Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Write 2 Ignite: A True Witness Conference Recap

"Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it." My Gospel Reflection for today is up on CatholicMom

I've missed going to Write2Ignite, but with school and sports, it was a busy time in our lives. But this weekend Michael accompanied me and it was so lovely to be amongst faithful Christian writers. The conference team put together a great conference with a useful booklet containing all the conference information along with room to write, a notebook, pen, and chocolate! All in this pretty bag. I enjoyed all the keynotes so very much and delighted that the topics on my mind: writing memoir, the conversion story, and writing a controversial book all tied into the theme of being a true witness. I know I'll be back next year. Save the dates: Sept. 18-19th, 2020.

Even though I was busy most of Saturday, I had the chance to listen to a couple of workshops. The first was by Todd Williams, Editor-in-Chief of Union Gospel Press. He spoke about how God's Word gives us helpful insights about writing that's engaging. We have doctrine, commands, poems, letters, appeals, stories, mysteries, and so much more. He explained the five parts of effective communication--collecting ideas, organizing them, expressing them, must be understood by others, and finally the reader is changed. I will not forget that writing *is* Logos. He is looking to assign good children's writers for Sunday school materials. He emphasized how difficult it is to find people who can write for children. So, if this interests you, contact him. I like how precise he is--the qualities necessary in a good editor.

I also enjoyed Daniel Blackaby's lecture on Tolkein, Lewis, and the Christian Imagination. I've read much about the Inklings but it's always a delight to listen to people who've studied their works in far greater depth than I have. I'd forgotten how much Tolkein disliked Lewis' Narnia, saying they were "almost worthless--carelessly written jumble of unrelated mythologies." Talk about a scathing critique. Now that I understand my faith better, I might actually agree. Michael O'Brien gives a good account in his book: A Landscape with Dragons. I no longer read much fantasy, but if that's what you like check out Blackaby's books

Nancy Lohr, Acquisitions Editor at JourneyForth Books, gave such an inspiring keynote on Truth-FULL Writing. She spoke about the culture of relativism, how truth is a moving target. She quoted George Orwell: "In a time of deceit, telling the truth is revolutionary." We live in such times now and should look at this as an opportunity to share the truth. She reminded us that we cannot give what we do not possess already; we can only write what's within our gifts; write the felt needs; write to be light and salt. It was an excellent primer for my workshop later in the afternoon on writing controversial books. I would love to work with her on a book, except I've not written anything that meets their guidelines

https://ediemelson.com/The closing keynote was from Edie Melson on the New Paradigm of Social Media. I was sitting near a group of youngsters and they were chuckling over us old folks getting instructions on using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as they scrolled over their feeds. Edie mentioned that the majority of social media is conducted over a mobile device. She's not just an expert on this and other internetty things (she has a top notch blog called The Write Conversation) but a writer of inspirational books for creatives as well as novels. Her latest, Unruffled, is out today! Edie is wonderful, reminding us that perhaps the world of social media might be the darkest, that we need to be light and salt. I couldn't agree more... if that is your gift.

Here are some fun pictures of old friends and new, and the beautiful campus of Northern Greenville University. Glory, Glory to God!!! 

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Three-Year Experiment

Remember when I crossed over to the dark side? Well, this weekend I deleted my Facebook account. And I got several warnings about how all my data will be gone--lol, cat pictures :) They seem so dire! I have a whole month to change my mind. Haha! I doubt it. I've done the experiment, tried it for a reasonable length of time (3 yrs!) and have found it wanting.   

Hard to believe she's away at college. At 3 pm I still look out the window.
I've been cleaning house, decluttering, so it's natural to do so on the computer as well. After weighing the pros and cons, I decided that the few things I will miss on FB--lovely pictures, private groups, etc.--do not justify being on a platform that hasn't actually made communication easier. The format doesn't lend itself to a thorough conversation as a public forum would. There are far too many advertisements and too much chatter (and I confess I've contributed to it as well). I must be the only person who doesn't like the "like" button. I question the value of an emoji without anything else for nuance. Cal Newport made a great case for not using it even if you use the platform. This summer, I took a hiatus for several weeks and then added back only a few things, as recommended in Digital Minimalism, but even so they weren't worth it. All the people whom I sincerely care for I already connect with via other means. And I'm available to anybody who wants to find me.

