Author: tracykrauss (page 1 of 11)

How To Overcome ‘I Can’t’

Celesta Thiessen

I attended a workshop recently by author Celesta Thiessen with this very title. It was a very practical and worthwhile session, dealing with overcoming the obstacles that many authors feel when it comes to their writing. One of the things I appreciated about the session was how she focused first on the spiritual aspect of things before moving into the more ‘practical’ applications.

She talked about the need to deal with three spiritual areas in our life: unforgiveness, sin , and lies – and even allowed quiet time for reflection to let God speak to each one about what things we might need to ask forgiveness for, confess as sin, or identify as ‘lies’ from the devil. (Example: Your writing is no good; no one will ever want to read what you’ve written; you’re not really a writer etc…) As she so correctly pointed out, these spiritual areas can have a negative affect on our ability to carry out the calling to write.

Then she moved on to some practical  ways writers can gain encouragement, such as finding and connecting with writer friends –  both local and online – and participating in writing challenges like nanowrimo.

I especially liked her list of practical tips for success:

  1. Figure out what time of day is your best for writing and then try to write during that time.
  2. Find out what length of time is optimal for you and add that to your routine.
  3. Be intentional about your writing environment. Some people write in a specific location, have certain inspirational quotes etc. around, or what have you…
  4. Develop a routine and stick to it! Routines become habits and this takes away much of the resistance to write.
  5. Look after yourself – rest, nutrition, and other healthy habits are part of writing success. She talked about using light therapy for depression or getting whatever other kind of help you might need.
  6. Using external deadlines can be a huge motivator for indie authors. Some great examples are: setting up an Amazon ‘pre-order’ – if you don’t get the final copy uploaded by the date, those who pre-ordered will get the rough draft! Another great idea is organizing a book launch date in advance, which forces you to finish it by that date. Another (which I will probably never try!) is ‘Write or Die’ – an app which starts erasing your words if you aren’t meeting your own preset goals.

In all, this was a wonderfully practical workshop. Thank you to Celesta for sharing this valuable information with us at the Steinbach WorDshop.

Waiting Can Be a Blessing

Have you ever been bumped off your flight and had to wait for hours to catch another one, missing all your connecting flights in the meantime? This happened to me just last Friday – and it turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise.

I am on a little speaking tour, stopping at three different ‘WorDshops‘ (mini-conferences for writers sponsored by Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship) in three different provinces over the next two weeks. My first stop was in Steinbach, Manitoba, where I was scheduled to be the keynote presenter on March 18. My flight from Grande Prairie, Alberta to Edmonton was delayed because of fog and when the replacement flight arrived two hours later, there was a long line up to get on that plane.

Low and behold, when it was my turn at the gate, the plane was already full! I was the last in line and there was simply ‘no more room at the inn’. I’d heard the flight attendant speaking to one of the others, saying that this might be a possibility. He even made an announcement asking if there was anyone willing to stay behind voluntarily and take a later flight.

I was told to go back through security and rebook my tickets. I had been praying for God’s protection and will, so I was quite calm about the whole thing. I’d heard of people being delayed and then the plane going down (not that I’d wish that on all those others passengers!) but I knew that I just had to leave it in God’s hands to get me to Steinbach on time.

As it turned out, missing that flight meant missing my connections in Edmonton and Calgary. (Which may have happened anyway because of the delay.) The organizer of the WorDshop was meeting me at the Winnipeg airport at 6pm, but now she and her husband would have to wait until 11:30pm – not fun since they live about an hour out of the city. However, there wasn’t much I could do about it. God had a plan. As long as I got to Steinbach by 8am, I figured it was a win!

And then… the airline attendant informed me that for my trouble and inconvenience, the airline would be sending me a cheque for $800. My eyes got wide, I’m sure! That more than compensated me for my travel costs.

You see, as Inscribe’s current VP, it was my responsibility to help organize the six WorDshops going on around Western Canada. While keynotes and presenters are paid, there is no money in the budget to cover travel costs. These events are typically small in size, and must be run on a cost recovery basis. To keep registration fees down, it means finding local presenters or asking those coming any distance to cover their own fare.

I believe in the importance of these events, and wanted to be supportive, so I was footing my own travel bill from BC to Manitoba, and back through Saskatchewan and Alberta on my way home. God has blessed me with a good job so I don’t mind ‘giving back’ where I can.

Steinbach WorDshop. Made it!

And then sometimes He surprises me with a blessing that I didn’t even see coming! The inconvenience was minimal compared to the reward. Oh… and I’d like to thank Air Canada for helping to sponsor this year’s WorDshops… 🙂 

At the Steinbach WorDshop

Art to Take Your Breath Away

Have you ever had your breath literally taken away by something beautiful or profound?
I have had that experience. The first time this actually happened to me. I had begun my University training in Fine Art, and although I had a love for Art and artists, being from a small town I had never really been to a gallery of substance before. I was in the middle of an Art History class and went for a visit to the Mendel Art Gallery. I remember walking up to an Arthur Lismer painting and gasping. There is was – the actual painting I had just been reading about in my Art History text.
Probably the most profound experience I ever had was many years later when I visited the National Gallery in Ottawa. I had been exposed to a fair bit of Art by that time, but for whatever reason, during my first visit there I turned . . . and then I saw IT from across the room. ‘It’ was a cubist painting by Braque and it literally took my breath away. My heart started to race and I felt flushed; my chest constricted like I might not be able to suck in the next breath. I walked trance like to the painting and just stood there.
I’m sure that many of you find this extremely ‘nerdy’. I know, I think so myself, but I can’t help it! These are not isolated instances. either. Shall I tell you about the time I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York? It was ‘The Bathers’ by Georges Seurat that did it to me that time.  Or what about going to an art gallery in San Diego? Here is a direct quote from my journal:
“I am struck by the almost uncontainable thrill I feel when visiting such a place. Stomach butterflies; warmth and tightness in the chest; forcing myself to breathe in shallow gusts; a feeling like I want to burst into tears. This is a silent exuberance; an oxymoron of emotion brought on by passion. Unlike the excitement of a football game or the joy at seeing a loved one after a long separation, this is different. This is AWE.”
I’ve often said that I am passionate about the creative process in general. I derive a huge amount of satisfaction from all my creative endeavours, especially my writing. But my love for Art is still a place of near reverence. It is the thing that I love simply because I love it. I do not need to strive, or change, or work harder. I simply come and allow myself to be inspired. Next to my relationship with God, and my love for my family, my love for Art is probably the deepest love of all.
 *I found this in the archives of my old blog “Expression Express” (which is sadly, no more…) Even though I am primarily a writer, my love for the visual arts came first, which is why I probably find such pleasure in viewing art of all types. 

WorDshops Coming to a city near you

Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship* has an exciting line up of ‘WorDshops’ coming your way this spring. What is a WorDshop? Think of it as a ‘mini-conference’ – a day of speakers and workshops geared to encouraging and assisting both new and seasoned writers in their craft and calling. It’s a wonderful way to connect with other writers in your area, and you’re sure to come away inspired and equipped.

This year there are several WorDshops planned across western Canada, including events in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. (Go to the Inscribe website for specific locations and dates.) The overall theme for 2017 is ‘Write Words’, but each event has its own flair and features seasoned and award winning Canadian Christian writers as keynote presenters. As well, each WorDshop includes a variety of break out workshops.

I will be attending four of the six events this year. In fact, I’ll be doing a little ‘tour’ of western Canada during my spring break from school starting with the Steinbach, MB WorDshop where I will be the keynote speaker. Then it’s on to Regina, SK the next weekend where I will be on a panel of authors taking about time management. Finally, I’ll be heading to Blackfalds, AB where I will do a workshop on blogging. It will be a busy two weeks ‘off’ from work, but I am definitely looking forward to it. Along the way I will have the opportunity to visit family and friends, so that’s makes it a bonus!

For more information, visit the Inscribe website. Registration is online and is a two-step process. First, fill out the application form. Then, go to the online store and pay for your session. You can also register at the door, although there is a discount for registering online. Local authors that attend have the opportunity to sell their books, and there are door prizes and other incentives, too.

If you’re looking for a way to connect with other authors of faith, or if you need some inspiration, why not come to the WorDshop nearest you?

*Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship exists to stimulate, encourage and support Christians who write, to advance effective Christian writing, and to promote the influence of all Christians who write. We are a Canada wide organization with members who write in a variety of genres and range from professional writers to those just starting out.

Plays the Ultimate in Recycling

Plays rely on recycling all the time. Parodies and adaptations of classic works, fairy tales, and even the Bible are a common way for playwrights to break onto the stage.

Most of my published plays are stage adaptations of familiar stories – fairy tales and other classics that have stood the test of time. I’m okay with being less than original when it comes to writing plays. There are so many fantastic stories out there that are begging to be rewritten for a live audience. I figure if Shakespeare can do it, so can I. For example, his play The Two Noble Kinsmen is a remake of Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale. (If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to read them side-by-side.)

If you are new to writing plays, adapting a familiar story is a great way to get your feet wet. Of course, it is crucial that before you do anything, you check to make sure there are no copyright restrictions. In essence, anything published before 1923 is considered public domain. That’s why fairy tales, Shakespeare, Dickens, and even Bible stories are fair game. Many works are public domain even beyond 1923 due to various copyright registration rules.  You will want to do your research if in any doubt.

I find adapting classic stories for the stage very rewarding, even if the basic idea is not originally mine. Using the given framework of plot and characters still allows for a lot of creativity. It is up to me to make the story come to life – literally. In the previous issue of Fellowscript, I emphasized that a play is not the same as a movie. This is important to keep in mind, even when writing adaptations. The playwright must decide how the story will be staged without the use of complicated sets and scene changes, and how the motivation of each character will come across in their dialogue and actions without sounding contrived. It’s always fun to add some unexpected twists, as well. In my stage version of the Peter Pan classic called Hook’sNemesis, Captain Hook is a neurotic female who has her psychologist as well as her mother on board the pirate ship. My premise started with the thought, “What if Hook had Mommy issues?” and it went from there.  (Her mother always wanted a boy…)

Many Christian playwrights choose to adapt Bible stories for the stage, which is another way to hone your skills as a playwright. Another thing I mentioned in last issue’s column was the fact that plays are meant to be produced. Why not offer to write your church’s next pageant? Easter and Christmas are the two most popular, but there are hundreds of other dramatic stories that are easily adaptable to the stage. (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat comes to mind.) However, understanding the basics of dialogue, stage movement, and other theatrical dynamics can be FS spring issuethe difference between a ‘nice’ Easter pageant and a truly moving experience.

Writing plays is a skill set that takes some practice. Scripts also tend to require a fair bit of revision once they are test driven with real actors on a stage. That’s why recycling play ideas from other works is such a great way to start. There is enough to think about in terms of dialogue, action, scene changes, and just the sheer logistics of making it work without having to wonder if the plot has merit. As a bonus, audiences love watching their favourite stories come to life. It’s a win-win!

*Much of this article was originally printed in the May 2016 issue of Fellowscript Magazine.

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