Wild Words . . . Photos & Fine Art

Co-creating by heart with sandy cathcart through writers helps and art info, focusing on all things wild.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Spring Break

Sorry for the lack of postings this week. It's family time here during spring break, and today we're headed to play in the snow!

So, if you've been missing the discussion, come back Thursday evening when I plan to have a new post about being called to write.

Meanwhile, look back through some past posts and visit my blogger friends.

See ya Thursday!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The following is an entry my friend, Andrew posted in The Circle on Ted Dekker's site. They are repeated here with Andrew's permission:

I have forgotten how to worship.

I am indicative of an entire generation: we have followed after glib entertainment to the point that we've dichotomized true creativity and godliness. Gone is the passion and excellence of the Psalms—most modern attempts at “worship” music result in little more than generic riffs and lyrics so shallow and insipid I wonder how any of us can sing them and feel honest, let alone clean inside.

What happened to depth and brilliance in Christianity, particularly in regard to the arts? Why we have abandoned the arts to such a large extent eludes me. I am left without answer. And I know at the core of my soul that this abandonment has brutalized me. I am a victim; a bastard child of the Christian artistic ghetto.

Care to see my scars? They are deep, written on my heart. . . . I have forgotten how to worship. I have forgotten majesty and wonder and glory and horror and dread and joy and sorrow and the profound meaning of faith. This amnesia is cultural and corporate, cutting to the very heart of our identity: glad worshipers of the Creator of all things.

We Christians, children of the King and Creator, Christ Himself, should be the most creative of all peoples—we have His Spirit within. Look at what kind of place Christianity has held in the past in the Western Hemisphere. We have been the leaders of all arts—in all areas—to the glory of God. What happened to that? Why do non-Christians dominate the mainstream of music, graphic arts, literature, movies, drama and every other expression of creativity?

-- I was upset, but didn't know how to continue from there---at least, not in terms of literature. I spoke of music, but words are often more important. They tend to last longer. To haunt you long after all melodies have ceased and your ears dulled.

What, then, do we do with these words? How do we respond to this world?

Works of grit and grace.




Ted, you have laid the groundwork; many of us are preparing to follow.

Lately, God has been teaching me about His heart: the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, the broken, and the despised—all those bereft of hope are dear to Him. To know Him, we must serve the “least of these” in His name. (Jeremiah 22:15,16) This is how Christ chose to begin His ministry: by declaring the captives free; the broken whole; the sinners redeemed. I am called to be a broken-hearted comforter—a wounded healer who gently points others toward Him.

The art of worship—of adoration—means no more running or hiding; there is no more room for my wants and desires, but only His. Without surrender, our so-called worship is meaningless lip service, nothing more.

The same is true of our writing. Are we willing to worship Him? On His terms?

The verse I referenced is fascinating: Your own father, did he not eat and drink? He administered justice and righteousness, then it went well with him. He took up the case of the poor and needy, then it went well. Is this not what it means to know Me? [This is] the LORD's declaration. (HCSB)

Here are the commonly taught criteria for knowing God. Righteousness. Justice. Defending the poor. But there is another element. The first one. He ate and drank. He lived life. Naturally. Piety is not somehow separated from daily life. So why do we think that we can be holy people serving a holy God, and not engage in . . . life?

Reflecting His Glory,

~ Lamp

Monday, March 20, 2006

Are you a Christian who writes?

What in the world does that mean?

First of all, we better define the word “Christian.” That means a lot of things to a lot of different people. In this blog, I’m meaning Christian the same way it was meant when it was first used nearly 2,000 years ago, as a term describing people who loved Christ and desired to live their lives the way He did. They were actually “People of the Way,” People who worshipped The Creator by coming through His Son, Jesus. That’s my desire, too.

When I step out into the wilderness or, goodness! even look out my window and see the deer feeding peacefully in my forest yard—the wild turkeys knowing just when to run through and pick up bits of food; the little chipmunk now awake from his winter nap; the first sign of Osprey recently returned from South America; tiny bits of plant life sticking through the snow; herds of wapiti (elk) keeping their perfect cycle—as I watch the seasons pass in perfect wonder, consistent, fulfilling, and dependable . . . I am absolutely certain that none of this happened by accident, and it’s easy to place my own life into the hands of this magnificent Creator.

Ahhh, but there is a sin problem, and it affects all of creation, not just humans, this I also see. So, I carry a pistol on my hip, because some animals and humans don’t adhere to the law (given to both man and animals) to not take the lifeblood of another human. I see signs of decay and rot, sickness, and death, all things brought on by the fall. But God even knew about that and had a plan all ready—redemption through His Son, even for those who had gone before.

