Saturday, April 21, 2018

Me? A Calling?




     As we drove down the highway through the Rocky Mountains, I prayed.  Lord, are you calling me to write? I admit when I asked this question, I was equally scared of the yes, as I was a no.  I had invested time, energy, and resources for the past two years in a writing career, but sadly I had never asked this question until now. 
     
     The dictionary defines a calling as a summons or a strong impulse. As a Christian writer, a summons from God defines you and your future.  Just ask some people from scriptures that were summoned by God, for example, Moses and Paul.  The summons requires time, sacrifice, and suffering as we lead our readers into a closer relationship with God or a journey towards a changed life.
    
     I knew if God answered yes, it would change me.  Fiction writers can tell you the world of fiction can be very personal.  Our characters face problems we have dealt with too.  They have character flaws that resemble ours or someone we know. Our characters struggle in their relationship with God as they face infertility, loss, or betrayal, just like we do.  Our readers watch God carry our character through crisis after crisis to victory in three hundred pages or less.
     
    God’s yes can help me grow.  As I sat at my favorite writing place, God gave me a different perspective. As I wrote, I saw this verse in a fresh way. What I understood about this scripture was broadened. 

 Proverbs 3:5:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.
     
     I have always looked at this verse from my life.  If I didn’t get the job I wanted maybe there was a reason, so trust God.  If the test results didn’t come back the way I wanted them, God has a plan.  So as not to give my story plot away, I will use a recent true example I heard to illustrate my changed perspective. 

     A young girl in high school was killed twenty years ago.  Since her death, her parents visit the killer in jail and attend his parole hearings asking for his release.  I am struck by the way parents who are grieving a loss of a daughter can trust God.  The emotions they must have felt during prison visiting hours when they sat across from him trusting God as they forgave him.  They were unaware of the impact they would have on the young man or on a stranger (me).  They trusted God with what they didn’t know. They listened to God’s prompting to go against their own feelings and follow God’s command to forgive.  The parents put aside their own grief to change a life.  It wasn’t about their future, but someone else’s.
     
     A synonym for calling is mission.  As Christian writers we have an awesome responsibility given by God to play a part in his plan.  He has gifted us with the creativity to write an interesting story.  God has given each of us a writing style and a voice to reach readers who have different learning styles, life experiences, and love languages.  It is our mission to help our readers understand the workings of God through our characters and their struggles.

     In the Rocky Mountains, God said Yes. Whether it’s a book or a blog, only God knows.  But knowing I am called helps me when life gets hard.   When I am writing late at night or early in the morning, sacrificing time with family to meet a deadline, or working extra hours to pay for membership dues or writing conferences.  All of these sacrifices are worth it, because I am called. I must keep my mind on the bigger picture, my end game, the unique vision of my calling.




Jennifer Filka, an Indiana native, graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Elementary Education.  Her dream to become a writer started in fifth grade when she entered her first writing contest.  Jennifer writes women's fiction with the hopes that her stories will draw her readers into a more intimate relationship with God.  Jennifer resides in Carmel with her husband, Jon.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

No Jelly in the Doughnut


Did you ever bite into a jelly doughnut and taste only disappointment? It looked perfect on the outside—glazed, golden, squeezably soft as you held it between your fingers. That first squishy bite was going to be so-o-o good and… nothing. No jelly. Just a basic yeast doughnut without the hole. Now, I love yeast doughnuts, but if I buy a jelly doughnut, I’m expecting jelly. I’m disappointed, even angry, if what’s been advertised isn’t delivered.

A lot of people who name themselves “Christian” live jelly-doughnut lives without the jelly.  These people look genuine as they sit in church Sunday after Sunday. They say their prayers. They donate to good causes. They abide by the law.  They have long-lived marriages where the couples seem to enjoy growing old together. Beautiful doughnuts on the shelf, baked to perfection and gilded in sugar. But wait. So far, we’ve only observed the glaze on the doughnuts. Take a bite and see what’s inside.

