Wild Words . . . Photos & Fine Art

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

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Question Number One, Part 2

One of the most famous and prolific mystery/crime writers of all time, Georges Simenon, once said that when he started a novel he had no idea how it would end. And western writer Louis L'Amour
once told a story about how he was typing furiously in his study and his daughter came in and said "Daddy, why are you typing so fast?" He replied, without thinking, "I want to see how this turns out."

Trouble is, unearthing bones can certainly make things difficult for a first-time writer. I loved reading an interview with Nancy Means Wright who writes the entire book before making an outline to send her editor.

Boy howdy! That’s me.

On the other hand, one of my agents once gave me some good advice. “Go ahead and write the outline,” he said, “but simply look at it as a map. It’s not something concrete that you have to follow bit by bit. Like I said, it was good advice, but it still didn’t work for me. I just couldn’t get away from the outline after writing it, and it made for some very stiff writing.

In the end, I found my own form of writing, and it is different than just about anything else I’ve read.

1. Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, it’s important for me to have a title first. That’s right. First. Once I have a good title, then I know what my story is about. Sometimes, I may end up tweaking the title a bit afterward, but not often.

2. I write my opening paragraph entirely in my head before writing a word on paper or computer. I usually do this when I’m driving down the road, and I often say it outloud, until it’s just right. Just right means it flows easily from the tongue and is engaging, promising better things to come. I have a sense of place and character. If it’s nonfiction, then the character is me or the person I’m talking about.

Here is an example:


Often, the biggest battles a man must face are not on some foreign field—they are within the confines of his own soul—and no matter how many willing hands volunteer help, he must face the battle alone. Lucas Hain mulled over these thoughts as he broke the ice on the watering trough and headed for the creek. His horse, Rusty, followed behind lifting his hooves high and throwing snow in little blizzards beneath his tail. Luke listened to the sound of the gentle plop of hooves and thought of how horses were a constant in his life, as were the towering mountains, the herds of wapiti, and the high prairie where the seasons passed in spectacular wonder.

But they won’t mean a thing if I lose my wife.

  • The above is the first paragraph of the first chapter of my novel, Skookum.
    As soon as I had this paragraph, I knew what my story was about. I knew the kind of person Luke was and the problems he was facing, and it had enough intrigue to make me want to know what was going to happen to him.

    The next step was going to the computer and writing it down and then letting the story carry me along. It carried me through the end of the first chapter, and I was very satisfied with it.

    I also had the name of the book by the book by the end of the first chapter. What I didn’t have was the names of the characters. I simply used Cat and myself until I had names for them. When my critique group read it, they all thought I had cancer! Ha! It had a lot of emotional pull.

    The next thing I did was edit the first chapter. Then I wrote the final chapter! That’s right. The final chapter told me where my book was headed. Next, I made a list of some of the conflicts Luke would be facing, along with a list of supporting characters.

    Now, here’s an interesting thing…After editing, I took that first chapter and offered it to the editor at Cascade Horseman as a stand alone article. He had never published fiction before, but he liked it! Soooooooo, I told him it was the first chapter of a novel, and asked if he would be interested in running it as sequels. He signed me up for 21 sequels on the spot.


    Trouble is, I hadn’t written any more chapters. In the end, I was very glad of those monthly deadlines. They kept the story moving. One funny thing that happened through this is that one time I left Luke hurt on a mountainside for two months. The edior called me and said that everyone in the office wanted to know what happened to Luke? I played mysterious, but the truth was, I was wanting to know what happened to Luke too! I never let on that I was writing the thing month by month.

    21 months later, I had a completed novel of around 45,000 words. Every chapter was written from Luke’s point of view except one.

    My next step was to expand the book into 100,000-word mainstream novel. This was the most fun part and the most difficult. I simply wrote scenes from other points of view, letting the reader know what was going on during the original gaps. This gave the story much more depth and interest.

    I hit a wall at one point, trying to write a scene several times in several different ways, which alerted me to the fact that something was majorly wrong. I discovered that I had too many characters. So, my next step was combining like characters into one. I did that with two sets of characters. If they had similar personalities or traits, then they became one.

