Mini-conference on Storytelling

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Two weeks from today (November 2nd) has been marked on my calendar for weeks. It’s the day of our one-day writing conference: “Storytelling: Bringing the Past to Life.”

If you’re a Vancouver area writer, you’ll want to give this a look. Here is the delectable lineup:

9:00 a.m. – “The Drama of Biblical Fiction” by David Kitz (president of The Word Guild).

10:00 a.m. “Writing the Play Tolkein” by Ron Reed (eminent playwright and founder of Pacific Theatre, Vancouver).

11:15 a.m. “Twentieth Century Historical Fiction and Memoir” by Rose Seiler Scott.

1:30 p.m. “How to Save Your Family History through Short Stories” by Jim Martens.

2:30 p.m. “Writing Historical Musicals” by Allen Desnoyers, composer of “Pier 21 – The Musical”

The day winds up with an evening performance of “Pier 21 – The Musical” (ticketed separately).

Location:

South Delta Baptist Church
1988 – 56th Street
Delta, BC

This conference is sponsored by The Word Guild’s Surrey and White Rock Chapters. More details and a registration form are available HERE.

I will remember #BibleJournaling

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In her video series on Bible Journaling, Rebekah R. Jones remembers the story of her miracle healing in a Bible art journal project connected to Psalm 77:11:

“I will remember the works of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.”

She demonstrates, on the video, how to make a striking rainbow page out of vellum, colored with gelatos and the word “REMEMBER” at the bottom. (You can watch it below.)

She challenges her reader, in the accompanying blog devotional:

“Will you take time to think back to a time in your own life when God reached out and poured His goodness on You? Will you thank Him again for it … Create something this week that helps you remember God’s wondrous works.”

Thinking back over my life, I can’t say I have a story of a miraculous healing or provision. But I am thankful for a quiet miracle of sorts.

Just over 20 years ago, when my kids were finally both in school and my home-based medical transcription business was established, I revisited a teenage dream—to be a writer.

All my life I’ve been a reader and for years had promised myself someday I’d be a writer—a published writer. Approaching a milestone birthday back then, I decided to do something about my dream.

I enrolled in a correspondence writing course and lo-and-behold, less than two years later, in March of 1997, I sold my first piece—a devotional to Keys for Kids. (Believe it or not, they’re still around!)

All these years later, I’m still writing. No, I’m not famous, but I do have three binders of clips to show that God has helped me realize a teenage dream.

My art journal drawing is an old-fashioned feather quill pen and a few books, including the Bible and My Utmost for His Highest (a fav devotional).

Ps 77_11

The verse I chose to put on the scroll (Psalm 102:18) expresses what reading and writing have meant and still mean to me. I have been impacted spiritually far more by especially memoirs and biographies than any lecture or Bible study class. What a supernatural thing God does with words, quickening them within the reader to spiritual life though they may have been written decades earlier and continents away!

The dove with a leaf in its mouth, signifying the life-giving Holy Spirit, is what I desire for the devotions, articles, poems, blog posts, and books that I write.

What life memories does Psalm 77:11 evoke in you?

work

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And so the work of writing a poem a day begins…

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Image: Pixabay

work

it starts with pen on paper
it’s scribbles and cross-outs and trying again
it’s squeezing eyes shut to focus
it’s herding cat-thoughts
into an orderly, logical line
it’s silence
no music, the door closed
no one dropping into my office to chat

it’s following arrows and numbers
to read through the mess
of what I’ve written to this point
to “hear” what’s next
it’s ideas finally snapping into place
it’s the moment I switch
from writing desk to computer
prop messy sheets on the stand
it’s beginning to type

it’s feeling this thing I’m making
—a sculpture with words—
under my fingers
it’s making keyboard adjustments
as surely as if I used a file on wood
it’s reading to check tautness of ideas
flow of words, it’s tinkering
adding a word here, taking one out there
with an eye on word count

it’s saving, printing
putting it in a folder to cool
it’s going downstairs
flicking on some frivolous TV show
and resting my brain
that is now exhausted and mellow

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Prompt or inspiration:

The poem above was inspired by this April 9, 2015 prompt at Poetic Asides:

For today’s prompt, write a work poem. For some folks, writing is work (great, huh?). For others, work is teaching, engineering, or delivering pizzas. Still others, dream of having work to help them pay the bills or go to all ages shows. Some don’t want work, don’t need work, and are glad to be free of the rat race. There are people who work out, work on problems, and well, I’ll let you work out how to handle your poem today.

