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.

Upcoming Conference for Catholic Writers in Chicago area

CWCO_live_smThe Catholic Writers Guild is holding their Catholic Writers Live Conference once again in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Network Conference, in the Chicago area. Here are the quick facts:

WHEN: July 26-July 29, 2016

WHERE: The Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center and Hotel,1551 N. Thoreau Drive, Schaumburg, IL 60173

LINKED TO: The Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show.

THEME: Openness to God’s Will

How can we know what God wants us to do with our careers, how can we follow him best with our talents? Our conference allows you to connect personally with Catholic publishers and retailers, learn more about the art, show your work, learn the craft, and network. Registration is very reasonable, and it’s already open at this link.

I wish I could go–it looks like it will be a fantastic event for writers! Check out the presenters,  schedule, and pitch sessions. 

 

And don’t forget about the upcoming Clay Pots Retreat for Catholic media professionals in October at our St. Thecla’s Retreat House in Billerica, MA:

claypots-2016

 

Soul of Christ Goes International with Release in India

I know that, as Daughters of Saint Paul, and especially with digital media, we reach people around the world, but it is a special thrill when one of my books is published in another country or in another language! As far as I know, various books have been printed in French (Bread of Life), Spanish (Life for the World), Polish (See Yourself Through God’s Eyes), and our sisters in India have published several of my books in Indian editions. Yesterday, I received word that Soul of Christ: Meditations on a Timeless Prayer has just been released in India! Here is a review from one of our sisters there.

soulofchrist-196x290-IndiaCover

Cover of Indian Edition of “Soul of Christ”

SOUL_CHRIST_FINAL

Cover of American edition of “Soul of Christ”

I’m curious: which cover do you like better?

 

Also, I received e a copy of my book, See Yourself Through God’s Eyes: 52 Meditations To Grow in Self-Esteem, in Polish, after our sisters published it in Poland. If you prefer to read in Polish, or know someone who might be helped by this book, please contact me over email, with who it is for and why that person could use it. (That way if I receive multiple requests, I’ll try to pick who can use it most. Note that I can only mail the book within the U.S.) You can see more about the book in English, with the sample introduction here  and a free sample meditation here. There is also a Reader’s Guide available in English here.

SeeYourselfCoverPolish

 

Reflections on the Writing Life: Catholic Perspectives

list-372766_1280If you read my other blog, you know that I needed to take a bit of a hiatus from blogging and writing. While I continue to reorganize my time, I keep finding some fun and interesting resources for writers on the web. Here are some interesting reflections on the writing life, specifically in the context of vocation and mission:

Vermeer’s Window: An artist’s meditation on living in the present moment by Jerome Miller is a wonderfully profound reflection on what it means to live in the present moment according to Miller’s interpretation of a Vermeer masterpiece, “Young Woman with a Water Pitcher.” Reading (and reflecting on) this meditation is well worth the time it takes to read it. Thank you, America Magazine, for making this available online!

Somehow I missed The Jesuit Post’s  “The Catholic Writing Series,” but fortunately I ran into it this past month by accident. I highly recommend each article–I’ve linked to the entire series, which is contributed to by poets, fiction, and nonfiction writers, all of whom offer a sense of the deeper meaning of the vocation to write, the importance of Catholic writing in our world today, and our role as Catholic writers.

You may have already read the recent announcement that the Vatican is launching a digital library on the Church and communications. Currently in beta form and only in Italian, this new digital library currently offers a very complete list and an excellent search engine for any papal or Church documents on communication. (Note that if the documents are available in English, the search engine will bring them up in English and other available languages.) You can find this new digital resource here:  www.chiesaecomunicazione.com.

Finally, I am returning to the Salt + Light Radio Hour with Deacon Pedro this Saturday and Sunday with a review of the films, Do You Believe? and Faith of Our Fathers, produced by PureFlix, who also produced God’s Not Dead last year.  You can listen on the Catholic Channel on Sirius, on Relevant Radio, find other broadcasters here, or listen via podcast. 

Sneak Peek of Next Week?

I’m delighted to be currently reading GeekPriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer by Father Roderick Vonhögen. Although I’m only halfway through it, I can already recommend it as an entertaining and helpful resource for all Catholic communicators. I hope to post up a review shortly.

 

A New Year for Writing and Blogging

Happy New Year! I wasn’t planning to blog today, but I received my 2014 report for this blog from Wordpress.com’s “helper monkeys,” and so I thought I’d post it up. (I could use some “helper monkeys” for my writing. I wonder how I can find some?) I also got the stats for www.coauthoryourlifewithGod.com, so I’m linking you to that report as well for those of you who want to see how my blogging-a-book is going. (The short answer? It’s going well!)

I’m still trying to figure out how to find and connect with more readers for both blogs, but connecting with other events and popular sites is helpful: the Marian Christmas Movie Countdown proved very popular here, and of course launching the discernment blog the same week that Lifetime ran their show The Sisterhood was a huge help in getting CoAuthor Your Life with God off to a great start.

Having said that, I wouldn’t be blogging–and enjoying blogging–without readers. So a big thank you for stopping by to read, to comment, to reflect on the spirituality of writing, communication, and media. A special shout out to those of you who commented and shared my blog posts 10 or more times: Francis Philip and Anela!

While I look forward to a new year of writing and connecting with other writers and readers, I begin the year with prayer for all my current readers, especially today.