    Then, I added a character who turned out to be major…Ghostdancer. He became very crucial to the story, which meant a lot of rewriting. And I added a prologue to help make him as important as he’s going to end up being.

    Okay, I know Randy Ingermanson would say I should have used the snowflake design first, and I would have saved myself a lot of trouble. He’s probably right, and I may give that a good try next time, but this worked for me. And it was awesome to unearth the novel, very much like Steven King talked about in On Writing. It was as if the novel was there all along, just waiting for me to pull it out. A word of warning on Steven King, his book has quite a bit of crusty language in it, so if that bothers you, be warned.

    When I finished the novel, I wrote my synopsis. May sound backward to you, but hey! It worked.

    So the bottom line is, try a lot of different stuff and see what works for you. Skookum is the third novel I’ve written, but the first I believe is worthy of publication. I like the story. That’s important.

    If you’re writing fiction, then it’s important that you are writing a story that you can live with for 2 to 4 years, especially if it’s your first. It may take that long to write.

    I enjoyed Skookum all along the way and love the characters so much that I’m writing a sequel. I know authors who can’t stand to read their story one more time after a year or two. So, make sure you like the story and the characters and that it has a lot of appeal to you before you tackle such a big project.

    In Skookum, I’m talking about a way of life that is important to me. These are the people I know, the land I love, the problems we face on a daily basis. It came after hours of interviews with oldtimers and years of spending time with wranglers and outdoorsmen in the wilderness. A lot of it came from the stories my father told me as I was growing up. Although it’s fiction, almost every scene in it happened to someone. I just made them all happen to Luke!

    If it sounds like I’m passionate about this story, it’s because I am. Passion is a huge driving force behind a good novel.

    Tomorrow I’ll give you an example of a couple of first paragraphs that got me started on nonfiction projects, then we’ll wrap up Question Number One.

    See ya here!

  • Wednesday, April 26, 2006

    Ariel as Confident Pitti-Sing

    I thought you might like to see my latest art work. It's a painting of my granddaughter in her role as Pitt-Sing for her school play. I won first place in pastel original at the Upper Rogue Artists Annual Critique Luncheon held at the Red Lion in Medford, Oregon. Woohoo!

    You can view more of my fine art at Fine Art by Sandy Cathcart

    Tuesday, April 25, 2006

    Question Number One

    Okay! It’s time to tackle those questions. Here’s the first:

    1. Are you a one-two-three kind of writer? Like all your ducks in a row? Or do you start a project here, and another there and kinda juggle them all in the air? Or do you do something in between? (fiction/nonfiction)

    First of all, before we go any further, it’s crucial that you understand that not all writers are the same. If you are frustrated because you’re trying to create in the same way as another writer and it isn’t happening, then check out this great article, Ten myths about learning to write. We are not all cut out of the same mold.

    If you are a one-two-three kind of writer who likes all your ducks in a row, then I’m a bit jealous. I’m not like that at all, unless I’m working for someone else. Then the one-two-three thing works just fine. But when I’m creating a big project, it totally hangs me up.

    There are plenty of books and web sites dealing with the ducks-in-a-row concept. Most of them offer really good advice. Outlines, backstory, character studies, plotting devices…there’s a ton of stuff. Here are just a few good ones:

  • Dramatica
  • is a series of software products for writers and a relatively unique perspective of how stories work. A lot of popular authors swear by this stuff. You may find it helpful too.

  • Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake design
  • for writing a novel.

  • Outlining Techniques.

  • Plot Versus Character, Part 1,
  • by Melanie Spiller

  • Plot Versus Character, Part 2,
  • by Melanie Spiller

  • Story,
  • by Robert McKee.

    I’ve tried them all on both my students and myself. Some of my students thrive very well with it. Others, like me, spend so much time filling out all the sheets and working with the devices that we never get to the story, or by the time we get to the story, we’re either totally bored with it or totally confused. Either is pure death.

    One of my most exciting days as a writer was reading Steven King’s, , On Writing, and discovering that he doesn’t like to outline. He simply unearth’s the story one bone at a time. I like that!

    So, check back tomorrow, and I’ll post some ideas on how to go about unearthing that dinosaur!

