As the Ink Flows (review)

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As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian WritersAs the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers by Glenda Dekkema

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though books of devotions abound, As the Ink Flows is a unique collection of ninety meditations written by five Canadian writers for writers—and speakers too.

Section divisions (The Craft; Inspiration; Know Yourself; Well-Being; Personalities; and Faithfulness) demonstrate how wide-ranging and thorough this book is.

Devotions are short. A quoted scripture verse, two to five paragraphs on the day’s theme, followed by a one-line prayer completes on one page. Each is followed by a “Let the Ink Flow” page which consists of a thought or idea on which to reflect and a writing prompt. Space on these pages makes writing directly in the book possible (if it’s a hard copy).

I found these devotions by turn encouraging, probing, affirming, illuminating, and challenging. What a useful guide for worship, gratitude, prayer, meditation, and future direction for writers or speakers at any point in their career, from “should I give this a try?” to “been there, done that.” Highly recommended for Christian speakers and writers of any genre.

I received this book as a gift (ebook edition) from the publisher in exchange for a review.

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An end…and a beginning?

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It’s been really quiet here as I’ve switched my focus from writing to learning to draw. (Somehow the same creative muscles seem to be involved in both, and lately, learning to get things down visually has captured my interest.)

However, there is a writing project that I’ve been working on since 2014—a sequel to my biblical fiction, Destiny’s Hands. It’s finally finished. I wrote “The End” sometime this spring and for the last few weeks have been primping it. Yesterday I sent it off into the world on its first outing. Whether it ever goes farther than a file on my computer remains to be seen. But I feel wonderful having completed it to this point!

The drawing above is the sketch journal entry I drew yesterday in honour of being done!

Here are the sidewalk work directions that inspired my sketch. (How serendipitous, I thought, to run into that bit of graffiti just at the time I was at the “END” of my project.)

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A Writer’s Notebook

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Image: Pixabay

A Writer’s Notebook

In the last few years I have become bored with journaling. Oh, I still journal a bit. But I sure don’t fill the reams of paper I used to. A downside of this is that I no longer have the bulk of material to sift through for possible writing ideas that I once did. Add to that the importance common wisdom places on writers keeping notebooks and is it any wonder I’m starting to feel left behind and guilty because I’m neglecting something that’s important for a writer?

Perhaps that’s why a while ago the blog Sharing Our Notebooks caught my attention. Maintained by children’s poet, author, and teacher Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, the blog talks only about notebooks and how people—mostly writers and other creatives—use them. Through it I stumbled on an entire book about writers’ notebooks. I am learning so much as I get educated, not about journaling but about keeping a writer’s notebook. Let me share some of these things with you.

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Image: Pixabay

 

What is a writer’s notebook?

“Let’s start by talking about what it is not,” says Ralph Fletcher in his book A Writer’s Notebook. “A writer’s notebook is not a diary”1

Fletcher goes on to give us some ideas of what a writer’s notebook is. He tells us that though writers experience the gamut of thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations like everyone else, they differ from others in that they take notice of their reactions to those things. And the place to collect those reactions is the writer’s notebook. He concludes: “A writer’s notebook gives you a place to live like a writer … wherever you are, at any time of day.”2

Alan Wright, an Australian author and educational consultant would agree: “People who write get to live life twice—in the moment and in retrospect. That’s what sets writers apart. I rarely go anywhere or do anything without the shadow of my writing self being part of the adventure. Every experience provides opportunities to harvest writing ideas.”3 And the things stored in a writer’s notebook only increase in value, according to teacher and naturalist Bill Michalek: “…the diary-type entries become more and more valuable the older they get … let months or years go by, and those entries are time machines.”4

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Image: Pixabay

What do we put in a writer’s notebook?

The list of possibilities is long and includes:

  • Our reactions to life, as discussed above.
  • Things that move, haunt, or inspire us. Fletcher says, “People are different. What dazzles one person might bore the next. The question is: what moves you? As a writer, you need to be able to answer that question and take note of it.” 5 Small, telling details of scenes, experiences, and interactions. The advice from more than one notebook-keeper is to train ourselves to notice details and use all our senses to capture our impressions in precise words (not the room “smells nice” but “smells like vanilla”). We need to look for and note the telling detail of body language and facial expression. Fletcher again: “The world is jam-packed with millions of details to notice; in your notebook you’ll only have room for a tiny fraction. Try to select the ones that capture what’s really important.”6
  • Ideas. The advice is unanimous on this:

Alan Wright: “I never know when an idea might arrive, so I must be ready to receive it, and my notebook is my catcher.”7