I know some of you are worried about all my recent God talk, but I believe in a holistic view of the writer’s life. The spiritual is very important to what I put down on paper. I can no longer separate myself from the life that is living inside of me. So, sometimes, as now, we will have a discussion on God, especially when faith may make or break our forward progress in writing. It’s all part of the process.

So, are you a Christian who writes? And what on earth does that mean?

A good example is a friend of mine . . . I’m changing her name here and calling her Susie. She provides the main support for her family, which includes her husband and father. Susie is a Christian and she writes. I think if I asked if she was called to writing, she would look at me as if I had fallen off the turnip truck. And I’m suspecting she may be right to do so.

Susie writes, because she is good at it, and it’s turned out to be a good way to make the needed money to support her family. It’s a business and she treats it as such.

I write, because God called me to write. Does that mean I don’t have a writing business? Well, no, I do have a writing business, but I didn’t hear any special call from God to start that business. It was simply a natural outpouring of answering The Call.

Susie, on the other hand, answered The Call through the simple outpouring of creating a business.


It’s almost like saying the same thing, isn’t it?

And what about this calling? Does that mean I will never be anything but a writer?

Well . . . no. I’m an artist, a musician, a songwriter, a photographer . . . but I’ve never heard a direct call from God to do any of those things, like I did with my writing, yet I feel His pleasure when I do them.

So, what is the difference?

For me, it’s simply being true to what He has called me to do.

I write, because He has called me to write. And I will continue to write even if my business of writing fails. The call was that clear. Until He releases me from that call, I’m bound to it. I’m also called to be a wife to Cat, and I will do that right on into eternity.

A Christian who writes, on the other hand, but feels no particular call from God, may be able to quit at any given time. But . . . and this is important . . . if God has given you a gift and you neglect it, that can be a very big problem.

Perhaps we have misworded the question. Maybe the question isn’t whether or not God has called you to write, or if you are a Christian who writes. Perhaps, the real question is, “Are you using the gift God has given you?”

Yikes, we’re almost full circle. So, how do you know whether you have a gift or not? And if you have a gift of writing, why do you need to edit? Or go to school? Or learn from others?

Okay, more on that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, be sure to leave any comments you want to share with others. We’re in this journey together—a journey of learning how to co-create.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Let's Write!

REALLY FUN! Write quickly for five minutes with pen and paper (YES! ONLY FIVE MINUTES and NO COMPUTER)


Sixteen puppies have just escaped their backyard. Their backyard borders an alley that kids use as a short cut home from school. Four boys are racing their bikes down the same alley, but they haven't seen the puppies yet. Three girls are walking backward, arm-in-arm from the other end of the alley. What happens next?


A man dressed in a suit steps out of a taxi on a rainy night, pays the taxi driver and sends him off. Then he turns and looks at the house, walks slowly up to the door and knocks. The door opens and .... What happens next?

If you come up with something you'd like to share, just e-mail it to me and I'll post it on my blog, or you can post it in the comment section.

Have fun!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Called to Write, Part I

Are you called to write?

Or are you a Christian who writes?

Those questions have been plaguing me all week! It first came about when a fellow blogger posted a question on the FCW site, and I haven’t been able to let go of it since.

God definitely called me to write. I’m fortunate to know that.

But I haven’t always known that. For ten whole years—yes! ten!—I wrote articles and stories and sent them out to publications and kept getting these little form letter rejections that said, “I’m sorry, but your submission doesn’t fit our current needs.”


I got so many of those that my husband and I celebrated when I received my first personal rejection.

So … after ten years, I figured that was enough already.

I was at the end of a China mission trip, traveling solo on a train during my favorite part of the day, that time when the sun sinks low on the horizon and peasants sling their rakes and hoes over their shoulders and walk their water buffalo home for the evening. Everything looked so peaceful and still in the evening glow and the smell of freshly harvested wheat blew through the train’s windows. And I started to think that God was moving me in new directions—that this would probably be my last trip to China. And I wondered what He would have me do next.

That’s when I thought about my writing.

“I think I’ve had enough of this writing stuff,” I told God in my mind. “After all, I’ve been sending stuff out for ten years, and for ten years I’ve gotten nothing but rejections.”

I was the only English speaking person on the train, and I had no one else to talk with, and I certainly didn’t expect God to answer me. But He did! It was the clearest I’ve ever heard God in my life!

He didn’t speak in an audible voice, but it was definitely a conversation and it was definitely to me. He said, “Sandy, I called you to write—“

There was a pause while I waited in hope…God called me to write! Goodness! Would I be the next big seller!