Here’s an excerpt from the report:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Perseverance in writing…no matter what!

2012-10-11 16.15.18Perseverance. It’s one of the toughest things to do as a writer on a long form project that takes months or years. Countless obstacles  make it hard to complete a writing project. Here’s my short list of recurring obstacles:

  • Multiple creative projects
  • Distractions
  • Deadlines (for other projects)
  • Fatigue (writerly fatigue if we’ve simply been pushing hard on a project for a long time; or fatigue from other stuff in our lives–both affect us)
  • Creative burn out (not taking care of ourselves creatively as writers)
  • The resistance of the project itself (the problems inherent in the project)
  • Self-doubt
  • Doubting the project’s value

I read once that there is a reason that no one has yet written the story that you want to write, and that’s because however great the story, there’s a problem inherent in it that makes it impossible to write. While I can often “size up” the challenges of a particular project early on in the planning or writing process, I find that I cannot foresee the impossibility inherent in the story. But I have run into this wall with every story that I’ve written, usually trying to write around it in my first draft without even realizing it’s there, and then, at some point in the revision, I slam into it full force and jolt to a full stop. Sometimes it takes me months to regain the perspective to write through the story’s inherent “impossibility.”

Writing nonfiction, I don’t seem to run into “the one impossibility” obstacle. Instead, I find that creating the structure of the book is often the most challenging, as it makes me delve past my own ideas into researching the needs of the readers, and then reshaping the content numerous times until I feel that I can bring  together the reader’s needs with the content that I envision for the book. It’s harder for me to keep my attention focused on a nonfiction project–I’m more prone to distractions in general and concerned about deadlines for other projects. In part, this might be because I cannot rush through writing most of my nonfiction projects. My books on prayer and the spiritual life require times of reflection, prayer, and contemplation.

For both kinds of projects, though, the toughest obstacle for me is self-doubt, which often hides as doubt about the project’s value. (When doubt about a project’s value is genuine, it can be turned into an opportunity to reshape the project so that it has more value for the reader.)

These weeks, my main obstacle is worry (and distraction) about other deadlines. Just as I’m delving deep into writing a new nonfiction book, I’m preparing for talks and trips to promote the November release of my book, Soul of Christ: Meditations on a Timeless Prayer. I’m blogging about this here to help remind myself to:

  • Begin each day by entrusting all I’m doing to Jesus, my Divine Master (and my writing Master). Jesus is the One who calls me to write, inspires me to write, and brings fruit from what I write. In truth, these are more his books than mine…. I simply have to show up, be open, and be willing to slog through every word or paragraph.
  • Set aside time for writing even during the busiest days. During extraordinarily busy days, I try to take just 20-30 minutes to reconnect with my project. That way, my subconscious keeps working on it in the background, and, when I have a break, I can easily return to it. Sometimes this means getting up an hour earlier; other times it means pulling out my laptop on a one-hour flight or airport lobby and writing for 20 minutes.Since writing is a calming, identity-reinforcing activity for me, it has a side-benefit: I’ll bring my best self to the hectic times if I take the time to write that day. For me, that’s worth getting up an hour earlier.During the less-busy times, I set aside chunks of time: a morning a week or several evenings a week, to delve deeply into the book and move it forward. If I lose three months of writing time, there’s no way to stay on deadline with my nonfiction.Depending on how much I’m juggling, this can involve taking an hour to plan one week or several weeks. The benefits of planning my time in the midst of  a time-crunch is that I make choices around priorities that I value, rather than letting the rush or urgencies of the moment distract me from my larger goals (such as writing the next book, or promoting the current one).
  • Nurture my creativity. Whether it’s taking time for a walk in a park, changing my writing venue for a morning, or taking an evening off to see a good movie, we need to nurture our creativity especially when we’re going extra-strong. For me, hanging out with other writers/artists is the best way to nurture creativity in an ongoing way. Taking a break can also make a big difference in perspective. I find that just doing something outside my usual routine can inspire and renew me, especially if it involves spending time with people whose life experience is very different from mine, such as children, or someone living a great suffering.
  • Focus on the writing, on my passion for the topic, and the needs or concerns of the project’s audience, not on how I feel about it. This is good advice no matter what stage I’m at. I cannot afford the luxury of allowing doubts to gain the upper hand even for a short while because that too easily becomes a downward spiral. Prayer and trust in the Lord helps; reasoning through doubts also helps; “blasting through” doubts as Julia Cameron recommends in The Artist’s Way can also clear them away. (My memory is a bit foggy, but I think how I’ve done it is by taking a timed writing session to write out all my doubts. Then I take a second writing session and go back through each doubt, showing the error or falsehood in each one, and countering with something positive. I’ve done this a number of times and always found it helpful.)

These are a few of the work-arounds that I’ve developed for my writing challenges. Have you tried any of these or found them helpful? What works for you when you’re “stuck” or  feel “burned out” in your creative work?

 

Online Writers’ Retreat by a Favorite Author

One of my favorite authors, Vinita Hampton Wright, is offering a free Online Writer’s Retreat, Writing for the Soul, this week. It runs from today, September 29th until Friday, October 3rd. Vinita wrote my all-time favorite writing book, The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life. Do yourself a favor, visit her blog, and join in the retreat!

Even though this week is very full for me, I’m going to try to follow along. I hope to see you there!