    Sunday, April 23, 2006

    Assignment for Writers!

    Some of your have already started a fiction book project. Others are part way through, and even others have finished. No matter where you are in the process, answering the following questions will help you in either finishing your current project or starting another.

    I’ll talk more in the following days about each question and how your answers will affect the outcome of your project.

    A notation follows each question so you can know whether the question applies to fiction or nonfiction or both.

    Have fun!

    1. Are you a one-two-three kind of writer? Like all your ducks in a row? Or do you start a project here, and another there and kinda juggle them all in the air? Or do you do something in between? (fiction/nonfiction)

    2. Do you edit as you go? Or do you write first, then edit later? Or are you like, Edit? What’s that? (fiction/nonfiction)

    3. Do you like to make a detailed outline and then follow it? Or do you like to simply start writing and see where it goes? (fiction/nonfiction)

    4. Do you think scene first? Or character first? Or story first? What is your usual progression in getting started? (fiction)

    5. WHY do you want to write this book? What benefits will it give your readers? List at least three reasons if possible. (nonfiction)

    6. Who are your readers? Don’t just say everybody. Who are your readers? Don’t just say everybody. Think about who will most likely want to read this book? What age are they? Do they attend school? Do they go to church? Do they hang out at Starbucks? The beach? Are they street people? Do they wear suits? Do they like to read in bed at night? Or sprawled over a favorite chair? Or in spurts while waiting in traffic. Or do they hardly ever read? Are they women or men? Young? Middle age? Old? Retired? Mothers? Fathers? (fiction/nonfiction)

    7. What kind of books do your readers usually read? Or do they rather watch the tube? How long is their attention span? How long a chapter will they read in one sitting? (fiction/nonfiction)

    8. Write one page about what your book is about. Then hone this down to one tight paragraph that will give readers a good idea of what your story is about. (fiction/nonfiction)

    9. What is your title and subtitle? Is it catchy? Or is it corney? Will readers know what it’s about when they see the title? Will it jump out at them from the shelf? Or will it get lost among all those other books? (fiction/nonfiction)

    10. What is the main take-a-way the reader will gain from your book? What is the main thing you want them to remember after they’ve put the book down for the final time? (fiction/nonfiction)

    11. Why are YOU the person to write this book? (fiction/nonfiction)

    12. What will your book look like? Go to the bookstore and imagine your book there. Where will it sit on the shelf? In what section? Will it be thick? Or thin? (fiction/nonfiction)

    Final Prayer Update!

    Wow! Your prayers have been heard and answered in a big way. I am absolutely astonished. Even the policeman that was first on the scene said that it was miraculous that no one was killed in this accident, and he can't believe that everyone has come out of it so well. In all his years on the force he has never seen an accident this bad come out this good!

    Except for a stiff upper body, Jocelyn Danielle is acting like a normal kid again. It’s amazing. Michael and Katherine are home with their grandparents and Dianna is in a nearby foster home where they can care for her special needs while she is in a wheelchair and until her hip heals. The driver/mother, Shelley, is off the respirator, awake, and home! That’s right! Home! Goodness! For a long while, it looked like she wouldn’t make it.

    Thank you very much for your prayers. Please continue to pray as the Lord leads for healing, physically, spiritually, and emotionally of these precious kids and Shelley.

    Pray for Shelley (the mother) to accept the help that is being offered her in order to heal from her problem with alcohol.

    The entire incident has caused all involved to think more seriously about their relationship with God. It has certainly been a wake-up call, and a lot of people have offered help. My daughter Michelle and her husband Dave are thinking that this may be a good time to follow God more closely!

    This will be my last post on this situation unless something urgent comes up. Thanks very much for standing with us. Your encouragement means a lot.

    Wednesday, April 19, 2006

    Artists and Prayer (Prayer update two)

    Here is an interesting tidbit you might like to know about:

    Last Thursday I fell and blew out my knee. Through Sunday evening I was only able to either stand or lie down but not sit or walk much. So, I stood in front of the easel painting my granddaughter, Jocelyn Danielle. I've been painting her for four days and praying for her the whole time.