Ralph Fletcher: “It gives you a place to write down an idea before it wriggles out of your overloaded memory.”8

Peter Salomon (children’s author): “I have a dreadful fear of coming up with a great idea and then forgetting it, so notebooks are a lifesaver.”9

  • Facts and trivia. One notebook keeper tells how his habit of collecting spider facts led to writing an entire book about spiders.
  • Significant objects. Alan Wright collected a group of objects that was meaningful to him, took a photo, and put it in his notebook as a writing prompt. Some people make sure their notebooks come with pockets so they can collect actual artifacts (ticket stubs, programs, photos, and other memorabilia).
  • Great writing. Though Fletcher felt guilty the first time he put someone else’s writing in his notebook, he later changed his mind. He says, “I’ve learned that if I’m going to write well, I need to surround my words with the beautiful writing of others.”10
  • Idea-sparkers like photos, comic strips, and news articles.
  • Overheard dialogue and arguments between strangers, friends, and family.
  • Lists. All kinds of lists like the books we’ve read, favourite words, rhyming words, cities visited, movies seen, favourite characters…whatever!
  • Ideas for future projects.
  • Doodles and sketches.
  • Memories.
  • Sayings about writing and writers that inspire us and help us persevere.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

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Image: Pixabay

 

What makes a good notebook?

I purposely put the question of what sort of book to choose after listing the kinds of things that might go into a notebook, because the choice of book will depend on what we’ll collect in it and how we will use it. Some writers have several notebooks, each for a different purpose. Notebooks vary in size from small enough to fit in a pocket, to large scrapbooks with sturdy pockets. Some people like stitched notebooks with beautiful covers. Others prefer coil-bound scribblers. Sketchers and doodlers may want paper with no lines. Those who write a lot of longhand may want a stiff cover that doubles as a writing surface. Fletcher reminds us: “Your notebook is uniquely yours.”11 Only we can decide what kind of book we will use and what we will put in it.

How can we get a writer’s mileage out of our notebooks?

Read and reread it. Poet Naomi Shihab Nye says: “Rereading notebooks is like reliving your life. I think they’re more important than money in the bank.”12

Fletcher suggests that we reread our writer’s notebooks differently than we read a book. “When I read a book or a poem, I am focusing on being the reader. When I read my own notebook my attention is split: I am half-reader and half-writer all at the same time.”13

Here are some questions Fletcher proposes we ask ourselves as we read our notebooks:

“What seems interesting/intriguing to me? What stuff do I most deeply care about? What ideas keep tugging at me? What seems bold and original? Where does the writing seem fresh and new?”14

Mark the ideas/lines/sections you like, choose one, and on a new page of your notebook, work on that idea, clustering, listing or brainstorming around it as you begin to prepare it for prime time.

We need to realize, however, that most of the writing in our notebooks will never germinate into anything. That’s okay too. Because the very act of noticing and writing things down makes us more observant, alert people—all part of the package we need to be successful writers.

Writer’s notebooks are as old as Leonardo Da Vinci. I’m sure they’re not a novel idea to most of us. But if you’re like me and have been viewing your notebook as a place to dutifully keep track of the details of life, or have become lazy about writing things down at all, maybe you’ll join me in making a new start at keeping a writer’s notebook.

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Footnotes

1 Ralph Fletcher, A Writer’s Notebook, Harper Collins, 1996, Kindle Location (KL) 52

2 Ibid, KL 59.

3 Alan Wright, “The Essential Question – Why?” sidebar box on Living Life Twice , last accessed September 17, 2012.

4 Bill Michalek, “Bill Michalek – The Page is a Listener,” Sharing Our Notebooks < http://tinyurl.com/8p4nhyn >, last accessed September 17, 2012.

5 Fletcher, Op. Cit, KL 122.

6 Ibid, KL 265.

7 Alan Wright, “Alan Wright: My Notebook Is My Catcher,” Sharing Our Notebooks, < http://tinyurl.com/94bxujs >, last accessed September 17, 2012.

8 Fletcher, Op. Cit., KL 333.

9 Peter Adam Salomon, “Peter Adam Salomon: More Emory Notebooks,” Sharing Our Notebooks, <http://tinyurl.com/9ebr6w2&gt;, last accessed September 17, 2012.

10 Fletcher, Op. Cit., KL 1101

11 Ibid., KL 94

12 Naomi Shihab Nye, quoted in Fletcher, Op. Cit., KL 720.

13 Fletcher, Op. Cit., KL 1262.

14 Ibid.

This article has been previously published in the November 2012 issue of FellowScript.

