Posted tagged ‘writing’

Blogging For the 955th Time

September 16, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              September 16, 2018

                                         

Today marks the 955th time I’ve sat down at my laptop and pecked out a blog post. 955! That’s almost a thousand! Okay…it’s 95.5% of a thousand! When I was in high school I longed for 95.5%. I would have considered it perfect if I had ever received a mark that high!

At the rate of my writing I’ll hit “the summit”…I mean my thousand blog post about the end of November. Since I’ve been substitute teaching quite a bit so far this school year (16 out of 22 days) my frequency of posting has dipped…but I receive so much of my writing material from being with the students that it’s a good tradeoff…kinda’ like continuing education!

When I write my 1,000th blog post I’m not sure what I’ll do. In the world of print, newspapers know how many copies they sell and subscribers they have. Authors know how many book copies they’ve sold. I, however, don’t have any idea who reads what I write and who doesn’t. Last week I sent a Facebook birthday greeting to a former college classmate of mine. She replied with a thank you and then said she enjoys reading my blog. 

Didn’t know that! The parent of a player I’ve coached said the same thing to me. I barely know her, but she reads the words I write that often bring chuckles and sometimes even profoundness. 

955 times. 

How did I get into it? The seeds for my blogging sowed back in 1980 when I went to be a part of the staff of First Baptist Church in Lansing, Michigan. The church had a weekly newsletter and I began to write a column each week for it. It began a discipline for me where I’d be called upon to create something in writing each week. 

When I went to pastor First Baptist Church in Mason, Michigan the newsletter column habit continued…plus I had to come up with a sermon every Sunday. Some weeks the words flowed out as smoothly as breathing and other weeks the words seemed like elusive air bubbles that I couldn’t quite grasp.

36 years of ministry with the last 31 of those being the senior pastor resulted in the writing of about 1,300 sermons…and now 955 blog posts!

My first blog post was on December 30, 2008. It was entitled “Missing Mary”, and it focused on the fact that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had come up missing in our church’s nativity scene. 

The seed thought for my last post, before today’s, came from the Japanese science fiction movies we used to watch, where the dialogue was about three seconds ahead of the moving of the actor’s lips.

In between those two blogs I’ve written about having coffee with Jesus, psycho parents of young athletes, substitute teaching, growing old, my parents, middle school church camp, friends who have died, being a grandparent, coaching, pastoring, and questions about how churches function. 

People ask me where I get my ideas for my blogs and the answer is…from watching and pondering about life. Not very profound, but that’s it.

How much longer? Who knows? At the rate the world and technology are changing it could be that blogging will be about as relevant as cassette tapes in a couple of years, but until that happens I guess I’ll keep writing about life and the pursuit of it!

5 Stars for My Book From 3 People

September 5, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     September 5, 2018

                           

Two weeks ago my cell phone rang around 8:00 in the evening. I was finishing up the rewrite on the sequel book to the first one…that I hadn’t planned on there being a sequel to!

I picked up my phone and saw that the call came from my oldest daughter, Kecia. So I answered, as I have a tendency to do, by speaking Spanish.

“Como esta usted?”

“Huh?” came the high-pitched voice on the other end of the line. It was my ten year old grandson calling on his mom’s phone. Jesse does not speak Spanish yet, at least the way I speak it!

“Is this Jesse?”

“Yes, Granddad!”

“Oh!” (pause) “What’s up, Jess?”

“Well, we just finished Red Hot: New Life in Fleming.”

“You did?”

“Yes, and we really liked it!”

“You did? That’s great!”

I had sent the book draft in an email attachment and each evening right before bedtime Kecia had read a chapter of the book to Jesse and my granddaughter, Reagan. They had read the last chapter that night.

If no publisher picks it up for publication I know at least three of the most important people in my life will have given it “five stars” in their evaluation. (Now they are reading the sequel at bedtime!)

Kecia told me that they had cried when a tragedy had occurred for one of the main families in the book. And she told me that they had enjoyed a certain chapter so much that they read it twice.

Both of the grandkids (Their 3 year old sister isn’t quite into the reading and listening stage yet, although she does get read to every night.) are avid and excellent readers, encouraged by their third grade teacher mom. Their reading level is far above the average for their peers. It’s a byproduct of the fact that they have ended their day with a reading time for as long as they can remember.

So now I wait to hear from the publisher who has the draft. I pitched it to the managing editor of a publisher back in May at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference. He gave me his card and told me to send it to him. Since then we’ve exchanged a few emails and he’s told me it won’t be until around the end of October before they’ll make a decision.

Another publishing house of the “vanity publishing” type wants me to pursue it with them, but a good-sized payment is attached to their contract…that is, I pay them and sometime down the road…in a future life maybe!…I’ll break even! 

My two good friends, both with knowledge and experience in the print industry, continue to encourage me and tell me that it is an excellent book. They have edited both my original draft and then my rewrite…as well, as the sequel. They have been drawn into loving the characters and have come alongside me as plots have been shaped and considered. In certain times in the writing of the book(s) one of them has said something like “What if…?” or “Why did you take the scene in that direction?”

