The Artist’s Date

Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way offers a lot of good ideas for stimulating creativity. One of the most helpful for me is the artist’s date: once a week doing something for and with yourself that feeds your creative side. It should be fun, and it should be good for your creativity; beyond that there are no rules. I don’t always keep a weekly date, but I use the artist’s date as an excuse to make regular trips to downtown Chicago-a bus ride for me-and wander museums, galleries or offbeat shops that make me stop and experience others’ creativity. Sometimes I take myself to a movie matinee, or I shop for a book and then go to lunch. Sometimes I simply spend extra time reading what I really like, or I rent a movie that offers inspiration or information concerning the work I’m writing. For instance, the atmosphere created in Fried Green Tomatoes gives me a creative boost when I write fiction set in a rural locale. Sometimes my date involves a thermos of tea and a leisurely walk along the lakefront. Nature is good for my soul, and during the warmer months I make dates to spend time in nearby parks and beside lagoons.

– from “The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life” by Vinita Hampton Wright Loyola Press

Social media – don’t expect your publisher to do it for you!

Not long ago, the norm in the publishing industry was that publishers would find great writers, publish their books, and take care of publicity in order to help the author become known.  This is no longer the case! More and more, publishers expect an author to have already developed their online platform (social media, website, email, etc.) before they get a book deal. (This is even more the case for large publishers; smaller publishers are a bit hungrier.)

 

Why is this? Generally speaking:

  • Publishers are under increased financial pressure
  • So they are forced to do less, and count on the author more
  • They focus on few authors; generally authors who they already work with
  • Publishing has become more of a “hits” business – similar to music or venture capital – where they are looking for the “big hit” that will make up for all of the books that don’t become bit hits

 

So what WILL a publisher do for you? Generally they will help you promote your book during a few months before it is released. And they will give you advice on how to do the rest yourself.

An Interview with Acquiring Editors – Part 1

– by Angela Scheff

 

Editors do a lot more than simply decide to publish a book and then edit the manuscript, so we decided to interview a few of the best in the industry so you can hear directly from them.

 

First, here are their quick bios.

Stephanie Smith is committed to partnering with authors to bring fresh, forward-thinking ideas to life to serve the church today through her role as acquisitions editor at Zondervan. She lives with her husband in Michigan, where she is pursuing her masters in theology at Western Theological Seminary in addition to editorial work. Find her on Twitter at @heystephsmith and join her monthly email newsletter for writers aiming to find their angle, write like they mean it, and do it in style at www.slantletter.com.

Stephanie Smith is committed to partnering with authors to bring fresh, forward-thinking ideas to life to serve the church today through her role as acquisitions editor at Zondervan. She lives with her husband in Michigan, where she is pursuing her masters in theology at Western Theological Seminary in addition to editorial work. Find her on Twitter at @heystephsmith and join her monthly email newsletter for writers aiming to find their angle, write like they mean it, and do it in style at www.slantletter.com.

Chad Allen is editorial director for Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, where he has worked for over a decade. Chad is the author of Do Your Art and the creator of the Book Proposal Academy. Chad holds a B.A. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an M.A. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He and his wife, Alyssa, live with their two children in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Hear more from Chad on his blog or by following him on Facebook and Twitter at @chadrallen.

Jessica Wong is the senior acquisitions editor at Nelson Books. She has worked closely with a number of bestselling authors to sharpen and develop their content. She holds a B.A. in English linguistics and is also an alumnus of the Yale Publishing Course. Her passion is providing a guiding hand to authors with eternal and truly impactful messages in order to help them reach and touch as many lives as possible.

Second, here is how they found themselves in publishing. Whether always knowing you were made for it, falling into and deciding to never leave, or being attracted to it from the other side, the journey into this magnetic business is telling.

 

SMITH: I started out on the opposite side of the printer in book publicity. While I had always aspired to join editorial, I am so glad to have had the opportunity in PR to gain the skills needed to identify what media wants in a story and headline. I use these skills every day in a retroactive way, as I review proposals and mine book concepts for just the right hook to get people talking. The trick is to work in a strong angle from the very beginning of the book’s development, and a PR eye is helpful in this.

 

Transitioning from publicity, I joined the team at RELEVANT magazine as an editor and led efforts to revamp the web editorial strategy. The beauty of digital publishing is that it affords you the opportunity to tap into whatever conversation is trending right now (this doesn’t work so well in book publishing, which is a much longer process!). Success starts with listening—in real-time—to what readers are hungry for: what articles they’re responding to, what they’re sharing, what conversations they’re having, what questions they’re wrestling with. It’s a live experiment every day, and it’s rewarding to go out and create the content that they most need.

 

The beauty of book publishing, in a different way, is that you have the luxury of time to go long and deep with a concept. The journey is a long and rewarding one, and I am drawn to it because I have been so shaped and sustained by books in my own life. Most of all, I get to be in the journey with such great company! The best part about my job is working with authors and partnering with them to bring their ideas to life at the brightest they can be. It’s a privilege to pour so much into books that in turn pour so much life into readers.

 

ALLEN: I was exposed to the publishing process when back in the late nineties I worked with Douglas Gresham, general consultant to C. S. Pte Ltd, the company that owns the rights to C.S. Lewis’s work. All the new editions, compilations, and abridgments of Lewis’s work went by Gresham’s desk. So suddenly I was plunged into the world of galleys and proofs and all the guts of making a book. I remember Gresham asking for my input, and I was immediately hooked.

 

What I saw among other things is that publishers carry this enormous burden and honor of influencing the final shape and content of a book. It’s astonishing, isn’t it, that we get to have a hand in the making of a book—an idea bomb (general nonfiction), a life-changing story (memoir), a potential miracle in someone’s life (self-help)—that will go out to thousands, sometimes millions of readers? That mesmerized me. Still does.

 

WONG: I was the child simultaneously enrolled in multiple library summer reading programs who mastered the art of reading while walking during recess. I decided in fourth grade that I wanted to be an editor when I grew up and asked all my teachers along the way how to get there. After graduating from college, I attended the University of Denver Publishing Institute and, shortly thereafter, got my first job in publishing at Thomas Nelson. Since then, I’ve spent time at Howard Books, the Christian imprint of Simon & Schuster, graduated from the Yale Publishing Course, and returned to join the team at Nelson Books.

The Truth of our Stories – by Frederick Buechner

IN THE LONG RUN the stories all overlap and mingle like searchlights in the dark. The stories Jesus tells are part of the story Jesus is, and the other way round. And the story Jesus is is part of the story you and I are because Jesus has become so much a part of the world’s story that it is impossible to imagine how any of our stories would have turned out without him, even the stories of people who don’t believe in him or even know who he is or care about knowing. And my story and your story are all part of each other too if only because we have sung together and prayed together and seen each other’s faces so that we are at least a footnote at the bottom of each other’s stories. 

In other words all our stories are in the end one story, one vast story about being human, being together, being here. Does the story point beyond itself? Does it mean something? What is the truth of this interminable, sprawling story we all of us are? Or is it as absurd to ask about the truth of it as it is to ask about the truth of the wind howling through a crack under the door?  

– Originally published in The Clown in the Belfry

Have a Checklist

It can be helpful to have a checklist, particularly once you’re in the middle, most engaged stage of work. The middle is often a muddle, and if you have some simple list of things to do or check, that can help you keep moving. For instance, if you’re stuck in the middle stage of a short story, go back to one of your basic guides for short story writing. Go through the aspects of the craft-viewpoint, character, description and so forth. Use the guide to help you step back from the work and run a basic check on it. For me, working on a novel’s timeline can help me get unstuck. I spend an afternoon with a large sketchpad, outlining what happens when. That nearly always opens up the process for me in a fresh way.

 

– from “The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life” by Vinita Hampton Wright Loyola Press

“Hey check this out”

There’s another cost that creators tend to miss too: How much does it cost for people to find your work? To read the reviews or read an article about it? How much time does it cost to download, wait for it to arrive, or set up? These costs – transaction and discovery costs – exist even when your work is free! Think of the free concerts you haven’t attended, the samples you didn’t bother to walk over and try, the products you didn’t buy even though they were 100 percent risk-free, love it or get your money back, no money down. When you think about it this way, it’s really amazing that people buy or try anything at all!

 

When we say “Hey check this out,” we’re really asking for a lot from people. Especially when we are first-time creators. Why take the risk? Hugh Howey, author of the wildly popular Wool series and one of the first big successes in the self-publishing era, has said that it’s essential for debut authors to give away at least some of their material, even if only temporarily. “They’ve gotta do something to get an audience,” he’s said. “Free and cheap helps.” So does making the entire process as easy and seemless as possible. Th more you reduce the cost of consumption, the more people will be  likely to try your product. Which means price, distribution, and other variables are not only essential business decisions, they are essential marketing decisions.

 

– Ryan Holiday, “The Perennial Seller”

 

Why does God want me to write?

– by Chioma Oparadike

 

How would you define your writing? Would you describe it as a compilation of words that allow you tell a story or record a series of events?

 

I certainly would, though this definition does not accommodate the other parts of writing. These are the parts we may be reluctant to share including our struggles, doubts, fears and triumphs.

 

Now imagine if you never intended to write. If you were one of those who enjoyed reading but never thought you would have the caption, writer, included in your credentials.

 

I was one of those. I loved to read but was afraid to write. I believed that I had nothing worthwhile to say and I definitely had very little skill in this art.

 

Yet, here I am, a proclaimed Christian writer with a blog and an upcoming book.

