The Power of A Rapid Rescue

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September 20, 2018

 

This video of the Marines and Good Samaritans running toward an apartment building engulfed in flames has me in my feelings. They were successful in helping rescue seniors living in the complex.

But still…

I can’t watch without tearing up, repeatedly. (Read article for more information.)

So many lives saved. So many lessons gleaned.

That’s the power of a rapid rescue.

It saves lives AND teaches by example.

Here’s what I learned today about the power of a rapid rescue.

 

NATURAL BEAUTY

On a natural level, it’s simply beautiful.

Barracks are nearby so the Marines are close enough to respond. And they have needed essential skills and training to help  facilitate rescue. But they could have deemed scheduled things more important, or just decided not to act.

They didn’t.

They responded — as did the Good Samaritans. And by doing so lives were changed, saved.

 

SPIRITUAL BEAUTY

On a spiritual level, it’s simply beautiful.

For me, I see a picture of how God and His angels react to the incendiary circumstances we face.

They don’t ignore it, run from it, or let us suffer alone. Instead they spring into action to help.

From personal experience, I know that’s hard to believe. And I haven’t mastered the “help is on the way” quiet confidence some have.

Often I doubt.

Often I whine.

Often I worry.

Often I feel forgotten.

Here’s the thing: the seniors knew their building was aflame and they were in the midst of a serious situation. They knew they had staff on hand to help. Some may have figured that 9-1-1 was called and help would arrive.

However, NONE knew that Marines and Good Samaritans were on the way.

But they were!

Their collective action is a needed reminder for me to trust, even when I don’t know how I will survive a situation and doubt if anyone cares or will respond.

 

REMINDER FOR COMMUNICATORS

The Marines’ response is a reminder of the power of words and speech. The heroes’ — and that’s what they are —  rapid race to assist reminds me that we have a RIGHT to heal (be rescued) AND we can WRITE to Heal!

We have a RIGHT to heal.

We don’t have to stay trapped in the burning circumstances of pas trauma. Rather we can accept God’s agents of rescue and receive life-giving help to move forward.

And…

We can WRITE — or speak — to heal.

Indeed, the words we pen or the speak are rescue agents. They spring into rescue mode, providing what’s urgently needed — information, inspiration, healing, comfort, peace, more!

NO SMOKE SCREEN

Hours after first seeing the video of the Marines’ rapid advance, I’m still moved. I’m grateful they were nearby. More so, I’m grateful they responded, providing timely rescue.

And I’m tremendously grateful for the visual reminder to keep trusting God in my fiery situations, and for words and speech that are agents of rescue.

 

Lisa A. Crayton is an award-winning freelance writer, multi-published author, conference speaker…and more. She loves helping writers, and challenging them to achieve their goals and dreams! Meet her at the Marketing for Writers Conference. Connect with her on Facebook.

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POWER TO THE PRESS: TIME FOR “R.E.S.P.E.C.T”

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August 16, 2018

 

I’m closing out today thinking about respect – for two reasons.

The first: music icon Aretha Franklin died today.

News of her failing health stirred emotions earlier this week, sparking fans’ expressions of dismay coupled with appreciation for Ms. Franklin’s life, music, and legacy. Dubbed “the Queen of Soul,” she lived up to that moniker with class, dignity, style, and creativity.

She really was amazing!

Ms. Franklin inspired people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. She will be missed. But, undoubtedly, her music and legacy will live on, keeping her close in our hearts.

One of Ms. Franklin’s much-loved songs was “Respect.” Fans through the decades have sang “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” with gusto in myriad situations, many unrelated to the song’s theme.

This week I was thinking of it in terms of freedom of the press.

Why?

I discovered that today more than 300 newspapers across America planned on printing editorials on the importance of a free press. In doing so, they would join The Boston Globe in reinforcing the importance of our nation’s press, while refuting accusations that the press is the “enemy of the people.”

When I heard about the effort, I wanted to join it!

So, with this short blog article, I join them in embracing, celebrating and advocating for a free press.

This is not fake news!

A GROWING RESPECT

As a young student, I was encouraged to read newspapers and magazines. In school, some of the most fascinating discussions and assignments focused on current events found in newspaper articles. We then discussed and analyzed the news and its importance to us individually, locally, or as American citizens. At times, we also had to write paragraphs or essays about selected articles.

My love of news started in those early classrooms.

Then…

I fell in love with journalism after reading a biography of Joseph Pulitzer in eighth grade.