The publishing industry is tough competition these days. Companies are much more selective in what they are pursuing. In this time of 140 character tweets people don’t read like they used to. BUT people will still read a good story!

For now I have at least three people who’ve given me five stars. Actually, my two editing friends would join the three related to me, so I guess I’m at five people! 

Now I’ve started writing Book 3. It seems somewhat strange to write a third book in a series where even the first novel hasn’t been published yet…but I want to see how the story ends!

Last Stool On The Right

June 13, 2018

There are certain habits in our lives that bring comfort and consistency. They are the frame that support the structure of our life. Like the links of chain for a playground swing, habits bring a swaying rhythm to our life.

One of my habits involves a stool, a laptop, and an early morning cup of coffee. Where I write my Words from W.W. blog almost without exception occurs at the Starbucks in Colorado Springs on the corner of Union Boulevard and Briargate Parkway from the last stool on the right, facing out with a view of Pike’s Peak. It is where I ponder, create, and edit, sometimes slowly and other times at a frenzied pace.

Kathy Buchanan, who is one of the writers for the Focus on the family long-time series, Adventures In Odyssey, sits on the last stool on the left with six stools between us. We joke with one another about our ingrained habit for our writing. When someone is in one of OUR spots we give a look of dismay to one another.

“You going to be able to function today?” I’ll ask her. She sighs deeply and replies, “I’ll try!”

MY stool is the launching pad for discovering. It’s even come to a point now where some of my friends know where they’ll be able to find me at 7 A.M. on mornings I’m not substitute teaching. Some days my writing takes a series of breaks for stop-by conversations. My stool, however, draws me back to why I’m there.

I sip the coffee as I search for the right word. A second sip is required when I’m slow in figuring and finding. My third cup means I’m approaching the finish.

Jim Ryun, the famous track and field miler, once said “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going!” My stool is my habit.

A Personal Update

May 26, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                             May 26, 2018

                                   

Permit me to devote my blog post today to my experience at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference I attended last week in Estes Park, Colorado. A number of people have asked me what came out of it so I’ll summarize as best I can.

At the conference each attendee is given the opportunity to meet with several literary agents and editors. Those very quick 15 minute appointments are designed to give the writer a chance to pitch his/her book or idea for a book. If there is interest the agent has the option to tell the person that he can send his first few chapters or the whole manuscript for further inspection…or not! 

I had six appointments and was invited to submit my manuscript by five of the people I met with. That was good news on the bottom line. On the other hand, I didn’t feel comfortable with the perspective of a couple of them about what young adult fiction is. 

The best part of the conference for me was the Fiction Intensive Clinic. Those who applied had to submit the first 12-14 pages of their manuscript and a book synopsis. From the submitted materials six people were accepted to be a part of the clinic. The group met for six hours together, plus a 30 minute one-on-one appointment with our instructor, Tim Shoemaker. He has written about a dozen books. Several of them are young adult fiction. Before the conference he had spent about 4 hours of critiquing of each of our group participants’ submissions. He pointed out little details that occurred in our writing that can be easily corrected, made the point that our writing is already good, but it can be made better. Tim is awesome and I bought his three book series that begins with the novel Code of Silence. 

When I told him a few of the other remarks that had been shared with me about youth and young adult fiction that seemed a little bizarre he told me to discount their importance. He encouraged me to press on, which I am!

Because of Tim I’m doing a book rewrite before I send it to any of the literary agents. Although I believe it’s already good I want it to be great. I want it to be the best it can be. It is a very competitive and tough market, especially if you are an unknown. If I’m going to be turned down I don’t want the refusal to be because it’s not good enough, but rather that it doesn’t fit with what the literary agents and publishers are looking for. 

Writing is risky. Words have the power to stir emotions, but they also have the potential to be written in certain ways that cause the reader to become disinterested, to see them as just words that lie lifeless on a page. I think about that each time I sit down to write. Will I write words that can make a difference? 

I can tell a story, but can I write it even better? Yes!

Report From A Rookie Writer

May 18, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          May 18, 2018

                               

Day 3 of the Christian Writer’s Conference is upon me. There are a lot of people here just like me, hoping and praying that some editor or agent likes their manuscript or idea for a book so much that they hand them a business card and say, “Send it to me!”

That happened in my first appointment yesterday, and I could sense the rising up of tears. Not all of my 15 minute appointments ended up like that, but a couple did. I have two more today and one tomorrow.

It was encouraging to hear the leader of our Fiction Intensive Clinic say that there were many more who applied to be in that group who were sent letters saying “Sorry!” He told the six of us that were accepted that although each of us had things to work on there was potential in each of our writings to be taken to the next level. 

The group spends an hour on each of the admissions, which are usually about the first 10-14 pages of the manuscript. My turn comes Saturday morning and then I will have a half hour Saturday afternoon with the instructor.

This conference is about learning- learning to write more effectively, learning that there are other aspects to getting a book published besides pecking out 100,000 words on my AirBook, learning new terminology, and learning many of the little things that raise a writer’s readability level. 

I’m also learning that it’s necessary to risk. Coming here is risky, because you may get trampled on. Years ago, my fiction clinic instructor was ready to walk out of the same conference because he was so discouraged, but the conference coordinator got a hold of him and gave him a word of encouragement. Years later he’s now the fiction class leader, and author of a number of books. 