Then He finished the sentence. “…I didn’t say anything about being published.”


I suddenly visualized myself in a room with piles and piles of papers surrounding me—papers that were full of words that I had written, that nobody would ever read. But I would write!

I would write, because God called me to write.

So, I returned home to Oregon with that conviction. But before I even reached my house, I stopped at our mailbox that is about a quarter of a mile from my house, and there was my very first acceptance, and I’ve been accepted ever since.

So, yes, I know God called me to write, but please note that I didn't know that for the first ten years of my writing life.

But, no, that doesn’t always mean that everything I write will get published. In fact, a whole lot of what I write may never be published … but I write! I write because … you guessed it … God called me to write.

Other writers don’t always understand that calling. They pressure me to get on the ball, be more aggressive, or be more professional. They mean well, but a lot of times it’s really not about the writing. At least not for me, it isn’t. It’s about relationships—a relationship with an agent who needs a bit of mercy, a relationship with an editor who received a blessing through the words I submitted, a relationship with God as He carries me through the difficult process so others can learn from my example of perseverance, a relationship with others along this writing journey.

It’s not always fun, but it’s always rewarding, if given time.

Back to that patience thing again. Doggone it.

It’s not just about being patient in waiting for God, it’s also being patient with well-meaning friends who don’t understand God’s calling on my life. How can I expect them to understand it when I don’t even understand it myself?

More this weekend, when I’ll talk a bit about what it means to be a Christian who writes.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Seeing Beyond the Visible

Full moon tonight! Did you see that in my current moon box on the bottom right?

I love a full moon! It makes night like daylight in the wilderness and all the animals are out, so there’s a lot to see. And there’s nothing like canoeing a lake under moonlight, especially when the air is warm. The water is so smooth you can hear the shoosh of the canoe and tiny gurgling of dipping paddles.

Last August, my friend Jolene and I canoed Lost Creek Lake under moonlight. Ah, but it was more than a bit scary coming back to shore behind the shadows of a hill and not knowing what was there to greet us. I unknowingly carried a frog home with me in my beach towel. Glad it was only a frog! Bear and cougar often drink from the very spot we put in.

So what’s that got to do with writing?

There’s a full moon tonight. Did I tell ya?

But I won’t be able to see it. The clouds have dropped to the hills and snow has been falling for several days, so I have to trust that the moon is still there, and I have to trust that my little “current moon” box is telling me the truth.

Sometimes it’s like that with my writing.

I’ve got an idea in my mind … a plotline perhaps? … but sometimes it’s so hidden that I simply must trust my instinct and keep on writing.

My instinct is powered by The Creator. I don’t always see Him either. In fact, I’ve never actually SEEN Him. But I have plenty of evidence to believe He’s there. Not only there. But here … inside me … beside me … I live and move and have my being in Him.

I don’t have a little “current God” box, but I do have a book written by many folks who attest to God being there, here, among us. Several hundred folks who even saw Him after He was supposed to be dead. They saw Him taken into Heaven … laughing Creator, very much in touch.

So, today, I write, trusting my instinct to move forward. That doesn’t mean every word I write is from God or is perfect. But it does mean that I’m making progress.

Editor, Chip Macgregor, once told me that his writing process usually consists of writing something like 3,000 words, then tearing that apart and cutting it to 1,500 words, then adding another 750.

That’s about right.

A lot of what I’m writing today will go the way of the MAC trash barrel. Some of it will come back. But I need to write it all in order to get any of it down.

What are you writing today? Can you trust your instinct to carry you forward?

There’s a full moon out tonight. Can you see it? It’s trying very hard to peek through the clouds.

So even though writing is truly more about rewriting, today let’s write! And worry about the rewrite tomorrow. Today has enough writing of its own.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


The English language is constantly in flux, but one word that never seems to lose its meaning or its dread is “patience.”

My editor called me this morning and told me he coveted my “patience.”


That means more waiting.

And more waiting.


I’ve heard it said often, and I bet you have too, that we should never pray for patience.


And it’s almost always followed up with, “Because, you’ll get it.”



Should we be afraid to ask God for patience?

Yet, I sit here afraid to do just that.


Lord, help me here . . .
It’s about much more than patience. Help me to know that you are not a hard task master. Help me to see above the visible and understand that I am part of YOUR story.

God’s vision for me is much bigger than what I see for myself.

Quick isn’t always quality. We all know that.

So, why do we want to rush on? I see a goal that I want NOW! My novel published and being read by eager readers! Yeah!