Eleven must-haves in my writer toolkit

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I’ll bet you don’t even remember the days when a computer was the newest thing in writing gadgetry. With the plethora of apps and add-ons that has bombarded us over the last years,  these days it’s almost a full-time job to keep up with the latest.

I don’t think I have. But I do have some favorites and frankly don’t know how I’d get along without them. Here are eleven tools I use every day.

TextEdot ocpmTextEdit – I use this simple word-processing software that came with my iMac and MacBook to draft all my blog posts. If I ever need to strip something of html coding, TextEdit works well for that too. (Just click on “Plain text” in the program’s Preferences.)

Scrivener logoScrivener –  This powerful program is helpful for putting together most things from articles to books. I even use it to store my poem collection. Its keyword function, ability to collect links, mark each post with icons etc. make it very adaptable to almost anything you want to do with it.

Evernote iconEvernote – I use this program to collect information when I’m researching. I love how I can copy snippets to it when I’m browsing web pages. When I use it to take lecture notes I sometimes activate its recording ability.  I have it installed on three devices so now use the paid version (it’s free for two devices).

Pocket app - logoPocket – This app collects the URLs of articles I want to read later. Pocket is also installed on both my computers and my iPad so I can access the same list from three places.

Blogger icon Wordpress logoBlogger.com and WordPress.com  – I blog on both these platforms and love both. I have connected two of my blogs to domain names so have dropped “blogger” and “wordpress” in the url without the expense of self-hosting (called “domain mapping”).

Facebook iconFacebook private profile and Author Page.  Facebook keeps me connected with family and writing friends and lets me spread encouragement, kudos, and information about good books, resources etc. I have my website blog connected to my Facebook Author page so new posts automatically show up there.

Twitter iconTwitter – I use Twitter to connect with friends, colleagues, do a little marketing, and find interesting links and information. My blogs are connected to Twitter so whenever I post to them, a tweet goes out automatically.

 

FeedlyFeedly – This RSS reader, installed on both computers and my iPad, provides me with a wonderfully efficient way to read blogs.

 

SpotifySpotify – Using this digital music service I can listen to my favourite artists while doing office busy-work, or stream wordless classical, jazz, or pop as a background to writing.

 

TimerA Timer – Finally, I wouldn’t be without my iPad timer. I work best when I know I’m committed to write for a set amount of time. (It’s amazing, too, how inspiration rises when you know you’re stuck there—no ifs, ands or buts). A good amount of time for me is an 90 minutes. I set my timer for 30 minutes and take it in segments.

Maybe you noticed, a lot of these tools help with connectivity—me staying connected to myself as I work on different devices. What writing tools could you not live without? What makes a new one attractive to you? I’m always open to ‘new and improved’!

(This is an updated post that was first published on January 27, 2014. This post was my contribution  [2 of 6] to a writers’ BLOG HOP.  Read about what tools other writers are using HERE.)

Abundant Rain Journal (Review)

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Abundant Rain Journal: A Devotional Journal for Writers of FaithAbundant Rain Journal: A Devotional Journal for Writers of Faith by Marcia Lee Laycock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marcia Laycock’s Abundant Rain Journal is a devotional journal that will be of special interest to Christian writers. Each of the 30 one-page meditations deals with some aspect of the writer’s life.

Laycock’s own experience as a writer makes her very aware of the discouragement, creative paralysis, tendency to procrastinate, and feelings of “what’s the use?” that can easily overtake those who work with words and ideas. She has used that knowledge to create a book of readings that will give Christian writers everywhere an inspirational shot in the arm.

Each devotion is paired with a short question and a blank ruled page inviting the reader to interact with the ideas just read.

As a writer myself I found many of the entries both a challenge and an encouragement. I like how Laycock uses typical writerly experiences like waiting for a shipment of books to arrive, or getting a rejection as illustrations. From her experience of writing in a variety of genres, she is able to relate to the writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry alike. Though I read the book quickly the first time around, I plan to go back and respond to many of the journal prompts. Some of my favorite quotes:

“The gift of language is God’s instrument in our hands” – p. 46.

“As writers, we have all been given a spur–the gift of communication–to use for the sake of others and for the sake of our most faithful God” – p. 50.

“We borrow language, words, images, the stuff of writing. It’s up to us to acknowledge the original owner, to offer back to Him what we have done with what we have borrowed” – p. 54.

If you’re a Christian writer who is looking for a devotional that is sympathetic to your avocation, you’ve found it in this volume. For those seeking to establish a habit of  writing regularly, the journal question that accompanies each meditation could function as a writing prompt. As well, I think this book would make an excellent devotional component for Christian writing groups.