    I don't understand why God allowed this accident to happen, but I KNOW God is good, and I truly believe He had me praying for Jocelyn Danielle all weekend because He knew what was going to happen. It is amazing how he protected these children through this horrible accident. I had no idea at the time that God had me praying for a very important reason. I was simply doing what came natural . . . that's the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Today’s update:

    I am so thankful for the visit with my granddaughter, Jocelyn, yesterday. She looks really good and is slowly getting better. She will have a big scar across her forehead, but it’s more to the left and won’t be a bad thing at all. She also can’t move her eyebrows because a nerve may have been severed, but she’s just as cute as ever. I visited with her friend, Dianna, too. It was really hard seeing these little broken bodies trying to be so brave, but I could really see the grace of God. I gave her a copy of my friend, Jeannie St. John Taylor's book, Am I Trusting? It's a very good book for children who are going through difficult things. It's a bit young for Jocelyn, but she plans to read it to her little sis.

    Michael is home with his grandparents now. Catherine is still in ICU. Dianna will probably be going home to her grandparents today in a wheelchair, and we’re hoping Jocelyn may be able to go home today as well.

    Jocelyn keeps throwing up and they won’t let her go home until she can hold some food down. She was able to get up yesterday and walk twice, but threw up both times.

    The mother Shelley is still on a respirator and things don’t look good for her. She used to walk with the Lord, so please continue to lift her up in prayer as well as for the healing of these precious kids and extra strength for the grandparents. The grandparents live in Salem and the kids’ home is in Vancouver, WA, so the kids are sad about being so far from their friends and school.

    Jocelyn’s mom and dad (Michelle and Dave) need lots of prayer too, as they have a very full house with a couple of special-needs children and Jocelyn will need a lot of tender care when she returns home.

    Thanks very much for your prayers. These kids are doing exceptionally well for what they have been through.


    Monday, April 17, 2006

    Prayer update!

    Thank you for your prayers!

    Here is an update:

    A plastic surgeon did a fine job on Jocelyn’s face. He will have to do a bit more later, but everyone says he did an amazing job. Jocelyn recognizes her mother and has asked about the other kids. She’s still pretty sedated, but is more able to tell the docs where she hurts. She is still covered in blood (lost a lot of blood), and is on a catheter and in a neck brace. She can move her arms and legs but they still fear she may have broken her neck, so they are taking many precautions. They suspect broken bones and still haven’t discovered the internal injury, but she is doing very well.

    Shelly (the mother of Jocelyn’s friends) is still on a respirator and in critical condition.

    Catherine is off the respirator and breathing on her own.

    Both of Dianna’s legs and arms are broken but she is the most coherent of all the kids.

    My daughter is visiting Dianna as well, because she’s in a room next to Jocelyn, and Dianna’s grandparents are at the other hospital with Shelly and Catherine.

    Michael is still in critical condition but stable and asking about his sisters and Jocelyn.

    All the kids have asked about one another.

    I don’t understand why God allowed this accident, but I certainly see His hand of grace in it. The driver’s blood alcohol content was so high she should have been passed out. Their car was traveling 60 miles per hour and hit a fire engine that was stopped at a red light. The fire truck is totally mangled, but the firemen were buckled in and not hurt. With none of the kids wearing seat belts and as bad as it is, it could have been much worse. It’s amazing that none of the kids were thrown from the car.

    Thanks so much for your continued prayers.

    Sunday, April 16, 2006

    Urgent Prayer Request!

    Please pray for my ten-year-old granddaughter, Jocelyn Danielle. She was in a car accident earlier this evening. Her head was split open from the top of her nose to the middle of the top of her head. A plastic surgeon has done a good job of putting her back together, but she is in a neck brace and they don’t know yet whether she is able to move her legs or not, plus she has some internal bleeding that they haven’t been able to find the source of. She will be sedated until morning, so has not been able to communicate.

    She is 400 miles away and my heart very much wants to be there for her.

    Her mother’s name is Michelle and her father is Dave.

    She was in a car with her best friend. Her best friend’s mother was driving while drunk and ran into the back of a fire truck. The entire family is in need of prayer:

    Katherine, 8 years old . . . critical but stable, they say nearly every bone of her body is broken.