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VintagePADThis April I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by posting some previously written but not-as-yet published poems out of storage. If the prompt inspires you to write a poem of your own, you’re welcome to type it into comments and share your take on the subject with us. Whether you write or not, thanks so much for dropping by!

Preserving

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Tomorrow is April 1st. As I write that I feel a frisson of excitement. April is National Poetry Month (in Canada, the U.S. and perhaps other places too). This April, as I’ve done during the last several Aprils, I’m planning to drop other projects and works-in-progress and concentrate on poetry. Yes!!

Last year I wrote a poem a day and posted those freshly written puppies here on the blog.

This year I’m planning to do something a little different. I’ll still be posting a poem a day but from my pantry or cold room, so to speak. I have written many poems over the years that I’ve never published or posted anywhere. This April I’m going give some of them their first outing. I may publish a poetry book review or two and some how-to pieces as well.

If I know the poem’s inspiration or prompt, I’ll post that. If you decide to use that prompt to write a poem of your own, you’re most welcome to type your poem into comments so we can all enjoy your take on the subject.

(I’ll still be writing a poem a day. But I won’t be going public with them while they’re still warm from the oven, at least not most days…I’m a slow writer–need time to rethink, revise, work out the kinks, etc.).

Wishing you a wonderful month of preserving.

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Image: Pixabay

Preserving

Near multitude of washed Gem jars
next to the stove with boiling pot
of glass tops, zinc and rubber rings
she stacks the beans to chop-chop-chop.

Stainless steel bowls of new-shelled peas
wait still and mute for boiling bath
three-minute scald then colander scoop
into cold water filled with cubes.

Skins of tomatoes, peaches, beets
slip easily after scalding soak
hands soon stained red, sticky with juice
of roundness slippery as wet soap.

Sliced cucumbers sit overnight
in salty brine before they take
their Million Dollar Pickle bath
tart vinegar, mustard, turmeric.

In steamy kitchen open-mouthed
boxes wait scoop of beans or peas
jars merrily clink in canning pot
our cold room soon is rainbow-raised

with rich wine beets and red chow-chow
yellow peaches, pickles green
a freezer piled with boxes neat
of carrots, broccoli, peas and beans.

I too gather from my life’s plot
dehydrate, freeze, pickle and can
sustenance for my winter’s days
preserve with paper and with pen.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

Prompt or inspiration:

I wrote this poem in response to Seamus Heaney’s poem “Digging” considered one of the top 100 poems of all time. It was linked on Adele Kenny’s blog The Music In It, her post of April 2015 poetry prompts.

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Poetry Friday LogoThis post is part of Poetry Friday, hosted today by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater at The Poem Farm. Two days ago her blog was 7 years old. On her blogaversary post, she shared her National Poetry Month inspirations for the last several years. I love the many ways and places that people find inspiration for writing!

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Just an ordinary walk

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In the last few weeks my walking partner, dear hubby, has been finding it more and more painful to walk. Then the doctor told him, no more long walks until you’re better. So for now I am walking on my own.

When I took solitary walks in the past I experienced a wonderful loosening of words and ideas. And it’s happening again, if I’m alert to it.

To help with that, I carry a little notebook and pen to write down words, turns of phrase, and images that I don’t want to forget. Or I hold them in my head. That’s what I did for the poem below. When I got home I free-wrote like crazy to capture everything in prose. Later I worked some of my ideas into …

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“I am a long skinny shadow now, walking down a golden street” (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Just an ordinary walk

On this cold morning I am soft wax
feeling intimidated by impatient cars
swishing, swooshing
swirling beside me.

One turns right in front
of my WALK light, almost clips my toes.
Even in moments of still, distant traffic hums
a far off siren screams.

City birds above me chirp, warble
sing their own bustle, swoop down (peck, peck),
flutter away. They are nonchalant, daring,
savvy to the rhythm of feet and tires (hop, hop).

My nose tests wind gusts, smells
gasoline, diesel, vanilla, a passerby’s peppery
perfume,  chocolate, cinnamon
(something good is baking at Safeway).

I am a long  skinny shadow now walking down a golden street
past a lady in a taupe coat with her silky dog in red
and a grey couple smoking on a bench.
They pull their Lhasa Apso close so I can pass.

I can’t find the book drop at the library.
The security guard points me to it’s green-light lips
“You scan it.” He shows me which bar-code
and the slot sucks the book from my hand.

As I turn toward home, the sun stares
into my eyes, brash. I shade them
with hands balled into gloves, fingers
squeezing warmth from palms.

