Tag: conferences

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

Making the Genre Switch

Linda Hall is a fine example of an author who has successfully switched genres. It’s a risky business, especially if you already have a following, as she did. However, it’s more important to be happy with what you’re writing than to chase success. In her case, it paid off.

Here are some key points I took away from one of her sessions at a recent writers’ conference.

lindaThe average person switches careers seven times in a lifetime. So why is it surprising when writers switch genres? We all grow and develop as writers so switching genres may be a natural outcome of that growth.  Even when you switch genres, you are still you – you still maintain your unique ‘writerly’ voice. There are many examples of famous writers who have written in more than one genre. Often the biggest hurdle is the marketing.

There is a difference between a reasonable shift and a radical shift. Sometimes it’s more about changing ‘brand’. Newspaper and sports teams change their mastheads and logos over time to reflect changing times or be more current. If you are changing brand, do it gently and make sure you inform your audience so that they don’t feel alienated. Very radical shifts may require a pen name, even if your audience knows who the other ‘person’ is, they will not be confused about what you are trying to promote.


  1. You will grow as a writer
  2. The monotony will be broken
  3. You may find many new opportunities and a whole new group of friends.


  1. You may lose part of your audience
  2. Your brand might be changed
  3. Readers might be confused
  4. There might be a monetary loss

How to build your audience after a genre switch:

  1. Explain carefully your motives: on a blog, in a newsletter, on social media. In other words, don’t be afraid to tell people and explain your reasons why.
  2. Work to increase your email list.
  3. Work various kinds of advertising and figure out what works for you.
  4. Get reviews.
  5. Stay with it and focus on the joy, not the money.

Every kind of writing is good training for other kinds of writing. ‘Someone’ said, “Write a poem a day.” This is good advice.  Do what your heart tells you to do.

Reach Your Readers A Lightbulb Moment

20161016_184230Ever wonder why one person finds a book boring while someone else finds it fascinating? Why a friend raves about a certain author and for you their book falls flat? I just might have the answer…

Dayna Mazzuca’s workshop called ‘Reach Your Readers’ was one of the most fascinating workshops I attended this past September at Inscribe’s fall conference. In it, she attempts to answer these questions and sheds some light on what writers can do to reach their specific audience.

Her premise is that everyone of us perceive the world in a different way. We each have a nonverbal language and because of this we gravitate to people who ‘get’ us. (If you ‘get’ somebody, there is an inherent desire to spend more time with them.) Part of this theory is that we tend to read through our own set of lenses, too. This is your ‘readers style’ if you will, and we all have one. (It reminded me of the ‘Five Love Languages’ only the focus was on reading preferences.)

Usually, we write in the same way that we read. If we can identify our own ‘reader style’, we can more easily find our ideal readers, and therefore we will be more successful. We won’t be grating against the other demands of the other types of readers. People aren’t generic, of course, and it is difficult to slot everyone neatly into a box. However, readers do tend to be extremely consistent. How we read is a reflection of how we see the world. Once we learn to write for our readers (and subsequently market to them as well) the connection will be deeper and easier to make.

Five Types of Readers:

  1. Scholar: Likes to have solid research and trustworthy facts. Trust is the most important thing. Can they trust what is written?
  2. Social Connector: This is not necessarily an extrovert. They ask the question, “Who is involved?” They identify with the characters most and like things to be current.
  3. Change Agent: Wants to move things forward. Asks, “What is the purpose?” Persuasion is key.
  4. Adventurer: these readers like action. What is the next adventure? They are immersed reader and feel deeply during reading.
  5. Mystic: These readers are very analytical and reflective, immersing themselves internally in the writing. They are looking for the deep meaning.

This has less to do with genre and more to do with the style of writing. She gave wonderful examples of each type within one genre. I thought I would be more ‘mystic’ but in fact I think I am more of an ‘adventurer’ with ‘social connector’ tendencies.

Her book CALLED TO WRITE is available on iBooks.

A Seasoned Cheerleader – Les Stobbe

20160331_113604I’m getting geared up for Inscribe’s annual fall conference at the end of this month and it made me think of another conference I was at earlier this year. where literary agent Les Stobbe was the keynote. I can’t say enough about what a truly humble and helpful man he is. He is a real cheerleader in his field and highly respected in the industry. Here are some golden  takeaways from this wise elder.

Les says he felt ‘called’ to be a writer from an early age and outlined for us many of the ‘God moments’ in his writing life. These were events, opportunities, and even trials that, in hindsight, were training for later work in his career as a writer, editor and agent. God moments may involve taking risks. Even mundane tasks could be training for other things. For instance, he graded essays at one point to make money but it turned out to be wonderful training as an editor. I was very inspired to write down my own ‘God moments’ (although I am still working on that…) and it is encouraging to see how God weaves all these things into the tapestry of one’s life purpose.

He also used Moses as a great Biblical example of following one’s calling. Moses had a lot of objections but God said, “I will be with you.” If God has called us to be writers then it is our job to obey, not question His wisdom. if we rely on Him, He will do the work through us.

Les challenged us to always strive for excellence. Work hard and seize each opportunity God puts in your path.. Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. All experiences connect and have an impact on the outcome as a whole.

His final advice – and perhaps the most important – was to always engage in focused prayer.

The Christian life abounds with opportunities. Be prepared in season and out of season.

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