There are other conference first-timers here, just like me, but the bulk of the attendees have been coming to this conference for years. They know what to do and where to go. There’s been a few times where I’ve looked like a new freshman standing in the hallway of his new highs chool trying to figure out where the Band Room is.

We all come with stories that we think are the best thing since sliced bread. They are our babies that we want to protect. Having someone suggest that a writer might change the story or the wording sometimes feels like another person telling you to change the way you parent your baby.

Through it all, I’ve become more thankful for the God who leads and guides us and the people he brings along the path to walk with us. 

The Value Of Being Told You Aren’t All That

April 29, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     APRIL 29, 2018

 

In seventeen days I’ll be pulling out of our driveway and heading to Estes Park, Colorado for the Christian Writers Conference. For me it has the feel of a rookie arriving at spring training camp…the anxiety of being the new kid, the uncertainty of what I’ll find out, and the fear of being told my writing sucks the wind!

I received the good news this past week that I was accepted into the Fiction Intensive Clinic, a group limited to six that will spend a number of hours together during the three day conference affirming, questioning, and dissecting the synopsis and first chapter of each other’s book.

In preparation for the conference, a friend of mine arranged a luncheon meeting with him and a man, who works for the same Christian publishing company, to discuss my book and offer me some guidance. At Estes Park I will have the opportunity to meet with several literary agents, but each of those appointments are only 15 minutes long.

We sat munching on our lunch and chit-chatting and then my lunch partner asked me a question: “Tell me what your book is about in one sentence.”

I pondered for a moment between bites and then offered something that didn’t make much sense, and was more than one sentence.

Followup: “Would you say the book is character-based or a plot-based?”

“Well, I think it would be character-based, although there is the building to a climax and…”

A couple of other followup questions and then the bad news.

“If I was a publisher I don’t think I would be interested in pursuing the book.”

Gulp! My sweet beverage suddenly had a sour taste to it.

It was hard to hear, but probably what I needed to hear. Not that the book isn’t good enough to be published, but rather that I need to be clearer on my understanding and presentation about it. A fifteen minute appointment is not a long time and in those brief moments the presenter needs to communicate what the story is about, its audience, and why I wrote it. My critic did me a favor. He showed me that after you write a double-spaced 400 page book you have to do the hard work of being able to present it.

Part of who we are, our DNA personality if you will, is the desire to “be all that”, to think that we have it…the next Hemingway, or Missy Franklin, or Taylor Swift. We want whatever our performance is to be awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping.

Words of reality are needed to bring us back to who we really are and what we need to do. I officiated high school and small college basketball for sixteen years, and I saw my share of officials who never raised their level of performance because they wouldn’t listen to the words of their evaluators. I was only able to raise my level because I listened to people who were willing to tell me where I needed to improve, questioned me about certain whistles I had during games, and quizzed me on “what if’s”.

There is value in being told that you aren’t all that! In Estes Park I’m sure I’ll hear variations of those words a number of times, but there will also be words said in a way that will spur me on towards a desired outcome.

Why I Wrote A Book

November 13, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        November 13, 2017

                            

I’ve enjoyed writing in my spare time, and now especially in my retired life time. I’ve progressed just a bit since I flunked English Composition my first quarter in college back in 1972. And now I’ve written a book!

Before you become too dismayed let me say that it hasn’t been published yet! In fact, two special friends who edited the manuscript for me are helping me figure out what publishers  and literary agents to send it to, and what each of those publishers and agents look for. So…it’s done, and yet it’s a long ways from being done!

The book is about a young man who has moved to a new town in West Virginia with his family. His dad is the new pastor of the First Baptist Church (Yes, that sounds familiar!), and the young man is going into ninth grade. New town, new school, and he has bright red hair. Everyone notices him! This young man is an exceptional basketball player, but also a teenager who has great character and humbleness.

And that’s why I wrote the book! In my twenty plus years of coaching and sixteen years of basketball officiating I’ve witnessed a growing trend: athletes who think the world should stop and pay homage to them for making a three point jump shot. There is the stink of arrogance that has filtered into athletics. I long to find the young athletes who have a firm grasp on the reality of life; that athletics is a form of fun and recreation and there are many other things in this life that are much more important.

That list includes such pursuits as treating everyone with respect, showing compassion to the hurting and grace to the fallen, making responsible decisions, and seeking to serve in various ways.

Young athletes need parents who are well-grounded and lead their sons and daughters towards that healthy understanding of what life is all about. Sometimes warped young people are the direct result of having parents who were already twisted in their priorities !

And so I wrote a fictional story about a kid who understood that making a free throw wasn’t as important as his friendship with the seventh grade neighbor boy who had always been made to feel he wasn’t good enough.

I wrote a book about a young man who held the idea of being a team as being more important, win-or-lose, than being the star of a team.

I wrote a book about a new kid in a place of unwritten traditions and practices who lives a life that has been planted with humility and fertilized with grace. I’m hoping that in the future I will meet that young man often and each day, whether it be a court, a field, a stage, or a track.