A kid with a black-and-white backpack strides by
black arms bare under short black sleeves
black jeans, white shoes—so cool
but how can he not feel so cold?

I climb stairs, twist key in the lock—
happy to be home.
It was just an ordinary walk
but forever engraved in this poem.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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PF-2This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by the queen of poetic forms, Tricia at her blog Miss Rumphius Effect.

More than mulch or top-dressing (NPM ’16-DAY 5)

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Photo: pixabay.com

More than mulch or top-dressing

An experience just lived
not considered, pondered, mulled over,
reflected on, studied, and weighed
is like giving food a detour
past digestion.

Even worm’s automatic reflexes
produce the stuff of enrichment—
castings that make fruitful.

So may the ingestion, digestion
and assimilation of our days and moments
grow our souls and fertilize
what our voices and pens bring forth.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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When the Wonderopolis topic “What is fertilizer?” came up for April 4th, I thought immediately of how our life experiences are a type of fertilizer for what we write.

It’s wonderful how God has made the world so that what is waste need not be wasted but can become nourishment for the next season. We know that manure and worm castings are some of the best fertilizer for plants. What better use for the lessons we learn from life (bad and good) than for them to fertilize our growth?

Hello Poetry Month!

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Today is April 1st and the beginning of National Poetry Month. Today is also Poetry Friday. How perfect when the two come together!

As I usually do in April, I’m planning to do some extra writing. The goal is to write a poem a day or at least spend some time on poetry-writing every day (though I may  take Sundays off, with no guilt).  I will also contribute a line  to the 2016 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem arranged by Irene Latham (looking forward to that–the schedule of who contributes a line when is in the right sidebar).

To begin this month I’m going to share with you some of the quotes I’ve collected about poetry over the years and end with a little ars poetica piece I wrote myself.

About the writing process:

“I don’t believe in inspiration. (I love telling my students that–everyone is always shocked.) If I sat down and wrote a poem only when I felt like writing a poem or when I felt inspired, I would have written maybe one poem in my life.

“What I believe is that to keep yourself writing, to fully live a writing life, you have to do whatever it takes to keep the engine running, so to speak. For me, that means: writing when my students write in class, writing on the subway, assigning myself writing exercises, forcing myself to sit at my desk and write.”

– Nicole Cooley from the How A Poem Happens blog.

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“If you have writer’s block, lower your standards.” – Poet Marvin Bell (quoted by Nicole Cooley in the above blog post).

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“In my opinion, no doubt a minority view, inspiration is overrated. Occasionally, lightning strikes with a word/phrase/or rhyme, but for me poems come from dedication. Strapped to a chair. I do wish my Muse were a reliable fixture on my desk, but she is usually off shopping, perhaps because she feels unwanted, which isn’t true of course, but there it is….

“A poem does not begin with an idea but with a word, a phrase. Of course, I know beforehand what subject I intend to write about, but I can sit here endlessly thinking of words before liftoff….”

– J. Patrick Lewis – in an interview by Matt Forrest Essenwine.

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“As a writer, as a keeper of a daily reflective journal, I find that as soon as I put words and ideas onto paper in my notebook, or type them into my computer, they begin to gather to themselves more images, more words and ideas. As I write I have the sensation of being at the center of a small vortex of enlarging connections…” Luci Shaw in Breath for the Bones, KL 1401

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You Say Grace

You say grace before meals
All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in ink.
– G.K. Chesterton

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“Writing poetry is not putting down whatever comes into your head, and leaving it at that, never taking it any further. Poetry involves layers, and a lot of revision.” – Barbara Crooker quoted on Your Daily Poem.

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“Compose with utter freedom and edit with utter discipline.”
– Erica Jong

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“I think that as a young poet I looked for what Keats called ‘a fine excess,’ but as an old poet I look for spareness and rigor and a world of compassion.”
– Stanley Kunitz (from Writer’s Almanac – July 29, ? year).

About the reading process:

“I don’t think people read poetry because they’re interested in the poet. I think they read poetry because they’re interested in themselves.” – Billy Collins on Writer’s Almanac.

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“Take me: my theory is a poem should set you free: reading a real poem should leave you feeling less tired and more exquisitely yourself. Aerated. You’ve been speeded up and perhaps somewhat dispersed, your bits enjoying more distance from each other than they had previously. You seem to have been augmented, but not in any one place like a lump; no, just some extra electrons here and there; you could never say where. No; that can’t be right. You couldn’t be heavier if it was a real poem. So maybe it’s more of an electron swap or adjustment; hard to say, because these are very small, fast exchanges. In any case, every poem does some small thing to fit us to the galaxies.”

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“Poetry and music are sister arts. So are poetry and painting. It’s as if the eye and the ear were related through poetry, as if they had become siblings or lovers.” – Edward Hirsch, How to Read a Poem, Harcourt, Brace & Cop. Durham N. Carolina 1999. p. 17.

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“Writers are great lovers.  They fall in love with other writers. That’s how they learn to write.  They take on a writer, read everything by him or her, read it over again until they understand how the writer moves, pauses, and sees.  That’s what being a lover is; stepping out of yourself, stepping into someone else’s skin. Your ability to love another’s writing means that those capabilities are awakened in you.  It will only make you bigger; it won’t make you a copy cat. The parts of another’s writing that are natural to you will become you, and you will use some of those moves when you write.  But not artificially. … So writing is not just writing.  It is also having a relationship with other writers.”
– Natalie Goldberg – Writing Down the Bones.

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“Take the scenic route…”  (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

The road I’ve taken (a riddle)

Each April morning I’ll hit the road
with one for the road
take the scenic route
detour down a narrow
two-rutted lane
that may be a cul-de-sac to nowhere.
It’s definitely not the highway
parkway, turnpike or freeway
to notoriety, is the long way round
to trendy, this course
that has become my driveway.
It’s poetry.

– © 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (written during National Poetry month in April 2014)  All rights reserved

(Select the space with your mouse or trackpad and the word will become visible.)

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Poetry Friday LogoThis post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted this week by award-winning Amy at The Poem Farm (Congratulations, Amy!!).

Denial

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Happy Fall and welcome to September!

The past few months of relative quietness here have been a period of thinking for me. I’ve asked myself, why do I do this–write, especially poetry? Why do I post it here? Do I want to keep doing this?

This June before holidays I lived under a cloud of particularly thick ennui. Maybe I should just stop writing altogether… but what would I do? 

It has been good for me to ponder these questions.

In the beginning of August, after a great holiday (and a writing break) I felt revived but continued to wrestle with, what do I do in the fall with the poetry blog?

As a Christian, perhaps it was to be expected that I would need to get as close as possible to the bone in quizzing myself. The question that finally floated into my mind to help me sort through this is from the Shorter Westminster Catechism:

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

In applying that Q&A to my situation I asked, would I be glorifying God if I stopped writing, that is, using the talent and expanding the skill and interest in words that is part of who I am?

Does it please Him when I squirrel away my writing in binders on the shelf? Do any of us have insights and realizations just for ourselves? Or are they given to bless and help others along the way? (Not that I ever feel that everything one writes needs to be shared!)

How can I better glorify Him with what I do?

Can I do that here?

How would it look?

I have decided as a result of introspection and prayer to be more open and candid about my faith in the poems I post here. In other words, in the days ahead you’ll find more poems that reflect my spiritual pilgrimage and beliefs. Of course I’ll also still write about nature and other topics that catch my fancy.

Enough philosophizing! It’s time for a poem. This is one I found in my binder, written a number of years ago.

Crow

Crow – Photo © 2015 by V. Nesdoly

Denial

Me: This lamp will be perfect for the table where my husband studies.
Clerk: What does he study?
Me: Uh, uh, …oh stuff.

He studies the Bible.
I know that.
It’s really the only thing he studies.
But did I say it?

No.

Automatically I veer toward cowardice.
My default setting: Be private about your faith
After all you don’t want to appear
odd, different or, heaven forbid,
be expected to explain!

On my way through the park
crows call triplet caws
and I hang my head
embarrassed, ashamed
robbed of excuses.

I will go
into my closet
and weep.

© 2015 by Violet Nesdoly

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Added September 3rd: My Poetry Friday friend Margaret Simon invited me to join in on “Spiritual Journey Thursday” hosted by Holly Mueller at her blog Reading, Teaching, Learning where this week’s theme is “paying attention.” Thank you, ladies! I hope you teachers don’t mind being joined by an ex- who has been away from the classroom lo these many years, but who is still trying to pay attention to what God is teaching her.

Feeling burned out? Take a vacation

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Footbridge in Scout Island Park - Williams Lake BC

Footbridge in Scout Island Park – Williams Lake BC

I’ve just returned from a three-week vacation. Therefore I’m as in-touch with being in holiday mode as I’ve ever been.

I spend much of each workday on writing and writing-related activities so it was from these thing I wanted a holiday. I was ready for a break by the middle of June!