    Shelley, the mother of my granddaughter's friends is in a coma. . . . critical but stable.

    Dianna, 9 years old . . . not critical but hurt very bad.

    Michael, 5 years old . . . not critical but hurt very bad.

    Katherine and Shelley are at a separate hospital because of their critical injuries. The rest are all at a very good children’s hospital.

    Thank you for your prayers.

    Good versus evil?

    Painting of cross is by Wes Hurd who is a featured speaker/teacher at the upcoming Art Conference at Box R Ranch in Southern Oregon on May 10-13.

    It’s Easter—Resurrection Day!

    I lie here on my couch with a blown out knee, reading a contemporary novel by a fine Christian artist. I had to put the book down because the author just killed off one of the main characters. I’m disheartened. I wanted the good guy to win and for all the pain and suffering to have a good purpose.

    Somehow the storyline got all wrapped up with my life and I’m hoping there will be a good purpose in my bummed leg, but the author has planted a seed of doubt and lack of hope.

    Was that the author’s intention?

    I think not. I think the author was caught up in today’s trend of being on the cutting edge and portraying evil at its vilest. I understand the reasoning behind this trend. Some of my favorite writers are on the forefront.

    I won’t dispute their call to do so, but I think we as Christian writers may be making a mistake in thinking we must focus on portraying evil in all its raw wickedness in order to reveal the power of God’s light. I’ve put a lot of thought into this and I have several reasons for coming to this conclusion, all of which come from the Grand Story.

    1. The ultimate battle is NOT between good and evil.

    The goodness of God has been and always will be greater than any evil. Combining every wicked deed from the holocaust to the atom bomb with the evil of human hearts from the beginning of creation would still not deplete one iota of the goodness of God.

    The cross is a perfect example of all evil coming together in one place, yet it did not crush God’s goodness. God’s goodness overcame the last enemy—death—through the power of the resurrection.

    2. The true battle is between God’s perfect love and God’s perfect justice.

    The antagonist and hero are one in the same. It is the ultimate conflict. The cross is an astounding resolution. God took the penalty for us in answer to His perfect justice, and in doing so He restored the way of perfect love.

    3. To think we have discovered something completely new in retelling the Gospel is to throw out the classics that have proven immensely successful.

    Frodo’s real battle was with the evil in his own heart. He needed a Savior, as do all of us. Could it be that spiritual battle is more about standing firm than advancing?

    4. Focusing on evil glorifies the darkness more than the light.

    We all understand evil. We don’t really need a whole lot of description. We were born into it. We live with it every day. But what do we know of light? What can we portray to our readers of a changed life? How does that happen in the real world?

    I think we will render our greatest works when we lay down our pride and reveal the true battle of good and evil in our own hearts—the ability to choose. Will that choice lead us to God’s perfect love? Or to His perfect justice?

    All road lead to the cross—that place of death. Will we lay down our own lives? Or will we pick up hammer and nail? This is the true climax of any good story. Only one road leads to resurrection—the satisfying end that gives life and hope to the reader.

    This is the story I yearn for—one that sings with my soul.

    Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger is an awesome contemporary example of this kind of satisfying story. He left the tired clichés behind and painted the power of a changed life. (Read about Leif here.)

    If we as Christians choose to write about evil, let’s make sure it’s not because we don’t want to take the time or energy to portray true light. To do that means we must be living in the power of the cross and resurrection on a daily basis. Death and Life. A constant laying down of everything that hinders, not walking in perfection, but standing firm and reaching forward in hope.

    If that sounds too sweet or saccharine, perhaps it’s because we’ve opted for less and haven’t yet tasted of true resurrection power. Wouldn’t it be great if this Easter we begin to drink from the Living Water and have it overflow into every word we write and every painting we create?

    Enjoy the Son!

    Thursday, April 13, 2006

    Full Moon Tonight!

    The moonlight is dancing across the lake, cascading millions of diamonds on the water. The cicadas and frogs are competing in a cacaphonic chorus for the first time this year. Early this morning a full rainbow circled the moon. Be sure and check it out!