BUT . . .

If my novel had been published two years ago when I first thought it was ready, I would have missed out on so much, because my novel is much richer and deeper than it was back then. And I suspect the timing of its release will be perfect . . .

. . . Even if I’m not alive . . .

At this rate it may all be post mortem. But so what? Sooooo, I’d kinda like to have a few kudos, maybe? Ugh. I thought I was over that.

I’d like to actually hold the book in my hand. Hmmmmm.

I’d like to have some money to pay the bills. Another big Hmmmmmm.


Yes. I need it, and I’m asking for it. And I’m applying it with my agent. It’s not about his timing after all, it’s God’s. And I can trust God to let me know when it’s time to move on. For now, I’ll keep writing and waiting . . . waiting on God . . . not man, because God is faithful, even when I am faithless, and He has promised to provide for my needs and to do far above what I can even imagine.


His burden is not heavy, and He is faithful.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Researching a nonfiction or fiction story

Okay! You’ve been told to write what you know, and you’ve done that, but now you would like to branch out a bit, make some new discoveries or try out something different. Or perhaps you’re writing a fiction story and your character is facing something that you know nothing about. What do you do?


If that is a bad word to you, let me change your mind.

When I was first told as a new writer to write what I know, I immediately coupled that idea with the words author, Lee Roddy, told me years ago. “If you want to be a writer, then go out and live.”

So, if you need to write what you know, then know more.

I’ve had the most wonderful experiences since that time. I’ve traveled many countries, learned to windsurf, downhill and cross country ski, shoot class IV rapids, become a good markswoman with rifles and pistols, hunt, fly fish, ride horses, track game, draw, paint, and much more. Even if I never wrote about these things, my life would have been richer.

Another thing I do is interview people who either know what I need to know or who have experienced something unusual. In doing so, I’ve learned some fascinating things and met incredible people who sky dive, are experts at wrangling, falling trees, herding cows, drawing wildlife, homesteading in Alaska, photographing for National Geographic and much more. In the process I’ve accumulated some amazing friends.

I also read.

Someone once said that a writer must read in order to be a good writer. I totally believe that. Not only because you learn style and technique, but also because you learn, period.

I read everything from children’s books to heavy-duty theology books. It is true that some reading is more enjoyable than others, but I force myself through some of the stuff that isn’t as much fun but holds tons of good information. Keep a couple of highlighters by your side and a dictionary. Mark good passages, look up the words you don’t know. I also use little post-it flags to mark pages. My husband and I have become such avid readers that we haven’t had television reception for over ten years.

I’ll talk more about the individual aspects of research at a later date, but for now, simply consider the benefits.

Today, I’m posting photos of a mountain lion that I took at a recent artist invitation. This lion kept singling me out of the crowd and looking right at me.

Jenny, one of the members of my critique group, is writing a fiction story in which one of her main characters is attacked by a cougar and her hero comes to the rescue.

Jenny doesn’t know much about cougars (mountain lions) or guys who work in the woods, but I do, because I have met several mountain lions in the woods and have interviewed wildlife officials in seven different states. So, she has done some research, some interviews, and then runs the story by me.

Now, she wants to know what a cougar’s eyes look like when they’re staring at you. So Viola! Here are my photos for her to see as she imagines herself alone, in the wilderness, without a weapon, and with the cougar staring straight at her.

Is a picture worth ten thousand words?

See for yourself.

An even better thing is for the two of us to take a trip to a local wildlife rehabilitation clinic and let her experience “the look” first hand.

Ahhhh, the value of research . . . t could even save a life . . . and it may be your own.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Creative Fun Exercise

Here’s a wonderful quote by Colin J. Jeffcoat IV, a fellow member of

  • FCW (Fellowship of Christian Writers):

  • “Know the law and you will be okay . . . and make sure that God is okay with it too.”

    Isn’t that an intriguing thought? It’s not enough to just walk the line . . . it’s important to have a clear destination . . . to draw as close to The Creator as possible through His Son.

    Today, I have an assignment for you, one that should get your creative juices moving a bit.

    1. Find a photograph or magazine illustration that appeals to you. I’ve posted several choices on this blog as well. Take some time to really observe your photo.

    2. Now, using your imagination . . . give a name to the place in the photo. Give it a location. Is it windy? Calm? What time of year is it? What aromas can you smell? What sounds do you hear? What year is it? Is it common? Or exotic?

    3. Name the people in the photo. If there aren’t any people, then imagine some and give them names. How old are they? What kind of past have they lived? What is a normal day like for them? What dreams do they have? What goals? Who do they love? What fear clutches their heart?