I decided this year, as never before, to vacation with no guilt. To make that possible I worked extra hard before our July 8th departure date to meet all deadlines. I also scheduled the blog posts that I wanted to publish while I was away.

The first few days of being on the road I was so keen to escape I felt an aversion to even the sight of my laptop. Thus it wasn’t hard to take a hiatus from technology. I didn’t respond to non-urgent work emails, check Facebook and Twitter, look at my blog stats, or read any of the emails and blogs to which I subscribe. My stupid-phone isn’t connected to social media so it was the only device with any appeal. I used it for making dinner arrangements with friends.

We had planned a full holiday and it wasn’t hard to take a complete and extended break from writing. We spent the first hectic vacation weekend at the Gospel Music Celebration in Red Deer. That was followed by two weeks with our daughter, son-in-law, and four grandkids in northern B.C. It was easy to find ways to fill up my time. From folding mountains of clothes, to playing with play dough, supervising the baking of muffins, going to the beach, and looking on as the grandkids were wowed by their first visit to the circus, every day was busy and exhausting.

Of course I found time to read (even though that is often work-related for me). Once I finished reading the book I had committed to review, I read a novel just for fun.

Another rejuvenating practice for me is to spend free time on leisure activities that are totally unrelated to writing. During past holidays I’ve done crochet and knitting projects. This year I brought along a book of Sidoku puzzles and am now creeping through the last hard four-star ones at the back of the book.

There were times it was so easy and relaxing to not be writing I felt jabs of worry. Maybe I was really burned out. Maybe the yen to put pen to paper and fingers to the keyboard would never return. But gradually I sensed my writing well was refilling.

One day I read a few of the poems that get delivered daily to my email and my imagination began to stir. On another I returned from a walk with my mind full of images and phrases… the first glimmers of a poem. I spent over an hour the night before we got home reading posts on the writing blogs I subscribe to.

And now I’m home and happy to be at my desk writing this blog post. Later I’ll compose that review and maybe answer a few emails. After a writing-free, guilt-free holiday, I’m back and eager to do more of this activity I love!

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This post was written as the August 6th post for the Inscribe.org blog on writing, but for some reason failed to publish there.

Pray, Write, Grow – review

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Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing TogetherPray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together by Ed Cyzewski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Each year I choose a word or phrase as a focus for the twelve months ahead. My word for 2015 is “pray.” So when I saw the title of Ed Cyzewski’s latest book, I knew I wanted it.

Cyzewski’s premise is that prayer and writing are similar in many ways. In the first six chapters he shows how they both:
– Require space in our lives. We may need to jettison something else to fit them in.

“I’ve found it immensely helpful to set timers for both prayer and writing” – Ed Cyzewski, Pray, Write, Grow, Kindle Location 283.

– Benefit from our undivided attention.

“Our prayer and writing will be most effective when we tune in to both ourselves and other people” – K.L. 370.

– Help us find healing from painful experiences and aid us in helping others.

“We don’t just heal by articulating past pain when we pray. We can also heal by writing about our pain, our fears, and our struggles. As my prayer and writing work together, I have often transitioned from prayer to writing as I’ve faced the anxiety of my past” – K.L.

– Have a physical component and grow stronger through exercise and a regimen.

“… this whole book is all about simple steps we can take to improve our spiritual, physical, and mental states as we seek to pray and write” – K.L. 740.

– Guide us toward our life’s purpose.

“If we want to share something meaningful and healing with others, we have to spend time up on the mountain” – K.L. 894.

– Need a great deal of faith.

“Living by faith shouldn’t feel safe. It should feel a bit wild and reckless” – K.L.922.

The seventh chapter is lists of prompts, resources, and links under the headings “Writing Quick Start” and “Prayer Quick Start.”

Cyzewski’s voice is encouraging. When he gives advice and suggestions he does it with a subtle, not commanding tone. He shares transparently about how prayer gave him insight into the childhood roots of his fear and anger. He tells about his struggles with worry when he quit his job to freelance full time. The awareness he gains through prayer and journaling opens his eyes to his passions, which then become his writing topics.

My two top takeaways from this book are:
1. An introduction to the Examen prayer practice (developed by Ignatius Loyola) that Cyzewski uses, explains, and recommends. His experience of how this daily discipline fosters spiritual intimacy with Christ in him whets the reader’s appetite to try it for him/herself.
2. The picture Cyzewski paints of an integrated writing life. In it prayer and writing intertwine to braid a trellis that aids growth in both areas.

I think this would be a great book for Christians writing in any genre to read.

View all my reviews