I received a gift copy of Abundant Rain Journal from the author for the purpose of writing a review.

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The gift of people

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HACwithCinnamonCoverSOne of the things I love about writing is having pieces accepted for publication. One of the things that I don’t love is the publicizing and marketing that’s needed when those publications are books. But I know I need to do my part. So when the newest Hot Apple Cider anthology (Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon) came out this fall with two of my poems in it, I decided to suck up my angst and pull my share of the marketing weight. After all, there are 61 of us and if we all do a little…

A virtual launch on Facebook was stretching! Each of us authors who signed up hosted a half hour—probably the most hectic half hour I’ve ever spent on Facebook as I tried to keep the conversation ball rolling even as I introduced a contest and answered questions. Let’s just say the refresh button of my browser got quite the workout.

Then one of the local anthology contributors scheduled an actual bookstore launch  for last Saturday.

My biggest fear for both of these book events was that no one would show up. That I’d be talking to myself on Facebook and the three of us authors would end up as our only audience at the bookstore.

I did all I could to publicize it—invited local Facebook friends and sent emails to family not on Facebook. And prayed!

Saturday came and hubby and I arrived at the store a good 15 minutes early to find the bookstore cafe, where we were to read, full of diners and nothing set up. (Maybe this would turn out even worse than I dreaded!) So we sat down and had a coffee along with everyone else. What else was there to do?

But the store person was on it. Eventually a table appeared. We got our books set up. A cousin I had contacted was there and she said more were coming. Several friends from my poetry society showed up.

When we were finally ready to introduce the book and do some reading from it, a healthy crowd had assembled. The hour and a half of the launch passed before we knew it—a success because family and friends did come out.

House of James book launch with Rose Seiler Scott and Bill Bonikowsky.

House of James book launch with Rose Seiler Scott and Bill Bonikowsky (Photos by Bill B.)

And so today I celebrate the gift of people in my life—my husband who’s game to go on these bookish escapades with me, my friends, especially the ones who know what goes into making books and appreciated the importance of a launch, and extended family who supported me by coming out and doing a little Christmas shopping too!

Plus I thank the Lord. I can just imagine Him, smiling indulgently down on me after one of these high maintenance episodes and murmuring: “O ye of little faith.”

Join us at Reading, Learning, Writing

Join us at Reading, Learning, Writing

This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning

Flex Your Spirit (review)

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Flex Your Spirit (Fit for Faith)Flex Your Spirit by Kimberley Payne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Flex Your Spirit—Discover a New Way to Express Yourself with God Through Journal Writing and Stretching, author and lifestyle coach Kimberley Payne promises to “…unite physical and spiritual health to help you lose weight and develop a deeper relationship with God” – Flex Your Spirit, p. 5.

She explains how this can happen in three sections of the book. Chapters 1-3 deal with physical stretching. Chapter 1 (“Stretch Your Body”) answers the question what are stretching exercises, lists their benefits, and explains how they differ from warm-ups. Chapter 2 (“Stretching Strategies that Work”) describes how to get the most out of stretch exercises (though it doesn’t give details on specific exercises). Chapter 3 (“Stretching Goal Planning”) lists five questions to ask ourselves as we set exercise goals.

In the second section (Chapters 4-6) Payne talks about spiritual journaling, something she suggests will benefit us spiritually in the same way physical stretches help our body. In Chapter 4 (“Stretch Your Spirit”) she describes what journaling is and how it equates to stretches. Chapter 5 (“Journal Writing Strategies that Work”) and Chapter 6 (“Journal Writing Goal Planning”) list journaling tips and suggest journaling goals.

The third section (Chapter 7-8) is a review of all that we’ve learned (Ch. 7 – “Test Your Knowledge”) and (Ch. 8) an “Action Plan” of how to actually fit regular stretches and journaling into our lifestyle.

This book is short—only 24 pages of content. But in that small amount of space Payne manages to say plenty. Her writing is always easy to understand. With efficient simplicity she dispenses information, encouragement, and inspiration. The examples and worksheets she includes show us how to move forward with the “Flex Your Spirit” program.

This little booklet would be an excellent manual for women’s groups, whose goal it is to develop more than just a toned body. It would also be a great addition to any personal library, and a fine companion to that list of New Year’s Resolutions we re-construct yearly.

I received Flex Your Spirit as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review. Visit Kimberley Payne’s website to see other lifestyle materials Kimberley has authored and is offering as books, e-courses, and free programs.

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