    Then do a quick ten-minute write with the following three words (or any form of these words) in the first paragraph:

    1. moon
    2. dragons
    3. weak

    I'd love to see the results!

    Getting Past Writer's Block

    When I first heard the term, “writer’s block,” I didn’t think it had anything to do with me. I have more ideas than years left to accomplish them. So, I’ve never experienced a real block in the sense of not having any ideas to write.

    On the other hand, I have experienced a block when working on a certain project and not knowing what’s going to happen next. I simply hit a wall. One time I wrote a scene three different ways and none of them seemed right. In the end, I left the scene out and went on to the next. It was the perfect answer.

    But the biggest block I face, and I suspect most of us do, comes from fear.

    I find myself working on anything BUT my WIP (Work in progress). I’ll clean my desk, get my materials together, gather notes, even write an article . . . or two . . . or three . . . without adding any words to my WIP. I recently came to the conclusion that it’s probably because I’m afraid the RIGHT words won’t show up.

    Lately, I’ve been moving at overcoming this trend, by forcing myself to put one word at a time down on the computer.

    I don’t always know where I’m going. I start with prayer. Sometimes I take a walk and I get the first line, or the first hint of a scene, then I return and start typing.

    In my childhood, my father would take a rope and tie a knot every three-feet in order to drop the rope into our well and see how deep it was. Then he would pull the rope out one yard at a time as he counted the knots. That’s how I feel when I’m writing on my WIP . . . I’m pulling the sentences out, one word at a time. I’m pulling the paragraphs out one sentence at a time . . . the chapters, one paragraph at a time . . . until finally I have a completed book.

    I finished my novel doing this very thing. Now I’m working on my nonfiction project.

    If your problem is even deeper . . . let’s say you can’t even write at all, then James Scott Belloffers some wonderful information I picked up from his blog. He says, the following:

    “But if a true, blue dog day bites you, try this. Write one line. About anything. Make something up. Write one line in your writer’s journal or a first line for a potential novel. Or write the first line of a poem or a letter to the editor. Or make it complete nonsense. What will happen is this. You'll want to write another line, just to see what goes with the first one.

    “And maybe a line or two after that. Don't overthink this. Just do it. If nothing else happens, forget about it. But on line may be all it takes to get you back to writing on that project you're stuck in. Even if it doesn't, you've written something, and that's part of you writing life now.”

    His admonition to not “overthink” is important. Overthinking can take all the life out of your project.

    Monday, April 10, 2006

    The One

    My friend Jacob just sent me the most wonderful devotion. Check it out here.

    Sunday, April 09, 2006

    Vision Statement

    A wise man told me long ago that I needed to make a vision statement for my writing business. What do I want to accomplish through my writing?

    He told me to set some guidelines BEFORE making it big in the publishing world, because once I get caught up in the flow, it will be difficult to change directions.

    So, I made a simple vision statement and have changed it over the years.

    Part of the final for my writing students is to come up with a well-thought out vision statement of their own. Have you done this? It can be as simple or complex as you want it. Start out with whatever you can come up with, then tweak it from time to time as inspiration hits.

    Here is mine as an example:

    Sandy’s Vision Statement for Writing:

    I want my reader to learn something new or to relearn a wonderful truth that they have forgotten. I want my words to “have hands and feet. I want them to climb all over my reader and work their way into my reader’s heart and conscience” (G. K. Chesterton), so that the reader will not be the same after having read my words. I pray for my words to be full of God whether I’m talking about awesome God things or the “stuff” of life. If my readers are children, I want them to hide away under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime to finish the story they’ve started. If my readers are adults, I want them to think about my characters long after they’ve put the story down. I want my words to affirm the good, encourage the needy, give hope to the despondent, and bring the reader closer to God.

    A Writer Who Writes

    We had an interesting two-hour discussion in class on Thursday night about whether we are Christians who write or are called to write. Phil had some excellent ideas on the subject that you can read at Deep Thoughts Simply Expressed.And Garret also has some good thoughts on his site at My Own Words. Scroll down to the post entitled: “The Pen in my hand is for?”