 

In many ways, the journey to writing was precipitated by years of restlessness, buoyed with desperation to do more even though I wasn’t sure of what or how.

 

I sought God for revelation and when it came in the form of encouraging young Christian women like me, I was elated and grateful until the fears crept in.

 

I wasn’t a writer. Yes, I could write legal briefs and had delved into personal finance blogging but deep down I felt highly unqualified. It was a double whammy for me, not only did I have to write but to write about God. How could I possibly achieve such a monumental task?

 

It happened with God’s help. That was and still is the only way I am able to write.

 

What about you? What do you do when God wants you to write?

 

WHEN GOD WANTS YOU TO WRITE

The first step is to obey. God expects our obedience. It is through this that he reveals his message to his people.

 

“…to obey is better than sacrifice and to heed better than the fat of rams.”

1 Samuel 15:22(NIV)

 

We are to obey even when we don’t know where the path would lead us.

 

I will be the first to confess that my obedience didn’t make the doubts and lies disappear. Somehow, they were amplified with each post I published and each link I shared with friends and family.

 

Piece by piece, I felt the layers around me falling away, revealing a naked and shivering girl, wanting to be seen and connect but also hoping to be covered all again.

 

May be you’ve felt the same way. You’ve experienced those moments that made you doubt everything.

 

You’ve heard the lies filtering through the silence, reminding you of your questionable grammar, poor storytelling and most of all, “doubtful” message. These lies tell us to keep quiet and let those with better and more impactful stories speak.

 

The devil is quick to whisper that we are still the same, tumbling through our flaws and imperfections with nothing to show for it.

 

But this is not true. I know it’s not. We must fight these lies, with the strength that comes from the Holy Spirit.

 

God says we are enough. That there is a message, a story and a vision he has given us. Do you believe this?

 

Do you believe that God is able and willing to use you to tell this story in your unique and special way? I hope you do.

 

THE HARD TRUTH FOR CREATIVES

But here’s the thing, your writing is still a part of your journey. It is your outlet to create and like anything we create, there will be seasons of delays and rejections.

 

The fact that we are Christian writers is in itself, a battle. It is a battle against the present world order of hate, judgment and injustice. We must speak truth in the face of conflict, of pressure, of discontent and even of suffering.

 

This will not be easy, but we must continue, undeterred, knowing that we cannot turn from this path, no matter how rocky the road may be.

 

 

SOME ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE CHRISTIAN WRITER 

 

  1. You were called to write for a reason and a purpose

First of all, there can never be too many Christian writers. Your words are needed and are for a particular audience. Seek to live and write knowing that God is using your life and words for his purpose.

 

 

  1. You’re not the first person to doubt your abilities

The Bible is filled with stories of God’s servants and prophets who doubted their ability to achieve the assignments given to them. A memorable one was Moses. Even today, there are others who are not sure they have what it takes.

 

Remember that God gives the ability and he knows what you can do. Trust that will lead you on a beautiful journey to growth and purpose.

 

  1. Work on your writing

Two things, inspiration and discipline usually sustain the writing process. We write when inspiration hits but we must continue to write even long after this, when our well of ideas and stories seem to have dried up.

 

Seek to improve your writing, read books, do your research and grow in this area.

 

  1. Don’t compare yourself with others

A common advice to creatives in the 21st century lies around comparison. With the information overload, we are constantly bamboozled with the work and success of others.

 

You have probably heard that ‘comparison is the thief of joy’, but it’s much worse than that. Comparison is the thief of our creativity, our purpose and our uniqueness. It makes us believe that another person’s way must be the best way.

 

  1. Don’t do it for the likes

Don’t write just to please your audience. Unlike other writers who strive for sales and clicks, our message is different. This means that the message that we have been called to share shouldn’t be diluted or adulterated.

 

If the Holy Spirit says you should do it a certain way, do it. If you have any concerns, please raise it with him. He is your helper and your guide.

 

NEVER FORGET THE REAL AUTHOR

Perhaps, the biggest lesson for us is to never forget that God is the real author. The ability to write remains a privilege for us but should be for his glory.

 

When I think about why God could possibly want me, the girl who writes stilted sentences (even uses the word “stilted”) and still misuses her comma, to share his message as a Christian writer, I am overwhelmed by his mercy and goodness. Throughout the Bible, we see how God used the outcasts, the misunderstood and the imperfect to tell his story.

 

My friends, may we never forget that it is a privilege and an honour to be used by God. Are you still wondering why God chose you? Please share your writing journey with us.

 

 

AUTHOR BIO

 

Chioma Oparadike is a Christian Writer on a mission to inspire more women to live with purpose and intention. For more encouragement on living life as a single Christian woman, check out her blog, Being Woman, and follow her on her social media accounts. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Get in touch!