    4. Choose one of the people and pretend you are them. Give them an event or action to take place in the scene. What happens or has happened to start the action? What goal does that create? What problem must they solve?

    5. Give yourself an enormous enemy. Is it physical? Emotional? Spiritual? Do battle with it as you head toward your goal. The battles must increase in number and intensity the nearer you get to your goal, finally climaxing at the make-it-or-break-it moment when you will either obtain your goal or die trying.

    6. Do you reach your goal? Do you fail? What have you learned in the process? What is your new real world like now?

    7. Work on the above project for at least three hours. They can be separate hours if you want, perhaps one hour to think and plan; one or two hours to write, letting your creative juices flow, and at least another hour editing and revising. Hooray for you! You have now written a scene!

    Every scene, every chapter, every book pretty much follows this outline.

    My students can earn 20 extra points for faithfully completing this exercise and handing it in next week. If you weren’t at class tonight because of the snow, then you will receive the normal class points plus 20 points for a quiz. If you weren’t in class and you want all the above points, then write two scenes over six hours and I’ll give you full credit.

    If you aren’t a student, but you love to write, give it a try. It’s fun! And many of my students have used these very exercises in completed versions of their stories and books.

    Have fun!

    Monday, March 06, 2006

    The rest of the answer

    The question below is part of the same question I answered last week, but now I'm tackling it in more detail.

    I have a hard time convincing myself that magazine, newspaper, book publishers would be interested in what I have to write.


    There are many reasons why a magazine, newspaper, or book publisher might be interested in what you have to write.

    What hobbies to you have? What interests? What expertise? Who can you interview? Who do you know? What makes them interesting? What things have you learned?

    The person who asked this question is a photographer who travels around the country with his wife who is a midwife. They stay in an area for several months while she works and he photographs the area. Then they move on. He is also a conservationist. There are so many things he could write about. Let me list a few:

    1. Photography
    2. Conservation
    3. Specific animals (birds, cats/lions, deer, etc.)
    4. Outdoors
    5. Hiking
    6. Camping
    7. Travel
    8. Diary of a modern-day midwife (personal experience).
    9. How-to (photography, travel, home health care, etc.)
    10. Adjusting to life on the road.
    11. Life on the road (personal experience).
    12. Where and/or how to find a good place to…

    Now, if you take those areas of interest and target either a specific magazine or specific area (newspapers), you will find editors interested in what you have to write, especially if you are a decent writer.

    Many writers pass on the regional magazines, but I have found them wonderful to work for. They love to get my articles and stories and I get paid around a hundred bucks for a fairly easy-to-write article with little changes needed. If you write one of those for each of the twelve months most magazines publish, you have a nice income of $1200. That’s just for one magazine. Often the stories overlap with little changes to fit other markets.

    Writing for nationals pays more, but you face tougher competition, more back-and-forth editing, and probably a once-a-year article. The pay often ends up being about the same and you often have to live with an edited version of your article that you’re not real thrilled with. Still, it’s nice to try those once in a while.

    Another perk in writing for regionals is that you become a big fish in a little pond. People love to see my articles about them and their neighborhoods, and that encourages me to write more.

    Then after you write a column or series of articles for several years, you end up with enough fodder for a book. Now, that you’ve been writing regularly, you also have a good place for free advertising of your book and can often publish some of the chapters in the magazines to whet your reader’s appetite for more. Both you and the editors come out winners!

    Writing for newspapers can really keep you jumping! You may end up writing weekly or even daily. Whew! I don’t think I could handle the stress! On the other hand, having deadlines really keeps me writing, and I’ve discovered that the more I write the easier it becomes.

    Now, if you add some good photos to go along with your articles, you have a sweet deal. If the editor has a similar article to choose from, they will most often choose the one with nice photos over the one that doesn’t have photos. This is more true for regional magazines than national. The other sweet part of the deal is that readers also seem to choose to read the articles with photos over the ones without.

    So, this should give you a lot to think about. List your hobbies and interests, then grab a Writer’s Market, visit a local magazine rack, check the internet and see who might be interested in what you have to share. If you are a quilter, check out the quilt shops for specialty mags. If you are a hunter, check out a sports shop…you get the idea.

    Have fun! And be sure to leave comments here on what has worked for you. It’s nice to help one another out.

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    Pray for Andrew!

    I couldn't resist showing you a photo of one of my furry friends that's outside my window right now. He comes for a visit nearly every night.

    Please remember to pray for my friend, Andrew. He is leaving for a mission trip to Guyana this Thursday and won't return until Wednesday, March 8.