    Our class came to the conclusion that if you are a Christian who has been called to write, that doesn’t make you more spiritual than the next Christian, but it does mean that you have a responsibility to be obedient to the call. For some, as with David in our class, that means he must take some classes and develop his craft and skill so that he can accomplish the task of writing the book God has called him to write. He’s doing that! And with gusto!

    For others that means they need to readjust their schedules and make room for writing.

    But wait! In case you think you’re off the hook because you haven’t been called to write, think again.

    If you are a Christian who writes and people tell you that you have a gift, then you are just as responsible to be obedient in using that gift as a Christian who has been called to write. So, you pretty much end up in the same space. The main difference I see is that you have more flexibility as to what you write.

    So, in the end, we need to encourage one another to stir up the gifts God has given us.

    Personally, I believe God gives gifts to everybody, even those who don’t claim Him as Lord. I also believe that artists, writers, musicians . . . all the crafty people . . . tend to be up and down in mood and attitude. So, that’s something we all need to help each other with.

    It’s vital to not worship the gift over the Giver.

    I think this is something that happens a lot with us crafty people (artists, musicians, and writers). And it drives a lot of us crazy! But when we get our focus back on God, we are more apt to be content with our work and freed up to create instead of comparing ourselves with others.

    Ahhhhh, that’s a good place to be.

    As far as Christians only writing Christian stuff . . . that’s totally a personal choice.

    I write mainly for the outdoor markets and seldom mention God.

    Jesus, told lots of stories that had no religious or Bible talk at all. He made up fiction stories (parables) to speak truth into people’s lives . . . stories that people could relate to. Tolkien did that. So did C.S. Lewis. Ted Dekker and Frank Perettiare still doing it. I can picture heaven more clearly because of the Chronicles of Narnia, (Lewis), and I can’t wait to plunge into Elyon’s Lake (Dekker). House (Dekker) shows me just how much I need God’s help in cleaning up my own heart.

    So, set aside some time to write. Proverbs says our words hold the power of life and death. Let’s develop our skills and learn our craft and write words that give life to our readers. It’s an excellent way to answer “The Call” or stir up the gifts God has given you.

    Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    A Christian who writes or does art or Called to write or do art?

    Is there really a difference?

    I think so.

    For instance, if I am a Christian who writes or does art, then making money will probably be close to the top of my priorities.

    On the other hand, if I have been called to write or do art, then money may not even be in the picture.

    I have been called to write. I can name the day and place this calling came about as I stated in an earlier blog entry, but I still need to make money in order to be able to keep that calling.

    If a Christian making money sounds like an oxymoron to you, think again. The Bible says the workman is worthy of his hire. Another cool thing is that artists, writers, and musicians were often taken care of in the Old Testament so that they could focus on their craft.

    Although many of us are supported by our churches in order to do just that, many more of us must make money in order to continue in our craft.

    Here’s the deal. I’m called to write. So I write whether I make money or not. Even if my writing business goes downhill, I must continue to write. It also means that certain projects, such as >Wild Women, A Real Walk in the Woods, are more about God’s calling on my life than about my writing business. I will be willing to compromise little on the Wild Women book because it is inspired through God’s call upon my life. (Please note that the above photo is by my friend, Garret Harrington.)

    Not so with my articles. I market most of my articles in order to support my writing business. I will often change the theme or tone in order to fit the market. In this respect, I am a Christian who writes, and I most often write for outdoor magazines because I enjoy everything wild.

    So, I am both . . . a Christian who writes and one who has been called to write.

    The same with my art . . . in order to be able to buy materials and continue in my art, I must sell some of my works. So, on one hand I paint for pleasure, while on the other I consider what might be marketable. It isn’t necessary to sell my soul in order to market. I simply match my expertise and skills with current publishing needs.

    In conclusion, I don’t believe every Christian is called to write.

    But stay tuned.

    Tomorrow, I’ll talk about why being called to write doesn’t make one Christian more spiritual than another and why it is important to know where you fit in this equation.

    Enjoy the Son!

    Monday, April 03, 2006

    Appointment with God


    Twenty-two of us met for three days of glorious retreat time at Wilderness Trails Camp this weekend.

    We made three appointments with God. The first was an hour and a half long and the other two were one-hour each. We set a time, a place, a passage of scripture, and talked to no one except God.

