simple?” Because, when I’m done, it will have been worth it.

Cristine Eastin © 2012
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Saudade, A Deep Longing

Saudade–I have a bad case of it. Wikipedia defines this Portuguese word as, “…a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.”

Sigh.

My saudade sighs are for England.

In my mid-twenties I lived in Beaconsfield, England: halfway between London and Oxford. This was my house—minus the two-story addition on the right where the brick is darker and plus masses of tall Queen Elizabeth roses. My house must also have a new name, or no name, since one chimney was removed. The Post Office once directed a friend visiting from Geneva to my house when the friend said, “I think her house is called ‘Two Stacks’.” How quaint.

For two years “Two Stacks” was home. I arrived a young, naive woman and left with a heart full of the love of friends—a heart that’s got a chunk of it shaped like England into which only England and things English will fit.

I long to return: a longing so strong it feels as if it might pull my heart right out of my chest and stick it to some place in England.

I run back to England as often as I can—to the dreary weather, the quaint houses, the endless footpaths, the English way of life—and to friends.

Almost every day a friend and I walked our dogs here. Public access to private land gave us miles of hill and dale for the dogs to run, providing the dogs didn’t bother the livestock. The only time that almost went wrong was when I watched helplessly as a stud donkey chased my dog. Fortunately my dog ducked under the fence an inch ahead of the hoofs.

Sigh.

I long to walk in England. Tramping the sidewalks in my rabbit warren urban US neighborhood doesn’t cut it. Nor does walking the Department of Natural Resources land near my house where they’ve just clear-cut the woods to make way for a prairie restoration. “Progress!” she spat out in disgust.

Sometimes my English friend and I ate lunch here, both dogs resting under the table—the Royal Standard of England. I had already had a taste of living overseas by this time, having lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for two ski seasons, but the Royal Standard was an eye-opener. I understood why England viewed its American step-children as unappreciative of history. Part of the Royal Standard was 900 years old. I had no sense of history like that.

England has changed  tremendously since I lived there. The pace of life has almost caught up to the US, horrible blights on the architectural landscape have gone up, economic stress is rife, and the country struggles valiantly with ethnic diversity. The butcher shop that brined my corned beef for me and the butcher that gave my dog treats are gone, replaced by a huge, convenient grocery store.

Yet I can’t wait to get back. It makes me feel righted somehow—like my bones have fallen into place.

I know all this saudade silliness flies in the face of  Paul’s wisdom: “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content,” (Philippians 4:11). It’s not that I’m not content in the State of Wisconsin. But, for some reason, God put this love of England in me. I do know that my next novel will be set in Scotland and England. If I can’t live there in reality, at least I can live there in my imagination.

If only they wouldn’t drive on the left!

Cristine Eastin © 2012
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Operation First Novel

Operation First Novel is a contest for, as it says, authors submitting an unpublished novel. The contest is sponsored by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

This year I entered my novel. 

Huh. When I pushed the send button on my entry form no flares went up, no confetti, no balloons, no champagne cork popped. Didn’t it register in the universe that I had just submitted my novel to a contest?

No—nothing. Then I remembered what a lonely business writing is. Really, it’s more alone than lonely. I’m not lonely when I write—generally I’m having fun somewhere on the fun continuum between good enough and a blast.

After submission, then a writer waits—and waits—and waits.

Years ago, while whining to the Lord about waiting on something else, the scripture came to mind “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41). Whether or not I get what I think I want, I don’t wait alone—I wait with the Lord—and I wait actively—watching and praying.

There are a lot of I‘s in that last sentence— enough to gag on. My fervent prayer is that the Lord helps me get out of His way so He can use me. But I’m no better than the disciples—I keep falling asleep when I’m asked to “watch and pray.” Then it’s—wake up—slap cold water on my face—and try again.

As Peter Leavell, winner of Operation First Novel 2011, said “…God knows the end (Jeremiah 29:11). He knew I would win.” Likewise, He knows exactly what will come of my novel. That’s weird to know while I wait, but that’s part of God’s process—teaching us to trust Him in the dark. But it’s still…well…dark, and sometimes my lower lip trembles.

I don’t expect to win the contest, but I want to win the prize. “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

© Cristine Eastin, 2012
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