I’ve quoted a version of those words many times over the years to share why I chose to become a writer, pursued a dual degree in journalism and public relations, and have pursued writing for publication – exploring short and long-form projects.

The book about Joseph Pulitzer was called Joseph Pulitzer: Front Page Pioneer, written by Iris Nobel. Decades later I still remember the title, and the author’s name because of its impact on me. It stirred my love of journalism, especially investigative reporting.

In today’s heated political environment, investigative reporting is denigrated – often! Related attacks have made it increasingly clear that a free press is vital to keeping citizens informed.

That’s not fake news!

 

5 REASONS FOR SUPPORTING A FREE PRESS

Thus, I couldn’t let this day end without adding my voice to the many raised in support of press freedom.

Why?

First, as an American, I wholeheartedly believe that our constitutional right to a free press should be upheld – always.

Second, it is essential that legitimate, respectable news outlets be identified as such and not labeled “fake news” because they expose societal wrongs.

Third, escalating attacks on the media has put press personnel at risk of danger. That’s just wrong!

Fourth, free press is vital to maintaining an informed citizenship.

Fifth, the media is not exempt from criticism. When it fails to live up to its responsibility and commits error, the media should be held to higher levels of responsible journalism. Yet, it should not be forced to be a propaganda machine of any party, ever.

 

LET FREEDOM REIGN

The adage “no news is good news” has never been further from the truth than it is today. No news undermines a democratic society. No news keeps citizens ignorant of events and individuals working to undermine democratic principles.

Let’s be clear: Today, like never before in recent history, a free press is needed.

And it’s important to remember that…

The press is not the enemy of the people.

The Queen of Soul is worthy of the R-E-S-P-E-C-T she’s earned and received over her stellar career. Indeed, she is worthy of the innumerable tributes pouring in concerning the impact of her music on people’s lives – worldwide.

On a different scale and for different reasons, the press is also worthy of respect.

Today’s let’s commit to supporting the press and its important local, regional, and/or national work!

 

Lisa A. Crayton is an award-winning freelance writer, multi-published author, conference speaker…and more. She loves helping writers, and challenging them to achieve their goals and dreams! Meet her at the Marketing for Writers Conference. Connect with her on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

God’s Glory, My Story: Interview with Author Vivian Renee Pittman

 

Vivian Renee Pittman (Photo supplied by author.)

August 3, 2018

 

“God’s Glory, My Story” was a popular column in SPIRIT-LED WRITER, the award-winning online magazine for Christian writers I published for five years in the early 2000s.The column featured writers of all experience levels who shared their publishing successes.

With Vivian Renee Pittman’s interview here, I debut “God’s Glory, My Story” as a regular feature of my blog.

Vivian is a long-time friend. I’ve known her for decades, and I’m excited about her first book, He Restores My Soul: A Path to Recovering from Grief, which released yesterday. (Full disclosure: I provided editorial feedback on her first drafts, and wrote the Foreword.)

 

 

Vivian, tell us a little about yourself.

I am a mom, grandma, minister and teacher; in that order. I will be celebrating my 65th birthday this month, and I never expected to be an author at this age. I have worked both in the corporate world and in ministry.

I prefer ministry because I can reach people who need help, and make a difference in their lives. I love to teach the Bible, especially life application. It excites me when I can look into a student’s eyes and see the light of understanding turn on. There is nothing that satisfies me more than when I walk out of a meeting confident that learning has taken place, and someone has gotten to know more about our God.

 

 

Grief is the theme of your book. Please share how that theme has personally touched your life.

  1. I lost my Dad to kidney failure in August of 2006. My mom never recovered from his death. She insisted we sell her home, and she took the money and moved to Georgia to be near my oldest daughter, Kenya, right before Thanksgiving in November of 2006.
  2. My father-in-law had a major stroke two days after I returned and never spoke or walked again.
  3. My husband Jerry was diagnosed with terminal cancer in August of 2007. The radiation and chemo destroyed his body and he finally gave up the fight in May of 2009.
  4. In January of 2010 my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and I had to return to Georgia, that April, to help my daughter, Kenya, work out a medical plan for her. I agreed to visit every four months to monitor Mom’s progress. I returned in August of 2010, and planned to come back that December.
  5. However, in November of 2010 Kenya had a heart attack, and died in the recovery room.

 How did grief change you as you mourned?

Because I did not understand how to mourn properly, I suffered multiple illnesses. I became fearful, suspicious and bitter. I began to have panic attacks.