    When I first set down with an hour and a half, I thought it was an awful long time to be still and quiet and read and pray . . . but the time flew. When it was time to stop, I wanted to go on. And so did everyone else!

    By the end of the third hour, we had all felt very much in touch with our Creator.

    This is something you can do on your own. Make three hour-long appointments with God in the coming week.

    Schedule them.

    Be prepared with a passage of scripture, a place, a hot cup of whatever, a cozy, quiet place, and dig in. One of your hours can even be on a walk through the woods, or park, or wherever.

    Don’t know where to read? Try Psalms or Corinthians or John or?

    Don’t know how to pray? Just talk to God. Tell Him what’s bothering you. Ask Him questions. Thank Him for the good things in your life.

    Don’t know how to dig in? Simply read.

    Don’t use this time for study. By that, I mean don’t tackle the Bible with several commentaries and a concordance by your side. Simply read. You can study later.

    Don’t use this time for the big questions regarding others. Simply seek God for your own life and how that works into His story.

    Don’t answer the phone. You can return calls at the end of the hour.

    These hours can be life changing.

    It was amazing at the retreat, because sometimes we were totally in the middle of talking and doing and playing, but when the time for the appointment was announced, everyone immediately dropped what they were doing and settled down. Most didn’t want to stop at the end of the hour.

    On the second night of the retreat, I gave out seven questions from, The Dream Giver, by Bruce Wilkinson, and also added one of my own. They would be great for one of your hours. Take as long as you need to answer each one, and name as many things or people as you want. Here they are:

    1. What have I always been good at?
    2. What needs do I care about most?
    3. Who do I admire most?
    4. What makes me feel most fulfilled?
    5. What do I love to do most?
    6. What have I felt called to do?
    7. If you were to die tomorrow, what would you want to be remembered for?
    8. If you could do anything in the name of Christ and know you would not fail—What would you do? To say that in another way: If you could do anything in the name of Christ and know you would succeed—What would you do?

    Tomorrow, we’ll talk a bit more about whether we are Christians who write or are called to write. Later in the week, we’ll tackle the above questions in more depth.

    Fun Writing Exercise

    We came up with a fun character at the writers retreat this weekend. His characteristics are listed below. See if you can write a first chapter involving this character. Give him a problem to overcome. It will be fun to see how different each chapter ends up with the main difference in character being what problem he is facing.

    My students will receive 15 extra credit points for doing this exercise and turning it in this Thursday, April 6.

    Name: Emmet Johnson
    Age: 94
    Spry, handsome, looks 70
    Thin, jutting jaw, blue eyes
    Lots of white hair
    Strong grip (milked cows for 40 years)
    Slightly deaf
    Slight limp
    Prostrate problems
    Chews tobacco
    Drives a Cadillac with steer horns attached to the front grill
    Lemon pie every Sunday afternoon at Beckies
    Takes his mule, Dutchess, into town on Saturday afternoons to share the Lord.
    Lives in Billings, Montana on what was once a huge piece of land, now dwindled down to 20 acres

    Emmet wants to take up hang gliding

    He has three living children:
    1 daughter, age 74, is his nurse. She burps a lot.
    1 daughter is 72 and is a retired teacher like her mother who is now dead.
    1 son is 53, the child of his true love after his wife died.
    Emmet wears a flower in his hat, given to him by his true love.
    One son was killed in Korea
    Another child killed in elk stampede.

    Emmet shot a man once, then he got saved.
    He plays a mandolin and reads a lot.
    He quotes all the time, quotes get really annoying to some folks.

    Emmet is facing a problem that is consuming his thoughts . . .

    If you e-mail me your chapters, I’ll be happy to post them.

    I'm Back!

    Just returned from an awesome writers retreat in the snow-filled forest of Southern Oregon following Spring Break with my grandkids.

    Be sure to check my devotional site for some encouraging words received during the retreat. I plan to post them several times this week.

    Thanks for your patience!

    Next event is the WOW (Writers of the Way) one-day conference on April 22, Medford, Oregon, featuring Zondervan fiction editor, Karen Ball.

    If you're close, be sure to join us.