Gems from the Catholic Writers Conference Online 2017

cwglogoThe Catholic Writers Guild’s Online Conference—just held this past weekend—is a fantastic conference for Catholic writers who are just starting to write, writers who are seeking to publish or are publishing their work for the first time, and for established authors who want the companionship of a like-minded writing community that offers spiritual support (as well as writing support), or for those writers who simply want to explore or deepen the connection between their writing and their life of faith.

This year, my schedule allowed me to participate in only five of the workshops—and I missed three that I really wanted to attend—but I have to confess that I really enjoyed connecting with other writers.

Just a few takeaways:

  • Colleen C. Mitchell’s amazing workshop on integrating our writing with our everyday life, especially her personal witness of how she keeps writing during challenging times. Her witness inspires me.
  • How Terri Ong’s presentation connected St. Therese of Lisieux’s “Little Way”  with the writing life. If you’ve read much of this blog, you know that, for me, St. Therese articulates Saint Paul’s spirituality in a contemporary, accessible way. More and more, I see how essential the humility and obedience to the Holy Spirit are to the believer’s ability to respond to their call to write. The Founder of my community, Blessed James Alberione, encouraged us to pray these words often—and now I start every writing session with them: “By myself I can do nothing, but with God I can do all things. For the love of God, I want to do all things. To God, honor and glory; to me, the eternal reward.”
  • Although I have read dozens of writing books, published 7 books, and been studying writing craft for over 15 years, I can always learn something new. I learned a new way to improve the manuscript that I hand in to my editor and some ways to fix problems in developing a scene. But the best part? Connecting with other writers who consider writing a call from God, and a way to serve God’s People. Plus, I was delighted to be able to volunteer to moderate some of the workshops, and so contribute a little back to this lovely writing community.
  • Finally, I was reminded how important writing is to me. For a number of reasons, I have had to put writing on hold—at least, the “deep writing” that I feel called to do. These reasons included transition, a different schedule, new responsibilities, and my preoccupation with several difficult circumstances. The precious gem I received from this conference is a deeper insight into how much “deep writing” energizes me and assists me in doing other important apostolates that I carry out. No matter how busy I am, I cannot completely put it aside any more. I’m eager to find ways to write deeply again—even if it is just 20 minutes a day. 

A profound thank you to the Catholic Writers Guild, and all of those who worked so hard to bless dedicated, hard-working Catholic writers the training, tips, and encouragement we need to continue writing.

The A’s of Advent for Writers: Aware

p9150015-2012-12-9-10-39.jpgContinuing with our Advent journey as writers, I have borrowed the A-adjectives from Father Richard Rohr’s Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr–Daily Meditations for Advent, where he uses five adjectives to describe the attitude with which we want to approach Advent: awake, aware, alert, attentive, alive.

Aware: Scrabble™ or Words With Friends™ players will notice that there is only one letter difference between “awake” and “aware.” I believe that they are very related. While being awake has to do with discovering something new, e.g., “waking up to the truth,” awareness is a fruit of being awakened and, I believe, goes deeper.

Awareness is less about discovery and more about deepening, or listening in the moment. Awareness, mindfulness, being observant–these are important attitudes I want more of, both in my spiritual live and in my writing life. But I have a confession: I haven’t been doing this well for the past few months, because I’ve been living in hurry mode. I still have many commitments, but starting today I have the opportunity to manage stress and my deadlines a bit differently. These are some of the things I am starting today to live in greater awareness:

1) Take time to slow down as I begin to pray or write.
Although as a sister I pray a couple hours a day, if I don’t deliberately slow down, my prayer “races” and I tend to do all the talking and no listening. When I go to pray in the middle of the day, I am going to take ten extra minutes beforehand to take a walk or just sit quietly to let my whole body relax.

The same is true for my writing time–see #3 below.

2) Keep the drama on the page.
When I’m stressed, it’s easier to let minor annoyances grow into major disturbances. If I take twenty minutes to journal about what’s really bothering me, I can usually regain my perspective, decide what I need to do about it (if anything), and I’ve already loosened up my writing “muscles.”

3) Set aside time within my writing time for playfulness.
Juggling five or ten deadlines which I am barely meeting is deadly for my creativity. I still get that chapter written, but it is wooden rather than full of life. But, if I take ten minutes to journal or to play around with new ideas, the pay-off in my writing quality is immediate. A side benefit? I’ve also given myself a little space to breathe, which keeps me calmer and improves my outlook throughout the day!

These may be unusual Advent practices, but they all have to do with listening better, which is what Advent awareness is all about. Listening is essential to awareness: whether I’m listening to my own body or my subconscious, the subtext in a conversation, or the Lord’s invitations.

Advent and Christmas tend to be busy times for all of us, which is why it becomes even more important to snatch just a few minutes of slowing down, so that we can improve our listening and awareness.

A Writer’s Magnificat

On this Thanksgiving Day, I want to thank God in a special way for the gift of calling me to write.

A Writer’s Magnificat

My whole being glorifies the greatness of our creative God; img_0124-2012-11-21-11-26.jpg
my spirit rejoices in the Holy One
who saves me, guides me, inspires me.
For God delights in me when I write,
and favors my creative efforts, little as they are,
so that they bear fruit.
The Almighty blesses me with the call to write,
showering me with the gifts
of inspiration, wordsmithing, imagination,
and the desire to always seek and speak the truth in love.
From now on, I will never stop praising God’s goodness
in my life and in my words.
The Almighty has surprised me by doing great things:
God invites me to share in a small way
in His own life-giving creativity
by naming, forming, and sharing insight into His creation!

The merciful Lord works in those who trust Him
even when the page is blank,
inspiration lacking,
resistance plentiful,
and every word an anxious strain.
He grants me the strength to persevere,
calls me to listen,
and admonishes me when I become puffed up with my own pride.
But when I acknowledge my insufficiency,
surrender to His inspiration,
and trust His never-failing help,
He lifts me up,
filling me with ideas, insight, compassion,
and the joy of serving God and humanity.
He fulfills His promise of faithful love,
allaying my fears,
with me always. Glory…

Called To Be God’s Pen

I have not made it here for a while, perhaps because I am working on a few too many creative projects–all of which I’m enjoying. I’ve also dedicated Mary’s month to reaching out to young people to encourage them to consider religious life and invite them to discernment, and that’s kept me extra-busy, up late, and writing a bit less. It’s definitely more of a challenge for me to be up till midnight and then rise at 5 AM to pray! Nonetheless, May has been a full and fruitful month in many ways. My mind and heart are currently focused on these creative projects:

  • Developing more online content for See Yourself Through God’s Eyes–a reader’s guide and a podcast. The podcast is my first ever. I’ve got the content planned, but still need to dive into producing. I also need to find a place to post the content that is ready to go up.
  • Reorganizing and creating content for the vocational/discernment parts of our community’s website: http://www.daughtersofstpaul.com/Vocation/tabid/106/Default.aspx.
  • Brainstorming my newest book on the Eucharist
  • Outlining a new screenplay about a nun

Blessed James Alberione, Founder of the Pauline Family

These words of Blessed James Alberione have inspired me in these past few days, and I will continue to pray with them as we move towards Pentecost:

“We are God’s instruments: his pen, his voice. It is all God! We must be like the evangelists: the Holy Spirit enlightened them to write about some things and to keep silent about others, according to his will…. We will give people words of life if we allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Tabernacle. Let us ask this grace through the intercession of Mary, who obtained the gift of the Spirit for the Church.” 
In these days as I bring the various projects to prayer, I find myself led to pray more often to the Spirit. (Even my confessor unexpectedly gave me the penance of praying with Isaiah 11:2-3, to pray for the gifts of the Spirit.) What are some of your favorite prayers to the Spirit for inspiration, creativity, wisdom, and insight?