I really turned to God out of desperation because every medication and the side effects were wrecking my immune system. As a result, my relationship with Him grew deeper because He literally became the only One who had my cure.

 What were the most surprising (positive or negative) lessons learned during your seasons of grief?

What devastated me was that I experienced so much loss in such a short span of time.

I also was surprised at the insensitivity of people during my grieving seasons.

It was like they were witnessing a car crash on their way to their next appointments. Everybody stopped, or slowed down, to look, ask what happened, discuss what they heard, and estimate the damage done.   But very few stopped to help.

The overall attitude with death is folk are just relieved that it was not them this time. Just like the “rubberneckers” on the highway, they are happy to spectate and be on their way. People refuse to deal with death and grief until they personally have no choice.

 Why do you think it’s so difficult for people, especially believers, to openly grieve?

I have found that people, especially believers, are ashamed to grieve openly.

Many believers also have their faith questioned when they cannot get over their grief in whatever timely fashion their religious leaders determine for them.   They are expected to go into their “secret closets” and take care of all that emotional stuff. Then they are supposed to wash their faces and get on with life as usual.

What helped you process the grief in a healthy way?

Becoming too ill to go out of the house was what actually forced me to deal with grief.

When there was no escape I had to find a way to process the grief. This meant returning to my faith in God, and looking to Him as my ultimate resource for comfort and healing.

 What resources helped?

Being able to talk about my grief was an enormous relief.

Finding a safe place to express myself without judgment was the key to my recovery. In my case the primary resource was a Christian prayer line; however, there are great online resources that will point people to relevant groups, blogs and articles.

Journaling was an invaluable resource, and it still is what helps me through my days and nights.

We must release out thoughts. We have to get the pain out so the healing can pour in.

 

WHICH BRINGS US TO YOUR BOOK.

Why did you write He Restores My Soul?

I wrote my book because for five years after the most recent loss of a loved one,

I could find no book that could help me with what I was going through. I was looking for a book that tore off the mask of conventionality, and showed me the ugly, raw pain of grief and I failed to find it.

Now I understand why I could not find that book. It was painful to journal my grieving process. It was even more painful to expose it publicly.

But I believe that there is some transparency that is necessary in true ministry. It is the mandate of every Christian to lay down our lives, if you will, to help others and glorify God in the process.

What tips does it offer for processing grief?

This book has underlying themes of self-awareness and self-care with quite a few practical suggestions of how to care for your body, soul, and spirit.

 

WRITERS ON WRITING…

As a new writer, did you encounter difficulty writing your book? If so, what was the most difficult aspect of writing it?

The most difficult aspect of writing my book was exposing my inner thoughts to public opinion about a very painful and personal aspect of my life. The fear of judgment by others was enormous.

By the way, I love the dedication to your book. Do you mind sharing who it is dedicated to and why?

I dedicated this book to my mother, Laura Lee Williams Brown Turner, who gave all she had and lost herself in the process.

My mother poured out her life, her talents and her wisdom into others all of her life. Even in the midst of suffering the onset of Alzheimer’s, she held it together and masked all she could because my dad was in renal failure and she had to take care of him. And she did, refusing all outside help until he died. The day he died she gave up the fight against the illness no one knew she had, and began losing herself.

She will never read this book. She will never be able to tell me her thoughts about what I have written. But her life has shaped so many others, especially mine, that I felt this was the least I could do to honor her.

 

ANY FINAL WORDS?

I hope He Restores My Soul comforts, supports and educates those who are grieving.

I hope it makes us think about our response to grief, and how we treat one another as we are going through the process.

And I hope this book will spark conversations in our communities about death in realistic and positive ways.

 

ORDERING, AND CONTACT INFORMATION

The book can be ordered on Amazon.com.   Readers can reach me by email.

Publishing In Color Conference: Unforgettable Sights and Sounds

Photo credit: Austin Chan on Unsplash

 

June 30, 2018

 

Is there a need for new writing conferences?

This is a question that sometimes arises when writers gather. The day before Publishing in Color debuted on June 19th a writing friend posted a similar question on Facebook. I didn’t respond because of time, but mostly because I anticipated this new conference for ethnic writers would illustrate my usual multi-part answer:

  • Yes, new conferences are needed, particularly those that address the needs of marginalized writers.
  • Yes, new conferences are needed, especially regional events that are more affordable, and shorter in duration.
  • Yes, new conferences are needed because some have become bastions of elitism where new and emerging writers are thrust into a sink-or-swim environment where they, naturally, sink.