My children are grown and use all kinds of other social media. I'm not following them there; they know where to find me. I think I'll stay old-fashioned. Now, if only the rest of my house could be decluttered with a few clicks! As it is, I'll be doing a lot more writing, I mean cat-watching. They always come to my desk the minute I'm ready for some serious work, sit on my papers, and demand to be petted.


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Back-to-School Giveaway

Tiffany Turner of the Indie Children's Authors Connection is holding her annual Back-to-School Blog Tour and Giveaway with a chance to win a $25 Gift Card from Amazon and I am so pleased to be part of her Blog Tour. So head on over to read about my childhood reading and grown-up writing. The giveaway started yesterday so don't miss the previous interview or the chance to enter the giveaway. Thanks, Tiffany! 

Speaking of Back-to-School, I am holding in my hand Gretchen Everin's latest picture book: Kugel for Hanukkah!!! It's part counting, part guessing game, and fully a good story, with lovely, lyrical writing and bright art. Perfect for kids in elementary school. Savvy kids might guess the ending but there's another surprise! Whew!! Well done, Gretchen!!! Congratulations!!! And no, I'm not giving away my copy. Sorry. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

A Beautiful Day

We fared well during the hurricane, again. Praise God! There were some dire predictions for Charleston but Dorian stayed off-shore. This is the highest the water got in our backyard (still less than with Irma or Matthew) and later the wind was against the tide. I have a feeling coastal NC didn't fare as well given how much closer the eyewall was. Praying for them.

Today it's sunny and beautiful, a great day to clean up--lots of downed trees but I don't see much structural damage on my walk. I did meet a neighbor who is celebrating his 80th birthday! So is a dear family member!

He used to have a good friend who became a Rabbi and I often think and pray for our Jewish brethren because Salvation is from the Jews. I love what St. Augustine and other Church Fathers said: The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New. The New is not meant to replace the Old, rather it brings into full light the hidden meaning and signs that foreshadow God's plan of redemption through His Son, Christ Jesus.

Today is also first Friday, a special day devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I wrote this Gospel meditation without realizing it was even a Friday. I was sooooo thankful to be able to hear Mass. Our beautiful little church suffered no damage. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Embracing Uncertainty

Ah, if only we knew that Florida would be spared, Michael could've stayed down in Ave Maria even longer...but since I am selfish, I'm glad he came home a day early. We had the whole weekend together and now the rest of the week as well. I'm not getting much work done because we take too many chatty tea breaks and cook nice meals and watch Tropical Tidbits and a movie every single night--sound like a good hurrication, no? These pretty pink skies will give way to gray before too long.

Hurricanes are highly distracting even if they're a thousand miles away I truly feel for the poor people of the Bahamas getting pounded and not just for a few hours but over a whole day and more. Who knew something like this would happen? We didn't expect it with Florence either. But Dorian feels like it's going to take a similar trajectory as Matthew. As in the past, we will button up the porch and stay indoors. I've printed out several things I need to work on in case we lose power. But there's always music and books.

Speaking of books, I have to rave over one that Max recommended: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. It's a story of one man's dying and it is so beautifully written I cried. Requiescat in pace, Paul. I hope we meet in heaven one day. I'm also in the middle of these two books: Night Diary by Veera Hirandandi (set during Partition) and The Second Mountain by David Brooks. My biggest complaint about Brooks is that he doesn't commit to anything, even while writing. It always surprises me when brilliant people don't take that leap of faith. And since we've all read the book in our family, we refer to people we know as first or second mountain people. Hehe. 

Anyway, what does any of this have to do with embracing uncertainty? Everything and nothing. It's something I've been thinking about because I realized that one of the greatest gifts of our faith has been the ability to throw ourselves fully into any venture even if we do not know the outcome. It's about placing your trust in Christ, and doing the right thing, as much as you can know something's right. I'm always asking the Holy Spirit to guide my hours, my days, and to help me walk the right path. And I ask the same for our children, who are so far from us now. But I do not worry. Christ is with them and Mary keeps pointing the way to her Son. There is so much joy in embracing uncertainty. I've now come up with a litmus test for discernment: is it drawing me nearer to our blessed Lord or farther away? It's that simple.    
Our lives can change in a blink of an eye. All we can do is prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and know that not even a sparrow falls without our Lord's knowledge. He is with us. I am praying for all in the path of Dorian to remain safe.  

H/O: NOAA Goes East satellite Hurricane Dorian 190903 EC