Too often, the jelly is missing. These homes do not know contentment. Members of the family are forever striving for more. More money. The latest fashions. That next promotion with more responsibilities and more power on the job. Adulterous affairs in the search for more adventures and more “connection” with a significant other.  The more they try to satisfy themselves, the less content they are. The world can rightly feel annoyed at the false advertising and ask, “What makes a Christian different from anybody else?” Something vital to the core of the “Christian” is missing. Jesus is missing.
 
Jesus is the jelly in the doughnut. Sounds like a corny country music song, “You’re the Jelly in my doughnut, the sweet Heart of my dough…” (Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.) But think about it. Without Jesus, we’re only yeast doughnuts. We may have the glaze. Various aspects of our lives may be delicious, but God wants us to have that jelly center. The Jesus center.

God wants our writing to have that jelly center, too, especially when we claim to write Christian fiction. If all we have is a wholesome-looking cover, nebulous soul-searching throughout the story, and perhaps a mention of church attendance, we haven’t shown Christ to our readers. All we have is a clean read—glaze on the doughnut.

Jelly doesn’t need to ooze from every paragraph. Readers will condemn the book as being too “preachy,” and they’ll want to wipe away excess religiosity. But at its core, the story must promote values of goodness, honesty, kindness, love—the Fruit of the Spirit—all the time pointing to the Author of life.

When we keep our eyes on Jesus, He pours Himself into us, and we pass it forward into our work. The Word of God, followed by a long line of Biblical scholars, teaches us how to find deep contentment, which allows us to generate words expressing our hope for the world. Jesus spoke of being filled with light and salt and treasure. I speak of jelly centers.

Thomas a Kempis said, “There is nothing sweeter than God and His Word.”
Guess I’m in good company. 


Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.
Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft. She still visits the school and teaches creative writing workshops.
Where Linda can be found on the web:

www.lindasammaritan.com                                              www.scriblerians.com                
www.facebook.com/lindasammaritan                                                         www.twitter.com/LindaSammaritan

 



Saturday, April 14, 2018

What Does "Tight Writing" Mean?


by Jean Kavich Bloom

I recently wrote this for the writers' group at my church.


Do you ever wonder what writers and editors mean when they talk about "tight writing"? Even if you've got this aspect of good writing down and have these four points well in mind, enjoy what I gathered from a few experts. As I was compiling these quotes, I laughed a little, cringed a little, and was reminded well!  

Tight writing…

·       Is clear and concise and makes every word count. 

If you give me an eight-page article and I tell you to cut it to four pages, you’ll howl and say it can’t be done. Then you’ll go home and do it, and it will be much better. After that comes the hard part: cutting it to three. (William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction) 

·       Is not about sentence length.  

Long sentences are not necessarily wordy, nor are short sentences always concise. A sentence is wordy if it can be tightened without loss of meaning. (Diana Hacker, The Bedford Handbook, 6th ed.) 

·        Requires learning to recognize wordiness.

You are wordy when you are redundant, such as when you write, “Last May during the spring,” or “little kittens” or “very unique.” Wordiness for the writer also means using long words when there are good short ones available, using uncommon words when familiar ones are handy, using words that look like the work of a Scrabble champion, not a writer." (Gary Provost, 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing)

·       Is not a first-draft concern.
Go ahead and make big scrawls and mistakes…we need to make messes…to find out who we are and why we are here—and by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing. (Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird)
Revision is where the magic happens. For me, the best, most inspired ideas often appear during rewriting. I compare the initial getting-it-down process to skimming the surface of a pond. Often all I get are weeds and scum, the everyday accumulation of clich├ęs and pat phrases we use without thought. Revision means diving deep to where the pure, clean water is. (From http://fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue9/true.htm.)

Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find writing is hard, it’s because it is hard. (William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction)


Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries (Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with thirty years of experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a regular contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren, with foster grandchildren in their lives on a regular basis.

Photo credit: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=126446&picture=hands-typing