 

Good News!

I heard about Publishing in Color from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s Rush to Press newsletter. Excited I rushed to the Conference website for more details. I didn’t know the host, Brian Allain. But, I did know some of the faculty, individuals with solid reputations in Christian publishing. Their participation assured me the event would be Christ-centered, professional, welcoming and delightful, so I promoted it heavily on Facebook and Twitter, through email, and text.

After registering, I also had an opportunity to interact via email with Brian after a Latina writing friend questioned whether she’d be welcome at the first event designed to reach African American spiritual writers. I assured her she would be, but emailed Brian. He confirmed my response. More so, he slightly tweaked the Conference website and social media descriptions to help alleviate confusion. That spoke volumes!

 

WHY I ATTENDED

I attended out of curiosity – and hope. I was curious whether some of the publishing reps really were ready to embrace more ethnic writing. I hoped they were.

As I geared up for attending, I mulled Matthew 11:1-6. In the passage John the Baptist was in prison and heard about Jesus’ deeds. He sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (v. 3)

Jesus’ answer encouraged a review of evidence – including things seen and heard – during His ministry. At different points in my life, God has given me of this Scripture to remind me that evidence exists to prove God’s hand in specific situations.

With this passage uppermost in my mind, I went to the conference with one goal: to hear and see what this event could offer ethnic writers.

 

Photo credit: Karynthia Phillips

CHRONICLING THE UNFORGETTABLE

So what did I see and hear?

Following are just a few unforgettable sights and sounds from the event. Note: here, I don’t mention every keynote, but they were all spectacular. Most of the workshop speakers I heard also did a phenomenal job of providing timely, useful content.

 

Hope. Comments shared with me and overheard reverberated with hope. I heard many share about their “AHA” moments of knowing that they, too, could actually do what God called them to. I had mine during the tail-end of Sophfronia Scott’s Tuesday morning keynote that opened the Conference.

Photo credit: Karynthia Phillips

I penned the following prayer while listening:

Father, thank you for your provision, for your love, caring enough about us to pave the way for this event.

 

Dr. Frank Thomas followed with a keynote dubbed “I Write to Stay Sane” in which he shared relatable reasons why writing helps him stay sane/process personal and societal situations. It was practical, humorous, and filled with hope.

Photo credit: Karynthia Phillips

Joy. The writing life is often plagued with fear, frustration, and self-doubts. Finding joy on the journey can be difficult, but not impossible. That’s the inspiring message Sophfronia delivered in her Wednesday keynote dubbed “Can You Dance Like Michelle Obama?: The Importance of Everyday Joy.” Her joy was palpable as she shared, but it was also transferrable, dancing from aisle to aisle. As she spoke I journaled:

Thank you for joy, that you gave back to me after someone stole it.

Remind me daily.

And:

Thank you for your help on/in my quest for joy.

Singing. Editor Joyce Dinkins of Our Daily Bread joked that following Sophfronia’s message would be difficult, but she made it look really easy. She led us in prayer and singing. By the time we finished spontaneous shared praise, applause, and laughter sprung out, providing rich soil for our hearts to receive Joyce’s keynote on “The Face of Christian Publishing.”

Photo credit: Karynthia Phillips

Her encouraging, motivating message was filled with current statistical information concerning the state of the industry, and the spending power of the African American market. Her heart for God and message made me flip to the page in my journal where I wrote the following prayer the day before in her “Wow Writing” workshop:

God, please help us to have a heart that is connected to you! We don’t want to wow by mere words, but by Your heart. Work through us God.

Crying. Okay, those were my tears I heard as I was moved by Joyce’s message, but I was not the only one. Leaving the keynote, I ran into an online writer friend, journalist Jacqueline J. Holness, and we left sharing why we were so moved to tears. Like me, she has been writing for years and agreed that Joyce’s message was a gift from God.

Laughter. Laughter ran free and clear throughout both days, and heard in keynotes and sessions; during one-on-one editor-writer appointments; in hallways, during breaks, and even in the Ladies’ Room. Laughter abounded in my hotel room that I shared with writer Karynthia Phillips, a sorority sister I met online through AWSA.  I was so thrilled to finally meet her at the conference. She’s a gifted writer who has a couple exciting book projects to shop. (Photos courtesy of Karynthia; grateful for permission to use them.)

