Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Eat, Write, Shoot the Breeze, Critique. Then Repeat.


After a lo-o-o-o-ng covid winter and feeling almost as frigid as Narnia’s spell-frozen, snow-covered landscape, I was more than ready to meet with other writers in person. I’m sure anyone reading this post understands the emotional impact after so much isolation. For a community of mostly introverts, we writers yearn to spend hours with, talk nonstop with, and truly connect with other writers.


A few days ago, I was finally able to attend a retreat in-person with my local critique group, Heartland Christian Writers. We spent three days and two nights at Shepherd’s Gate Inn where we were pampered with lavish meals and the luxury of writing for as long as we wanted to. 


No cooking, no cleaning, no day job, no errands to run. Ahhh.


We could write new material, revise old material, meditate on what comes next on our writing agenda, or do absolutely nothing, allowing our souls to refresh. The labor of writing could start again once we returned home. 


The days naturally fell into thirds: mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Each portion of the day contained in some order: a meal, a writing session, sharing what we’d worked on, and chatting about anything and everything. (Eat, write, shoot the breeze, critique. Then repeat.) The entire experience met or exceeded my expectations. Perfect! Except for the cold and snow outside. In April.


We left the retreat inspired and energized, affirming what we knew to be true: WE. ARE. WRITERS.


Daily life will get in the way, and our energy will eventually ease into more ho-hum levels.When I slide back to that point again, I’ll be casting about for a new retreat. It won’t have to cost a lot of money, maybe only the price of meals, but I know (for me) a retreat can’t happen at home. Too many distractions.


What has been your experience with a writing retreat? Have you taken yourself to a solitary place, or must you have other writers around? Have you designed a retreat at your home, or invited other writers to join you in your home? I’d love to know how you made it work.


 Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She has completed a  middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister and is currently working on a women’s fiction series.

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.

A wife, mother of three, and grandmother to eight, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!

Where Linda can be found on the web:






Wednesday, April 13, 2022

From the Archives: Life is like my Bottom Office Drawer

 Because I totally spaced writing a post for Hoosier Ink this week, we're reposting this gem from Mary Allen. And what a timely message for where I'm at in my journey. Thanks, Mary! 

Life is like my Bottom Office Drawer

by Mary Allen 

My bottom office drawer is filled with items which once had purpose. Short, white phone jacks; thick, yellow USB cords; blue cords with funny square ends to them that no one knows what they do; enormous grey plugs that look as if they mean business; and, six surviving cords from deceased laptops and printers roil about in my bottom office drawer. Each one was carefully placed in the drawer by me at some time in the past. Some of them are even labeled.

I didn’t throw them away because I expected them to be used again in the future. Plus, after laying out so much money, it felt wasteful to pitch them when the computer died, the monitor remained black, or I changed service providers and they didn’t want the old modem returned, a definite red flag as to why I shouldn’t have bothered to keep it any longer, either.

Recently, I reached into the bottom office drawer and the cords came out en masse. Also entangled in them was the cup heater, the direct line house phone (in case the power goes out), various program start-up-rescue disks, and several miles of thin, flat, black phone line. All that and I still couldn’t find the cord I needed. I was sure I’d labeled and stored it there.

I have a theory how this happens. It’s an enchanted drawer. Once the drawer closes the cords come alive and entwine like baby rattlers in a snake pit. The big nasty snake-cords eat the more benign snake-cords and have hybrid baby snake-cords that don’t belong to anything, which is why the drawer remains messy and full of useless cords that spring out at me when I open it.

A writer’s life is a lot like that drawer. We each have items we keep that were once useful. It could be articles we’ve written when we started out or blogs and activities we do that no longer serve a constructive purpose. When we try to keep all these once-useful things life gets messy, tangled, and bogged down.

A writer’s life, like that bottom office drawer, needs spring cleaning. What no longer has a direct use, makes a connection, or serves an immediate purpose must go. It’s not as simple as hacking away what was once a joy, but now is a chore. Sometimes “chores” feel that way because we’ve crowded them with other activities that cause us to lose focus. This means we have to lift each activity to God and ask what He wants to do with it. Only He has the foresight and insight.

How about you? What in your life needs to go? What needs straightening? What needs to be rescued from the bottom office drawer and moved to a place of importance on your desk top?

May God whom I serve, bless you, guide you, inspire you, and speak through your writing this year.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

And There's More!

Spring has come—a time for renewal and growth. Warmer weather makes travel easier, and relaxing pandemic guidelines open doors to gatherings that have been unavailable for the past couple of years. So this is a perfect time to reserve a slot at a writer’s conference.

Beth Steury's blog, "It's Conference Time, Baby!" whetted our appetite with several nearby Christian writer's conferences. I encourage you to revisit that page and delve into these opportunities.

And there's more. In Indiana, we have access to several writer's conferences that are not tailored to Christian writers but are nonetheless helpful. Here’s a sample of such conferences coming up soon. I hope they'll entice you to get out of isolation and learn some new skills.

April 23 – 2022 Gathering of Writers. Sponsored by the Indiana Writer’s Center, the Gathering is keynoted by Angela Jackson-Brown, author of When Stars Rain Down (Thomas Nelson: 2021) with workshops in a wide variety of writing genres. Tuition is $99 for IWC members, $175 for non-members. Held at the Indiana State Library, Indianapolis. Details at https://www.indianawriters.org/product/gow-2022/

April 23 – Pen It! Writer’s Conference. Sponsored by Pen It! Publications, a Columbus publisher owned by Pastor Ray Stanton and his wife Debi, this conference features workshops on realistic dialogue, believable scenes, and more. The conference will be held at the Brown County Historical Society building in Nashville, IN. Tuition is $45 in-person or $35 via Zoom. Details at https://penitpublications.com/2021-virtual-writers-conference/

April 30 – Riley Children’s Author Workshop. Children’s authors Annie Sullivan and Chadwick Gillenwater present a day of seminars on writing children’s and YA books. Tuition is $100 and the event will be at the James Whitcomb Riley home, 528 Lockerbie Street, Indianapolis. Details at http://alturl.com/5bvra

June 2-5 – I.U. Writer’s Conference. Indiana’s most prestigious writer’s conference, this program has featured several Nobel and Pulitzer winners, National Book Award winners, and New York Times best-selling authors. All presentations are held on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington. Tuition is $375 for classes (your choice of 3 per day) or $750 for workshops (including a manuscript critique, limited to 15 participants each). Details at https://iuwc.indiana.edu/

If your life has been enriched by writer’s workshops, I encourage you to support the Indiana Prison Writer’s Workshop, which offers twelve weeks of classes to inmates of three Indiana prisons. Consider making a donation, hosting a reading at your public library, etc. Details at http://inprisonwritersworkshop.org/

Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. His most recent book is Hard Times (Warner Press: 2019). He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth.