Note: This post refers to the 2014 Christian Writers Seminar.
I caught up with Susy recently and interviewed her about the seminar and what you can expect to learn when you attend. Here’s our conversation:
How can a 2-day seminar help writers change the world?
Anytime a new writer takes up a pen (or a keyboard), most likely with hands trembling and knees feeling like rubber chicken bones, then there is great potential for change. The world is not a static place. It’s always changing, dying, living, growing, and everything in between all at the same time. And it’s starving for truth and light and beauty. The world needs YOUR voice and YOUR message. God has gifted you with something to say. Our job, at Christian Writers Seminar, is to help encourage and equip you to say it.
Who should attend the Christian Writers Seminar this year?
Anyone who has something to say in writing, or who wants to say something in a little different way that what has been said before. The amazing working writers who will be teaching workshops represent all genres, too, from fiction to poetry to articles to blogging to nonfiction of every kind, including memoir, ministry-related books, self-help, devotionals, children’s, and more. There’s something for every one.
What can writers expect to learn at the seminar?
First and foremost, writers will learn that they are not alone. There are other people who love words and books as much as they do, and who have dedicated their lives to helping others learn the craft of writing and the business of publishing. Second, writers will find out that finishing a piece of writing and getting published are doable. Things are constantly changing and there are so many ways now to be published and to find your readers. It does take commitment and elbow grease, however. That’s why you need other writers to cheer you on!
How do you see your words making a difference in the world?
I have a current project helping a young woman named Megan, 27 years old, who is doing an incredible work with the lowliest and most vulnerable children of Haiti. She’s battled corruption, discouragement, and even voodoo to rescue trafficked children, and children being used as slaves in the most despicable of ways. My hope is that our book, coming out in January of 2015, will shed light on these practices and bring hope and freedom to more of these children. Books can and do change the world. (By the way, if you’d like to learn more about Megan, go to RespireHaiti.org.)
Why is this a passion for you?
At my core, I’m a nerdy, introverted bookworm. I can’t do the kind of work Megan is doing, but I CAN write about it. I’m not good at much but I am curious, I can string words together, and I get excited about what God is doing in the world through his people. So I’m lending my pen, when and where I can, to help others discover these things, too. I’m hoping that seeing God at work will encourage people that anyone can be used by God, just like Megan, because we serve the same God.
You’ll speak about fear and the writing life at this year’s Christian Writers Seminar. How has fear impacted your own writing journey?
Every book or article or blog post I write involves a struggle with fear. Name a writing-related fear and I’ve battled it. I’ve learned that the fear of writing and publishing isn’t going to go away completely. Instead I have to become comfortable at writing through the fear. Fear and writing seem to go together…at least for me. I recently read a great quote from Ethel Herr in her book, An Introduction to Christian Writing. She was talking about some of the challenges a writer can face, including challenges from your own family. Here’s the quote: “We can pray for our families to be understanding, but never expect them to understand. Only another writer can understand the dreams and strange behavior of a writer.” Most writers understand about facing down fear.
How would you encourage a writer who struggles with fear?
Fear is something you can climb over, step around, or knock back, with help. And the struggle is SO worth it. Here’s a great quote from James Baldwin on why we do what we do: “You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world…The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way…people look at reality, then you can change it.” If fear is the price, I’m willing to pay it, and I’m not going to let it stop me.
You’ll be sharing “Becoming a Good Storyteller” with us this year. Some people are natural-born storytellers. Does this mean there’s hope for those of us? Can we grow our storytelling skills?
Yes. Being a writer means always growing in our storytelling skills. You can grow by learning at the feet of the best storytellers, whether they are still alive in front of you or alive only on the page. A great technique for doing this is to take favorite passages and copy them out word-for-word. You will soak in the craft, little by little. Another way is to go to conferences and drink it all in, then buy the recordings, and drink it all in again. And read. Always read.
What are “Moments of Light and Grace?” What can we look forward to learning about them?
Moments of light and grace are moments of surprise, where all of a sudden a writer (or artist or musician or pastor) offers a different way of looking at the world, leading to an epiphany–a moment of understanding truth in a new way. Mary Pipher says epiphanies cannot be scheduled, but they can be invited. I will be talking about how to infuse your writing with that something more and how to invite your reader to experience a powerful emotional turning when they read your work.