Discouragement. At any conference, writers – especially writers of color – will hear the myriad reasons they are not ready to publish, especially books. A main one is platform; another is lack of a literary agent. Those are industry facts, but sometimes when shared they are laced with such discouragement that it seems that only an elite (non-ethnic) group of writers will ever realize their dreams. Suffice it to say that these were not the only discouraging remarks shared, but again they were less than the overall positive vibe to the conference.

Grumbling: Will everyone who attended receive a contract from an editor there? Of course not, and that’s typical of every writers conference. Hence, I wasn’t surprised by grumbling I heard about rejected ideas or projects.

 

SHARING SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

Heart full as the conference winded down, I had a chance to speak with host Brian Allain, and thank him for his vision and commitment. I also shared with him the Scripture focus for my attending.

He physically backed away from me, modestly exclaiming that he and the conference could not compare with ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus. We both laughed at his reaction, but I explained that I wasn’t making true parallels, just noting that John was in doubt and Jesus provided tangible evidence.

Similarly, again, I came to the event seeking tangible evidence that: 1) some in Christian publishing really wanted to see a shift in the color spectrum of literary works, and 2) editors were enthusiastic about working with ethnic writers to get those works in print.

For two days, I received the visual and auditory proof. Indeed, it soon became clear from things I saw and heard that there is genuine interest in publishing more ethnic voices. My hope is that those voices will be elevated from the created page to the printed sooner than later!

Photo credit: Karynthia Phillips

And I hope that more publishers will see and hear about the types of ideas and projects being shared and created and be motivated – compelled, even – to get involved and send their staffs to future Publishing in Color events with the sole purpose of facilitating the publication of works by an increased number of ethnic writers.

 

 

Lisa A. Crayton is an award-winning freelance writer, multi-published author, conference speaker…and more. She loves helping writers, and challenging them to achieve their goals and dreams! Meet her at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference. Connect with her on Facebook.

Can You Be Trusted?

Vinicius Aamano on Unsplash

 

 

April 28, 2018

 

“God now knows I can be trusted.”

A friend spoke those words a couple months ago during a call in which he discussed his current entrepreneurial pursuits. He is extraordinarily gifted in his chosen craft unrelated to writing. Weeks after that conversation, I’m still thinking about his words.

They were not arrogant proclamations of some spiritual superhero who acts as if he’s God’s gift to the world. Rather they were humbly – even shyly – spoken by a person awed that his pain had a greater purpose than he’d ever imagine.

They were testament to the fact that while God knows everything and everyone and knows at what point we’ll come to complete reliance on Him, He also knows whether we walk in God-driven integrity.

 

WHAT ABOUT ME?

My friend’s words sparked self-reflection.

I agonized with whether, I, too could be trusted?

The answer: yes.

In the past two decades I’ve walked away from writing and come back into the field a different person. As I’ve walked the path, pursuing publication and attempting to follow God’s lead, I now realize all my foibles, heartaches, disappointments and myriad other issues had purpose. God was bringing me to the place where He could trust me with His ultimate goal for my life and writing.

Not everyone gets there.

Sometimes people take detours as they compromise integrity and God’s plan for money, fame, or some other reasons. Others stop hoping, dreaming, and pursuing destiny. Then there are those – like the renown biblical character Job – who trust God in plenty and success, and in adversity and lack.

If you recall the story, it’s not a pretty one. No one would ever, ever volunteer to experience the agony that Job experienced. But like him when we submit to the process we emerge as those God can trust with wealth (natural and spiritual) and influence.

In my case, God can trust me with:

  • Pursuing only projects he directs me to. Over the years, I’ve turned down lucrative projects because I felt God say, “No. Let them pass.”
  • Helping those who could not help themselves. By nature, I’m a giver and helper. But there have been times over the years when God has directed me to help people even while I had a need. I’ve done so, believing – and fervently hoping – that God would meet my needs anyway. He always has.
  • Getting the work done. After a dozen kids’ books I’ve learned some things about persistence, work ethics, editorial relationships and other aspects of working with publishers. I’ve also learned some things about myself – not all pleasant – and have had to self-correct in order to succeed. Those lessons are crucial now as God moves me into various directions in this season.
  • Using, but not, loving money. I always tell people that working for millionaires – or those who generate millions in monthly billing – made me realize the limitations of money. It’s a tool I try to use it but not love.
  • Being inconvenience. I can help others when it’s not convenient. This is a biggie. Over the years, I’ve gained a reputation as a writer who is willing and resourceful enough to help people with diverse writing projects. In the past few years, especially, I’ve also learned that I can help when it’s not convenient.
  • Working when I’d rather play. I’ll work when I want to play. As writers we must sit and work. Non-creatives often don’t understand that, and that’s OK.
  • Forgiving others. Unforgiveness will tank a writer’s creativity, effectiveness, and close the door on divine opportunities. I’ve had many, many experiences where people have mistreated me and did not give me the respect deserved. I had a choice: forgive or harbor bitterness. I chose to forgive.
  • Remaining flexible. Rigidity makes for unpleasant interactions with clients, editors, agents, and others. It also leads to creative constipation – the inability to produce because we’re stuck on our own ideas or ways of doing things. I’ve learned to be flexible when God tells me to focus on one project when I want to write another; to focus on an audience I never dreamed of writing for when I had plans on writing for another, and in other ways. It has also meant being flexile when I’ve wanted to cut people or organizations off, and God wanted me to remain connected. As a result, I’ve grown and developed as a writer – and, more importantly, spiritually.
  • Remaining prayerful. Our faith and integrity will be tested — often. I remain vigilant, asking God to guide me, keeping me grounded in biblical truths and principles.

 

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

When my friend called me I was knee deep in a writing project and rushing toward deadline. But I stopped to chat. Doing so afforded me an opportunity to celebrate his testimony, and receive updates on things I’ve prayed for him for years.

But something else happened when I talked to him. I received inspiration as a writer.

That’s something else God can trust me with: to capture inspiration from the many wellsprings of life and infuse them into my writing to not only encourage myself, but to also inspire my readers to live more fully and abundantly.

What about you?

Can God trust you?

Have you submitted to the process of creativity, including the valleys and mountaintop experiences?

Have you learned to yield to the Spirit of God, more than your personal desires or others’ demands that conflict with what you’re hearing from God?

Can God trust you to pour into others even when you need refreshing?

Answers to those questions may help you determine why your creativity is stalled, why you’ve missed opportunities, or why suddenly you’re experiencing amazing answers to prayers and increased writing opportunities.

God provides a path to trust, but we must follow it. Doing so yields more benefits than we can ever recount – in our lives, our readers’ lives, and others we come into contact with on the road to publication.

 

Lisa A. Crayton is an award-winning freelance writer, multi-published author, conference speaker…and more. She loves helping writers, and challenging them to achieve their goals and dreams! Meet her at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference in July. Connect with her on Facebook.

Conference Season and My Year in Review

Diana Simumpande on Unsplash.

 

April 28, 2018

Writing conference season is in full swing. Many writers wonder if attending a conference is worth the time and money.

Short answer? Yes!

Longer: Writing conferences offer information, inspiration, and networking opportunities with writers, agents, editors, and/or other industry representatives. They can also lead to opportunities to query magazines and publishers closed to submissions; article and book contracts; and/or work-for-hire assignments.

I’ve discovered that writing conferences also inspire the strength, stamina, and perseverance needed to remain committed to writing – throughout the year!

My attendance at a 2017 conference sheds light on some of the benefits of attending such events.

One year ago this weekend, I attended Write It!, a conference hosted by Apostle John Eckhardt, a pastor and prolific author. I learned about him and the event on Facebook. I didn’t know who he was so I bought many of his newest books, and followed him online to learn more about him.

There were reasons I should not have attended Write It!, They are the same reasons many writers give for not attending conferences:

  • I didn’t know the conference sponsor.
  • I didn’t know any of the attendees.
  • It was a new event so I couldn’t cull opinions or information about its strengths or weaknesses.
  • The event was inexpensive for a writing conference, but it was held in Orlando, necessitating extra expense for out-of-state travel.

So why did I attend?

  • Location. The event was held at the headquarters of Charisma Media, which, among other things, publishes books and Charisma magazine. When I first started writing for magazines decades ago, I dreamed of writing for the publication. My dream came true (read my writing testimony), and the magazine has always held a special place in my heart.
  • Programming. The sessions focused on writing, marketing, and other aspects of publishing.
  • Special feature. The programing promised that attendees would receive prayer for creativity. I sorely needed such prayer!
  • Newness. The advertising inspired my desire to attend. I attended in 2017 just in case it would not be held this year. Guess what? To date, no plans have been announced for a 2018 conference.

After learning about it, I quickly signed up for the event that had a registration limit of 300 writers. I joined the related Facebook group but intentionally didn’t share much about my writing before the conference. I arrived at the event eager to learn and receive. And did I ever receive!

In a Facebook post on May 1, 2017 I wrote about my experience, noting: “I wanted the information available at the conference, but I NEEDED – was hungry, thirsty, desperate for – the inspiration and impartation….I received much more than I wanted and needed….”

 

BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE

The inspiration and impartation received sparked my creativity and undergirded my perseverance. Over the past year, I:

  • Wrote four new nonfiction books for teens. Two release in August; the other two release next year. The subjects: race relations, and disabilities. These are heart topics for this African American writer born with a total of only seven fingers.
  • Created this blog. I started this blog to help encourage writers. I stopped writing it to regain perspective, and renew my commitment concerning who I am as a Christian writer and communicator. This article marks my return to blogging.
  • Received financial support. I applied for, and received, a scholarship to attend the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference. I was so grateful. Unfortunately, I later declined it because I could not attend. (If you need financial support to attend an event, humble yourself and ask or apply for it!)
  • Wrote shorter pieces. Writing four books left little time for other projects. However, I did write shorter pieces, including an article for the current issue of the membership newsletter for the Evangelical Press Association, of which I’m an associate member. I’m contracted to write a week of devotions for a favorite devotional magazine, The Quiet Hour.
  • Received two writing conference invites. I accepted two invitations to speak at Christian writing conferences in 2018. I love teaching at conferences, and I’m so excited about serving on faculty of these events.
  • Met new writing friends. I’ve met some awesome writers at Write It!, and through the related Facebook page. They’ve enriched my writing life, as well as those of other writers I connected them with.
  • Read more nonfiction. I write nonfiction, but love reading fiction. However, prior to attending Write It! last year I started reading more nonfiction books, which led to a year of reading lots more.
  • Received rejections. I had writing disappointments over the past year. Some were particularly discouraging, such as not being accepted to participate in a regional literary festival. Others did not hurt as much. In all cases, the rejections proved I was actively pursuing writing gigs and other opportunities.
  • Pursued other opportunities. I’ve turned down some because the disadvantages outweighed the benefits. However, I’m excited to share I’ve been selected to serve as a leadership coach for an undergraduate student interested in journalism (will share more next month). This week I received an astonishing writing-related opportunity thanks to a referral of a writing friend; an “extraordinary helper” (see below for where I learned the term) who has sown encouragement and opportunities in my life since I met him in an online writing group (will share more when able).
  • Learned about other writers, and events. Last year from Apostle Eckhardt’s social media pages, I learned about prolific author Michelle McClain-Walters and her event, “The Chosen Conference.” I bought all of her books, and attended the spectacular event designed to spark spiritual renewal. One special moment at the conference: seeing a former pastor and his wife who I hadn’t seen in more than 20 years. One healing moment: I cried ugly tears during Apostle Michael Posey’s inspirational message about “Extraordinary Helpers,” people who help others succeed. Listening to him, I grieved my desire to serve as such for other people and yet lack many of those individuals in my life. More so, I gave thanks to God for being the greatest “extraordinary helper” I’ll ever need!

 

RESTORATION, OPPORTUNITY, ACCELERATION

Throughout the past year, I’ve been able to persevere in part, because of my attendance at Write It! In a May 21, 2017 Facebook post I wrote: “At Write It! in Orlando, it was apparent Apostle Eckhardt’s – the – impartation covered more than ‘just’ our writing. It released restoration, opportunity, and acceleration in every area of our lives, if we had faith to believe that, I did, and have been in expectation.”

My expectation was high leaving the event.

Honestly, my year was a mixed bag filled with ups and downs. Excruciating back pain, for example, made it nearly impossible to write and made me want to contact my publisher and ask to be released from the contracts on my two disability titles. Ironic, I know.

Other factors also fed into my desire to quit writing altogether. But, I’m still writing, seeking writing and other opportunities, and remain staunchly committed to supporting other writers.

As conference season continues, I encourage you to research writing events that will help you grow and stretch. Look for those offering classes on your preferred genre(s), as well as those designed to help you develop new skills. I guarantee if you choose well you won’t regret attending!

Finally, don’t overlook new events. This year, I’m attending two events, including Publishing in Color. It’s a new conference designed to help spiritual writers of color. Like Write It!, it’s being held by a sponsor who I don’t know, and will entail out-of-state travel. There are lots of reasons why I shouldn’t attend – but I wouldn’t dream of missing it!

 

 

 

Lisa A. Crayton is an award-winning freelance writer, multi-published author, conference speaker…and more. She loves helping writers, and challenging them to achieve their goals and dreams! Meet her at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference in July. Connect with her on Facebook.

 

 

 

8 Steps to Recovering Creative Voice

Photo: Juliette Leufke on Unsplash

January 14, 2018

 

What’s wrong with your voice?

During a very recent – and first – bout with strep throat, I heard that question from co-workers, friends, and family members more times than I can count. Bouncing back from strep hasn’t been easy, but I’m almost fully recovered.

The experience underscored the importance of my natural voice while reminding me of the value and benefit of a strong writing voice.

Voice is an important characteristic of writing. Albeit, it is sometimes difficult to define. Generally, voice helps distinguish one writer’s work from another’s. It’s a combination of factors that make our writing unique to us and help us “sound” like ourselves.

The more we write the more distinctive, clearer, and stronger our voice should become. Indeed, readers should be able to pick up any piece of our writing and think, “that sounds like _______” or “_______wrote that.” (Fill in the blank with your name.)

 

Voice-Blocking Factors

Unfortunately, many factors can affect the strength and quality of our creative voice. Those factors include:

  • Life challenges. Sickness, grief, financial problems, romantic troubles, and other life challenges can diminish our voice.
  • Fear of success or failure. Fear obstructs voice. Our creative voice will never be strong and vibrant if we allow fear to hinder our writing, marketing, or networking.
  • Approval obsession. Wanting to be liked, followed on social media, or invited to groups or events, can compel us to water down our voice.
  • Other writers’ successes. Some writers try mimicking other writers’ style and voice in order to have similar success. That rarely works.

 

Recovering Your Voice

Despite these factors, it’s possible to recover voice. Here’s how.

  1. Acknowledge the issue. My throat was on fire. I had a fever. And my voice was rapidly weakening. Although I tried to ignore the problem for days, eventually I had to acknowledge I had a health issue. Doing so was a first step in recovering my voice. Even if you’re writing has never suffered from a weak voice it is possible that one of your projects may. Acknowledging the issue is a first step to strengthening your creative voice and improving it in a work-in-progress.
  2. Get help. Part of acknowledging my health problem was admitting I needed to get expert help, which I did. Similarly, at times, we need help to recover our voice. If that’s the case, get help. Read articles and books on voice, and revise your work to incorporate tips gleaned. Other options? Talk with other writers about voice-related concerns. Or allow critique partners and beta readers to read your work. Then incorporate relevant suggestions for improvement.
  3. Be authentic. If you want to succeed in publishing, be original. Indeed, as writers we have to be true to our authentic selves. Authenticity for writers mean writing on your heart topics. It means writing genres that resonate with you – even if they don’t resonate with your writing friends. Being authentic will assure your voice is loud and clear in each project.
  4. Experiment. If your voice is weak in your prose it is possible that you have not discovered the genre that best suits your voice. Experimenting with other genres may help you discover it. If you write fiction, try nonfiction — and vice versa. Or explore a subgenre within your chosen main genre. If genre is not the issue perhaps your target audience is. If you’re writing for young kids, try writing for teens. If you’re writing for children, experiment penning material for adults.
  5. Write your heart. Recovering voice also entails speaking up about our passions and incorporating those in our writing. For me that means writing from my faith and Christian principles that undergird that faith. Expect to see more of those themes in my blog articles.
  6. Re-commit. Discouragement, failed marketing efforts and other influences can thwart our commitment to chosen genres or audiences. If your voice is waning, it’s possible you need to recommit to writing, and your potential readers.
  7. Rest. Rest is not a dirty word. Sometimes we need to physically rest to recover strength for handling writing rigors. Other times we need to put a manuscript aside and allow it to rest before revising. Whatever the case, know that rest is an important aspect of recovering voice.
  8. Protect it. As you write for publication, you’ll likely encounter people who will try to change your voice. Some will want it to be louder; others softer. But, again, be true to yourself and your voice. Know that your intended audiences will love your voice without expecting you to succumb to any creative illness that would make your voice lose its distinctive sound, strength, or quality.

 

Lisa A. Crayton is an award-winning freelance writer, multi-published author, conference speaker…and more. She loves helping writers, and challenging them to achieve their goals and dreams! Connect with her on Facebook.